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Is Religion Just a Social Construct?

One of the arguments against religion is that it’s a social construction – that is, that religion (particularly, belief in an interventionist or “moralistic” god, meaning a god interested in human affairs and morality) is something invented by society, in order to regulate its citizenry. One of the best arguments in favor of this is that more developed societies have more developed religious systems, and are more likely to believe in a god who cares about morality:

Source

This has led to a chicken-and-egg question: does a “pro-social” religion (that is, a religion whose morality is conducive towards healthy social conduct) help to cause the rise of complex societies, or does the rise of such a state help to cause the rise of pro-social religion?

As PBS notesdozens of studies throughout the 2000s pointed to the former answer: moral religion seems to have come first, and complex society followed. But a new study, published in Nature, argues the opposite: that complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history. In other words, only once a society hits about a population of about 1 million do we see widespread belief in a god interested in moral questions.

This result is much ballyhooed, because it seems to suggest that moral religion is just a social construct – the State (or at least social forces) need to police their people, and so they start saying “God doesn’t want you to misbehave,” and boom, moral religion is born. But there are a few problems:

  1. The Nature article is extremely premature. Joe Henrich, chair of Harvard University’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, said “These guys were a little bit quick on the draw with putting this paper out because the data is largely not checked.” That’s a diplomatic way of putting it. The claims behind the Nature study require careful historical examination of thousands of ancient texts to determine age and whether or not the text implies moral religion. As PBS notes, actually doing that research carefully will take years.
  2. Forward bias. There’s a related problem with dating. Let’s say you find a manuscript from the 4th century. Does that mean that it’s the version handwritten by the original author? Frequently, what we have are copies of copies – whatever happened to have been written on a reliable material (like papyrus) and stored in the right climate (like a cave in Egypt, where it won’t be impacted by the elements). The vast majority of what human beings have written throughout history has probably been destroyed. Back in 2012, a small Greek fragment was discovered of St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology. Justin Martyr wrote his text between A.D. 155-157. The scrap that was discovered dates to the 300s. But here’s the crucial thing: until that point, the oldest copy we had of that document was from more than a thousand years later. Why does that matter? Because the society-came-first hypothesis falls completely apart if it turns out that moral religion is older than the fragments we have.
  3. The anti-religion conclusions don’t follow. Let’s say that it’s true that moral religion doesn’t really spread until a society’s population hits a million people or so. (Again, it’s quite premature for that, but let’s assume for the sake of argument). Does it follow that religion is just a social construct? Not at all. Think about it this way: science doesn’t really take off until society hits a certain point of complexity, advancement, and stability. When a society is spending its time avoiding getting eaten by tigers, they’re not pondering the Big Questions of life, or at least, they’re not taking the time to write those down and preserve them. So (despite the ballyhoo) very little about the truth or falsity of religion or science can be proven from the dating question.

To look at it from another angle, as communities develop, they’re more likely to believe in a moral god… but that’s only true to a certain point. Extremely large societies actually get a little less religious. So one could just as easily argue that irreligion is a “social construct” (or deconstruction) for particularly powerful countries. And it’s easy to come up with theories about this: powerful empires want single-minded obedience to the state and political rulers, not to the gods or religious leaders. But notice that these are just ways of impugning peoples’ motives for belief or disbelief – they tell us preciously little about the question that really matters… whether or not religion is TRUE.

The closest we get to that, at least in the PBS article, comes from the anthropologist Peter Peregrine, who says “There are no societies that are a-religious. Belief in the supernatural, in a spiritual world is a fundamental human feature. It’s part of the human condition.” This creates a real pickle for atheists. If you try to explain away this innate belief structure evolutionarily, that our minds believe a falsehood like religion because it’s beneficial for group survival, you’re undermining the reliability of the mind. In other words, if you’re using your mind to say that your mind is hardwired to believe convenient fictions, is there any reason to believe that religion is the fiction, and not your waving it away?

Fr. (now Bishop) Robert Barron points out a fascinating argument that Pope Benedict XVI made, pointing in this same direction:

Ratzinger commences with the observation that finite being, as we experience it, is marked, through and through, by intelligibility, that it is to say, by a formal structure that makes it understandable to an inquiring mind. In point of fact, all of the sciences – physics, chemistry, psychology, astronomy, biology, and so forth – rest on the assumption that at all levels, microscopic and macroscopic, being can be known. The same principle was acknowledged in ancient times by Pythagoras, who said that all existing things correspond in numeric value, and in medieval times by the scholastic philosophers who formulated the dictum omne ens est scibile (all being in knowable).

 

Ratzinger argues that the only finally satisfying explanation for this universal objective intelligibility is a great Intelligence who has thought the universe into being. Our language provides an intriguing clue in this regard, for we speak of our acks of knowledge as moments of “recognition,” literally a re-cognition, a thinking again what has already been thought. Ratzinger cites Einstein in support of this connection: “in the laws of nature, a mind so superior is revealed that in comparison, our minds are as something worthless.” The prologue to the Gospel of John states, “In the beginning was the Word,” and specifies that all things came to be through this divine Logos, implying thereby that the being of the universe is not dumbly there, but rather intelligently there, imbued by a creative mind with intelligible structure.

In other words, all science presupposes that the universe is intelligible and that our minds are sufficiently reliable that we can make sense of this intelligibility. The universe has a “language” all its own (which points to a Creator) and our minds are capable of speaking this language (which also points to a Creator). To reject the mind as unreliable doesn’t just undermine religion – it undermines all science and all knowledge, which ends up being self-refuting.

So you are left with either saying that the mind is reliable, which means we should listen to its religious impulse, or the mind is unreliable, in which case how are you sure you should trust anything (your senses, your belief in science, your rejection of religion, or even your belief that the mind is unreliable, etc.?).

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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  • Ficino

    Fallacies, esp in last paragraph.

    • Mark

      Care to elaborate Ficino? I appreciate your reasoning skills.

      • David Nickol

        Here's one problem I see. Joe Heschmeyer says, in conclusion:

        So you are left with either saying that the mind is reliable, which means we should listen to its religious impulse, or the mind is unreliable, in which case how are you sure you should trust anything (your senses, your belief in science, your rejection of religion, or even your belief that the mind is unreliable, etc.?).

        This seems extremely simplistic to me, for one thing, but it is also perhaps a false dichotomy or something along those lines. How can we say that our minds are either reliable or not reliable? Speaking for myself, I can say mine is reliable sometimes, unreliable at others, and it is almost impossible to say with any great certainty that it is reliable right now, although for practical purposes I generally assume it is reliable.

        Here is something I have quoted a number of times in the past, a Scientific American review of Cordelia Fine's A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives:

        Many psychological studies show that on average, each of us believes we are above average compared with others—more ethical and capable, better drivers, better judges of character, and more attractive. Our weaknesses are, of course, irrelevant. Such self distortion protects our egos from harm, even when nothing could be further from the truth. Our brains are the trusted advisers we should never trust. This "distorting prism" of selfknowledge is what Cordelia Fine, a psychologist at the Australian National University, calls our "vain brain." Fine documents the lengths to which a human brain will go to bias perceptions in the perceiver’s favor. When explaining to ourselves and others why something has gone well or badly, we attribute success to our own qualities, while shedding responsibility for failure. Our brains bias memory and reason, selectively editing truth to inflictless pain on our fragile selves. They also shield the ego from truth with "retroactive pessimism," insisting the odds were stacked inevitably toward doom. Alternatively, the brain of "selfhandicappers" concocts nonthreatening excuses for failure. Furthermore, our brains warp perceptions to match emotions. In the extreme, patients with Cotard delusion actually believe they are dead. So "pigheaded" is the brain about protecting its perspective that it defends cherished positions regardless of data. The "secretive" brain unconsciously directs our lives via silent neural equipment that creates the illusion of willfulness. "Never forget," Fine says, "that your unconscious is smarter than you, faster than you, and more powerful than you. It may even control you. You will never know all of its secrets." So what to do? Begin with self-awareness, Fine says, then manage the distortions as best one can. We owe it to ourselves "to lessen the harmful effects of the brain’s various shams," she adds, while admitting that applying this lesson to others is easier than to oneself. Ironically, one category of persons shows that it is possible to view life through a clearer lens. "Their self-perceptions are more balanced, they assign responsibility for success and failure more even-handedly, and their predictions for the future are more realistic. These people are living testimony to the dangers of self-knowledge," Fine asserts. "They are the clinically depressed." Case in point.

        By the way, isn't it the teaching of Catholicism (and most Christian sects) that our minds aren't what they were intended by God to be? We should be very careful about trusting them!

        • Rob Abney

          I think the OP is referring to the intellect when the term “mind” is used. And the intellect is always reliable to recognize first principles of being, for example we can never regard something as being and not being simultaneously.
          Your judgment may be unreliable for a variety of reasons but your intellect/mind never is.

          • Ficino

            either saying that the mind is reliable, which means we should listen to its religious impulse,

            "impulses" and such in the OP make its point sound like reference to a bundle of cognitive capacities of wider extent than "intellect" as the latter is meant in A-T discussions. And the rub is whether an individual's cognitive processes are in fact securing her/him access to first principles of being.

          • Rob Abney

            Give me your definition of cognitive or cognition as opposed to intellect.

          • Ficino

            Give me responses that are expressed as requests and not as bald commands - υnlike this one of mine. Heh heh.

            Intellect, or intellectus or νοῦς, is a mode of knowledge, the objects of which are universals. It is a kind of cognition. Cognition's extent is wider, for it is knowledge both of particulars and of universals. Even animals have cognition.

            And "intellect" in this A-T sense is not identical with "know-how", or in Greek, ἐπιστήμη.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks, next time I won't neglect to say pretty please!

          • Rob Abney

            I render religious impulse as the awareness that we are bound to a higher source, that we are dependent upon something higher for our very being. This is a universal that must be apprehended with our intellect.

          • David Nickol

            If JH meant intellect and not mind, he could have said intellect. This, I think, is an example of confirmation bias on your part. JH must be right, because you are both part of the same "tribe," so in order to make his argument more compelling, you are willing to substitute intellect when he actually wrote mind.

            As I understand intellect (and my understanding is no doubt faulty), it is kind of like a computer that, when given correct premises, arrives at a correct conclusion. I don't know how a universal sense of the religious or supernatural (if it exists) can be ascribed to the intellect.

            It seems to me that intellect is part of one model of the human mind and perhaps not a particularly useful one.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm not offended by your accusation of confirmation bias since you readily admit to having an unreliable mind as well as faulty understanding.
            I wasn't trying to make the OP more compelling, I was trying to better define a vague term - mind. Maybe you can give a more precise definition.

          • I'm curious; is there any biblical support for this stance? It's just a foreign idea to me that some part of me is 100% untainted by the distortions of sin.

        • Mark

          Don't you think it's a pretty cynical view of humanity to say the most successful humans at self-awareness are clinically depressed? I think the author has to be using some hyperbole. Also specifically self-knowledge isn't really what's being discussed, it's more objective understanding of reality.

          • David Nickol

            Also specifically self-knowledge isn't really what's being discussed, it's more objective understanding of reality.

            I disagree. I think what is being focused on is self-assessment. The capacity of human beings to think they are better than they really are, or at least ignore their own weaknesses, is immense. In its milder forms, it is a healthy defense mechanism. Basically, it's optimism. For example, most people who start small businesses are well aware of the failure rate, but they are convinced they can beat the odds. It is extremely common for us to make excuses for our failures and exaggerate our successes. Also, I think we all pretty much have to numb ourselves to all the evil and suffering in the world, otherwise we would do much more to try to alleviate it. (I am talking about the more fortunate of us, of course.) Back in high school I began asking the question, "How can I allow myself to have so much more than I need when others have nothing?" I have never found a really good answer.

            This makes me think of something C. S. Lewis said about how we regard ourselves. I think it's a fascinating quote, although I admit I don't understand why God would find his own creatures so abhorrent. I can vouch for the total accuracy of the quote, since it varies slightly from one reprinting to another.

            I have been trying to make the reader believe that we are, at present, creatures whose character must be in some respects, a horror to God, as it is, when we really see it, a horror to ourselves. This I believe to be a fact: and I notice that the holier a man is, the more fully he is aware of that fact. Perhaps you have imagine that this humility in the saints is a pious illusion at which God smiles. That is a most dangerous error. It it theoretically dangerous, because it makes you identify a virtue (i.e., a perfection), with an illusion (i.e., and imperfection), which must be nonsense. It is practically dangerous because it encourages a man to mistake his first insights into his own corruption for the first beginnings of a halo around his silly head. No, depend upon it: when the saints say that they—even they—are vile, they ar recording a truth with scientific accuracy.

          • Mark

            I usually love Lewis quotes. This one is a theological hot mess for Catholics. I don't understand an abhorrent god either for good reason.

            I also think it is human nature to focus on evil rather than good. If a doctor helps 50 patients get healthy to every 1 doesn't, he/she lies awake at night asking "what I miss?" If a wife does 10 things right and 1 thing wrong, guess what her husband focuses on. So, as you say, if we have to numb ourselves to evil, I'd counter by saying we are pretty adept at numbing ourselves to good.

            So having never found an answer to the feeling guilt or sorrow about your material blessings versus those with nothing. If you asked a Carmelite nun that question she'd tell you having material nothing is the greatest freedom this side of heaven. Everything she owns fits in a suitcase. The answer to your question goes back to our human nature to focus on that which is missing/absent rather than that which is Good. The people with nothing don't necessarily have nothing. Being poor in spirit is a life of super abundance.

          • dudester4

            I agree. I think a holy God recognizes sin for what it is, and even saints need God's help in leading to perfection. That's why Mother Theresa wanted an exorcism late in life; nothing surprising to me here. I like the part about human nature noticing what's missing vs. what we have.

          • Don't you think it's a pretty cynical view of humanity to say the most successful humans at self-awareness are clinically depressed? I think the author has to be using some hyperbole.

            It seems more factual than cynical to me. One of the key lessons of the Bible is that humans are almost universally proud, arrogant, hubristic, and self-righteous. We humans have constructed a way of operating which hides the truth under layer after layer of falsehood. Those who would pierce the falsehood are either scorned or cordoned off from day-to-day life so that their discoveries are never felt as normatively compelling to very many. Here are two atheists who talk about the matter:

            Our basic thesis—that we are strategically blind to key aspects of our motives—has been around in some form or another for millennia. It’s been put forward not only by poets, playwrights, and philosophers, but also by countless wise old souls, at least when you catch them in private and in the right sort of mood. And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it. (The Elephant in the Brain, ix)

            Now, what is it like to start digging through the falsehoods? You find out that you're not as awesome as you thought and that society isn't as awesome as it thinks. But nobody wants to hear this; people like to be flattered, not exposed. Unless you have sufficient understanding of God's mercy and grace—that he is "the God in whom [Abraham] believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist"—there simply is no solution to the problem, no way out. I wonder if this is why David Foster Wallace committed suicide: he saw a deep problem with no apparent solution. Simone Weil has something relevant to say:

            Attitude of supplication: I must necessarily turn to something other than myself since it is a question of being delivered from myself.
                Any attempt to gain this deliverance by means of my own energy would be like the efforts of a cow which pulls at its hobble and so falls onto its knees.
                In making it one liberates a certain amount of energy in oneself by a violence which serves to degrade more energy. Compensation as in thermodynamics; a vicious circle from which one can be delivered only from on high.
                The source of man's moral energy is outside him, like that of his physical energy (food, air etc.). He generally finds it, and that is why he has the illusion—as on the physical plain—that his being carries the principle of its preservation within itself. Privation alone makes him feel his need. And, in the event of privation, he cannot help turning to anything whatever which is edible.
                There is only one remedy for that: a chlorophyll conferring the faculty of feeding on light.
                Not to judge. All faults are the same. There is only one fault: incapacity to feed upon light, for where capacity to do this has been lost all faults are possible.
                'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me.'
                There is no good apart from this capacity. (Gravity and Grace, 3)

            If you disbelieve in God or see God as primarily one who condemns (like Adam & Eve or the servant who received one talent), then true self-awareness is crushing. How many Christians do you see, Mark, who carefully examine brokenness (imperfection) and isolate what is kalos and what is kakos (Heb 5:14), so that their scalpel of discernment only removes that which is not as it should be? (I question the sufficiency of translating kakos as 'evil'; also note the single-stroke difference between the two Greek words: καλός / κακός, λ / κ. Oh, I haven't noticed the letters are adjacent in the alphabet. N.B. The natural antithesis to kakos is agathos.)

            I say that the miracle humanity is most in need of is a revealing of its terrible self-awareness with salve of grace and mercy to help with the requisite repentance. We can do science just fine; we don't seem able to do the other thing well at all.

        • Ellabulldog

          Reality is scary for many. We can escape our instincts/emotional brain using reason but it takes time. One needs to slow down before making decisions. Once married to an idea humans have a hard time changing their minds. They only look for things that prove they made the right choice. Whether religion, politics, a choice of a mate or a purchase of a useless item.

          Advertisers use propaganda. As do politicians and religious authorities. Most humans have no defense for such things. Many trust authorities to make decisions for them. Most follow the crowd. They don't bother to question their beliefs or even use confirmation bias. They never consider that they could be wrong. Companies offer free returns because they know most people won't return something because it is admitting that they made a mistake.

          The saying ignorance is bliss has meaning regarding this subject. Better for most to think they will live forever. That this world isn't all there is. Helps people cope.

      • Ficino

        David Nickol already noted the false dichotomy. Then there's a hasty generalization, in that "its religious impulse" is not distributed over all minds. There are atheistic strains of Hinduism, Buddhism, even Judaism. I think the article betrays an ignoratio elenchi, in that the author seems to slide between a conception of "religion" as a social/political system of rituals, organizations, etc., and a conception of it as one or more propositions about a god or gods. And the author seems to think that self-refutation arguments establish the truth of the contradictory of the opponent's thesis. This is not always so, and not in this case. It may well be that we cannot trust our cognitive faculties fully and that suspension of judgment in certain cases is the best we can do. In the meantime, suspension of judgment does not entail cessation of action, for we act on beliefs at least as long as they stand up to examination.

  • Ben

    Perhaps another way to put it...
    In the past, many (if not most) scientists may have held a base premise that went something like this; “We know the creator is intelligent, so we must go forward assuming the universe is intelligible.” Today, many hold a kind of opposite premise of, “We know the universe is intelligible, so we must go forward assuming there is no intelligence behind it.”

    The latter seems to me a kind of "Alice in Wonderland" fairytale.

    • My guess is that scientists approach is more like, to the extent the universe is intelligible, let's investigate and see what we can learn.

      • When people claim that the social sciences "aren't real sciences", what are they saying about (i) what is intelligible; (ii) what is not intelligible?

        • I don't think such a statement is saying anything about what is intelligible.

          • There are two meanings to "what is intelligible":

                 (1) what counts as "intelligible"
                 (2) what can be understood with a given "intelligible"

            Have you distinguished between them?

          • No I haven't. I'm not sure I get the distinction you are advancing.

            Again, I don't think someone saying social sciences are not real sciences are saying anything at all about intelligibility. I think they are saying something about epistemological challenges of extremely complex interactions such as social interactions.

          • Wait, you're a lawyer and you're not used to such a distinction in day-to-day practice?

            Again, I don't think someone saying social sciences are not real sciences are saying anything at all about intelligibility. I think they are saying something about epistemological challenges of extremely complex interactions such as social interactions.

            There are two ways to interpret this:

            (1) With more work and computational power, the kinds of mathematics used in physics and chemistry will be all that is required to grapple with the social realm. Henri de Saint-Simon coined the term "social physics". What is being done here is to presuppose that all of reality is describable by something pretty close to the mechanical philosophy.

            (2) There exist patterns in the social world which simply don't exist in the realms studied by physicists and chemists, and new math is required for them which cannot be derived from anything like Sean Carroll's Big Equation. Anyone trying to understand the world in the way that physicists and chemists do will never discover such patterns.

            Here, (1) presupposes that "intelligibly" is exactly one thing and unchanging, while (2) admits that "intelligibility" might need some renovation.

          • Sure I can understand that distinction. And no, my professional life I can't say this has come up.

            In answer to your question, when people say social sciences aren't real sciences they may be talking about either (1) or (2), or something else, such as the practice does not meet scientific standards.

            I don't it, so maybe you want to ask someone who takes the position that social sciences are not real science.

          • But now I have problematized the following:

            BGA: My guess is that scientists approach is more like, to the extent the universe is intelligible, let's investigate and see what we can learn.

            The underlined should really be understood as: "to the extent the universe matches up to my particular idea of what qualifies as 'intelligible'". That, I think you will recognize, is quite the change from "is intelligible", as if there is a Platonic Form of 'Intelligible' which all reasonable people can easily access.

            As to being a lawyer, surely you are aware of what forms of argument are permissible and which are not. What counts as "rational" is determined by a system of justice. This "rationality" can be incredibly byzantine. I say the same goes for scientists and what they count as possibly "intelligible".

          • >The underlined should really be understood as: "to the extent the universe matches up to my particular idea of what qualifies as 'intelligible'"

            No I don't agree. This is implied in anything we say. When I see an apple I say "I see an apple" but technically I mean "Given my assumptions that there is an external world and that my senses are generally reliable, I think I see what matches up to my understanding of an apple".

            But it's really not necessary to always say this.

          • LB: The underlined should really be understood as: "to the extent the universe matches up to my particular idea of what qualifies as 'intelligible'".

            BGA: No I don't agree. This is implied in anything we say. When I see an apple I say "I see an apple" but technically I mean "Given my assumptions that there is an external world and that my senses are generally reliable, I think I see what matches up to my understanding of an apple".

            I find that the difference in 'intelligibility' I pointed out is in no way captured by the two simplistic presuppositions you've mentioned. Nor in any implicit extension thereof. So for example: when "evidence" is construed according to (1), then no "evidence" could distinguish between God and Satan. When I presented this to @Ignorant_Amos:disqus, his answer was "Indeed."

            Furthermore, when I and @bvogt1:disqus suggested that there are further patterns in reality having to do with personhood and intentionality, here is what @Geena_Safire:disqus had to say:

            GS: In a deterministic world, in Carroll's sense, everything can be said to have a "reason why" in the sense of what it is fundamentally made of and the forces that led to their current configuration. But some theists also posit an even immensely more deterministic world, one in which everything that exists was intended to be just so from the beginning, such that the world will eventually reach a certain state in the future.

            In this way, Vogt is actually positing a hyperdeterministic world.

            In other words: we were suggesting a more expanded notion of 'intelligibility' than Geena was comfortable with. Indeed, it is natural to associate 'intelligibility' directly with 'determinism'; to expand the latter is to expand the former.

          • >I find that the difference in 'intelligibility' I pointed out is in no way captured by the two simplistic presuppositions you've mentioned.

            It isn't captured at all nor was it meant to be. But when you think about it, both are captured in my initial comment. Version 1 and 2 are not mutually exclusive and in fact all of 2 is included in 1, and for all we know they are the same.

            Science, or any study can only understand what is intelligible, and what is accessible to us. Everything might be intelligible and accessible or not. We will not be able to know. So, again to the extent the universe is intelligible, let's investigate and see what we can learn.

            What else could we do?

          • What else could we do? We could imprison ourselves philosophically by taking dogmatic stances as to what is possibly intelligible. For example, the statement that "goodness is 100% subjective" does exactly this. The rejection of downward causation also does this.

            Without sufficiently robust, stable instruments—such as Galileo's telescope—there is intelligibility one might never detect. The planets of Jupiter did not jump out at Galileo and instruct him to construct his telescope. So if we just decide that intelligibility looks like thus and so and build our instruments accordingly, just how much structure in reality will we never bump into in any way which yields to careful, scientific investigation?

          • >What else could we do? We could imprison ourselves philosophically by taking dogmatic stances as to what is possibly intelligible.

            I'd say you'll get few takers on this. I personally would object to any dogmatic stance.

            >Without sufficiently robust, stable instruments—such as Galileo's telescope

            Actually Galileo's telescopes were very unreliable.

            >So if we just decide that intelligibility looks like thus and so and build our instruments accordingly, just how much structure in reality will we never bump into in any way which yields to careful, scientific investigation?

            Maybe lots I guess.

            >Without sufficiently robust, stable instruments—such as Galileo's telescope

            Even with the best instruments this is the case.

          • Of course nobody ever wants to believe that they've taken such a dogmatic stance. When Sean Carroll wrote The World of Everyday Experience, In One Equation, he surely thinks he's revealing truth which will help empower and free humanity. (At the very least, by increasing the respect people have for his understanding of proper scientific practice.) And yet, I side with David Bohm over Sean Carroll:

                The assumption that any particular kind of fluctuations are arbitrary and lawless relative to all possible contexts, like the similar assumption that there exists an absolute and final determinate law, is therefore evidently not capable of being based on any experimental or theoretical developments arising out of specific scientific problems, but it is instead a purely philosophical assumption. (Causality and Chance in Modern Physics, 44)

            Wiggle-room can be found in "everyday", but I'm not convinced that every single everyday phenomenon actually matches Carroll's claim and what constitutes "everyday" can easily change, if we try to do more things in reality rather than e.g. be content with consumerism.

             
            "Unreliability" is only defined with regard to some purpose; I said Galileo's instruments were sufficient for his purposes and they were. His observations of the phases of Venus were what was required to demonstrate sure superiority of the Copernican system over the Ptolemaic system. He didn't need the Hubble for that. Nor did he need the Hubble to see moons of Jupiter.

            Next, making a Hubble version 2000 will do nothing to help us find realms such as 'goodness' to be intelligible and not actually 100% subjective. It could be that the Bible is something like the minimum instrument required to start making progress here; it is fashionable to call it "unreliable" now, but Modern humans love pissing on their forebears. To make appreciable progress, I think we need a science of hypocrisy, of how humans manage to individually and collectively present a façade while actually being and doing something different. The thing is, this would almost certainly expose nastiness in each one of us, not to mention the organizations we support and identify with. And so no such science exists†; the best you get are wise people who have learned to do such discernment.

             
            † This might not quite be true; the sociology of knowledge would ostensibly help. But I say it is far, far underdeveloped from what it could be, and I suspect there are very strong pressures to keep it from ever developing very far. To change this would require something like a spiritual conversion of many people, whereby they become willing to repent and forgive and extend grace and mercy. These days, any time an opponent exposes error or weakness, that is an opportunity for you to demonstrate superiority over him/her/them.

          • >It could be that the Bible is something like the minimum instrument required to start making progress here

            But do you think it is? I do not.

            >To make appreciable progress, I think we need a science of hypocrisy, of how humans manage to individually and collectively present a façade while actually being and doing something different.

            It's called psychology and sociology.

            >The thing is, this would almost certainly expose nastiness in each one of us, not to mention the organizations we support and identify with.

            Noway! Humans nasty?

          • But do you think it is? I do not.

            I have looked for alternatives. But the dominant thread of thought throughout the Enlightenment and in many religions is that humans are inherently good (not even neutral)—at least, my group of humans. To my knowledge, the Bible is the only document which contests the goodness of its own adherents in any appreciable way. This, I see as absolutely revolutionary.

            It's called psychology and sociology.

            Show me well-developed psychology or sociology on hypocrisy and/or self-righteousness. I know of very little.

            Noway! Humans nasty?

            Those humans might be nasty. But not I! In fact, if only they would listen to me and do what I say, everything would be better!!

          • >This, I see as absolutely revolutionary.

            Unless it's wrong, which it certainly seems to be. It considers us fallen and inherently flawed and transgressive of a standard big conduct which is never justified by any transparent explanation. But yet we are designed by a perfectly good and maximally capable being, worthy of its love and saving. Is that not good in some inherent way?

            I do believe humans are inherently good and inherently bad. Really,t humans generally will the good, on the terms I would consider good, which is not the same for everyone. I would say the good and bad are ultimately subjective.

            So it actually seems to me that the Bible is way off base in this way.

            >Show me well-developed psychology or sociology on hypocrisy and/or self-righteousness. I know of very little.

            Oh, it's not well-developed, it's not two centuries old yet. It also is extremely complex and so isolating patterns is very difficult. There are serious possibly insurmountable epistemic challenges. And to make it worse I understand some areas are not being held to an adequate scientific standard. But these are the disciplines working on these problems. I wouldn't characterize it as a new endeavor. But I encourage you to do this work, it would be great to improve the methodology and fund more research.

          • It considers us fallen and inherently flawed and transgressive of a standard big conduct which is never justified by any transparent explanation.

            Try to take a step back for a second. Consider that what Adam and Eve did in the Garden was:

            (1) Attempt to take a shortcut to realizing the full potential of imago Dei.
            (2) Denied agency for what they did.
            (3) Blame-shifted / scapegoated.
            (4) Put on clothing to present a different exterior than interior (a 'hypocrite' used to just be "an actor").
            (5) Refused to ask for forgiveness or repent.

            No "standard big conduct" required! What you get out of this is people who don't take responsibility for what they did and now present a different exterior (always better) than the true interior. The interior can get as disgusting as they can manage while keeping the exterior apparently spotless, but this is not required. No "deep sin" is required. The most heinous of evil can be put in action by the smallest of steps—as the 20th century demonstrated.

            But yet we are designed by a perfectly good and maximally capable being, worthy of its love and saving. Is that not good in some inherent way?

            Of course it's good! The thing is, we were created to be open systems not just energetically (life can only exist in an open system), but relationally. We weren't meant to be islands. Indeed, the infinite potential presents a yearning which can be filled by relationship with God and others whereby we achieve greater and greater excellence, or we can try satisfying the yearning with shortcuts and substitutes. Does science work if you don't put in the hard work? No. Why expect differently of something much more comprehensive than science?

            I would say the good and bad are ultimately subjective.

            If one's understanding of goodness makes predictions (believing and thinking thus and so will yield these results), that is an objective, investigable component of that understanding of goodness. We can include affective forecasting in this. Or do you think it's a completely subjective matter whether the predictions match reality?

            So it actually seems to me that the Bible is way off base in this way.

            Curious; were you under the impression that Torah was supposed to be obeyed by all nations? If so, can you point me to any passages which indicate this? There are plenty of prophets who call out other nations for being unjust, but "unjust" can refer to their legal system, not Torah.

            Oh, it's not well-developed, it's not two centuries old yet. It also is extremely complex and so isolating patterns is very difficult. There are serious possibly insurmountable epistemic challenges. And to make it worse I understand some areas are not being held to an adequate scientific standard. But these are the disciplines working on these problems. I wouldn't characterize it as a new endeavor. But I encourage you to do this work, it would be great to improve the methodology and fund more research.

            Do you think it is in principle impossible that humans could be woefully behind where they could, because they don't want the answers? I mean, if we've done a lot of (1)–(5) individually, in groups, in society, and as a race—and done them over and over and over again—might it be a rather hard road to hoe to clean things up? Or do you think we're closer to doing approximately the best we can?

          • >Attempt to take a shortcut to realizing the full potential of imago Dei.

            I don't know what that is.

            >No "standard big conduct" required!

            No, you just presented a standard that you are holding them to.

            >Of course it's good!

            Ok, so humans are inherently bgood on your view?

            >Or do you think it's a completely subjective matter whether the predictions match reality?

            No, just bmoral values or standards are ultimately subjective.

            >Curious; were you under the impression that Torah was supposed to be obeyed by all nations?

            No, because it is a book of ancient myths. I'm talking about whether the authors intended to portray humans as inherently bad. I don't think they did. But if they did, I think they were wrong.

            >Do you think it is in principle impossible that humans could be woefully behind where they could, because they don't want the answers?

            No, but I don't think this is the case. It's just a new field.

            >might it be a rather hard road to hoe to clean things up?

            It's definitely hard, but we have always known that.

            >Or do you think we're closer to doing approximately the best we can?

            It's not a binary situation. I think people are trying to do the best we can and it's hard.

          • I don't know what that is.

            Kids pretending their adults but having no clue how to do the adult thing and thus getting into all sorts of trouble.

            No, you just presented a standard that you are holding them to.

            How on earth is that standard "big"? It's basically: don't lie. (For now, I'm avoiding the situation of the Gestapo being at your door, which requires a lot of terrible to already have happened.)

            Ok, so humans are inherently bgood on your view?

            Humans have a good potential, which can be actualized in cooperation with God. Contrast this to what would happen if some alien race were to erect a giant solar shade between the Earth and Sun. Again, go back to children trying to actualize their potential without any help whatsoever.

            No, just bmoral values or standards are ultimately subjective.

            But that makes no sense if moral values necessarily make predictions, and those predictions could be false. Unless you think lying to yourself is a 100% subjective affair?

            I'm talking about whether the authors intended to portray humans as inherently bad. I don't think they did.

            The authors describe a lot of humans trying to live as closed systems, as if they'd erected the moral/​goodness version of a solar shade between Earth and the Sun.

            LB: Do you think it is in principle impossible that humans could be woefully behind where they could, because they don't want the answers?

            BGA: No, but I don't think this is the case. It's just a new field.

            How would we know which is the case?

            I think people are trying to do the best we can and it's hard.

            How would we know if people weren't trying to do the best they can? More precisely, how would we know if they had erected a giant solar shade?

          • >How on earth is that standard "big"? It's basically: don't lie.

            I have not lied in our discussion, nor did I reference anything "big".

            >But that makes no sense if moral values necessarily make predictions,

            They don't, ethics is not predictive it's normative.

            >How would we know which is the case?

            I don't know. I think people are investigating human behaviour in good faith, but I don't really know.

            >More precisely, how would we know if they had erected a giant solar shade?

            I think we would see it, I don't see the relevance of this shade or the comment about the Gestapo.

          • I have not lied in our discussion, nor did I reference anything "big".

            Ahh, your "standard big conduct" was probably supposed to read "standard of conduct"; I can see phone autocorrect doing that. Anyhow, if you think it's permissible to lie in a great number of situations, perhaps you could justify that via "transparent explanation"? Note that you injected a standard there: "transparent". Otherwise, it would appear that there is some pretty serious intersubjective agreement between us, which puts "I would say the good and bad are ultimately subjective." in a bit of jeopardy. If you want to say that this standard of "transparent" is idiosyncratic, I will then ask how possible communication is without a great deal of intersubjectivity in the moral domain.

            They don't, ethics is not predictive it's normative.

            If you look at a system of ethics, you develop zero expectations of what it would be like if lived out? (I see no reason something cannot be predictive and normative, btw.)

            I think people are investigating human behaviour in good faith, but I don't really know.

            That sounds like quite the article of blind faith. It sounds like the kind of faith that led very smart people to think human nature was awesome and we'd do great things, in the decades and years leading up to 1914. Have you done any work to try not to repeat that mistake?

            I think we would see it, I don't see the relevance of this shade or the comment about the Gestapo.

            The Gestapo comment is an edge case to whether you should always tell the truth. As to seeing the solar shade, what if it were erected rather slowly?

          • >Ahh, your "standard big conduct" was probably supposed to read "standard of conduct"; I can see phone autocorrect doing that.

            Bingo

            >Anyhow, if you think it's permissible to lie in a great number of situations, perhaps you could justify that via "transparent explanation"?

            I think there are numerous situations I which lying is, on balance the best moral choice. And yes I am transparent with my moral values and standards, the reasons I hold them, and their lack of objective basis. The standard is to value human well being as to be preferred and suffering to be avoided.

            >Note that you injected a standard there: "transparent".

            Yes, by which I mean it is never expressed or justified an yet humans are imposed devastating consequences for violating it.

            >That sounds like quite the article of blind faith

            I don't think so, I think it's a reas
            o.assumption that any major field of study are engaging in research in good faith. I think if people don't want to better understand social behaviour and psychology, why you choose that field?

            I mean you're basically saying that you do not have good scientific co conclusions about how humans behave and why (psychology), but that you tend to believe that you understand the psychology of the people to say that you think they are reluctant to really do the work because they are afraid of what the truth is?

            >Have you done any work to try not to repeat that mistake?

            Yes actually, quite a bit.

            >As to seeing the solar shade, what if it were erected rather slowly?

            Yeah still clueless.

          • I think there are numerous situations I which lying is, on balance the best moral choice.

            Care to say whether this is because of other lies which preexist (we can say the Gestapo operated on lies), or whether this also includes adding new lies? I'm especially curious about examples of the latter.

            Yes, by which I mean it is never expressed or justified an yet humans are imposed devastating consequences for violating it.

            Sorry, what is "never expressed"? (We can deal with the "never … justified" after.)

            I don't think so, I think it's a reas
            o.assumption that any major field of study are engaging in research in good faith. I think if people don't want to better understand social behaviour and psychology, why you choose that field?

            I'm thinking of research/​analysis such as:

            Our basic thesis—that we are strategically blind to key aspects of our motives—has been around in some form or another for millennia. It’s been put forward not only by poets, playwrights, and philosophers, but also by countless wise old souls, at least when you catch them in private and in the right sort of mood. And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it. (The Elephant in the Brain, ix)

            But I could also talk of prejudices toward pretend objectivity which have royally screwed up poverty-alleviation efforts. A self-deceived person can operate "in good faith" but still accomplish bad things. There are prejudices against religion in psychology studies I could also reference.

            I mean you're basically saying that you do not have good scientific co conclusions about how humans behave and why (psychology), but that you tend to believe that you understand the psychology of the people to say that you think they are reluctant to really do the work because they are afraid of what the truth is?

            You forgot sociology, politsci, economics, and anthropology. But yes: how do I know, since I cannot appeal to some alternative science which is being done by a cabal isolated from mainstream science which is demonstrably superior? Many clues, such as can be found in the above excerpt. The fact that the silly dichotomy between 'reason' and 'emotion' took until Descartes' Error to really start disintegrating is a big one. I can multiply examples by this point in my travels.

            Yes actually, quite a bit.

            Care to share?

            BGA: Ok, so humans are inherently bgood on your view?

            LB: Humans have a good potential, which can be actualized in cooperation with God. Contrast this to what would happen if some alien race were to erect a giant solar shade between the Earth and Sun. Again, go back to children trying to actualize their potential without any help whatsoever.

            /

            BGA: I think people are trying to do the best we can and it's hard.

            LB: How would we know if people weren't trying to do the best they can? More precisely, how would we know if they had erected a giant solar shade?

            BGA: I think we would see it, I don't see the relevance of this shade …

            LB: As to seeing the solar shade, what if it were erected rather slowly?

            BGA: Yeah still clueless.

            Perhaps the context helps? You could also think of a closed system (complete solar shade) and consider what happens in closed systems. People run away from help all the time BTW—addicts are an easy example but they are far from the only ones.

          • >Care to say whether this is because of other lies which preexist (we can say the Gestapo operated on lies), or whether this also includes adding new lies? I'm especially curious about examples of the latter.

            No, it need not be because of other lies. Sure it could include additional lies. It's always situation dependent on my moral framework.

            >Sorry, what is "never expressed"?

            The Bible never states what the moral standard is

            >>And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it.

            I would disagree with that statement I would think you can easily find lots of research on why people lie and cognitive biases.

            >A self-deceived person can operate "in good faith" but still accomplish bad things.

            Sure, or simply be mistaken in what will help.

            >Care to share?

            No.

            >As to seeing the solar shade, what if it were erected rather slowly?

            Got it now. Yes I think we would still notice. I really have no idea why this is relevant to the discussion.

          • No, it need not be because of other lies. Sure it could include additional lies. It's always situation dependent on my moral framework.

            Care to share any examples of additional lies which are not because of other lies?

            The Bible never states what the moral standard is

            Hmmm, what would you call the following, given that 'moral standard' doesn't apply:

            But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34–40)

            ? Maybe I just don't know what you mean by 'moral standard'.

            I would disagree with that statement I would think you can easily find lots of research on why people lie and cognitive biases.

            Lying and cognitive biases are not the same as voluntary self-deception and evolved self-deception.

            LB: That sounds like quite the article of blind faith. It sounds like the kind of faith that led very smart people to think human nature was awesome and we'd do great things, in the decades and years leading up to 1914. Have you done any work to try not to repeat that mistake?

            BGA: Yes actually, quite a bit.

            LB: Care to share?

            BGA: No.

            Awww.

            Got it now. Yes I think we would still notice. I really have no idea why this is relevant to the discussion.

            That's interesting; I don't trust human perception nearly as much as you. I think a slowly erected solar shade is rather like slowly turning the water up on the frog: it won't jump out. It'll just get boiled alive. Of course, the solar shade would starve us alive. We humans are terrible at noticing gradual changes; we're better at noticing quick ones. If we're paying attention—see the gorilla suit and basketball experiment.

            The relevance is the context I provided in my previous comment:

            BGA: Ok, so humans are inherently bgood on your view?

            LB: Humans have a good potential, which can be actualized in cooperation with God. Contrast this to what would happen if some alien race were to erect a giant solar shade between the Earth and Sun. Again, go back to children trying to actualize their potential without any help whatsoever.

            You could contrast the notion of goodness I expressed with some sort of innate goodness where we humans have both the potential and the ability to self-actualize the potential. We would lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps instead of hoist ourselves with our own petards. We can't possibly do this in a purely organic sense—life can only exist in open systems. I think that we cannot possibly do this in a moral sense either, and I don't think the Sun gives us energy to power the moral sense, except for the kind of morality evolution can develop—tribalistic morality where monkeys in one tribe are absolutely brutal to monkeys in another tribe.

            Now, the person who says that the sky is the limit for human potential with no God needed has a tiny little problem: such a statement is not falsifiable. How then would God teach us—assuming he exists, of course—that we cannot self-actualize, that in fact without his help we are distinctly limited creatures? That is, how would God teach us that:

                 (1) there are clear limits in a closed moral system
                 (2) there are no limits in an open moral system

            ? (1) is the situation with a complete solar shade. Note that if "good and bad are ultimately subjective", empirical evidence would be powerless to demonstrate (1) and (2).

          • >Care to share any examples of additional lies which are not because of other lies?

            No it's not about that, I don't subscribe to virtue ethics but a kind of utilitarianism. It isn't about whether there are lies and how many but on assessments of suffering and flourishing.

            >what would you call the following

            Commands with no explanation. I didn't say or mean there was no standard, but that it wasn't communicated.

            >I just don't know what you mean by 'moral standard

            A statement of values, or several by which to assess all ethical questions.

            >Lying and cognitive biases are not the same as voluntary self-deception and evolved self-deception.

            Ok. Again you think there is a problem with certain kinds of research in that it doesn't address real human motivation. I'd say that is the mandate of psychology and sociology. So my point is to sure go ahead and critique these, better yet practice one and do the research or do something to fund it. But there is no need to invent a new discipline. I think a project to understand if and how and why humans self deceive sounds like a great idea. I doubt anyone would say it's not right for psychology and/or sociology.

            >I think a slowly erected solar shade is rather like slowly turning the water up on the frog: it won't jump out. It'll just get boiled alive.

            Given that we can detect a planet transiting a star lightyears away I think astronomers would notice a device blocking our sun. Yes, but people are very easy to distract as the experiment with the gorilla suit by psychologists showed.

            > I think that we cannot possibly do this in a moral sense either, and I don't think the Sun gives us energy to power the moral sense, except for the kind of morality evolution can develop—tribalistic morality where monkeys in one tribe are absolutely brutal to monkeys in another tribe.

            I think as far as we have energy it is almost all, if not all coming from the Sun. And I do think that to the extent we have morality, it is ultimately evolved by natural selection as are our immoral tendencies. Both are deeply affected by our culture and history no doubt, but these too ultimately arise from biology which arises from chemistry and then physics. That's as far as I can go, and I'm also largely speculating.

            But if course recognize that humans like monkeys have beebln and continue to be brutal to our neighbors. But both are also living and kind. The difference is we have a much better ability to reflect on this behaviour, abstract from it, and modify ours to get improve our conduct with respect to level of suffering and flourishing. (I take your point about predictive morality in this sense).

            >Now, the person who says that the sky is the limit for human potential with no God needed has a tiny little problem: such a statement is not falsifiable.

            I don't say that.g

          • It isn't about whether there are lies and how many but on assessments of suffering and flourishing.

            How can one make good assessments of suffering and flourishing amidst lies?

            Commands with no explanation. I didn't say or mean there was no standard, but that it wasn't communicated.

            You seem to have your own standard of what constitutes a standard. Care to explicate?

            A statement of values, or several by which to assess all ethical questions.

            Has humanity ever produced such a thing? (emphasis on the last clause) Do we have any reason to believe such a thing is logically possible?

            Ok. Again you think there is a problem with certain kinds of research in that it doesn't address real human motivation. I'd say that is the mandate of psychology and sociology. So my point is to sure go ahead and critique these, better yet practice one and do the research or do something to fund it. But there is no need to invent a new discipline. I think a project to understand if and how and why humans self deceive sounds like a great idea. I doubt anyone would say it's not right for psychology and/or sociology.

            I have raised funding for science and plan to do more. But do humans want to hear the answers? Who wants to hear that [s]he is a hypocrite, or less righteous than [s]he believes? And how do these incentives operate both on scientists and on the funding of scientists? You seem rather happy-go-lucky, Brian, in a world hurtling toward … something other than Disney Land.

            Any new discipline would have to work on data not processed as such by any extant discipline. Theology could try to assimilate more data from more perspectives than any given science. It would be a massive undertaking, but theology could be given an empirical component. The synthesizing and integrating could expose massive contradictions in science and society—contradictions not visible from any particular discipline. Unless you think this is logically impossible?

            Given that we can detect a planet transiting a star lightyears away I think astronomers would notice a device blocking our sun.

            Sure, because on the literal side of the analogy, it is not true that all is subjective: indeed we have quantitative measurement without which one could not detect what you describe. On the other side of the analogy, "good and bad are ultimately subjective".

            The difference is we have a much better ability to reflect on this behaviour, abstract from it, and modify ours to get improve our conduct with respect to level of suffering and flourishing.

            Can we expect anything more than we see in Eric Schwitzgebel's On Aiming for Moral Mediocrity or Cheeseburger ethics? Surely we should not deviate too far from the empirical evidence in what we say that "a much better ability to reflect" actually gets us?

          • >How can one make good assessments of suffering and flourishing amidst lies?

            One may not be able to.

            >You seem to have your own standard of what constitutes a standard. Care to explicate?

            I have the moral choice is the one that advances human flourishing and diminishes suffering.

            >Has humanity ever produced such a thing? (emphasis on the last clause) Do we have any reason to believe such a thing is logically possible?

            I'd say yes, utilitarianism is one, value ethics is another.

            >But do humans want to hear the answers?

            It seems we do, can't speak for everyone.

            >You seem rather happy-go-lucky, Brian, in a world hurtling toward … something other than Disney Land.

            I am not. I have very serious concerns and am rather quote pessimistic about world affairs.

            >The synthesizing and integrating could expose massive contradictions in science and society—contradictions not visible from any particular discipline. Unless you think this is logically impossible?

            Not exactly sure what you mean. A contradiction is logically impossible by definition. I would just encourage the research.

            >Sure, because on the literal side of the analogy,

            I wasn't aware you were making an analogy. Yes, good and bad are subjective, whether an object blocks light from the Sun on earth is not.

            >Surely we should not deviate too far from the empirical evidence in what we say that "a much better ability to reflect" actually gets us?

            It seems to me to get us civilization.

          • I have the moral choice is the one that advances human flourishing and diminishes suffering.

            But do you have anything like a system that optimizes for this? The term 'human flourishing' is notoriously vague and multi-valued. I suspect that most people who think they're good people would say that they "advance human flourishing and diminish suffering". But you above made an accusation of the Bible lacking "explanation" and "[communicated] standard". If you don't provide your own—to show what would suffice for you—you appear to be throwing stones from a glass house.

            I'd say yes, utilitarianism is one, value ethics is another.

            Has utilitarianism been put in place in any country you know of to a significant degree, such that people are constantly trying to increase the amount of utilitarianism practiced? I am not aware of this, which makes me think that the wonderful systematicity of utilitarianism is a mirage. We could pursue virtue ethics in this domain too, if you'd like.

            I have very serious concerns and am rather quote pessimistic about world affairs.

            But our being self-deceived (scientists included) isn't part of the problem?

            Not exactly sure what you mean. A contradiction is logically impossible by definition.

            If you want to see this argued out in detail for something much less integrating than theology, see Rudra Sil's Problems Chasing Methods, or Methods Chasing Problems?, a paper I will be discussing with sociologists and an anthropologist in 90 minutes. Contradictions in ontology violate the principle of non-contradiction; that is utterly different from this school of thought over here having theory which is contradictory to the theory of that school of thought over there.

            LB: Can we expect anything more than we see in Eric Schwitzgebel's On Aiming for Moral Mediocrity or Cheeseburger ethics? Surely we should not deviate too far from the empirical evidence in what we say that "a much better ability to reflect" actually gets us?

            BGA: It seems to me to get us civilization.

            That was deft avoidance of my question.

          • >But do you have anything like a system that optimizes for this?

            Sure I make assessments on what would make the most flourishing and least suffering.

            >The term 'human flourishing' is notoriously vague and multi-valued.

            I don't know about that. Human flourishing means good health, having the necessities of life, the resources to make life choices and pursue one's goals. Of course there are all kinds of ways to flourish, but all moral choices for me at least are the ones that advance flourishing.

            > I suspect that most people who think they're good people would say that they "advance human flourishing and diminish suffering".

            Me too.

            >If you don't provide your own.

            I did.

            >Has utilitarianism been put in place in any country you know of to a significant degree, such that people are constantly trying to increase the amount of utilitarianism practiced?

            Not that I'm aware of. I would object to any state legislating morality per se. But I'd say liberal democracies are generally focused on improving the well weing of their citizens and avoiding harm to them.

            >wonderful systematicity of utilitarianism is a mirage

            Please don't strawman me. I don't think it's wonderful of terribly systematic.

            >But our being self-deceived (scientists included) isn't part of the problem?

            I wouldn't use those terms, not a major problem as far as I can tell.

            >If you want to see this argued out in detail

            Not really.

            >Contradictions in ontology violate the principle of non-contradiction...

            Well, this is a bit of a tautology, any contradiction is going to violate that law!

          • BGA: I have the moral choice is the one that advances human flourishing and diminishes suffering.

            LB: But do you have anything like a system that optimizes for this?

            BGA: Sure I make assessments on what would make the most flourishing and least suffering.

            So do you ever buy alcohol or movie tickets? It seems to me the amount of suffering they could alleviate in e.g. Africa would always be greater per dollar than any flourishing they promote for you. I'm also not sure how all the time you put into discussions with me is anything like the optimal way to advance human flourishing and diminish suffering. Do you participate in Effective Altruism? If not, why not?

            Human flourishing means good health, having the necessities of life, the resources to make life choices and pursue one's goals.

            This looks very much like the definition of 'flourishing' used by the West to attempt to alleviate poverty in Africa. According to Mary Douglas and Steven Ney, this definition omits human relationships and social factors and thus the vast amount of money poured into that definition caused untold damage. (Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences) Furthermore, there is Peter Buffett's 2013 NYT piece The Charitable–Industrial Complex: Buffett argues that much charity is better understood as conscience-satisfying than truly helping. Simler and Hanson explore the matter further in The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life.

            LB: But you above made an accusation of the Bible lacking "explanation" and "[communicated] standard". If you don't provide your own—to show what would suffice for you—you appear to be throwing stones from a glass house.

            BGA: I did.

            Are you under the impression that the Bible does not see good health as important? Having the necessities of life as important? Having the resources to make [wise] life choices as important? Life was rather more about survival than getting to do whatever it is you feel like doing, so there was less "pursue one's goals", understand in a 21st context. So it's just not clear what you're providing, that the Bible doesn't.

            LB: Has utilitarianism been put in place in any country you know of to a significant degree, such that people are constantly trying to increase the amount of utilitarianism practiced?

            BGA: Not that I'm aware of. I would object to any state legislating morality per se.

            Ok, then let me put it this way: what is the body of empirical evidence that convinces you that 'utilitarianism'—per some definition that has been operationalized—is a good idea? And do you know of any empirical evidence which questions whether it is a good idea?

            LB: … wonderful systematicity of utilitarianism is a mirage …

            BGA: Please don't strawman me. I don't think it's wonderful of terribly systematic.

            Apologies, but there is nothing more systematic than utilitarianism. And you promised to do much better than the Bible in terms of "explanation" and "[communicated] standard".

            LB: But our being self-deceived (scientists included) isn't part of the problem?

            BGA: I wouldn't use those terms, not a major problem as far as I can tell.

            Ok, so while Francis Bacon argued a very similar thesis to mine (see his "Idols")—without copious peer-reviewed scientific work to back him up—I would have to produce copious peer-reviewed scientific work to back up my own suspicion? That is, I would have to show "settled science" on the matter? Or is there a lesser standard you could describe, to which I could adhere?

          • >So do you ever buy alcohol or movie tickets? It seems to me the amount of suffering they could alleviate in e.g. Africa would always be greater per dollar than any flourishing they promote for you.

            Absolutely a fair criticism. It's my moral system, I'm not for a second suggesting I am maximally moral.

            >Do you participate in Effective Altruism? If not, why not?

            I haven't in any significant way, but I do a little. I should more.

            >this definition omits human relationships and social factors and thus the vast amount of money poured into that definition caused untold damage

            I think human relationships and social factors should be taken into account as these could affect flourishing and suffering. There are all kinds of factors.

            The critiques you reference also seem to be focused on improving the well-being of humans and reducing suffering as well, it seems they are attacks on certain ways of providing aid or charity, rather than saying we should be seeking other goals such as conforming with divine command, or certain virtues.

            >Are you under the impression that the Bible does not see good health as important? ...

            No, just that it doesn't tell us what it's moral standard is, are you saying it is good health etc? If I share the same moral foundation as the Bible I wouldn't disagree with it. But you pointed to the law as the standard. I find the laws in the Bible often arbitrary to human well-being and often counter to it.

            >what is the body of empirical evidence that convinces you that 'utilitarianism'—per some definition that has been operationalized—is a good idea?

            There isn't one, I said clearly the foundation was subjective. You can be objective as to whether sone acts further flourishing or cause suffering, others one cannot. But I have no objective reason that say the goal of utilitarianism is objective.

            >without copious peer-reviewed scientific work to back him up—I would have to produce copious peer-reviewed scientific work to back up my own suspicion?

            Yes we would have to get into what you mean by self-deception and whether it's happening, and the likely effects. You can if you like. We've had a lot of discussion bon that topic in a previous discussion.y suspicion is that the major problems are not poeple lying to themselves, but the various cognitive biases that prevent us from taking action with long term goals and that distant harms though they are intellectually worse, we are biased to deal with smaller closer to home issues, xenophobia, things like that.

          • It's my moral system, I'm not for a second suggesting I am maximally moral.

            Empirically, you're just following a different moral system—for which you may not have an "explanation" nor a "[communicated] standard".

            The critiques you reference also seem to be focused on improving the well-being of humans and reducing suffering as well, it seems they are attacks on certain ways of providing aid or charity, rather than saying we should be seeking other goals such as conforming with divine command, or certain virtues.

            I'm not sure there's a difference, if you get the definition of 'human flourishing' right. I'll note that you've not given anything like an operationalization of 'human flourishing'.

            No, just that it doesn't tell us what it's moral standard is, are you saying it is good health etc?

            If you actually read the Bible, you'll see that good health is indeed desirable. It is not construed as the be-all and end-all of human life. How many people have you met who consider their personal health to be more important than anything else? My experience is that such people are not fun to be around.

            But you pointed to the law as the standard.

            Erm, what I did was quote this:

            But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34–40)

            A very rudimentary explanation is that you cannot love your neighbor if you do not love truth and goodness, first. Torah both made a people and provided preconditions to possibly understand this. You could consider that modern science did not erupt ex nihilo; it needed the right conditions to arise. Here is how an orthodox Jew describes the matter:

            The crux of this argument is that the law of Moses, alone among the laws of the nations, is fitted to man's nature and directed toward his well-being. (The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, 23)

            So for example, the "law of kings" in Deut 17:14–20 is designed so "that [the king's] heart may not be lifted up above his brothers". We could consider situations where the leadership of a nation obeys this and situations where the leadership disobeys it, and ask which seems better "fitted to [hu]man's nature".

            I find the laws in the Bible often arbitrary to human well-being and often counter to it.

            To human well-being in the ANE when famine was frequent and nations conquering nations a constant danger?

            There isn't one, I said clearly the foundation was subjective.

            So utilitarianism makes zero predictions which could be tested? 'Cause that's what I was looking for. If it is as good as you seem to think it is, why aren't more people flocking to it?

            Yes we would have to get into what you mean by self-deception and whether it's happening, and the likely effects. You can if you like. We've had a lot of discussion bon that topic in a previous discussion.y suspicion is that the major problems are not poeple lying to themselves, but the various cognitive biases that prevent us from taking action with long term goals and that distant harms though they are intellectually worse, we are biased to deal with smaller closer to home issues, xenophobia, things like that.

            The explanations you list have been posited for quite some time, now. Do you think they are helping us make the situation appreciably better? Because if they aren't, then to believe they will could be self-deception …

          • >for which you may not have an "explanation" nor a "[communicated] standard".

            Ok, I think I have both.

            >If you actually read the Bible, you'll see that good health is indeed desirable.

            Wasn't asking if it was biblically desirable, but a moral goal.

            >A very rudimentary explanation is that you cannot love your neighbor if you do not love truth and goodness, first.

            Ok, so the standard for the good is the law, which really means love your neighbor like yourself, which I take really means treat all humans with love, which really means pursue the truth and goodness, and we've come full circle. The question what is the good? What is the end goal of moral conduct?

            >So utilitarianism makes zero predictions which could be tested? '

            No, for example it predicts many things. But that it is the best moral system can no more be tested than whether Crash is the best movie. I mean I guess you could poll people.

            >If it is as good as you seem to think it is, why aren't more people flocking to it?

            I have yet to meet anyone that disputes human flourishing is a paramount moral goal and suffering the opposite. Or a moral question that is not posed in these terms. Do you have any examples of a moral choice to which these are irrelevant?

            >Do you think they are helping us make the situation appreciably better?

            Yes I tend to think things irradiating like eradicating xenophobia are helping, but I'm not aware of much study on this.

            One approach that I left out us the idea of a circle of empathy. The tendency of humans and other animals to share with, assist and protect an in group, especially close relatives, and marginalized even genocide outsiders. I think this is a tendency that is gaining more support and is responsible for much of the harms we observe. I do think efforts to expand this circle to all humanity will be effective.

          • Ok, I think I have both.

            Maybe you do, but if you're going to claim the Bible doesn't match some standard, you're responsible for articulating that standard. If the articulation is sufficiently vague, you're responsible for showing something which passes the standard. Your first attempt was subject to severe problems (it utterly ignored the importance of human relationships). At the vagueness level you've specified, the following should suffice:

            “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’ (Deuteronomy 6:20–25)

            See, for folks in the ANE, each person getting to do what he fancies was not an attainable goal. Surviving was an accomplishment in and of itself. That was primary; anything else is, well, predicated upon surviving. It's not that health wasn't valued; indeed the high value of health is why Isaiah could write:

            Why will you still be struck down?
                Why will you continue to rebel?
            The whole head is sick,
                and the whole heart faint.
            From the sole of the foot even to the head,
                there is no soundness in it,
            but bruises and sores
                and raw wounds;
            they are not pressed out or bound up
                or softened with oil.
            (Isaiah 1:5–6)

            In other passages, you have YHWH saying he provided Israel the necessities of life. So what is it that just doesn't suffice in the Bible as "explanation" and "[communicated] standard", which you can either (i) articulate well; or (ii) provide an example of?

            Ok, so the standard for the good is the law, which really means love your neighbor like yourself, which I take really means treat all humans with love, which really means pursue the truth and goodness, and we've come full circle. The question what is the good? What is the end goal of moral conduct?

            How do you love yourself? Jesus is saying: love others in that same way. Be symmetric. If you were to say, "I like flourishing, so I'm going to help you flourish as well", you're loving your neighbor as yourself. We know there are many toxic forms of "love", hence the need to put truth and goodness before loving neighbor. What happens when everyone prioritizes truth and goodness, then loves neighbor as self? To what end does that point? Is that end any more vague than your "flourishing"?

            No, for example it predicts many things.

            And how many other moral systems also predict things? And how much commonality is there between the predictions? Apparently, a lot:

            I have yet to meet anyone that disputes human flourishing is a paramount moral goal and suffering the opposite.

            So, whence the incredible subjectivity? Are you thinking something like suicide bombers, who expect to get all the nice things only in the next life? If so, you might look into what their family is promised this life, if they go through with the bombing.

            Do you have any examples of a moral choice to which these are irrelevant?

            Well, there are those whose opportunities for flourishing have been so damaged by evil action or evil inaction that they have decided that only until more people have been deprived of flourishing, will there be justice.

            And then there are those who allowed their own flourishing to be threatened or destroyed for the benefit of others. This is one reason I see utilitarianism as questionable: what guidance does it provide to such people? Did Gandhi employ utilitarianism? William Wilberforce? Martin Luther King, Jr.?

            I can certainly see governments employing utilitarianism, e.g. figuring out what changes to make to a freeway system with a fixed number of dollars in order to maximize life saved. When things can be nicely quantified, that becomes very attractive. Then again, the trolley problem has been presumed: some will die. That's not generally how we operate in day-to-day life: the loss of anyone is tragic. So I see utilitarianism as being of limited use. You yourself don't use it in two cases; I'll bet there are many more. (Because I doubt most individuals can use it well for much in their own moral lives.)

            One approach that I left out us the idea of a circle of empathy. The tendency of humans and other animals to share with, assist and protect an in group, especially close relatives, and marginalized even genocide outsiders.

            Really, you think the circle of empathy is growing in 2019? What I see is identity politics, where "in group" is key. That's what evolution produces: tribal morality. Have you looked at the numbers at WP: Refugee crisis § Modern and contemporary refugee crises? The world has virtually double the amount of refugees in 2016 as 2010. Peter Buffett has a story to tell about what "empathy" gets you: The Charitable–Industrial Complex.

            I do think efforts to expand this circle to all humanity will be effective.

            What would falsify this belief? And what's up with you saying the above as well as the below:

            LB: You seem rather happy-go-lucky, Brian, in a world hurtling toward … something other than Disney Land.

            BGA: I am not. I have very serious concerns and am rather quote pessimistic about world affairs.

            ?

          • >you're responsible for articulating that standard.

            I have a number of times now, maybe it's better to think of it as a paramount value or goal?

            >If the articulation is sufficiently vague, you're responsible for showing something which passes the standard.

            Ok, so there are standards and then there are circumstances which violate the standard. For my system it is a violation of morality when the harm or suffering to humans outweighs the flourishing or well-being. In many circumstances this will be easy, in many virtually impossible. Ultimately the assessments are subjective.

            What I thought we were doing here, was comparing standards. Say someone asks you a question if you tell the truth they will kill ten people. If you lie they will live and there will be no other consequences to the lie. A utilitarian will lie. A virtue ethicist will tell the truth, assuming they consider honesty an uncompromisable virtue. A divine command ethicist may also tell the truth if honesty is commanded.

            Now there are pros and cons to all three. It will feel better to the utilitarian, this situation sucks for the virtue ethicist, but she has a much easier time applying her morality. The divine command eithicist may take solace in faith in a greater plan.

            I would have thought Catholics subscribed to Divine Command ethicists, but I'm not sure based on your citations and comments.

            >And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.

            So if I understand correctly you're advocating a kind of Divine Command theory but conformity with commands is an instrumental moral goal with a terminal moral goal of survival? Does survival include all humans? Because the Egyptian first-born might question how Yaweh seeks to preserve human life. Or are you saying this was moral to kill them because their parents didn't smear animal blood on their doorframes?

            >So what is it that just doesn't suffice in the Bible as "explanation" and "[communicated] standard", which you can either (i) articulate well; or (ii) provide an example of?

            It's simply not very clearly stated. Is this saying the moral thing is to do whatever to survive? Or sacrifice yourself for others to survive? Or make a powerful ally to survive?

            It would have been pretty easy for the Bible to simply state that human life is the paramount value. But it can't really since it has god continually killing us without explicit justification. Eg we are never told why he flooded the world killing almost all of us.

            >How do you love yourself? Jesus is saying: love others in that same way

            Well which is it? Keep the law so I preserve you or love others, i.e. preserve them yourself? Where was this advice in the thousands of years before Jesus?

            >What happens when everyone prioritizes truth and goodness, then loves neighbor as self?

            You can't appeal to "goodness", goodness is what we are trying to identify.

            >What happens when everyone prioritizes truth and goodness, then loves neighbor as self? To what end does that point? Is that end any more vague than your "flourishing"?

            Sounds like utilitarianism to me. Your passage is more clear than the Bible.

            >And how many other moral systems also predict things?

            All of them I expect.

            >Are you thinking something like suicide bombers, who expect to get all the nice things only in the next life?

            No, that is not the approach I outlined. But certainly if a suicide bomber could be applying utilitarianism, if they assess that committing that act would result in an improvement to human flourishing that makes this suffering worth it. I would disagree with such an assessment in most cases of suicide bombings I've heard of. I don't think this is generally the case, generally I think they usually lp interpret a god requires such an act. Of course not always the case.

            >Did Gandhi employ utilitarianism? William Wilberforce? Martin Luther King, Jr.?

            I'd say so yes, I think they were motivated to increase flourishing for all humans and reduce suffering.

            >So I see utilitarianism as being of limited use

            Never said it was perfect.

            >Really, you think the circle of empathy is growing in 2019?

            No I do not. I think there is a ton of xenophobia on the rise.

            >That's what evolution produces: tribal morality.

            Exactly, which is why we need to see the tribe as all humans. The circle of empathy is the tribe, or in-group. Which is why I have real trouble with the genocide and "god's chosen people" narratives in the OT. (And I understand that these are not problematic on theistic viewpoints you don't need to explain those. I get it, which is why I don't try to change theology, but to challenge theism itself, mostly.)

            >What would falsify this belief?

            I suppose it's possible. It would take a huge amount of resources to study this. I doubt we could get sufficient data on this, or any application of morality perhaps ever.

            >I am not. I have very serious concerns and am rather quote pessimistic about world affairs.

            Just as you say, the massive increase of displaced persons, on-going conflicts, the trend of liberal democracies towards xenophobic nationalism. The rise of alternative facts and death of critical thinking. The failure to address climate change.

          • I have a number of times now, maybe it's better to think of it as a paramount value or goal?

            Is there any better articulation than:

            BGA: Human flourishing means good health, having the necessities of life, the resources to make life choices and pursue one's goals. Of course there are all kinds of ways to flourish, but all moral choices for me at least are the ones that advance flourishing.

            +

            BGA: I think human relationships and social factors should be taken into account as these could affect flourishing and suffering. There are all kinds of factors.

            ? I don't particularly care how articulate you are; I'm simply going to question whether you are expecting the Bible to be more articulate than what you have said. And I'm going to question whether your own version is less susceptible to matters of "explanation" and "[communicated] standard". Fair's fair, right?

            For my system it is a violation of morality when the harm or suffering to humans outweighs the flourishing or well-being.

            So when YHWH led the Israelites out of Egypt, was it too much "harm or suffering" for them to have to trek through the wilderness and subsist on manna? Much flourishing and well-being was to be found in the Promised Land, but it took a lot of effort and hardship to get there.

            What I thought we were doing here, was comparing standards. Say someone asks you a question if you tell the truth they will kill ten people. If you lie they will live and there will be no other consequences to the lie. A utilitarian will lie. A virtue ethicist will tell the truth, assuming they consider honesty an uncompromisable virtue. A divine command ethicist may also tell the truth if honesty is commanded.

            Now you can see why I said "Gestapo", whereas before "I don't see the relevance of … the comment about the Gestapo." If the virtue ethicist is completely selfish, lying would taint his/her being. But can lying to a liar ever aid them in leaving a life of lying? Might it be easier for some individual in the Gestapo to repent if [s]he has fewer deaths in his/her conscience? I will let Catholics here comment on divine command ethics; I don't know what their view is. The most I will say is that children do need to follow commands they don't understand—for a time.

            So if I understand correctly you're advocating a kind of Divine Command theory but conformity with commands is an instrumental moral goal with a terminal moral goal of survival?

            I said "[Survival] was primary; anything else is, well, predicated upon surviving." I think it is a very weird divine command theory; see the request made by the masses in Deut 5:22–33. In Enlightenment terms, it would be: "This 'Reason' thing is too hard; go do it for us and then tell us what to do!"

            Does survival include all humans? Because the Egyptian first-born might question how Yaweh seeks to preserve human life. Or are you saying this was moral to kill them because their parents didn't smear animal blood on their doorframes?

            You are forgetting that when Moses was born, "Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”" What YHWH did was not even lex talionis, it was a lesser version with exceedingly easy way of avoiding the consequences. Every bit of Moses' words before Pharaoh had proven true, so why would a single Egyptian not smear animal blood on his/her doorframe? If the answer is "fear of Pharaoh", then we have a "just following orders" discussion and can bring in the Nuremberg trials.

            It is a sad fact that humans generally don't snap to attention until people they care about die. I see YHWH as inflicting the absolute minimum amount of damage required to convince the Egyptians that they were wrong. Indeed, the Egyptians themselves got to choose whether they had to experience that damage in order to learn. When YHWH isn't actively teaching like this, the death toll tends to be much greater. I don't know how else YHWH could have better valued human life, other than robo-controlling people. And then it's no longer really "human life".

            It's simply not very clearly stated. Is this saying the moral thing is to do whatever to survive? Or sacrifice yourself for others to survive? Or make a powerful ally to survive?

            And your moral system is going to offer clarity to all cultures throughout spacetime? If that were true, surely you could be a major agent of world peace. The fact that you are not indicates to me that the world is (and was) fantastically more complicated than you are allowing.

            It would have been pretty easy for the Bible to simply state that human life is the paramount value. But it can't really since it has god continually killing us without explicit justification. Eg we are never told why he flooded the world killing almost all of us.

            Your last sentence is incorrect; in fact Genesis 6 contains the rationale "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." In contrast, the Gilgamesh epic has humans (who in that epic are slaves of the gods, not imago Dei) being so noisy that the gods are annoyed and so send a flood. The fact that the flood didn't work (humans were just as evil after as before) indicates to me that God didn't actually bring about a literal flood. Instead, the story serves as a polemic against the Gilgamesh portrayal and a warning against anyone who would think that restarting humanity with a small number of righteous/​moral/​noble/​educated people would possibly be a good idea. (There have been such people.)

            As to your first sentence, why don't you tell me when a homo sapiens organism constitutes "human life"? Let's see how simple things are.

            Well which is it? Keep the law so I preserve you or love others, i.e. preserve them yourself? Where was this advice in the thousands of years before Jesus?

            What is the different between children and adults in how they reason, morally?

            You can't appeal to "goodness", goodness is what we are trying to identify.

            Self-reference is not always fatally circular. In this case, everyone always starts with some understanding of "goodness", upon which they iterate. It might be helpful to think about what "truth stated without love" does to people—truth alone is not sufficient.

            Sounds like utilitarianism to me.

            Loving neighbor as self sounds like utilitarianism?!

            All of them I expect.

            And how much overlap is there between the predictions of various moral systems?

            LB: Did Gandhi employ utilitarianism? William Wilberforce? Martin Luther King, Jr.?

            BGA: I'd say so yes, I think they were motivated to increase flourishing for all humans and reduce suffering.

            At this point, I doubt your "utilitarianism" has much content. I have no idea how well you follow it and to the extent you don't, I doubt you understand it.

            Exactly, which is why we need to see the tribe as all humans. The circle of empathy is the tribe, or in-group. Which is why I have real trouble with the genocide and "god's chosen people" narratives in the OT.

            (1) You've provided no demonstrably effective way of morally transcending the tribe.

            (2) Feel free to explore this Christian Think Tank article on genocide.

            (3) Feel free to find another nation whose god gave it fixed borders (Num 34:1–15), precluding the kind of empire-building we see throughout the ages. Anyone who did not want to do it "the Israelite way" could leave. Now, how many places on Earth have politics strongly influenced by America, Russia, and/or China?

          • >I'm simply going to question whether you are expecting the Bible to be more articulate than what you have said.

            No. I'm just noting I don't see it express any standard for morality, articulate or not.

            >So when YHWH led the Israelites out of Egypt, was it too much "harm or suffering" for them to have to trek through the wilderness and subsist on manna? Much flourishing and well-being was to be found in the Promised Land, but it took a lot of effort and hardship to get there.

            I don't see any reason to have a 40 year trek to get from Egypt to Israel, so it would seem the promise was delayed for no good reason and the person responsible for the delay was immoral.

            >The most I will say is that children do need to follow commands they don't understand—for a time.

            The question is why? If it is to protect them from suffering and/or to help their well-being, this would actually be utilitarianism. If it's just because morality means following divine commands, then that is what I'd call Divine Command theory.

            >I said "[Survival] was primary; anything else is, well, predicated upon surviving."

            Ok I get it now.

            >And your moral system is going to offer clarity to all cultures throughout spacetime?

            Never suggested it could.

            >As to your first sentence, why don't you tell me when a homo sapiens organism constitutes "human life"?

            Can't with any more precision.

            >Loving neighbor as self sounds like utilitarianism?!

            Yes, part of it. It's a consequence of pursuing human well-being.

            >And how much overlap is there between the predictions of various moral systems?

            Depends what you mean by overlap.

          • I'm just noting I don't see it express any standard for morality, articulate or not.

            How much of it have you read? I still don't quite know what you mean; you did not answer my opening question.

            I don't see any reason to have a 40 year trek to get from Egypt to Israel, so it would seem the promise was delayed for no good reason and the person responsible for the delay was immoral.

            It didn't have to be 40 years. Did you know why it became 40 years, when you said the above?

            The question is why? If it is to protect them from suffering and/or to help their well-being, this would actually be utilitarianism. If it's just because morality means following divine commands, then that is what I'd call Divine Command theory.

            Utilitarianism per dictionary.com: utilitarianism? Also, we have you admitting that you are not a strict utilitarian in this sense; I am skeptical you follow it very well at all given what you admitted. You would be in good company, per Eric Schwitzgebel's On Aiming for Moral Mediocrity and Cheeseburger ethics. But then your professed standard would be so different from your practiced standard that you'd be technically a 'hypocrite'.

            Your bit on DCT has a a problem with the Deuteronomy 6 bit I quoted.

            BGA: It's simply not very clearly stated. [1] Is this saying the moral thing is to do whatever to survive? [2] Or sacrifice yourself for others to survive? [3] Or make a powerful ally to survive?

            LB: And your moral system is going to offer clarity to all cultures throughout spacetime?

            BGA: Never suggested it could.

            Does it need to be "clearly stated" to you, or to the original audience? It is rather clear that you either haven't read much of the Bible or have forgotten much. I can give you scripture to support my answers to your three questions if you'd like: [1] No; [2] Sometimes; [3] No. These are, in fact, complicated questions when you want to make practical decisions and so there are multiple case studies in the Tanakh replete with commentary. Simplistic terms such as "human flourishing" are nigh meaningless without extensive explanation.

            BGA: It would have been pretty easy for the Bible to simply state that human life is the paramount value. But it can't really since it has god continually killing us without explicit justification. Eg we are never told why he flooded the world killing almost all of us.

            LB: As to your first sentence, why don't you tell me when a homo sapiens organism constitutes "human life"?

            BGA: Can't with any more precision.

            Does this mean you are against most abortion?

            LB: Loving neighbor as self sounds like utilitarianism?!

            BGA: Yes, part of it. It's a consequence of pursuing human well-being.

            I think you mean consequentialism, which contains the line "The paradigm case of consequentialism is utilitarianism", as well as:

            Classic utilitarianism is consequentialist as opposed to deontological because of what it denies. It denies that moral rightness depends directly on anything other than consequences, such as whether the agent promised in the past to do the act now. (SEP: Consequentialism)

            If however creation is designed such that humans do better when following certain rules, then there is in principle no difference in outcome between following the rules and seeking the consequences the rules will enable. And so when Deut 6:20–25 says that the rules are to ensure survival, you have a situation where DCT is indistinguishable from consequentialism.

            LB: And how much overlap is there between the predictions of various moral systems?

            BGA: Depends what you mean by overlap.

            Overlap in predicted result. I'm curious what other plausible interpretations you thought there were of what I asked.

          • >How much of it have you read?

            In fairness less than half. I did coincidentally just start in on the NT. I got to Kings in the OT years ago. But I have witnessed many Christians speak about morality, I've not heard the standard yet. I've got yours though thanks.

            >I am skeptical you follow it very well at all given what you admitted

            Sure, I'd say the most influential book on this I've read is Singer's Practical Ethics. I don't think I have the same moral conclusions as Singer. Really all I mean by the term is that when I consider a question from a moral perspective what I am doing us assessing it with respect to whether it advances human well being and reduces human suffering, as opposed to other goals.

            >Does it need to be "clearly stated" to you, or to the original audience?

            I need to know what the standard is to discuss it. So the clearer it is stated the better.

            >Does this mean you are against most abortion?

            No I don't think I am.

            >If however creation is designed such that humans do better when following certain rules...

            What do you mean by "do better"? I certainly agree with that statement. I will be teaching my kids certain rules to improve their well-being and avoid suffering. But some rules do seem contrary to these goals, like never lie.

            >you have a situation where DCT is indistinguishable from consequentialism.

            But I don't accept just "survival" as a moral goal, it's well-being.

          • But I have witnessed many Christians speak about morality, I've not heard the standard yet.

            I haven't heard much of a standard from you, either. That term "human flourishing" is incredibly vague. On the one hand you want to value all human life (vs. excluding any "Egyptian first-born"), and yet on the other hand you "don't think" you are against most abortion. It seems that term is rather mutable. Not much of a foundation if you can pour whatever meaning you want into it. Any time you try to restrict what can possibly be poured into it, you're going to get a fight on your hands. It used to be that thinking you were a different gender was considered a disease; it used to be thought that homosexuality was a mental disorder. Body integrity dysphoria is still understood as a "disorder", but one day we might decide that people can get limbs amputated if they really want to, just like people can get euthanized if they really want to.

            Note that "love your neighbor as yourself" keeps open a wide range of possibilities. What it focuses on is symmetry: you don't get to be treated more nicely than others. That seems like a pretty good foundation for developing an understanding of "human flourishing" to me—but it would appear you very much disagree.

            Really all I mean by the term ['utilitarianism'] is that when I consider a question from a moral perspective what I am doing us assessing it with respect to whether it advances human well being and reduces human suffering, as opposed to other goals.

            Most decisions advance the well-being of some human. The question is whether you screw over or fail to help some other human being who has it much worse than you. The moral code you've described is extremely easy to follow. Any remotely standard form of 'utilitarianism', on the other hand, is tremendously harder.

            I need to know what the standard is to discuss it.

            Agreed. Who defines what qualifies as "human well being"?

            What do you mean by "do better"?

            By their own lights, possibly after they've followed the rule for a bit to see what it's like to follow the rule.

            But some rules do seem contrary to these goals, like never lie.

            A rule I've never proposed, excepting the kind of extenuating circumstances you gave to justify lying.

            But I don't accept just "survival" as a moral goal, it's well-being.

            That isn't all that the Israelites cared about; it was a prerequisite. Suppose that your version of morality, when realized in Europe, results in the birth rates of the cultures valuing liberalism to decline so much that soon other cultures, with other values, gain political dominance. Then your values would not be self-perpetuating: they would lead to extinction.

            Another thing the Israelites cared about, which does not show up explicitly in anything you've written, is justice. So for example: the courts are not to show partiality toward the rich or the poor. Without this, some will flourish a lot more than others. Such asymmetry isn't necessarily counter to utilitarianism by the way; one can adjust the equations to support a number of different distributions of wealth and opportunity.

          • >That term "human flourishing" is incredibly vague.

            I agree, but as it needs to capture a goal by which all human conduct can be assessed any single term is going to be a broad stroke.

            >It seems that term is rather mutable.

            No, it's just there are good reasons to why I don't think most abortion is immoral but the slaughter of the Egyptian first born, had it happened would have been. Recall the moral value is human well-being and flourishing not simply han life. But that requires a quite a bit of explanation. And certainly different utilitarian proponants may disagree an this moral assessment.

            The point is for this conversation, is in both cases my moral system is making an assessment on the basis of the factors of human flourishing or well-being vs suffering as opposed to a rule say, that says irrespective of these factors: never take any step to end a pregnancy.

            >Any time you try to restrict what can possibly be poured into it, you're going to get a fight on your hands

            Not at all in mist cases it's very clear. You've raised abortion one of the most difficult moral questions of our time. Most moral questions are so easy we never need to discuss them.

            >Note that "love your neighbor as yourself" keeps open a wide range of possibilities.

            I never said it didn't. I think it's just a proxy for valuing human well-being.

            Oh, as you seem to agree:

            >That seems like a pretty good foundation for developing an understanding of "human flourishing"

            >The moral code you've described is extremely easy to follow.

            I thought you said it was vague and difficult to apply?

            >Who defines what qualifies as "human well being"?

            We do. It's usually not controversial. Good health, the make yofreedom tour own choices and pursue your goals.

            >>What do you mean by "do better"?
            B>their own lights, possibly after they've followed the rule for a bit to see what it's like to follow the rule.

            I still don't know what you mean by "do better" by their own lights? What is the "better"? (Hint: it rhymes with bloomi' fell-skiing)

            >Then your values would not be self-perpetuating: they would lead to extinction.

            I don't necessarily think that extinction if it happens that way is immoral. But, I would think that before going extinct, it would result in tremendous human suffering as the elderly would have fewer resources to help them maintain well-being. I expect my view would be the moral thing would be to work to avoid that.

            >does not show up explicitly in anything you've written, is justice.

            Because justice is an instrumental goal. Justice fairness, kindness, compassion all help support human flourishing, in my assessment.

            >So for example: the courts are not to show partiality toward the rich or the poor.

            Right because to do so would lead to unfairness and suffering.

            >Without this, some will flourish a lot more than others.

            Which is why I have always say it also means avoiding suffering.

          • The point is for this conversation, is in both cases my moral system is making an assessment on the basis of the factors of human flourishing or well-being vs suffering as opposed to a rule say, that says irrespective of these factors: never take any step to end a pregnancy.

            In that case, it seems that you've been defining "explanation" and "[communicated] standard" in consequentialist terms. Anything which is not consequentialist cannot possibly suffice. I think it would be better to state this up-front, than require your interlocutor to suss it through many, many exchanges. And yet, the passage I excerpted earlier does actually exhibit consequentialism:

            “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.’ (Deuteronomy 6:20–25)

            What is the difference between the underlined and "human flourishing"?

            Most moral questions are so easy we never need to discuss them.

            Like whether you should buy a movie theater ticket or send the money to starving, diseased, oppressed children in Africa?

            I thought you said it was vague and difficult to apply?

            That was until you clarified what your moral code was. You never meant anything like the standard forms of 'utilitarianism'.

            LB: Who defines what qualifies as "human well being"?

            BGA: We do. It's usually not controversial. Good health, the make yofreedom tour own choices and pursue your goals.

            You think that what constitutes "good health" is simple? I suggest a look at SEP: Concepts of Disease and Health as well as Foucault on what society defines as "illness". Or perhaps you could tell me whether those with body integrity dysphoria should be allowed to get amputations—after a period of decision which is surely less intense than the period of decision required to get euthanized.

            Also, what happens when the choices of individuals to pursue their own goals are insufficient to continue the existence of their civilization? (Civilizations have collapsed, quite regularly.) Is that just a cost of "human flourishing"? Perhaps you answered, with "I don't necessarily think that extinction if it happens that way is immoral."?

            I still don't know what you mean by "do better" by their own lights? What is the "better"?

            I'm letting them define "better", vs. imposing my idiosyncratic definition of "human flourishing" or "human well being" on them. This is me loving my neighbor as I love myself.

            I don't necessarily think that extinction if it happens that way is immoral. But, I would think that before going extinct, it would result in tremendous human suffering as the elderly would have fewer resources to help them maintain well-being. I expect my view would be the moral thing would be to work to avoid that.

            Do we have moral duty to those who won't even be born by the time we're dead? Remember the following:

            LB: So do you ever buy alcohol or movie tickets? It seems to me the amount of suffering they could alleviate in e.g. Africa would always be greater per dollar than any flourishing they promote for you.

            BGA: Absolutely a fair criticism. It's my moral system, I'm not for a second suggesting I am maximally moral.

            If you don't care that much about those currently alive, are you really going to care more about those a few generations in the future? The only "yes" I can give to that is a "yes" embedded in tribalism: families and tribes have long looked out for the good of their descendants, several generations out. But you want to care about Egyptian firstborn, not only your own tribe or family. It's as if you're preaching utilitarianism, while practicing something so far short of it that one would never guess 'utilitarianism' from your actions. Is it immoral to have such a gap, or is that one of those acceptable lies?

            Because justice is an instrumental goal.

            Justice isn't necessary on utilitarian grounds. If you can off people with no friends and no identifiable family and distribute their organs to those in desperate need of transplant, you can increase the total "human flourishing". We balk at this, but many of us don't balk at doing this with fetal tissue.

            Which is why I have always say it also means avoiding suffering.

            And yet, you still purchase alcohol and/or movie tickets instead of using that money (and time and energy) to reduce suffering of others—surely more than the movie or alcohol would reduce your own suffering or contribute to your own flourishing. So, I say your moral system is something other than what you've claimed. Otherwise, you would aspire to do better than you do and show clear signs of straining toward that goal.

          • >In that case, it seems that you've been defining "explanation" and "[communicated] standard" in consequentialist terms.

            I think I'd agree with that, if I'm understanding what you mean by consequentialist.

            >Anything which is not consequentialist cannot possibly suffice.

            Anything that has no consequences is indeed inconsequential. I'm not understanding why anything inconsequential would matter in moral terms.

            >What is the difference between the underlined and "human flourishing"?

            If by "good" the passage means human flourishing, there wouldn't be , a difference. But my reading is it is not. It is concerned with a single ethnicity or religious people's well-being to the devastating suffering of another's for no "good" reason I can ascertain.

            >Like whether you should buy a movie theater ticket or send the money to starving, diseased, oppressed children in Africa?

            I would say the moral choice there is pretty clear, send the money. I never said I always make moral choices or the best moral choice.

            >You think that what constitutes "good health" is simple?

            Most of the time yes. Of course there are cases on the margins as with any complex area.

            >Also, what happens when the choices of individuals to pursue their own goals are insufficient to continue the existence of their civilization?

            Then, if those choices are applied, civilizations collapse.

            >Do we have moral duty to those who won't even be born by the time we're dead?

            Yes.

            >If you don't care that much about those currently alive.

            I do, that's what I care most about.

            >It's as if you're preaching utilitarianism, while practicing something so far short of it that one would never guess 'utilitarianism' from your actions.

            I didn't realize I was preaching. I thought I was just answering your questions. I have not lied. I have expressed the moral system I employ. I have been quite clear that I don't always make the most moral choices, when I don't I try to do better and make amends for any mistakes I have made.

            >And yet, you still purchase alcohol and/or movie tickets instead of using that money (and time and energy) to reduce suffering of others—surely more than the movie or alcohol would reduce your own suffering or contribute to your own flourishing.

            Not instead. I do actually do both. I am not concerned terribly with the choices I've made a d whether these are the best I can do to advance my moral goals. I would suggest that you are not sufficiently informed to make judgments of me on this basis, as in fact there is a great deal about me that you don't know and I'm not comfortable sharing publicly on the internet. I'm happy to continue this discussion and answer any questions you may have, but I should tell you that I have no interest in trying to prove to you that I am a good person.

            >So, I say your moral system is something other than what you've claimed.

            Ok.

            >Otherwise, you would aspire to do better than you do and show clear signs of straining toward that goal.

            Agaln, you don't know what I have done. You know very little about me.

          • Anything that has no consequences is indeed inconsequential.

            You have misunderstood what consequentialism is. Or you're being coy.

            It is concerned with a single ethnicity or religious people's well-being to the devastating suffering of another's for no "good" reason I can ascertain.

            I dealt with the Egyptian first-born issue with "You are forgetting that when Moses was born …"; you ignored that in your reply.

            LB: You think that what constitutes "good health" is simple?

            BGA: Most of the time yes. Of course there are cases on the margins as with any complex area.

            So is the current cadence of school shootings in the US a sign of our sucking at mental health (even though plenty of schools had gun clubs in the past), or might it also a sign of our society having a disease? I don't think we can say that school shootings are "cases on the margins".

            LB: Also, what happens when the choices of individuals to pursue their own goals are insufficient to continue the existence of their civilization?

            BGA: Then, if those choices are applied, civilizations collapse.

            Ok, so would you subordinate "having … the resources to make life choices and pursue one's goals" to something like: "that which continues the thriving of the nation"? This has long been a problem in liberal thought, by the way.

            I didn't realize I was preaching. I thought I was just answering your questions. I have not lied. I have expressed the moral system I employ. I have been quite clear that I don't always make the most moral choices, when I don't I try to do better and make amends for any mistakes I have made.

            The word choice was because 'preaching' and 'practice' are often juxtaposed. I'm not accusing you of lying, I'm saying that the moral system you seem to actually follow seems different from the one that you've described. This is absolutely standard human behavior. The one you actually follow seems closer to what we see in Torah: take care of your own first, then take care of others. There is a prioritization which does not show up in any utilitarianism I've seen. When things are framed this way, one can then ask just how much one ends up having to give to others after taking care of one's own—and I'm not going to make any claims about how you perform, there.

            My movie ticket / alcohol question was expressly designed to tease out that you're going to spend on yourself, to achieve personal flourishing. Straight-up utilitarianism says that if you could better spend that money on others where a dollar goes further, you should. But this means a huge decrease in flourishing for you, even if it would greatly increase the flourishing of multiple other persons. I don't fault you for not wanting to do this.

          • >So is the current cadence of school shootings in the US a sign of our sucking at mental health (even though plenty of schools had gun clubs in the past), or might it also a sign of our society having a disease?

            Mental unhealthiness can be quite clear, but it can also be very difficult to gauge.

            >Ok, so would you subordinate "having … the resources to make life choices and pursue one's goals" to something like: "that which continues the thriving of the nation"?

            It depends' the goals are flourishing and avoiding harm. Each case needs to be assessed. These topics are so complex and difficult to predict, it is really tough to figure out.

            >I'm saying that the moral system you seem to actually follow seems different from the one that you've described.

            No, I'm following the one I described.

            >take care of your own first, then take care of others.

            That does describe my behaviour sometimes and it usually is consistently with my moral system, but it is not my moral system.

            >you're going to spend on yourself, to achieve personal flourishing.

            Yes I am a human and my flourishing counts in my moral assessments.

            >Straight-up utilitarianism says that if you could better spend that money on others where a dollar goes further, you should.

            Correct.

            >But this means a huge decrease in flourishing for you, even if it would greatly increase the flourishing of multiple other persons.

            Yes, these are the kind of assessments I make in my moral decisions. I think you got it.

          • LB: You think that what constitutes "good health" is simple?

            BGA: Most of the time yes. Of course there are cases on the margins as with any complex area.

            LB: So is the current cadence of school shootings in the US a sign of our sucking at mental health (even though plenty of schools had gun clubs in the past), or might it also a sign of our society having a disease? I don't think we can say that school shootings are "cases on the margins".

            BGA: Mental unhealthiness can be quite clear, but it can also be very difficult to gauge.

            I think this is a good place where "good health" is not so simple. Yes we can say "good societal health means no school shootings"†, but how to get there is apparently rather difficult. We don't even know how much of the illness comes from the individual vs. coming from society. The Bible, as it turns out, puts a lot of focus on health of the society; this was more immediately important back in the day. Self-actualization wasn't really of prime importance, back then. There were important prerequisites, prerequisites which may be eroding in the West, today.

            † Edit: I think we have to be careful about how purely negative descriptions, such as the one I included here. We may not know what the positive attributes are of a society which has the diversity America does (and other relevant conditions), which would make school shootings much less common.

            No, I'm following the one I described.

            A curve which is asymptotically approaching the line y = 5 is also moving toward the line y = 1000. But it will never get there—or anywhere close. Do you think it is accurate to say that such a curve is "headed towards" y = 1000? I want to separate between technical correctness and whether by saying so, you set up the right idea in the other person's head.

            Yes, these are the kind of assessments I make in my moral decisions. I think you got it.

            So here's the kicker: is arguing with me on SN an optimizing choice when it comes to increasing human flourishing and/or decreasing human suffering?

          • >societal health

            I agree, but we were talking about individual health.

            >the Bible puts a lot of focus on health of the society

            And many other things, such as genealogy. The advice of Jesus seems very adverse to a healthy society in the portions I have read. It seems to completely ignore mental illness, other than to suggest some people are possessed. This I think has been something of a barrier in dealing with mental health.

            >So here's the kicker: is arguing with me on SN an optimizing choice when it comes to increasing human flourishing and/or decreasing human suffering?

            Not sure, I go back and forth as to whether this is worthwhile. But I only do for a few minutes in the bus or when I don't have anything else to do.

          • I agree, but we were talking about individual health.

            Do you think your form of 'human flourishing' is remotely imaginable without sufficient 'societal health'? Or do you think that someone being invaded by the Mongol Horde could just as easily understood 'human flourishing' and then take the appropriate steps to maximize it?

            The advice of Jesus seems very adverse to a healthy society in the portions I have read. It seems to completely ignore mental illness, other than to suggest some people are possessed.

            I've worked with a bit of mental illness and I have no problem modeling some of it as thought-forms resilient to expulsion, as if they are fighting for their own survival and residence within the person's mind. There is also reason to think that some mental illness is caused by society (Mind, Modernity, Madness); how much mental illness could be cured by declaring a chance in society where the person can understand it as an escape from all sorts of pathological situations? Saying "in the name of Jesus I cast out this unclean spirit" need not be magical; it can refer to the 'kingdom of God', with Jesus as King. The extended version would be: "You need not be that way in the kingdom of God; brokenness made this happen and you can now live in an environment which does not cause that brokenness but instead heals it." But you have to be appealing to something real enough or it doesn't work.

            So, what other "advice of Jesus seems very adverse to a healthy society"?

            But I only do for a few minutes in the bus or when I don't have anything else to do.

            There aren't forums or blogs centered around promoting human flourishing and diminishing human suffering? You're arguing on a Catholic blog, one filled by people who think they have a very good idea of how to go about these things and are unlikely to take too many cues from you.

          • We can keep going through your hypotheticals, but we aren't going to be able to exchange enough information for me to give you an assessment for each one. It is going to depend on all the relevant factors.

            I do not know how to cure any mental illness. I don't know how much can be cured.

            >So, what other "advice of Jesus seems very adverse to a healthy society"?

            >>For whoever wants to save their life [62] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

            I think people should not be advised to lose their lives.

            >There aren't forums or blogs centered around promoting human flourishing and diminishing human suffering?

            I expect there are.

            >You're arguing on a Catholic blog, one filled by people who think they have a very good idea of how to go about these things and are unlikely to take too many cues from you

            Fair point, I'm just answering your questions. I'll stop.

            I've found this discussion engaging. I do have time for the argument that the most pro-social people are not defined by being atheist or religious per se but generally those who are interested and engages in their identity in this regard. I think this is because the more we reflect on this, the more it encourages one to work harder to live up to the valued they hold important. I've certainly done quite a bit of that following our discussion. So I think there probably has been some value to our discussion.

            I hope we can do it some more.

          • We can keep going through your hypotheticals, but we aren't going to be able to exchange enough information for me to give you an assessment for each one. It is going to depend on all the relevant factors.

            I had two major points:

            (1) Cast in doubt that your [best? / ignored] articulation constitutes either (i) an "explanation"; or (ii) a "[communicated] standard".

            (2) Cast in doubt that "Most of the time [what constitutes "good health" is simple]."

            If we admit that simplistic formulations just won't cut it—in any way—then the complexity of the Bible can be more easily seen as matching complexity in human life. For example, until my group is stable enough, we are not going to be able to do a very good job of promoting the flourishing of all. And yet, the ethnocentrism of much of the Tanakh† is supposedly a liability instead of an asset. Forgetting the required foundation for anything like egalitarianism is a luxury of those who can take it for granted.

            † Jonah expresses ethnocentrism when he protests God's mission to offer Ninevah repentance; in contrast the prophets speak of justice and goodness extending to all nations. And the egalitarianism really stretches back to God's promise to Abram that he would be a blessing to all nations. But there is a lot of focus on ensuring justice and peace within Israel, and no provision for [proselytizing] religious pluralism (which would have included e.g. the right to sacrifice one's children to the gods—religion was deeply tied to social life back then).

            LB: So, what other "advice of Jesus seems very adverse to a healthy society"?

            BGA: "For whoever wants to save their life [62] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."

            This has been interpreted in a number of ways; what dominant way(s) have you seen it interpreted which you think falls short of your understanding of 'human flourishing'? For example, do you think the last clause means "die for me will be raised again"? Taking that extreme interpretation, do you think MLK Jr. and Gandhi were wrong to push so hard that they risked assassination?

            I've found this discussion engaging. I do have time for the argument that the most pro-social people are not defined by being atheist or religious per se but generally those who are interested and engages in their identity in this regard. I think this is because the more we reflect on this, the more it encourages one to work harder to live up to the valued they hold important. I've certainly done quite a bit of that following our discussion. So I think there probably has been some value to our discussion.

            Glad to hear that! Would you consider writing up a guest blog post for SN on this topic? I think they would be rather interested in the "engages in their identity" bit—with their own ideas on how this should be done, of course. You could ask for secular resources—books, articles, videos, blogs, forums, organizations—on better doing what you're trying to do. I often find that the best way to deal with atheist–theist issues is a compare & contrast; that way both can come out better as a result. I have my own thoughts on your paragraph here, but I'm inclined to save them for a more extensive version from you.

          • Phil

            No, it's just there are good reasons to why I don't think most abortion is immoral but the slaughter of the Egyptian first born, had it happened would have been. Recall the moral value is human well-being and flourishing not simply han life. But that requires a quite a bit of explanation. And certainly different utilitarian proponants may disagree an this moral assessment.

            So you wouldn't agree with the statement that, "The purposeful and direct killing of an innocent human being is always wrong".
            Is this correct?

          • Ficino

            "life" is too vague. Persons have rights. "life" is either a state or an activity.

          • Phil

            "life" is too vague. Persons have rights. "life" is either a state or an activity.

            "Human life" is a scientific, biological concept which is why I used that one.

            But maybe it would be more precise to use "human being" so:
            "The purposeful and direct killing of an innocent human being is always wrong."

          • David Nickol

            "Human being" has the same problem as "human life." Are the many thousands of frozen embryos in storage in fertility clinics "human beings"? You will probably say yes, but many people would say no.

            I think the question is ultimately a religious one and can't be answered by courts. If an embryo is "ensouled," then it may make sense to call it a "human being," but for many of us, (a) the existence of a (spiritual) should is at best doubtful, and (b) even the Catholic Church doesn't claim to know when ensoulment takes place.

          • Rob Abney

            Please clarify, you think it makes sense to call an embryo a human if it has a soul but you doubt that a spiritual soul exists?
            Who do you consider to be a human? and does that human have a soul?

          • David Nickol

            If there is a God, and if the teachings of the Catholic Church are true, then (it seems to me) a human organism is a human person if it has a physical body (at whatever stage of development—from zygote to adulthood) and a spiritual soul. If ensoulment takes place at some point after conception, then it is at that point that a human person begins to exists.

            If there is no God and no such "thing" as an immortal, spiritual human soul, then some other criteria for human personhood must be used.

            If a human egg and sperm are brought together in a test tube or petrie dish, as in a medical setting, and conception takes place, but ensoulment doesn't take place (either because there is no such thing as a soul, or because ensoulment takes place at a later stage), then there is no human person.

            I note (without trying to delve into the meaning of it) that the Catechism says the following:

            2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

            And of course if there is no God or no such thing as a spiritual soul, then the definition of personhood has to be based on something else. And just as an acorn is not an oak tree, a zygote would not be a human person.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I find often the case with you, your reasoning is quite correct.

            I would read the conclusion of your analysis as being that we cannot be absolutely certain whether the rights attendant to human personhood are present at the very formation of the zygote or at some later point in gestation.

            From your perspective, the matter is doubtful.

            But it is generally granted in ethics and in law that any human person has the right not to have his innocent life taken from him. And, in case of doubt, we do not allow actions which would do such a thing.

            Consider the case of the hunter shooting into a thicket. If he is in doubt as to whether there is a deer there or a human being, he cannot shoot his target.

            He does not need to have certitude that it is a human being in order to be forbidden to shoot. And, should he shoot and unintentionally kill a human being, he will be charged rightly with the crime of manslaughter.

            In other words, in case of doubt, we cannot take a risk with the right of another. In case of doubt, where there is a genuine possibility that our action will result in the direct taking of a human life, we cannot proceed.

            That is the situation that arises in your description of possible doubts about when the zygote becomes a human person, entitled to the right to life. In case of doubt, we are not free to directly kill the unborn developing human life.

            So, exactly when the human soul becomes present, or exactly how we define the human person, is not relevant to the ethics and proper legal principles that should apply to abortion.

            If we are genuinely in doubt as to whether there is a human person whose life we contemplate taking, the doubt must be resolved in favor of human life and not against it. President Reagan made this same point himself long ago. In case of doubt, you cannot risk killing an unborn human being.

          • Ficino

            I am surprised that you say nothing about the woman bearing the fetus. Dennis, in your comment there is a "we" and an "unborn human being" and no one else (Reagan does not have standing!). Who are these magisterial "we" who issue rulings about the fetus as though there is no woman carrying it? As though the woman carrying something inside her body does not have standing. She is elided from your comment. That's a reason why the hunter - thicket analogy does not cover the case fully.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The woman carrying an unborn child within her body does have standing. Her concerns and care must be respected with understanding and charity.

            But the moment you grant that meeting the "needs" of her "standing" must entail the direct killing of another innocent human being, you cross the line into a utilitarian ethic that can allow a good end being achieved by intrinsically evil means.

            The hunter-thicket example may not cover the aspect that another person's dignity and rights are involved here -- but it does illuminate the fact that a mere doubt about whether what you are killing is a human being does not permit one to kill the unborn.

            Or, are you suggesting that because the right of the woman is certain, while the right of the unborn is not certain, we can sacrifice the good of the possible unborn human to the good of the clearly human mother?

            But it is not the right of the unborn that is uncertain, only the question as to whether he is present.

            And here it is the same reason that playing Russian Roulette is morally equivalent to murder -- for the precise reason that we are as willing to fire the gun if the chamber is loaded as if it were empty. One act kills a human; the other does not. But by pulling the trigger, I am willing to cause the death of a human being either way, which places the act into the moral species of murder -- even if the chamber is empty.

            The moral evil is in the act of the will, not in the effect which may or may not result.

            That is why the essential lesson of the hunter-thicket example holds. If I pull the trigger, I am willing to kill an innocent human being in the thicket should one be present -- and if I kill the fetus, I am willing to kill an innocent human being should one be present.

          • Ficino

            Your hunter-thicket analogy carries the admission that you do not know whether the fetus is an innocent human being. It is unjust, therefore, to convict the woman and/or doctor of murdering a human being, as though it is known that the fetus is an innocent human being. The position represented by the analogy is "we don't know whether it was a human being, but we'll convict her/him as murderer/s of a human being anyway."

            You said elsewhere that you follow the natural law position that a fetus is a human being, and I think you mean to include a zygote and embryo among human beings. We can't revisit the history of natural law theorists' conclusions about this over centuries, but surely you'll grant that at a minimum, those conclusions have undergone modification. It's highly contentious to say that it's known with certainty that a zygote or embryo is a human being.

            I predict that the above questions will lead us ultimately back to those theses that Thomists say are first metaphysical principles known with certainty.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Your hunter-thicket analogy carries the admission that you do not know whether the fetus is an innocent human being. It is unjust, therefore, to convict the woman and/or doctor of murdering a human being, as though it is known that the fetus is an innocent human being."

            Nice try at confusing speculative philosophical analysis with the practical political application of law.

            It does not work that way. I made no concession that I did not know whether the fetus is an innocent human being. I was hypothesizing that you or some other abortion advocate might not know whether the unborn is a human person.

            But this is not like wondering whether there is a cabbage in the woman's womb. The debate has always been about whether this is a human being, and, if so, whether we can kill him.

            The thicket analogy is perfectly proper, since when there is real doubt about killing a human being, it is not permitted. The only ones who say to kill him anyway are those who say the end justifies an intrinsically evil means for some alleged benefit to the mother.

            But a hunter ought to realize the danger of killing an innocent person -- so that if he shoots when in doubt he is rightly held morally and even legally responsible for homicide. So, too, everyone is only too aware that the same kind of question arises about abortion.

            For those who are in doubt about whether the unborn is a human being, the thicket provides the ethical principle for solving the question: you cannot risk killing an innocent human being.

            As for the quite distinct question of legislation, that is what civilized societies have legislatures and courts for. Modern science is not as ignorant of embryology as were the Medieval Ages. St. Thomas Aquinas accepted the archaic biological belief in successive animation. This is the 21st century. We now know that specifically human life begins at conception and that that life has DNA uniquely distinct from its mother. Legislatures have a right and duty to take such modern scientific information into account in fulfilling its duty to protect human lives.

            Recall that we often pass laws in which the judgment of society replaces the less-informed judgment of individuals, as when we enforce vaccinations or demand that children be educated. This is where the legislative question of abortion must be decided in practical terms. The first obligation of every society is to protect the innocent lives of its members. Do not confuse this with speculative debates about basic ethical principles.

          • Rob Abney

            Why don't you recognize the thicket as the woman? The thicket supports the deer.
            But the analogy does omit a crucial character, the father, he was involved in the deer being in the thicket and is responsible for the deer thriving by supporting both the thicket and the deer. Maybe he is the conservation officer, and he does have standing.

          • David Nickol

            Consider the case of the hunter shooting into a thicket. If he is in doubt as to whether there is a deer there or a human being, he cannot shoot his target.

            It seems to me you are talking about two very different kinds of doubt in your comment. In the case of the hunter and the thicket, the doubt has nothing to do with the metaphysics of personhood. The question is really a factual matter: Is there, or is there not someone in the thicket? It makes perfect sense to refrain from shooting if there is a risk of injuring or killing another human being.

            I don't think the hunter scenario is applicable to the abortion debate, because there we have a disagreement about the metaphysical nature of personhood. Those who do no subscribe to the beliefs of Catholicism may very well not agree that a zygote is a person. And I see no reason why they, as nonbelievers, should act as if the Catholic view of personhood might be correct.

            When two individuals (or groups) disagree at a fundamental level on religious or metaphysical issues, it seems quite unreasonable to expect one of them to doubt their own beliefs because the other individual (or group) has a different belief. For instance, the views of Catholics and Jews on IVF and related technologies. According to the linked article, the following holds true for Jews:

            Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) represents no moral or ethical risk, because the soul has not yet entered the embryo. Selective reduction of a multiple pregnancy is acceptable if its goal is to enhance the possibility of life. Embryo research to promote life is, therefore, acceptable.

            It would be unreasonable (especially in a pluralistic democracy such as the United States) to claim that Jews should oppose such things because—according to Catholic theology—a zygote might be a fully human person even though Jews don't believe that.

            For Hindu believers in the transmigration of souls, a butterfly might possess a human soul (or what might have been a human soul). But we do not feel a need to outlaw the killing of butterflies because they might be former and future humans.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Fine. If one is morally certain that what is in the thicket is not a human being, then go ahead and shoot.

            "Morally certain" means being certain beyond a reasonable doubt. But that is a pretty high standard, which is why it is used by criminal juries as the standard for convicting a fellow citizen of a crime.

            If you personally are morally certain that unborn humans are not persons, or are not persons until a certain stage of development, then you are morally free to act on that conviction.

            I am not suggesting that everyone must have the same moral beliefs, since obviously they do not. That is why ethics is such a contentious area of debate. But debate does not mean that there is no such thing as truth about moral matters.

            As to what one should do as a matter of law, the fact is that legislation and judicial decisions often do violate the moral beliefs of individuals. Parents are sometimes forced by the state to give medical treatment to their children to which they are morally opposed. At least thus far, polygamy is still forbidden in the United States. In many countries, the right of free speech is curtailed, including the UK and Canada!

            The law on abortion in the United States has waxed and waned over time -- from forbidding virtually all abortions to permitting virtually all abortions. Society must determine what legislation it wishes to embrace -- even though its decisions may flaunt the laws of God and nature. That is just how the present human condition goes.

            Forgive me if I continue to defend the natural law position on abortion, which to me appears soundly based on what we know about what science tells us about when human life begins and what that knowledge implies for the question of when a human person is present with the right to life.

          • Rob Abney

            From the article you linked to: With the exception of orthodox Jews (10%), most Jews would have a very difficult time defining their belief system.

          • David Nickol

            So?

            I am discussing Jewish religious beliefs, not the beliefs of those who are ethnically Jewish but nonreligious. Freud and Marx were both ethnic Jews, but we don't turn to their works for information about Jewish religious beliefs.

            While the situation is not exactly parallel, if you want to know what the Catholic Church teaches, you don't turn to the average Catholic. You turn to knowledgeable, practicing Catholics. I have seen some very disturbing surveys that reveal how little many who identify as Catholic actually know about Church teaching.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"It seems to me you are talking about two very different kinds of doubt in your comment. In the case of the hunter and the thicket, the doubt has nothing to do with the metaphysics of personhood. The question is really a factual matter: Is there, or is there not someone in the thicket? It makes perfect sense to refrain from shooting if there is a risk of injuring or killing another human being."

            Your own last line makes my point: "It makes perfect sense to refrain from shooting if there is a risk of injuring or killing another human being."

            If there is doubt about whether the unborn baby is "another human being," then, there is precisely a "risk of injuring or killing another human being," and, by your own words, "it makes perfect sense to refrain from shooting" -- or, in the instant case, to refrain from taking the baby's life through abortion.

          • Rob Abney

            And just as an acorn is not an oak tree, a zygote would not be a human person.

            An acorn is in the very early stage of development of becoming an oak tree, that is, a developmentally complete tree. A zygote is in the earliest stage of development on the way to becoming an adult, that is a fully developed human. As long as the acorn is properly nourished it should become a tree, and only a tree not any other plant or animal. As long as the zygote is properly nourished it will become an adult human not any other animal or plant. Your analogy should conclude that just as an acorn is not a tree, a zygote is not an adult.
            We need God of course but we don't have to have a religious argument to say a soul exists, it was a pagan who introduced the idea.
            And even in a test tube a soul is present when the two become one, it is at that point that the substantial form of a human now exists.

          • Phil

            "Human being" has the same problem as "human life." Are the many thousands of frozen embryos in storage in fertility clinics "human beings"? You will probably say yes, but many people would say no.

            I think the question is ultimately a religious one and can't be answered by courts. If an embryo is "ensouled," then it may make sense to call it a "human being," but for many of us, (a) the existence of a (spiritual) should is at best doubtful, and (b) even the Catholic Church doesn't claim to know when ensoulment takes place.

            The PNC would say that both people cannot be correct. There is a correct answer to if a biological human being is present or not, since something cannot be and not be at the same place, time, and in the same respect.

            That doesn't mean it will always be easy in every instance to figure out which is correct, but that is an epistemological issue, not an ontological issue. Ontologically, either a human being is present or not. And science goes a long way in helping us figure this out.

            My answer is simple, find the point rationally and scientifically when a new unique human being is present.

            At this point it seems pretty clear. Before fertilization you have a sperm and egg. After fertilization, you have a new living human animal with unique *human* DNA that is growing towards fully maturity one day as long as nothing interrupts it, and it grows normally and healthily.

          • Correct.

            And hi Phil!

          • Phil

            Hey Brian!
            Sorry its been so long.
            Been busy raising new twins and got 1 more little one on the way (or at least "1" is what they tell us at this point!).

            What in your opinion makes it justified to purposefully kill an innocent human being?

          • Self defense is one.

          • Phil

            Self defense is one.

            If someone is choosing to attack you, that would mean that they aren't completely innocent.

            That's why I was specifically asking about what makes it justified to purposefully kill an innocent human being?

          • Oh right, well there are wars and collateral damage I suppose. I guess it depends bon what you mean by innocent.

            I really don't worry about whether someone is innocent, you should never kill someone unless you have to, to protect more people.

            If you were under duress for example, kill this person or I'll kill a thousand. I think it'd be immoral not to kill the person.

          • Phil

            Oh right, well there are wars and collateral damage I suppose. I guess it depends bon what you mean by innocent.

            I really don't worry about whether someone is innocent, you should never kill someone unless you have to, to protect more people.

            If you were under duress for example, kill this person or I'll kill a thousand. I think it'd be immoral not to kill the person.

            So reading between the lines, it still sounds like you would say it is not justified to kill a human being if no one else is in immediate physical danger, would that be correct?

            It also sounds like you'd say that if someone is in immediate physical danger one has an obligation to kill even an innocent human being to protect another person(s)?

          • It's going to depend on the circumstances. Sometimes you might have to if it's the best option.

            Other than collateral damage in a just war, I can't think of any circumstances in which it is moral.

            Other than abortion and MAID.

          • Phil

            It's going to depend on the circumstances. Sometimes you might have to if it's the best option.

            Other than collateral damage in a just war, I can't think of any circumstances in which it is moral.

            Right and "collateral damage" wouldn't be purposeful and direct killing an innocent human being since you weren't aiming to kill these people.

            Other than abortion and MAID.

            Right, so then what are rational justifications for saying abortion is one of the few exceptions where you can purposefully kill and innocent human being?

          • >Right and "collateral damage" wouldn't be purposeful and direct killing an innocent human being since you weren't aiming to kill this people.

            Ok, you would not call it purposeful, it would be doing something with the knowledge that an innocent would be killed by your intended action.

            So on that definition maybe I can't think of a circumstance that meets your understanding of the terms.

            What I can say is the goal of my morality is the increase of human well-being and the reduction of human suffering, not simply the preservation of human life.

            >Right, so then what are rational justifications for saying abortion is one of the few exceptions where you can purposefully kill and innocent human being?

            I don't hold that standard, so it isn't an exception to a rule I have.

            Trigger warning, that as a new and expecting parent, you might not be in a good frame of mind to hear my views on abortion without getting upset.

            I don't consider abortion immoral because I don't accept that the unborn have an awareness or an interest in their life continuing. So their being deprived of the necessities if life isn't a negative impact on human well being.

            I do tend to share the view that it is self awareness of one's life that makes it immoral to end a life without consent. And the awareness of suffering that makes it immoral to make an entity suffer.

            I do consider late-term abortion immoral if having the child would not likely kill the mom and the infant. This and infanticide I actually think are immoral (the latter extremely immoral) to the effect the killing has on the survivors, though I question this as a parent now. I tend to think newborns do have some awareness of their lives and an interest in it continuing.

            If you are still reading, can you tell me your views?

            Say with the trolley scenario, you would allow six people to be killed rather than switch the track and Jill just one? You'd say it's more moral that six die instead of one?

          • Phil

            I don't consider abortion immoral because I don't accept that the unborn have an awareness or an interest in their life continuing. So their being deprived of the necessities if life isn't a negative impact on human well being.

            I do tend to share the view that it is self awareness of one's life that makes it immoral to end a life without consent. And the awareness of suffering that makes it immoral to make an entity suffer.

            I do consider late-term abortion immoral if having the child would not likely kill the mom and the infant. This and infanticide I actually think are immoral (the latter extremely immoral) to the effect the killing has on the survivors, though I question this as a parent now. I tend to think newborns do have some awareness of their lives and an interest in it continuing.

            Self-awareness and interest in one's life continuing does not seem a good measure for if one can be killed. When you are sleeping you are not aware nor are you showing forth an interest in your life continuing.

            Therefore, on you view it is okay to kill an innocent human being when they are sleeping just because you want to kill them.

            That sounds pretty radical.

            If you are still reading, can you tell me your views?

            Sure, I hold that all innocent human beings have an equal right to live.
            Why do I hold this; because a newly fertilized egg, an infant, 10 year old, 25 year old, and a 70 year old are all equally human.

            So I just follow reason and logic to this conclusion.

            To say that an unborn child is less human than an infant is to dehumanize the human being as has been done to justify killing innocent human beings time and time again in history.

            The tough part is since you believe that it is okay to purposefully kill an innocent human being, we will always have differences.

            I just would have a hard time understanding why you think it is okay to purposely kill an innocent human being.

          • Ficino

            a newly fertilized egg, an infant, 10 year old, 25 year old, and a 70 year old are all equally human.

            The above leads to one of the very highly contentious points. Part of the problem is that the moral implications of "human" are vague, as they are with "life" and other terms that figure in the discussions. It seems pretty much agreed that to be a subject of rights, an organism must be a person. But the definition of "person" is already loaded. I've contended elsewhere on here that it is a prescriptive definition, not a descriptive definition. So to do our best to agree on it is VERY difficult.

            Meanwhile, there are cases where it's pretty clear that the woman will undergo severe impairment to her health, or will even die, if a pregnancy continues. So working backwards from that, we find ourselves in complexities that become difficult to resolve if we consider little else but a definition.

            I just would have a hard time understanding why you think it is okay to purposely kill an innocent human being.

            Because the woman will die? Because we don't have good grounds to think it's a human person, and have good grounds to think it's not?

          • Phil

            The above leads to one of the very highly contentious points. Part of the problem is that the moral implications of "human" are vague, as they are with "life" and other terms that figure in the discussions. It seems pretty much agreed that to be a subject of rights, an organism must be a person. But the definition of "person" is already loaded. I've contended elsewhere on here that it is a prescriptive definition, not a descriptive definition. So to do our best to agree on it is VERY difficult.

            Meanwhile, there are cases where it's pretty clear that the woman will undergo severe impairment to her health, or will even die, if a pregnancy continues. So working backwards from that, we find ourselves in complexities that become difficult to resolve if we consider little else but a definition.

            Hey Ficino,

            That's why I use the term "human being". Whether a human being is present or not can be established using reason, logic, and science.

            It is then up to use to decide whether all human beings ought to have equal and fair rights or not.

            My position is that all human beings should have equal and fair rights because they are all equally human beings.

          • Mark

            I'm trying hard to understand this POV Ficino. A prescriptive definition is really just a simple ethical claim isn't it? If it isn't, then please enlighten me.

            In theory, a prescriptive definition of human being could deny one personhood based on concentration of melanin in the skin. I understand we both agree it isn't "good grounds", however, it was a widely accepted simple ethical claim. I fail to see where your "good grounds" assertion achieves any rational objective ethical appeal. Where you see "good grounds" I see the end justified by the prescriptive definition.

            I'm suspect where we I may be lost is I view the act of ending the life of an unique human organism as an objective moral decision rather than what you may see as a value truth statement. Edit Done.

          • Sample1

            I see the end justified by the prescriptive definition.

            And I see the use of reason to continually fine tune those theories/explanations that we place between ourselves and any given phenomenon. Skin color for personhood is a bad explanation.

            Who knows, we may someday find knowledge that upends parts of the pro-choice position. When that happens or rather, if it happens, I’ll celebrate the process of critical rationalism once more. One only need ask, what new knowledge could persuade an absolutist from the pro-life position to reconsider? The point being, effectively nothing. Authority has spoken. But that’s not to say authority can’t find knowledge by accident, but that’s not in any way a compliment to authoritarianism. :-)

            It’s for that reason, and many others, that progress by authority is not a reliable philosophy to hold, if ever. That said, I’ll defend anyone’s right to think as they choose up until thoughts are manifested in reality where they may adversely affect actual people. What’s the old saying? Your right to believe anything you want stops when your fist reaches the end of my nose?

            Mike, excommunicated
            (Sorry to jump in, jumping out now).
            Edit done. Final.

          • Ficino

            A prescriptive definition is really just a simple ethical claim isn't it?

            Not exactly. I would say, it's a definition that entails an ethical claim when combined with other prescriptions or theses.

            But I think we're not far apart. You bring up melanin. I was thinking earlier this week along the same lines, that an example of a prescriptive definition might be "white" vs. "black." It's not clear that there is a precise biological criterion for what it means for a human to be classified as "white" or "black," but in many places, there are huge political and social ramifications. Another example probably is "work of art." We instinctively think it wrong to destroy willingly a work of art, perhaps partly from the old association of good and beautiful. So Duchamps puts a signature and date on a urinal and it becomes a matter of contention whether the definition of "work of art" encompasses that object, once it's signed...

            The best I can figure it, the act of defining "human person" or even "person" is an act of attribution or stipulation, not an act of description of objective facts, esp. biological facts. That's because I think we agree that to be a person entails being the subject of rights, so it's a moral not a biological status.

            Of course a natural law theorist will disagree. "New" natural law theorists Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen attack what they call the “Attribution View” that says that what makes a human a person is a decision or stipulation by individuals or society that personhood obtains at a particular point.

            I think it is inevitably a stipulative decision, but to peg the threshold at conception is itself stipulative. We try to make a stipulation with information about the developmental stage of the fetus. I am OK with according personhood to the fetus close to birth but not when it is merely a fertilized ovum. This is because I don't view personhood as attained at a precise "pop" point but as a "range property" attained gradually.

          • Sample1

            Abortion is unlike any other topic in morality. But that said, while uniqueness is something to behold, I don’t think it confers special significance just because it’s unique, or at least not to every conclusion that some draw. After all, everything but massless particles are technically unique. But if we are going to require clarity before handing over the power of life or death to the state for an autonomous woman, we need to have clarity here. And we don’t have enough information to inform or justify such a transfer of power, imo.

            I agree, it’s been a good thread with everyone’s ideas. Even those who I disagree with. I want to hear, as I’m sure you do, the reasoning behind calling a zygote a person (and potentially capable of being murdered). And all the other tangents we’ve gone down.

            I too am not comfortable with a near term pregnancy being aborted. Of course, I’m a guy who will never have one. Near term pregnancy is a failure on many levels. There may be women who disagree with that. I know one very well. She has zero regret for her abortion and finds such guilt-shaming deplorable. But that’s her. And that’s kind of the point. It’s about her, and her, and her and over there, another her. Apparently the reduction in abortions through contraception isn’t anything to be celebrated. Presumably education and other factors are of little to no importance when it comes to a fecund female who is married. She must be open to having children by always having unprotected sex. Period. As much as science isn’t able to provide all the help we need on this topic, pro-birth or else types aren’t helping either.

            If laws can be made to require a woman to always carry to term, society would have a hard time logically stating that that power can’t be tapped into to require a woman to always have an abortion. Is it a slippery slope fear? You bet. Is it unreasonable? I’m not in an epistemic position to know and would rather not find out!

            The problem is how you’ve framed it. We cannot, in a secular society, appeal to the unscientific justifications of any single faith or even consortium of faiths to decide at which point a developing fetus can be called a person for public policy. Some Muslims say many weeks after conception, Catholics are at conception. Science is only marginally helpful in that it can inform our actions but only if we choose that. We need to define personhood into existence. And how do we do that? Like any good explanation, by correlating theory with observation. We don’t have all the facts. And what facts we do have do not suggest it is at all reasonable to recognize personhood in a brainless zygote.

            Because we can only guess that a near term pregnancy might be a person, how would a law restricting abortion reflect that scientific uncertainty? What if the stage of personhood is set at 39 weeks in law but it’s really 40 weeks. Or 7weeks? What if there is a hormonal activation of consciousness when triggered by the environment (birth). I know that’s pure speculation but the point is we don’t know. These are questions without scientific answers. How can a good law be created with the flexibility to accommodate such uncertainties? Nobody has a clue. So we err on the side of what we do know: a woman is a person and it’s her body.

            Bottom line for me: any vocal opponents of abortions who say they know when personhood begins as sure as they know a prayer cured their aunt of eczema is out of the game. I’m not saying people are doing that on this board but it’s reality. They have one agenda and are willing to grant the power to the state to limit abortions immediately. They will deal with autonomy and uncertainty later, I guess. I kind of doubt it.

            That’s just not good enough in my opinion.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done. Final

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I posted the following line of reasoning at another point in the thread and I saw no direct response from you. Now I see a lot of concern about claims of when "personhood" appears. Here is my argument in italics:

            "I see a logical inconsistency. If the baby is born, most all will grant that it should not be killed. But growing in the womb, arguments break out as to "how do we know it is a person, and when does it get rights?"

            Is it as a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, having reached viability, just before birth ..... when?

            If these are genuine questions, let us follow the logic a bit further.

            Is it protected the moment before natural birth?

            Why would a premature baby, born, say, a month or two early, be protected by law, but not the same "fetus," should it have stayed in the "safety" of the womb another few weeks to the moment of birth, yet still be subject to killing -- just because it has not yet quite reached the legal protection of being located outside the mother's body?

            What kind of science tolerates such equivocal thinking?

            But let us continue. What is so magic about birth? All the previous stages of what science grants is human life are merely earlier stages of human life before birth. What about after birth? The child is still growing. It is merely an infant, a pre-schooler, a grade schooler, a pubescent, a teenager, a young adult. Why should they be provided the protection of law? After all, none of them are fully developed members of the species. Indeed, we are now told that the human brain does not reach maturity until its owner may be twenty-five years old!

            My point is that birth is simply a totally arbitrary and capricious line drawn based on the pure accidentality of the physical location of the growing human life.

            The moment of birth has no more magical ability to confer "personhood" [replace personhood with a right to life] on a growing human being than did the Wizard of Oz have the ability to give Scarecrow a brain when he made him a "Doctor of Thinkology."

            Now go back and simply remove all references to person and personhood in that argument. It still works the same if we just say the there must be a point at which we do not directly take a human life -- as we do not after birth. Follow the rest of the logic and see if it makes sense to you please.

          • Sample1

            It seems to me the logic is faulty or there is an unstated assumption not provided. I think my response to your following paragraph encompasses the meat of your logic and why I don’t think it works as stated:

            Why would a premature baby, born, say, a month or two early, be protected by law, but not the same "fetus," should it have stayed in the "safety" of the womb another few weeks to the moment of birth, yet still be subject to killing -- just because it has not yet quite reached the legal protection of being located outside the mother's body?
            What kind of science tolerates such equivocal thinking?

            I don’t see anything equivocal here or why science, per se, is being invoked as a worldview rather than a method available to any rational person. What you should have implied is what kind of logician tolerates such equivocal thinking? But it would still be a faulty complaint for such a complaint is formed without all the information.

            Dennis, the missing piece of information is the woman’s consent. That’s why it’s not logical to say something equivocal (unreasonable) is occurring. We can disagree whether consent is warranted or even moral, but it is impossible to understand how relevant law developed to address pregnancy and abortion without addressing autonomy and consent and probably a few other things I’m forgetting.

            Your beef, if not the whole cow, is, it seems to me, with the philosophy fueling the principles of consent and autonomy and why that is seen as a core value for governing a (in principle!)secular nation such as the US.

            I find it kind of hard to believe you ignored such principles when considering what you thought was a logical inconsistency. Why you missed those connections or ignored it perplexes me. So maybe you don’t agree they are reasonable connections to make when trying to understand the range of legal protections (which include fetuses too) surrounding abortion. Consent and autonomy is key here.

            To take the least controversial tack as an example how the nation demonstrates its philosophy or values, a crime like sexual assault (rape) violates consent. The prevailing legal philosophy (arrived at through the twists and turns of our nation’s history) accords her the right to receive emergency contraception in any emergency department, free of cost if indigent. Except some religious hospitals that refuse those values. Quite a country! Imperfect but still a Union. That’s how we Americans roll!

            You’re free to disagree. But it’s your task to demonstrate why your worldview is superior.

            Mike
            Edit done. Final

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Now I understand the root of your position on abortion.

            You take autonomy and consent as the primary principle.

            I do not.

            I take as the primary principle that neither an individual nor the state is ever permitted to directly take an innocent human life.

            You are right that I have primary right of autonomy and consent over myself.

            But that does not give me the right of autonomy and consent over you, that is, over another human life.

            That is what you are missing. And that is what the logic of my argument addresses.

            My example that you cited is exactly on target for the proper application of these principles. For the early delivered baby's individual human right to life is recognized the moment he is born.

            But present law subordinates his right to life to the mother's autonomy and consent up to the moment of live birth in a logically irrational manner, since he is the same baby whose right to life exists even before the accidental time of birth as recognized in its existence if he had just been able to have been born a few weeks earlier.

            I find it highly ironic that those whose scientific worldview is so dominant suddenly get all wrapped up in philosophical arguments about the nature of "personhood" and how one can tell when "personhood" is present.

            Of course, this focus on personhood causes a quagmire of controversy that makes agreement between sides impossible, since the scientistic worldview of the abortion proponents does not include the proper philosophical concepts needed to discern the real meaning of "personhood."

            Far more clear is the logic I presented earlier which starts from the nearly universally accepted principle that you cannot murder a baby already born, and then, simply forces the discussion of when to properly apply that principle -- given the fact that even science admits that human life is present in a biologically distinct organism from the time of conception.

            Yes, the unborn baby's body is inside the mother's body. But, no, the unborn baby's body is not biologically a part of the mother's body.

            That is why I ask at what rational stage can one say that it is okay to kill this human life, once you realize just how arbitrary the moment of birth really is.

            The example of the early birth makes the case.

            It is evident that autonomy and consent are misplaced concepts the moment you realize that the rights of another are being ignored and violated by directly taking a human life before that arbitrary line called birth, since a separate human life is clearly already present.

          • Sample1

            I think you are personally pro-life but broadly pro-choice. I come to this opinion because you have never said you would force a pregnant woman to obey your philosophy.

            It’s a challenging subject but I think we agree that any philosophy that does not include a woman’s freedom to have a say about her own destiny would be a kind of tyranny.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have tried to separate the ethics of this matter from the politics of it, since not everything that is immoral should be legislated against. Having long ago been a candidate for the U.S. Senate, I understand that politics is the art of the possible.

            Ethically speaking, I am totally pro-life and would argue that every person has the moral obligation never to directly take an innocent human life. When you talk about coercing action, that is the realm of legislation. And yes, for the same reason that we enforce laws against parents abusing their children, I would support legislation designed to protect unborn human life where feasible.

            Still, I am much more understanding of the actions of the woman carrying the child than of the physician who agrees to perform abortions. I am also aware that it is almost impossible to get a majority of citizens to oppose abortion in the three hard cases: life of the mother, incest, and rape. Still, I would personally support such pro-life legislation with no such exceptions. I would point out that an obstetrician friend of mine, the late Dr. Joseph Ricotta of Buffalo, NY, always said he would accept any pregnant patient and enable her to carry her child to term -- so the life of the mother objection may not be valid.

            Still, it is licit for a legislator to vote for a bill that permits some abortions when the choice is between that and a law that permits a greater number of abortions.

            So, my arguments here have been aimed at explaining and defending the natural law doctrine on abortion, which holds that it is never morally licit to directly kill any human life at any stage.

            Words like "coerce" and "anti-choice" bias the objective discussion of the ethics of abortion, and are simply not helpful to clarity of the principles.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for your ideas. Well understood. I don’t understand the relevance of this:

            I would point out that an obstetrician friend of mine, the late Dr. Joseph Ricotta of Buffalo, NY, always said he would accept any pregnant patient and enable her to carry her child to term -- so the life of the mother objection may not be valid.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Frankly, it isn't the sort of point I usually try to make, since it plays more to a utilitarian perspective than a natural law one.

            It is just that the "life of the mother" exception assumes that there are deliveries that are more dangerous to the mother than an abortion in the same case. Dr. Ricotta did not accept this contention and always said he would assist any woman trying to carry a chile to term, since he believed that this was always medically possible and in the best interest of both the mother and the child.

          • Sample1

            I see a ton of problems with that approach. Better stick with natural law. Ha.

            Mike

          • David Nickol

            Would you argue that every act you consider to be the direct taking of a human life should be prohibited by civil law and punished as murder? For example, in IVF, if multiple embryos are used and "too many" implant, should pregnancy reduction be considered as the civil crime of murder?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We distinguish in law between various types of taking a human life presently. The term, "murder," usually is expressed as an ethical, not a legal, judgment -- simply as the term ethically used to describe the deliberate, direct taking of a human life.

            But in law we distinguish between premeditated murder, second degree manslaughter, negligent homicide, etc., with correspondingly less severe punishments. Moreover, we even have laws on the books that are never enforced, simply to make a societal statement.

            In IVF, taking a human life can occur at two stages: (1) when embryos are selected for implantation, while others are killed by being discarded, and (2) in actual "pregnancy reduction" by aborting some of the unborn after implantation and well into gestation.

            Let me be clear. Both are the direct taking of human life. How should they ideally be treated in law? Politics is the art of the possible. So, I cannot dictate what a legislature must do to deal with these matters. One could simply outlaw IVF completely, but even that would not necessarily mean anyone doing it would face homicide charges -- probably just a fine for conducting a prohibited procedure.

            Or again, some laws might permit the IVF, but outlaw the pregnancy reduction should too many "take." That might fall under general abortion legislation. (I am not saying that laws permitting IVF are morally licit.)

            We have to be very careful to distinguish between ethical norms, which are absolute, and civil legislation, which is the product of the political and judicial process.

          • Sample1

            Just a side question: what factors shaped your worldview where you are able to say that autonomy is not a primary value for you?

            This is a question about you, not the abortion discussion. And if you are busy, I’d welcome other folks’ input who share that position.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Simple. Autonomy and consent and all other human rights are secondary to the right to life, since life is presupposed to all other human powers, actions, and other secondary attributes or qualities.

            It is like the right to privacy on which abortion is based legally. If you did not first have a right to life, this secondary type of right could not exist.

            Life is existence itself for a living being, and every secondary attribute is impossible if a thing does not first exist.

          • Mark

            so it's a moral not a biological status

            I don't like the x rather than y. It has to be a y before you can apply an x to it right?

            Stipulative definitions include an objective standard. (i.e. True love is a willingness to lay down your life for another. By a minor we mean anyone under the age of 21.) The objective standard used in to stipulatively define personhood in regards to abortion is "whatever an impregnated woman and her doctor privately decide". That's not objective nor rational. So, no, I don't agree with the statement "We try to make a stipulation with information about the developmental stage of the fetus". Actually you and I do, but "we" don't. If by "we" you mean the lawmakers elected to represent the citizenry or the judicial body appointed to protect them "we" don't; at least I'm not aware of it. And, for political purposes, it's now taboo to apply moral reason and logic to an impregnated woman's body. It's like she wears a moral immunity amulet that doesn't apply to the doctor patient relationship in nearly any other similar privacy/ethical consideration.

          • David Nickol

            It's like she wears a moral immunity amulet that doesn't apply to the doctor patient relationship in nearly any other similar privacy/ethical consideration.

            Of course, the political pro-life movement does not want to change a pregnant woman's moral immunity. All of the draconian ant-abortion laws recently passed by states exempt women who procure abortions from any legal liability from seeking, obtaining, and paying for abortions.

          • Ficino

            Stipulative definitions include an objective standard.

            People who make stipulative definitions, such as "Pluto is a planet," as opposed to "Pluto is a large asteroid," use objective facts, but the stipulation itself is not objective. So it's unclear what work is being done by "objective standard" in yours above.

          • Mark

            The hypothetical stipulative definition of personhood has no objective facts to stipulate what is or is not personhood. If it has one just stipulate it. I know the objective facts that stipulate Pluto as a dwarf planet. It's nothing like "what an astronomer decides in the privacy of their observatory". If the goal of reclassifying Pluto as a dwarf planet had been to legalize the destruction of dwarf planets it would still be a real planet.

          • Ficino

            The hypothetical stipulative definition of personhood has no objective facts to stipulate what is or is not personhood.

            Mary Anne Warren gave a cluster of component attributes of personhood and argued that a being can count as a person missing some of these but not missing all of them: consciousness, esp. capacity to feel pain; reasoning ability; self-motivated activity or agency; capacity to communicate; concept of self. If you want to say that species membership is the threshold of personhood, that definition too is prescriptive and has to be argued for.

          • >Self-awareness and interest in one's life continuing does not seem a good measure for if one can be killed. When you are sleeping you are not aware nor are you showing forth an interest in your life continuing.

            I disagree, I think when you are sleeping, you don't currently have that awareness, but you still retain that interest. But I admit it isn't perfect.

            But we have to have some line. If we don't use my criteria, then why draw the line at human life? Why not all animals, plants?

            >Sure, I hold that all innocent human beings have an equal right to live.

            I never said they don't. This is central to my morality.

            >Why do I hold this; because a newly fertilized egg, an infant, 10 year old, 25 year old, and a 70 year old are all equally human.

            Sure but so is an unfertilized egg and a human hair. Why to we have moral duties to some human life and not others?

            >To say that an unborn child is less human...

            I didn't.

            >I just would have a hard time understanding why you think it is okay to purposely kill an innocent human being.

            Can you say why you think it's immoral? Why is it immoral to purposefully kill an innocent human?

            Do you think it moral to kill a "guilty" human? If so, how much guilt justifies it and why?

            I have provided a basis for my moral views on killing, sure you may have criticisms. I'm not saying it's perfect. But you seem to have an arbitrary moral standard that killing humans in some circumstances is wrong and sone is ok.

          • Phil

            I disagree, I think when you are sleeping, you don't currently have that awareness, but you still retain that interest. But I admit it isn't perfect.

            Given the fact that I am not conscious or self-aware, I would have no current active interest in my life continuing while I'm sleeping. (Which this would be the same as an baby in the womb.)

            So you are correct, this is not a great way to decide whether a person can be killed or not.

            But we have to have some line. If we don't use my criteria, then why draw the line at human life? Why not all animals, plants?

            Because human life is not non-human life and there is on objective line there.

            Sure but so is an unfertilized egg and a human hair. Why to we have moral duties to some human life and not others?

            An unfertilized egg and a human hair is not a human being, given science and biology.

            But you seem to have an arbitrary moral standard that killing humans in some circumstances is wrong and sone is ok.

            I don't know where you have seen arbitrariness.

            I've said from the beginning that purposely and directly killing an innocent human being is always wrong. No exceptions.

          • >I've said from the beginning that purposely and directly killing an innocent human being is always wrong. No exceptions.

            I get that, you think it is better for 6 or six thousand or six billion people to die, instead of someone purposefully killing an innocent person, ie the purpose is to save the others. You would not kill one person to save all of humanity from extinction.

            I get that. The question is why? It seems then that human life is not the value since your morality prevents you from saving it. It doesn't care how many people die or suffer, it has a more important rule.

            So why they s rule what is it that is so important about not purposefully killing an innocent? Why is that more important than all other innocent human lives?

          • Phil

            I get that, you think it is better for 6 or six thousand or six billion people to die, instead of someone purposefully killing an innocent person, ie the purpose is to save the others. You would not kill one person to save all of humanity from extinction.

            Correct, the ends never justify the means.

            You cannot rob a bank to pay your mortgage.
            Just like you cannot purposely and directly kill an innocent person to possibly save another person(s).

            It seems then that human life is not the value since your morality prevents you from saving it. It doesn't care how many people die or suffer, it has a more important rule.

            No, it is actually the exact opposite. It is because each human life has *infinite* value and dignity that this is not licit.

            Because that innocent human being has infinite value, no matter how many people you "save" it would never be moral to directly and purposely kill that person.

            So why they s rule what is it that is so important about not purposefully killing an innocent? Why is that more important than all other innocent human lives?

            Again, because you cannot rob Peter to pay Paul. The ends don't justify the means.

          • David Nickol

            Again, because you cannot rob Peter to pay Paul. The ends don't justify the means.

            There are times when robbing Peter to pay Paul may be licit because of the principle of the universal destination of goods.

            2408 The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another's property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one's disposal and use the property of others.

            With regards to extreme scenarios, as in the case of killing an innocent person to prevent global thermonuclear war, the would-be killer would be acting under incredible duress and would certainly not be morally responsible in full for his or her actions.

            It has always seemed to me that claiming the end doesn't justify the means is a vast oversimplification. There are many cases where the end justifies the means. It's not that the end doesn't justify the means. It's that the end does not justify any or all means.

          • Phil

            There are times when robbing Peter to pay Paul may be licit because of the principle of the universal destination of goods.

            Well, it wouldn't robbing/theft since as what you quoted says:

            "There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods."

            No theft, is no robbing.

          • David Nickol

            Theft in the quoted passage is a defined, "technical" term—the sin of theft, as forbidden by the Seventh Commandment. I wouldn't read the paragraph to say that the word theft itself, or any other synonyms, may not be used to objectively describe such an act. I would read the passage to say that someone who commits what objectively might be called theft to feed his starving family is not subjectively guilty of the sin of theft.

          • Phil

            Theft in the quoted passage is a defined, "technical" term—the sin of theft, as forbidden by the Seventh Commandment. I wouldn't read the paragraph to say that the word theft itself, or any other synonyms, may not be used to objectively describe such an act. I would read the passage to say that someone who commits what objectively might be called theft to feed his starving family is not subjectively guilty of the sin of theft.

            "There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods."

            I don't think it could be more clear.

          • >Correct, the ends never justify the means.

            Really? So immunity from disease doesn't justify getting yourself vaccinated? This statement must be overbroad.

            >No, it is actually the exact opposite. It is because each human life has *infinite* value

            How do you know humans have infinite value? How do you know ants do not?

            >Because that innocent human being has infinite value,

            What value do non-innocent human beings have? Is there a spectrum? What do humans have to do to then justify your killing them?

            Again it seems you have just arbitrarily decided that some humans are infinitely valuable in some way, which means they can never be killed and some are guilty and can be killed on purpose. Can these guilty ones be killed for blasphemy? Some theists take this view. If you don't, why not?

            Don't you have an objective perfect moral system? Do you know what it is or why you value innocent human life infinitely? If you don't isn't this a subjective moral framework with no transparent standard as to why it works like it does?

          • Phil

            Really? So immunity from disease doesn't justify getting yourself vaccinated? This statement must be overbroad.

            It is not at all overboard, you cannot do something immoral/bad to bring about a moral or "good" outcome.

            So is a vaccination immoral or bad? If it is not, then therefore it is not an example of the ends justifying the means.

            How do you know humans have infinite value? How do you know ants do not?

            Philosophically, if humans have a soul and intellect/will that can survive death and live immortally then the human being has infinite value and dignity since it exists immortally.

            Again it seems you have just arbitrarily decided that some humans are infinitely valuable in some way,

            No, all human beings have infinite value and dignity. That doesn't mean that a person cannot squander rights that follow from this based upon evil actions they choose to perform.

          • >It is not at all overboard, you cannot do something immoral/bad to bring about a moral or "good" outcome.

            But you didn't make that qualification.

            Certainly the outcome effects whether the act is immoral! Because whether or not putting a needle in a child's arm against her will and causing her pain is moral, depends on what is in the needle and what effect it has.

            Flipping the switch on the trolley problem is not immoral, indeed, isn't it a good act to save the lives of six innocent people, even if by you action it means a 7th will be killed instead?

            >if humans have a soul and intellect/will that can survive death and live immortally then the human being has infinite value and dignity since it exists immortally.

            But this doesn't tell me why I should care about any of that. What objective reason do you have to care about any human life?

            I know it sounds silly, but really can you say why it is moral to preserve eternal human souls?

            >No, all human beings have infinite value and dignity

            You can keep asserting this, but unless you can justify it I will have to accept that it is arbitrary or at least subjective.

            I don't disagree, I just wouldn't claim it's an objectively justifiable. I further think whether humans have eternal souls (an undying part or essence if you like) is irrelevant to their value.

          • Phil

            But you didn't make that qualification.

            Sorry, that's what the ethical principle of "the ends do not justify the means" means.

            I guess I assumed you were familiar with that principle.

            But this doesn't tell me why I should care about any of that. What objective reason do you have to care about any human life?

            I know it sounds silly, but really can you say why it is moral to preserve eternal human souls?

            Sure, and that is where if there is no God who has bestowed that infinite dignity upon the human persons, then all is ultimately permissible based upon who has the power.

            That is one reason why Nietzsche lamented the "death of God" because he realized that all that would be left was "the will to power".

          • Phil

            Here is a video that might help to clarify my position a little bit:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCN8M_PG-x8&app=desktop

          • No, actually "person" here is a legal term. And yes only some human beings deserve human rights. Dead human beings do not and the very young do not. Corporations are not human beings but they are persons at law. This is why a corporation can commit a crime but the unborn cannot.

            But actually none of this is why I think abortion must remain legal. And abortion is not moral or immoral on my analysis. It depends when it occurs.

            But all of this is not the point of the questions I was asking. And, if you'll forgive me, you are dodging. I'm asking why care about humans at all in the first place? Why not care about trees the same way?

          • Phil

            No, actually "person" here is a legal term

            And that's exactly what this person was talking about in the video.
            Person is a legal term that recognizes that a human being has certain rights.

            I didn't even bring up the term "person" since I usually just stick to recognizing that all innocent human being ought to have an equal right to live.

            I'm asking why care about humans at all in the first place

            Do you believe that you should be treated with respect?

            And second, sure, if there is no God, then there is no reason for us to care about anything, including human beings.

            That is Nietzsche's point as he laments the "death of God". All is permissible and reduces to the will to power.

          • Phil

            I'm asking why care about humans at all in the first place?

            Also, it sounds like your view is that there was nothing wrong with what Nazi Germany did to Jews and Catholics, or with American chattel slavery?

          • Ficino

            Thanks for the video. I am familiar with Kaczor's arguments and don't find them convincing.

          • Phil

            Thanks for the video. I am familiar with Kaczor's arguments and don't find them convincing.

            It would be your opinion that there was nothing wrong with what Nazi Germany did to Jews and Catholics or with American chattel slavery?

          • Ficino

            Sure, I hold that all innocent human beings have an equal right to live.

            I would say that personhood is a “range property”—once the minimum threshold of personhood is crossed, a person has equal moral status to all others, regardless of by how much that person exceeds the threshold. I see early stage fetuses as human organisms but not as "persons."

          • Phil

            I would say that personhood is a “range property”—once the minimum threshold of personhood is crossed, a person has equal moral status to all others, regardless of by how much that person exceeds the threshold. I see early stage fetuses as human organisms but not as "persons."

            Right, so you would say that all innocent human beings do not have an equal right to live? Correct?

            If that is correct, what gives an innocent human being the right to not be killed?

          • Ficino

            hello Phil, I would say that the above are ill-formed questions.

            "Innocent" and "human being" have to be disambiguated.

          • Phil

            hello Phil, I would say that the above are ill-formed questions.

            "Innocent" and "human being" have to be disambiguated.

            I'm using science to define what is a human being and I'm using the standard definition of innocent:

            innocent: not guilty of a crime or offense

            Does that help you?

          • Phil

            Hey Ficino,

            Here is a video that might help to clarify my position a little bit:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCN8M_PG-x8&app=desktop

  • Sample1

    Is religion just a social construct?

    Yes.

    Mike, excommunicated

    • BCE

      I'm not debating God or the portion of the OP dealing with intelligibility.

      I'm refuting that religion is an invention for "regulating" people, or a "social construct "
      It's more likely a 'natural' extension of altruism then a 'construct' for regulating.
      In my opinion a problem when social science is not sufficiently familiar
      with ethology.

      Hamilton's rule is widely accepted by scientists.
      Just because someone dies, the need to look after them is not suspend by death.
      Altruism drives the need to care for the living and a continued relationship with the dead.
      Though humans(thousands of years past) witness decay, the altruistic instinct persists. It's met by communicating with the dead. Both to be heard by the dead and for the dead to respond, which requires an immaterial substance that persists after death, a spirit.

      Altruism, a genetic trait ( or if one prefers 'the law written in the heart') is not a social invention.
      If one asks "what does an altruistic society look like ?" it may looks like one
      following and rewarding an objective "morality" ; not an arbitrary invented meme for the masses.

      • Sample1

        Margaret Mead provides a yet-to-be topped meaningful and hard-to-vary explanatory definition of what constituted the first evidence of civilization. Let’s substitute altruism for civilization to remain with your word, which works fine here.

        When asked that question she said:

        A healed thigh bone in a 15,000yr. old archeological site.

        Care over time.

        For a femur to heal, the victim required someone to bring them food and water. To provide them shelter and defense against foes. Altruism is evolutionarily sound. Why? Because biology, not physics, governs human lives and as an Eastern Orthodox scientist once said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Or as George C. Williams said of evolution, perhaps echoing Dobzhanzky, “it is the way, the truth and the light.”

        Yes, religion is a social construct invented by humans originating in altruism shaped through evolution. It’s quite ok, that knowledge.

        Hidden deities and the risen dead on the other hand, provide easy-to-vary explanations as evidenced by the plethora of extinct and extant world religions, cults and fellowships.

        Mike, hard-to-vary for the win. Always.

        • Altruism is evolutionarily sound.

          Can this altruism surpass the tribe level and still be selected for?

          One of the best objections I've seen to any extant, rigidly defined theory of evolution is that we cannot be sure that that thing can be iterated upon to get anywhere you want. As an analogy, one cannot surpass a certain building height with only steel-reinforced concrete: one cannot build a space elevator with such materials. This doesn't mean there aren't possible building materials (such as carbon nanontubes) and by analogy, this doesn't mean some modified theory of evolution cannot get further. The point instead is to say something very simple: a theory which can explain anything, explains nothing.

          It seems to me that the more broadly you apply altruism, the less you can have "survival of the fittest" and the more one has a cooperative ethic. Yes, you can still apply the formalism "survival of the fittest", but the change in empirical phenomena would be so complete that it is dubious to say that what is happening is still "evolution". Very strictly speaking, evolution is purposeless while cooperation is not. Evolution does not plan ahead, while mind can. And so:

          Yes, religion is a social construct invented by humans originating in altruism shaped through evolution.

          How is this incompatible with God calling us toward cooperation over [harmful] competition? Any learning process whereby the apprentice learns to attach to the thing itself instead of pedantically repeating the master's behavior and words involves the student re-constructing quite a lot. This is why I put the following quote by Richard Feynman on my website: "What I cannot create, I do not understand." So how can we tell whether or not God is calling us into the future, calling us to become more than we are? The clear pattern of the Bible is that God wants us to do a lot of the work; I say this is the only way we can develop true understanding rather than surface-level mimicry.

          • Sample1

            For evolution, survival of the “just good enough” is a phrase many use, myself included, rather than saying survival of the fittest which has attracted dubious and racist baggage among other irrelevancies.

            Altruism being evolutionarily sound is explained through natural selection by understanding genes. The Selfish Gene is the go-to book for laypersons who want to understand how an anthropomorphic selfishness amongst genes can result in what humans call altruism in organisms like us, and others.

            How is this incompatible with God calling us toward cooperation over [harmful] competition?

            God is not a good theory (did you watch the Carroll vid I recommended previously?). Natural selection is a good theory. When a theory for God is shown to be good, then you can claim, with the apportioned confidence, that no incompatibility between evolutionary explanations for altruism and “God’s calling us toward cooperation” exists. Until then this is a category error.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • For evolution, survival of the “just good enough” is a phrase many use, myself included, rather than saying survival of the fittest which has attracted dubious and racist baggage among other irrelevancies.

            Ok. If anything, that analogically strengthens my point: a "good enough" morality is perhaps not a very good morality. Eric Schwitzgebel's On Aiming for Moral Mediocrity is once again relevant.

            Altruism being evolutionarily sound is explained through natural selection by understanding genes. The Selfish Gene is the go-to book for laypersons who want to understand how an anthropomorphic selfishness amongst genes can result in what humans call altruism in organisms like us, and others.

            This doesn't help understand what said altruism can and cannot do. Again: the building material of wood cannot make skyscrapers. Can evolved altruism enable anything more than mediocre morality? If a theory can explain everything, it can explain nothing.

            God is not a good theory (did you watch the Carroll vid I recommended previously?) Natural selection is a good theory.

            I watched part of the video; I'll probably have temi.com transcribe it to get the rest. But I contest the very idea of 'theory', as theories look to extant evidence, not to what we could build. Theories say that the future will be no different from the present† whereas the theology I hold to says the future could be fantastically better than the present (this includes much more science than exists now).

            Here's some very basic logic: a theory is a minimum-complexity description of a finite body of extant evidence. Even if reality is in truth infinitely complex, theory will always underestimate that complexity. There is a use to this (humans seem to learn at a finite rate), but it is dangerous to epistemically prioritize 'theory'. Instead, 'theory' is a stepping stone towards something that may not be 'theory'. The limit-value of an infinite series can be of a different 'type' than any element in the series.

             
            † As viewed by the theory.

          • Sample1

            Ok. If anything, that analogically strengthens my point: a "good enough" morality is perhaps not a very good morality. Eric Schwitzgebel's On Aiming for Moral Mediocrity is once again relevant

            I’m sure it does. Now stop. Are you now wanting to talk more broadly about morality?

            This doesn't help understand what said altruism can and cannot do.

            You say so. I’ve given you the Bible on altruism origins by Dawkins. You’re welcome.

            If you want to go beyond origins, that’s on you. Can’t say I’m interested.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Are you now wanting to talk more broadly about morality?

            I too often see "altruism" thrown out there, as if all the rest is just detail. I am pushing back against this "as if"—which you yourself need not have intended.

            I’ve given you the Bible on altruism origins by Dawkins.

            How many empirical data are cited about human behavior, in Selfish Gene?

          • Sample1

            Ah Luke, you have a point you’re trying to make. Why not just lay out the claim so it can be demolished? Haha. Or admired.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Your reply to @claudiavolpentesta:disqus could easily be read as: "Science has got this one covered; religion is extraneous." I voiced skepticism, especially to what currently counts as 'science'. I'm quite open to A Third Wave Of Evolutionary Thought, then a fourth, then a fifth, … And I'm very interested to see if ontological claims made from the current wave are in any way maintained as we march forward. If not, then we should treat present evolutionary thought in a very instrumental, anti-realist fashion. That in turn opens up the possibility that true reality is rather different, at its core, from what the equations tell us. The equations might just be useful calculation tools for some purposes in some domains given the right conditions.

          • Sample1

            That in turn opens up the possibility that true reality is rather different, at its core, from what the equations tell us.

            Equations are not nature to my way of thinking. Nature doesn’t do equations or quantum mechanics or natural selection, nature just does nature.

            Humans have discovered patterns in nature and invented models and theories that try to explain them. Some models are more accurate than others. A map is not the territory. I’m unaware of a single scientific or mathematical model ever giving ground to a theological model but the reverse is the history of what is called God of the Gaps. Consciousness and origins are basically the last gaps of knowledge where God is hiding from science. And damn, religion is sure to let everyone know that. Never mind the 2464195387 places where God is AWOL.

            If the laws of physics don’t prohibit the technology required to explore those domains, then it’s just a matter of time for that knowledge to be discovered.

            Not even a poet could capture in words the sense of gratitude and humility our species owes to all who came before. Pity we cannot share our knowledge with the ancients or deep time ancestors. Something tells me they’d look upon us as elder relatives might to a family’s first college graduate, pleased that we have done better than they.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done.

          • Michael Murray

            Pity we cannot share our knowledge with the ancients or deep time ancestors.

            I'm starting to think we should be preparing to share it with the future generations that will, hopefully, arise after the environmental apocalypse occurs. Not sure what form that sharing would take. Not least because it's hard to know how long it will take for us to recover, assuming we do.

          • Equations or patterns, let's not get stuck in pedantry. What is important is whether "theological model" is a category mistake. I have argued it is:

            LB: But I contest the very idea of 'theory', as theories look to extant evidence, not to what we could build. Theories say that the future will be no different from the present† whereas the theology I hold to says the future could be fantastically better than the present (this includes much more science than exists now).

            You criticize god-of-the-gaps, but this is to present God as a physical theory, as a better version of The World of Everyday Experience, In One Equation. That is imprisonment within the mechanical philosophy and very conveniently precludes God from ever calling out our own gaps—gaps in being, gaps in goodness, not gaps to be filled by another particle. It keeps our self-righteousness from being pierced. ("Man is the measure of all things.") As to how the ancients and our elder relatives would evaluate us, what would they make of this:

            Our basic thesis—that we are strategically blind to key aspects of our motives—has been around in some form or another for millennia. It’s been put forward not only by poets, playwrights, and philosophers, but also by countless wise old souls, at least when you catch them in private and in the right sort of mood. And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it. (The Elephant in the Brain, ix)

            ? What would they make of the Enlightened West glorying in its awesomeness in the decades and years leading up to 1914? I am not so cheery as you; I'd guess something closer to @michaelkmurray:disqus's "environmental apocalypse". One of my mentors guessed in the 80s that humans would not do what it would take to avoid such apocalypse, so set about a research program to fix what he thought we'd inevitably break. Given how little scientific research I see atheists quote from the social sciences, I doubt we humans have the wherewithal to avoid catastrophe. You see, we think we're good.

          • Sample1

            Catholic leaders are fond of preaching (and teaching) that even in animistic religions there is a kernel of the true divine that people are discovering. More so in organized religions and even more so in Christian denominations with Catholicism being its zenith.

            Are you telling me that God is incapable, imprisoned, from being known through the most reliable fact finding method discovered by humanity? Feel free to believe that. It’s just not indicative of a God who wants to be found easily in my opinion. Rather, it’s indicative of human beings behaving naturally and predictably.

            When we find God, any God, what we really find are human fears, human needs and human desires. That’s the reasonable explanation, imo. I’m not asking you to agree, just letting you know how a naturalist sees it.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • The success of science is entirely predicated upon the quality of the instruments with which we measure reality. Any systematic defects in the instruments will yield intersubjective consensus (sometimes mistaken as 'objective') which is itself defective. Furthermore, science seems to be to get less reliable the further it strays from the mechanical philosophy, which is exactly when it gets more relevant psychologically and socially (politically). I would say we're really good at having stable being along mechanical dimensions, while being capricious, formless, … storms along non-mechanical dimensions. J.K. Rowling's obscurials might be a helpful way to think about such lawlessness.

            Science by its very construction cannot question our goodness; all it can do is provide us more and more instrumental power to do whatever it is we want to do. Such blindness to the source of our desires is formalized in rational choice theory: preferences are axioms and cannot be analyzed. We Westerners have insulated ourselves from penetrating critique and no accumulation of "facts" will change that. At best, we'll hit a crisis where we realize that our extant tools do not enable acceptable survival (e.g. do not help us avoid "environmental apocalypse"). We will either accept a change in permissible tools, or accept the altered quality of existence. But a change in permissible tools will be a change in the very definition of 'science'.

            Finally, your "naturalist" perspective is not necessarily "scientific": if you cannot frame it in terms of some pattern like F = GmM/r^2 such that phenomena matching F = GmM/r^2.01 would falsify it, then what you have is a de facto unfalsifiable statement. Now, if true lawlessness reigns in the non-mechanical realm, then falsification has been made in principle impossible, via [libertarian free will]-free philosophical choice. Extending you charity in this respect, some theologians are aware of the issue, like David Bentley Hart in his YT interview YT interview Is God a Person?. (That's a link to a transcript.)

          • Sample1

            (That's a link to a transcript.)

            It’s also link to Lukebruer. Com which is an unsecured website that uses cookies which in turn can be hacked and the visitor’s data analyzed.

            No thank you.

            Mike

          • You must have a terrible browser if that's a danger. But here's the [temi.com, partially proofed] transcript and link to the YT video:

            Bob 00:00 David, you talk about, um, what you call mono-polytheism, which, others have talked about as a, theistic personalism in, a pejorative manner, a friendly perhaps, but pejorative in criticizing those—particularly some very distinguished philosophers of religion—who claimed that God is a person, and that to understand God as a person, is really to understand the nature of reality and that is not a trivial attribute of God, but a very fundamental one. You fundamentally disagree with that.

            Hart 00:39 I don't disagree with that. God is personal. I disagree with this tradition of thinking about what persons are in classical traditions, that say that God is the fullness of all reality and that everything that exists in the world we experience exists more fully and it's more actual in its truer reality, and the essence of God would include personality in that God is in fact, infinitely personal—more personal than we are. If anything, we're fragmented in isolated instances of personal relation which are never complete, at least in this life. My objection is to those who think of God as a large psychological subjectivity who think that God has to be thought of as somebody who goes through changes of temperament or makes choices or experiences pathos in order to be a person. But none of the, none of the theistic traditions deny the personal nature of God, in the most vital sense, which is that God really knows and loves and this related to us.

            Hart 01:56 And if you think about it, if you think of personhood as the capacity for relation, well in us then personhood is rather imperfectly expressed merely being psychological subjects. We also withhold from one another. We can't know one another. We cannot fully give ourselves to one another, as we ought—ideally. Ego, psychological empirical ego is quite often the enemy of personal existence, not it's ground. The people who are called theistic personalists by a very distinguished a Christian philosopher Brian Davies, and as you say, I call monopoly-theists, have reduced the idea of personality to psychology, to the empirical ego. And I think that's an inadequate notion, not only of God, but of personhood as such.

            Bob 01:56 Is the fundamental distinguishing fact between the two—the nature of time, because

            Hart 03:00 you believe that God is outside of time. That is, that is timeless, that God sees in this one moment, everything from all times cannot change. Therefore is that then the fundamental distinguishing aspect between the two kinds of personhood, 'cause you're saying God is a person, but in this enlarged sense of personhood, I have a sense that the nature of time is the critical distinguishing factor. Well, time is one of them. Yes. I mean, if God were a temporal being, who underwent changes and who could actually say at one moment, one thing at one moment, one another, then he would be a psychological subject. It's true. And then he would more closely resemble what some of the philosophers you've mentioned think of as a person. Uh, yeah. So time is very—Again though, if God is temporal, he's a contingent being. He's a conditioned being. He's not God.

            Bob 03:59 You're making, you're making that very quick relationship and that's not clear. If God is in time, in some sense, that God does not have to be contingent, God can be ever everlasting, God could be present—

            Hart 04:12 but that would not be necessary. I'm sorry. You know again, everlastingness as such would be a kind of factual necessity. Perhaps it would just happen to adhere in the nature of this being. That this being doesn't pass away. But I reject that as an inadequate notion of necessity for the divine. That's what Aristotelian—well Thomistic tradition seem to call "necessity by way of another thing" [which is not really necessity]. What I would call "happenstantial necessity", not "logical necessity" and I do believe that logical necessity is intrinsic to any proper definition of the divine. But that said, put them in time is tie your right. I mean, time is one of the issues. What else? Possibility. The notion that in order of when we react with one another in order to love one another, we have to be passable. That is a. for us, it's as much a passive is an active thing.

            Hart 05:13 Quite often, in order to feel sympathy for someone else, you have to feel pain according to the picture of God that I believe is more coherent. God required. Does it require Ethel's? Is Love is the very infinite activity is he does he loves without the need of the negative, without the need for limitation. We participate in that reality in a finite way. And so it's going to be totally, entirely different or very, very different. Uh, and what else? Well, many in the true, many of these more recent theistic philosophers you mentioned, believe that a god must learn things about us, you know, in order to be properly. Personally, I don't see how that follows at all. I don't see why his omniscience somehow compromises his personal nature. So these, a lot of these arguments are simply a rather naive psychologists stick picture of what a person is applied on, a much larger scale to God.

            Hart 06:33 And I don't think I, I simply don't think they hold logical water. So you talk about this is absolutely being of God being perfect love. Um, is that a, a deductive, logical necessity that God, that, that level, why is it that, why isn't it just some neutrality? Yeah, no, it couldn't. If you're, if you're, if you can find yourself to ontology, probably so, but there are other dimensions of experience of consciousness, a bliss that is a delight in the good, which are all. I've also, in all these traditions been taken of indication to the nature of the absolute what are the absolute orientations of consciousness? What is it that they crave the most fundamental level? What are, what is the transcendental logic of, of human desire and motivation. And when you reduce these to the ends, that seemed to be common to all acts of will, when you get away from their local motions, so to speak, uh, such as goodness.

            Hart 07:33 These tend to be seen as indicative also of the nature of the absolute. Uh, and then of course, all these religions claim revelation to, I mean it, it would be, it would be a lie to say that all of these are simply deductions of reason. Obviously every theistic tradition believes that God generously reveals. That's a whole other category in the actual lived experience of these religions. They're not separable, uh, the, that there's the ascent of reason to God and the descent of grace to nature. Sure. And that makes sense. It's just that, that the very difficult to evaluate on a third person basis if you feel it. I can't argue with that, right? Uh, although even dogmatic traditions will make arguments not just from personal feeling, but also from certain kinds of historical claim, which then has to be verified in some sense. They all contradict. So I don't want to get involved. Many contradict, but many don't. So yeah, but, but you know, this is true. However, again, the definition of God is absolute. Remember, isn't confined just to the realm of ontology. There are, there it is inserted in all of these traditions that there are moral experiences, epistemological experiences which revealed more about the nature of God, but you don't discuss those under the category of ontology.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSHoDqF0xaY

          • Sample1

            Luke, I seldom discover what Luke believes. This makes for a style of exchange that is tedious (for me). Chasing down links to what end? To discuss third party ideas or your own? All too often it is the latter former.

            Let's hit the reset button. I’m only assuming you are a kind of theist. What do you believe and how do you support it?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • I'm confused; I've written a lot about what I believe, above. The bit about "we are the instruments with which we measure reality" is key and I believe, generally excluded from full integration into thought about scientific inquiry. If we cannot measure some aspect of reality because we are not stable in that aspect, do we declare that no such aspect exists out there but that it is instead "100% subjective"? That seems like terrible logic to me! This was a reason to bring in David Bentley Hart's warnings about extrapolating from us capricious humans to God. It's utterly key to investigating the following claim from you, to see whether it is scientific or unfalsifiably dogmatic:

            S1: When we find God, any God, what we really find are human fears, human needs and human desires. That’s the reasonable explanation, imo. I’m not asking you to agree, just letting you know how a naturalist sees it.

            If you have made it metaphysically impossible to detect God acting on the non-mechanical aspects of your being—roughly, acting on your personhood, including your understanding of goodness—then you will have a priori precluded yourself from possibly being conscious of God interacting with you. If the only way you evaluate "evidence" permits miracles but precludes you from figuring out whether they are evidence of God or Satan, you have a problem. (more) If you have a theory which can explain everything (e.g. evolution), then you will be closed to anything new or other [perhaps] until it becomes blindingly obvious.

            A full accounting of what I believe is far beyond the scope of this article and off-topic, so if you want to go into it, pick an older, dormant SN article or some other site which will permit the conversation. Believe it or not, but conversations like the one I'm having with you here help me better explain what I believe. I find that I'm like Ando from the TV series Heroes: my only real ability is to enhance others' abilities. Maybe I'm getting close to a full-on monologue of what I believe instead of piecewise dialogues, but I'm skeptical. It always gets more complicated when someone starts asking questions. And when my audience is so unwilling to be questioned, it is hard to write effectively to that audience.

          • Sample1

            The bit about "we are the instruments with which we measure reality" is key and I believe, generally excluded from full integration into thought about scientific inquiry.

            I think this is mistaken. For a naturalist full integration is essentially the default position. There is nature, there are humans and we are part of nature. Supernaturalism is part of nature in that it exists, minimally, in human minds.

            Supernaturalists are not metaphysically a priori precluded from detecting gods or God. Neither are we. We naturalists just aren’t convinced that anyone throughout documented history has ever met their burden to justify their claims. Seems to me you should ask your God why he has chosen to be so hidden from any inquiry, scientific included. Surely he is not metaphysically incapable from scientific inquiry. If so, you should question his power. Then again even righteous Job wouldn’t dare that! Pity, we could have perhaps had an answer to work off of by now!

            If you harbor understandable misgivings for explaining what you believe about the divine and why perhaps you have a pdf to work on and keep handy for honest requests such as mine? Hint, hint.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • I think this is mistaken. For a naturalist full integration is essentially the default position. There is nature, there are humans and we are part of nature.

            That's like saying that since Donald Trump is technically a "public servant", that he is being a servant [anything like] after the pattern of Jesus. These days I generally ignore the public line, and look at the behavior. So often, in the religious and the nonreligious, the two flagrantly contradict.

            Supernaturalists are not metaphysically a priori precluded from detecting gods or God. Neither are we.

            To the extent that you cannot define "nature" precisely, you need larger and larger deviations in order to see it as "not nature". And to the extent that you define non-mechanical matters to be "100% subjective", you cannot see them out in reality and thus God could only possibly show up as power—such that he would be indistinguishable from Satan by "evidence" alone. (All that could happen is that some people would be predisposed toward one and some would be predisposed toward the other.)

            Seems to me you should ask your God why he has chosen to be so hidden from any inquiry, scientific included. Surely he is not metaphysically incapable from scientific inquiry. If so, you should question his power.

            Goodness can only be derived from power if you think there is any relation whatsoever between them. 'Science' as currently construed only speaks to matters of power; it has nothing to say about matters of goodness other than the instrumental sort. (Instrumental knowledge will aid whatever ends you happen to have—it's goodness-agnostic.)

            If you harbor understandable misgivings for explaining what you believe about the divine and why perhaps you have a pdf to work on and keep handy for honest requests such as mine? Hint, hint.

            I have misgivings about going off-topic in a live discussion thread. I have misgivings about saying too much to an audience I cannot sufficiently well-understand. A pdf document will do nothing for these misgivings. These particular misgivings aside, I would much prefer something like an interactive adaptive content. But apparently you'll never find out what that is because "It’s also link to Lukebruer. Com which is an unsecured website that uses cookies which in turn can be hacked and the visitor’s data analyzed."

          • Sample1

            'Science' as currently construed only speaks to matters of power; it has nothing to say about matters of goodness other than the instrumental sort.

            Hume agreed with the latter. I lean toward Hume on that as well, despite Harris’ work trying to disprove that. I don’t think he has articulated a valid and sound argument yet. And neither do many naturalists I admire, like Sean Carroll. As far as science and power. Well, science is a method it has zero power, people exercise power. You may as well say a pump or machine has power, equally ridiculous. They don’t have power until switched on.

            Touché on your pdf reply, that made me laugh. i wish I had more time at the moment to go over other points you raised but I don’t. Perhaps later if it’s important to you.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • How do you not find Hume viciously circular? The quote:

            Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. (Treatise on Human Nature, 2.3.3 p. 415)

            Surely this is "the passions" speaking? Of course any entity that wants to rule will spew legitimations that it must rule and in fact that it is ruling. It also seems to presuppose that the will is primarily a function of the passions with reason having only instrumental power. But why should anyone believe this?

            There's something really weird going on, as the very project of science involves the passions not dominating. Taking Hume seriously, the NT's distrust of passions and calls to obey something higher seems to be a fundamental prerequisite of scientific inquiry. After all, evolved passions surely aren't the right stuff to investigate the Higgs mechanism. I've only toyed a little with considering the Enlightenment to have simply replaced "obey God" with "obey Reason", but it seems promising.

            It becomes problematic, however, if one has a bad understanding of 'reason'. Limit it to the mechanical philosophy, for example, and all of a sudden great swaths of human existence lie outside of 'reason'. I wonder if the Romantics knew this, but didn't have it within them to question the terms 'reason' and 'intelligibility', to accuse contemporary understandings as woefully impoverished. The world that Whitehead and Russell imagined in writing Principia Mathematica was an extremely small one; fortunately Gödel provided rigorous mathematical foundation for Shakespeare's "There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

            There is an interesting line in Babylon 5, where Ambassador Delenn, of a race more advanced than humans, claims that the current generation of her race lacked the … vigor × integrity of previous generations. Yeats wrote in a time of decline that those two attributes were separated: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." I suspect we live in such a time now, and I surmise that a key part of the problem is an anemic understanding of 'reason' or 'intelligibility', which is unable to give productive form to ever-growing expectations of goodness and excellence which are predicted properties of imago Dei beings who can only know God arbitrarily much by being given and accepting arbitrarily much being.

            I have never seen or read of emotion/​passion being an equal of reason/​intellect, except in the NT where we are called to love God with heart and mind—with no clear precedence. All other humans I've encountered seem to want one to dominate over the other. As far as I can tell, domination of either one has its attendant pathologies and instead of face them head-on, we prefer to oscillate between extremes. See: Hume vs. Kant.

            Am I weird in being a Christian who thinks that we humans are pathetic in how little order and structure we imagine exists in reality—order and structure we could explore arbitrarily much and perhaps, much of which we can create ourselves?

          • Sample1

            Finally, your "naturalist" perspective is not necessarily "scientific": if you cannot frame it in terms of some pattern like F = GmM/r^2 such that phenomena matching F = GmM/r^2.01 would falsify it, then what you have is a de facto unfalsifiable statement.

            You’ve fallen into a trap, but it’s not entirely your fault, many do. Yes, it’s generally believed, even within academia, that the best science is that which is shown to reveal something fundamental about nature or is equation based. That idea stems from an accident of history Luke.

            Physics was the major player that explored and embraced science earlier than the other fields. It thoroughly laid down patterns of simplicity which has morphed into the false idea that good science or the best science is that which is simple and equation based. You’ll note there isn’t a single equation in Darwin’s book. It’s simply a mistake to think all science must be of the fundamental framework like physics in order to be valuable. That’s an arbitrary choice by humans; not needed for good science.

            Good explanations are what scientists are after, and those explanations can emerge at higher levels in reality than physics. Doesn’t make them any less valuable.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Yes, it’s generally believed, even within academia, that the best science is that which is shown to reveal something fundamental about nature or is equation based.

            I wouldn't be surprised if my distinction between F = GmM/r^2 and F = GmM/r^2.01 shows up in your "hard-to-vary explanations". The key is distinguishing "nearby phenomena", instead of letting your explanation cover everything nearby. The former is hard-to-vary, while the latter is quite variable. Equations make this easy to explain, but they are not required.

            You’ll note there isn’t a single equation in Darwin’s book.

            Sure, but you'll also not find the word 'evolution' in it, either. Why? Because 'evolution' was understood teleologically at the time and Darwin was at great pains to deny teleology and present a system of understanding where all the pushing came from behind—there was no pulling from the future or inbuilt organismal plan which was deterministically unrolling into the future. The difference between actual teleology and the appearance of teleology is actually somewhat subtle. No equations needed. :-)

          • Sample1

            I don’t follow what you are you trying to say with r2.01 rather than r2 regarding a hard-to-vary explanation.

            If anything you might want to go for r1 like Vilende does with his entropic gravity theory that attempts to show gravity decaying linearly (r1) at interstellar distances rather than r2 which is still maintained for closer objects of mass. But again, I’m not sure how to reply to your scenario because I don’t think I understand what you’re implying. Want to clarify? I don’t want to guess.

            Regarding evolution, also not sure of how your reply is relevant to the rejection of the common belief that fundamentals, or more accurately, so-called foundations are superior explanations because they are foundational. Popper’s take is that explanations can begin anywhere. It’s the explanation of precisely what’s going on for a given phenomenon that’s valuable knowledge, not where humans decide to place the phenomenon on an arbitrary scale that includes a level called a foundation. Only under carefully constructed examples (or colloquially) would I use the word foundation. As a fallibilist I’m going to naturally be skeptical of anything claimed to be a 100% certain foundation.

            Teleology isn’t needed for biology. That Darwin couldn’t fully escape its use was his problem, not biology’s. It’s still somewhat of a challenge even for modern biologists who don’t choose their words wisely. So what?

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done.

          • I don’t follow what you are you trying to say with r2.01 rather than r2 regarding a hard-to-vary explanation.

            Well, my initial attempt to get you to explain "hard-to-vary explanation" sputtered, so I chose to guess. Perhaps it would help for you to say a bit more about what you mean by that term? Then I could better see if my r^2.01 and r^2 are a good match or whether we're really talking about different things.

            If anything you might want to go for r1 like Vilende does …

            No sorry, I have no intention to get into details of gravity. My point is that F = GmM/r^2 rules out the vast majority of possible phenomena, making it trivial to envision plausible phenomena which would falsify it. No "supernatural" required for falsification, as it were. Things could just be slightly different and the theory would be wrong. If things need to be very different for the theory to be wrong, is that an easy-to-vary explanation?

            Regarding evolution, also not sure of how your reply is relevant to the rejection of the common belief that fundamentals, or more accurately, so-called foundations are superior explanations because they are foundational.

            That part of your comment misfired: I wasn't tying my argument to equations or fundamentals or foundations. What I needed to get at was "nearby phenomena" and equations were an easy way to explicate that idea.

            Teleology isn’t needed for biology. That Darwin couldn’t fully escape its use was his problem, not biology’s. It’s still somewhat of a challenge even for modern biologists who don’t choose their words wisely. So what?

            It was (and still is) a nice example of "nearby phenomena". What would be the difference between true teleology and the mere appearance of teleology? If you zoom in too far, I doubt you can even see a difference. Newtonian gravity was only found to be incomplete when we zoomed out enough and noticed the precession of Mercury's orbit.

          • Ellabulldog

            Survival of the fittest is man forming a tribe to outperform competing tribes. Religion is one thing a tribe would use to form a more cohesive unit. Religion is not altruistic to other tribes. The Bible calls for the Jews to slaughter others. Religious altruism is for the tribe only. We see how many today will offer help to Christians suffering in Latin America yet at the same time want to deny the same to Muslims suffering from the Civil War in Syria. Or the Jews fleeing Europe during WW2.

          • Religion is not altruistic to other tribes.

            So the parable of the good Samaritan … doesn't exist? Or says something radically different from what seems obvious? Or how about this:

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43–48)

            ?

            The Bible calls for the Jews to slaughter others.

            Actually, words denoting "drive out" are more prevalent than words denoting "slaughter" or "destroy". However, if you think it's ok for tribes like the Amalekites to continually harass the ancient Israelites, including picking off the old and the weak—then I guess the Tanakh is pretty horrible to want to destroy that culture (but as few warm bodies as wish to remain to defend that culture). Also, if you think it's horrible for the Israelites to be confined within strict boundaries instead of being an empire which has a divine mandate to conquer as much land as it can, then again the Tanakh must plead guilty. Or if you think it's ok for cultures which consider it quite acceptable to burn their young children alive to continue existing (vs. dispersing all members to neighboring regions so that it is hard to continue such rituals), then the Tanakh is indeed horrible.

            What I think is much better is to turn liberal and decide not to take seriously any such passages. Then you can become the most Enlightened nation in the world. What do you think you decide to do fairly soon after, as such a blessed nation?

            Religious altruism is for the tribe only.

            That's certainly what Jonah thought when YHWH wanted him to warn the Ninevites about the smackdown that was coming. He was so angry that YHWH was going to forgive the sins of enemies to Israel. It's really good that the Tanakh shows approval of his behavior and criticism of YHWH's.

            We see how many today will offer help to Christians suffering in Latin America yet at the same time want to deny the same to Muslims suffering from the Civil War in Syria. Or the Jews fleeing Europe during WW2.

            And which religion(s) tell(s) us we're not nearly as awesome as we tell ourselves? Definitely nothing secular does that in my experience. With precious few exceptions, the atheists who have criticized me and/or my ideas online have come from a position of distinct superiority. I was thereby somewhat amused to read Chris Stroop's Why I am Not an Atheist.

          • Sample1

            With precious few exceptions, the atheists who have criticized me and/or my ideas online have come from a position of distinct superiority.

            Um, I don’t think you realize that this sentence, as worded, can be interpreted to reasonably cast your ideas negatively without the effect your aiming for: smugness. If a position is superior, so be it. Who in meatspace or the tubes goes around looking for an inferior position to support their world views? You?

            Now, if it’s smugness you’re responding to, well that’s a bit of a problem for you too, if it bothers you. A position stands or falls on its own merit. Who cares about smugness? Apparently you!

            Can anyone say chip on their shoulder? Oh wait, I can. :-p

            My advice? Move on from it. It apparently brings you nothing but discomfort and dysthymia. But even if it doesn’t, emotion never adds to the truth of a claim. If you want to make some larger point, something of value about what you think smugness indicates then do that. But until then, this recurrent trope of yours is boring and maybe even passive aggressive.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Final edit.

          • Um, I don’t think you realize …

            In fact, I meant the full ambiguous range of meanings. Perhaps the atheists are superior to me. I certainly have learned a lot about respecting empirical evidence from my tens of thousands of hours talking to them. In fact, I suspect I respect it more than they do, given how often they fail to cite any evidence from the social sciences to support their empirical claims in domains studied by the social sciences.

            Who in meatspace or the tubes goes around looking for an inferior position to support their world views? You?

            According to Mercier & Sperber's 2011 Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory, people often don't care about empirical/​rational superiority, instead relying on mere rhetorical superiority. Given my extensive experience arguing with people who hold rather different views from me, I'm inclined to agree with them. The best antidote to this I've found is to present my ideas to those who hold very different views to get them critiqued. Have you found any better antidotes?

            Who cares about smugness? Apparently you!

            I find that smugness frequently gums up the conversation. Is your experience different?

            Can anyone say chip on their shoulder? Oh wait, I can. :-p

            If it's a chip, it's a chip that targets all of humanity, not just atheists. Self-righteousness is a huge, huge problem for humanity. Fortunately, the Bible provides some excellent tools for investigating it. (It functions quite well as a revelatory Rorschach test—not sure the eponymous test is as good.) Less fortunately but necessarily, these tools can also be used to build more sophisticated self-righteousness.

            But until then, this recurrent trope of yours is boring and maybe even passive aggressive.

            Irony of ironies.

          • Sample1

            Irony of ironies.

            You see, even if you are right that doesn’t mean I’m wrong about the trope. You, talking about you, seem to have an odd mathematical-like cancellation approach to discussion.

            It’s misplaced here.

            In fact, I meant the full ambiguous range of meanings.

            And here you aren’t being an odd mathematician, you’re being a magician. This kind of reply demonstrates that you are either incapable of being clear or willfully being vague. It is not the job of your interlocutor to see what cannot be seen. A good exchange is one where ideas are presented well, well enough that monstrous gaps of misunderstanding are not suddenly given as excuses. You have a habit of pulling rabbits from hats in discussions.

            Pro-tip: I suggest that when you make a statement you put yourself in the mind of the audience you are taking to and think, have I written something that the reader will completely get mistaken because I wasn’t thorough enough?

            As far as our quasi-physics discussion I am not going to do the heavy lifting here, mostly because of what I just described above.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done.

          • Gummed, up, indeed. You thought you caught me being ignorant of the possibility that I am wrong and the atheist right (and not superior/​smug); I pointed out that the precise language I used left this possibility wide open. I know that I am the instrument with which I measure reality, and that therefore anything that I detect could be an artifact of the instrument rather something "out there". I find most humans are fully capable of breaking out the various possible meanings of sentences like the one you picked out; if you are declaring yourself unable or unwilling to do this, I can attempt to change how I talk to you in particular. Let me know if you would like this. But note also that the original comment was not directed to you.

            E: We see how many today will offer help to Christians suffering in Latin America yet at the same time want to deny the same to Muslims suffering from the Civil War in Syria. Or the Jews fleeing Europe during WW2.

            LB: And which religion(s) tell(s) us we're not nearly as awesome as we tell ourselves? Definitely nothing secular does that in my experience. With precious few exceptions, the atheists who have criticized me and/or my ideas online have come from a position of distinct superiority. I was thereby somewhat amused to read Chris Stroop's Why I am Not an Atheist.

            S1: You, talking about you

            Right, that's what I was doing. Clearly.

            You have a habit of pulling rabbits from hats in discussions.

            Having had many of these discussions with atheists many times before, I do try to make them go places other than/​in addition to the boring, well-trod paths. If you don't like this, I suggest you steer very clear from science, which itself can often take us in directions we weren't expecting.

            Pro-tip: I suggest that when you make a statement you put yourself in the mind of the audience you are taking to and think, have I written something that the reader will completely get mistaken because I wasn’t thorough enough?

            This must be held in tension with the length of comment which can result from "thorough enough". Fortunately, follow-ups can help clear up misunderstandings. Now there is an obnoxious tendency for misinterpretation and miscommunication to be understood as sins which are never erased and can only grow in weight; such tendency is anti-scientific.

          • Sample1

            Fortunately, follow-ups can help clear up misunderstandings

            Sometimes.

            Mike

          • That would be the difference between 'can' and 'necessarily do'. I chose the former on purpose, to communicate precisely what I meant.

          • Sample1

            Responding with “sometimes,” as I did, does not bruise whatever meaning you were trying to be clear about. Unless you think it does. In which case you’d be wrong.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Addendum:

            E: We see how many today will offer help to Christians suffering in Latin America yet at the same time want to deny the same to Muslims suffering from the Civil War in Syria. Or the Jews fleeing Europe during WW2.

            LB: And which religion(s) tell(s) us we're not nearly as awesome as we tell ourselves? Definitely nothing secular does that in my experience. With precious few exceptions, the atheists who have criticized me and/or my ideas online have come from a position of distinct superiority. I was thereby somewhat amused to read Chris Stroop's Why I am Not an Atheist.

            S1: Um, I don’t think you realize that this sentence, as worded, can be interpreted to reasonably cast your ideas negatively without the effect your aiming for: smugness.

            LB: In fact, I meant the full ambiguous range of meanings. Perhaps the atheists are superior to me. …

            S1: ⋮
            Pro-tip: I suggest that when you make a statement you put yourself in the mind of the audience you are taking to and think, have I written something that the reader will completely get mistaken because I wasn’t thorough enough?

            Or: you culpably misfired with "the effect your aiming for: smugness" but can't get yourself to admit it. This is symptomatic of assuming that the only possible/​plausible motive of your interlocutor is one of self-righteousness. May I suggest that this behavior is detrimental not only to discourse, but human well-being in general? Sometimes the log is in your eye and sometimes it's in the other's; to assume it's always [or almost always] on one side, in my experience, is rather damaging to both sides.

            You've already read my portrayal of the Bible as a Rorschach test, where "I need not be grounded in infallible tradition for it to work." I suggest adapting your interactions with people so that they aren't necessarily being "bad"—however you wish to understand "bad" at that moment. Leave open the possibility that the one more in error is you. Refusal to do this is to set oneself or one's tribe up as the definition of "good". That way lies horror. GoT spoiler: It's why Jon murdered Dany.

          • Sample1

            I don’t know Luke. We have a long history. I’m therefore protectively skeptical of comments like this:

            Leave open the possibility that the one more in error is you

            It’s got the whiff of gaslighting. I’ve never been shy of identifying as a fallibilist.

            If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a break from arguing minutiae with you. And I’ve never watched GOT. Then again I’ve never watched the Goonies or Top Gun either. It’s a weird tradition that just kind of happens to me: not always experiencing the most popular thing going in society.

            Mike, fragrance and faith free

          • I don’t know Luke. We have a long history.

            Is that skepticism about forgiveness, repentance, and change? Dunno about you, but I find such skepticism to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you fix your model of someone as somehow "bad", it can be rather easy to interpret all his/her behavior according to that model, even if a more objective observer would dispute the [implicitly?] claimed [98%–100%] match between model and evidence.

            LB: Leave open the possibility that the one more in error is you

            S1: It’s got the whiff of gaslighting. I’ve never been shy of identifying as a fallibilist.

            The difference would be between selective fallibilism and comprehensive fallibilism.

            If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a break from arguing minutiae with you.

            Feel free to; I find that such breaks are often helpful.

          • Ellabulldog

            The parable is not what I was discussing. I'm discussing reality.

            A religion is a cultural device. It creates a unified tribe. The statistics are out there. You can ignore them by picking a bible verse that doesn't negate facts. Actions matter not words in an old book of fable.

            When invading the New World Christians did not treat those they found as humans. They killed, enslaved and raped them. Immediately. Columbus convicts himself with his own words.

            Catholics would kill Protestants. Protestants would kill Quakers. It's all tribal. It's all recorded history. Love thy neighbor meant the one next door. Not the one in the next tribe that worshiped another god. 2000 years of Christians showing this behavior convicts them. Actions not words.

            The Romans were religious. They had a Pagan faith system. Worked for them for centuries. If one wasn't Pagan then they were seen as an enemy of the State. When Christianity got preferred status it did the same. It's tribal.

            Atheism is a non-belief. The supernatural stuff is nonsense. But religion is an actual human construct. Gods do not exist. Religion and religious beliefs certainly do.

            Religion did and does play a part in human societies. Which was the question in the OP.

            They wanted to stone a woman in Pakistan recently for blasphemy. That stuff still goes on. It is about cultural uniformity to aid the tribe. Does it work? Depends on one's perspective. It works for those in power. It certainly doesn't work for individual human rights. Women's rights. Gay rights.

            It can also be a good thing. For the group. It enabled humans to organize and grow. To work together more efficiently. It's a way to control the human herd. To get people to submit to authority.

            Yet it also stifled dissent. It created conformity but no originality. Took the Enlightenment to allow humanity to finally escape the restraints put on the human mind. It's still holding billions of people back in large parts of the world.

            Authority comes from knowledge, facts and reason. Religious belief comes from emotion. If you feel inferior work on your assertions and your defense of them. Stroop may feed your bias. It's like giving a cake to make a fat woman feel better about losing weight.

            You may like theism and enjoy it. It provides you something. Great. That others disagree with your assertions is fine as well. That you can't back them up is on you not them.

            Atheists are no different from theists in 99.9% of what they do. They go to school, work, get married and have kids. They simply have an extra hour on Sunday to do something else than sit in a church. I see no statistical difference in atheist or theist behaviors. Unless you ask someone you would never know.

            You come on the web to argue religious belief. Fun isn't it. Addictive.

            That's the bots controlling our minds. They suck us in.

          • The parable is not what I was discussing. I'm discussing reality.

            What is your sampling method? There are plenty of Christians who do nice things and there are plenty who do mean things. Recently an atheist set up an interesting scenario in this regard. If you mostly go by mainstream media that will give you one sampling; if you mostly go by where you grew up, that'll be another sampling.

            A religion is a cultural device. It creates a unified tribe. The statistics are out there.

            I am very interested in any "statistics" which say that 98%–100% of the time, "religion" does what you describe. If the numbers are much lower than that, the conversation might need to change. Remember Sturgeon's law: 90% of everything is crap.

            When invading the New World Christians did not treat those they found as humans.

            Many did, but not all: have you ever looked into Pennsylvania? There is also the question of why you think the above is a problem, when for millennia humans did not think it was a problem. Dominic Erdozain argues in The Soul of Doubt that atheists actually pilfered the nicer Christianity and secularized it.

            Catholics would kill Protestants. Protestants would kill Quakers. It's all tribal. It's all recorded history. Love thy neighbor meant the one next door.

            By and large, you are right. By and large, the cryogenic data Doug Oscheroff was taking that one night matched the equations. Fortunately for him, he noticed when the data didn't match expectation and as a result he discovered superfluidity in He-3 and won a Nobel Prize. Are you falsely presupposing that 'some' ⇒ 'all'? That is an anti-science behavior. One has to start somewhere to change things and that change is going to start small. Do we approximate such change to zero—is that a good idea?

            The Romans were religious. They had a Pagan faith system. Worked for them for centuries. If one wasn't Pagan then they were seen as an enemy of the State. When Christianity got preferred status it did the same. It's tribal.

            Plenty of Christians agree that the Constantine + Christianity was a toxic brew. French sociologist Jacques Ellul describes it this way: "Is not the spirit of power at the heart of all our actions?" (The Subversion of Christianity, 165) By "our", he meant "humanity in general". And so Jesus being against this kind of power—see the third temptation—is something humans generally despise. It's a good reason to think Jesus was historical instead of fictional—who would invent someone so opposed to political power?

            The supernatural stuff is nonsense.

            I welcome you to define 'supernatural'; feel free to start with @jlowder:disqus's The Nature of Naturalism and tell me exactly what (2) means in his definition of 'physical entity'.

            But religion is an actual human construct.

            This is generally called "begging the question". I will agree with you that most religion is mostly a human construct. That was the most perplexing problem in the OT: the Hebrews kept running after false gods and making idols. We keep wanting it to be 100% pure human construct. Perhaps because we want control? My issue is with 'some' ⇒ 'all' reasoning. It is anti-scientific.

            Yet it also stifled dissent. It created conformity but no originality. Took the Enlightenment to allow humanity to finally escape the restraints put on the human mind.

            Ahh, so that's why when Jonathan Haidt investigated ideological heterogeneity among social psychologists, he found approximately none? Or the story of Norman Podhoretz? Or the tabula rasa dogma about human nature? By the way, social media censoring trolls and terrorists is also "stifling dissent", but we have nicer words to justify it. We always do!

            Authority comes from knowledge, facts and reason. Religious belief comes from emotion. If you feel inferior work on your assertions and your defense of them.

            It's rather humorous that you're saying this on a Catholic site which focuses so much on Aristotelian–Thomist philosophy that the following two complaints recently showed up:

            MM: Seems to me that the material presented is apologistics with a focus on Thomism. Apologism has its place but to my mind that is rallying the fellow believers or waverers amongst them or converting those already pondering such a move. A quite different task, to my mind, to genuine dialogue with those who hold no beliefs in gods.

            +

            G: Thomism is not the most accessible subject ever. Neither have most proponents, in my admittedly limited experience, seemed much concerned with explaining the subject, but rather with pushing apologetically oriented conclusions.

            (Note that in follow-up, @disqus_3SNAg69whY:disqus describes an exchange on SN as better than any other he's had with Thomists.)

            You may like theism and enjoy it. It provides you something. Great. That others disagree with your assertions is fine as well. That you can't back them up is on you not them.

            If you are going to make scientific claims, they must be falsifiable. You have made a number of claims which I think you intend to be scientific. But you haven't shown any indication you think they could be falsified. Instead, I sense a lot of 'some' ⇒ 'all' reasoning. So if you want to demonstrate what it looks like to back up claims, I think I've given you a pretty good opportunity to show how you are better than I. I'm happy to engage actual peer-reviewed studies; I have some experience in working through papers even though I'm an engineer and not a scientist. If I really need help I'll ask my wife, who is pursuing postdoctoral work in biophysics and biochemistry.

            I see no statistical difference in atheist or theist behaviors.

            Then I suggest checking out American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell. Some highlights.

  • >if you’re using your mind to say that your mind is hardwired to believe convenient fictions, is there any reason to believe that religion is the fiction, and not your waving it away?

    Yes, there is the application of good critical thinking. The idea being that humans evolved different ways of forming beliefs, or determining our conduct. They can be beneficial or harmful depending on the circumstances. More importantly, we shouldn't expect cognitive biases that evolved to keep us alive living in small groups in the Savanah, to lead to true beliefs living in civilization. However we might very well expect that the advanced cognitive abilities provide us a way to test the conclusions arising from cognitive biases.

    >that finite being, as we experience it, is marked, through and through, by intelligibility, that it is to say, by a formal structure that makes it understandable to an inquiring mind.

    It is also marked by unintelligibility. Much of what we experience is confusing and astonishing. Yet we have a bias to assume explanations, to infer agency when it is not there.

    Also, why limit intelligibility to finite being? Infinity is also intelligible. There is nothing confusing about the formal structure of natural numbers for example. Though when you drill down things do get mysterious. So we have a mix of things intelligible and not.

    >all of the sciences – physics, chemistry, psychology, astronomy, biology, and so forth – rest on the assumption that at all levels, microscopic and macroscopic, being can be known

    No, we know this is not the case.

    >To reject the mind as unreliable doesn’t just undermine religion – it undermines all science and all knowledge, which ends up being self-refuting.

    Who is "rejecting" the mind as unreliable? We know minds are not entirely reliable, or no human would ever be mistaken. Don't we all agree that human minds are not always reliable but we have adopted tools to check this?

    >So you are left with either saying that the mind is reliable, which means we should listen to its religious impulse

    But my mind tells me there are no gods and religions are false!

    • It is also marked by unintelligibility. Much of what we experience is confusing and astonishing. Yet we have a bias to assume explanations, to infer agency when it is not there.

      Hmmm, this would make for an interesting argument against the evidential problem of evil. For what is the EPoE, but a claim that there should be agency where no agency is seen? Is this just the atheist's hyper-active agency detection device misfiring once again?

      • >For what is the EPoE, but a claim that there should be agency where no agency is seen?

        I don't see that at all, how does is claim there is unseen agency?

        • I have proposed no "unseen agency". Please read more carefully.

          • Ok what are you saying? Because I have never considered the EPoE, a claim that there should be agency where no agency is seen.

            Rather it is a claim that because much evil seems gratuitous, it likely is gratuitous, and therefore it is unlikely that there is deity that can and wants to reduce that evil. It's not saying anything about what there should be, it's saying if the deity existed wew not expect to see the level of evil we see.

          • It's a hypothesis about agency which EPoE advocates have looked for and not found. One wonders whether they invented this agency with their HADD.

          • No idea what you mean, sorry.

          • Do you think our HADD is 0% operational when it comes to the evidential problem of evil and our idea of what a god-like agency would do?

          • What is HADD?

          • You wrote "Yet we have a bias to assume explanations, to infer agency when it is not there.", and yet you're not aware that HADD = Hyperactive Agency Detection Device? (more)

  • It is an interesting historical question, but one without any religious implications. After all, no one ever argued that the apparent fact that religion preceded the development of complex societies meant that any religion was true. By the same token, if complex societies preceded the emergence of religion, that in no way implies that any religion's truth claims are false. As you point out, if that were sound logic, it would also mean science's truth claims were false. Of course, it is not sound logic, but rather a simple genetic fallacy.

  • Ficino

    By gynecologist Marisa Dahlman:

    "I performed an emergency surgery several months ago to treat a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. The patient could have died, but we were able to stabilize her and send her home the same day.

    She called my office this week in tears asking why we did not reimplant her pregnancy in her uterus, why did we not offer her this option. Because maybe her baby didn’t have to die.

    Pseudoscience is invading my operating room and my relationship with my patients. This poor woman had to have emergency surgery, and then grieved the loss of a pregnancy that was never viable, that could have killed her.

    And now she is grieving it again because politicians who lack even the most basic understanding of the physiology of pregnancy are dangling untruths in front of her and calling it fact.

    In case anyone reading this is wondering, THIS IS NOT A THING. It is NOT POSSIBLE to reimplant ectopic pregnancies into the uterus. These are NOT viable pregnancies, and all the wishing in the world, the magical thinking, the political grandstanding, will not make it so.

    And if you don’t know that, then you should not be writing laws about it."

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I am a bit confused as to the point you are making.

      I presume you know that the surgical excision of ectopic pregnancies, such as performed, are considered to be, not only legal, but a perfectly ethical means of medical treatment.

      Edit: In case you are concerned about this, for the record, I know of no political movement or proposed or enacted law which would forbid the perfectly ethical surgical treatment of ectopic pregnancies described above.

      • Ficino

        Surely on Thomistic principles, the embryo has the form of human, and the privation does not consist in its not being human but in the lack of certain accidents. So if you admit that killing the ectopic embryo is ethical, then you are admitting that it is ethical under certain circumstances to "kill innocent human beings", to use the language you employed elsewhere. There is no principled Thomistic reason to deny the status of human being because of the accident of location. To say, well, it's defective, doesn't cut to the problem that its substantial form must, for a Thomist, be human and not the form of some other species. Since the embryo or fetus is growing, it is alive and it is progressing toward actualizing substantial form. You cannot consistently say a small clump of tissue in the uterus that constitutes a zygote is a human being and deny that a much more complex organism of the same species growing outside the uterus is not a human being.

        The point I am making should have been obvious. We have to do with much more complicated issues than are mapped by arguments that can be captured by the hunter - bush analogy.

        I am glad in any case that in the case of ectopic pregnancies that will kill the mother (and fetus), you allow the pregnancy to be terminated. That kind of concern for the woman can be expanded in its scope - and I'd say, expanded a long way.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          From all this am I to understand that you have never heard of how to apply the Thomistic principle of double effect?

          • Sample1

            Appreciate the discussion you’re both having (Ficino). Nobody cares what I think so I’ll spout some nonsense anyway.

            Abortion rates in the US are at the record low (2017) since Roe. Was this due to Thomistic claims being studied and applied by women (and men)?

            It seems the best single answer in what surely include a few factors to abortions plummeting isn’t Catholicism per se, but rather access to contraceptives.

            Shouldn’t we all be celebrating fewer unintended pregnancies and record low abortions? Or is it just too theologically criminal to entertain the idea that Catholicism hasn’t been part of this success story?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I realize that this is not your perspective, but if the view that life begins at conception is correct, using contraceptives does not reduce the abortion rate.

            Every contraceptive I know of, except the condom, can cause abortions if it fails in its presumed main contraceptive function. For example, the contraceptive pill, should it fail to suppress ovulation, functions by preventing implantation of the zygote -- thereby killing it. And since the shift to the newer "mini-Pill" about 1980, the pill's ability to suppress ovulation has been greatly reduced -- leading to far more early stage abortions.

            I know you believe in good science, and the best science makes rather clear that specifically human life begins at conception. As you well know, the zygote is an organism biologically distinct from its mother -- so I won't bore you with details. If you don't concede that it is a person at conception, then when do you draw the line and suddenly grant it the human right to not be killed?

            There is a huge amount to discuss in this arena, since ethics presupposes both philosophical psychology and metaphysics for its complete presentation. I simply cannot present its full complexity in this thread.

            So, I am just offering a few points to consider relative to the ones you made. Many of these points, though, entail scientific facts of which I know you are well aware and will confirm yourself.

          • Sample1

            I realize that this is not your perspective, but if the view that life begins at conception is correct, using contraceptives does not reduce the abortion rate.

            Ok, leaving aside abortifacients, it looks like you’ve constructed a tautology whereby no abortion rate can be referenced in any way if there are no conceptions.

            In other words, your logic suggests that even if 100% of sex was contraceptive based and no fertilizations occurred, one could not speak of an abortion rate in society. Is that your claim?

            For instance, the abortion rate for a pre-pubescent hypothetical population is zero. Would you agree that calling that hypothetical as one having a zero abortion rate is logical? I think you might say that calling that hypothetical, one with a zero abortion rate, is logical but as meaningful as calling it one with a zero astronautics career rate too.

            Is that what you are attempting to convey?

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am sorry. I am having trouble following you here.

            Let me just concede that there is no way to determine the exact abortion rate with contraceptives, since there is no way to know how many menses occurred because of no conception vs. conception but no implantation.

            I am happy to discuss this with you, but first we have to get on the same page.

          • Sample1

            Nope, on the same page. I just wanted to make sure that you are not excluding contraception (no fertilizations) from any discussion that goes into factoring what the abortion rate of a population is.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Following natural law, I am forced to include contraception in the discussion of abortion. Recall that St. Thomas Aquinas accepted the extant biological theory of successive animation, but still condemned abortion as intrinsically evil.

            That is because, even though he did not think that abortion killed a human being in the first two months of gestation, he still maintained that abortion contradicted the procreative finality in those first months, and thus, was intrinsically evil -- although less so than abortion that killed a human being.

          • Sample1

            I just find it interesting that you have chosen to adopt a position that makes it impossible for you to celebrate, with me, a reduction in the abortion rate, even if no fertilizations occur. And you will say the same for me.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But if the contraceptive methods result in abortions that never get counted because they occur early in gestation, there is no way to tell whether the number of abortions has actually fallen. In fact, it likely increased, since the mini-Pill has many failures in suppressing ovulation. In fact in those cases fertilizations DO occur, but since implantation does not take place, the zygote is killed, which is an abortion.

            Moreover, there is that "little matter" of direct abortions still occurring widely.

          • Sample1

            You seem prohibited from celebrating contraceptives that are abortifacient or contraceptives that are not abortifacient. The abortion rate, even if it is zero, is something that cannot be celebrated by you either because it’s seen as being ambiguous or meaningless.

            Does that accurately represent a part of your position?

            Mike
            Edit done, added question.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't know about "celebrating!," but natural law prohibits contraceptive acts whether purely such or with added abortive effects, which make them worse.

            If you could actually reduce the deliberate abortion rate to zero, of course, it would be a cause for celebration!

            See my comment in reply to David Nickol below for further thoughts.

          • Sample1

            I don't know about "celebrating!

            Precisely.

            If you could actually reduce the deliberate abortion rate to zero, of course, it would be a cause for celebration!

            But abortion rates include more factors than just deliberate abortions. You seem to be saying no celebration is possible so long as even one deliberate abortion happens. I see it differently. Contraceptives also reduces the abortion rate. It reduces the rate to zero for the individual and lowers it in aggregate for society. And I celebrate that. You cannot.

            It’s logically analogous, your position, to saying we should also not celebrate those Catholics who may have reduced the Holocaust victim rate by hiding Jews because Hitler was still exterminating them.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            You invoked Hitler very early in this discussion!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since most contraceptives entail early stage abortions when they fail to suppress ovulation, I can hardly celebrate a reduction in an abortion rate that, from my perspective, is probably actually higher than what is officially recognized.

            Also, from the natural law perspective, the use of contraception itself is a violation of God's natural law. So, why would you expect me to celebrate that?

            Finally, you misread the situation with Catholics who protected Jews from the Nazis. You assume that I would condemn them lying to the Nazis, whereas this is based on a misunderstanding of what was licit for those protecting the Jews.

            It is perfectly licit, according to natural law ethics, to use a broad mental reservation and just say "No," when asked if any Jews were hiding there. That use of what Wittgenstein called Sprachspielen, or "language games, is fully consistent with traditional natural law ethics, and so, your objection is without merit. We can celebrate any persons who managed to hide the Jews from these vicious killers.

          • Sample1

            Also, from the natural law perspective, the use of contraception itself is a violation of God's natural law. So, why would you expect me to celebrate that?

            This is the main course of the meal. You seem to think preventing an abortion with contraception is equal to or greater than the evil of procuring an abortion. All the science in the world can’t help you here. That’s a faith position. You’re free to believe it and that’s why you can’t celebrate a reduction in the abortion rate as I’ve described. This logic is a cash cow, philosophically, for the institution. It can be used to claim that the tangible societal benefits of reducing unwanted pregnancies are not good but bad. It’s like looking into a mirror and being told that’s not really your face.

            Finally, you misread the situation with Catholics who protected Jews from the Nazis.

            I don’t think you understood me. The analogy was not about lying. It was about celebrating achievements despite an ongoing evil. Hitler’s machine rolled on while some Jews were saved. We can celebrate their rescues even if the machine was still functioning. A reduction in the abortion rate can likewise be celebrated while deliberate abortions continue. But now I have confirmation for why you can’t do that. Contraception kicks God out of the bedroom. Well boo hoo. :-) Institutionally, I can understand why that’s a concern. It’s a flagrant act of disobedience. Spiritually, it makes God look silly for being mad.

            For what it’s worth, my position about abortion is summed up with a thought experiment. If I was on a desert island with a stranger, a woman who is pregnant, what right do I have to force her to do something I want with her own body? None is my answer. No right at all.

            That scenario is a bit like a known US case law surrounding a 1970s family who tried to force a cousin, by court order, to make a bone marrow donation that could have saved his own cousin’s life. The defendant’s cousin had a type of cancer and his immediate family were not bone marrow matches, but he was. He refused and the family sued him. The court said that while the matching cousin was behaving, arguably, immorally, the court had no right to force him to undergo the procedure against his will. The cancer victim died. I’m not about to say which is worse, the refusal or the senseless death. Being right in principle, bodily autonomy, does not mean problems vanish. But it does demonstrate what a society values.

            Your challenge is to convince why society should value unprotected sex more than planned parenthood.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You appear to be so obsessed with your opposition to the Catholic Church that you cannot believe that my opposition to contraception is based on pure reason in this argument, not on my religious faith. I realize you probably won't believe it possible, but I have been teaching natural law ethics for over half a century and I think I know the difference between what I hold by faith and what I hold by reason. My opposition to contraception is based on reason. Not your reason. Mine.

            Because the ethical argument against contraception rests on a broader foundation of philosophical truths, it is not easy to prove it is immoral to those who have not appreciation of the entire philosophical worldview. Notice, I said philosophical, not theological.

            >"You seem to think preventing an abortion with contraception is equal to or greater than the evil of procuring an abortion. All the science in the world can’t help you here. That’s a faith position."

            You are so sure this is all simply "Catholicism in action" that you can't see a philosophical position when one is presented.

            One argument I have long used is to point out that contraception is an intrinsically irrational act, since it is to use our procreative powers in an anti-procreative way: a contradiction in terms. Since man is a rational animal, such irrational behavior violates our basic nature.

            You will reject this argument because you reject all the other philosophical premises that surround and sustain it. So be it. But that does not turn a philosophical position into a theological one, just because the Catholic Church agrees with its conclusion.

            Contraception itself is not a "greater evil than abortion," but it is a serious misuse of our generative faculties, and thus, morally evil. But when the back up effect of a contraceptive is abortifacient, then the contraceptive is more evil than, say, a condom, which lacks such a back up effect.

            You don't want me to count abortions that come with contraception because that is not the intent of many users. But they are still abortions and must be counted when you allege fewer abortions because of contraception. Still, all this is aside the point; both contraception and abortion are evils.

            As to your case about the unwilling donor of his bone marrow, your example fails utterly -- since the bone marrow actually IS part of his body. You must be closing your eyes to what I suspect you already know from your study of biology, when you imply that the unborn baby is part of the mother's body. It is inside the mother's body, but it is a separate and distinct living human organism -- as you must already know if you would simply listen to the science you so much esteem.

            I don't think society should esteem either unprotected sex OR planned parenthood, unless the unprotected sex is between a husband and his wife.

          • Sample1

            You appear to be so obsessed with your opposition to the Catholic Church that you cannot believe that my opposition to contraception is based on pure reason in this argument, not on my religious faith. I realize you probably won't believe it possible, but I have been teaching natural law ethics for over half a century and I think I know the difference between what I hold by faith and what I hold by reason. My opposition to contraception is based on reason. Not your reason. Mine.

            It’s ok to be opposed to the Catholic Church! Many Catholics are! :-) Ok, never mind (I guess) that you have referred to God’s natural law. Are you saying your reason is what? based on Aristotle’s godless teleology rather than Aquinas’? Sorry Dennis, everything I’ve come to know about you traces linearly to faith claims, usually to Aquinas and then up to the Big Guys themselves (God, Jesus, Paraclete). It’s cute though that you want to appear as deriving an ought from an is via pure faith-free reason, but even the smarties of the world don’t know how to do that (though they keep trying).

            You don't want me to count abortions that come with contraception because that is not the intent of many users. But they are still abortions and must be counted when you allege fewer abortions because of contraception.

            Not about intent, it’s recognizing that not all contraceptives are abortifacients.

            As to your case about the unwilling donor of his bone marrow, your example fails utterly -- since the bone marrow actually IS part of his body.

            I love being told I’m utterly failing! Usually it’s a teaching moment. So let me teach you! :-) The point of the case was to show how society values bodily autonomy (well, maybe not in some places like Alabama, an otherwise beautiful state). Bone marrow or a separate baby, that’s not the point. The point is that the individual has the right to self preservation, not the bone marrow (the matching cousin feared he might die from the process of giving the bone marrow) or the baby. And that autonomy is something society values. It just gets icky, for you, when the principle is tested with abortion. As I said, being logically sound doesn’t mean emotional problems vanish.

            If we want to use logic, we can rest the value of the autonomy position on the simple fact that childbirth is much more dangerous than abortion: 8.8 deaths per 100,000 for childbirth vs. 0.6 deaths per 100,000 for abortions. A mother is on firm moral and legal ground to place her own protection above the needs for her unborn baby. Self preservation may not be for everyone but it’s well established and defended in law. But hey, if you don’t want an abortion don’t have one! Problem solved. If you want to impart a teleology to the unborn go for it! but others can disagree.

            if you would simply listen to the science you so much esteem.

            I do esteem scientific thinking but you’re positively in love with it. Unfortunately, you seem to treat science like a mistress: someone you can’t live without but won’t bring to philosophical conferences. :-)

            I don't think society should esteem either unprotected sex OR planned parenthood, unless the unprotected sex is between a husband and his wife.

            So, it’s basically what I said. You do esteem unprotected sex, always in the case of a married couple. You haven’t explained why that should be so. Whereas, I can point to generalized tangible benefits for society and the parents from carefully planned parenthood.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I did not object to your opposition to the Church. I objected to that opposition blinding you to the philosophical, rational nature of my positions.

            And where do you get the idea that using God in an argument proves that someone is a fideist? If you can prove God's existence by reason, then you can use his existence and nature to prove other things. You have strange rules.

            And the fact that you and your "smarties" don't know how to overcome the "is-ought dichotomy" does not prove it cannot be done.

            >"Not about intent, it’s recognizing that not all contraceptives are abortifacients."

            You are not reading me carefully. Either to you or David Nickol (I think to you) I explicitly stated that condoms are not abortifacient. But show me another one that is not.

            Your legal case may make a legal point about bodily autonomy, but the case in point was about bone marrow which IS part of someone's body. Beware the errors of legal systems, as in the status of Jews in the Third Reich.
            My point was that the unborn human is not in fact part of a woman's body, whereas bone marrow is.

            Your stats for deaths in live births vs. abortions apply only to the mother. Abortion is 100% fatal to the baby. And the old "self-defense" argument does not apply to an unborn baby who is not only innocent but doing nothing more than sitting (safely ?) in his mother's womb. As has been pointed out, the most dangerous place on earth in inside the womb.

            I know you don't "get" the arguments against both contraception and abortion, since you come ultimately from an atheistic worldview that cannot even rationally defend any ethical system other than utilitarianism, whose chief claim to fame is the dictum that "the end justifies the means," even when the means may be something evil.

          • Sample1

            Working backwards, bottom up, from your post.

            I believe I get your arguments against contraception and abortion I simply disagree with them. Understanding ≠ agreement! But you claim I don’t know them because I have an atheistic worldview. Is that your assertion for every atheist? If yes, that’s ludicrous. If no, what have I said that made you conclude I don’t understand your positions on them? Don’t mistake different conversational attempts on my part from the well worn standard replies you may be accustomed to as not understanding your position.

            “The most dangerous place on earth is inside the womb” is an assertion that barely rises even to the level of a deepity. The self defense argument is one that your world view prohibits you from liking but it’s a fact that childbirth is more dangerous to the mother than abortion. While it may not give you a moment’s pause, it’s a logical piece of the self defense argument and bodily autonomy. However, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, logic alone is often not enough to make a compelling argument. Reason is a single word and you do claim that your position employs reason, but reason is also a multi-stepped process. Evidence is one of those steps to rational thought. Reason without evidence is sketchy and typically unreliable. Every so-called proof for God that I’ve read has a counter apologetic retort. And even natural law proponents can’t converge on what it means. What is the counter reply to a hard-to-vary explanation like axial tilt for the seasons? Religious proofs are nowhere near the hard-to-vary types that provide reliable knowledge. BTS asked whether natural law will still explain human nature in 10k years. Of course it will. Why? Because natural law is easy-to-vary.

            I understood your distinction between a part of the body for bone marrow and not part of the body for the baby (others may disagree about the latter but I didn’t need to go there for my point). And my point was autonomy. What you need to argue for is why should the baby enjoy the exact same autonomy as the mother at all times and in all situations? If you have a good reason I’d like to hear it explained more thoroughly.

            In your first paragraph you seem to be saying that I’m arguing against a straw man. My objection, you say, is Church opposition-based which clouds my understanding from your faith free reasoned position. Ok, I’ll give you half a point for that. :-) Not a full point though because I’ve never claimed you were fideistic. I wanted to know if your position was closer to Aquinas’ teleology or Aristotle’s.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The basic reason you do not and cannot understand my arguments against contraception and abortion is because ethics presupposes philosophical psychology and metaphysics. So, if you want to challenge all the presupposed premises all the way down to metaphysical first premises, we both face an Herculean task too large for this thread, Likewise, to grasp the real force of my arguments, you would first have to accept the metaphysical foundations, including God's existence -- which you also don't understand, which is why you remain an atheist. :) In a word, there is too much on the plate for this venue without agreement on some presuppositions on which we disagree.

            Your second paragraph describes an epistemological distance between our positions so vast that I won't waste our time going there. We have been there before.

            The reason the baby has the exact same "autonomy," as you put it, "rights," as I would put it -- as the mother -- is simple: both are genuine human beings. I can't help it if you don't see it that way. All other arguments are secondary and contingent on this decisive point.
            It does not take a more thorough explanation. It merely takes determination and acknowledgement of the truth.

            I am not quite sure which part of my thought you want to know is closer to Aristotle or St. Thomas, but the bottom line is that St. Thomas is fifteen centuries separated from Aristotle and my thought is far closer to St. Thomas's. But I would be the first to admit that not everything St. Thomas wrote is correct. That is why Neo-Thomism is its own system of philosophy. It is not the cosmology or the cosmological parts of his psychology that Thomists most adhere to: it is his metaphysics.

            The deeper issue is that how one approaches ethics is determined by answers to the presupposed questions about the nature of man and God's existence and relation to his creatures. That is why we are making points back and forth without decisively defeating the opponent's views -- at least not until we address these deeper philosophical issues. It makes all the difference in the world to your ethical views if God exists, or if he does not, if man has a spiritual and immortal soul, or if he does not.

            Before you settle those issues, there can be not meaningful confrontation about the more "down the road" issues in ethics.

          • Sample1

            Alright, thanks for your reply. I think we know where we disagree. Another time, another conversation.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just one further observation. Please notice that almost all of my twenty-two Strange Notions articles have not dealt with ethical issues. That is precisely because I am well aware that until you sort out these foundational or presuppositional matters mentioned earlier, it is very difficult to give intellectually convincing arguments about ethical matters in something like 2500 words.

          • Sample1

            Absolutely.

            Mike

          • Ficino

            the baby has ...

            Dude, there you go again.

          • Rob Abney

            Ficino says “As an educated non-specialist adult” then he says “Dude...”.
            Causing me to question the first assertion!

          • Mark

            I've never heard of a couple or woman react to a positive pregnancy test as developing embryo or genetically unique developing human cell clump or an unborn fetus or whatever non-baby word you expect Dr. B to use. One shouldn't have to concede properly used and understood layman or scientific terminology to tip toe through a topic. You're a skilled logician Ficino, why fall back on political rhetoric hubris?

          • Sample1

            Well, presumably you’ve also never seen the shocked and terrified faces of rape victims either. Or those who think the F word when their serum hCG level returns ambiguously.

            Ficino, imo, has employed the opposite of political rhetoric here when it comes to describing reality. If he’s said something in error, just point it out.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Mark

            Yes, you presume too much. Appeals to emotions are not a rational way to work through a moral subject mater either. If a preborn human being/person has rights and protections it matters not how it was conceived.

            The term baby has always been applied to a preborn. Dr. B didn't smuggling any hidden premise into that sentence. Only since legalization of abortion has the term been questioned as a way to define scientific in-utero life. The motivation to do so is political, not scientific nor for purposes of clarification. I fact I have a cousin who is a Physician's Assistant at PP post on her FB page last year, "We're having a baby!"

          • Sample1

            I was not appealing to emotion to make the case for a formal argument. I was responding with a counter experience.

            The term baby has always been applied to a preborn.

            Even if true, are you saying because many people call it a baby, it is therefore a baby and not a fetus?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Mark

            I never said it wasn't a fetus. People call it a baby because they understand the fetus to be a baby. People deny it is a baby because they understand the moral implications of the term.

          • Sample1

            Well, maybe “they” do but I don’t. That’s evident in my exchanges with Dr. Bonnette where I had no problem using the word baby. Now, though, I will refrain from doing that. Not for any moral implications though.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • David Nickol

            The term baby has always been applied to a preborn.

            Interestingly, the first known use of the term preborn (according to the online version of the Merriam-Webster Unabridged) was in 1963. Preborn is classified as an adjective. (You use it as a noun.) I suspect preborn came into use because of the debate over abortion.

          • David Nickol

            Not that these arguments about the word baby prove anything at all, but it occurs to me that saying "We're having a baby" pretty much means "We are going to have a baby," not, "We (already) have a baby." It is similar to, "We're having a party," which can be said well in advance of the "existence" of the party. For example, "We're having a party Friday night, and you are invited."

            Of course, on the other hand, I don't believe any pregnant woman has ever said, "I can feel the fetus kicking!"

          • Ficino

            Mark, I think your concern about rhetoric points toward an answer to your question. [ETA: it's usually agreed that terms can be used under a wider semantic range in popular parlance than is suited to a more technical discussion.] Many associations and implications are or can be smuggled in under the term "the baby," for when it is applied to a fetus in a discussion of abortion, morally relevant distinctions get elided. The same with terms that suffer from vagueness, such as 'life". When the latter is used by metonymy as a stand-in for "human person" and then is applied to a fetus, morally relevant distinctions are elided, and they deserve to be the more salient, the closer to conception the fetus is.

          • Mark

            Okay. But aren't you smuggling in your associations and implications of a human person/personhood? Unique personhood for Dr. B (per Catholic teaching) is at conception, when the objective scientific qualifications for unique human life begin to exist. I assume you don't accept that qualification for personhood. And if asked how you define human personhood, you would likely give me your subjective list of criteria. Really what you're arguing is that merely being a unique human life isn't enough to be considered a human person. Have you considered the moral implications of that paradigm beyond abortion?

          • Ficino

            Unique personhood for Dr. B (per Catholic teaching) is at conception, when the objective scientific qualifications for unique human life begin to exist.

            Mark, it's not clear what work is done by your appeal to "objective scientific qualifications for unique human life." If you are directly inferring a doctrine about unique human personhood from the scientific conclusions, that's an illicit step, either vitiated by an equivocation or by a petitio principii, depending on how the terms work. I also think it would be a category error to draw conclusions about personhood from biology or whatever, since personhood in the relevant context, I would think, is a concept for philosophy and/or law.

            Have you considered the moral implications of that paradigm beyond abortion?

            No, because right now we're talking about abortion, and the case of a woman carrying another organism inside her body is relevantly different.

            In all this, I agree with Sample1 that too little concern is given to the harms that the woman can undergo.

          • Mark

            Mark, it's not clear what work is done by your appeal to "objective scientific qualifications for unique human life."

            I guess you'd have to walk far into the outer edges of the biological sciences to find dissenting opinions about the definition of a unique developing genetic life form of the species to find what I'm not referencing.

            I also think it would be a category error to draw conclusions about personhood from biology or whatever, since personhood in the relevant context, I would think, is a concept for philosophy and/or law.

            Personhood in law can be a trust or a corporate shareholder stake. Where do you derive personhood in philosophy outside of "biology or whatever." Catholics have an objective and mostly unambiguous response; albeit not perfectly unambiguous. I sensing a heaping pile of ambiguity from you however, no offense.

            I also think too little concern is given to the state of affairs the woman is in that brings her to the point of an abortion. We should have common ground on this. It should sicken all of us that improverish low-educated black people are the preponderant subjects of death penalty and abortion. This is a pro-life issue whether or not your an abortion proponent or not.

          • Ficino

            Where do you derive personhood in philosophy outside of "biology or whatever." Catholics have an objective and mostly unambiguous response; albeit not perfectly unambiguous.

            I have only dipped into the literature a little bit, and on personhood, it is huge. Criteria range from the very minimal one proclaimed by orthodox Catholics, i.e. to be a human person it's sufficient to be a fertilized ovum, all the way to ultra-lefties (not sure what to call them) who require so much that many elderly dementia patients wouldn't be persons. I think it's a sorites problem, and I don't know enough to be precise about it. I'd say that a newborn child is a human person; an embryo or zygote is not so; maybe somewhere in the third trimester. But there are harrowing cases of late-term fetuses that are not viable, and I regard it as immoral to force the birth. I have read of such cases where the woman and the man very much want a child and only when they understand that there is no hope do they with their doctor/s decide on abortion. Based on the relatively little I know now I'd suppose that the fetus in such late-term tragedies is defective (in the Aristotelian sense) such that "person" does not apply to it. That's the best I can do for now.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Boethius gave us the traditional definition of a person: a supposit of a rational nature. That is, what we would call a substance or a thing that can reason, understand concepts, and form judgments.

            The problem for the Medievalists was that the biological theory of successive animation was generally accepted, and it really confused the application of the doctrine of hylemorphism. It was badly influenced by Aristotle's assumption that the form must fit the matter (which is correct) and that the matter was not fitted to the human form at conception (which was not correct).

            Successive animation meant that the matter was fit for only a vegetative soul for the first thirty days after conception, and then only for a sentient soul for the second thirty days, and not until the beginning of the third month of gestation was the matter specific to the human soul, at which point the spiritual soul was infused by God.

            Now we know that the matter is definitively specific to the human species at the point of conception, and so, it would follow that that is the point at which God would infuse the spiritual soul.

            Once the spiritual soul is present, since its properties are rational, the rational soul must be present, even if all its powers are not fully operational at that stage because the bodily organs associated with these powers are not yet fully developed.

            Bottom line: The human organism begins its existence at conception and the same rational substantial form animates the matter from that point until death. But since man is a "rational animal" and since a person is a "substance of a rational nature," it follows that the human person is present in the developing zygote from the point of conception.

            Note that this is not a theological exposition, but a philosophical explanation consistent with the hylemorphic doctrine of Aristotle and St. Thomas.

          • Sample1

            Sorry to jump in, I think this is kind of clouding things (for me anyway):

            per Catholic teaching

            Dr. Bonnette has said his position is based on philosophy and reason, not his Catholicism (if I understood him correctly) though Catholicism may not be out of harmony (or isn’t) with his ideas. But when you say Catholic teaching, that introduces a new angle to the abortion discussion. Because Catholic teaching also claims an immaterial immortal soul exists at conception too. And then from there, well, there is too much in Catholicism that isn’t going to be germane to those of us who are looking only at philosophy for this issue.

            Make sense?

            Mike

          • Mark

            Yes. I guess I assumed Dr. B aligns himself with the philosophical grounding of the Catholic chuch. I should let him speak for himself.

            Having said that the germane arguments made by de Vitoria and Maritain are why we have UHRs. Catholics arrived at that truth via reasoned philosophical grounding. It was and still is (along with all pro-life stances) a philosophical truth aligned with Revealed truth. Reason proceeds faith.

          • Sample1

            Reason proceeds [sic] faith

            I think you meant reason precedes faith. Actually, that’s not the position of St. Augustine when he laid down the teachings against Tertullian. Augustine taught that faith precedes reason, using scripture from Paul I think to back that up. Maritain also claims that faith is superior to reason (may not be his exact words). As far as I understand, that remains pretty much the position of the Magisterium.

            Massive deal breaker for me. I can’t in good conscience find any reasonableness with that. It’s a carte blanche for gullibility. YMMV.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Forgive my intrusion, but I am getting named here -- so I would like to make a couple points.

            I am not sure what you refer to as your "deal breaker," but perhaps the following addresses it.

            First, reason does precede faith. I don't like to quote Catholic teaching regarding philosophical arguments, because the philosophy can stand on its own. That said, the Catholic position on reason is that it provides the preambula fidei -- the preambles to faith. That is, those natural truths that must be known before some elements of faith are even possible. In that sense, faith does not come before reason, but reason precedes faith.

            Among such truths would be the ability of the human mind to know truth, the existence of God, the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, and the reality of historical figures. After all, if you could not know that Jesus Christ existed in history, how could you believe in his Church?

            Maritain would agree that faith is superior to reason in that there are truths of faith that exceed what can be known by reason, for example, the reality of the Holy Trinity. Reason can demonstrate God's existence, but it cannot demonstrate the Trinity.

            Faith can illuminate reason in the sense that it can give insights as to where reason can go productively. In that sense, it can be prior to reason -- not as a premise, but as a guide.

            Nonetheless, in the realm of Catholic theology, premises taken from divine revelation can then be used, combined with philosophical reasoning, to produce theological truths that would not be known by natural reason alone. For example, once we believe that Christ is God, we can infer truths about his divine intellect that do not belong to a merely human intellect -- such as the ability to know the thoughts of other men.

            As for the time of the creation and infusion of the human spiritual soul, that is simply not officially taught by the Magisterium as far as I know. See Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 100. Modern Christian philosophy generally holds that the soul is infused at conception.

          • Mark

            Thanks for the correction Mike. I was juggling family obligation last night in between posts.

            I can agree that St Augustine said that, but he didn't make any sort of distinctions about theological propositions and giving an argument for said proposition. To simplify, Catholic teaching is that they (faith and reason) are the two arms of knowing or arriving at truth; always in harmony with each other and reason deepens faith. In other words the task of reason is to make faith intelligible. Some truths can only be known via faith and revelation of God (i.e. Jesus is the begotten Son). But also anyone can come to know God via natural human reason outside of religion. So admittedly I'm not a philosopher by trade; there are others on here who are much more learned and read on Aquinas, Scotus, Newman, and Mitchel. Newman worked quite a bit on this because the philosophical intellectuals that challenged the efficacy of faith knowing. So I agree that the early traditional Catholic teaching is that faith occurs first, but reason precedes the deepening of faith and the two are always in harmony with each other. Sorry for the delay in response. I'd invite anyone on here with more "knowing" than me to correct my apologetics:)

          • Rob Abney

            What you need to argue for is why should the baby enjoy the exact same autonomy as the mother at all times and in all situations? If you have a good reason I’d like to hear it explained more thoroughly.

            I don't think that I understand your position, why isn't the autonomy of both parties equal? Although the way I understand it, the developing baby is actually totally dependent upon the mother to assert for his/her rights. The mother's autonomy surely shouldn't take precedence simply because she is bigger or more powerful?

          • Sample1

            The mother's autonomy surely shouldn't take precedence simply because she is bigger or more powerful?

            Fascinating derivation, bigger/powerful but from where it comes, I do not know. Is this an idea you’ve independently come to or have you heard it from another? I’d like to know. Not judging, just curious.

            why aren’t they both equal?

            In the minds of some, they certainly are equal Rob. Perhaps your own. The word equality denotes a range of ideas, some of them I would agree are present, such as potential. However, in the minds of others equality, when it is defined as relevant to maintaining life, is either rejected outright or is subordinated for moral reasons to another principle such as an idealized or absolute autonomy. One may defend the latter as saying if the State is given the power to force pregnancies to birth, there is little, if any recourse to say the State also couldn’t force all pregnancies to be aborted. This is why, I think, no matter how uncomfortable abortions may be for some, the decision making capability, either way, must remain with the individual woman. We have an amazing form of government for all its warts, but not amazing enough to trust with that kind of power.

            When I was a Catholic, I too derided President Clinton’s phrase that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. The rare part seemed an illogical inclusion, silly even. But now I understand the wisdom; a phrase in all likelihood crafted or informed by a panel of learned ethicists rather that Clinton himself. I see the word rare denoting the relationship between what a government can do by law and what an individual can do by conscience. Clinton, or his advisors, backed individual conscience, a forward thinking and wise decision in my view. People can argue if idealized or absolute individual autonomy contributes positively or negatively to the collective mores of a society. And they do. If a solution to abortion exists, such that its use or non use disappears from the list of controversial actions, I believe humans will discover it. Unfortunately, we are not at a stage in our knowledge where we can all look on this subject with equanimity. If you believe abortion is an evil, then I think that evil is due to a lack of knowledge. Likewise, knowledge may reinforce the principle of autonomy. One day, I’m sure it will be less controversial than it is today but I don’t know which side is going to prevail. But prevailing will only be meaningful if the solution is arrived by knowledge.

            So, addressing idealized or absolute autonomy. The idea here is not that the woman is bigger or more powerful. The idea is that a person has the right to require consent, meaning it can be given or refused, when it comes to actions taken upon their body (or if one is a substance dualist, any number of additional concepts like: essence, noumena, elan vital, soul, vital force, etc.). An abortion is the result from a consent withdrawn. In this scenario, the consent of the woman is the primary action and the abortion is the secondary effect or the pregnancy is prevented through contraception.

            Some argue the fetus or zygote cannot give consent. True. But the consent of another autonomous body like a fetus (even if that was possible) does not give it the right to take action on the woman’s body without her consent. Nobody can consent their own way into my body, either medically or sexually. And consent, if given, can always be withdrawn. But this is moot because absence of an ability to consent means another has the choice to affirm or deny it. Furthermore, there is no consensus on the personhood of a fetus. And for me, personhood minimally requires a brain-state which is definitely not there for a zygote.

            If I still believed in souls, it would mean I’d still be a Catholic and I would probably still be pro birth. Not 100% sure about that, I might have chosen to face punishment with the hope of mercy by supporting the rights of those outside my group to not be subjected to my private beliefs. I do tend to agree that Catholics, if they are going to say they accept the divinely guided authority of Catholicism, must be against all abortions.

            Thankfully, I don’t believe that stuff anymore. No offense. But I do understand the Catholic position. I think it’s not a good moral leader on this issue. That’s easy to explain, I see no evidence for their divine authority but I do see the evidence of a woman who has the right to bodily autonomy. As do you.

            This is a sample of my thoughts on this issue which are continually evolving. I’m a guy, I’ll never be pregnant. My opinions will not be formed from the same urgency as those women who are facing laws against their own bodies. As such, their thoughts should receive more consideration than mine where we may agree or disagree. Thanks for the question.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            Your position is tenuously supported by your use of consent.
            There are various groups of people who are unable to legally or validly offer or accept consent. That group includes children and prisoners. Consent requires two parties, one to offer and one to accept. In this situation the mother cannot offer consent legally or validly to a party that is under the age of consent. And the other party cannot request consent legally, validly, or actually.
            Of course even if consent were on the table it is an absurd position to hold that a woman who has consented to the creation of another life could then retroactively withdraw that consent. (Ignoring the issue of non consensual impregnation).

          • Just because the child isn't capable of consent doesn't mean the adult doesn't have the right to consent (or not). If my infant wants to breastfeed and I don't want to at this moment, I can refuse that.

            And consent to have sex isn't consent to pregnancy. That's not understood by the subject consenting. Legally we recognize this by saying that if a person consents to have sex with a condom, sex without a condom is rape. But if you deny this, you should accept rape exceptions, which you don't. Better to say, you simply don't consider consent to be morally relevant, at least not in competition with life.

          • David Nickol

            While I can find many statements claiming birth control pills do interfere with implantation, and many statements that they do not, I have so far not found the results of any scientific studies that give evidence for one side or the other. Do you have such evidence?

            According to WebMD (and many other sources), cigarette smoking interferes with fertility (including implantation), can cause miscarriage, and if pregnancy occurs, smoking may adversely affect the health of the baby.

            Given the lack of solid information, I am curious as to why prevention of implantation cannot be considered a possible (and unintended) side effect of oral contraceptives, and it is also unclear to me why it is not—as far as implantation is concerned—just as immoral for women of childbearing age to smoke.

            There are a number of other issues that come to mind. For example, it may be discovered by medical testing that a woman is infertile because a condition of her uterus prevents implantation. Is it morally acceptable under such circumstances for a woman who is aware of such a condition to continue to be sexually active and continue to conceive and "abort" time after time?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Excellent questions! And also the reason I have not plunged into ethics questions long ago on this site. Not because I cannot deal with them. But because they are very complex and I don't have time to research every side alley they can lead into.

            That said, you have to distinguish between private morality and public policy questions. The private morality based on natural law forbids the use of contraceptives because essentially they entail placing acts which are procreative, while doing so in a manner that is deliberately anti-procreative. This makes them self-contradictory and irrational, and hence, contrary to man's rational nature.

            At this point you ask why should we even follow natural law morality? That is why ethics questions get beyond the scope I normally deal with here, since it is quite proper to demand the foundation for any morality that claims to regulate human behavior -- and the foundations for natural law have not been established (as far as I know) on SN.

            Certainly, they depend on God's existence and since this is an atheist/Catholic site, the more basic question has been my focus.

            Back to your questions with the aforesaid provisos. If contraception is viewed as immoral, adding an abortifacient secondary or almost primary effect to it clearly only aggravates the moral problem. But please note that in a secular society such as ours, present public policy does not seem to make contraceptive sales and use a problem. Even if something is immoral, it is not good policy to try to legislate every immoral activity, including contraception, masturbation, fornication, bad mouthing your neighbor!

            Smoking is another issue, but clearly does not begin in a morally problematic activity -- just a pretty odd one -- inhaling smoke and then exhaling it. The degree to which it is morally problematic is more pragmatic than intrinsic.

            Your last two questions are somewhat similar. In neither case is the woman primarily trying to interfere with the procreative tendencies of her actions, but rather is merely engaging in sex in a lawful manner, while the abortive side effects are entirely unintended side-effects. Double effect largely justifies such actions.

          • BTS

            This is primarily for Dr. B but I would also enjoy hearing from David Nickol, Sample1, Ficino and others who are so inclined.

            At this point you ask why should we even follow natural law morality?

            Some questions on natural law, as it underpins the entire Catholic foundation of morality and is directly related to this discussion. I suspect you will say that I "just don't understand natural law" because I have not extensively studied it, but I think these are legitimate questions about what I see as a limited and unimaginative view of humanity.

            1) Is God's revelation of natural law progressive or static? Many theologians defend Old Testament genocide with the concept of progressive revelation, the idea that the Israelites were a thick-headed ancient people who could only learn so much at a time. As such, God had to measure out his wisdom with coffee spoons to his chosen people over many hundreds or probably thousands of years. If that is the case, why wouldn't/couldn't God's revelation on natural law similarly situated? Or did we learn everything we needed to know in years 1265-1274?

            I struggle to accept a static natural law when in geologic time humans have just barely emerged on the scene and are bound to change drastically over the coming millennia.

            2) Do you allow the possibility that you (and the core of natural law proponents may be wrong about some tenets of natural law? Is it possible you have misinterpreted God's 'plan' for human physical interaction? Or do you believe you have gotten all of it exactly right?

            3) If humanity had evolved on a different planet, would natural law on that planet be exactly the same as on earth?

            4) In the far future (say 10,000+ years) humans may be spread across the galaxy and eons of time for evolution - some of it purposefully crafted - will have elapsed. When genetically distinct "human" descendants with different DNA, customs, planetary habitats and understandings of natural law meet, who will be right? How will conflicts over Natural Law be settled? Related question: If the the different "human" branches can enjoy sex together but cannot produce viable offspring, will that sex be immoral?

            4) As an interesting thought experiment, could you verbalize your reaction, if, upon your death, and upon speaking to God, you realize that you were dead wrong about some aspect of natural law and God chides you with a wry smile?

            (As a hopefully humorous side note, My mother is intent on chastising Jesus when she dies. She disagrees vehemently with Jesus on his words in the home of Mary and Martha. She thinks Mary should have gotten off her duff and helped Martha with the housework. Trust me, you will want to be there for that conversation. :)

            5) When humanity does branch out into the galaxy and establish itself on other worlds, would you say that for a particular branch of humanity that it would be immoral to modify themselves genetically to adapt to environment of the new planet? On a harsh world, for example, if the choice is between, on one hand, genetically modifying humans to affect sexual reproduction, and, on the other hand, essentially dying out, would "dying out" be the morally correct choice? One modification I can think of would be making changes to DNA to affect sperm count to produce fewer children.

            edit - changed "fertile" to "but cannot produce viable offspring"

          • Rob Abney

            Natural law will change when human nature changes. Do you consider that human nature has changed or that it will change?

          • BTS

            Rob,
            I'll answer your question if you first answer some of the ones I posted. :)

          • Rob Abney

            My understanding is that human nature has not and will not change. But all of your questions seem to presuppose that a change has or will occur.

          • BTS

            My position is twofold:
            1) We don't fully understand human nature yet, so it is rather silly to say we do and that it will never change. To say that one specific monk in 1265 got everything right is beyond hubris. Even Einstein made colossal mistakes.

            2) I also suspect that human nature has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. As an example, technology has already changed our brains. This is almost undeniable. I suppose we could argue definitionally whether large scale changes in the species' brain would de facto change the nature, but I'd rather just assume it.

            I suspect in the next thousand years we will almost certainly be integrating computer technology into our bodies. It is utterly inevitable. Whether that is good or not is a separate chat.

            As I mentioned, I struggle to accept a static natural law presented by God when in geologic time humans have just barely emerged on the scene and are bound to change drastically over the coming millennia. Humans in the year 50,000 may be unrecognizable to us now.

            Thomists will argue that we can perceive natural law by looking out the window, thinking really hard, and then Poof! we have all the answers (Well, those of us who are smart enough and clever enough to arrange all the words in the right order to get some fancy logic flowing, will have all the answers).

            I disagree.

            We are an infant race. If we figure things out, it is going to take a very, very long time.

          • Sample1

            If we figure things out, it’s going to take a very long time.

            “That the truth consists of hard-to-vary assertions about reality is the most important fact of the physical world. It is a fact that is itself unseen yet impossible to vary.” -David Deutsch.

            Unlike Dr. Bonnette, who seems to think that the very first humans were those who understood and reasoned about concepts, my lenses aren’t so rosey. The first humans were undoubtedly terrible users of reason and had almost no understanding of physical reality. For at least a hundred thousand years and probably longer, bad explanations that were easy-to-vary dominated their thinking.

            I don’t think everything will be figured out. That’s because for nearly every explanation, more questions typically arise. It’s a choice, I suppose, to see that as wonderful or unwonderful. I think it’s wonderful, besides, unwonderful isn’t a word. :-)

            Mike, excommunicated

          • BTS

            Thanks, Mike.
            I do like Deutsch's approach.

            The first humans were undoubtedly terrible users of reason and had almost no understanding of physical reality. For at least a hundred thousand years and probably longer, bad explanations that were easy-to-vary dominated their thinking.

            Yes.

            I don’t think everything will be figured out.

            Not in our lifetimes, any way.

          • Sample1

            I don’t know if you’ve ever had the joy of being in the presence of a truly nimble and world class mind.

            I’m not talking about academic smarties or technicians of excellence or the wide range of intelligence found all around you, even watching the brains of kids working out problems is a beautiful experience.

            When you do meet that person it can change your life. And you’ll then have the experience to know when you’ve encountered it again.

            Deutsch is like that. I was afraid, at first, that I was romanticizing my view of him or falling for a mere fanboy-like appreciation. But then I discovered that Pinker thinks likewise. And I know Pinker has been right before with someone I did once know. Someone he called the best living mind in biology (as did Dennett and other Edgies). Unfortunately that mind is dead now but having known his athletic thinking skills, I now have a benchmark.

            Deutsch meets that benchmark. Glad you enjoy his work. :-)

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done.

          • BTS

            To be clear, I don't know much about Deutsch other than what you posted about hard-to-vary vs. easy-to-vary. That is an analytic approach I find compelling. Thanks for that. But I will have to check him out now.

            Now Pinker I am much more familiar with.

            To answer your question, no, I have not met in person an individual with a world class mind. And it sure as hell ain't me. I still end sentences with prepositions.

          • Sample1

            I’ve only read one of his two books. It has really challenged a lot of taken-for-granted assumptions about knowledge that I’ve subconsciously maintained. Some of the basics will be familiar to most (it’s not a technical book) but it’s not every day one can have their entrenched ideas flipped over. I just can’t believe it took so long for him to get on my radar. (Things do tend to come slowly to me, ha).

            I appreciate Pinker and he’s brilliant but, and I’m going to be scowled at for this, he is kind of boring to listen to. He reminds me of a human Siri. Full of amazing knowledge but not inspiring. Not to me. I feel a little bad saying that, but he’s not reading this. Ha.

            There are plenty of interviews free for viewing. His short discussions with Robert Kuhn on YouTube are a good start. He has a couple Ted Talks too. His most difficult area of explanation, for me, in the book, was about aesthetics. But his philosophical fusion with Popper and a few others is like drinking a clear glass of water on top of a mountain.

            Enjoy what you find. Or if your have criticisms, share them. I found it helpful to follow each chapter with a breakdown from a guy who does video explanations for the chapters.

            One counter-intuitive idea turned over is this:

            When there are two theories that both withstand severe criticisms and attempts at disproving, the one that is least probable should be the preferred theory *not* the most probable one. The least probable theory is the one with the highest information content and most open to future falsification. Accepting the most probable theory is more in the tradition of positivism rather than critical rationalism. (This is a snippet of Popper’s philosophy)

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Dennis Bonnette

            All that you say here as well as your replies to Rob Abney below reveal that your deepest problem is not in ethics, but rather philosophical psychology. That is to say, we have fundamentally diverse views about human nature -- which makes most of your questions secondary to this question about human nature.

            Your take on human nature is totally immersed in a view of biological evolution that sees our species as ever evolving in ways that would gainsay our present views of human nature.

            This is because you reject the basic philosophical definition of man as being a rational animal. When man first gained the ability to understand concepts and reason about them, he distinguished himself from lower animals. But you think man is merely a highly developed animal. And since he developed from lower species, and is still developing, he will eventually turn into some new species, for whom our natural law would be inappropriate -- assuming there is one in the first place!

            All this is one reason I have tended to avoid getting into ethical issues on this site, since there is so much material to explain and defend, this is not a good venue for such expositions.

            Do you believe man has a spiritual soul? Do you believe that either an animal has such a soul nor not? You will say he does not. But if he did, as Thomistic philosophers argue, then how would this soul "evolve" into something radically different with a different nature to have different natural laws?

            See the problem here? We don't agree on square one on which to have an intelligent discussion. I could give you an entire course in philosophical psychology -- but not on this thread. And I doubt you would be too receptive to sitting through it in any event.

          • BTS

            Your take on human nature is totally immersed in a view of biological evolution that sees our species as ever evolving in ways that would gainsay our present views of human nature.

            Not totally immersed, no. Just following the evidence. But I'm open to being wrong. I just don't think you are open to being wrong.

            This is because you reject the basic philosophical definition of man as being a rational animal.

            Not true at all. I am a seeker. You see that as a flaw and I see it as a virtue. I haven't made up my mind yet. I might never make up my mind. I am fine with man being a rational animal, though.

            But you think man is merely a highly developed animal.

            Not true at all. We MAY be merely a highly developed animal. I am open to being convinced either way. I think you are used to arguing with many stubborn folks who are entrenched in their positions, and I am not one of those types, for the most part.

            Do you believe man has a spiritual soul? Do you believe that either an animal has such a soul nor not? You will say he does not.

            Ah, that is the question, isn't it? Again, you got me wrong. I think that I hope we have a soul. How's that? My greatest fear is never seeing my children again after death and having them feel abandoned upon their own deaths. But I refuse to have false hope and I refuse to "fake it till I make it." Why does the legitimate doubt of one seeking God but having difficulty finding God bother you so much? And do you think arrogance is a good pastoral counseling tool?

            In any case, regarding the soul, question, I often try to imagine the moment of my actual death and the moment of either waking up on the other side, or not waking up. I can't reach a conclusion on what is going to happen. I have no idea. None at all.

            how would this soul "evolve" into something radically different with a different nature to have different natural laws?

            Technology, quantum computing, time travel, contact with aliens, a singularity, who knows? But you keep avoiding the main thrust of my argument which is that we don't necessarily understand humanity enough to even know if there are such laws. And you didn't answer my question about if you ever consider that you might be wrong.

            And I doubt you would be too receptive to sitting through it in any event.

            Cheap shot. I'd love a course like that. Don't have enough time now, though.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If your reread your questions for general tone, you might see why I view your position as I have. You claim that "in geologic time humans have just barely emerged on the scene and are bound to change drastically over the coming millennia." You assume interplanetary expansion and meeting new species with radically different natures and laws. I am not convinced my reading of your overall belief system is that far off the mark.

            Moreover, you seem obsessed with the question of what would I say if I found out I was wrong. This is a direct attack on the very possibility of certitude which bespeaks a certitude on your own part, namely, that certitude is impossible and anyone thinking he has it must be narrow minded because he isn't open to being wrong! What are your feelings about 2 +2 being = to 4 lately? What is the first thing you are supposed to do when you find something is true for certain? Ask if you might be wrong? Such a question is intelligible solely if you were not certain in the first place. That is why I say it presupposes that there is no certitude.

            By the way, discovering certitude about some things is not the same thing as arrogance. If I deny that I know that 2 + 2 =4, that is not intellectual humility, but mock humility. That is why I must assert my certitude about a few things. And so must you. It is just that sometimes people fail to notice the things they are certain about.

            But to cut to the chase. Since you note correctly the importance of knowing if we have spiritual souls, rather than extend this comment further, I shall just refer you to my own "humble" attempt to demonstrate the good news to you here: https://strangenotions.com/how-we-know-the-human-soul-is-immortal/

            If my arguments there are correct, it should give you reason to consider why I insist that certain elements of human nature are unchanging.

          • BTS

            I will have to dedicate some time to reading and understanding that piece of yours on the soul. I will read it with an open mind. It is very dense and will require me to research your terminology.

            I do not deny that we can know things epistemically, such as 2+2 = 4. That fact is true because it conforms to reality, I believe it to be true, and I can justify my belief through the repeatability and reliability.

            Belief in God falls into a different category, which I believe is what philosophers call psychological certainty. You appear to be 99.999% certain there is a god and I am maybe 50% certain. So we are just arguing where the line is. We have different confidence levels in god's or the soul's existence. I utterly reject that we can have epistemic knowledge that god exists. If we could justify god/soul's existence epistemically then faith would be useless or meaningless.

            Reading through the comments on that piece, I quote you here and it appears that you actually DO agree with me that humanity is an infant species and we have much to learn. Your words below are precisely why my confidence levels in god are currently low.

            But do we really have better knowledge of this physical world in which we live? All we know is through the five senses that Plato characterized as mere "peep holes" into the world. What of the rest of the physical world we simply cannot sense, but are convinced is real: gravity (we merely sense its effects, not it), photons, atomic particles too small to be sensed, x-rays, the rest of the universe beyond our instruments range, the universe known only by instruments, not directly by sight, the infrared, the ultraviolet, and on and on.

            Do we even know directly five percent of the real physical world we think we know so well?

            So, when asking about the nature of reality beyond this physical world, we must realize that its reality is not the problem. It is the absurdly limited range of our knowledge that makes such knowledge beyond the limits of our imagination -- an imagination limited to those five "peep holes."

          • Mark

            Sorry to drop in, but I found the Dr. Maddon did a guest lecture at Brown university on the soul and neuroscience a good source on this subject too. As a Catholic revert, I admit I really had a poor theological idea of what a soul actually was. Now when people tell me they don't believe in a soul I find it is usually the case that what they don't believe in I don't either. When properly defined it really isn't nonsensical. Dr. B's article is excellent, this is an interesting lecture as well if you like audio learning.

            https://soundcloud.com/thomisticinstitute/dr-james-madden-the-compatibility-of-neuroscience-and-the-soul

          • BTS

            I will try to listen to this when I can. Any chance you can summarize his thesis in the mean time?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Belief in God falls into a different category, which I believe is what philosophers call psychological certainty. You appear to be 99.999% certain there is a god and I am maybe 50% certain. So we are just arguing where the line is. We have different confidence levels in god's or the soul's existence. I utterly reject that we can have epistemic knowledge that god exists. If we could justify god/soul's existence epistemically then faith would be useless or meaningless."

            Oh, where to start!!

            >"... what philosophers call psychological certainty"

            What philosophers? Ever hear of metaphysical or apodictic certainty? Which philosophers are your reading?

            You allow certitude of two plus two equals four. What about more complex calculations where slightly more steps are involved? Does your certitude cease then? That is what proofs for God entail. No less certitude, but maybe a few more steps.

            You "utterly reject that we can have epistemic knowledge that god exists?" Then how dare you tell me that you "have an open mind?"

            Then you say that if we could prove God, faith would be meaningless. Really? First, since faith is acceptance of things unseen, what is so bad about replacing faith with knowledge? If you know God exists by reason, does that make you less religious? Besides, there are truths about God that reason cannot reach, such as the Trinity. But if I know by reason that God exists, then faith in the Trinity becomes more attainable.

            And if you are going to quote my own words to allegedly prove why your "confidence levels in god are so low," at least let me explain my own words to you.

            Read me carefully: "... when asking about the nature of reality beyond this physical world, we must realize that its reality is not the problem."

            Every word I wrote in that citation refers to our knowledge of the nature of God NOT his existence!

            We can have apodictic certitude that God exists. My words express the limits of our knowledge about his nature, since we know God only indirectly by reasoning from what we know of this world back to the necessity of God's existence as the Ultimate Cause of all finite things.

            This does not mean either that we can know nothing of his nature, but only that such knowledge is limited and defies formation of proper concepts. If that loses you, let me give you an example. We say God is the "Infinite Being." We have no proper concept of infinite being. But we do know what it means to be a finite being. And we know that God does exist and that he is NOT a finite being. So we know this means he has all the existential perfections of being, but not in the finite or limited ways we find in creatures. So this is a very positive knowledge about God, even though we cannot imagine -- given the limits of our imaginations -- all that this great truth must entail.

            I hope you can someday grasp all the riches of the Catholic intellectual heritage which is so badly misunderstood and often maligned today. And it is not all "pure faith," just because I call it "Catholic." Catholics down through the centuries have used pure reason to gain deep understanding of the intellectual treasures of God and his relationship to his created world.

          • David Nickol

            I have written volumes over the years on early embryo loss. The numbers are staggering. The Catechism says the following:

            2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

            Yet to the best of my knowledge, there are no medical research and prevention programs to try to lower the enormous early embryo loss in humans . . . although it is a concern for cattle!

            By the way, I acknowledge that "naturally" occurring early embryo loss, no matter how common, does not in any way justify abortion. (I put naturally in quotes, since it is quite probably that environmental and behavioral factors within human control account for some of early embryo loss.) But it seems clear to me that few (and I include pro-lifers here) are really taking the above paragraph to heart.
            Also, some of the states that have recently passed extreme antiabortion laws have some of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. How pro-life are they really?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I agree with most all of your observations here. From my philosophical perspective, these embryos are indeed genuine human beings with spiritual souls. I do not say this because the Church says so, but from the logic of hylemorphism and the proofs for the spirituality of the substantial form of rational animals, the human species.

            Again, without looking at any revelation, it is interesting to wonder exactly what God intends for these people. Do they go straight to some heaven? I have a friend and colleague whose doctoral dissertation dealt with this kind of question, and he defends that a state of natural happiness is the end or goal of their existence. All this is speculative reasoning, of course.

            Doubtless, you are correct that logically pro-life groups should be concerned to lower the rate of embryonic loss. But think about all the diseases of human history and how long it took to declare the need for some now common remedies, such as not eating so much as to cause obesity! We humans simply often wait a long time to address problems. One reason in this case is the probability that most people just don't know the facts you relate.

          • Mark

            I generally see Catholic pro-lifers are usually different than other non-Catholic and non-religious pro-lifers. We have a robust theology that places many things outside of abortion onto the pro-life stage: human trafficking, immigration, euthanasia, mental illness, mental and physically handicapped, criminal injustice, unjust wars, economic or chattel enslavement, and as you mention, medical care to the needy to mention a few. So we get made fun of for suppressing contraceptives of all kinds; but human dignity is compromised when contraceptives are used in any capacity that is not bioethically medically necessary. The RCC has a theological "0 tolerance policy" for shooting the bush. I wholeheartedly agree that most pro-lifers are not really that pro-life and it is a fair point David for many reasons in addition to the one you mention. IMO this is because how "pro-life" is defined by most is based on how it is used in the political football game. But for RCC it is an unmovable theological and moral goalpost that most Catholics it seems fail to reach. I myself, have made many sacrifices on the altar of convenience and indifference. Edit Done.

          • Ellabulldog

            Catholic pro-lifers are simply the one's not faced with such a difficult decision. When faced with it Catholics abort at a very high rate in the US.

            So when many are protesting and doing the pro-life thing they do so only because they are fortunate to not have faced such a decision yet.

            Not everyone wants that fifth kid at age 43. Or a child at 16 because someone spiked her drink at a high school dance. Or because of rape or incest. Or because her boyfriend/husband left her. Or wants to drop out of college to raise a baby.

            Sex isn't a life sentence if for some reason conception occurs. Nor should others force their beliefs on others. Not their body.

            It's really easy for anyone to say what they would do until faced with the decision.

          • Mark

            Catholic pro-lifers are simply the one's not faced with such a difficult decision. When faced with it Catholics abort at a very high rate in the US.

            25% of abortions are people who self identify as Catholic. (Most people that identify as Catholic haven't been to mass in years.) It is also heavily hispanic low income Catholics that get abortions. Nearly all of them know of the pro-life commitment of Catholics and still chose to abort; whatever your point was it didn't logically follow.

            So when many are protesting and doing the pro-life thing they do so only because they are fortunate to not have faced such a decision yet.

            Many protest gun violence that have never been shot at or have ever owned a gun. Pro-life protesters also include formerly aborted fetus and Roe herself.

            Not everyone wants that...

            Every born fetus I've known wanted their mother to chose life. Not everyone wants to pay taxes either; it's a side-effect of making money. Two wrongs don't make a right. Ethel Waters was the daughter of a teenage rape victim. She is now in the Grammy hall of fame and has a park in Philly named after her where she grew up in the slums.

            Sex isn't a life sentence if for some reason conception occurs. Nor should others force their beliefs on others.

            There is a natural consequence to many decisions that result in a lifetime of commitment; nearly every sexually active person is smart enough to know this. There are also people like me who have adopted all their children because biological mothers can't make that commitment. Yes I agree unborn human persons shouldn't have their mother's beliefs forced on them.

          • Ellabulldog

            so are Hispanics Catholic or not?
            are all Catholics rich then or are there low income Catholics?

            Many protest abortion that have had abortions. They just don't tell people too.

            There are no aborted fetuses protesting. Conspiracy theory much?

            Roe herself did have a change of heart it seems.

            Not every born person chooses life. Suicide happens.

            So one teenage rape victim turned out fine. Others go on to a life of crime and misery. It isn't about how the kid turns out. It's about what the mother wants. If she wants the child fine. If she doesn't fine.

            If someone gets pregnant they don't have to have the baby. There is a pill and a simple procedure today to end the pregnancy. If you want to then go ahead. Don't force your beliefs on others.

            Glad you adopt kids. Even if you could adopt them all that still doesn't mean a woman needs to go through pregnancy. Her body. Her life.

            Forcing a woman to deliver a child is the same as rape. It is all about power. Her body. Her life.

            Not yours. Not the State's.

          • Mark

            There are no aborted fetuses protesting. Conspiracy theory much?

            http://giannajessen.com

            Forcing a woman to deliver a child is the same as rape.

            Your reasoning skills may be beyond resuscitation.

          • David Nickol

            In fact in those cases fertilizations DO occur, but since implantation does not take place, the zygote is killed, which is an abortion.

            Here is the best recent data I can find for natural embryo loss and miscarriage:

            Pre-implantation loss is impossible to calculate directly from available data although plausible limits can be estimated. Based on this new analysis and a model for evaluating reproductive success and failure it is proposed that a plausible range for normal human embryo and fetal mortality from fertilisation to birth is 40-60%.

            So as many as 60% of "human beings" conceived do not make it to birth. If this is actually the case, then for the majority of human beings, Christianity (baptism and the rest) is an impossibility. It makes one wonder why God would create a world that only a minority of human beings would ever experience.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think I just replied to your comment here above before seeing what you say here.

            I would add the note that the 60% figure includes fetal death which may not occur before implantation but at a later stage of development all the way up to natural birth. The actual number of pre-implantation deaths remains speculative for obvious reasons. How are we supposed to be sure why a period was a few days late?

            While I do not like to use Christian revelation, since that leads some people to fail to realize the rational basis for what I write, I do recall that the Bible says that God's ways are "inscrutable." We are in dangerous territory when we try to determine whether God's judgment in creating these early-death souls serve no purpose for either themselves or this world.

            What about this possibility? To make human beings, they must have bodies, and that means being thrust into this world at least briefly. Early removal from this life may not get them to what Christians describe as "heaven," the Beatific Vision, but it would get them to a natural state of permanent happiness. And, in so doing, they would not risk the same risk we born humans face, that is, the possibility of losing our souls to some form of punishment. Is this not at least a possible explanation for the phenomenon you so carefully document?

          • Well, if you're going to go that route, you must acknowledge the highest abortion rate would be found in a population that uses no contraception. Since about a third to a half of zygotes don't implant in any event, and more eggs are fertilized when contraception is not used, them to prevent more abortions we should still be encouraging birth control.

            See also: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/10/zygotes-lost-with-birth-control-v-without-birth-control.html

            (That's if the science were right behind what you're saying, which we are now learning it isn't.)

          • Ellabulldog

            Free access to birth control and education reduces the rate of abortions. Free access to abortion services enables them to be done earlier with less harm to the mother and the zygote/ embryo/fetus. Conception is simply the start of the process of a human being. It is not the end result. Equating a feritlized egg with a fully developed conscious human is not science.
            Ending it early is best and contraception is something women should be encouraged to use. Lot's of fertilized eggs frozen in test tubes. They are not human beings. A woman has a right to bodily autonomy and to live her life free of worrying that others might imprison her for making a choice that is right for her. The State has no interest in legislating her sex organs. If it did the argument could be made that the State could force abortions not make them illegal. The world's population is not on a sustainable curve. More babies isn't a good thing. Ethically it is a bad thing. Too many humans will result in a catastrophe possibly ending our existence as a species. We are destroying the planet right now at an alarming pace. The faster our population grows the faster we will annihilate ourselves. Religion wants people to have more kids to grow the faithful. It is not based in ethics. In the past more kids were necessary as life was short and many did not live long. Today survival is assured for most in modern societies. Large birth rates are not sustainable nor ethical. It's quite frankly selfish.

          • Meepestos

            "Free access to birth control and education reduces the rate of abortions."

            It certainly has in Canada and I'm sure in the US as well.

            Abortions have decreased in Canada since the late nineties due to education and the easy access to birth control including the “morning-after-pill” over the counter, which is paid for by the single payer systems. And they have no laws restricting abortion. It used to have a law against abortion that was liberalized then thrown out completely by the Supreme Court, which resulted in no laws restricting abortion to this day. The Supreme Court decided that doctors and women exercise the right to abortion responsibly without the need for any legal restrictions. Even the single-payer systems throughout the country cover the procedure.

            What is interesting is there has been non-legal obstacles that have prevented women in Canada getting late term abortions, but got them done outside their province and even in the US yet the procedure was paid for by one of the Canadian single-payer systems.

          • Gehenna

            I so would love for the US to adopt a single payer system

          • Meepestos

            I hear ya, but probably not feasible, as it is too large let alone too many states nevertheless a multi-payer universal healthcare model could work if the political will is there or even a hybrid universal healthcare model like that of Swtizerland's .

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I understand your position.

            A good end can justify an intrinsically evil means to it, including the taking of innocent human life.

          • Ellabulldog

            My cutoff is a healthy sentient fetus. The decision on "healthy" is left to the woman and her doctor. Not the State.

            As a male it isn't my decision to tell a woman what to do with her body. It's her life.

            Most abortions are less than an ounce and under 5cms. If access is earlier than even smaller. It's not a human life until born. Certainly it is a potential human life.

            Certainly we can disagree. I'm fine with you or your partner not having an abortion. I won't force you to have one either. If the State gets involved one day it might which is why Roe may be something religious people may find that they like some day.

            Most abortions in the US are performed on Christian women. Catholics abort at a high rate in the US.

            What I've found is that it certainly is easy to tell people what to do when one is not confronted with a difficult choice

            Easy to tell a raped girl to have the baby. Risks her life and body not yours. It only rapes her again.
            Easy to tell a teenager to have the baby. You don't have to care for it. Pay for it.
            Easy to tell a single college girl to have the baby. You don't have to go to class pregnant. Take care of a baby while trying to study. Get a job while caring for a baby.
            Easy to tell someone not to abort yet she dies. Happened in Ireland. Now abortion is legal there.
            Easy to tell a women to not abort a fetus with chromosome defects. You won't have to deliver a dead child with no skull. "speaking from experience". So my bias is stronger because of this but my stance not formed from this experience.

            Most Christians will abort when faced with the above choices. Certainly some do not. Stats don't lie. The Christians that don't abort have not been faced with those choices. They were not raped. Their birth control didn't fail. Their boyfriend/husband didn't leave them when found to be pregnant. They had family support and the money to help.

            I'm a guy and assume you are. Not our place to tell women that if they get pregnant they have to deliver the baby. It's not murder. It's not a human being. Sure some like to assert that but it's hurtful and deceitful to do so. Certainly the possibility is there. Human beings are born not conceived.

            I'm not pro-abortion. I'd like to minimize it. Which can be done with birth control and sex education. When a woman becomes pregnant and doesn't wish to have a child she should have access to a safe abortion provider. Not saying you have to pay for it or the government. You or the government should not restrict access and certainly not criminalize it.

            Abortion isn't evil. It's simply a medical procedure.

            Human society has morals and laws that evolve to improve society. Women's rights is one of them. Having parents capable of taking care of their children is another. Orphanages and abandoned children doesn't improve society. Lots of kids nobody cares about.
            I don't see this a as being about the kids, morals or human life.
            It's about control.

            I understand you think you are taking a moral position. Which is fine. If you want less abortion than work towards that. Contraception and education.

            Roe isn't going away even though many want it to.

            We could offer free daycare to these women. We could enforce the equal rights in the workplace laws. Lots we can do to make women feel they have society's support so they don't have to abort. We could legislate the man is responsible for the child 100% after birth if the woman doesn't want it.

            or better yet...

            I suppose women might agree to rescinding Roe if the new law makes castration mandatory for men that get women they are not married to pregnant. Will you go that far?

            What about kid's that are alive? Millions of them like below.

            societyhttps://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e72dc16f531df38124e723d59c6dfddec255c7e2e3c854cbac3a70561b45b0ef.jpg

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since I have a secret life in which I do things other than sit in front of a computer all day, I am going to make my case simply and let this matter go for now. Since my reasoning applies to all the arguments, I will post it to more than one person. I need to get back to other philosophical domains than the contentious realm of ethics -- as well as mow my lawn.

            Many atheists today claim acceptance of the findings of modern science, but reject God and favor such "progressive" policies as abortion.

            My problem with that is that anyone who knows a modicum of what modern science says about the beginnings of human life knows that from the moment of conception, the zygote is formed. Competent biologists admit that that newly formed zygote is a new organism, separate from the organism which is its mother. It has distinct DNA in every cell of its body, clearly different from that of its mother.

            Moreover, that DNA is specifically human, belonging to the human biological species, since the ratios and sequences of the nucleotides on the human DNA macromolecule are universally recognized as specifically human. We do not give birth to carrots or elephants.

            That said, human life begins at conception for anyone who is intellectually honest and scientifically literate.

            Now, when is the human person present -- complete with a right to life, such that no reason allows his destruction without committing the sin and crime of homicide?

            Some of you claim it is when it is a "health sentient fetus." Others say it is when society accepts it as a person. Others claim it must be born first. Some claim they never were a zygote.

            My question is simple: If sound science says that human life begins at conception, when the zygote is formed, how do you make a rational determination as to when the human person is also recognized as present -- without it just being your own personal bias, emotional reaction, religious belief, or some other subjective judgment?

            What happened to your "scientific detachment" and demand for giving reasons for everything you believe?

            Or, are you simply imposing your own will onto a situation where science gives no judgment other than at the moment of conception?

            Before you claim that I am operating on blind religious belief and superstitious bias, please filter out your own real reasons for claiming that the initial stages of human life are not just as sacrosanct as its end stages.

            Or, do you support euthanasia as well? Fear not. I will not be shocked.

          • Ellabulldog

            As with any law the State and societies give consideration to many things. You want to grant a fertilized egg the same rights as an actual human being.

            It never has been given such a consideration ever.

            You also consistently say human life begins at conception but a fertilized egg is not a human being. There are definitions for the stages. One is the start and then human being is the finished product.

            The process begins at conception. Conception does not result in a human being it's a fertilized egg. An egg isn't a chicken either.

            So you want science to determine when. Most would agree sentience is what makes us human. Also the ability to survive outside the womb.

            Then you have to weigh the rights of the other human being involved. The mother. Where does her right to privacy and to live stop mattering? She is a human being not a cow on a farm. The State has to show a reason to legislate what she does with her body. It has to have an interest. Terminating a pregnancy actually BENEFITS society. So there is no current interest the State has regarding a woman ending a pregnancy. In fact the STATE has an interest in forcing women to terminate a pregnancy. So the STATE doesn't have to care for it.

            The issue is when and why do you see a fertilized egg to be the same as a live human being?

            If someone drops a test tube with an embryo in it are they going to prison for murder? What if someone breaks the freezer is that now genocide?

            We've had to terminate a pregnancy due to terrible defects. Then we were able to have a healthy child. Then we lost one very early due to the normal human problem that many fertilized eggs simply don't make it.

            Only one is human. Sleeping nearby. The others we could not get a tax deduction. No name or birth certificate or "conception certificate". No conception party.

            Ending and aborting the fetus that was not going to make it resulted in a fetus that did make it.

            If others want to get involved in the reproductive choices of women they do not know they need to show a reason to do so. A reason that they can prove is necessary and important to society.

            In a world with over 7 billion people and now the US with over 330 million more births is not an argument supporting those that want abortion to be illegal.

            Pro lifers are not concerned with life. They are rapists. They want to force a women to birth a child she doesn't want. It is immoral and all about power. You are not going to feed the kid. Hold it when it is crying. Nor will you help in any way to raise the child.

            Your stance is immoral. It's mean. It's hurtful to women.

            If you don't want an abortion don't have one. Don't force your beliefs on others. Should be simple. I suppose many get some sense that they are doing something good with their stance. Others do this for votes only. That most in the US are pro-choice it seems that this is just a minority making a lot of noise. That Christians and Catholics abort at high rates simply shows again how hypocritical they are.

            Also atheism isn't about science. It also isn't a rejection of "God". It is simply not being convinced by the arguments of theists. There is no god to reject.

          • Gehenna

            Preventing implantation is not abortion.

            But when it comes to someone else living or dying, their rights stop where another's begins. And nobody has the right to use another person's body without their consent. And consent can be removed.

            If someone needs a bone marrow transplant and I'm the only person around that is a match, I don't have to donate, no matter how safe or painless the procedure is. And if I initially agree to, I can remove my consent up to the point where I am under meds and no longer able to make legal decisions for myself.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Preventing implantation is not abortion."

            Okay. So, if I prevent you from access to food, water, and air, I am not killing you. Right?

          • Sample1

            Facepalm.

            With a reply like that, equating the person that is Gehenna with a single celled zygote is not acceptable without black magic thinking. What else should I call such a claim? Maybe philosophy? Ok, bad philosophy then.

            I now realize I was mistaken to politely acquiesce to your language use (baby) when discussing contraception earlier.

            It won’t happen again.

            I was never a zygote and neither were you. Before you object, draw a box around that claim excluding emotion and consider what I’m really saying.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since I have a secret life in which I do things other than sit in front of a computer all day, I am going to make my case simply and let this matter go for now. Since my reasoning applies to all the arguments, I will post it to more than one person. I need to get back to other philosophical domains than the contentious realm of ethics -- as well as mow my lawn.

            Many atheists today claim acceptance of the findings of modern science, but reject God and favor such "progressive" policies as abortion.

            My problem with that is that anyone who knows a modicum of what modern science says about the beginnings of human life knows that from the moment of conception, the zygote is formed. Competent biologists admit that that newly formed zygote is a new organism, separate from the organism which is its mother. It has distinct DNA in every cell of its body, clearly different from that of its mother.

            Moreover, that DNA is specifically human, belonging to the human biological species, since the ratios and sequences of the nucleotides on the human DNA macromolecule are universally recognized as specifically human. We do not give birth to carrots or elephants.

            That said, human life begins at conception for anyone who is intellectually honest and scientifically literate.

            Now, when is the human person present -- complete with a right to life, such that no reason allows his destruction without committing the sin and crime of homicide?

            Some of you claim it is when it is a "health sentient fetus." Others say it is when society accepts it as a person. Others claim it must be born first. Some claim they never were a zygote.

            My question is simple: If sound science says that human life begins at conception, when the zygote is formed, how do you make a rational determination as to when the human person is also recognized as present -- without it just being your own personal bias, emotional reaction, religious belief, or some other subjective judgment?

            What happened to your "scientific detachment" and demand for giving reasons for everything you believe?

            Or, are you simply imposing your own will onto a situation where science gives no judgment other than at the moment of conception?

            Before you claim that I am operating on blind religious belief and superstitious bias, please filter out your own real reasons for claiming that the initial stages of human life are not just as sacrosanct as its end stages.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for fleshing out your reasoning.

            I don’t know about the others here, but the bodily autonomy of the actual mother is something that should not be left out of the abortion discussion. And yet it is left out far too frequently in these discussions for my stomach.

            Mike, I was never a zygote and neither were you. :-)

            Go mow your lawn.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This former zygote is mowing.

          • I was never a zygote and neither were you.

            When did you (= your "I") begin to exist?

          • Sample1

            Fair question! Religions who believe their souls existed prior to birth, in some celestial paradise, would probably have the most difficulty understanding that claim.

            I find it surprising that you don’t seem to understand what I mean when I say I was never a zygote. Maybe someday I’ll flesh it out more thoroughly, but the reply wasn’t to you. I suspect Bonnette understands my point even if he disagrees. That’s good enough for me. YMMV.

            Mike, I was never a zygote.

          • S1: I was never a zygote and neither were you.

            LB: When did you (= your "I") begin to exist?

            S1: I find it surprising that you don’t seem to understand what I mean when I say I was never a zygote.

            What an odd inference. I was expecting some answer after the zygote stage of homo sapiens development. I also knew it was a hard question—does one say before birth, after birth, or at birth? Failure to answer makes plausible the following dynamic:

                In one definition of the word, it is of course impossible to find any assertions of full skepticism; even silent enactments are difficult. A good general rule is: scratch a skeptic and find a dogmatist. (Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, 56)

          • Sample1

            Well, this is a very complicated question you’ve asked, for me at least. I tend to take a diagnosis by exclusion-like approach to such things. I know when it’s more likely not me, the zygote. How about you? Is that an approach you take or do you think the self is present in the zygote?

            But from there we’d have to explore a ton of philosophy and science. From what is meant, if anything, by the self to what is meant by something gradually coming into existence and much more, even needing to explore what it might portend if our brains are controlled hallucination machines!

            As I said, I suspect Bonnette understood the point I was making even if he disagrees. And that’s fine.

            Mike, excommunicated

            Edit: that book sounds outdated, even ridiculous. But I haven’t read it, but from the synopsis, it doesn’t gain my interest.
            Final edit: added question.

          • Is that an approach you take or do you think the self is present in the zygote?

            So much of who I am is determined the instant that the two sets of chromosomes merge. That is, "I" am strongly determined purely by my genetic makeup. There is of course plenty in addition, but I don't disconnect myself from my DNA or diminish its importance. I don't "have" a body, I am a body. This is rather different from Descartes' model, a model which I suspect still permeates our thought-culture. Just observe that Descartes' Error was published in 1994 and currently has 29,000 'citations'.

            That I become much more than 'just' my DNA—all by making use of my DNA—is to me largely the actualization of potential. Western society seems rather haphazard on whether damage to potential is a bad thing; for example, does it harm a child to deprive him/her of a good education? [S]he may never feel the full consequences of such deprivation, so simplistic versions of the harm principle do not suffice. It doesn't help that some view potential as 1-dimensional, vs. each person having a range of things which would constitute deep fulfillment. But I digress.

            But from there we’d have to explore a ton of philosophy and science. From what is meant, if anything, by the self to what is meant by something gradually coming into existence and much more, even needing to explore what it might portend if our brains are controlled hallucination machines!

            My experience is that when Christians say something like this, a common critique by atheists is that they are falling back on Sophisticated Theology™. But this is simply Wayne C. Booth's observation about skeptics and dogmatists. I agree with you that the matter is complex. If you are asking @dennisbonnette:disqus to come up with a better answer than you can/​will muster, I think that's important to note for lurkers following the discussion.

            Edit: that book sounds outdated, even ridiculous. But I haven’t read it, but from the synopsis, it doesn’t gain my interest.

            If you think that society can be built on skepticism of the Other, I can only ask you to test this rigorously with science. Otherwise, taking others' ideas seriously doesn't mean agreeing with them; I myself have gone through plenty of "scientific revolutions" in thinking. It doesn't have to be scary. Others pissing on my ideas rarely helps move me forward and through "scientific revolutions"—perhaps you have a different story to tell?

          • Gehenna

            No, that isn't the same thing.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            No, not identically. But sufficiently analogously similar that you would still be deceased.

          • Gehenna

            Unless it implants, it isn't a pregnancy. Hence, this prevents the pregnancy from ever happening.

            Are you against IVF since multiple fertilized eggs are injected and most don't implant?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is playing games with words. Life begins at conception.

            If human life is present before implantation, then preventing implantation clearly kills it. American gynecologists long ago redefined pregnancy to avoid the logic of contraception, which they knew was causing abortions if you defined it as beginning at conception. So, they changed the definition to the point of implantation. This is really a matter of putting lipstick on a pig.

            The problem with IVF begins before injection, where unwanted fertilized eggs (zygotes) are discarded and thereby "aborted."

            We must not let words deceive us as to what we are doing. Human life begins at conception and, were it not for the desire for legitimizing abortion, no one would deceive himself about what is actually taking place.

            Skeptics often claim that Thomistic philosophy is just a bunch of contrived "word salads" designed to support Catholic theology. But, that is nothing compared to the linguistic creativity emanating from the mouths of those trying to make ending preborn human lives sound somehow justified, moral, necessary, and good.

            Edit: Deleted meaning of "conception" as "beginning."
            Confused it with "inception."

          • David Nickol

            American gynecologists long ago redefined pregnancy to avoid the logic of contraception . . . .

            This sounds rather more like a conspiracy theory than an assessment of the history of medically defining pregnancy. Wikipedia has a pretty good article titled Beginning of Pregnancy Controversy.

            It seems to me there are good reasons to consider a pregnancy as beginning with conception. (By the way, several sources I have checked say that the issue is confused because some use conception and implantation to mean the same thing—i.e., implantation.)

            In the case of IVF, is a woman pregnant when one of her eggs is fertilized in a lab? That hardly makes sense. Or is she pregnant when one or more fertilized eggs are introduced into her uterus? It would seem odd to say so. It seems to me she is pregnant when implantation takes place. If, say, three eggs are introduced and none of them implant, it hardly makes sense to say she has had a miscarriage.

            If pregnancy begins with fertilization, it is then a fact that there are millions of pregnancies that no one ever knows about, since the rate of failure to implant is very high. I have seen estimates as high as 60-80%. (See Early Embryonic Development: An Up-to-Date Account.) I will include an excerpt as an "appendix."

            This is not necessarily to argue that life, personhood, or whatever term one wants to use does not begin with fertilization. It is just to say that there are good reasons to consider pregnancy to start with implantation.

            I have just stumbled across, but only read the abstract and conclusion of, a journal article titled The afterlife of embryonic persons: what a strange place heaven must be. It looks like it makes some of the same points I would make.

            [APPENDIX]
            PROF. SANDEL: Thank you. I have two questions about the rate of natural embryo loss in human beings. The first is what percent of fertilized eggs fail to implant or are otherwise lost? And the second question is is it the case that all of these lost embryos contain genetic defects that would have prevented their normal development and birth?
            DR. OPITZ: The answer to your first question is that it is enormous. Estimates range all the way from 60 percent to 80 percent of the very earliest stages, cleavage stages, for example, that are lost.
            PROF. SANDEL: Sixty to 80 percent?
            DR. OPITZ: Sixty to 80 percent. And one of the objective ways of establishing the loss at least as of the moment of implantation, well, even earlier, let's say as of five days because the blastocyst begins to make a chorionic gonadotrophin and with extremely sensitive assay methods, you can detect the presence of gonadotrophins, let me say, first around Day 7. That's the beta of human chorionic gonadotrophin. And if you follow prospectively the cycles that has been done on quite a few occasions in the Permanente study in Hawaii and so on, a group of women, of nonfertility, who want to conceive and you detect the first sign of pregnancy there of human chorionic gonadotrophin, about 60 percent of those pregnancies are lost.
            It is independently corroborated by the fact that the monozygotic twin conception rate at the very beginning is much, much higher than the birth rate and then if you follow with amniocentesis, the presence of the two sacs in about 80 percent of cases,the second sac disappears, one of the sacs disappears.
            CHAIRMAN KASS: The 60 percent then would be of those that have at least reached the 7 days so that you could trace the – so there might be even greater loss at the early cleavage stage, is that correct?
            DR. OPITZ: That's correct. And the earlier the stage of loss, the greater the rate of aneuploidy. There exists sort of a standard, textbook formula whereby 60 percent of spontaneous abortions have a chromosome abnormality. Six percent of all stillbirths and 6/10ths percent of all live born children. Now the latter figure is probably closer to 1 percent if you include some growth variants. So that's sort of a rule of thumb.
            In my own lab in Helena where I did all of the autopsies on all pregnancy losses for 18 years, the rate of chromosome abnormalities was a little bit higher.
            PROF. SANDEL: So if we take the 7-day stage, it's 60 percent. The 80 percent is if you go back to the moment of fertilization. But if you take just starting at the 7 days, there's 60 percent rate of natural loss. And of those 60 percent that are lost from the 7-day stage, what percentage of those have abnormalities or defects such that they wouldn't otherwise be able to be born?
            DR. OPITZ: I would say somewhere around 50 to 60 percent and mind you, many of these are empty sacs, tiny, tiny stunted little embryos, but when you culture the sacs you find a chromosome abnormality, even though the embryo has vanished already.
            PROF. SANDEL: So of the 60 percent that are lost at the 7-day stage, 40 to 50 percent did not contain defects or abnormalities, could have been born?
            DR. OPITZ: Right.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I appreciate some of the light on the "pregnancy" issue you are raising here.

            Still, we have to not let the semantics get foolishly in the way of the ethics here.

            The ethics are simple. One cannot engage in an act that directly aims at killing an unborn human being. Whether one identifies "human being" with "human life" or not, the biological fact is that a specifically separate human living organism is formed at the moment of conception. That organism is called the zygote.

            Now if your stats on "natural" termination of the process are correct and 60% fail to develop and die, then you raise an interesting question as to whether these fertilized eggs were ever human life in the first place. We have to be honest about this.

            But the ethics are the same. Refer to the principle that when in doubt you cannot act to kill the organism. Since this whole process takes place within the human species, the presumption must be that the conceptus is human and living.

            At the very least, one cannot possibly be morally certain that it is NOT human. And without moral certitude that it is NOT human, you can no more act to kill it than can you shoot into that thicket that might possibly contain a human being.

            So, I can see how one might claim that the woman isn't technically "pregnant" until implantation occurs. But that is totally irrelevant to the moral question of whether it is licit to take steps to make sure the conceptus cannot survive.

            We have to start being intellectually honest about what is going on here and what we are trying to do.

            So, even if 60% of conceptions "terminate" naturally before implantation, that in no way lessens the ethical obligation NOT to do anything to cause what is there to die or create conditions in which it cannot implant so as to continue living.

          • Ficino

            No, I was wondering whether someone would appeal to double effect. I'm glad that you brought it up, because to do so points to the important problem of how a complex of actions is described. I think it's a case of ignoratio elenchi, or maybe even of eristic, when people call termination of pregnancy, especially when the mother's life or health is in danger, simply "killing an innocent human being/person," as seemed to be done earlier in this discussion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This stuff is Ethics 101. But it requires a lot of careful distinctions and usually takes me several classes to get across -- and even then I find people instinctively fall back into a utilitarian mentality.

            The key point in the ectopic surgery is not that one intends to terminate the pregnancy, but that one is simply removing a pathology in the tube that threatens the life of the mother. It would be morally wrong to directly kill the baby in order to save the mother's life, but it is not immoral to remove diseased tissue for that purpose. Saving the mother's life is the good intended effect; the simultaneous loss of the baby's life is the unintended evil effect.

            It is no different than removing a gangrenous leg. One cannot do it to make the person a cripple. But one can remove the gangrenous tissue to save the person's life, while permitting, but not willing, the evil side effect of crippling the person.

            Every act in life we take has multiple effects. The key to ethics is to always be acting toward the good, while never directly willing and acting in an evil manner. Those who cannot make distinctions will never understand how it is possible for anyone to lead a morally good life in a world where all our actions have multiple effects, both good and bad.

            One may never do an intrinsically evil act for a good end. One may never directly kill a baby for any reason whatever. But one can perform a morally neutral act, such as excising diseased tissue, which has two effects -- one good and one bad -- while intending solely the good effect and permitting, but not willing, the evil effect. The good effect must be equal to or greater than the permitted evil effect.

            Edit: It is common for skeptics to claim that ethicians are merely playing with words or making fallacious distinctions. Unfortunately, moral philosophy requires making honest and careful distinctions, which is why the sequence of study in Thomistic philosophy places ethics last, after one has taken courses in philosophical psychology and metaphysics.

            Everyone thinks he can be an expert in ethics and get on some TV talk show. But ethics is a genuine philosophical science which has to be studied as carefully as any other discipline. It is not easily explained on an internet thread.

          • Ficino

            It would be morally wrong to directly kill the baby in order to save the mother's life, but it is not immoral to remove diseased tissue for that purpose.

            It's not "the baby."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That's funny. When a woman is pregnant and wants to have the child, she calls it her "baby."

            When she does not want the child, she calls it a "fetus."

          • Ficino

            Are we using terms καταχρηστικῶς or κυρίως now? You have already agreed that it is relevant, under what description the act or complex of actions falls. So it's important to be rigorous about that.

            Examples came up in discussion of the recent New York State law removing criminal penalties from later-term abortions. Extreme cases with non-viable fetuses, or cases where the mother's life or health was endangered, got labelled simply as "killing her baby". The whole rhetoric campaign of the anti-abortion movement is to brand abortion as "killing the baby/human being/human person." i don't accept that characterization, and I think the majority of Americans also do not. The Catholic Church can mandate any code of conduct for its members that it wants as long as that code doesn't impinge other people. This week's Alabama bill is an example of Protestant overreach of the same kind.

            As to ectopic pregnancies, many of them now are ended via medication to stop the cells from growing so the body can expel the pregnancy. This is done esp. when the tissue of the fallopian tube is not diseased. It is false to say that what's being removed as a result of meds is NOT the fertilized ovum, which on your definition is a human person. There are also surgeries that are done when the fallopian tube is not damaged, but the embryo (or zygote) gets removed.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Every case has to have the proper principles applied to it and I don't intend to go through every possible case here. The general principle is that one can never directly, deliberately take the life of an innocent human being.

            To me this is not a matter of Catholic code, but rational defense of innocent human life. The same principles have to be applied equally to each case. If some method of treating an ectopic pregnancy violates the principle I gave above, then it is unethical. The principles do not change.

            I know well that this is a complex area, largely made so by people who want to be able to terminate pregnancies, even when they know full well that it means killing the unborn baby. (Yes, guilty, I called it what it is.)

            Thomists are often accused of dancing around indefensible distinctions to defend their philosophy. They don't hold a candle to those who defend abortion.

            What the state legislatures may do is unpredictable. They represent various constituencies with various religious and social biases and understandings. That proves nothing except that we live in a political society.

            I am not the least uncomfortable with the position I hold, but you may have the last word anyway.

          • Ficino

            The general principle is that one can never directly, deliberately take the life of an innocent human being.

            Agreed on the principle. Obviously, the question is the entities it covers. You keep including ALL pregnancies of whatever stage as cases where there is a human being.

            largely made so by people who want to be able to terminate pregnancies, even when they know full well that it means killing the unborn baby. (Yes, guilty, I called it what it is.)

            Sophistical.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Agreed on the principle. Obviously, the question is the entities it covers. You keep including ALL pregnancies of whatever stage as cases where there is a human being."

            You just shifted the entire topic from one of ethics to one of philosophical psychology, where is properly determined what is the nature of human life from a philosophical perspective.

            That is why I pointed out earlier that ethics presupposes truths discovered in philosophical psychology and metaphysics.

            This is precisely why seemingly evident ethical questions are far more complex in their ultimate resolution than they may appear on the surface.

            At three AM when falling off a bar stool, everyone thinks he is an expert ethician. Yet, no one would dare, even when in that same condition, to claim that he is an expert neurosurgeon.

          • Ficino

            You just shifted the entire topic from one of ethics to one of philosophical psychology, where is properly determined what is the nature of human life from a philosophical perspective.

            Strong cases have been made that some definitions are prescriptive rather than descriptive. And that the definition of "person" is prescriptive. As I've said, I think "human life" is too vague a term for the abortion discussion, and I do not accept "the baby" at least for "the zygote/embryo" (leaving aside what I dubbed the sorites problem). So if there is agreement that innocent human persons are not to be directly killed, to the extent that the definition of "human person" is prescriptive, then the question, what are the necessary properties of a human person, appears to belong to an ethical inquiry.

            You may want to deny that the definition of human person is prescriptive or perhaps to hold that if prescriptive, it is not wholly so.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Given the complexity and presuppositions that are foundational to ethics in general, I prefer a different approach.

            If you allow that at some point in gestation, or even at birth, a human being is present, and if you hold the principle that direct killing of innocent human beings is immoral, then certain consequences follow.

            Specifically, given the above, you can combine this with the added principle that you can never take an action that would kill a human being, unless you are morally certain that a given action will not, in fact, kill a human being, because there is no human being there to be killed.

            The problem is that we cannot be morally certain when -- between conception and live birth -- a human being is not present in the womb. Morally certain means certain beyond a reasonable doubt. And there is plenty of reason to suspect that human life, which may well be argued to be present from conception, is also a human being. (You don't have to believe it. You have to be sure it is NOT true.)

            That said, it logically follows that taking any action which would kill a human being in the womb is immoral -- given the proviso of all the above-given principles.

          • Ficino

            The problem is that we cannot be morally certain when -- between conception and live birth -- a human being is not present in the womb. Morally certain means certain beyond a reasonable doubt.

            I suggest the problem is a different one, sc. whether the definition of "human person" is prescriptive or descriptive. I say "person" for reasons already discussed. The worry over whether we can be certain of the presence of a human person in the womb presupposes that the question is one of our ability to discover objective facts. I.e. it presupposes that to define descriptively requires that facts be discovered. I am proposing, with many others, that the act of defining a human person is essentially prescriptive. On that view, the definition does not express facts discovered about the definiendum; it expresses an evaluative judgment that entails moral consequences for one's actions toward the definitum.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't have your problem. I would assume that by the time gestation is over, you have a human being that requires respect for his right to life.

            The only question of doubt is when that human being gained whatever it is that earns him that right. What I am saying is that, since we don't know when that happens, between conception and live birth, we must follow the ethical rules that do not allow us to directly kill whatever it is that we ascribe the human right to life to, and that when in doubt, you cannot take the killing action.

            Dice the wording anyway you wish, it still does not come up with saying it is morally acceptable to kill what may well be a human being with an absolute right not to be killed.

          • Ficino

            I don't have your problem.

            Surely you will agree that a moral stance does not become the more compelling, the simpler it is to express.

            You have taken the woman into account a bit in what you've written about Double Effect, and indirectly when you noted at one point that some fertilized ova may not be human beings. But for the most part, Dennis, you and others have not brought the woman bearing the pregnancy into your discourse. Complications in pregnancy can kill or maim the woman, and these can occur in late term pregnancies. I contest your claim that there are objective facts, known or unknown to us, from which it follows that a fertilized ovum is a person. But even granting that it is a person, it is not obvious that another person has a duty to sacrifice her life/health so as to preserve that fertilized ovum. Late term pregnancies can kill the woman.

            To put this in a non-sophisticated way, it seems to me that your definitions matter more than this or that singular female who, we all agree, is a human person. Individuals are not simply beneficiaries of dicing the wording.

          • Rob Abney

            So Ficino's analogy: the hunter should shoot into the thicket even if there happens to be a person in there because the trigger has already been pulled and it is aimed at his own head. Summary: it is better to possibly kill someone else than to kill yourself.
            But the analogy leaves out the need to be responsible with guns.

          • I think I'm with Ficino here. If an embryo is *probablistically* a person- that it may or may not be a person, but we choose to be extra careful in case it is - that still doesn't make its moral worth equal to one human life. It should instead be worth, in our moral estimation, some percentage based on how sure we are.

            For instance: say you have a live bomb on your lap. You can hold it and die, or you can throw it out the window where someone *might* be standing. Wouldn't you pick the option where there's at least a *chance* that no humans die?

            Of course, where ectopic pregnancy is concerned, it's not even that difficult, because there's no chance the embryo will live. So the question of whether we kill it directly, kill it indirectly, or wait for it to die makes no difference to the embryo. It will not benefit in any way from the mother's sacrifice of her life.

          • Mark

            I'd pick the option to carry the bomb to full term and give it up for adoption.

          • In this thought experiment, the bomb is lodged in your fallopian tube and will go off before the nine months are up!

          • Mark

            We weren't talking about double effect as Ficino had already conceded Dr. B had taken into account. No pro-life Catholic believes a mother has to kill herself trying to have a ectopic pregnancy. This is a strawman argument. BTW, Aquinas invented the principle of double effect. If you have to go to extreme measures to justify an act you're not talking "probablistics".

          • My feeling is that the higher probability that a being is a person, the graver reason you'd need to have to do anything that might harm it. Keep in mind that even in a healthy pregnancy, the mother takes on some risk of death. How much pain and suffering and risk balance out to the probability that a four-week embryo is a person? Well, that's the calculus each person has to do. But you're not doing it. You're counting "maybe a person" as 100% a person, outweighing any and all considerations the woman might have on her side.

          • Mark

            It's not calculus nor probabilities. If there is any probability, you err on the side of caution. You don't shoot a bush you see movement in because it's probably not a human. It's one thing to say there is no way it is human because no scenario exists where it might be a human. You're counting maybe a person as 100% not a person, which is unethical. Maybe a person until 100% sure not a person is the only ethical decision.

            Pain and suffering is a risk any rational sexually active person takes; it's not limited to pregnancy. Pain and suffering is certainly not eradicated with abortion. You can get HIV, HPV, or herpes and that's a lifetime of suffering you can't abort. There is also serious negative psychological effects of abortion and increased infertility and breast cancer rates as well. That's the math you're not doing. Sexual activity has natural consequences and as such many ethical considerations that flow from the choice to engage in it. If you want me to consider her rights first, maybe first consider why anyone without ethical consideration of others is walking through the woods with a gun in the first place.

          • David Nickol

            Would you force a 10-year-old who was raped by her uncle to carry a baby to term?

            While it is true that a very small number of abortions are performed in cases or rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother. the recent attempts at anti-abortion legislation have had no exceptions. Even some prominent pro-lifers have been taken aback.

          • Mark

            It's not about the exceptions David and you're intellectually honest enough to know it. I, like most pro-lifers, could see the rationality of an exception clause for nonconsensual violence. If that's all you're after say so. Otherwise dont hide behind a veiled attacks against the majority innocent.

          • David Nickol

            It's not about the exceptions David and you're intellectually honest enough to know it.

            I am not sure what your "it's" is supposed to refer to. I haven't offered any opinion on abortion in general. I acknowledged that the "exceptions" (rape, incest, life of the mother) account for a small minority of abortions. But as I noted, recently passed state laws would make no exceptions.

            If that's all you're after say so.

            I have not proposed any comprehensive legal approach to abortion in the United States. I am just raising particular issues that strike me as relevant.

            Otherwise dont hide behind a veiled attacks against the majority innocent.

            It's not clear to me what this even means. If you believe I am somehow making veiled attacks against the majority of aborted babies, I would point out that all aborted babies, even those conceived as the result of rape are "innocent."

            I have quoted this many times, from the Declaration on Procured Abortion:

            On the contrary, it is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux, starting with the most deprived, so that always and everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this world a welcome worthy of a person. Help for families and for unmarried mothers, assured grants for children, a statute for illegitimate children and reasonable arrangements for adoption - a whole positive policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion.

            It does not seem to me that the political pro-life movement in the United States has anything like that as its goal.

            I might as well throw in this quote from Mother Teresa:

            But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?

            But of course the one thing the anti-abortion movement will not stand for is any legal penalty, no matter how minuscule, for women who procure abortions. No doubt some, or even many, women who procure abortions are victims in some sense, but a total ban on abortions with no penalties for women who procure them is utterly unjust.

          • Sample1

            When the plane went down I awoke on a desert island. Long story short, I met a stranger and she was so cute. Turns out we were the only two there; the guy who raped her, the only other survivor on the island, hung himself after their food ran out. Anyway, we got along fine and found native food sources to maintain our health but I just couldn’t reconcile all of my needs with one of her decisions.

            She didn’t want this pregnancy. Her pregnancy was essentially my business now. I had to think of much bigger things, like paradise in case we all died. I had a kindle that supported my rationalizing too! before the batteries ran out. Sadly, she wasn’t interested in any of that. I often found her in deep contemplation so I tried to distract her with simple things to think about. I’m a black and white thinker which always made decision making easy for me. She didn’t speak much so I just knew she wasn’t thinking about my ideas. So then I tried to entice her by saying her risk of boobie cancer might be reduced if she stuck with the pregnancy. She tried to explain to me she had a risk of losing her life in just 34 short weeks if she delivered so she wasn’t too concerned with a different risk that might come decades later.

            So when I found out that she ate some wild seed pods one day and ended her pregnancy, I took it upon myself to build a bamboo jail and kept her there. It was really easy to build! I gave her this string of spiritual charms I had and decided that I would feel good enough to release her if she made the appropriate prayers and displayed genuine sorrow for upsetting me and my deity. I think my personal deity was happy with me too! I was sure that if she repented our life together could resume with my deity’s graces. Maybe some day we would even have a child together! That’s what seemed best for me, I mean us.

            She never did come to understand me even though one day I had hope. She said if she ever did have my child she’d name it Brueghel, she said when she was once in deep contemplation, a piece of artwork reminded her of the name. Such a neat name! I always smiled when I heard her say it, even though she could only manage a wry, upturned corner of her lip.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            Here’s what I propose for this, let’s say the preborn infant is 3/5 human. Then after surviving the pregnancy we could say the newborn is 4/5 human. If they become self-supporting then we’ll give them full human status. Some of this proposal even has historical precedence.

          • This would be abominable if we'd already proved that the embryo is a person. But you keep trying to jump. It might be a person, therefore it is a person, and anyone who disagrees is a terrible person.

            What if I thought a gorilla had the same moral status as a person? You could propose a compromise, let's give it some rights somewhat less than human rights. And I would say BUT THAT'S JUST LIKE SLAVERY! Unless you proven the embryo is a person, appeals to the rights of persons are moot.

            But you just love to shift the ground. I say, we should weigh the embryo against the life of the mother. You say, no we can't because we're not talking about the life of the mother. I say, let's consider the consent of the mother. You say, no we can't because we're not talking about rape.

            But you're the one who doesn't believe in abortion in ANY circumstances. So let's talk about an abortion in a case where the woman was raped, AND her life is threatened, AND the fetus isn't going to be viable. You believe this would be morally wrong, I believe it wouldn't. (There are abortions I wouldn't consider moral, so there's no point in arguing about that- on that point, I'm with you.) So let's discuss the extreme case first.

            Can you legitimately say that an embryo that we are *not* sure is a person is worth more than the life of the mother, whom we *are* sure is a person? Can you say that when she didn't consent to face these risks?

          • Rob Abney

            Can you legitimately say that an embryo that we are *not* sure is a person is worth more than the life of the mother, whom we *are* sure is a person?

            What is your criteria for being "sure" that the mother is a person versus being unsure if the embryo is?

          • She has a brain, for one thing. Human tissue without a brain (a tumor, a brain dead person, extra body parts from an absorbed twin) is usually not a person.

            She possesses consciousness - not the transitory state of being awake, but the general ability to have experiences and thoughts.

            She is capable of pain and suffering. She has preferences. She is aware of the potential for death and probably wishes to avoid it.

            Here's a question for you: if your only basis for being a person is possessing human DNA, how will we assess alien life if we ever discover it? I suspect you'll say "rational animal," but how will you know a creature is rational?

          • Ficino

            I thought of this, too - e.g. as in the movie, Alien. Does a human have a moral duty to serve without consent as the biological host of a zygote/embryo (etc) of another species that has rationality as a property? Esp. when the emergence of the newborn alien after a period of growth will kill the human? A far-fetched thought experiment, but it gets at several pertinent issues.

          • Sample1

            Let’s say a zygote had the electrical activity of an Albert Einstein, however a hypothetical like that could be determined. It’s ridiculous but on occasion I come across people arguing along the lines of, “millions of abortions, just think how many Einstein’s never came to be?” Well, that sentiment damns the motive of such groups. Why not defend the hypothetical that countless harlequin babies never get to be born either?

            Because this is about wants and needs. Everyone gets an opinion or a law to sanction their wants and needs but not the mother. The very person who cannot be removed from the equation. Her choice for abortion will always be wrong, always. Absolutely and forever according to others. But such a belief is an opinion based on their wants and needs. An opinion making process that others want for themselves but deny to women.

            It’s similar to marriage. Pro opposite sex marriage types felt they could both celebrate an enjoyed right for themselves but deny it to others. Why deny to others a right you happen to enjoy? Why deny a woman’s opinion process while maintaining it for yourself?

            Probably because an Einstein or a Musk would make their lives better. And that’s what they’d like. If 9 out of 10 babies being born were harlequins or some other massively unfortunate genetic disability would they consider the benefits of genetic engineering and IVF? Or would they opine that suffering must be embraced?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            This is a sad position that you take, to say that those in favor of life are only in favor because we desire that geniuses be born but would think otherwise if harlequins were born.

          • Sample1

            Full of straw.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Now it seems that you would agree with the newborn being only 4/5 person.
            If an "alien" has intellect and will, he can be considered a human, and if we know he will develop into a human then we can consider him a human even at the earliest stages of development. But your criteria allows us to pick and choose who qualifies and leads to decisions being made based upon who has more power. Not enough brain, defective, weak, asleep, gene mutations that cause a person to feel no pain, a newborn with no preferences - all not worthy of personhood by your standards.

          • You've clearly never had a newborn if you think they have no preferences! Mine were always quite loud about theirs.

            How will you tell what the earliest stages of development are with an alien? Say they reproduce by budding- the offspring is genetically identical to the parent. Is the new one a person when the bud starts to form, or when it breaks off, or what?

            Do you think brain dead persons have a right to life? Tumors? Extra limbs caused by an absorbed twin? When a person has mosaicism (two separate genomes in one body) do they have two souls?

            My criteria has nothing to do with who has more power. They have to do with who can be harmed. Do they experience harm? Do they mind it, in any sense? Do they have desires you're overriding? If not, how is it meaningful to say they have a right to things they don't and can't desire? How is it more meaningful in their case than it is for a tumor?

          • Rob Abney

            How will we know? The aliens will know that they are reproducing and will be protective of their developing offspring.
            I like your criteria, but would phrase it as “do no harm”, because it takes a rational being to protect a developing person or a weak person or a defective person....

          • Oh, but maybe the aliens are prochoice!

          • Sample1

            The aliens could have achieved a better morality where such labels aren’t even considered. Something I think our species is currently going through. A slowly evolving societal meme that is escaping the radical materialism and selfishness of the pro-life philosophy.

            The evolutionary history of our species treats our offspring like gadgets. Having children was about helping those who were already alive, the family, the clan, the war machine. I think we carry a lot of that baggage in our arguments today. Some believers claim they embrace science for their positions but they tend to leave out evolution and why we think what we think.

            The pro choice trajectory of our society is sophisticated and moral. It’s wonderful to be part of it. Unfortunately to get to the hypothetical alien level of a society where every child is wanted for their own sake, rather than the wants and needs of the living, like some new iPhone, it’s going to take a little more time. But we are on the right side of history.

            It’s a side that more encompasses the goodness for life and the living. Pro life is Stone Age thinking. Where might makes right. My might will take away your right.

            Mike, excommunicated

            Edit: before anyone jumps on me, I am not saying there aren’t thoughtful and well meaning people on the pro-life side. Of course there are. I just think their philosophy is bad.

          • Rob Abney

            You prefer a subjective philosophy where a child must be "wanted" before it is allowed to be born? That is not so enlightening.
            A more objective standard is required; you can decide if you "want" a child prior to the creation of the life of the child but once it is created you cannot change the fact that he/she exists.

          • Sample1

            Wasn’t meant for you. I’m confident Sheila C understood me.

            As far as the second part of your reply, consent can be withdrawn. I support the right to withdraw consent when someone’s body is used. If I want to be tickled, it had better stop when I say so. If I am being sutured up, the physician’s assistant better stop if I change my mind mid-procedure. Women are no different. I support their right to bodily autonomy and the principle of consent. To destroy consent is to think unwisely.

            Once consent is gone, it’s gone. Someone who can force you to give birth no matter what also has the power to force you to abort no matter what. Be careful of extremism when solving perceived problems; relinquishing autonomy is fraught with danger.

            Mike, I was never a zygote.
            Final edit done.

          • Rob Abney

            Can a mother remove her consent once a baby is born and stop nourishing the baby? Can a father remove consent and stop paying child support? In both cases society disagrees with you.

          • Sample1

            There are ways to argue against what I’ve mentioned as an idealized bodily autonomy. I’m surprised though that you think those two questions and one statement are pertinent to the discussion. They are interesting questions in their own right but why do you think they are important here?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            I am sure you have limits to your assertion that one should never be forced to relinquish bodily autonomy, I’m just trying to determine where those limits are.

          • Sample1

            Good question. And that type of questioning is more in line with a fallibilist, knowledge-seeking mindset. Great.

            Unlike some, I don’t claim to have all the answers for every pregnancy scenario that is applicable not only for a single woman but for all women. I would claim that’s likely not even possible because I don’t know what I don’t know or what future scenarios may bring us.

            What I do think is wise, for some challenging hypothetical, is to suspend judgement when it’s not one’s own body and learn from the outcome. Then discuss that.

            Let’s say, for light conversation, that a zygote is fully conscious and has complete personhood. Does that help anything? Fortunately, such a wild hypothetical isn’t supported by evidence. But even if it was, I don’t think that makes it a slam dunk reason to completely ignore the principle of consent for all scenarios. Fallibilism suggests this.

            Critical rationalism is a tool that allows human beings to be universal problem solvers and universal explainers. Comfortableness is not a guaranteed component of critical rationalism. Often it is, but not guaranteed. I think we forget that a journey is sometimes all we have, not a destination.

            Even if science helps us one day to reasonably conclude that a zygote is conscious and possesses all the traits we call personhood for an adult, you’re still going to have the challenge of deriving an ought from an is. That takes some kind of philosophy.

            Got some?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            I don’t think that makes it a slam dunk reason to completely ignore the principle of consent for all scenarios.

            It appears that you are comfortable assigning an "ought" to this principle. Are you as equally comfortable that we ought not to ever take innocent life? If you were to hypothetically hold both of those positions then how do you reconcile them when they are in conflict?

            Got some?

            My own philosophy is that the highest goods are life and liberty. I don't ever want to deprive another of liberty but I would prefer to do so as opposed to deriving him of life because life is binary, you are alive or you are not but liberty can be recovered.

          • Sample1

            I think I’m exactly like you. On a desert island, alone with a woman who was raped/pregnant, the choice is her’s, her body, not mine. I wouldn’t build a bamboo jail to keep her from abortifacient seed pods.

            Or maybe I’m not like you? Perhaps you would use your power to force her to do your will? Maybe you’d make a really comfortable jail for her? When she dies giving birth, you’ll feel comfortable because you held to your highest goods?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            Let's continue having a reasonable discussion rather than you introducing a scenario where I force someone to do something against their will.
            It makes no sense that you would consider building a jail cell anyway since you are for abortion.
            If I am in that scenario I will use reasoning there as well to persuade the mother that preserving the life that is present is the right thing to do even if it is difficult and risky. If the abortifacient pods have no other use then I will try to eliminate them so that that an evil means is not presented as a morally neutral option. No, I will not feel comfortable if she dies and I will not feel comfortable if her baby dies either.
            If the mother proceeds with the abortion anyway then I'll try to comfort her when she regrets her decision as she almost inevitably will. As you rightly assert, this is about her choosing the good not about me choosing the good.

          • Sample1

            The point of a real world example, over armchair thinking, is to test out ideas. My position about choice is demonstrated on the island, a plausible scenario. I may or may not like the decision. But I wouldn’t force the decision by threatening jail or using power. I’m glad neither would you.

            Pro-choice seems to mean pro-abortion to you because you said I was pro-abortion. Pro-choice means valuing the will of the woman to choose; she may choose to remain pregnant or not. I remember once seeing a bumper sticker that said: pro-family, pro-child, pro-choice. I was a Catholic when I saw that and it made no sense to me. My error was equating pro-choice with pro-abortion. But that’s obviously not understanding the meaning. Pro-choice is about valuing choice. Anyone can disagree with the result of the choice, if it’s something they don’t approve. That’s a different argument. I value choice, honoring the woman’s autonomy to be free to make a choice.

            This is why I think everyone should be pro-choice. To oppose it isn’t just to oppose abortion but it’s opposing autonomy. You can be pro-choice but oppose abortion personally. A society that loses that principle of autonomy, handing it over to the state or whoever, to decide outcomes about one’s own body, is a step backwards in civilization. Turning women into the property of someone else.

            Mike, pro-choice

          • Rob Abney

            It's good to have choices, but it's better to know that choosing autonomy over life is a poor choice. Can you admit that of the two goods that we are discussing that life is the more fundamental choice?

          • Sample1

            A couple things. Without autonomy, choice is limited or non existent. So it’s not a matter of choosing autonomy over choice. Autonomy is required for choice.

            I prefer not to hierarchically categorize some of these topics we are discussing. I think such categories are arbitrary constructs, conjectures, that do not always contain universal knowledge. And where they do, because humans are fallible we must reserve the space for error correction in our findings. Rather, I’d simply ask you to present a plausible hypothetical situation, one that is reality based, and then tack on what problem you see. When I see an individual problem for a given situation, I can better address it. There are myriads of situations where abortion is in the mix as a response. In other words, I’m not only going to armchair think about this abstractly without including real people and their countless situations from the sublime to the horrific and everything between.

            My desert island hypothetical has been a guiding principle for me for many years. I’ve yet to come up against a compelling refutation of its value when trying to decide if abortions should be the sole decision of the woman, or, through societal means via regulatory law in so far as that would deviate from individual autonomy.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done

          • Rob Abney

            There is no error correction possible when abortion is chosen, that explanation can be universally applied. A hierarchy is required because if life is not there to support all other goods then no other goods are available.
            If that desert island scenario is your guiding principle then you should definitely update it with tougher decisions for your self.
            Here's a tougher scenario for you: How can you preserve all the goods, how can you persuade the woman who is inclined to abort to preserve the life of the unborn without forcing her to do so, and preserve the good that is her personal autonomy.

          • Sample1

            Life is not a sufficient criterion alone to reject pro-choice. If it was, as Sam Harris once said (paraphrased), each time you scratch your nose your instituting a Holocaust for countless living epithelial cells (skin cells).

            I don’t think you’ve asked the right question to challenge my desert island hypothetical because your hierarchy (with the foundation being life) is insufficient for the task at hand. Now, if you claim life at conception is foundational because of something else (a soul?) then that conjecture hasn’t met its burden of proof in my opinion. Nor apparently can it without a mode of thinking called faith. Faith is demonstrably insufficient, alone, as a criterion for truth.

            Nothing in my position prevents anyone from counseling a woman about abortion or contraception, either before or after. And everyone will have their own ways of instantiating that behavior or not. But the woman will either accept or reject such counseling as is her right as an autonomous person. What I will not do is stand outside Planned Parenthood terrorizing families by calling them murderers. YMMV.

            How can you persuade the woman who is inclined to abort to preserve the life of the unborn without forcing her to do so, and preserve the good that is her personal autonomy.

            I hope I’ve shown why this question is not a good one, I think it’s a false dichotomy. Life alone is not a criterion for rejecting pro choice and autonomy does not rule out persuasion. What is persuasive to one may not be persuasive to another. When good explanations are demonstrated, we as a culture can choose to codify them as law. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, lawmakers tend to be atrocious philosophers/scientists. But they aren’t required to be them either. Government empowers each licensed discipline to govern their own affairs through boards and committees since those disciplines contain the knowledge for their own areas of expertise. What isn’t required, however, is that politicians concede to their findings and that’s when problems are separated from the very sources that are most qualified to address them. When that happens we say something unwise may have occurred. Our challenge, I’ll just claim, is persuading society to value wisdom and correct it (when needed) by the same means as from how it is arrived at.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done final.
            Almost lost this post, hence the editing.

          • Rob Abney

            You can’t seriously equate human life even at its very early stages with skin cells, you may say it but you don’t believe it.
            I’m certain you place value on some lives other others, for instance you will eat a cow or fish but not a dog.
            It’s your island, in your own mind so I guess you can make the rules but I’m still interested in how you can preserve both goods without discounting either one. So far you’ve just dismissed life as unimportant.

          • Sample1

            Nope, then you will have to define what you mean by life. Because just saying life isn’t enough. The point is that skin cells are alive too. So what?

            On this point, unless you want to be specific about what you mean by life, I’m not adjusting anything in my answer.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            The two of you on the island can have the same discussion, you can both acknowledge that an organism is growing in the woman and that if it continues this way then a baby will have to be delivered, and at the same time you will acknowledge that the skin covering your bodies even if well protected and cared for will only ever be skin, a part of your body.
            Of course if either of you don't want this pregnancy to continue then you can convince each other that there is not a valuable life that is a developing human present in her womb.
            But with this crude understanding of life that can only be regarded as valuable how do you preserve both goods, life and autonomy?

          • Sample1

            Why do you think I have a crude understanding of life? What an odd summation of our discussion.

            Your argument included a single criterion: life. That word can be used rhetorically when undefined, leaving the audience to formulate what they think it means to them. That’s what I want to avoid. The audience and myself want to know what you think. And you should be able to express what you think by using words in a way so that you are understood. Skin cells are alive. But so what? That’s my point.

            When the word life is used, even with a fetus, you have to explain why that word is important to your argument. Perhaps you think life is X therefore people should do Y, etc.

            Until you can demonstrate why life for a zygote is important for your worldview, I am going to have a difficult time understanding why that criterion is included in your argument.

            I’ve already given my answer to what I said was a false tri-chitomy.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            You misunderstood. I meant that you and the woman could make a decision based only upon a crude understanding of the meaning.

          • Sample1

            You still haven’t demonstrated your understanding of the word life so I will be unable to make a comparison and gauge if my understanding is crude.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            Try this. You know that a baby can be born and that that is good. You also know that personal autonomy is a good. How can you preserve both goods?

          • Sample1

            Ok, if you want to skip the life question of mine, that’s fine. We may have to revisit it.

            Can we agree that what is going on is the attempt to derive an ought from an is? And that you think your worldview provides absolute clarity on the subject, it can be infallibly known by all, and therefore if understood more would come around to your position?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            We can revisit the life question.
            But I tried to frame the scenario so that you could address it without haggling over definitions that may be based on presuppositions. Your responses to the scenario are limited but I would like to hear your reasoning (which is why I have asked quite a few times already ;)

          • Sample1

            How does one preserve autonomy (for the woman) and preserve the fetus (a good)?

            That’s up to the woman, if she is free to act. If she is not free, it could be more difficult for her to maintain her autonomy, at least in visible ways.

            It depends on how calling something good is arrived at. The method being used by Dr. Bonnette is natural law and I’ve got concerns about the belief that such laws are supposedly transcendent. A quote that comes to mind when I think of natural law, though that’s not necessarily the context of the quote:

            Humans are not playthings for cosmic forces. We are users of cosmic forces.

            Throughout history women and children have enjoyed varying degrees of classification as far as their worth to their cultures. You seem to be implying that personal autonomy is not a sufficient inclusion for abortion unless it is recognized for both. So let’s toss autonomy out the window for both.

            Now what do we have?

            Mike
            Edit done. Final.

          • Rob Abney

            The woman has complete autonomy, you are not going to coerce her. How do you preserve both goods?

          • Sample1

            Depends on the situation not an armchair.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I thought that we were using this example specifically because you thought it was, in your words, a "plausible scenario"?
            Since you won't answer the question, the only answer is that to preserve both goods she must not abort the baby which also preserves her bodily autonomy if her society (which is you on the island) supports her.

          • Sample1

            I’ve answered the questions in multiple ways. You just haven’t heard what you need to hear for you to feel good.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            I would feel good if goods are preserved, I would think that you would too. Do you feel good if only one of the goods is preserved?

          • Sample1

            False dichotomy, again. I get that you don’t see it that way though. :-)

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            What's your response to this explanation of bodily autonomy?
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcZ6IOjNbi0&list=PLRCroccSjXWRos6E6HjIqHHd_kgm7oYrF&index=1

          • Sample1

            Aside from the fact that Spartans would laugh at this, she exemplifies my position. Her choice is her own. There is no getting around that for autonomy. We’ve moved in a better direction, away from Sparta and toward bodily autonomy.

            As I’ve previously said, on a desert island, what right do I have to force a woman what to do with her body? We both agree the moral response is that we have no such right.

            And that’s my position.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            Why do you keep trying to find a way to force or not force your view? The issue is whether a certain act is moral or not. To force something against someone's will is a separate act. You are confusing/combining the issue of a pregnant woman's autonomy and her freedom to choose.

          • Sample1

            Do not mistake a difference of opinion with requiring anything from you; I’m not forcing you to do anything. Your reply simply comes from a perspective that I do not fully share.

            I’m interested in those who seek solutions to moral challenges without appealing to supernormal agents like edicts from deities or faith based institutions (your video referenced the former). I am not closed to a supernormal ethos finding a place in discussion but I am also not hopeful good reasons will be found there. In parts of the vid it was ironically scientistic (scientism) and I’ve been thinking lately that Dr. Bonnette’s metaphysics has much more in common with scientism than he knows or admits, while labeling me as such from time to time. Maybe I’ll gather the interest to explore that idea further and submit an article to SN. Don’t hold your breath though.

            If you feel frustrated by disagreement, that’s one thing, if you feel hopeful that moral solutions are possible, that’s another. I’m in the latter category. Why am I hopeful? I’m hopeful because those challenges which remain that are a result of merely lacking knowledge are attainable if we as a society choose to find that knowledge, provided they are not prohibited in some unforeseen way by nature.

            That said, I remain unconvinced that contraception and the autonomy of the woman are irrelevant to any future theory-laden explanation for the behaviors of some that are sought to be governed by others.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done. Final.

          • Rob Abney

            "Do not mistake a difference of opinion with requiring anything from you" Let me clarify, I wasn't saying that you were forcing me to do anything, my question was not very clear. I was responding to this: "
            what right do I have to force a woman what to do with her body?"
            My answer is that we as fellow citizens have no right to force a woman to do anything with her body, and I am not arguing that we should, but you have introduced that component at least twice now. I am arguing that, based on bodily autonomy, the woman as well does not have the right to force her choice onto the separate organism that is in her womb. The woman can choose to do so, but in choosing to do so she is violating the bodily autonomy of another. (I believe that you have said that whether the fetus is a person or not doesn't enter into this argument, so we have been assuming that the fetus does have the rights of a person for the sake of this argument). So, the woman on the island with you should have a totally free choice, knowing that you don't want an abortion nor have any opposition to one, no forceful action from you. Then the pendulum of injustice is only toward the aborted fetus who did not violate the woman's rights by being implanted in her womb. If this was a rape then someone else violated her rights but not the fetus.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve got a question for you to think about:

            Let’s say you’re in a fertility clinic Rob. A fire breaks out and you need to make a single choice. Do you run and save a container of 1,000 viable embryos or do you save a five year old child pleading for help instead? You’ve got one opportunity, one decision. What do you do?

            Mike, excommunicated
            (This is not my plausible hypothetical, but one by an author named Tomlinson).

          • Rob Abney

            I will save them all. I will perform an emergency baptism on the embryos and physically save the 5 year old.

          • Sample1

            Your actions speak louder than words. I’ll ignore that you did not follow instructions (you had one choice).

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            It's interesting that you chose this line of questioning as it seems to have nothing to do with bodily autonomy.
            Will you answer this dilemma: two pregnant women considering abortions are stuck on a suspension bridge, the bridge is between an abortion clinic and a church, will you save the woman who will continue on to the church or the woman who will continue on to the abortion clinic?

          • Sample1

            It’s interesting that you chose this line of questioning

            I’ve done so because an explanation that is theory-laden is needed for abortion, not hyphenated slogans.

            Your replies to my hypotheticals have demonstrated the following:

            1. You do respect bodily autonomy of the woman up to refraining from any use of force for her to abort should she choose to.

            2. You would save a five year old child from a fire rather than a thousand viable embryos given the choice.

            These two positions that you hold are beginning to look more in line with someone who is personally pro-life but broadly pro-choice. A position, mind you, that I don’t take much issue with. :-)
            _____

            In your suspension bridge hypothetical you’re requiring me to rescue one of the two women. Both are pregnant. I’m assuming I cannot ask them for details of their lives or even their own opinions on what I should do. I’m assuming we are all strangers. The dilemma rests on a destination that you judge as being important: the church or the clinic.

            What you’re really asking me is would I condition a rescue based on a future choice of a victim? No, ideally, I would not. Their choices are their own. The hypothetical gives an answer: I will save a woman. Should I feel immoral for doing so based on the future choice of destination? I don’t think so. I think you can construct a more difficult dilemma. But the more detailed the dilemma becomes the more detailed the replies become. That’s why I stuck with an island for the principle of autonomy and a choice between a child and a thousand embryos for the principle of personhood. You passed with flying colors. Are you going to hell now with me? Ha.

            Back to your bridge. If I personally knew one of the women, all kinds of extra evolutionary pressures kick in. What if one woman was my wife? What if the church destination woman was addicted to and smoking crack? And on and on. Those might be harder to answer, maybe not from a moral POV but definitely an emotional one.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done final.

          • Rob Abney

            I’ve done so because an explanation that is theory-laden is needed for abortion, not hyphenated slogans.

            I often have to remind myself that you are writing to an audience rather than just to me, because I don't believe I've proposed any hyphenated slogans.

            These two positions that you hold are beginning to look more in line with someone who is personally pro-life but broadly pro-choice. A position, mind you, that I don’t take much issue with. :-)

            My "pro-choice" position is that fellow citizens have no authority over each other to force/coerce actions, but I am in favor of those who do have the authority to protect the common good to restrict access to abortion, so that it is not considered a good option. I'm not sure what sort of hyphenation that will produce.
            The suspension bridge dilemma was a trick question, why do you have to save women on a suspension bridge!?

          • Sample1

            Thanks for giving your ideas about how you’d like to see this topic handled: in line with current Catholic positions.

            At no time did I ever think you meant anything other than trying to effect public behavior toward what you see as a good.

            I’d really like to see how this issue is approached publicly in 5,000yrs from now or two hundred years or twenty. Will our descendant’s ideas morph further? Will unknown tech add new ways to address abortion? What knowledge will be discovered?

            Time will tell. Take care Rob.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • David Nickol

            It would be interesting to know how you would propose to go about baptizing frozen embryos. They would be immersed in liquid nitrogen, and each embryo (or set of embryos from a given couple) would be in an individual container similar to a test tube. You couldn't baptize the whole container, because for baptism to be valid, water must be sprinkled on the individual being baptized (or the individual can be immersed.) So, for example, you cannot baptize a baby in the womb. Under the hypothetical emergency situation here, basically anything you could do would result in killing any embryo you "baptized."

            With that many frozen embryos, if you did not save the container intact and undamaged, there would be probably hundreds of women (or couples) waiting to receive these embryos through IVF, so if you somehow managed to baptize (and therefore kill) all the embryos in the container, you would be taking it upon yourself to deprive the "owners" of the embryos of the children they could otherwise have had.

            Here is a paragraph from a Catholic Answers piece on attempts to baptize the unborn:

            The search to stretch the means by which baptism can validly be bestowed was more understandable in a time when the common opinion of theologians was that unborn babies could not go to heaven without baptism. Now that it is better understood that God is not bound by the sacraments and that he can bestow sanctifying grace outside of the sacraments to those who are innocently incapable of receiving it in any other way, there is no need to try to stretch how baptism may be validly conferred. All that is necessary is that parents do all that they can to have their children baptized within the first few weeks after birth (cf. CIC 867 §1; CCC 1261).

            So hypothetical attempts to "save" frozen embryos by baptizing them—and killing them in the process—are based on somewhat dubious theology.

          • Rob Abney

            The baptism that I would perform would be pouring water on the container while saying the Trinitarian formula. If any of these fetuses are eventually born then a conditional baptism will be recommended. If the technique is less than sufficient then I will pray that this will be a valid baptism of desire.

          • David Nickol

            The baptism that I would perform would be pouring water on the container while saying the Trinitarian formula.

            I think any Catholic who reads this and has a minimal knowledge of sacramental theology and baptism could tell you why this is nonsensical. But probably nobody will.

            If any of these fetuses are eventually born then a conditional baptism will be recommended.

            Conditional baptism will be recommended by whom??? Nobody with any authority in the matter would consider for a second that the embryos (not fetuses) would have been validly baptized by "baptizing" the container they were in! And remember, they all died because in this hypothetical scenario, you left them behind in a fire.

          • Rob Abney

            Why didn't you comment on baptism of desire and prayer?!
            But, I think you miss the point of presenting a dilemma. There is never an acceptable answer so it tries to show how you do or don't value something. I value the life saving intervention of baptism as well as life here on earth. The dilemma also shows what you value when you comment on my proposed choices, in your case it shows that you value the sacrament applied correctly but you would deny it's validity to anyone based upon it not meeting your standards. We usually refer to that as scrupulosity, and it has driven many needlessly away from God.

          • Rob Abney

            Why would aliens choose to kill their own buds? There is no risk to the adult, it is simply a choice to kill the bud or not.

          • Maybe it's uncomfortable or unsightly. Maybe they don't find it a big deal to cut the buds off, because after all they're not genetically unique and therefore not individual by the standard you were using for embryos.

            You can't honestly think "the aliens would agree with me, probably" is an argument.

          • Sample1

            What gives meaning to questions is our capacity for answering them. -A.C Grayling.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Mark

            2 interesting scenarios that are established law that seem to be contrarian to your logical stance.

            1/ The probability of being killed by attempting to aid a victim in an accident (who also might not give consent) is far far greater than the chance of being killed by childbirth. If one sat idle and refused the duty to rescue and the victim dies because the person refused to take the calculated risk of providing aid they would liable for the death because law has established a moral duty. People who have a special relationship to the victim (as in parent/child or employer/employee or teacher/student or inmate/correctional officer) have a duty to rescue and are not protected from prosecution or liability.

            2/ If a mother who is pregnant is or only her fetus is killed by a violent act, the death of the embryo/fetus is a murder. Per the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 the law defines "child in utero" as "a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb." If the violent act kills both mother and unborn it is a double murder.

            A viable alive born infant from late term fetus abortions are refused medical care or purposefully euthanized by several means by the same people who are obligated to care for an infant facing death outside of the abortion clinic. (These situations happen regardless of political rhetoric; see Kermit Gosnell trial) If this fetus was killed by a negligent driver as the mother walked across the street to PP to abort the unborn the driver would face manslaughter charges. How can it be a protected life and unprotected life both?

          • Ficino

            I'm not a lawyer, and I didn't know about these laws. I'd say the congruence between the situations governed by the first and abortion isn't close enough to create a decisive parallel.

            As to the second ... yes, interesting. I discovered that the bill was opposed by many pro-choice groups and backed by many pro-life groups precisely because it defined a fetus at any stage as a person. This law does serve as an instance of what I suggested is a prescriptive definition, because it prescribes in its act of defining "person:" the definition serves the prescriptions of the statute. I would say off the top of my head that as worded, it is a bad law. I do note that this law explicitly exempted abortion, and it covers only killings in cases that fall under federal statutes. Abortion laws are state laws.

          • Mark

            You say it is a state law, however, In Roe v the majority opinion by Blackburn was structured around that "privacy" should be found as part of the liberty portion of due process clause of the 14th amendment. An amendment written for UHR and specifically at a time when the states that ratified it were enacting anti-abortion laws. They never intended to amend the constitution to unprotect the unborn.

            Roe v was a bad decision; it was unconstitutional, unjust, and undemocratic. It will fail eventually because the terrible foundation it was built upon will be uprooted by government universal health care. It's actually somewhat embarrassing it has lasted as long as it has.

            I also want to respond to your assertion that abortion is safer than pregnancy. There are many latent risks not reported in the numbers you use. It might interest you that women in China that have had 3 or more abortions have an 89% increase in chances of breast cancer:

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24272196

            Also suicide rates are 6 times greater among women in Finland that had an abortion versus natural child birth:
            https://www.bmj.com/content/313/7070/1431

          • Ficino

            I also want to respond to your assertion that abortion is safer than pregnancy.

            I think it was another commentator who said this.

          • Mark

            Sorry then :)

          • Sample1

            I did not say that abortion was safer than pregnancy. Childbirth is more dangerous than abortion and the specific stats were provided, not an assertion.

            I’ve found the most compassionate way to convince women to give birth is to tell them that having a child might reduce their risks of suicide and breast cancer. /s

            Mike

          • Mark

            Sorry Mike, again thanks for the correction again today on pregnancy versus childbirth. I seem to be typing much slower than I'm thinking again. :)

            Either way the point is that the morbidity and mortality rates quoted do not include psychological sequelae co-morbidity and cancer rates of either group. Also since there is no required reporting for adverse reaction to abortion in the US, the statistic cited by CDC in cooperation with the Guttmacher institute are rather misleading.

            You need to know that the data reported by abortion clinics to state health departments and ultimately to the CDC significantly under-represents abortion morbidity and mortality for several reasons: 1) abortion reporting is not required by federal law and many states do not report abortion-related deaths to the CDC; 2) deaths due to medical and surgical treatments are reported under the complication of the procedure (e.g., infection) rather than the treatment (e.g., induced abortion); 3) most women leave abortion clinics within hours of the procedure and go to hospital emergency rooms if there are complications that may result in death; 4) suicide deaths are rarely, if ever, linked back to abortion in state reporting of death rates; 5) an abortion experience can lead to physical and/or psychological disturbances that increase the likelihood of dying years after the abortion, and these indirect abortion-related deaths are not captured at all.
            - Priscilla K. Coleman, Ph.D., Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University

            You can look to Finland where it has been documented just the opposite, that childbirth is safer than abortion. Here is a PDF linked article reprinted with permission from the Journal of Contemporary Health Law & Policy:

            http://www.afterabortion.org/pdf/DeathsAssocWithAbortionJCHLP.pdf

          • Sample1

            No problem.

            Personal autonomy, in my opinion, offers a better toolkit for moral society building than what I’ve so far seen from those who seemingly place less value on it. It has broader explanatory reasoning.

            Mike, faith free
            Edit done.

          • Mark

            So hate when a response is eaten by Disqus.

            Sorry to make you have to correct me two days in a row Mike. I meant childbirth yes. And I believe the CDC study you link is seriously flawed. The data reported by abortion clinics to state health departments and ultimately to the CDC significantly under-represents abortion co-morbidity and mortality for several reasons:

            1) abortion reporting is not required by federal law and many states do not report abortion-related deaths to the CDC; 2) deaths due to medical and surgical treatments are reported under the complication of the procedure (e.g., infection) rather than the treatment (e.g., induced abortion); 3) most women leave abortion clinics within hours of the procedure and go to hospital emergency rooms if there are complications that may result in death; 4) suicide deaths are rarely, if ever, linked back to abortion in state reporting of death rates; 5) an abortion experience can lead to physical and/or psychological disturbances that increase the likelihood of dying years after the abortion, and these indirect abortion-related deaths are not captured at all.

            -Priscilla K. Coleman, Ph.D., Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University.

            Childbirth is still safer than abortion according to Finish studies that include medical sequele, co-morbidities, and proper reporting:

            Reardon DC, Strahan TW, Thorp JM, Shuping MW. Deaths associated with abortion compared to childbirth: a review of new and old data and the medical and legal implications. The Journal of Contemporary Health Law & Policy 2004; 20(2):279‑327

          • David Nickol

            The unanswered question (or perhaps I missed something) is the following: Will legally preventing women from aborting who want to have abortions, and consequently using the law to make them go through with unwanted pregnancies, leave them better off psychologically than simply allowing them to have abortions?

            I think the only way to really know the answer for sure is to take a group of women who are seeking abortions, divide it into an experimental and control group, and prevent the experimental group from having abortions while allowing the control group to abort. This, of course can't be done.

            I must say I grow a little weary of those on the pro-life side who try to come up with negative consequences of abortion, as if that helped the cause. The link to cancer, for example, is not borne out by research. And if you think abortion is murder, what kind of argument is it to say, "Don't murder your baby; it increased your risk of breast cancer"?

          • Mark

            And I grow weary of the pro-choice rhetoric that it is a simple little procedure. That's obtuse.

          • David Nickol

            In Roe v the majority opinion by Blackburn

            Blackmun

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"But even granting that it is a person, it is not obvious that another person has a duty to sacrifice her life/health so as to preserve that fertilized ovum."

            Given the ethical principles I have outlined several times now, no one is asking a woman to sacrifice her life as if she were committing suicide. There is a distinction between what one wills and what one permits. What is not permitted though, is performing an act which is willing to take the life of another person.

            You are very good at following logic. Why can't you do it in this instance? Must I state it again?

            1. There are substantive arguments that support the real possibility that the human right to life is violated by direct killing of unborn human life.

            2. Unless one is morally certain that a certain act will not kill another human with the right to life, one may not proceed with such an act.

            Therefore, actions aimed at killing unborn human life are immoral.

            Your raising issues about how detrimental the circumstances of pregnancy may be to the mother (Yes, I said "mother.") do not prove that it is morally licit to perform an evil act for a good end -- unless your alleged "ethics" is that of utilitarianism, which can, in principle, justify any action at all.

            Most arguments around abortion get mired in the circumstances and situation, which is just another way to slip in utilitarianism. But, as John Dean famously said during the Watergate hearings, "We made the mistake of thinking that the end justified the means."

          • David Nickol

            2. Unless one is morally certain that a certain act will not kill another human with the right to life, one may not proceed with such an act.

            I think you have unintentionally stated this way too broadly (and not in conformity with Catholic medical ethics). For example, it is licit to administer high doses of painkillers to someone in severe pain even if there is a chance the dosage might be fatal. Also, if you listen to drug ads on television, you will hear that some have side effects that are potentially fatal in some cases. According to the principle as you state it, one could never prescribe or administer such drugs.

            Also, in setting public policies (such as for air pollution) it can often be determined statistically that a certain number of people will die if Policy A is enacted, versus another number will die if Policy B is enacted. In such cases, the goal is rarely if ever to opt for the policy with zero deaths.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Your point about the painkillers is the best one, but it still does not pass muster, I fear.

            In the case of the painkillers, you are acting for the good of the person who might also die. You are not subordinating that person to some other person's good. You are not using that person's potential detriment to another person's benefit.
            It is a licit case of double effect because the act in itself is neutral or good. It is merely an unwanted and unintended side effect that is permitted.

            The whole point of abortion is to directly kill a human being before he can be born. No side effects in the intention here. This is a means-end situation in which the killing means is directly intended so as to get to the good end.

            As to conflicting policies, the presumption is that the policies are both morally good or neutral, and you are merely comparing evil side effects.

          • David Nickol

            I still contend you have misstated your principle. For example, in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, a salpingectomy will definitely kill the developing embryo. You stated, "Unless one is morally certain that a certain act will not kill another human with the right to life, one may not proceed with such an act." The act (salpingectomy) will definitely kill the embryo, which has a right to life, yet the medical procedure is licit. As I understand your position, you need to say something about "direct" killing and "intention."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Yes, removing a section of the fallopian in which an embryo is present will kill the embryo. But that is no more the intended effect than is crippling a person the intended effect of amputating a gangrenous limb. You remove the diseased portion of the body that threatens the life of the person. With that removal comes as a side effect some real evil, but it is never intended as such. Abortion intends the death of the embryo as such. It would be as if the surgeon directly intended to cripple the person so as to save his life. Even that would be wrong. You must be doing an act that is either good or at least neutral. So, just as the surgeon removes the gangrene licitly, so does he licitly remove the diseased section of the tube.

          • Ficino

            You remove the diseased portion of the body

            You keep saying the tissue of the fallopian tube is "diseased" so that you can justify abortion of ectopic pregnancies by the principle of double effect. But as far as I know, not all fallopian tubes have anything wrong with their tissue as such, apart from the accident that the blastocyst, or whatever we call it, is attached. There is not congruence between "gangrenous" tissue and healthy fallopian tube tissue with a blastocyst attached.

          • Rob Abney

            The medication and surgery that you refer to are explained in this article, neither is considered morally acceptable.
            https://www.ncbcenter.org/files/9514/6984/9801/MSOB052_When_Pregnancy_Goes_Awry.pdf

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That is an excellent, clearly written article. I agree with the author's solution to the two exceptional immoral treatments as well as his explanation of the licit surgical excision of the pathological tube.

            It is essential to realize that the same principles correctly decide each new case -- and the settled ones do not change.

            It has been my experience that most of the "new bioethics proposals" violate one or more principles of natural law ethics.

          • Ficino

            From your article: "Ectopic pregnancy is one of the leading causes of maternal sickness and death in the United States..."

            Like millions of Catholics and ex-Catholics, I've learned that Catholic moralists (term used in the article) are one of the last groups to turn to for guidance on moral questions.

          • Rob Abney

            Fortunately in a situation such as is being discussed here the information provided by Catholic moralists is intended for healthcare professionals so that when a Catholic arrives in an urgent situation the healthcare professional can know what the acceptable Catholic option is.
            Hopefully you will never need to turn for moral guidance in such an urgent situation.

  • Ficino

    A given number of women have ectopic pregnancies. Let us suppose that in some portion, the embryo will be spontaneously aborted by the body. (ETA: problematizes the Fifth Way, but we talked about that already.) What about the rest?

    The embryo will not survive, whatever is done. So the relevant difference will lie in the effects on the woman.

    Modern gynecological scenario: have procedure early on (meds or surgical). Fairly good chance that fallopian tubes will come out OK, that the woman can have children afterwards.

    Catholic moralist (term used in article linked by Rob Abney) scenario: wait around until tissue in fallopian tube becomes certifiably "pathological," so as to satisfy demands of Principle of Double Effect. Surgical procedure. Far less good chance that the fallopian tubes will come out OK and that the woman can have children afterwards.

    On either scenario, no surviving embryo. But the Catholic moralist scenario makes it much more likely that the delay will lead to damage to fallopian tubes.

    What's the outcome?
    Modern gynecology: dead embryo plus lower likelihood of damage to woman. Better chance of children.
    Catholic moralists: dead embryo plus higher likelihood of damage to woman. Less chance of children.

    Well, the good outcome on the Catholic moralist scenario is that principles and definitions promulgated by the hierarchy are maintained.

    I am even more appalled than I was before I read Rob Abney's linked article.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      The only "minor" problem with your above analysis is that you are permitting the use of intrinsically evil means to attain your good ends.

      Again, as you yourself have conceded in an earlier post, where you first quoted me:

      "The general principle is that one can never directly, deliberately take the life of an innocent human being."

      To which you responded: "Agreed on the principle."

      I know you deny that an embryo is a human being, but your attack on the "Catholic" analysis above is made in terms of what causes or permits the loss of more embryonic life and greater damage to the reproductive system -- a purely utilitarian standard.

      So, if you are treating embryonic life as equivalent to human life here, for purposes of your argument, then you are arguing that it is licit to kill embryonic life by the means you describe, since it results in fewer embryonic lives being permitted to die by natural causes and less damage to the reproductive system.

      That "plugs into" the formula that evil means can be used to attain good ends, and corresponds to you denying your own principle that one can never directly, deliberately take the life of an innocent human being -- since you are speaking of embryonic life in your argument as if it held the value of human life, even though your personal position denies it to be true.

      You have spoken somewhat derogatorily about moralists who are "Catholic moralists." Calling them "Catholic" makes it sound like their moral judgments come from religious revelation, not philosophical reasoning.

      I am an ethician who also happens to be a Catholic, but I deny that I take my moral positions in ethics because the Church says I must. I distinguish moral theology from moral philosophy, and my ethical judgments defended here are strictly based on natural law ethics, which itself is based on purely rational arguments. Catholic moral theologians also rest their judgments upon Catholic magisterial pronouncements, but purely philosophical natural law ethics does not.

      • Ficino

        you are permitting the use of intrinsically evil means to attain your good ends.

        Negative.

        ETA:

        So, if you are treating embryonic life as equivalent to human life here, for purposes of your argument, then you are arguing that it is licit to kill embryonic life by the means you describe, since it results in fewer embryonic lives being permitted to die by natural causes and less damage to the reproductive system.

        You are still trying to smuggle in the premise that an embryo is a human being. And you have not addressed the effects upon the woman. It's her body, not yours. And it should be obvious that in talking about a woman's ability to have children in future, these are children who will be born. Forget about this "embryonic life" sophistical talk.

        I don't know whether this goes anywhere, but consider that literally in Latin, innocens means "doing no harm." There is a morally relevant difference between how we are to consider someone walking down the street and an embryo/fetus that is doing or will do harm, possibly will kill, the woman who is carrying it. The difference does not concern culpability of the embryo/fetus, but the harm that will result to the woman in whose body that collection of cells is growing.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Of course, utilitarian ethics allows that any means is licit as long as it attains a worthy end.

          The problem is that you have also agreed with the universal principle that one may never directly take an innocent human life.

          But in this argument you have used about embryos, you were arguing against me by treating the embryos as if they were human lives, since you were arguing against my position which allowed no abortions at any stage of development. Hence, following your own logic, you were allowing the taking of what you were equating with human lives -- thereby, contradicting your own earlier principle that direct taking of human lives were never justified.

          Logically, either you should abandon your "embryo" argument against my position, or else, abandon your universal principle that human lives ought not be directly taken.

          • Ficino

            But in this argument you have used about embryos, you were arguing against me by treating the embryos as if they were human lives, since you were arguing against my position which allowed no abortions at any stage of development. Hence, following your own logic, you were allowing the taking of what you were equating with human lives -- thereby, contradicting your own earlier principle that direct taking of human lives were never justified.

            Dr. Bonnette, I thought yours was a trained and responsible intellect. The above is starting to disabuse me of my preconceptions. If you are claiming that I've been saying that zygotes and embryos are human beings, you are lying. And if you are using "human lives" as shorthand for "human beings," you are exploiting slippage of sense. That is why I said earlier that one of your replies was sophistical. A sophistical argument, as you should recall from your Plato and Aristotle, is one that trades on multiple senses of terms. Philosophy 101.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not lying. And I am not claiming that you say that zygotes and embryos are human beings.

            Edit: In fact, here is a line from one of my comments above:
            "I know you deny that an embryo is a human being,..."

            What I am doing is using your own argument and showing that you are arguing that it is better to use what I call illicit means to treat ectopic pregnancies because it really results in the loss of fewer embryos and less damage to the reproductive system.

            In so doing, you are ignoring my position that human life does begin at conception, while attacking my objection to these treatments on the grounds that they do more good than harm.

            But that is to miss the point that my position allows no abortions at any stage of existence. That is why I stated that you were falsely "plugging in" your reasoning as if it equated embryos to human beings, and then arguing that since more embryos survived on your scenario, therefore I was wrong to take my absolutist position.

            Because my position is absolutist, it is not a matter of what results in more or less embryos -- since I consider embryos to be human life, and you cannot apply a utilitarian ethics to human life. Your own principle agrees with me that no direct taking of human life is allowed.

            So, the proper logic is to treat your embryos as if they were human lives (plugged in logic), and then it does not follow that saving more embryos that are lost is relevant, since the principle that has been violated is the direct taking of these embryos' lives ( given that they stand in the same place in your argument as human lives do in mine ).

            I know that is a bit hard to follow, but it is the reason why your convoluted argument about embryos does not touch my stand defending human life at all stages.

            Edit: I know you will object to my "sloppy" conflation of "human lives" with "human beings," but you need to understand that in my own terminology they are identified precisely because I maintain they are one and the same. In your terminology you distinguish them, and that is your right, since you would apparently admit that human life begins at conception, but deny that these human lives constitute human persons. This is not a matter of mere usage, since we disagree about the nature of the referents for the terms involved.

          • Ficino

            Again our exchange has gotten into Disqus' "show more replies" territory, so I will try to keep this short. [ETA: failed again.] In rejecting what I said a few posts above, you seem to conclude that if I say it is a good for an ectopic pregnancy to be ended through a procedure that maximizes the woman's chances to have children subsequently, it follows that a zygote or embryo is rightly called a human person. That does not follow from anything I said about the good outcomes of the less invasive procedure over the delayed, more invasive procedure.

            you cannot apply a utilitarian ethics to human life. Your own principle agrees with me that no direct taking of human life is allowed.

            As I said to Phil, "human life" is too vague a term to do the work you want it to do -- unless you WANT to propound a sophistical argument, which I think you do not want to do. I assume we can agree that it is human persons who have human rights.

            I know your position is absolutist. I am not ignoring it - arguing against! My area of work is not moral philosophy, so I'm not equipped to write a publishable paper about what's been discussed among several of us on here the last few days. As an educated non-specialist adult, I maintain:

            1. I find absolutist positions of the pro-life camp go way too far in okaying harm and suffering to the woman, sometimes to the man involved too, in the name of one or a few principles that crowd out other principles.

            2. "taking innocent human life" is a misleading description for the complex of intentions that go into a decision to abort. Even the descriptor, "innocent," is misleading, as I urged previously. Analogies based on how we treat living human persons fail to capture the complexity of pregnancy, in which one human person is a host to a different organism in her own body.

            3. You might say that what I've written is convoluted, but the situations of particular women and their pregnancies can differ widely and have many complexities. And hey, Thomist arguments for various theses DON'T become convoluted? (:

            ETA

            Logically, you should ... or else, abandon your universal principle that human lives ought not be directly taken

            The bolded words are not what I said.

  • Ellabulldog

    Is religion a social construct. Of course. Did large societies come first or did the religion that helped build them? Kind of developed concurrently.

    Gods existed and as societies grew the gods and the beliefs changed.
    Once societies became agrarian and the populations grew the rulers needed more than brute force to control their subjects Hence larger religions. A religion is simply a superstitious belief or cult that is sanctioned by a tribe/group/country of people.

    Morals are one aspect of religion. It is also used to create a shared tribe identity between humans that are not genetically related. Religion is also used to control a human herd and authoritarian rulers had that figured out long ago. Most people simply want to follow and have others lead. That goes back to humans living in groups that had an alpha leader and many betas.

    As to Einstein. He called Christianity and the Bible childish superstition. Not one a person looking to support their faith should quote regarding a god belief. He was agnostic to the question of existence. He was atheist towards the gods men have made up.

    As to a Creator argument proposed it is certainly fallacious The laws of physics help us understand our environment. To equate the laws of physics with a god is an argument from ignorance. No better than humans thinking the Sun was a god.

    Wishful thinking is not science.

    When a person isn't sure they simply say they don't know.

    Not all minds have a religious or superstitious impulse.

    Science can test for that. It's located in the amygdala.

    Many humans have a pre-disposition towards superstitious belief. What that belief becomes is learned from their culture. Hence you are Christian I suppose and others think voodoo is real or witches. That's what is innate. Not god belief. Superstitious belief.

    Your OP makes a false conclusion. I trust my mind. I have found it to be grounded in reality. Others don't have that ability. That's what science tells us. All minds are not the same.

    • Mark

      A religion is simply a superstitious belief or cult that is sanctioned by a tribe/group/country of people.

      How do you define a sanctioned superstitious belief?

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I regret that you took offence, but you were the one who claimed to have an "open mind," but then wrote this: " I utterly reject that we can have epistemic knowledge that god exists."

    I am just asking how you can claim to be logically consistent when you claim an "open mind," but then also proclaim that you "utterly reject that we can have epistemic knowledge that god exists."

    As for proving God's existence, I am usually careful not to make that claim, since even Vatican I's dogma never said that. The Council Fathers merely said that God's existence "can be known" by the light of unaided reason.

    No one should claim that just because someone says they do not see as convincing a proof for God that that means they are acting in "bad faith," since there are many reasons one may not understand a perfectly valid line of reasoning without meaning the doubter is committing some fault.

    And there is nothing wrong with pointing out weaknesses of fallacies found in many faulty proofs, such as the ontological argument or proofs that try to do it solely in natural scientific terms.

    I hope you are not so offended by my defending the certainty of such possible knowledge that this inhibits you from having a passion for finding the truth, regardless of persons. To defend the truth of something is not to claim moral or intellectual superiority. It is merely to be pointing to some fact of reality and hoping others will see it as well. But you cannot rearrange a person's total worldview from outside his mind.

    That is why the French existentialist, Gabriel Marcel, stoutly insisted that we cannot "prove to" another. For it is to ask that he be somehow forced to move around and see reality exactly as we see it. That may not be possible. Imagine trying to explain the working of the NY Stock Exchange to some primitive tribesman in the outback of Australia. Is it his fault if he does not grasp so foreign a set of concepts?

    The mark of a good philosopher is a passionate pursuit of the truth -- regardless of difficulties. That is why it does not serve the person well to take offence at some other person's demeanor in presenting arguments.

    Even repulsive persons sometimes have it right.

  • Ficino

    I do not agree with everything said by Ayn Rand. I agree with this: "An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being."

    • Rob Abney

      In what sense is an embryo not an actual being?

    • Rob Abney

      It seems that here you are very clearly saying that an embryo is not an actual being?!

      • Ficino

        I can't speak for Rand's ontology, and above I didn't get into "potential." At least in Aquinas, things can be potential in more than one way. Something that is potential toward existence/being, esse, lacks form and does not exist "simpliciter" (De Pot. 3.8 c.A). An embryo couldn't be aborted if it were only potential toward existence! An embryo is an actual living organism, like a just-sprouted acorn--the one genetically human, the other genetically oak.

        I have been arguing that zygotes, embryos, etc are human organisms but are not persons because the relevant properties are not present. Therefore they are not subjects of rights.

        • Rob Abney

          I suppose that you know Aquinas better than I do, but I'm not familiar with that use of potential. Are you claiming that an embryo is a potential person and that it then changes to become an actual person? What is the cause of the change?

        • Sample1

          I find this entire issue interesting on a philosophical level but a bit off putting at the “situation on the ground” level. I imagine a woman right now seated in a clinic awaiting what is her right for her health choices and juxtaposing the meta conversation here with that. And what I hear is, “keep your hands off of my rights and my body.” And I completely embrace that reality.

          For others here, perhaps, it looks odd because the conclusion has already been made for them (killing an innocent human person) and it’s just a matter of finding the right words to fit so they can be interpreted as such for every population at all times.

          Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            "keep your hands off of my rights and my body" is also what the at-risk unborn human would say if she had the opportunity to engage in this discussion with those who are more powerful.

            Do you deny the sanctity or inviolability of all humans; or just the humanity of the fetus?

          • Ficino

            Come on Rob, get real. A zygote or embryo cannot say anything because it is a collection of highly developed tissue. The woman is a full-bore person. The zygote/embryo is not. You are imagining a born baby. The thing you are talking about is not that. The thing you are ignoring is the human person in the situation.

          • Rob Abney

            "a collection of highly developed tissue." That describes you and me as well.
            "The woman is a full-bore person", have you tested her to see if she meets the criteria that you have established for personhood, what if she is unconscious, unable to reason, and unable to communicate, is she still a person?

          • Sample1

            Do you deny the sanctity or inviolability of all humans; or just the humanity of the fetus?

            Nothing in this question is meaningful to me. I do know it’s meaningful for you. That’s why real world situations are needed for me. Here’s a likely head spinner for you: if the seed pods on the desert island became stale and I knew how to reactive them (soaking in seawater) would I inform my island stranger that abortion was still an option?

            I think I would as I would try to empathize with her and accommodate her autonomy; placing myself in her sandals. I think that would be the moral choice under the circumstances.

            If, on the other hand, she was near delivery in this hypothetical and the abortifacient seed pods at that stage were more dangerous than delivering, I would likely refrain from telling her if I thought she was not able to understand the risk to her own life.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            That is a head spinner!

            How about this scenario. The woman on the island has complete control of the food supply. She can share with you but at the risk of her endangering her life as the food supply dwindles. To preserve her autonomy would you advocate that she kill you?

          • Sample1

            Depends on the situation. If she was pregnant and the island could only support two people, not a third, I would be mightily upset if she didn’t even consider aborting. If I had a nasty wound and wasn’t expected to survive, I would not want her to waste her own food supply.

            Here is one for you: if the island could only support two people with food and she was six weeks pregnant, would you hide a seed pod in her food if she refused to abort? Knowing if she delivered you would die?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            My answer is not situationally dependent as yours always are because I never advocate murder, so, no I would not try to kill her or the unborn baby, and I would not suggest that she kill me even if I had mortal wounds.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    @Ficino, @Rob Abney, @Sample1, @Mark, @Ellabulldog, and anyone else....

    I don't know is anyone else is having this problem, but it is getting near impossible for me to reply to specific comments because the Disqus linking system back into the threads is not working for me.

    So, if I appear to ignore a comment, it may well be because I have just not been able to get to its location in the thread in order to reply to it.

    Of course, I may also be ignoring a comment. :)

    • Ficino

      I was just struggling with that very problem. I can't find an earlier one of yours, so I am just going to post as a new comment.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Thank you. Glad to know it isn't just me. It has been doing it for days.

  • Ficino

    It is being argued that if the fetus (zygote/blastocyst/embryo...) might be a person, but we don’t know whether it is one, it is illicit to directly kill it, since we might be killing a subject of rights. I am not persuaded by this “might be a person” argument. That’s because I reject its tacit presupposition that the question, “is it a person?”, is an information-seeking question. The definition of "person" is not a descriptive definition, as though there are or may be scientific or medical facts to be discovered, which will determine whether a fetus is a person. Insistence on this line, that science now has given us important information about the fetus' being a person (even if the info might not yet be decisive), betrays, I think, ignorationem elenchi. Science cannot in principle answer the question, is it a person (and thus a subject of rights)? “It might be a person, we don’t yet know” is a false way to frame the problem. The problem is, “We have not yet decided whether it is a person”—and the identity of the “we” can range from individuals to society. To decide about a fetus’ personhood is a philosophical, moral question, for which the questioner needs biological/medical information, but the information is not the moral judgment and does not by itself entail it.

    Although this article is from 1983, I'm not aware that the basic issues have changed since then. So it strikes me as a good discussion of "person" and the problem, whether definitions of "person" are descriptive or prescriptive:

    Ruth Macklin, "Personhood in the Bioethics Literature," The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly. Health and Society, Vol. 61, No. 1, Special Issue: The Problem of Personhood: Biomedical, Social, Legal, and Policy Views (Winter, 1983), pp. 35-57.

    Individuals and communities face the task of making informed moral judgments about what count as "persons" because rights and duties follow. Since it probably will remain contentious whether the fetus is a person and if so, when, I'm fine with Catholics consulting their priests etc. I am not fine with the government defining everyone’s abortions, or most abortions, as crimes.

    I do not believe that most fetuses should be considered “persons.” This is a moral judgment, not a judgment of scientific fact. At the moment I do not have anything to add to what Sheila C and others have posted about the definition of person. Dr. Bonnette cited Boethius as saying that a person is the supposit of a rational nature. I don’t have leisure to consult Boethius right now, but I would judge that a system of cells the size of a pencil tip that can emit electrical impulses is not a person.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Glad to see you posting where I can find you. Thank you.

      This is not a question of something that "might be a person," say, instead of an elephant or a carrot. This is a case where the whole world knows that what is born is a human person and the only question is when does personhood begin.

      Your position of claiming that we are "morally certain" that this is not a human person flies in the preponderance of contrary evidence from science, common sense, and philosophy.

      Science: Anyone with a modicum of competence in biology and genetics knows that the human zygote is a specifically human type organism distinct from the organism which is its mother. It is not an elephant or a carrot and will never grow into anything but an adult human being. It is properly classified as a human organism and human life from its very beginning.

      Granted, science cannot render by itself a philosophical judgment of personhood. But to fly in the face of all the scientific evidence that killing this life form at any stage of gestation is to take the life of a human organism is folly. This is why one cannot on the basis of science be "morally certain" that this is not a human person.

      Common sense: We know that what is born is a baby and legally recognized as a human person. The only question is when, between conception and birth, did it become a human person. Since there is no rationally demonstrable point at which this alleged "transition" takes place, one remains in the position that it is never "morally certain" that it is not a human person.

      Philosophy: Unless one argues, as does atomism, that there are no beings at all above the atomic level, then some life principle must unify living things as individual substances and also account for why they are the kind of living thing they are -- be it a horse, a rutabaga, or a human being. If persons ever are to exist, that unifying and specifying life principle must exist. This is one of the proofs for hylemorphism; matter/form doctrine.

      Speaking in Aristotelian terms, the human form must be present from the moment the matter is fitted to the form. Aristotle and St. Thomas made the evident mistake of assuming that unless the matter looked fitted to the human form, it was not fitted to the human form. Thus they embraced the archaic and evidently false theory of successive animation: that the conceptus progressively received first a vegetative form, then an animal form, and then, after two months of gestation, the human form.

      Modern science demonstrates that successive animation is wrong, since the "matter" of the zygote is specific to nothing other than that of the human species.

      That is why I was astounded to see you make the same error as Aristotle and St. Thomas made, when you said, "I would judge that a system of cells the size of a pencil tip that can emit electrical impulses is not a person."

      The ancient philosophers were excused because they knew not modern biology. But you appear to have the education of a university level professional classicist. So your confusing mere eyeball appearance with the most modern scientific understanding is not to be expected.

      Again, the ethical principle central here is that one cannot directly kill what may well be (that is, there is good reason to suspect to be) a human person unless one is "morally certain" that it is not a human person, just as one is held rightly both ethically and even legally guilty for shooting into a thicket that might contain either a deer or a human being.

      With clear evidence that this is specifically human life from conception and clear evidence that what is born is a human person, to argue that you are "morally certain" that this is not a human person that is being killed by an abortion at any given stage of development is not a sustainable claim.

      I address here primarily the ethical judgment of the immorality of abortion.

      Legislation is made by elected representatives who take into account all the available evidence. They have the right and obligation to protect those whom they deem innocent members of society -- even if some citizens disagree. Thus, they may licitly outlaw the killing of whomever they deem in need of legal protection of their human rights -- even the unborn.

      And, if you still object to my use of the term, "unborn," this is understandable, since those who favor abortion are even given guidance as to what terms are deemed appropriate in order to advance their own agenda -- and, if you can control the words used, you control the political outcome:
      https://www.npr.org/sections/memmos/2019/05/15/723678750/guidance-reminder-on-abortion-procedures-terminology-rights

      • Ficino

        This is not a question of something that "might be a person," say, instead of an elephant or a carrot. This is a case where the whole world knows that what is born is a human person and the only question is when does personhood begin.

        [ETA: Oh, I think I get it; you mean, "This is not a question of something that in Ficino's lingo 'might be human'."?]

        If I say that I don't know whether some x is F, usually we accept that the epistemic claim entails a claim about a possible predicate, i.e. "some x might be F." By saying it's not a question of something that might be a person, are you abandoning what I took to be your earlier argument, sc. that if the fertilized human ovum (and up the scale) might be a person, then it is illicit to kill it directly? Or did you never make that argument? For example, earlier you wrote this:

        And there is plenty of reason to suspect that human life, which may well be argued to be present from conception, is also a human being. (You don't have to believe it. You have to be sure it is NOT true.)

        In your last you write:

        Since there is no rationally demonstrable point at which this alleged "transition" takes place, one remains in the position that it is never "morally certain" that it is not a human person ... the ethical principle central here is that one cannot directly kill what may well be (that is, there is good reason to suspect to be) a human person

        This last sounds as though it entails the claim that "it might be a human person."

        With clear evidence that this is specifically human life from conception and clear evidence that what is born is a human person, to argue that you are "morally certain" that this is not a human person that is being killed by an abortion at any given stage of development is not a sustainable claim.

        Here you are ignoring what I wrote in my last four posts or so.

        And, if you still object to my use of the term, "unborn," this is understandable, since those who favor abortion are even given guidance as to what terms are deemed appropriate in order to advance their own agenda -- and, if you can control the words used, you control the political outcome:

        I hope you "own" it that anti-abortionists as well tailor language to their desired political outcomes, e.g. the way "life" "baby" etc. are used in rhetoric.

        [note: I wrote this post in stages.]

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I am really not sure what is confusing here.

          When I say it is not a question that it "might be a person," I am merely making the affirmative statement that what is born is recognized as a person by the whole world. It is NOT an elephant or carrot we are talking about.

          When I say the only question is when does it become a person, I am not conceding at all my own position that it is a human person from the moment of conception. Philosophically and scientifically, I see no other rational position, since it is a single human life from conception to death, since the soul or principle of life is the substantial form of the human body, and since the soul is the principle of all rational activities, and since a rational animal is a human person. I do not expect every other person to know this, though, which is why certain reflex ethical principles must be applied as follows.

          This is precisely why neither do I abandon the well-recognized ethical and even legal principle that one may never engage in a direct action that would kill a human being a reasonable person would be expected to know to be realistically possibly at risk.

          Its application here arises precisely because we know the born human being is a person and there is no rational or scientific way to discern a moment between conception and live birth when we can be morally certain that this is NOT a human person.

          Again, I reaffirm the three arguments I made above that this judgment conforms to the evidence of science, common sense, and philosophy. And you don't need all three in order to see the binding force of the obligation not to perform an abortion.

          Edit: I posted this reply before seeing that you just edited your own. The only really new thing I see you have added is that pro-life people also tailor their language for propaganda purposes. I concede that, but would point out that before abortion became alleged to be a basic human right since Roe v. Wade, most all people used the pro-life wording, such as referring to what was in the woman's abdomen was her baby, not using a technical biological term, like "fetus."

    • Rob Abney

      People may stipulate different meanings for the word “person,” but we think it is clear that what we normally mean by the word “person” is that substantial entity that is referred to by personal pronouns – “I,” “you,” “she,” etc. It follows, we submit, that a person is a distinct subject with the natural capacity to reason and make free choices.
      That subject, in the case of human beings, is identical with the human organism, and therefore that subject comes to be when the human organism comes to be, even though it will take him or her months and even years to actualize the natural capacities to reason and make free choices, natural capacities which are already present (albeit in radical, i.e. root, form) from the beginning. So it makes no sense to say that the human organism came to be at one point but the person – you or I – came to be at some later point, To have destroyed the human organism that you are or I am even at an
      early stage of our lives would have been to have killed you or me.
      From: http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/content/BPL_Images/Content_store/Sample_chapter/1405115475/Cohen_sample%20chapter_Contemporary%20debates%20in%20applied%20ethics.pdf

      • Ficino

        The issue is this:

        "When philosophers use the classification “person” they generally mean to capture a category of beings with strong moral rights, in particular, the almost inviolable right to life. “Human being,” on the other hand, is used to denote individual members of the human species. All embryos and fetuses are certainly human beings, in that they are all individual human organisms. But this does not mean that they are all necessarily persons." ~ Greasley, Abortion Rights: For and Against (2017) 5. In this book she and Kaczor develop arguments, and each then responds to the other.

        BTW a few days ago you said that Greasley somewhere agreed that the fertilized ovum is a human person. Were you thinking of the following, from the same page, or something like it elsewhere? "“I want to begin by conceding a very important proposition to the anti-abortion side. This is that, if [my bolding] the fetus is a person, equivalent in value to a born human being, then abortion is almost always morally wrong and legal abortion permissions almost entirely unjustified.” I.e. she does not adopt the arguments of abortion defenders who don't consider the personhood of the fetus. Did you not notice the word "if" in what Greasley wrote?

        • Rob Abney

          You have only continued the question, you haven't provided anything to differentiate a human being that is not a person. Greasley did not either in the quote you just used, maybe you can use a definition that she uses, if she does?

          • Ficino

            You have only continued the question

            You agree now that the sense of "person" in discussions about ethics is different from the sense of "human being" or "human organism"? If so that's progress. Terms have to be clarified in an inquiry.

            I've said a lot about Greasley's position on here in the last week or two, and I think I've encapsulated what she and those who agree with her mean by "person." You've made at least two incorrect announcements about Greasley's writings, as though you were familiar with her work. So I think it best that you do the research, rather than that I summarize her definition for you, so that you can gain actual familiarity with her views if you are interested.

          • Rob Abney

            I have not opposed human being and human person as separate categories but I find the categories to be 100% overlapping.
            I have searched for Greasley’s definition of person, and can’t find it, I don’t have her book. But I assume that the best definition that she and you have is the definition of Warren’s found on Wikipedia.
            But this definition doesn’t differentiate a person from a human being, and it is not universally applicable to born living beings that we already regard as persons.
            So the difficulty for you is to advance an acceptable definition for the unborn that doesn’t concomitantly deny rights of the already born.

  • Ficino

    Is this conditional true (allowing for tweaking of wording)?

    "If the fertilized human ovum is a human person, then the A-T theses of Act-Potency and hylomorphism are true." In other words, is A-T metaphysics necessary, though perhaps not sufficient, for a doctrine that the fetus is a human person from conception through all stages of its development? Mathew Lu seems to argue to this effect.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I think there is a lot of philosophy hidden inside the four terms of that conditional proposition.

      It is interesting the number of terms or phrases we now have "on the table," because of the debate over abortion: "fertilized human ovum," "human life," "human being," and "human person." In the human zygote, do these terms signify the same referent, or different and distinct ones? And at later stages?

      It is interesting that when science made it abundantly clear that human life begins at conception, suddenly the whole focus got on the question of when does that "life" become a "person." I recall a time when it was assumed that, if you deliberately took an innocent human life, you were guilty of murder.

      Suddenly, the science begets philosophical questions that it cannot, as science, answer. What is a person? When is a person present during the successive stages of gestation?

      As I have indicated elsewhere, it may be that ethical reflex principles allow us to decide the morality of abortion without having to answer those questions.

      It is also clear that the particular ethical judgments about particular kinds of moral acts presuppose a greater philosophical context. For, without knowing the nature of man, whether the God of classic theism exists, the ontological foundation for the natural law, whether ontology can beget normative judgments, and other ethical presuppositions, debates over contentious issues, like abortion, can never find ultimate resolution -- unless, of course, opponents are willing to stipulate certain "ground rules" and accept certain "general principles."

      This is one reason I have been hesitant to write an article on various ethical topics, at least up the the present.

      • Ficino

        I agree that science as science cannot answer the moral questions we have been discussing. I also agree that we come to them from greater philosophical contexts.

      • Sample1

        Suddenly, the science begets philosophical questions that it cannot, as science, answer. What is a person? When is a person present during the successive stages of gestation?

        David Deutsch answered this question.

        A person is an entity that can create explanatory knowledge and is universal in its capacity to do so.

        Brett Hall, scientist/philosopher has taken it upon himself to further elaborate on each chapter of Deutsch’s last book. He has also created a repository of his analyses of Deutsch and Popper, two people he follows most in terms of understanding reality.

        Here is a five minute video that elaborates on the above quote, as you’ll notice I left terms undefined.

        https://youtu.be/eB65WDssV1U

        Mike

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Thanks for the video, which I just watched.

          Unfortunately, it only reaffirmed my conviction as to the utter inadequacy of scientific materialism to explain the fullness of human existence.

          Brain produces mind which produces consciousness which produces creativity which is the universal ability of the human mind to seek explanations for all encountered phenomena. And, of course, it is all merely physical. I have heard this kind of thinking for my entire academic lifetime.

          While I realize that naturalists will try to explain how all this is possible by physical entities alone, it all misses the classical philosophical proofs for the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, part of which I presented earlier on Strange Notions here: https://strangenotions.com/how-we-know-the-human-soul-is-immortal/

          In that article alone I give two proofs to which I have yet seen a refutation on SN: (1) the proof for the immateriality of the soul based on the "wholeness" of experience, and (2) the proof for the spirituality of the soul based on the formation of universal concepts, which are not reducible to images. Read the article.

          But in the context of abortion, I am amazed that some, such as yourself, still claim that the unborn is part of the woman's body. Otherwise, you appear scientifically informed. But concerning the clear facts of embryology (which say that a biologically distinct, specifically human, organism is in the mother's womb), you appear totally unknowing.

          Moreover, among those who are scientifically informed and yet favor abortion, I see a logical inconsistency. If the baby is born, most all will grant that it should not be killed. But growing in the womb, arguments break out as to "how do we know it is a person, and when does it get rights?"

          Is it as a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, having reached viability, just before birth ..... when?

          If these are genuine questions, let us follow the logic a bit further.

          Is it protected the moment before natural birth?

          Why would a premature baby, born, say, a month or two early, be protected by law, but not the same "fetus," should it have stayed in the "safety" of the womb another few weeks to the moment of birth, still be subject to killing -- just because it has not yet quite reached the legal protection of being located outside the mother's body?

          What kind of science tolerates such equivocal thinking?

          But let us continue. What is so magic about birth? All the previous stages of what science grants is human life are merely earlier stages of human life before birth. What about after birth? The child is still growing. It is merely an infant, a pre-schooler, a grade schooler, a pubescent, a teenager, a young adult. Why should they be provided the protection of law? After all, none of them are fully developed members of the species. Indeed, we are now told that the human brain does not reach maturity until its owner may be twenty-five years old!

          My point is that birth is simply a totally arbitrary and capricious line drawn based on the pure accidentality of the physical location of the growing human life.

          The moment of birth has no more magical ability to confer "personhood" on a growing human being than did the Wizard of Oz have the ability to give Scarecrow a brain when he made him a "Doctor of Thinkology."

          Is this the best that scientific materialism can do in terms of contributing to societal and cultural and moral values?

          • Sample1

            Unfortunately, it only reaffirmed my conviction as to the utter inadequacy of scientific materialism to explain the fullness of human existence.

            I love you Dennis, haha, this is exactly the reply I expected. :-)

            Thanks for the detailed reply. I don’t have a lot of time now, but would like to draw your attention to your claim of scientific materialism. If by that you mean philosophy is exciseable from the pursuit to understanding reality, then I’d reject it too. Philosophy will likely always be along for the ride with reason as naturalism (broadly encompassing the tools of the Enlightenment) continues to create/discover knowledge. If only for the simple fact that should the laws of nature someday be fully understood, we will still have philosophy asking why those laws and not some other laws? And Hume. You know all this, I’m just not sure if you knew I’m on your side there. Popper and Deutsch are philosophers. :-)

            I’ll try to respond to more later.

            Mike

          • Mark

            I guess I fail to see the difference between what Deutsch "discovered" in explanatory knowledge:

            "A code that can run a mind that is universal in a special way. This universal capacity to create explanatory knowledge. A "person" is an entity that can create explanatory knowledge and is universal in it's capacity to do so."

            and this from Aristotle Physics II Ch.3:

            "Knowledge is the object of our inquiry, and men do not think they know a thing till they have grasped the ‘why’ of (which is to grasp its primary cause). So clearly we too must do this as regards both coming to be and passing away and every kind of physical change, in order that, knowing their principles, we may try to refer to these principles each of our problems."

            Aristotle very well understood explanatory knowledge and the intellect and their relationship to thought and what makes humans more than the mere material parts of human (what I would call a soul).

            from NewAdvent.org: "The soul may be defined as the ultimate internal principle by which we think, feel, and will, and by which our bodies are animated...The belief in an animating principle in some sense distinct from the body is an almost inevitable inference from the observed facts of life."

            I'm likely missing something here as philosophy is only a budding hobby of mine, but it seems there is no real discovery, but rather a renaming/rediscovery of previously used metaphysical principles. I (explanatory knowledge) think therefore I am (a person)?

            Lastly Mike, from what I've read of Deutsch, it seems to me he shouldn't prefer an "easy to vary" explanation of what is a "human person" over the "hard to vary" explanation. From his definition, I'm left to think (like Ficiono inquired) that newborns are not included in the definition of a human person.

            Mark, formerly a mass of totipotent cells.

            Edit Done.

          • David Nickol

            My point is that birth is simply a totally arbitrary and capricious line drawn based on the pure accidentality of the physical location of the growing human life.

            This goes way too far in trivializing birth even if one believes human live (personhood, whatever) begins at conception. Birth is certainly one of the two major milestones in human life. And people in these discussions seem often to forget that women/mothers are actually involved in this whole process! I think if you had asked my mother if the three times she gave birth (my sister, me, and the twins) whether she would describe birth as you did, she would be appalled. Mothers are more than gestation tanks for babies to grow in.

            I am not going to research pregnancy and childbirth, but I am quite sure from the little I already know that pregnant women don't arbitrarily go into labor. The timing of birth is a complex process, not an arbitrary one. Also, I have no doubt that there are important aspects of the birthing process yet to be discovered. (For example, the importance of the microbiome passed from mother to child in natural childbirth is only a very recent discovery.)

            Emotionally, there is something very significant about birth, even of nonhumans. I remember several times being present for the birth of kittens, and even that was pretty amazing.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As the father of seven children and grandfather of twenty-five, I would be the last person to dare to trivialize the birth process -- for the mother!

            But this in no way gainsays the logic of my comment above respecting the time at which the all-important right-to-life of the child must be recognized.

          • Sample1

            Brain produces mind which produces consciousness which produces creativity which is the universal ability of the human mind to seek explanations for all encountered phenomena. And, of course, it is all merely physical. I have heard this kind of thinking for my entire academic lifetime.

            You’re a professional thinker so it pains me that you don’t apply rigor to an assertion like this. We have models of reality developed with knowledge acquired though certain tools. Now maybe you were just meaning that we effectively behave as if they are true. Correct, but with tentative confidence, always open to error correction. You and I use those rational tools all the time and we both operate throughout life with varying degrees of confidence (some exceedingly high in confidence) for any given explanation. Where we differ, at least in one area, is regarding the tools for knowledge acquisition.

            Without appealing to axioms, or absolutism, or faith, or brute facts, metaphysics of the A-T flavor, doesn’t seem to have any tool to know when it’s wrong. That may not concern you but how much more compelling would A-T metaphysics be if it had the same fine-tuning principles found in critical rationalism? Why couldn’t belief in God just be as confidence assuring as we find in our best models for reality? For instance, eating a pound of grass does not cure the common cold as Deutsch has said. Do we have to test whether eating 1.1lbs of grass will cure the common cold? No, that’s irrational for reasons I hope you accept without me having to clarify. We have near certain confidence that eating grass does not work like an anti-viral medication. I know you have said that you try to base your philosophical reasons sans religion. That’s great. But it seems to me there is no escaping the claimed authoritative presumption that God requires faith to be pleased (as scripture says). So that’s a roadblock that may not be in your personal approach to philosophy but it’s metaphysically “present” nonetheless. :-)

            It’s not my fault that A-T has that seemingly insoluble challenge. And there may be others too (I’m not Feser level or your level educated in it). But it seems to follow the 1lb of grass vs. 1.1lbs of grass metaphor. Adding to metaphysics, to explain it, belies the initial constraints it has at explanation.

            Are there metaphysicians working on figuring out how to determine when their metaphysics (both A-T and others) is wrong? If so, do you have anything to share? Or, is such a question deemed irrational right out of the gate for A-T metaphysicians?

            Mike
            (I’ll try to respond to other bits later).
            Edit done.

          • Sample1

            @dennisbonnette@disqus

            Hate to bring up a side topic with so much still on our plates but I don’t have an index of living philosophers to ask. And, I think it’s somewhat related to the “comfortability” usage Rob and I have exchanged with one another.

            I have a friend going through some grief (no, it’s not me, it’s really a friend). She decided to get some professional counseling and I’m glad. But it makes me think about grief. I deal with people in various stages of grief for both my jobs (one that pays the normal bills and one that lets me pay the bills for fun).

            So I’m familiar and trained in the topic. Every counseling approach seems to, if not actually does, reduce to redirection. You lost X? Be thankful for Y. Obviously not so abruptly said, but that’s the gist. The other part of the approach is silence (laughing). Silence is important for various reasons, I just laugh because that’s the easy part to do.

            Grief is part of the “tragedy” of life (speaking poetically, I’m not a pro mortalist or anti natalist). Knowledge may help one understand when there are good or bad reasons to have grief but that doesn’t assuage all grief. Often, sayings like, “be thankful you’re still breathing, it means your alive” though well meaning, are trite and even paradoxical considering life is where tragedy occurs!

            Redirection is a powerful tool for a wide range of desired positive behavioral control. It looks only like bandaid to me. My answer, though I would never tell someone in the acute phase of grief is this: grief lessens because we eventually start losing the memories. Certainly we lose many of the memories of what one may have lost. Out of thought, out of mind. You can’t grieve for something you can no longer remember. Brutal, but I think it’s true. I suppose that’s what is meant by time heals all wounds. Another not so perfect saying.

            Now with after life religions, some of that grief can be avoided or at least ameliorated in ways that aren’t available to naturalistic philosophies. A soothing lie is more effective than an inconvenient truth, if you haven’t already guessed, my response to that. :-) Still, it’s effective for many.

            With the abortion topic, I am not confident that knowledge can assuage all emotional grief. Being uncomfortable on some levels isn’t solveable, it seems. That said, it’s probably evolutionarily advantageous that it isn’t. We wouldn’t survive long without that trait.

            And now, just finishing this post to you, it occurs to me that I’ve forgotten (it’s easy to do without vigilance) a salient point in evolution. Grief may not be a selected for trait but rather a secondary result of another skill. Nature leaves us open to susceptibilities when otherwise beneficial traits are selected for. For instance, bipedalism was advantageous for our species but the evolution that led us to embrace walking upright also left us, as an unselected for trait, susceptibility to back pain (non domestic quadrupeds don’t really have problems like we do with back/disc issues). I know of no good reason that cognitive evolution doesn’t operate similarly.

            Ok, thanks for letting me meander with what I thought would be a more question seeking post for you. I’ve answered them myself: knowledge helps a little more to understand grief, but it’s not a fully satisfying place to be. Then again, the universe does not care if I am satisfied. :-) Tragedy is part of life. I know meditation can help redirect thoughts too:

            “If you are suffering you are lost in thought.” As an algorithm or heuristic to have running in your brain is incredibly instructive. I guarantee you if you are psychologically miserable in any way you have been thinking continuously without noticing it. Until you know how to be mindful there will be no alternative. But once you know how to be mindful you will be able to interrupt that process”. -Sam Harris

            For the religious, I think that’s one problem they’ve tried to solve and in practice it tends to work well. The afterlife. But I can’t in good conscience re-accept those claims. I’ve seen too much. I’m left wondering what evolutionary trait was selected for that subsequently left us with the ability to grieve. I doubt I would want to give up whatever that was.

            Time to redirect. :-)

            No reply needed unless your reasoned approach to metaphysics has a thought about this. Well, not a thought, by definition it would likely be an absolute! And I wouldn’t want to overlook an option just because it might be metaphysics (despite the eating grass metaphor).

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done. Final.

          • Ficino

            the evolution that led us to embrace walking upright also left us, as an unselected for trait, susceptibility to back pain

            AND made it more difficult to bear children than for the great apes that still walk on all fours.

          • Rob Abney

            don't forget that the great apes also don't have abortionists!

          • Ficino

            Hello Rob, I don't think your reply really advances the discussion. Women can DIE in childbirth. I understand that death in childbirth is rare among species that walk on all four legs. I also understand that in non-human species, it will happen that the mother will not even raise a given baby under certain conditions.

          • Rob Abney

            I think that your concern for adult women and baby apes is admirable but inconsistent with your disregard for unborn innocent human babies. (definitions: unborn=not yet passed through the magical birth canal, innocent=deserving of one's just deserts having done nothing to change the course of justice, human=able to develop capacities for intellect and love/will, baby=early stage of development in the human species)

          • Ficino

            I think that your concern for adult women and baby apes is admirable but inconsistent with your disregard for unborn innocent human babies.

            As long as you allow "the baby" to be applied all the way down to the fertilized ovum, we shall be at an impasse.

          • Rob Abney

            When do you consider the term baby to be applicable? This will help us know where the impasse is.

          • Ficino

            For the purpose of this discussion and not ordinary language, I'd say a baby is the subject of the birth process, and that the process may be triggered before the ninth month of the pregnancy, i.e. premature babies. I have read that extremely premature babies can be born after 23 to 28 weeks of gestation.

          • Rob Abney

            Would you agree that the baby who was able to survive after only 23 weeks of gestation could’ve still been referred to as a baby if he had remained in the womb? Or do you require that he leave the womb to be called a baby?

          • David Nickol

            IMHO, it matters not one whit if some (or all) people call an unborn embryo or fetus a baby under some circumstances. It is a silly argument. That a pregnant woman might say, "I can feel the baby kicking," is not an argument against abortion.

          • Rob Abney

            Why did you respond to me instead of Ficino, he’s the one protesting the term.
            But, isn’t unborn embryo redundant?
            And, I don’t believe you anyway, since you were just recently complaining about someone calling a birth arbitrary.
            Words do matter, and at this point the abortionists have changed the meaning of words to minimize the act of abortion.

          • Ficino

            This is way out of my field, but I understand that being born entails relevant differences. So in context of this discussion I restrict the reference of the term "baby" in my usage to the neonate and later stages of dependency. I also am convinced that judgments about personhood are stipulative, so I apply "person" only after birth.

            [ETA: “The language of ‘baby’ is tendentious because it already presupposes that fetuses have the moral qualities that we’re arguing about whether they have them.” ~ Kate Greasley in a live Moral Maze panel discussion, Univ. London]

            cf. from a review of Kate Greasley's Arguments About Abortion:

            "While a late-term fetus may resemble a just-born neonate, something significant does happen at birth, other than a mere change of location. Birth is, as Greasley explains, ‘a dramatic biological event’, in which an infant undergoes a series of biological adaptations necessary for extrauterine life’ (191). Birth represents the ‘very beginning of a human being’s exposure to the world in which she must learn to act’ (195)." ~ Emily Jackson, The Modern Law Review 2018

            I don't know enough to apply Jackson's summary to the case of the birth process undergone by a 23-week fetus.

          • Rob Abney

            This seems to be your abortion argument:
            "An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being"
            but
            "something significant does happen at birth, other than a mere change of location"
            It seems as though you are trying to make a case for the unborn baby becoming an actual being only when it is born. You do realize that there is no magical ingredient that is added to the baby at the time of birth, whether she is born naturally or by cesarean section. The newborn does have different actions then, most significantly she has to breathe air but it its not the first time that she "must learn to act". Your premature baby born at 23 weeks was acting while in the womb and would have had many action in the womb if she had stayed there for another 15 weeks. The most striking difference between living in the mother vs living an extrauterine life is the change from being totally dependent to being only very dependent.
            I think your argument for denying personhood status to the actual but unborn beings will fail based upon what you know about philosophy. Will you still be an abortion supporter if you acknowledge that a person exists prior to birth?

          • Ficino

            Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being"

            I quoted Ayn Rand as saying something like that, but I don't recall that I said that a zygote or embryo or whatever is not an actual being. In A-T terms, even an acorn is an actual being, but it is not a tree so not actualized as an oak tree. A child can be a potential being qua geometer but not actual. There is too much play in the notions of Act-Potency w/ regard to the ten categories to get into here. But I have to say I don't subscribe to hylomorphism. I read a lot of A-T, but I am not convinced that it is a completely successful metaphysics. There is much fuzziness, and a lot of dispute among professionals, about substantial form, matter, and how those notions cash out.

            I am not working from the notion that personhood is constituted by species membership but rather, that it is a range property (like night-time), it comes in gradually, and it is a cluster property. As I proposed to Mark, I'm following the thesis of Mary Anne Warren, that personhood is a cluster of consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, the capacity to communicate, and self-awareness. One or two more might be added, and not all need be activated at once. Personhood is a moral property that supervenes on physical/psychological properties.

            The problem is not with recognizing post-birth humans as persons but with the threshold at which we can say that personhood obtains. I don't think that's a scientific matter, and because there is a range, that's why I used the term "stipulation"- someone has to make a decision. There will be more reluctance to abort a late-stage fetus than an embryo because it's closer to the range, but even here, I understand that some fetuses are not viable, and in some late-stage pregnancies, the woman's life or health is determined to be in danger. I'm not convinced that double-effect reasoning won't preclude necessary action, with the result that the woman dies. I am opposed to moral arguments that treat the consequences as something we're not allowed to consider. I am also against directly killing innocent human persons. These two commitments are not mutually exclusive unless your definitions make them so. But none of the definitions of "person" is a given in nature.

            This is already too much to type within a combox, so I must apologize for not stating my positive views more fully right now. If you're interested in a non-essentialist view of personhood, the best account I've come across in my foray into this topic is Kate Greasley's. She has a number of publications out:

            https://www.ucl.ac.uk/laws/people/dr-kate-greasley

            [some minor edits]

          • Rob Abney

            “even an acorn is an actual being, but it is not a tree so not actualized as an oak tree.“
            You surely know that this equates to a fetus not being an adult right? Which we would both agree on.

            Can you give an example of double effect where the pregnant woman dies?

            “moral arguments that treat the consequences as something we're not allowed to consider“ Can you explain this?
            Greasley doesn’t give a definition of personhood, I haven’t found Warrens definition yet. Our biggest difference will be that you are looking for a non-essentialist definition of person.

          • Ficino

            “even an acorn is an actual being, but it is not a tree so not actualized as an oak tree.“
            You surely know that this equates to a fetus not being an adult right? Which we would both agree on.

            No, actually, the analogue to plant seed in Aristotle is human seed. Aristotle is clear that a seed is not a plant. The analogue of the germinated acorn, analogue of the shoot, is the embryo.

            Can you give an example of double effect where the pregnant woman dies?

            An ectopic pregnancy in which the tissue of the fallopian tube is not "diseased"? If the tissue is not diseased but only has the accident of a growing blastocyst (?) in it, according to the link that either you or Mark provided, it's not licit to excise the blastocyst.

            “moral arguments that treat the consequences as something we're not allowed to consider“ Can you explain this?

            I hear continually from natural law theorists that consequentialism or utilitarianism is an error.

            Greasley doesn’t give a definition of personhood, I haven’t found Warrens definition yet.

            Greasley does give a definition of personhood, so I am not convinced that you have read her work. And if you did read her work, you would know Warren's definition. If you want to dig further into either thinker's work, that would be great.

            Our biggest difference will be that you are looking for a non-essentialist definition of person.

            Agreed. I think the essentialist attempts fail.

          • Rob Abney

            "No, actually, the analogue to plant seed in Aristotle is human seed. Aristotle is clear that a seed is not a plant. The analogue of the germinated acorn, analogue of the shoot, is the embryo." Then you should say a sperm or an egg is not a person just as an acorn is not a tree.

            "An ectopic pregnancy in which the tissue of the fallopian tube is not "diseased"? If the tissue is not diseased but only has the accident of a growing blastocyst (?) in it, according to the link that either you or Mark provided, it's not licit to excise the blastocyst." How does this result in death of the pregnant woman? It only results in the death of the blastocyte.

            I apologize for saying this but it is unlike you to have such poor answers.
            And I did read a Greasley article in which she plainly stated that she would conclude that the fertilized ovum is a person, in order to discuss whether that mattered in the abortion debate.
            I've since found Warren's criteria on wikipedia. She implies that as the newly created organism gains human functions they earn personhood status. But, she omits the fact that the only organism that can develop those human functions is an organism that possesses the essence of a human initially.

          • David Nickol

            Then you should say a sperm or an egg is not a person just as an acorn is not a tree.

            I have not been reading this back-and-forth in great detail, so for what it is worth here, the acorn is not the oak equivalent of either a human egg or a human sperm. The acorn is the equivalent of a fertilized human egg or zygote:

            Oak trees produce both male and female flowers on the tips of their uppermost branches, which are relatively unnoticed. Pollen from the male flower fertilizes the female ovary, which develops into an acorn.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks, that's what I thought but I conceded to Ficino's botanical knowledge hoping he had at least one point correct.

          • David Nickol

            Snarky!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not following this conversation much either, but it strikes me that there are two wildly divergent underlying metaphysics operative here.

            Hylemorphism maintains that the substance of the organism is essentially identical from conception to death -- and that the presence of the rational substantial form dictates the presence of the "person" throughout, whereas forms of materialism maintain that the appearance of the "person" takes place at some point after conception -- whenever the neural organization of the brain is sufficiently developed to sustain some definition of consciousness, self-reflection, or judgment, and so forth.

            No wonder the debate appears endless!

            This again is why I have not yet proposed an OP dealing directly with abortion. The science of ethics presupposes its own ontological framework: metaphysics and philosophical psychology.

            I am not saying that there is no way to decide what is morally right in practice, since I have indicated a "reflex" solution in terms of "moral certainty" elsewhere. But the ultimate theoretical solution is not possible as long as there is disagreement over the metaphysical and natural philosophy presuppositions involved.

            Edit: Clearly, with two equivocal definitions of the same term, "person," the logic of the arguments cannot meet.

          • Rob Abney

            Is there any reason to object to the fetus being a person other than to support the right to abort it?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As you know, the term, "fetus," is just a technical biological term for a certain stage of human development. It is no more indicative of whether the human organism at that stage of development is a person than the terms, "zygote," "embryo," "baby," "child," , "prepubescent," or, "teenager."

            The controlling moral principle is that, unless one is morally certain, that it is not a human person at that stage of development, one cannot licitly directly kill it.

          • Sample1

            Can’t find your reply because your profile is private. So I’ll answer here. Suffice to say, regarding our island hypotheticals, I’m glad that you don’t advocate murder. Phew. /s Whatever murder means for you, it must be bad.

            As far as your question to Dr. Bonnette, my opinion isn’t entirely based on what we call the fetus, person or not. It’s the woman’s autonomy mostly for me. I don’t have the right to force her to deliver against her will. And I’m worried about anyone who thinks they do have that right.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I have been wondering for a little while whether debates about "personhood" are directly relevant to the abortion debate anyway. I say this because, if we take The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a (seemingly?) reasonable starting point in these discussions, we are immediately faced with the fact that it asserts rights not just for "human persons", but for "human beings".

            I don't know if that phrasing was deliberately chosen in the drafting of the UDHR, but from a very practical perspective it would make sense to do so, given that the definition of a "human person" is contentious and philosophical, whereas the definition a "human being" is, from a scientific perspective, pretty darn clear.

            If we can't define what a human is with reasonable clarity, then the whole concept of human rights becomes meaningless. It seems that we would have to either accord human rights to all human beings (as scientifically defined, i.e. such as begin at conception), or else admit that "human rights" have no objective meaning.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think you are right in noting that the term, "person," became a contentious concept that was introduced when it became scientifically evident that human life is clearly present from the first moment of conception until death.

            If those favoring abortion can introduce a new concept, like "person," and then raise all kinds of questions as to when this new focus of attention is clearly present, then the entire abortion issue becomes mired in definitions and subjectivity.
            This "mission" has been well accomplished, but it does not gainsay the clear scientific fact that a specifically human organism is present from the time of conception.

            Rather than follow the science which many of those who favor abortion normally do, they shifted the argument to the philosophical concept of "person," where murkiness appeared to be assured.

          • Ficino

            Good to know, thanks. I was talking from the Aristotelian POV about tree seeds, that the seed is not an inchoate tree. Later on I was wondering how oak trees pollinate, since some tree species have male and female dimorphism but I didn't think oaks do.

          • Sample1

            Oaks are monoecious (botany was a minor for a while for me...) meaning they have both male and female structures on the plant and they can self pollinate.

            Segueing to plants is kind of interesting. Leaving their multiple ways of reproduction aside (six kinds of asexual repro and sexual, monoecious or dioecious [structures on different plants of same species]), we don’t call a plant zygote a tree. We call it a zygote or, if anything, an undeveloped tree or similar descriptions along those lines, but not a tree. This counteracts others’ claims that personhood is an ad hoc political designation. It isn’t (though it may find use in political speech) it’s just regular old biology.

            Aristotle didn’t know what we know about botany today. Or physics. :-)

            It’s also peculiar, at least to me, that Catholicism needs so much Hellenistic philosophy to make sense. One would think it’d be self sustaining or a novel source of knowledge itself. On the other hand, if it’s a man-made thing such behaviors would be expected, no? I think so.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done. Final.

          • Ficino

            Then you should say a sperm or an egg is not a person just as an acorn is not a tree.

            Of course since I say a zygote is not a person, ipso facto I hold that gametes are not persons. But I think you mean, I should use the acorn analogy to reason that the zygote IS a person just as a nascent oak tree is an oak. But here, Rob, you are still treating "person" as a synonym of "human being." I've been arguing for weeks now that "personhood" is a moral not biological property, which supervenes on certain psychological and cognitive capabilities.

            How does this result in death of the pregnant woman? It only results in the death of the blastocyte.

            If the personnel decide not to remove an ectopic pregnancy from an otherwise healthy fallopian tube, eventually it will get too big and the woman will die.

            I apologize for saying this but it is unlike you to have such poor answers

            Per the above, I don't think so, but I am letting a smile be my umbrella. (:

            And I did read a Greasley article in which she plainly stated that she would conclude that the fertilized ovum is a person, in order to discuss whether that mattered in the abortion debate.

            I would be very interested if you can provide a citation of or link to this article. I have read very long discussions by Greasley. She is very firmly of the view that the fertilized ovum is NOT a person, and she develops well-thought-out arguments to support her view, as well as, I think, representing many opposing views accurately. Did she only concede the point for the sake of an argument, so that discussion could proceed about some other issue?

            But, she omits the fact that the only organism that can develop those human functions is an organism that possesses the essence of a human initially.

            I don't think Warren, and certainly not Greasley, contests THIS. They don't think a chimpanzee zygote will grow up to be a chimp of humanlike cognition and emotions. But they deny that personhood as a moral status is part of the essence of human, since the cluster of capabilities, of which at least a few must be present for personhood, is not present in embryos etc.

            Greasley notes that the toughest possible counterexamples would be cases of comatose patients: "the episodic problem." She doesn't think coma patients are symmetrical with embryos etc because coma patients once possessed the cluster. I haven't thought through all the ramifications, but it doesn't seem to me that the episodic problem entails that the zygote is a human person. I would say with Greasley that someone who is truly brain DEAD is no longer a human person. I think ordinary language captures this intuition when we say things like, "I don't want to become a vegetable."

          • Sample1

            If the personnel decide not to remove an ectopic pregnancy from an otherwise healthy fallopian tube, eventually it will get too big and the woman will die.

            This just happened locally, a few days ago, with a lady complaining of severe pain. Ruptured ectopic pregnancy. The patient was taken to the OR quickly and had two liters of blood in her abdomen.
            Luckily she survived. It is her choice to mourn what she might have had had the pregnancy gone to term. OR NOT. But right now everyone is thankful she is alive. On that we should all agree.

            In many of these cases the woman is essentially being treated as lesser.

            At any rate, God is praised. If the woman died she’d be hailed as saintly, but if she lives the dead embryo goes to paradise because Aquinas says so. Once you see easy-to-vary explanations you see them everywhere.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            "In many of these cases the woman is essentially being treated as lesser."
            You assert without providing any reasoning, that is very easy-to-vary.

          • Sample1

            Seems to be the Catholic Church’s consensus. The female is less than her pregnancy (less than a zygote for sure). I find that scientifically and philosophically naive.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            But you can't support your obviously biased opinion with any facts.

          • Sample1

            Come on over to OTS and I’d be happy to lay out the reasoning. Doing so here would likely get my posts deleted. Then again, you said I can’t. Pro-tip: lead with a question rather than display your own bias. :-)

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Rob Abney

            "If the personnel decide not to remove an ectopic pregnancy from an otherwise healthy fallopian tube, eventually it will get too big and the woman will die." Do you really believe that this can happen? What is an "otherwise healthy" fallopian tube that has an ectopic pregnancy.
            I will discuss personhood issue with you but first I have to deal with spreading of misinformation.

          • Sample1

            There is zero misinformation in Ficino’s post. And I apologize Ficino for jumping in because when I’m accused of misinformation, sometimes I just facepalm and ignore. I hope you respond if you want to.

            Rob, you seem to be saying it’s impossible for a healthy Fallopian tube to cause an ectopic implant. If that is true, the following is relevant. If not, your claim of misinformation is vague and you can potentially ignore the following.

            There are too many reasons to list why ectopic implants occur to get into that here but genetic defects of the embryo are possible as are damaged fallopian tubes and a host of other explanations. But the fact is the mass of tissue can be the source of the problem within a perfectly healthy reproductive tract. Women can and do have normal pregnancies after ectopics because their organs are fine. In fact, while surgery is needed for life threatening ectopics (yes that’s a reality) sometimes the body can naturally abort the mass of ectopic tissue without danger to the woman. Last I checked 1 in 40-50 implants are ectopic. (Snark removed).

            It’s not always the woman’s organs at “fault” that ectopic implants occur. Obviously if she is an active smoker, that increases risk and the word fault takes on some meaning. If she’s had multiple abortions and her tubes are scarred, that can increase risk.

            But a diseased or genetically faulty mass of tissue that implants wrongly in an otherwise healthy Fallopian tube is also at “fault” for some ectopics, not the woman or her organs. What information do you have to the contrary and where did you learn it?

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done. Final.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since everyone else is leaping in here, I hope you will forgive one more voice on a single point of interest to me.

            Please correct me if I have the medical information wrong, especially since I teach the general principles of ethics, but am not up on every recent development in bioethics. Each case must be studied carefully to see whether it is a licit application of double effect, for instance.

            It seems to me that if the embryo is developing within an otherwise healthy fallopian tube, the very fact that it is "misplaced" as to where it is developing is itself a pathological condition, which would justify removal of that section of the tube in virtue of double effect. Since such a misplaced gestational location is abnormal and threatening to the life of the mother, removal of the tube section is licit insofar as what is directly intended is not the death of the embryo, but removal of the pathological section of the tube -- and that section of the tube is now "pathological" in virtue of it having an embryo implanted within it which is never supposed to be there.

            On the other hand, if the methotrexate's primary effect is to destroy the embryo in order to clear the tube, then the conditions for legitimate application of double effect are clearly not met. Such action would directly kill the embryo, while clearing the tube. Now, if I do not understand the primary effect of the drug here, just say so, but double effect is a tricky principle to apply and many people confuse it with outright utilitarianism when they try to apply it!

            The fact here that the surgical removal of the tube destroys fecundity on that side is not an argument in favor of the methotrexate, since the loss of partial fertility is not the direct and intended effect of the surgery, but rather removal of a pathological section of the tube is the intended effect.

            The fact that the methotrexate saves that same portion of the tube for further use does not justify using a means that directly kills the embryonic human life, since that would be to use an illicit means to attain a good end.

            Again, I may misunderstand the function of the drug in this case. If so, I am sure one of you will let me know. But it looks to me as if the removal of the pathological section of the tube entails directly simply removing the portion of the tube, whereas the action of the drug directly attacks the embryo itself in order to clear the tube for future use.

            Am I getting anything wrong here? While ethical principles are clear, application requires understanding exactly what is going on with the procedure itself, including what is directly intended in the action taken as well as the proportional seriousness of the side effects.

          • David Nickol

            Some information from the National Catholic Bioethics Center:

            Use of methotrexate (permissibility not resolved among Catholic ethicists)—Argument against permissibility: This drug inhibits the rapid multiplication of trophoblastic cells. The trophoblast is part of the embryo, an essential organ; therefore, the drug directly causes the embryo’s demise. Argument for permissibility: The trophoblast is not part of the embryo; the drug licitly targets the trophoblast and only indirectly causes the demise of the embryo.

            Moral Debate regarding Salpingostomy and the Use of Methotrexate

            Some Catholic ethicists argue that salpingostomy and the use of methotrexate are morally permissible under the principle of double effect. They argue that both procedures directly intend the removal of the exact cause of the condition, i.e., the trophoblast rapidly dividing in the wrong place, and not the embryonic child itself. This argument assumes that the trophoblast is not an organ of the embryo and therefore can be an object of moral focus apart from the developing embryo.

            From Wikipedia:

            Trophoblasts (from Greek trephein: to feed, and blastos: germinator) are cells forming the outer layer of a blastocyst, which provide nutrients to the embryo and develop into a large part of the placenta. They are formed during the first stage of pregnancy and are the first cells to differentiate from the fertilized egg. This layer of trophoblasts is also collectively referred to as "the trophoblast", or, after gastrulation, the trophectoderm, as it is then contiguous with the ectoderm of the embryo.. . . .

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thank you for a very helpful and illuminating explanation.

            You can see the complexity of application of double effect in some cases!

            I am not really too concerned as long as the ethicians are correctly applying double effect and recognize that this is the correct way to approach the ethics of a given case.

            On the assumption that competent ethicians are not in agreement concerning the application of the principles, and on the assumption that the more permissive position is honestly being advanced, we have a secondary or reflex ethical principle that would apply to such cases: probabilism.

            Where there is legitimate disagreement as to what is the correct solution to an ethical problem, it is licit to follow any legitimate authority or solution, even if it is the less probably correct solution.

            The reasoning behind this is that, even though apparently less probably correct, since it has legitimate authority and/or reasoning supporting it, it is entirely possible that it IS the true and correct path to follow without any violation of what is morally good. It would be unreasonable to force someone to follow some other counsel, when what he is contemplating could well be, in fact and in truth, a legitimate course of action.

            Probabilism would appear to apply in this case -- on the assumption that the authorities and reasoning you cite above are orthodox and competent.

            Thank you again for bringing these pertinent facts to my attention. As you often do, you are well aware of authentic Catholic teaching here. (I wish I could convince you of the rest of it!)

          • I find this reasoning a bit horrifying, for reasons that have nothing directly to do with the specific situation.

            It just seems to make clear that your morality derives entirely from a set of abstract rules, not from the good or harm done to anyone.

            In the conventional treatment situation, the embryo dies and the woman lives. Her fertility is harmed as little as possible.

            In the Catholic treatment situation, the embryo dies and the woman lives. Exactly the same. But she endures major surgery and loses half her fertility. And yes, I've known women who have lost BOTH tubes to ectopic pregnancy. Her entire hope of having a child of her own, lost to an abstraction.

            As a non-Catholic, I don't see a difference between killing someone directly and killing them indirectly. The results are the same. And it seems to betray a morality that has nothing to do with love of neighbor, but rather love of rules. How can it even be called morality at that point, rather than a religious ritual detached from any human goods?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"As a non-Catholic, I don't see a difference between killing someone directly and killing them indirectly. The results are the same."

            I appreciate your willingness to state your position clearly.

            And, just as clearly, the ethics here has nothing whatever to do with Catholicism.

            What you express are the ethics of Bentham and Mill's utilitarianism, which allows that the end justifies the means. As long as a greater good is achieved, any means to the end is justified.

            The problem with this is that even an evil means can be used to achieve a greater good. This means in principle that one can do anything, commit any act whatever, as long as a greater good is intended.

            That is why you would allow the direct killing of an innocent human being in order to achieve some greater good. This is the essence of immorality, not good ethics.

            Hitler may have convinced himself that eliminating the Jews was the ultimate salvation of the human race, but he was wrong and evil. We have to be very careful of the means we use to achieve our ends.

            Natural law ethics insists the we may never use an intrinsically evil means, such as directly taking an innocent human life, in order to achieve an end, no matter how good we think it will be.

            The problem is that the end achieved is forever tainted by the evil means we used to get to it. It is not unlike the actress who sleeps with a director to get the part in a movie. In such a sleazy case, the principle is easier to understand.

          • I think that's a bit of a straw man. I think that some ends justify some means. Specifically, any non-human value (one that harms or helps no humans) should give precedence to human values, like saving a life. So no, you can't kill Jews to make a perfect world, but I absolutely would sleep with a Nazi to save my children's lives. I think you'd be a moral monster if you'd condemn me for that.

            This is the standard Catholic answer to consequentialism, of course: immediately make a false dichotomy between either justifying the Holocaust or else accepting that a woman should die before using a diaphragm or whatever. But to me, both the Holocaust and letting a woman die for lack of birth control are the same kind of evil: throwing human lives under the bus for abstract values. An Aryan nation is an abstract value; it saves no lives and stops no suffering. It just happened to be Hitler's fetish. And it wasn't even achieved by the Holocaust! Thus if that was a consequentialist moral reasoning, it was a very faulty one and a poor example to choose.

            It would be better to pick an idealized scenario, like a trolley problem. But you won't be able to convince me that the morality has nothing to do with how many lives you save and everything to do with whether or not you had to touch the lever of the trolley tracks to do it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I can see that you have a good deal of experience in discussing ethical matters and won't waste your time and mine trying to convince you of the superiority of natural law ethics.

            Ethics presupposes certain truths and values from both philosophical psychology and metaphysics which we clearly do not share, which is why it is usually fruitless to discuss it absent the philosophical framework that surrounds it.

            Suffice it to point out the major difference between what you are saying and what I am saying is that I maintain that some actions are intrinsically evil and can never be willed as morally suitable objects, no matter what good ends appear to be achieved through embracing them. You apparently do not believe such objects exist, and therefore, in principle would embrace any deliberate act -- depending on the situation.

            But there is no way of judging whether there are acts which are evil by their very nature, unless you have a metaphysical framework that acknowledges the existence of an objective nature with respect to good and evil.

            So, for now, you may have the last word.

          • Although our first principles are different, I don't think further discussion is necessarily fruitless. We might ask *why* you make moral choices. I make them because the well-being of other persons is important to me. I don't know why you do. Because God's will is important to you? Because your concept of yourself as an objectively good person is important to you?

            To say "certain acts are objectively evil," if true (which I don't admit) is still an is, not an ought. Why ought we do things that are objectively good? To what end are we acting when we do them?

          • Ficino

            I saw a cartoon of what was labeled a harder trolley car problem. On one track: four guys. On the other track: a kitten. (:

          • Oh, I think that's actually easier. ;)

          • Ficino

            Sample1 has already spoken to many of the issues. Thanks for expressing them more succinctly than I would have done, Mike!

            The thing that disturbed me about Fr. Pacholcyk's article, which I think you linked earlier
            (https://web.archive.org/web/20111123115757/http://www.ncbcenter.org/Page.aspx?pid=940)

            is that "Catholic moralists" (Pacholcyk's term) rule that therapy via drugs (e.g. methotrexate) is illicit. Instead, they want the woman to wait around to see whether the body expels the ectopic pregnancy. If the body doesn't expel it, by the time they deem the fallopian tube or other tissue "pathological," so that double effect can be invoked to justify surgical removal, risks have notably increased. Pacholcyk says, "When an ectopic pregnancy does not resolve by itself, a morally acceptable approach would involve removal of the whole section of the tube on the side of the woman’s body where the unborn child is lodged ... this results in reduced fertility for the woman [because of] ... removal of the tube..." But if methotrexate had been administered earlier, the tissue of the fallopian tube may have been healthy enough to function in another pregnancy later on.

            I don't have any trained medical knowledge, so I don't know all the ways in which "pathological" can be attributed to fallopian tube tissue. Pacholcyk compares ectopic pregnancy to a tumor in the tube. Tube tissue onto which the blastocyst has attached cannot be legitimately put on a level with cancerous tissue. The tube's cilia may not move as well as in a woman who didn't have an ectopic pregnancy, but what I've read indicates that after drug treatment, a woman who had an ectopic pregnancy is usually able to have another, uterine pregnancy via that tube.

            I consider the Pacholcyk position immoral, though I know that you agree with him. Various other people on here, including Sheila C, have already discussed ectopic pregnancies, so enough from me now.

          • Mark

            I know I'm jumping midstream into a conversation, however, the NCBC has a site which is my go to on bioethics; which might clear up some things between everyone. I think there is a little talking past one another.

            The RCC has not ruled the use of methotrexate as illicit. There are Catholic ethicists that have argued both ways.

            A fallopian tube with an implanted embryo on it is pathological and requires medical intervention. That medical intervention may mean only monitoring the pathology. This often is the medically ethical way to treat any pathological disease that is or can be self-limiting given that course of treatment doesn't violate the principle of non-maleficence.

            https://www.ncbcenter.org/resources/information-topic/pregnancy-complications/

          • Rob Abney

            You don’t seem to have much confidence in the medical professionals in the situation you described. Health care providers don’t wait for symptoms to worsen but they do react to worsening symptoms.
            I’m not trying to put words in your mouth but your preferred morality is that the newly created organism could easily be disposed of with methotrexate and then the woman with a pathological fallopian tube (>95%) could try to beat the odds and avoid a second (more likely) ectopic pregnancy, your ends don’t justify the means, your ends are 1 intentional death of a newly formed organism, a second fetus with probable same result, and the woman put at risk of death again. Fr. Pacholcyk‘s ends are 1 fetus death from double effect and the likelihood of second ectopic pregnancy is somewhat less due to a different Fallopian tube being necessarily involved.

          • Ficino

            What you talk about in your first paragraph, about actual practitioners, misses the point - I was responding to Pacholcyk's interdictions against methotrexate. I am glad to hear from Mark that not all Catholic counselors take Pacholyk's line. The rest of your scenario is not in line with what I have read about ectopic pregnancies and fallopian tube health and procedures. But as I said, I am not a medical professional.

          • David Nickol

            and then the woman with a pathological fallopian tube (>95%) could try to beat the odds and avoid a second (more likely) ectopic pregnancy,

            What does the 95% refer to?

            As I understand it, while a preexisting pathology in the fallopian tube is one possible cause of an ectopic pregnancy, there are many others. So the "pathology" that justifies the removal of a fallopian tube in the case of ectopic pregnancy is the fact that an embryo has implanted in it. The rationale is not, "It must have been a pathological tube because implantation took place in it, and we can now remove that pathological tube even though it has an embryo growing in it." The rationale is, "An embryo has implanted in the tube, causing it to become pathological."

            You seem to be implying that if a woman has one ectopic pregnancy, she will almost certainly have another. This is not my understanding. I have found figures indicating that after one ectopic pregnancy, the risk of a second is about 15% higher—that is, about 15% higher than the baseline rate of 1 in 50.

          • Rob Abney

            In case you're not familiar with typical surgical/medical decision making, here's a streamlined excerpt:
            Dr: this is an ectopic pregnancy, here are your options...
            Patient: I'm Catholic
            Dr: then we'll remove the fallopian tube, it has caused the problem
            Patient: will I be able to have children
            Dr: you will still have a fallopian tube, we'll monitor you closely to keep you safe, you might want to start considering adoption.

          • David Nickol

            Excuse me, but you are clearly misunderstanding something.

            Dr: then we'll remove the fallopian tube, it has caused the problem

            The fallopian tube is not removed because "it has caused the problem." What has caused the problem is the implantation of an embryo in the fallopian tube. The fallopian tube is said (by most Catholic moral theologians) to be "pathological" under these circumstances because it has an embryo growing in it which may cause it to rupture. It may or may not be that there was something wrong with the fallopian tube that was a contributing factor to the ectopic pregnancy happening in the first place, but this is not the "pathology" that justifies the removal of the tube (and the embryo with it).

            you might want to start considering adoption.

            Note the following:

            Statistically, the chances of having a future successful pregnancy are very good and 65% of women are healthily pregnant within 18 months of an ectopic pregnancy. Some studies suggest this figure rises to around 85% over 2 years. Your chance of conceiving depends very much on the health of your tubes.

            It is not just that you are misunderstanding the medical facts. You are misunderstanding the Bouscaren argument for salpingectomy (removal of the fallopian tube) in the case of ectopic pregnancy. It is not that it was a pathological tube. It is that it became "pathological" because an embryo implanted in it, damaging it.

            From the 1880s until the early 1930s, the Catholic Church maintained that surgical intervention was permissible in ectopic pregnancy:

            To the Question:

            “Whether it is at any time permitted to extract from the womb of the mother ectopic fetuses still immature, when the sixth month after conception has not passed?”

            The reply is:

            “In the negative, according to the decree of Wednesday, the 4th of May, 1898, by the force of which care must be taken seriously and fittingly, insofar as it can be done, for the life of the fetus and that of the mother; moreover, with respect to time, according to the same decree, the orator is reminded that no acceleration of the birth is lict, unless it be performed at the time and according to the methods by which in the ordinary course of events the life of the mother and that of the fetus are considered.”

            From the reply of the Holy Office to the Dean of the faculty of theology of the University of Marienburg, March 5, 1902

            So it took about fifty years for someone (Father T. Lincoln Bouscaren) to come up with a rationale for lifesaving intervention before the tube started to rupture and hemorrhage.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is just a question for you and @Sample1 also.

            How certain are you that the hylemorphic doctrine is false?

            Please note, I am not asking how certain are you that the arguments put forth in favor of hylemorphism are false.

            I am asking how certain you are that the doctrine itself is false.

            In other words, are you absolutely convinced, not only that it is highly likely that your position is correct, but that it is really irrational to believe in the matter/form composition of things.

          • Ficino

            How certain are you that the hylemorphic doctrine is false?

            I think this question would generate its own thread. My view is that speculative metaphysical systems may well not be falsifiable, strictly speaking. Even when inconsistencies are exposed, defenders usually tweak things in various ways. Aristotle pointed out inconsistencies in Platonism, but I don't think he proved it false. A colleague says it took neo-Platonism to iron out incoherencies in Aristotelianism! I think therefore that the hylomorphic doctrine, as part of A-T metaphysics, is not, strictly speaking, subject to falsification. [ETA It's in some ways like the contention that, say, monarchy is the best form of government. We can know facts about various forms of govt, but the contention that it's fact that one of them is the best would be misguided because it doesn't seem a matter for falsification.] So I don't accept the presupposition behind the question.

            are you absolutely convinced ... that it is really irrational to believe in the matter/form composition of things?

            Now you’re asking a different question, i.e. about irrationality of belief in the hylomorphic doctrine. I wouldn’t say it’s irrational, for the doctrine helps us talk about many things, but it brings a lot of baggage, and it doesn't support precise investigation, as far as I can see. Its elasticity generates further problems that don’t arise on other frameworks. No one I know who works professionally on Aristotle, for example, thinks Ari had a doctrine of prime matter. By Aquinas’ place in the tradition, though, prime matter was taken for granted. How to adjudicate such a question? The problem of incomplete substances resists obvious solution. So I don't sign on to the A-T system. Naturalism seems to support inquiry better. But I'd rather not get further into that territory here.

            I wonder whether your question is meant to lead to the “precautionary” argument—or maybe, “burden-shifting argument— that you posed several times on here, sc. that abortion is never licit because “no one can ever be morally certain that innocent human life is not present in the womb.” More on that later.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Maybe they are not falsifiable because they are not false. :)

          • Ficino

            No, Aristotle's theories are false. Plato's are true. :)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Oh, I see. Plato does not have a "speculative metaphysical system?"

            Sorry I did not specify whose version of hylemorphism I was referring to. As a Thomist, it is not my business to defend Aristotle.

            Nor, of course, as a Thomist, do I defend everything that St. Thomas ever wrote or believed.

            Edit: My favorite and most enjoyable example is in the Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 81, a. 5, c, where St. Thomas deals with the question, "Whether if Eve, and not Adam, had sinned, their children would have contracted original sin?".

          • Mark

            The problem is not with recognizing post-birth humans as persons but with the threshold at which we can say that personhood obtains.

            Post-mortem medical examiners used the ICD-10 Code P96.4 588 times between 2003-14 to designated post-birth persons who were alive at termination of pregnancy and died. Gosnell M.D.'s grand jury reports from his staff show he alone snipped the necks (his preferred method) of at least 100 late term abortions. So yes there is a problem with recognizing post birth humans as persons. 19 states deny babies born alive from abortion techniques access to the human person's rights and protections of babies miscarried or prematurely born.

            I'd posit that the actual number of viable human persons born is probably substantially higher than the 588 reported: Abortionist don't report these cases even when required by law, not all state require the reporting of these cases, the medical examiners typically don't report using this COD even though they are sometimes required by law, and the medical boards don't intervene when medical ethics are reported and/or compromised. We honestly don't have any idea how many of the 13k late term abortions/year are the human being born viable and allowed to die or euthanized.

            By your statement it should logically follow that the same ethical medical consideration should occur with vital babies born through premature miscarriage and abortion and it is not. In fact the movement in the pro-abortion lobby is to allow post birth infanticide. Recently in the JME Minerva and Giubilini made the claim, "we need to assess facts in order to decide whether the same arguments that apply to killing a human fetus can also be consistently applied to killing a newborn human." The last link is an article written by a pro-choice advocate that examines the philosophical claims made by pro-abortion and the moral reasoned philosophical extension of your "range property" past infancy so that the moral arguments consider the consequences as you posit they should.

            https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/health_policy/mortality-records-mentioning-termination-of-pregnancy.ht

            https://jme.bmj.com/content/39/5/261.full

            https://slate.com/technology/2012/03/after-birth-abortion-the-pro-choice-case-for-infanticide.html

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That was a really thoughtful exposition and I would be remiss merely to read it and not complement you on it.

            Especially, I was touched by your observation that we get over much grief simply because of our bad memories. Painful, but doubtless true. That is why thinking back on our loss can cause us to remember details of the loved one and make us start grieving all over again!

            The one place you would expect me to differ is in defending the reality of the afterlife based both on reasoned arguments and on belief arising from -- for want of a less contentious term -- "historical anecdotes" (claims of miracles, etc.)

            What you say reminds me of a class I was once teaching in which I mentioned that, while animals have souls, they are merely material ones that cease to be upon death. At that point I noticed a young woman starting to cry -- since she correctly inferred that I had just told her that her beloved dog had not gone to doggy heaven, but simply was no more.

            I nearly perjured myself for several minutes trying to comfort the poor dear, probably mentioning claims like that of C.S. Lewis that, if you want your dog to be in heaven, he WILL BE there! But, in the end, I did have to make my point -- having learned to make it much more gently.

            Your plight about your personal view of the non-existence of the afterlife reminds me of the old joke about the atheist at his funeral: All dressed up and no place to go.

            No offense intended. :)

            As to the evolutionary value of grieving, I cannot state it in evolutionary terms, but it reminds me of, was it Robert Browning's famous line? Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Could it be an evolutionary side effect of the value of hominins really loving each other?

          • Sample1

            That’s Tennyson. But Browning said this:

            Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?

            A usable sentiment for the theist or the atheist depending on need. Ha.

            Thanks for the compliment. Yep, memory sure seems to be a major component which isn’t usually mentioned. It is an unseemly way to think about it. Nobody, well almost nobody, at a funeral is going to say, “here’s to forgetting about you!” but facts are facts. Forgetting helps and we can’t help that much.

            And yes, grief from non human animal loss is sometimes called disenfranchised grief because some communities/cultures do not recognize it as a “legitimate” grief. Many people feel they can’t talk about it because they might get eyes rolled at them. In fact, people are often more grieved over the loss of a pet than a parent, sometimes needing counseling to figure out why that is. Like my friend.

            It doesn’t mean they loved their parents less (unless they did!). Pets are very much like “special needs kids” for lack of a better analogy (I’m not equating human value with non human animal value). I think with parents, for instance, we’ve had more time to prepare for that eventuality (mentally). But losing someone like a little kid who is with you 24/7, dependent, innocent, is unlike a parent/grown adult relationship and it hits many hard. Tons of reasons why I suppose. The importance is that a love was lost. Interestingly, people who lose livestock typically have less grief, or none. Now that’s self protective! You can’t really chow down on a drumstick and call it beloved, unless you’re just quirky. But people make meaningful connections with all kinds of livestock too, especially horses. But horse owners are crazy for other reasons (you know who you are!). :-P

            Grief is usually on the mend when memories are slowly replaced by joy rather than pain but when and if that happens is pretty specific to the individual. And sheer forgetting. It can sometimes take years. It’s one of the reasons I try not to be unkind to people when I witness rudeness or nonsense in real life. No idea what that person’s day was like. But on the web, that lack of a real face has allowed for behaviors in people that they wouldn’t exhibit elsewhere. And make no mistake, that emotional currency is often exploited by anyone who wants your vote or your support for “scary” cause X.

            I’ve never really thought of grief from an evolution POV, not in depth. I’m sure there are plausible ideas about that. I can think of a few things but going below the emergent level of our experience, to genes, isn’t comforting regardless of its plausibility. In the end, mere knowledge about grief only helps a little, if at all. We have to create a story to cope. That’s my opinion.

            It also sometimes just sucks as I’ve been told by many. And I like that too.

            Mike
            Edit done. Final.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You have my sincere sympathy if you have to be a grief counselor as part of your work. It must be difficult at times to have people coming to you, knowing they will be in a miserable state and you somehow have to lift their spirits.

            Given your own personal beliefs, how do you handle their beliefs that may well include God and the afterlife with hope of heaven. You don't want to lie to them or give them false hope, and yet, for them this is a strong motivation for hope for their loved ones? I never thought of that complexity before and honestly wonder how you handle it. You want to help them, but from your perspective, giving them the "full truth" could be devastating!

            Of course, from my perspective the person in the casket is properly dressed up because he DOES have someplace to go. :) And I am not assuming anything negative about his destination just because he is an atheist. There are conceptions of God that would make me an atheist also! My trust is that they are misunderstandings of who and what God really is.

          • Sample1

            I’m not a licensed counselor, but my day job does need continuing education in that area, and it helps with my other job. It’s also a reason I never envy or begrudge certain professional occupations with workers who seem to always be on vacation. Real life is insane! Ha. It’s not, but sometimes it is. But not really (apparent indecisiveness intended).

            Most people know, or become aware, that a personal relationship is not an appropriate avenue to pursue in counseling. So my private beliefs are not on the table. I never need to lie. Being silent if someone brings up religion can be accommodated with just listening. Either people get it, in which case they will need to make unsubstantiated opinions about what they merely think I think (which tells me more about their needs so that’s useful knowledge) or they don’t in which case it’s moot. I “simply” suggest what works or what has worked or what likely doesn’t work, and I have reasonable trust that such things are efficacious. I just thought of this but it’s perhaps exactly like A-T metaphysics and science. If I needed counseling from you, about a real world experience, there are satisfactory naturalistic ways to help me without mentioning metaphysics. I suspect at funerals, you don’t typically offer a metaphysical approach to strangers you chat with. It wouldn’t be expected. And I find that kind of interesting. You guys have an advertising problem. :-) All that said, if a person requested/required that a counselor be religious, they can go to their spiritual director. But I’ll tell you, most, well I don’t know about most, but plenty of religious people have a hard time finding the skills to cope effectively (by their own admission in my experience) when they go that route. My buddy is a fundamentalist Army chaplain who could never find satisfaction with religious counselors. I don’t think that’s the exception. In fact, religious counselors have their own biases to be careful of. And they are not of a tradition where withholding their brand of “Good News” bias is seen as a virtue. :-)

            But back to metaphysics. One of the last things I tend to ask when conversation comes to a standstill is, what are the consequences for not accepting metaphysical claims? I see mainly two: you’ll likely be a terrible or at least subpar lecturer (assuming you get accepted into the program!) or the consequences will be potentially in the after life. The latter is the real consequence. With science, if you reject the understanding of electricity, electricity won’t care, but you will care in this world when you think a cup of coffee doesn’t need a plugged in coffee maker. :-) (yes there are ways to make coffee without electricity for anyone reading who disagrees, and they will have missed the point). Maybe your team needs to bring back fire and brimstone and public shaming for missing religious requirements. Please don’t. :-) But you and I know that works.

            I truly don’t believe in continued life when death happens. Maybe someday one’s unique consciousness will be digitally replicable but I strongly, very strongly doubt that. Or it won’t be me, per se. Either way, not happening this century. I believe, and I think I got the analogy from Sean Carroll, that death is a process. When the process stops, that’s it. It’s like a candle. When a candle stops burning, we don’t ask, “but where did the flame go?” It didn’t “go” anywhere. The process stopped. There are good ideas for why most humans through time came to a different understanding about their own mortality rather than like other natural processes. But that’s a 7,000 word discussion at minimum. :-) And all that means is that I’m not versed well enough in the relevant areas to cut it shorter while still being interesting. :-)

            And besides, what if one day I gave “the full truth” about what I think of someone’s religious beliefs? They wouldn’t believe me anyway. Not the right time or place. Now friends, on the other hand, they all know and many have adopted different philosophies from their childhoods. Even my Army chaplain buddy was having doubts, but he specifically asked me to never talk about my ideas if they conflicted with his Christianity. Those were essentially his words. But he, of course, feels no obligation to refrain from “sharing” his supernatural beliefs. Even an emoji halo in a text is just telling me that he doesn’t currently have the cognitive wherewithal to know how disrespectful and passive aggressive that is. But I ignore it. He’s in a bad place (going through divorce) so I just support him.

            Thanks for the questions. This abortion discussion, which I hope continues, has led to some deeper ideas than are usual for such things on the inter-tubes.

            Mike
            Edit done. Final.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since it is exactly the witching hour, I could not comment at length if I wanted to. But there is no need, since you are mostly explaining your approach and understanding of things that I appreciate seeing your perspective on.

            Not sure what to say about your fundamentalist chaplain friend, except that there is nothing I would hesitate to talk with someone about. And, in fact, I would hope they do attack my belief system, since it gives me the right and opportunity to try to convince them of its merits and the weaknesses of their own!

            It is very tempting to see death and the end of the life process, and when that last candle appears to be flickering out it takes a lot of faith to be sure there is another door opening on the other side. Still, I would point out that once we are alive we are never unconscious for a second, since we go from one state of consciousness to the next -- even when knocked out by anesthesia. I know. I had it recently that that is exactly what happens. You are winking out, and instantly are waking up again. (Good stuff. The same that killed Michael Jackson!)

            But my remark above about needing a lot of faith to face death is not meant to lessen the objective certitude of proofs for immortality. Moreover, I put great credibility in the two thousand year history of reported Catholic and even other miracles that comport with existence of an afterlife, including one incident involving a very close friend of mine whose sanity and word I trust implicitly.

            Unfortunately, each of us only knows what he knows -- not what others know. I can tell you not to bet on the absence of an afterlife, but you will never believe me -- in this life.

            As for abortion, I just reposted an argument to you which will come up or already is up in the comments. At some point I have to stop commenting and write another piece. So, I may go silent for a while. It does not mean I lost my voice.

            Again though, I respect your dedicated work with those you seek to assist, even if you are not licensed as such. Licensing is sometimes just a piece of paper. Your hard work and sincerity are more than mere paper.

          • Sample1

            Thanks. Understood.

            For what it’s worth, even if a zygote is deemed a person I don’t think that legally or philosophically necessarily simplifies the discussion.

            In fact I think it would make it more difficult, or at least as difficult sans personhood, by presenting a quagmire of new problems. It may gain the pro-life side a short term emotional edge, but emotions are only of persuasive power or rallying power (sometimes). They don’t add to the truth value of a claim.

            But you’re right. It’s late. Well, not where I am. Looking forward to your next article.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Are there metaphysicians working on figuring out how to determine when their metaphysics (both A-T and others) is wrong?"

            Metaphysicians and other philosophers have been determining that certain metaphysical claims are wrong ever since the philosophical sciences were developed.

            It is called careful reasoning. If someone makes a mistake in his reasoning, he is wrong and can be shown to be wrong -- by reasoning.

            I know you cannot stand the thought that pure reason can critique itself, but that is because you are thoroughly committed to a scientistic methodology.

            You admit yourself that science presupposes philosophical theses that cannot be demonstrated by natural science, such as the reality of the extramental physical world and our knowledge of it, the validity of the empirical and experimental method, and so forth.

            And don't forget the basic point I made about science in my first article on SN, namely that science's own materialistic epistemology leads to a conclusion, namely that we know only images in the brain, which contradicts its initial starting point, namely that we know extramental physical reality.
            https://strangenotions.com/naturalisms-epistemological-nightmare/

            Welcome to the club. You are a philosopher too. Only your materialistic epistemology has an inherent glitch in it.

            Natural science reigns supreme in its own proper domain. But that is not philosophical reasoning.

          • George

            What if it is a person with rights, but the woman's right to not continue with a pregnancy is more important? (Edit no.2: asked not with snark, but as a mere hypothetical)

            If you force a pregnancy on someone and they die from it, do you carry any responsibility at all for it?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            No right is more important than the right to life. Life is just the name we give to a living thing's act of existence. The right not to have that existence destroyed is the right to life. All other rights must be secondary, since you cannot have any secondary rights if you do not first exist and have a right to that existence.

            I do not know any way to "force a pregnancy on someone," except to rape her or make someone else rape her. If she dies from the resulting pregnancy, then the rapist would be guilty of negligent homicide, since his illicit act led to her death.

          • George

            if she knew she would die from that pregnancy, and told you she wants to live and thus wants to end the pregnancy, what would you do?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Ethics is not based on expediency, but on doing what is right.

            It is never right to directly kill an innocent human being. Since no one can ever be morally certain that innocent human life is not present in the womb, one is never permitted to directly attack the living human organism in the womb in order to accomplish any ulterior purpose.

          • George

            > After all, none of them are fully developed members of the species. Indeed, we are now told that the human brain does not reach maturity until its owner may be twenty-five years old!

            Such a perspective might be why our for-profit healthcare system has no problem with forcing a 25 year old man to ration his insulin until he falls into a coma and dies.

            > No right is more important than the right to life.

            My conservative culture tells me the property rights of the wealthy are more important.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't know what "conservative culture" you inhabit, but most of the one's I know defend the human right to life over anyone's property rights.

            You are raising a lot of issues that are not central to the moral issue of abortion. I suggest you look at some of the other arguments on this thread so as to better understand what the central arguments are really about.

        • Ficino

          Yes, thanks for the video.

          Where do Hall and/or Deutsch set the "threshold of personhood" for neo-nates and young children, since we don't think they can (yet) create explanatory schemes to solve problems or exercise free will in any meaningful sense?

          • Sample1

            One thing about that definition of personhood, if you noticed, is that it may/will encompass future AGI. Actually that just raised a thought, what would be the equivalent action for abortion in an AGI? Will we have contraception programs? Should we? I suppose it will be up to them to decide as they’ll be creating their own culture, at least eventually if it later changes substantially from our own. But in the beginning, they will emerge from our culture and be part of it. /rhetorical

            As far as human abortion, I can’t clean up the underlying modes of thinking, in a post, those philosophical conjectures which do not contribute to the enterprise of correcting errors in our explanations, which is science: humanity’s instantiation of a tradition of criticism.

            Zygotes, blastocysts, and maybe embryos too seem to be easy: there is no evidence that a nervous system capable (not saying potential) of meeting Deutsch’s definition of person exists, or had existed. Here, contraceptives solve some problems. I’d say we don’t (yet) know what the conscious state of further developed pre-born humans are but I don’t know if that’s how Deutsch would say it. We do have evidence for the autonomy and personhood of women which is what I would add (maybe he does too).

            Philosophy and/or theology that rely on axiomatic or dogmatic foundations are going to be rejected as bad explanations right out of the gate; at least in part because of Deutsch’s fallibilist approach. And in another part because any claim to an absolutely true foundation suffers from an infinite regress of justifying. The optimistic component of fallibilism (all human explanations contain error of some sort) is that it implies the possibility of true knowledge existing. We can always improve the theories we place between us and phenomena. Is fallibilism infallible? Here is a decent article about that from Deutsch: Why It’s Good To Be Wrong/Nothing Obstructs Access To The Truth Like A Belief In Absolute Truthfulness. http://m.nautil.us/issue/2/uncertainty/why-its-good-to-be-wrong

            I don’t think he would say children and neonates are not persons as we can infer, can we not? from their behaviors that the lights are on inside. They may not be creating knowledge about physics or philosophy but knowledge isn’t constrained to just that. The explanation lacking so far, it seems to me, is whether the software that is the mind gets activated by the brain gradually or instantly. Perhaps when/if we are able to create AGI successfully, we will know the part of the program that codes for consciousness. Perhaps it’s as Hall speculates (the subjective feeling of creativity) or something else entirely. Exciting times, hopefully, await our descendants.

            Knowing a better answer to that will help inform better ethics, no doubt. The neat thing, well, frustrating for them, is that if philosophy or theology is going to offer anything by way of a good explanation, one that is hard-to-vary, they are just as dependent on that tradition of criticism as we are.

            This is the best I can come up with off the cuff. If I find something better I’ll pass along.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done. Final.
            @EamusCatuli0771108:disqus

          • Ficino

            And in another part because any claim to an absolutely true foundation suffers from an infinite regress of justifying.

            Yes, this problem is acute. It is at the center of the ancient Pyrrhonian skeptics' way of declining to sign on to dogmatic claims - even the claim that skepticism is the truth!

            A lot in your reply, so till later, F

          • Sample1

            But there is a marked difference between skepticism and criticism, right? Not all skepticism is rational. But criticism can purge whatever irrationalities are found in bad skepticism if the motivating factor is finding good explanations. I’m not opposed to skepticism, quite the contrary, but I’m also not fully onboard with Plato’s philosophy for it or as understand it. :-)

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Ficino

            No, I don't adopt Plato's Theory of Forms etc. The Pyrrhonian skeptics were one of the "schools" of Hellenistic philosophy, though not as officially instituted as the "Garden" of Epicurus or Plato's Academy. The Pyrrhonian skeptics argued that none of the dogmatic schools of philosophy (Academy, Epicureans, Stoics, Peripatetics, et al.) was able to prove itself true and the others false. So the skeptics "suspended judgment" and continued to "inquire."

          • Mark

            As smart as Deutsch is, misrepresenting your interlocutor as he does in the article of the infallibility of Catholic teaching and the Pope is intellectually unsavvy. I've said this before, one of the the things great philosophical minds like Aquinas and Mackie always did, if you're really interested in truth, is represent the best version of their interlocutor's argument. Also known as steel-maning the argument. Not some hubris like what if the Pope declares ex-cathedra that there is no force of gravity. Deutsch should actually follow Popper advice and embrace the "tradition of (substantive) criticism" rather than criticizing hubris.

          • Sample1

            As a former Catholic, I read that analogy carefully. There’s nothing wrong with it that I can see. It’s an analogy. Analogies are not perfect representations of reality. But crucially, Deutsch concedes that by recognizing the pope has a narrow scope of infallibility. That gets him off the metaphysical hook. You may not like the tone, fair enough, but that’s not an argument against content. :-)

            I’m afraid you might have missed the point he was making about certain truthfulness and how that idea is often an obstacle to knowledge. It wasn’t about the pope. It was about analogy to illustrate a larger point, namely the beauty/effectiveness of uncertainty/fallibilism and how it makes us strive to always be open to error correction for any human claim.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done. Final.

          • Mark

            As a former Catholic you should see Deutsch's gross misunderstanding of how papal infallibility is applied. Admitting he has misapplied the logical contradiction in the premise prior to committing a paradox makes it okay? What's the analogy? Because here is a similar analogy: Let's say they finally find Russell's teapot and in it is a hand written note by him to Mike (excommunicated, never a zygote) declaring the square root of 2 is now 1, and because you're an irrational atheist and president of the Russell fan club you are obligated to believe this as true even though it doesn't seem to be true. Sure Russell can calculate circles around you, but you're pretty darn sure 1x1=1. And so now you have to drop some assumptions you thought to be true incontrovertibly. Wait... here's a solution, just be a fallibilist and understand knowledge can be never be certain.

            No, I didn't miss the point, I fully grasped the hidden false presuppositions and the paradox of the analogy. How am I to rationalize that no knowledge should ever be considered infallible by a such a statement. A paradox can never be true or falsified by it's nature. So what?

            Then Deutsch asked to me consider that there is nothing infallible about direct experience either. This is where fallibilism falls off the turnip truck for me. Sorry, if I'm standing outside and I can hear, feel, and see drops of water falling everywhere from the cloudy sky and I'm getting wet, "I believe it's raining" is an infallible statement. If you want to assert the Pope infallibly stated the clouds are crying because I made the flying spaghetti monster mad I'm still infallibly certain I'm standing out in the rain getting wet.

            A related useful thing that faith tells you, if you take it seriously enough, is that the great majority of people who believe something on faith, in fact believe falsehoods.

            How many people believe there is actually a continent known as Antartica that have never directly experienced it?

            In the end all a fallibilist is certain of is the uncertainty of his uncertainty.

          • Sample1

            you should see Deutsch's gross misunderstanding of how papal infallibility is applied.

            Well, the issue is not its application Mark, or how infallibility is applied, it’s the very principle of infallibility full stop, that is incongruent with how good explanations, hard-to-vary, are arrived at through natural methods of inquiry.

            If you aren’t familiar with the rationale for why it is said that we don’t experience anything directly as it is, maybe you would find it enjoyable to learn why that is claimed by philosophers and scientists alike. From optical illusions to cosmic starlight to the rain falling, our brains receive sensory input and construct a mental facsimile, a model, of what we are perceiving. Taking in the light that reflects off the objects through our eyes, stimulating nerves, and sending electrical crackles to the meat in our skull to interpret the signals. Scientific tools help us understand how our experiences of reality are fallible but not necessarily unreliable. Don’t mistake fallibilism with delusional uncertainty. In everyday language, there is nothing wrong with saying you get wet in the rain and being positive about that. But to say your experience is an infallible perception of what rain really is or what anything we perceive in reality is, demonstrates you don’t know what you’re talking about for this subject. :-) Next time you’re at a stop light and see a car in front of you, consider what it is you are actually experiencing: a mental reconstruction of the object before you. Not the actual object. The information* you receive by way of light bouncing off the car and back to your eyes is not the actual object. It’s data for the brain to make a mental map of the territory, not the actual territory. It’s a close approximation (if your brain isn’t on hallucinogens or otherwise altered) in the form of a mental reconstruction that you experience. This is a remarkable thing to be able to know and that humans figured it out. Being ever able to better approximate reality through theory-laden explanations is what knowledge acquisition is all about. I’ve sometimes said that Nature doesn’t do mathematics or evolution. Nature just does nature, or rather, reality does reality. But we don’t. We are not infallible; we experience reality but have historically misunderstood it. We now do our best with the tools we have, like maths and sciences. I hope that makes sense. I’m coming at this from likely a very different understanding than what you may have been exposed to.

            While cars, and rain drops sound like trivial experiences, the explanation for how we perceive reality isn’t. Will knowing about these things change your life or change how you behave day-to-day? Of course not. And there is no after life risk for not believing it. :-) But the knowledge of it may reorient your beliefs about what it means to be infallible about something and why such a term becomes unhelpful when trying to be honest and as bias free as is possible when trying to understand reality as it is in addition to how evolution shapes our brains. That reorientation may also afford you the same feelings of awe and wonder about the nature of universe that you may currently get with religion.

            By the way, I love turnips in a good stew.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done. Final.
            *if you really want to learn about a difficult subject, look into what information is, from a scientific understanding. It will blow your mind.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am amazed to see you still falling into the epistemological trap that your scientific materialism leads you into.

            I explained this fully in my first article on Strange Notions:
            https://strangenotions.com/naturalisms-epistemological-nightmare/

            Just a couple samples of what is in that OP:

            "To verify scientific claims about the reliability of the senses, one must already trust them to apprehend external objects with sufficient accuracy so as to “empirically verify” the initial assumption that the senses apprehend external reality—the real physical world that natural science studies. Such circular reasoning proves nothing."

            And again:

            "This naturalistic “map” itself must be wrong, since it leads to a subjective idealism that contradicts its own starting point: epistemological realism."

            I recall you recently saying that you never really read my main articles through.

            Perhaps, you should start with the one I linked above.

            There is really no way out of the circular reasoning you are swallowing and proposing to Mark.

          • Sample1

            I amaze you and you amaze me. Good situation!

            Mike

  • Ficino

    Not completely OT: the US has worst rate of maternal deaths in developed world, and they are rising as it declines elsewhere

    https://www.npr.org/2017/05/12/528098789/u-s-has-the-worst-rate-of-maternal-deaths-in-the-developed-world?fbclid=IwAR2KtTk_ob7TagAo8bYc8EnxfppKAs2NpIpg2-7EOkaEzJPfIGp0NW-9VDA

    • Sample1

      Those sub linked stories of maternal death are wrenching. Thanks, I hate it.

      Mike, excommunicated

  • In other words, all science presupposes that the universe is intelligible and that our minds are sufficiently reliable that we can make sense of this intelligibility. The universe has a “language” all its own (which points to a Creator) and our minds are capable of speaking this language (which also points to a Creator). To reject the mind as unreliable doesn’t just undermine religion – it undermines all science and all knowledge, which ends up being self-refuting.

    So you are left with either saying that the mind is reliable, which means we should listen to its religious impulse, or the mind is unreliable, in which case how are you sure you should trust anything (your senses, your belief in science, your rejection of religion, or even your belief that the mind is unreliable, etc.?).

    Taken to its logical conclusion, this argument could serve as a post-hoc justification for just about anything. You think you've seen a flying saucer? Well we must assume that the mind is reliable or else science doesn't work. You're hearing voices from people that don't exist? Welp, the mind must be reliable or else no science.

    This argument is obviously a bit silly and relies on a bit of a false dichotomy. There's a big difference between assuming that the mind is reliable enough most of the time for humans to have some kind of relationship with reality and declaring that a particular behavior or trend in human society must be rooted in reality because it was developed by the human mind. Science, as a rule only depends of the former whereas this argument seems to go headlong into the latter.

    In fact, the way science is practiced tends to assume that the mind less reliable, not more. There is a reason why drug trials require double blind studies: Doctors are prone to unconsciously influencing the trials, because even a well trained doctor is not perfectly rational. This is also part of the reason why replication is so important in scientific research. Science is often about using process to overcome the weaknesses in human reasoning and cognition.

  • Ficino

    This is turning into a good thread with many important issues thrown into it, and serious attempts at advancing the discussion.

  • Ficino
  • Herrnhut

    Religions are the rebranding of the ruler of the world, the devil. It is like the difference between night and day. The old covenant which is fading away and the new covenant is upon us. That is why in the Hebrew Bible, the word "yom" a day starts in the evening and then in the brightness of the sun. In the natural mind all cultures teach a day start with the morning. And then the world got worse and get into darkness. The ruler of the world has ingrained into the carnal minds.

    In God's Word and plan, the beginning "was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep" until the Son is revealed and the the world will be at rest with the brightness of His presence. So Pentecost (this Sunday) is the point of change, the first twilight before the dawn.

    In the first Pentecost, three thousand people were killed by law (Levites) under the stone law. When the Pentecost was finally come, three thousand people were saved by Holy Spirit. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." In the end of our chapter "Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts of Holy Spirit Chapter 2)

  • Ficino

    @rob_abney:disqus

    I'm posting here because conversations tend to become hidden and hard to find in the Show More Replies side alleys.

    It seems to me that our interchanges may be running into sense vs. reference problems. My understanding is the following.

    In discussions about the morality of abortion, "human/human being" and "person" often refer to or denote the same entities, e.g. Rob Abney, a human being AND a person. But the two predicates don't have the same sense or meaning because they designate different properties. "Human/human being" is a biological property, interentailing with species inclusion. "Person" is a moral property. It marks the entity as having certain rights (and perhaps responsibilities).

    Metaphysically, "human being" is more basic than "person." That means that what's up for discussion is the question, whether all human beings are persons--and occasionally, whether all persons are human beings.

    From what I've seen, pro-life and pro-choice writers both treat being human as basic but personhood as a supervenient property. Personhood requires some criterion that determines whether it comes on top of a human being's species membership. Either "side" in the debate has to produce an argument for what it holds is the criterion for a human being's having personhood.

    Pro-lifers like Kaczor and George & Tollefsen argue that the criterion for the moral property, personhood, just is the biological property of being human, or species inclusion. Though being human and being a person have different meanings, for pro-lifers like these men, being human is sufficient for being a person. All human beings are persons.

    For pro-choicers like Warren or Greasley or others, the criterion for possessing the moral property, personhood, is a cluster of psychological and cognitive capabilities. Greasley accepts Warren's five-pronged cluster: “(1) consciousness (especially the capacity to feel pain), (2) reasoning ability, (3) self-motivated activity (or, we might say, agency), (4) the capacity to communicate, and (5) a concept of the self. Greasley adds "complex emotional capacity," e.g. empathy. Like Warren, Greasley holds that not every person need possess every one of the five/six key traits, but a creature cannot lack all of these traits and yet be a person.

    Having posited a criterion for personhood, the thinker needs to posit a threshold at which point personhood kicks in. Pro-lifers place this threshold at conception. Greasley places it at birth and defends this with carefully considered arguments; she holds it is not viciously arbitrary. Pro-lifers are punctualists about the threshold: it is attained entirely at one point. Pro-choicers of the Greasley type are gradualists about the threshold: the developing human develops the cluster gradually, therefore comes closer to personhood by stages, there is no clear point, and as a society (nature cares nothing about the question), we have to stipulate a point when we consider the human to have developed so as to be a subject of rights.

    I have noticed that pro-lifers seem to think that their threshold escapes the charge of arbitrariness, and they level that charge against those pro-choicers who make personhood central (as you know, some pro-choicers argue from other angles than personhood). I am convinced so far that ANY threshold is somewhat arbitrary because, as I said earlier (following Ruth Macklin), it seems obvious that the definition of "person" is prescriptive not descriptive. As a moral property, when we define "person" we include a prescription that such a creature has moral rights, and that's a value judgment. It's like defining "work of art" not "paint on canvas" or "marble." What counts as a work of art is not determined by nature but by our values. Natural law theorists may insist that "person" is a descriptive definition, that it encodes rights existing in nature. I call that deriving an ought from an is, and I think it's naive.

    The argument given by philosophical pro-lifers for conception as the threshold usually works from essentialism. These are often "nature of the kind" arguments: the essence, human, or the human species, includes from conception the cluster of cognitive/psychological capacities, i.e. rationality, essential to the kind. Thomist theorists go into more depth than do "new natural law" men like George about the ontological status of this essence that defines the kind; I need not elaborate on SN.

    The argument given by pro-choicers who regard personhood as critical is developmental, so the threshold is either late in gestation or at birth. That's because they maintain that the subject of rights must be able to activate at least some of the cluster of capacities that make up the criterion for personhood. A new-born starts doing things in that cluster that the late fetus can't yet do, so the newborn is a person. Greasley holds that as a property that admits degrees -since it's based on a cluster of cognitive capacities that are scalar - personhood is a range property (Rawls' notion). Any creature just over the line counts (neonate) equally as a person who is the most paradigmatic example of personhood (e.g. Socrates).

    Why is the zygote/embryo etc not a person? Because it does not have the physical structures necessary for the psychological capacities, nor can it come close to exercising those capacities. There is no reason why a non-cognizant member of a biological species should get the moral status of cognizant persons by imputation, just because it shares their species. Potentialities, even "a future like ours" (Marquis' notion), don't make it into the range; living in Suffern NY (on the border of Jersey), you're not a NJ resident. The fetus is not flourishing psychologically at even a neonate's level. This reasoning rejects the species membership criterion for personhood. The woman, on the other hand, has the cognitive capacities, IS a person, her life flourishing counts right now, and it is a gross injustice to countenance harms to her in the interests of what is not a person.

    Greasley addresses an argument largely the same as Dr. Bonnette's "we cannot be morally certain" argument, but I'm already running out of room here, and I told Dr. B I'd try to reply to him about it.

    As I said earlier, what may be the toughest reductio argument against developmentalism is from coma patients, since neonates and the cognitively impaired are covered by other parts of the cluster (you don't have to have all of the capacities to count as a person). The comatose, though, unlike the fetus, has a whole life's history and had some or all of the cognitive capacities, so to kill a coma patient directly for some other good is felt by people in general to be wrong. And as I said, most DO allow that "being a vegetable" is no longer being a person, so if the patient is not just in a coma but brain dead, they would remove life support. Otherwise, the patient may be only temporarily comatose, so the situation is not congruent with that of the fetus.

    Too long already, no more in this combox.

    • Mark

      Interesting that none of the criteria for being a person is to be a human being. That seems to reason that AI machines could have personhood but not a fetus. I haven't read much of either of your references. Maybe they assume this or maybe in their reference material they denote it.

      • Ficino

        I don't know about every pro-lifer, but Catholics must hold that angels are persons. And I think many will allow that intelligent aliens could be persons. If Spock or Chewie showed up, I think most people would accord the same rights as to a real life Han Solo or Captain Kirk. I have no clue about AI ~ but i did see the Star Trek I movie in a galaxy long ago.

        • Mark

          AI-It makes for an interesting moral dilemma. As far as aliens, personally I believe the universe is too big for us to be the only life. It'll be nice when Spock shows up and tells us a Jesus Vulcan rose from the dead 2k light years ago; but even then there would still be skeptics. :)

          Now to be serious...

          A new-born starts doing things in that cluster that the late fetus can't yet do, so the newborn is a person

          Actually not really. I have taken embryology classes both as an undergrad and graduate student. There really are very little changes from unborn to born in a full term pregnancy. When the first breath is taken there are immediate physiological cardiac, circulatory, and respiratory changes. Those are not neurological changes, per se, but autonomic responses to physiological changes based on pressure changes in the atrium when the lungs fill with air. Based on your criteria, a third trimester fetus has personhood according to 1,3 & 4. They move when prompted; they feel discomfort and are motivated to respond to that discomfort; they recognize and respond to the voice of their mother or music all in the womb. So I'm not really sure how this advances the pro-choice agenda.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Here is a philosophical argument against the very common belief that the universe is simply too big not to have intelligent living beings elsewhere than just on earth:

            https://www.godandscience.org/evolution/philosophy_darwinian_evolution.html

          • Mark

            I agree that if life is found elsewhere in the cosmos that it is a result of preternatural agency. Most artists I know work in many mediums; it's the nature of creators.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            My own article is a bit misleading in saying that preternatural agency is needed for new and higher philosophical natural species to appear. What is preternatural can be either devine or demonic. The next line in the text refers to another article in which I make clear that every change in the cosmos requires divine causation.
            https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

            Thus it turns out that the causal agency required for life to start anywhere in the cosmos is actually supernatural, not merely preternatural.

            This is all the more evident in the case of the origin of, not only the first, but each and every human spiritual soul.

            Since the human soul is spiritual it cannot arise from mere matter, since the cause would not be proportionate to the effect, Nor can it be transmuted from any prior spiritual being, since one spiritual being cannot be changed into another spiritual being as in the case of material substantial change, where the matter constitutes an underlying principle of continuity.

            This means that the human spiritual soul must be created using nothing prior to make it. Such creation is the proper act of God alone. Hence, for rational creatures with spiritual souls to appear elsewhere in the cosmos. solely a supernatural cause would suffice, namely, God himself.

            See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 90, a. 3, c.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Dr. Bonnete,

            evolution's unscientific unfalsifiability,

            Some ways to falsify biological evolution:
            Find mammal fossils in an undisturbed Cretaceous layer
            (or any one of myriad other potential examples of misplaced fossils.)
            Show that the Earth is too young, say 6000 years, to allow enough time for evolution to have occurred.
            Show that selection cannot result in physiological changes in populations of organisms.
            Show that beneficial mutations cannot occur.
            Show that there is no cellular mechanism for transmission of physiological traits in reproduction.

            Biological evolution is highly falsifiable.
            Biological evolution has not been falsified.
            That is why biological evolution is accepted as true.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            While I have no doubt that most Darwinians are convinced that biological evolution is absolutely scientific because it is falsifiable, it appears that I am in good company in raising the question as to its falsifiability.

            Dr. Karl Popper is the leading philosopher of science who is credited with raising the criterion of falsifiability as a test of whether a discipline was genuinely scientific.

            Here is a commentary on what he has to say about the scientific falsifiability of biological evolution:

            "It is clear, however, that Popper had not really retracted his original 1974 claim regarding Darwinism not being a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme.[12] In fact in the 1982 revised edition of the book, his original conclusion that "Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme" remained.[12] Leading Darwinist and philosopher of science, Michael Ruse acknowledged regarding Popper's statement and the actions he took after making that statement: "Since making this claim, Popper himself has modified his position somewhat; but, disclaimers aside, I suspect that even now he does not really believe that Darwinism in its modern form is genuinely falsifiable."[12]

            https://www.conservapedia.com/Falsifiability_of_evolution

          • Nova Conceptum

            Ok, that's a quote from a philosopher which is fine as maybe an indication that some other person is also questioning the falsifiability of evolution, but I don't see how quoting Popper constitutes a sound argument that the methods of falsifying evolution I listed somehow could not falsify evolution.

            Dr. Bonnette, you provided a link to an article you wrote that I quoted from wherein you stated "evolution's unscientific unfalsifiability,"
            I responded with 5 ways evolution could, in principle, be falsified.
            Your response in turn was to quote a philosopher as joining you in questioning the falsifiability of evolution.

            It's not that quoting a philosopher is necessarily a bad thing, and it is generally a fine thing to question the validity of any scientific theory, but I don't see how citing a line from Popper negates the clear methods of falsifying evolution I listed above.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What you are missing is that "falsifiability" is not merely a scientific question, but a philosophical evaluation of the significance of arguments such as the ones you put forward.

            Obviously, you can falsify certain parts of evolutionary theory, but the problem is that no matter how much you falsify, the "metaphysical research programme," as Popper puts it, remains intact.

            That is why the relevance of Karl Popper, who is not only a leading philosopher of science, but the very person who came up with the concept of falsifiability as a criterion of true science in the first place. If his evaluation of the question is not informative, whose is?

            I don't think we are going to settle this matter which has been the subject of a great deal of debate, and which, frankly, is not a major premise in my overall philosophical work.

          • David Nickol

            Obviously, you can falsify certain parts of evolutionary theory, but the problem is that no matter how much you falsify, the "metaphysical research programme," as Popper puts it, remains intact.

            This is all a bit above my head, but if I am not mistaken, Popper "recanted" in a talk titled Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind (Darwin College, Cambridge, November 8, 1977).

            I mention this problem because I too belong among the culprits. Influenced by what these authorities say, I have in the past described the theory as "almost tautological",[7] and I have tried to explain how the theory of natural selection could be untestable (as is a tautology) and yet of great scientific interest. My solution was that the doctrine of natural selection is a most successful metaphysical research program. It raises detailed problems in many fields, and it tells us what we would expect of an acceptable solution of these problems.

            I still believe that natural selection works in this way as a research program. Nevertheless, I have changed my mind about the testability and the logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation. My recantation may, I hope, contribute a little to the understanding of the status of natural selection.

            [7]. Objective Knowledge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 241. See also my "Metaphysical Epilogue" to Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics, vol. III of the Postscript to the Logic of Scientific Discovery, ed. W. W. Bartley, III (London: Hutchinson, 1982).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As often happens in scholarship, we can wind up wondering what was actually the most recent position someone takes.

            Here was the citation I gave above. Notice the dates:

            "In fact in the 1982 revised edition of the book, his original conclusion that "Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme" remained.[12] Leading Darwinist and philosopher of science, Michael Ruse acknowledged regarding Popper's statement and the actions he took after making that statement: "Since making this claim, Popper himself has modified his position somewhat; but, disclaimers aside, I suspect that even now he does not really believe that Darwinism in its modern form is genuinely falsifiable."[12]"

            Your source appears dated 1977, but mine is later in 1982.

            And yet, there is a mention of 1982 at the bottom of your citation. I cannot tell if it is relevant to the issue at hand.

            One always wonders, "What if he had just lived a little bit longer?"!

          • Nova Conceptum

            What you are missing is that "falsifiability" is not merely a scientific question, but a philosophical evaluation of the significance of arguments such as the ones you put forward.

            You made the claim "evolution's unscientific unfalsifiability,"
            What makes a theory unscientific due to unfalsifiability? What sorts of falsifiabilities would negate your claim?

            Scientific falsification. You are free to develop whatever philosophy you like, but if a scientific theory is scientifically falsifiable then the claim that that theory is unscientific due to unfalsifiability is itself falsified.

            Which is just what I have done. I have falsified your claim that the theory of biological evolution is unscientific due to an absence of potential falsifications, and I have done so by providing clear counter examples that are very much on point.

            Obviously, you can falsify certain parts of evolutionary theory, but the problem is that no matter how much you falsify, the "metaphysical research programme," as Popper puts it, remains intact.

            Not in the case of necessary enabling mechanisms, no, that is not the case.

            If the Earth is 6000 years old the theory of evolution is scientifically falsified, because measured mutation rates show that 6000 years is not even close to enough time for the number of mutations needed.

            If selection has no impact on traits of populations of organisms evolution is falsified in whole.

            If there is no cellular mechanism for transmitting inherited traits evolution is falsified in whole.

            It is true that variations on peripheral aspects of evolution could be shown to be not the case without dooming biological evolution as a scientific theory.

            But not so for core enabling mechanisms. Show that these core enabling mechanisms are not the case, and cannot be the case, and you will have scientifically falsified the theory of evolution entirely.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Do you honestly think that the eminent Dr. Popper, who invented the notion of "falsifiability" was ignorant of the kinds of points you just made -- when he concluded that biological evolution was ultimately "unfalsifiable?" Do you know as much about this "metaphysical research programme" as he did?

          • Nova Conceptum

            Do you honestly think that the eminent Dr. Popper, who invented the notion of "falsifiability" was ignorant of the kinds of points you just made

            One can suppose he had exposure to them. That says nothing about the validity of his conclusions.

            when he concluded that biological evolution was ultimately "unfalsifiable?" Do you know as much about this "metaphysical programme" as he did?

            Argument from authority.

            The asserted eminence of Popper or anybody else is irrelevant. Arguments are relevant, and thus far you have provided no arguments as to how falsification of core enabling mechanisms, or falsification of core enabling observations, would not scientifically falsify the scientific theory of biological evolution.

            Therefor, my falsification of your claim "evolution's unscientific unfalsifiability," stands.

            Popper, or you, or anybody else can develop a philosophy of metaphysics and apply it to whatever you wish to, fine, but that is not what the scientific theory of biological evolution is.

            Evolution theory would be unscientific if there were no potential scientific falsifications to it, but there are many such scientific falsification that can be tested for, making evolution theory scientific due to the ability to test for scientific falsifications to it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You force me to restate Michael Ruse's reading of Karl Popper's position on evolution's falsifiability:

            "Leading Darwinist and philosopher of science, Michael Ruse acknowledged regarding Popper's statement and the actions he took after making that statement: "Since making this claim, Popper himself has modified his position somewhat; but, disclaimers aside, I suspect that even now he does not really believe that Darwinism in its modern form is genuinely falsifiable."[12]"

            I fear you badly overestimate the value of your own arguments here and underestimate the importance of Karl Popper's judgment on the criterion of falsifiability that he himself created and made famous.

            This is not a question of finding a few important parts of evolution theory that can be falsified, but rather a judgment of the overall theory in relation to all its parts -- a more general judgment that Popper was uniquely qualified to make, especially since the criterion of falsifiability for science was his own personal contribution to our understanding of that exact criterion.

            Popper's doctorate was not in philosophy, but psychology. And his eminence as an expert on the nature of science and evolution theory was such that he was considered perhaps the leading philosopher of science of the twentieth century.

            Before you place your own particular arguments up against the breadth and depth of Popper's judgment here, I suggest you read carefully this lengthy exposition on Popper's life and his importance to the philosophy of science: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Popper

            Forgive me, but I trust his estimation about the applicability of the criterion of falsifiability to evolution theory to yours.

            Edit: Just to put all this into proper focus, you should be aware that I have published a book that demonstrates how evolution theory is rationally compatible with the central tenets of Christian belief about divine revelation: Origin of the Human Species -- third edition (Sapientia Press, 2014). So that statement you took from the context of one of my articles should be considered in light of the central theme of my book on evolution of the human species.

          • Sample1

            Nice to meet you and I hope you stick around.

            Evolution has withstood and continues to withstand the severest of criticisms leveled at it. It remains the best explanation we have for the diversity of life in this part of the galaxy. It is hard-to-vary, meaning it is highly vulnerable to falsification like all our best explanations of nature. On this I’m guessing we agree. :-)

            And then we have philosophyism:

            Absolutely certain and supreme explanations in practice or theory for all aspects of existence experienced by human beings.

            Philosophyism abjures all knowledge creating disciplines of empirical modeling as ultimately inferior modes of thinking about the human condition.

            And so, again, welcome! The conversations here try to meet somewhere between philosophyism and scientism. You know...reality. Where evolution plays out.

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done.

          • Ficino

            Thanks for this information. It is a strike against the punctualist, who holds that the criterion for personhood is attained at a point given in nature. It is not telling against the gradualist, however, who holds that personhood supervenes on a cluster of psychological/cognitive capacities that are attained gradually. Early in the pregnancy, says the gradualist, it is clear that the embryo is not a person. It is clear that a post-neonate baby is a person. There is no stark dividing line placed between those poles by nature. That's why it is a matter of stipulation, not of discovery of biological facts, when to say that the human organism is a person with moral rights. Since we need to settle on some threshold to guide decisions, Greasley proposes birth as the most reasonable threshold, not denying that late fetuses share many characeristics with newborns.

            The newborn is plunged into the world, so that's a qualitative difference from being enclosed in the womb. It's a step of complex adaptation to the world. One starts to act out one's personhood in a world peopled by other persons. I don't have expertise to evaluate Greasley's info and judgment that "it is simply false … to claim that the late fetus and the newborn share all of their properties except for their respective locations," e.g. the newborn gains primitive recognition of facial features (possibly as early as by the 42nd minute), exposure to content that is essential for developing conscious experience, it experiences and reacts to things other than itself, thus beginning agency. So Greasley allows that birth as a legal starting point for personhood exemplifies the arbitrariness that necessarily attaches to stipulation at any point.

            I have read that in Judaism, morally significant human life is considered to begin at birth not conception.

    • Rob Abney

      Ficino, thanks for spelling out the debate, that's a good synopsis.
      I apologize that my response(s) won't be as detailed.

      Your advocacy of the gradualism approach presupposes that a personal substance exists from the moment of conception. You then list properties that a person will develop and be able to use functionally. But the properties are not the person, you mistake the signs for the thing being signified.
      You did refer to this argument, but you didn't refute it, it seems as though you just dismissed it?

      • Ficino

        I'm sorry, Rob, but you are still using "person" as a synonym for "human organism." Perhaps I introduced confusion when I wrote ""Human/human being" is a biological property." I should have restricted myself to saying that "being human" or "species membership" are properties of the animal, the human being. Personhood is another, different sort of property. Species membership is a biological property, personhood is a moral property. The thing that has those properties is the animal of the kind that you and I belong to.

        • Rob Abney

          The thing that has those properties is the animal of the kind that you and I belong to

          the "thing" that you refer to is the essential component! The descriptor "animal" refers to properties.
          Thanks for responding but I don't think you can dismiss the substantial form that is always present.
          edit: removed a word (also)

          • Ficino

            My reasons against essentialist criteria for personhood were buried in the above long post:

            ... the subject of rights must be able to activate at least some of the cluster of capacities that make up the criterion for personhood... There is no reason why a non-cognizant member of a biological species should get the moral status of cognizant persons by imputation, just because it shares their species.

            I bolded "imputation" because that's what's happening when one confers rights on zygotes etc by reasoning from the properties of paradigmatic human persons, i.e. people who have rationality etc. The zygote is supposed to be a person with moral rights because it has the essence or substantial form of "man." And membership in the human species, or possession of the "form" of man, is supposed to be the basis of rights because the essence of man is "rational biped" or the like. So rationality, since it's contained in the essence, is necessary, on the essentialist "nature of the kind" account, for a being to be man. But zygotes etc cannot exercise rationality; they only have it potentially by virtue of the essence/form/nature. Therefore:
            1. rationality is not a necessary property of man after all, since not all "men" (i.e. human beings) are or can be rational;
            2. the zygote is supposed to be a person, not by virtue of its potential, but by virtue of possessing right now, actually, a rational nature; but the rationality entailed by the nature is as yet potential; so the zygote is a person only by virtue of a potentiality after all. Actual possession of a rational nature cashes out in fact as potentiality for rationality. Thus, back to the above problems: the zygote gets a moral property, not because it has the capabilities on which the moral property supervenes, but because OTHER members of the species have them, and those members' capabilities, or the entailments, are imputed to the zygote via the mediating concept, whether we call that concept "rational nature" or "essence" or "substantial form".
            Essentialist "nature of the kind" accounts of the criterion of personhood, then, become incoherent, as far as I can see. [ETA: An A-T essentialist account would say that DNA is the instrument and the information it contains is the formal cause of the body and brain. But I think the work done by DNA is accommodated on a naturalistic account.]
            Borderline cases such as zygotes, or cases of defect, in fact generate the sort of problem that makes me not sign on to A-T notions of form and matter. It's one thing to use constructs but another to insist that "substantial form" or "rational nature" and the like denote realities existing in nature independently of our analysis. But I'm a naturalist, so to debate that vs. A-T is way beyond this thread.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Ficino,

            I don't see any grounds for your distinction between species membership as a biological property and personhood as a moral property.

            A living person is a living member of the species homo sapiens sapiens. The remains of a member of our species who has died is not a living person. The pre-personhood collection of cells of a potential member or our species is not a living person.

            It seems to me your moral/species distinction is false.

            Above you provide a list of personhood criteria provided by a particular pro-choicer. Those items clearly fail in many instances of unconscious people and if adopted would allow the killing of the unconscious. My advice to that pro-choicer is never go to sleep.

            Equally false are the confusions between a potential human being and an actual human being of the pro-lifers. Burning blueprints is not arson.

            The only criteria for humanity that withstands careful criticism is brain function. The brain is the only organ that cannot be replaced, even in principle, and still maintain a continuity of identity.

            If technology ever permits the transplantation of the brain it will become the first and only organ wherein the personal identity of the individual moves and stays with the transplanted organ.

            When the brain dies, the person dies. That is the law, which reflects a nearly universal sensibility that our identity resides in our brain. Logically then, a person begins to live when the brain begins to live, that is, achieves a threshold of function.

          • Ficino

            The remains of a member of our species who has died is not a living person.

            Moral philosophers use "person" as a term of art. I addressed the issue of unconscious people elsewhere on this thread. And your last paragraph is not compatible with the position that makes "person" coextensive with "human being," since the brain is not present at all stages of gestation.

            If you have an overall view about whether, or under what conditions, abortion is licit, we will profit from hearing it.

          • Nova Conceptum

            If you have an overall view about whether, or under what conditions, abortion is licit, we will profit from hearing it.

            Abortion is licit when the cells removed do not constitute a living human being, which I equate with a person.

            I don't know of any case of a living human being that is not a person. I do not know of any case of a person that is not a living human being. Person = Living Human Being.

            Maternal self defense is a legitimate justification for abortion of even an in-utero person. Even the most restrictive laws passed against abortion include a maternal self defense exception.

            Rape, incest, maternal self determination, fetal dependency, heartbeat, breath, and viability all fail as criteria either for or against abortion.

            Thus, I laid out a very brief statement above that fetal brain function is the only rational criteria to determine if an abortion is legitimately justified or not.

          • Ficino

            I don't know of any case of a living human being that is not a person.

            someone who is brain dead and not merely comatose?

            Maternal self defense is a legitimate justification for abortion of even an in-utero person.

            I agree, but I think you'll need to defend this position with an argument, without overturning your position that a living human creature with a working brain is a person with the right to life.

            Your position also seems to entail that an early stage fetus whose brain is not yet developed, or is not functioning as a brain, is not a human being. if that's your position, it goes against what many people on both "sides" of the debate hold. So, why should a certain level of brain functioning be the threshold at which the collection of human cells becomes a human being? You'll need to stave off arbitrariness objections.

            In line with the above, you seem to treat as otiose the distinction made by various moral philosophers between a biological property and a moral property. Personhood is held to be a moral not biological property. But so far you have only asserted that the two have the same semantic range, unless I mistake you.

            Looking forward to hearing more, F

          • Rob Abney

            The moral rights of a zygote. You consider those rights to be based upon what a zygote can do. But a good definition of morality is Patricia Churchland’s evolutionary neurobiological approach. She considers morality to be a trait that developed as mammals grew bigger brains, but bigger brain development required more care for the developing offspring. Churchland’s definition of morality is the sacrifice that one makes to benefit another. So the developing offspring benefits from the morality of the parent, especially the mother. The developing offspring is the present state that requires a sacrifice to produce the future. From that view it is immoral to not protect the developing offspring from the very beginning.

            Thanks to Michael Murray for directing me to the Sean Carroll podcast where Dr. Churchland was a guest this week.

          • Evolution is a *terrible* source of morality.

          • Yes, this is what I was trying to say in my comment to you this morning. I see I needn't have gone off in that direction, you already got there!

  • Nova Conceptum

    OP"This creates a real pickle for atheists. If you try to explain away this
    innate belief structure evolutionarily, that our minds believe a
    falsehood like religion because it’s beneficial for group survival,
    you’re undermining the reliability of the mind."
    "So you are left with either saying that the mind is reliable, which
    means we should listen to its religious impulse, or the mind is
    unreliable, in which case how are you sure you should trust anything
    (your senses, your belief in science, your rejection of religion, or
    even your belief that the mind is unreliable, etc.?)."

    False dichotomy.

    In science we provisionally accept that the senses (meaning our sense/brain system) are basically reliable.

    We recognize that our sense experience has some fairly good correlation with an external existence, but that our sense experience is also distorted and subject to a great many potential errors, inconsistencies, and limitations.

    What to do about this twilight zone existence between total accuracy and total fiction? Use the scientific method.

    The evidence that the scientific method is a valid way to asymptotically approach an accurate understanding of external reality is all around you in all the amazing technologies you use that actually do work, not the least of which is the computer you are using right now.

    When humanity applies the scientific method again and again over centuries ancient errors such as geocentrism, Aristotelian physics, demon theory of disease, and god speculations of all sorts are relegated to the dustbin of delusions.

    Atheism in a pickle? Hardly. It is theism that is on the wane, and has virtually disappeared among the highly educated scientifically minded segment of our society.

    • Rob Abney

      How does the scientific method determine whether certain acts are moral or immoral? Surely it is important to know accurately whether murder or theft or harassment are accurate or acceptable?

      • Nova Conceptum

        Morality is an individual sensibility, an emotion, a brain function of the individual that our consciousness brain functions detect as a sense of ought.

        If an individual can provide accurate descriptions of basic principles he or she feels are moral or immoral then the scientific method can be used to determine conformity to those principles in various circumstances.

        Since there are no published accounts of a provably absolute moral truth, or a demonstrably objective moral proposition the determination of what is acceptable is a collective, relative, aggregate process of individuals communicating aspects of their personal sensibilities and arriving at a set of moral principles agreed upon by convention.

        • Rob Abney

          If it is an individual sensibility then why is it universally accepted to be brave rather than cowardly, to be honest rather than deceitful, or to protect the innocent?
          Your scientism is unbecoming.

          • Nova Conceptum

            If it is an individual sensibility then why is it universally accepted

            It isn't.
            There are exceptions, even whole contrary populations, to every example you cite.

            to be brave rather than cowardly

            What is asserted to be bravery is often nothing more than stupidity.

            To the extent that bravery is commonly held in high regard it is merely the case that human beings share nearly the same physiology, and thus nearly the same sensibilities.

            Insects may sacrifice themselves for the good of the colony, does that mean they are acting in accordance with an absolutely provable principle that bravery is good?

            honest rather than deceitful

            The number of available counter examples is almost unbounded.

            Universal? I question how well you thought this assertion through.

            protect the innocent

            Again, the availability of counter examples is so vast that one cannot but conclude you really did not give this assertion much careful thought.

            Your scientism is unbecoming

            Oh here we go...Scientism, the goto false attribution...

          • Rob Abney

            There are exceptions, even whole contrary populations, to every example you cite.

            Go ahead and list some of the examples.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Of people who consider dishonesty to be better than honesty?

            Who feel it is better to victimize the innocent than to protect them?

            For examples you can begin with politicians, dictators, purveyors of genocide, slavers, frauds, cheats, and criminals of many sorts.

            Further, there have been philosophies dedicated to such principles for millennia, kraterocracy, master morality, going back to Thrasymachus.

  • Ficino

    Good arguments. I'd say the only things that give me pause about brain functioning at 20-something weeks rather than birth as the threshold of personhood are:
    1. some morally important differences between neonate and late fetus, so birth is a reasonable threshold as well;
    2. late pregnancies that threaten the woman's life or health, or that will not be viable. A principle in deciding between mother and late fetus is that we normally think one may not kill one person to preserve the life of another, unless both are certain to die otherwise. If you're arguing that the 20+ wk fetus is a person because of its brain functions, then it seems as though you'd be obligated to classify as murders a good number of late-term abortions deemed medically necessary and decriminalized in NY, IL, I think NM, maybe some other states. That's because the mother's life isn't always at stake in these tragic situations.

    • Nova Conceptum

      I'd say the only things that give me pause about brain functioning at
      20-something weeks as the threshold of personhood rather than birth are:

      Hmm...I did not make that assertion. I thought my writing was clear, but, sometimes what is clear to me when I write is not clear to the reader.

      No, 20 weeks is the present law in the USA. I tend to write America-centric, I know some people here live in other countries, so apologizes if that is a factor.

      The SCOTUS ruled that a state could use 20 weeks as a proxy for viability. Viability under SCOTUS rulings is the ability to survive with the aid of technology. About 21 weeks is the lowest number for viability so far so SCOTUS used 20 weeks to provide a 1 week margin.

      None of the above viability standards are a brain function standard. The viability standard and the brain function standard are mutually exclusive and not at all the same sort of standard.

      Viability is the notion of physical survivability with the aid of the most advanced technology available.

      Brain function is a developmental stage of the individual irrespective of physical location or life support system.

      Brain function is the signature of the intrinsic personhood of the individual.

      Viability is just a measure of the physical effectiveness of present day medical technology, and is disconnected from any consideration of the intrinsic humanity or personhood of the individual, and should thus be replaced as a standard for abortion permissibly.

      • Ficino

        Viability is the notion of physical survivability with the aid of the most advanced technology available.

        Perhaps I misused "viable." I was talking about cases in which it is determined that because of some defect, genetic or otherwise, a late-term fetus, if born, will not survive.

        • Nova Conceptum

          That is another aspect of viability I have not given enough consideration, so thanks for bringing that up.

          I was talking about the viability standard as it is now used in the USA for determining when an abortion is or is not legal, most commonly with a normally developing fetus that would be expected to have a normal live birth if carried to term.

          In Casey the SCOTUS replaced the trimester framework of Roe with the viability standard.

          In Webster the SCOTUS upheld a requirement for a viability test after 20 weeks.

          I see now that very recently a ban after 20 weeks was struck down in North Carolina this year possibly because there wasn't a viability test in the law, not sure of the details yet.

          You do raise an interesting case, however, what to do about a fetus that has a sufficiently developed brain under the brain function standard yet is provably not viable even if carried to term? I'm not sure that is a medical possibility but it does raise a thorny ethical issue regarding inevitable death and removing life support.

          • Ficino

            If you Google "late term abortion stories" or similar phrases you'll find information about malformed late-term fetuses in accounts such as this:

            https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/18/late-term-abortion-experience-donald-trump

            One fetus had malformations that were pinpointed only in the 36th week. If born, the baby would have suffered and died.

          • Sample1

            When moral challenges are confronted, I turn to Donald Trump for answers.

            You want someone who is ethically wise. The thing I like about Trump is that he is so deeply ethical and wise. He is so well-informed about the way the world works and where he's not informed he recognizes his ignorance quickly any remedies it as fast as possible. He seeks out the best experts and defers to them. He is mindful as to the limits of his knowledge as he is about his expertise and his expertise is vast. -Sam Harris

            Mike, excommunicated
            (That Guardian article was a tough read. Thanks again, I hate it. :-) )

          • Nova Conceptum

            My bad, hidden, not deleted. Click username, find convo in Discus, left click on share, paste URL into address bar of new tab, presto, found it.

          • Rob Abney

            A lot of medical misinformation in that article, seems to be primarily a political piece.

          • David Nickol

            Can you give one or two examples?

          • Rob Abney

            Dandy walker syndrome can only be diagnosed after birth, at 2-3 months earliest. This site chronicles children living with the condition.
            http://dandy-walker.org/
            Children born in modern medical facilities with conditions anticipated before birth are not allowed to suffer, medical care is more humane than abortion.
            I’m sure you can notice the political POV.

          • David Nickol

            Dandy walker syndrome can only be diagnosed after birth, at 2-3 months earliest.

            I am baffled as to why you would make a statement so easily discoverable to be false—and get a "gold star" for it, too!

            A Google search using the following two phrases—"dandy-walker syndrome" "prenatal diagnosis"—will yield thousands of results. Here's an excerpt from one.

            How Is Dandy-Walker Malformation Diagnosed?

            Your physician may detect Dandy-Walker malformation in your baby with a fetal high-resolution (level II) ultrasound during the second or third trimester. Your doctor may refer you to our Fetal Medicine Institute for further testing to evaluate your baby’s condition. Tests may include:

            Fetal MRI to help confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions (e.g., arachnoid cysts, Blake’s pouch cysts, vermian hypoplasia, mega cisterna magna) that look like Dandy-Walker malformation on ultrasound tests.

            MRI after birth to confirm the condition and diagnose any complications affecting your baby

            Ultrasound after birth to confirm the condition and diagnose any complications affecting your baby

            Even the Wikipedia entry discusses prenatal diagnosis by ultrasound.

            I’m sure you can notice the political POV.

            My only concern was with your remark that the article contained "a lot of medical misinformation." It is not my intention to defend late-term abortions.

          • Rob Abney

            I realize you can learn almost anything from the internet but you still have to consider your sources, wikipedia vs Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 80 (2003) 36–53 ?!
            "The embryologic development of these structures is
            complex, beginning at about 3 weeks gestation and
            continuing until 20 months of postnatal life for complete
            cellular differentiation of the cerebellar layers in humans."
            "the ability to predict the degree of motor and cognitive impairment based on the gross appearance of brain images has been problematic.Cerebellar symptoms such as ataxia and motor incoordination or brainstem impairment have been equally difficult to prognosticate. Even more challenging has
            been the prenatal identification of a posterior fossa
            malformation, with resultant inability to accurately
            predict the outcome, often resulting in poorly informed
            decisions regarding pregnancy termination"

          • David Nickol

            This information does not support your claim above that "Dandy walker syndrome can only be diagnosed after birth, at 2-3 months earliest." In fact, your entire article (which I managed to find even though you provided no link) is about prenatal diagnosis of Dandy-Walker Syndrome and related disorders and how to do it better.

            I don't know why you insist on being disingenuous. If you want to argue that prenatal diagnosis of DWS is difficult and not 100% reliable, or that even when the brain defect is detected prenatally the degree of impairment after birth varies widely, you have the evidence on your side. And of course anyone who is pro-life would argue that prenatal detection of DWS is no justification for abortion. But you still insist you are correct and the original linked article contains "a lot of medical misinformation—a claim you have failed to substantiate.

            Once again, I urge you or anyone else to do a Google search using the following two phrases—"dandy-walker syndrome" and "prenatal diagnosis." There will be thousands upon thousands of results.

          • Rob Abney

            No, you don’t understand how diagnoses are made. Diagnoses are not made from MRIs.
            Not only does the article have a lot of medical misinformation and political bias but also a lot of emotional language intended to support abortion advocacy.

          • David Nickol
          • David Nickol

            Not only does the article have a lot of medical misinformation and political bias but also a lot of emotional language intended to support abortion advocacy.

            All I asked was for you to point out one or two examples of medical misinformation. You have failed to do so. You are in some strange kind of denial when it comes to the prenatal diagnosis of Dandy-Walker Syndrome. You have not provided one shred of evidence to support your claim that it cannot be diagnosed prenatally.

  • Ficino

    So the gradualist pro-choice argues that if the 5/6 prongs of psychological development are present we can unarbitrarily be certain that is a person.

    No, the gradualist doesn't say, my threshold isn't arbitrary but your threshold at conception is arbitrary. The gradualist holds that by the nature of the case, any threshold is a matter of stipulation and thus entails some arbitrariness, as legal stipulations do. Everyone shoulders some arbitrariness in this debate. But there is unjust and/or capricious arbitrariness and informed arbitrariness. The gradualist, who posits that developmental properties and not species membership constitute the base on which personhood supervenes, holds that considerable development must take place for that particular human being to be a person. Kate Greasley gives reasons why she thinks birth is the best place to stipulate the threshold. We all have to stipulate some place because "personhood" as a moral property is not conferred directly in nature.

    Nova Conceptum seems to take a similar tack but to stipulate a point of brain development as the best threshold, in the 20-something week range. I hope I understand/remember him correctly. That's a reasonable position.

    To stipulate that the fertilized ovum is already a "person", i.e. a subject of moral rights, is a flawed move as I see it because it relies on imputing the personhood of paradigmatic species members to the zygote, which possesses none of the capabilities on which personhood is supposed to supervene.

    The reductio argument, that the gradualist's position entails infanticide, is one of the most common. I think I've already given reasons in previous posts why I think the cluster property and range property explanations of the gradualist's position give grounds to rule out infanticide consistently.

    I have not read any gradualist who denies the late-stage fetus the development that you describe. But birth is more than simply a change in the accident of location. Rights are social, so they are accorded to persons in society. Membership in society starts at birth not inside the womb. The most obvious change: physical separation from the pregnant woman, an immediate difference between neonate and late fetus, the latter still being totally enmeshed inside the woman. There are new enzyme systems and a new digestive system activated. Greasley cites a study that the neonate has new behaviors incl some recognition of facial features as early as 42 minutes after birth, indicating a primitive form of self-consciousness. So birth is a reasonable threshold, but on the gradualist view, cases can be made on either side of it.

    • Mark

      I think I've already given reasons in previous posts why I think the cluster property and range property explanations of the gradualist's position give grounds to rule out infanticide consistently.

      My apologies because I missed that. If you don't mind re-introducing the rules to prevent infanticide that don't beg the question of personhood begins at birth I'd surely appreciate it; or a link it if you prefer.

      I agree the most obvious change at birth is a social change in where as a society we are morally responsible to care for the child when the parent cannot.

      Greasley must have access to information on visual cortex development that I don't have. Neonate can only see about 1 foot away from their eyes and their vision is between 20-200 and 20-600. That's legally blind. Seeing shadows don't make you self-conscious... well, unless you're morbidly obese or lanky.

      Activation of a human biological systems during development is not what you're arguing here. But you continue to hint at these birth related physiological changes. I'm trying really hard not to smuggle in non-cognitive biological traits into your argument knowing that you'd respond with a charge of being an essentialist/punctualist. It'd help the conversation if you try not too as well.

      By your last comment am I correct that you concede that cognitive function gradualism entails the possibility of infanticide up to 24 months- the age of complex emotional reasoning (criteria 6)?

      • Ficino

        Mark, before I make a more considered reply, was your earlier the post, the one to which I replied, deleted? I can't find it.

        By your last comment am I correct that you concede that cognitive function gradualism entails the possibility of infanticide up to 24 months- the age of complex emotional reasoning (criteria 6)?

        No, because not all the cluster properties have to be "actualized" fully at once in order to consider the human being a subject of moral rights (a person), acc to the Warren schema followed by Greasley. The same problem would come up at the end of life with dementia patients and others. Warren and Greasley hold that an infant has the requisite, at least the minimum, for personhood. That's a feature of range property arguments - as in Suffern just barely being in NY State but just as much NYS as Albany.

        More later.

        • Mark

          I still see it, but Disqus is a fickle friend.

          • Ficino

            I'm seeing an earlier comment marked as spam. Could that be yours, so that you are able to see your own earlier comment, while the same comment is coming over on my computer marked "spam" by disqus? ETA: maybe because of the two links you attached?

          • Mark

            I see one a comment by Nova you replied to that Disqus ate earlier today too. Where you replied "Good arguments" and go on to mention murder in certain states. I didn't get to see the good arguments.

            I reloaded the page and now I see it ate it. That post took some time.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Trust me Mark, those were not only good arguments, they were mega super awesome comments, and the actions of the robo comment killer are thus a true and potentially unrecoverable blow to posterity.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Yes folks, it looks like Uber Alles robot is has identified me as a threat to all that is good and decent and has protected your innocent eyes from the ravages of my evil wit.

        • Mark

          I'll repost, since this too was spammed...

          Potential, unactualized properties for personhood qualities are present at conception. The range properties given by Greasley for this cluster of traits are between 19 weeks of gestation and 24 months post-partum when correlated with accepted scientific cognitive development. 19 weeks is the first development of spinothalmic tracts/pain. 24 months is the approximate time of complex social emotional reasoning.

          • Ficino

            Potential, unactualized properties for personhood

            This is the rub. The above do not constitute the threshold of personhood, since they are only potential and are not actualized. No reason is given for why potentiality counts as a person, or a personhood bearer, except to invoke further, speculative constructions like "substantial form." I think the high frequency of failure of fetuses of all stages to issue in children, on an A-T framework, implicates the "formal cause" in such a massive degree of failure that the concept is best simply dropped.

          • Rob Abney

            Unactualized properties for personhood or for any other property are not the same as substantial form, I'm pretty sure that you are aware of that. You are trying to win the argument with misdirection. You miss the point of Mark's post, that these properties that you insist upon are not present even when you say they should be, at birth.

          • Ficino

            Someone has a severely abnormal late fetus in her womb. It won't survive if born, and if it is born, it will suffer. (see other things I've posted.) But the birth must be forced because of the deductions that you guys draw from concepts of "substantial form" that don't even account sufficiently for what happens in half of all fertilizations.

            these properties that you insist upon are not present even when you say they should be, at birth

            If the properties are not present at birth, they are not present at conception. And if the properties are not present, then there is no ground for declaring that the tiny assemblage of cells is a 'person,' a bearer of moral rights. You guys have got nothing but a system of notions.

            Like Big Mama in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I am at the point of saying, "Crap, I say, crap, just like Big Daddy."

          • Rob Abney

            I agree with your last sentence.
            You have proposed a definition that is required for a zygote to be allowed to live that isn't even applicable to babies that are born, and now you are saying that if these functional abilities are not present at birth then they are surely not present at conception; this is circular reasoning that I did not expect from you. "There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity!"

          • Ficino

            You just denied the antecedent. My reasoning is not circular.

          • Rob Abney

            Circular reasoning fallacy: the reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with.