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Stem Cell Research and ‘Science vs. Religion’

StemCell

A 2005 New York Times article begins:

"When Donald Kennedy, a biologist and editor of the eminent journal Science, was asked what had led so many American scientists to feel that George W. Bush's administration is anti-science, he isolated a familiar pair of culprits: climate change and stem cells. These represent, he said, 'two solid issues in which there is a real difference between a strong consensus in the science community and the response of the administration to that consensus.'"

There's a world of difference between Kennedy's two examples. For climate change, he's alleging that the Bush administration ignored or misrepresented the data in order to advance their political agenda. If true, that's anti-science. But for stem-cell, the Bush administration didn't deny that stem cell had medical promise. The argument wasn't that we couldn't do it, but that we shouldn't. As this editorial from Wired notes:

"President Bush’s stem cell policy may have been restrictive and misguided, but it wasn’t anti-science.
 
In the wake of Obama’s decision to lift Bush’s funding ban, many scientists are celebrating the freedom of science from ideology. Their relief is understandable, but the rhetoric is disturbing.
 
The Bush administration didn’t skew stem cell research like it did environmental science: It simply said it wasn’t right."

That's exactly right. Saying we shouldn't do something isn't "anti-science," since science can't, and doesn't, answer questions of should and shouldn't: those are moral and ethical questions, beyond its scope. But just because the questions are beyond the scope of science doesn't mean that science shouldn't be bound by them:

"There are good reasons why society puts ethical boundaries on science.
 
The Nuremberg code is the best-known example of this. Shocked by the horrors of Nazi science, the civilized world agreed that tests should never again be conducted on people who hadn’t agreed to take part, and that test subjects should not be knowingly harmed.
 
The Nuremberg code was invoked by activists outraged when the Bush administration, at the chemical industry’s urging, proposed tests of pesticides on pregnant mothers and children. They weren’t being anti-scientific. They were being humane."

Exactly. The Tuskegee Experiment certainly advanced science, but it was so brutally cruel and inhumane that we shake our heads at the thought that this could have been done to human beings, here in America. Someday, we'll likely do the same at the thought of destroying the bodies of unborn children for science. The Wired editorial concludes:

"As ideology, Bush’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell funding were legitimate.
They represented a moral objection to the destruction of embryos by people who believe that life begins when sperm meets egg.
 
It’s not an objection shared by everyone. But characterizing conscientious objectors as anti-scientific is dangerous.
 
'No thinking person should promote a science that claims to be value-free,' said Murray. 'There are plenty of experiments that would be scientifically interesting that we simply won’t do because of legitimate ethical concerns about how we treat the human subjects of research.'
 
Most Americans now support research that Bush stifled and Obama will fund.
 
But there will be plenty of cases in the future when the aims of science — or, to be more precise, certain scientists — conflict with widely held values. And if the legacy of the stem cell debate is to label all conscientious objection as anti-science bias, it will be a toxic legacy indeed."

This is a great point. In fact, the one mistake the editorial makes is in treating the question of when life begins as if it were a moral or ethical question. It's not, or at least, not primarily. It's a scientific question. And science is quite clear on it: life begins at conception. In that scientific understanding is one which informs our policy actions: for example, it's illegal to destroy fertilized bald eagle eggs, because those are baby bald eagles. In fact, it's the proponents of ESCR are the ones who are anti-science, in this sense: they purposes ignore or misrepresent the scientific data that embryos are human beings, unique members of the species homo sapiens, with DNA and epigenetic material distinct from both zygotes and both parents.

In fact, if one familiarizes oneself with the arguments within the Bush and Obama Administrations on the question of ESCR, it's clear which side is the thoughtful and scientific side, and which embraces "progress" at any price. As the Hastings Center notes, Dr. Leon Kass, former head of Bush's President's Council on Bioethics, argued "that bioethics should define societal goals or ends before we decide whether to pursue various types of biotechnology," and understood the need to keep ethical considerations at the forefront in the midst of scientific pursuits:

"As Kass wrote nearly 40 years ago, we must begin 'with a serious deliberation about our ends and purposes' in biomedical technology, because 'it is indeed the height of irrationality triumphantly to pursue rationalized techniques while insisting that ends or purposes lie beyond rational discourse.'
 
As an example, the first sentence of one of the council’s publications asks: 'What is biotechnology for?'"

Now, Dr. Kass and the rest of the Council weren't "anti-science," obviously. Kass has a doctorate in biology from Harvard, and did molecular biology research at the National Institutes of Health before entering the field of bioethics. But for asking these questions, the entire President's Council was disbanded by the Obama Administration, and publicly mocked by his team:

"A White House press officer told The New York Times that the council was being disbanded 'because it was designed by the Bush administration to be 'a philosophically leaning advisory group' that favored discussion over developing a shared consensus.' Obama will appoint a new bioethics commission that “offers practical policy options.”

The article quotes Alta Charo as saying that the Bush council 'seemed more like a public debating society' and that a new commission should focus on helping the government form ethically defensible policy."

Charo's leering is disturbing: she's playing the Parker Selfridge to Kass' Dr. Augustine (that's an Avatar reference, folks), demanding Kass and Co. shut up with their silly "ethical concerns" so we can do what we want to do.

The Irrelevance of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Now, the entire field of embryonic stem-cell research may prove to be completely extraneous. That is, adult stem cells, with a few modifications, appear to be able to do everything embryonic stem cells can do, and there's no need to kill babies to get them. From the Washington Post:

Scientists have invented an efficient way to produce apparently safe alternatives to human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a long-sought step toward bypassing the moral morass surrounding one of the most promising fields in medicine.

A team of researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston published a series of experiments Thursday showing that synthetic biological signals can quickly reprogram ordinary skin cells into entities that appear virtually identical to embryonic stem cells. Moreover, the same strategy can then turn those cells into ones that could be used for transplants.

"This is going to be very exciting to the research community," said Derrick J. Rossi of the Children's Hospital Boston, who led the research published in the journal Cell Stem Cell. "We now have an experimental paradigm for generating patient-specific cells highly efficiently and safely and also taking those cells to clinically useful cell types."

Scientists hope stem cells will lead to cures for diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injuries, heart attacks and many other ailments because they can turn into almost any tissue in the body, potentially providing an invaluable source of cells to replace those damaged by disease or injury. But the cells can be obtained only by destroying days-old embryos.

[This isn't true: the Post writer is confusing stem cell research, generally, with "embryonic stem cell research," specifically, even though the entire article is about how embryonic stem cell research isn't the only kind of stem cell research, and in fact, not even the most promising.]

The cells produced by the Harvard team, known as induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, would avoid that ethical objection and could in some ways be superior to embryonic stem cells. For example, iPS cells could enable scientists to take an easily obtainable skin cell from any patient and use it to create perfectly matched cells, tissue and potentially even entire organs for transplants that would be immune to rejection.

Let this sink in for a moment. One of the arguments opponents of ESCR raised was that it wasn't necessary: that doubling-down on other forms of stem cell research, which don't require destroying embryos, would be able to produce the same results as ESCR. It's increasingly apparent that this argument was correct. And yet, ESCR continues. In fact, even the Harvard team using iPS cells still does ESCR, just to compare the two:

Rossi and other researchers, however, said that embryonic stem cells are still crucial because, among other things, they remain irreplaceable for evaluating alternatives.
 
"The new report provides a substantial advance," said National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins. "But this research in no way reduces the importance of comparing the resulting iPS cells to human embryonic stem cells. Previous research has shown that iPS cells retain some memory of their tissue of origin, which may have important implications for their use in therapeutics. To explore these important potential differences, iPS research must continue to be conducted side by side with human embryonic cell research."

That's amoral science. No longer is the argument that ESCR is needed to save lives: it's increasingly obvious that iPS cells can do so as well. Now, it's just a question of curiosity: if we're going to say iPS is as good as ESCR, shouldn't we keep doing them both to compare? That's disgusting, given that ESCR harvests dead unborn children.
 
 
(Image credit: Intrigue)

Joe Heschmeyer

Written by

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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  • Sqrat

    That's disgusting, given that ESCR harvests dead unborn children.

    What's far worse is that,because those dead unborn children haven't been lightly moistened with magic H20, they don't get to go to heaven:

    The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation....The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect
    the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be
    baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit."

    Unless, that is, God is, you know, just or something:

    As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can
    only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites
    for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men
    should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him
    to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.

  • William Davis

    And science is quite clear on it: life begins at conception.

    This simply isn't true. Life began eons ago with the first living cell. To say that a sperm and egg are not alive is scientifically untrue. When the sperm and egg combine, the result is a unique set of dna, but the sperm and egg were clearly living cells before they combined. The question is about when a new organism become and individual.

    Most legal protections are centered around the individual, so it is important to understand what that means. Individual: single; separate. Therefore, until the new organism can survive on it's own, it is dependent upon the mother and cannot be separated, this is around 20 weeks.

    Should fetuses early than 20 weeks have legal protection? Probably, but it should not be considered the same as a individual, but the fetus is not yet an individual, it is inseparable from the mother. We do not consider it unethical to harvest individual cells from a human an allow them to do die, and until the nervous system develops, the only difference between a fertilized egg and skin cells is the potential to become something more. We can clone using stomach cells and such, so we know that any cell actually has the potential to become something more, but only in artificial circumstances.

    Moral of the story: Cherry picking scientific claims is not helpful to a debate, and proper context is necessary to inform moral decisions. Science truly cannot make moral decisions, but it can help inform those decisions. Moral guidelines created 100 years ago without current understandings of biology are not up to the task of making current moral decisions.

    • materetmagistra

      William Davis: "Moral of the story: Cherry picking scientific claims is not helpful to a debate, and proper context is necessary to inform moral decisions."

      Well, then why are you trying to take the comment OUT OF its proper context? You know full well that in the context of the author's writing he meant: And science is quite clear - that the life of an individual human being begins at conception.

      • William Davis

        The life of an individual human begins at 20 weeks, until then, the being is no more individual than a lung, it cannot survive without the host. The being IS NOT INDIVIDUAL AT CONCEPTION THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT.

        • materetmagistra

          @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "The life of an individual human begins at 20 weeks..."

          How does SCIENCE back that claim up?

          You see, as a scientist, I can observe that the organism that begins existence when fertilization is complete is both (1) a member of the biological species Homo sapiens, and, (2) a complete individual - it has its own, unique genetic code. I don't have to wait 20 weeks to observe either of these facts.

          • William Davis

            I observe that this organism's genetic code existed when the egg and sperm were first formed, it just needed to be combined. Both the egg and the sperm were alive and unique before conception.
            Every cell in the human body is individual, it also contains the same genetic code. These cells cannot survive on their own, however, and require the entire body to function correctly. The individual cell that is a fertilized egg is the same, it is an individual cell, but it is NOT AN INDIVIDUAL ORGANISM. You cannot observe the unique characteristics of this person until 20 weeks, and even then they are not complete. I repeat myself the definition of individual is single, separate. An individual cell is very different an individual organism.
            Are you familiar with fertility clinics? We are getting to the point where we can examine the dna in individual sperm and egg cells to determine whether they are at risk for genetic disease. We can therefore determine characteristics of the potential child before conception. The unique dna exists just as much before combination as after. I assume you are not a biologist.

            Do you even know where the embryonic stems cells they use come from? Let me help you out:
            "Human embryonic stem cells are the cells from which all 200+ kinds of tissue in the human body originate. Typically, they are derived from human embryos—often those from fertility clinics who are left over from assisted reproduction attempts (e.g., in vitro fertilization). When stem cells are obtained from living human embryos, the harvesting of such cells necessitates destruction of the embryos."
            https://cbhd.org/stem-cell-research/overview

            These are fertility clinic rejects that were going to die anyway. Are you against fertility clinics?

          • materetmagistra

            William Davis: "Both the egg and the sperm were alive and unique before conception."

            Yes. Alive. And PART of a UNIQUE individual - having the genetic code that identifies those cells as BELONGING to a CERTAIN individual organism.

            @William Davis: "The individual cell that is a fertilized egg is the same, it is an individual cell, but it is NOT AN INDIVIDUAL ORGANISM. "

            Sorry. Where did you ever get the idea that single cells cannot be organisms? The human zygote happens to direct its own growth and homeostasis - it is an individual organism. And, since it has human parents, it must be a human being. [If in doubt, you can check its genetic code.]

            @William Davis: "You cannot observe the unique characteristics of this person until 20 weeks, and even then they are not complete."
            Huh? Of course we can observe the genetic code of the unborn human child well before "20 weeks." We can observe that the child is (1) definitely alive; and (2) definitely a biological human being. We don't need to wait "20 weeks" to determine this.

            @William Davis: "These are fertility clinic rejects that were going to die anyway."

            Each one of us is "going to die anyway." How does that support the argument that it is therefore OK, or moral, to intentionally kill any one of us??

          • William Davis

            An individual can survive on it's own. In some creatures, like eagles, a fertilized egg can survive on it's own, not in humans. You don't have to accept this definition, but the supreme court surely did.

            Huh? Of course we can observe the genetic code of the unborn human child well before "20 weeks."

            Dude, I said characteristics, not dna, try to pay attention. Let's use pictures to demonstrate:

            Zygote:

            http://www.stemedical.de/uploads/pics/zygote_.jpg

            20 week old

            http://clinicquotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Preborn20Weeks-300x215.png

            I hope you see the difference.

            Each one of us is "going to die anyway." How does that support the argument that it is therefore OK, or moral, to intentionally kill any one of us??

            At this point I see you are too dense to have a discussion with and lack appropriate reading comprehension. If I wanted to debate dimwits I'd go to a news sites. These embryonic rejects of fertility clinics WERE GOING TO BE THROWN OUT, THEY WERE GOING TO DIE AS EMBRYO'S REGARDLESS!!!

          • materetmagistra

            William Davis: "These embryonic rejects of fertility clinics WERE GOING TO BE THROWN OUT, THEY WERE GOING TO DIE AS EMBRYO'S REGARDLESS!!!"

            I'm sorry. The fact that someone IS GOING TO DIE provides nothing to support the argument that that someone SHOULD BE KILLED intentionally.

            @William Davis: "An individual can survive on it's own."

            Yup. That's exactly what that unborn human child is doing - surviving on its own! That's why some want legalized abortion - so they can STOP its surviving.......

          • William Davis

            Lol, you still don't get it, or you think letting a zygote die in a fertility clinic lab is somehow better than replacing the zygote's dna with another set and then growing tissue. In fact THE STEM CELL RESEARCH CAUSES THE ZYGOTE TO LIVE LONGER...
            Let the mother die and see how well the 2 week old zygote survives on it's own.
            I beginning to grow weary of repeating myself. You call a zygote a human being, I call a 20 week old a human being. My view is just as scientific as yours.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "I beginning to grow weary of repeating myself. You call a zygote a human being, I call a 20 week old a human being. My view is just as scientific as yours."

            I call a human zygote a human being because I have REASON to do so.....science identifies that living organism as a member of the human species.

            You pull a number from mid-air. That's NOT scientific. That's irrational.

          • William Davis

            You pull a number from mid-air. That's NOT scientific. That's irrational.

            After everything I've said you claim I'm pulling it out of mid-air. You sir, are a liar , it's that simple.

          • Grant

            I'm curious, what about a foetus at 19 weeks and 6 days old? How about a round 19 weeks? Where is the line in the sand that a clump of cells becomes a human being? Does something magical happen at 20 weeks? Or are you getting your definition of human life from statistical averages?

          • William Davis

            Most miscarriages happen before 20 weeks. 20 weeks is also where a fetus is likely to be able to survive on it's own. 20 weeks is also where a fetus first begins to respond to stimuli. I wouldn't say they can feel pain yet, but I draw the line BEFORE there is a good chance they can feel pain. Unlike the church, I consider a person a mind, not tissue. 20 weeks is before the brain really develops much. Many people say 20 weeks is too early and criticize recent Republican attempts to limit abortion to 20 weeks. Here I agree with Republicans that 20 weeks is the best cut-off. To some I am considered anti-abortion, but these people are ridiculous. Here's an example:

            http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/06/science-house-abortion-ban-fetal-pain

          • Grant

            But all of that is surely "about" 20 weeks. I'm sure we can all agree that a few days after conception and just prior to birth a lot of changes have happened to this fetus. But when I looked at my son's 12 week dating scans they were all very clearly distinguishable with a heartbeat, a head and arms and legs. At 20 weeks there was a bit more resolution and more accurate measurements could be done, but if we had booked that scan a few days earlier or the dating scan had been off by a couple of days we wouldn't have seen anything particularly different. And this is the problem that I and I'm sure a lot of other people here have with the whole 20 week thing, it is completely arbitrary, no switch if flicked, no ability suddenly develops, no measurement can be done that distinguishes a 20 week old from a 19 week and 6 day old. So after 20 weeks we have a human and at some point before 20 weeks we don't (by your definition) but is that immediately before the 20 week line?

          • William Davis

            I'd say we'd have a more functional nervous system around 24 weeks as the article I linked implies. 20 weeks gives us a one month safety zone in case the fetus is growing faster than normal. Many do not define the fetus as a person until birth. At 20 premature birth is possible, thus reinforcing the not arbitrary 20 weeks. Most scientists contend a fetus is viable at 24 weeks. 20 weeks is a good middle road past the first trimester but before 24 weeks. Here is a good link discussing it from the economist:
            http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21598684-new-curbs-abortion-are-spreading-20-week-limit

            I wouldn't be against drawing the line at 16 weeks, but that's it. 20 is much better than 24.

          • William Davis

            P.S. I would never abort one of my children. I do not personally know anyone who has had an abortion. What I'm discussion is the point where I'm willing to use the force of law to enforce my moral views. Like you, I think abortion is wrong, but the point where the fetus deserves "person" status is the real debate.

          • Max Driffill

            "I call a human zygote a human being because I have REASON to do so.....science identifies that living organism as a member of the human species."

            Actually you don't have a good reason to do so. A human zygote is just that, a human zygote. It is a developmental stage on its way to becoming a human being, but isn't yet one.

          • materetmagistra

            @Max: " It is a developmental stage on its way to becoming a human being, but isn't yet one."

            Being an IMMATURE human being does NOT mean that one ISN'T a human being.

            A human zygote is no less a biological human being than you are. You are two are simply the SAME THING at different ages. Just like an acorn and the tree it will grow into.

          • Max Driffill

            We haven't established that these embryos are someones. They are clusters of cells that have not yet developed any sophisticated apparatus of awareness. They aren't people. Not yet. They just aren't. In the same way a acorn isn't an oak tree an human embryo isn't a human being. There is some potential, after development. But that has to happen first.

          • materetmagistra

            @Max: "But that has to happen first"

            What has to happen first?

            Development?

            WHAT is the thing that needs to DEVELOP? An acorn? A pollywog? A spore?

            WHAT is developing?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            An individual can survive on it's own.

            So, a newborn babe is not an individual? What about an injured person on life support? The anxiety that leads you to these ad hoc qualifications (or to harvest them from the favored websites) often leads to unforeseen complications, since the effort to exclude some from "human" on the basis of A often leads to the unwitting exclusion of others if the argument A is applied without special pleading.

            Apparently, by "characteristics" you mean only those obvious to the sense of sight, and not those requiring science. Of course, others more ruthless than yourself might display a photograph of a viking and a bushman and chortle "I hope you see the difference."

            These embryonic rejects of fertility clinics WERE GOING TO BE THROWN OUT, THEY WERE GOING TO DIE AS EMBRYO'S REGARDLESS!!!

            It's nice that the biologist is the dimwit. But you missed his argument by shouting. You have used the criterion "They were going to die" for discerning human life. But what does this tell us when the subject is a child with a fatal disease, a Jew at Auschwitz, a black man in the Tuskegee Experiment, and so on. Materetmagistra simply observed "they were going to die" actually applies to everyone and one ought to be very cautious about basing one's humanity on such a criterion.

            (In fact, since "survivability" is technology-dependent, it means your humanity is contingent on the cleverness of the technicians around you rather than on some essence of yourself.)

          • Max Driffill

            It really doesn't matter.
            Until it has a well defined and developed central nervous system there is no person there. Organism, sure. Human organism? Sure. Being? Eh what is a being? Why should a fertilized egg matter more than the egg? or the sperm? The level of awareness, and sentience is exactly the same. Becoming a person requires some kind of ability to be consciously aware.

          • materetmagistra

            @Max: "Until it has a well defined and developed central nervous system there is no person there."

            Until WHAT has a well-defined nervous system?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      And science is quite clear on it: life begins at conception.

      This simply isn't true. Life began eons ago with the first living cell.

      This is an equivocation on "life." In the first sense it is an act of being on the part of an organism. In the second sense it is an act of metonymy on the part of the writer. Though the same term is used, it is used with different meanings.

      When the sperm and egg combine, the result is a unique set of dna, but the sperm and egg were clearly living cells before they combined.

      Actually, neither one is a self-organizing system, hence not "alive" in the relevant sense. They are "living" only in that they comprise part of a whole living organism, just like skin cells or a spleen. Once upon a time, we were taught the difference between a tissue, an organ, and an organism. Apparently no longer. The anti-science movement of the post-moderns has indeed spread widely.

      this organism's genetic code existed when the egg and sperm were first formed, it just needed to be combined.

      This is a bit like saying Moby Dick existed when the Unabridged Dictionary was first formed, since the words just needed to be combined. Of course, a thing (ousia) is not just its matter, but also its arrangement and action. To take an inanimate example: A sodium and a chlorine atom are both made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons, but they differ in their natures due to the number and arrangement of those parts. We can't say chlorine existed because sodium did.

      until the new organism can survive on it's own

      What, unlike newborn babes, who can then walk off and bring down a giraffe?

      Legally, "survive on it's own" would be at 18 years of age, though in practice that seems to be stretching now into the mid-20s. Indeed, all organisms depend for their survival on Other Stuff. They need krill, plankton, incubators, mother's milk, oreos, hamburgers, life-saving drugs, grass, bamboo shoots, etc. Some, like corals, must wait until the environment wafts the survival-necessary material to the helplessly waiting organism. On what scientific grounds is a newborn in an incubator more independent and able to survive on its own than a preborn in the womb?

      Pfui. I'll stick with biology, not political biology.

      • Cminor

        You don't want to get those sodium and chlorine atoms confused when you're seasoning your dinner either, do you? Enjoying your approach to this--you and matermagistra are more patient than I.

  • William Davis

    A team of researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston published a series of experiments Thursday showing that synthetic biological signals can quickly reprogram ordinary skin cells into entities that appear virtually identical to embryonic stem cells. Moreover, the same strategy can then turn those cells into ones that could be used for transplants.

    It's funny that this is now ok. What is the difference between an adult skin cell that has been reprogrammed to be a stem cell, and an embryonic stem cell? Virtually nothing. Currently we can only get adult stem cells to grow into similar tissues, but once we determine why this is the case, we will likely be able to get adult stem cells to grow into any cell tissue. If we break this barrier (which is likely around the corner) killing the adult stem cells would be the same as killing embryonic stem cells because they would have the potential to grow into a baby.

    We can use a skin cell to make an entire organism now, this is called reproductive cloning, so to allow skin tissue to die isn't far from killing a potential baby. Here is a description of the process, notice no fertilization occurs, there is no conception. Again this goes back to the that "that life begins at conception" is a patently false claim:

    "In reproductive cloning, researchers remove a mature somatic cell, such as a skin cell, from an animal that they wish to copy. They then transfer the DNA of the donor animal's somatic cell into an egg cell, or oocyte, that has had its own DNA-containing nucleus removed.
    Researchers can add the DNA from the somatic cell to the empty egg in two different ways. In the first method, they remove the DNA-containing nucleus of the somatic cell with a needle and inject it into the empty egg. In the second approach, they use an electrical current to fuse the entire somatic cell with the empty egg.
    In both processes, the egg is allowed to develop into an early-stage embryo in the test-tube and then is implanted into the womb of an adult female animal. Ultimately, the adult female gives birth to an animal that has the same genetic make up as the animal that donated the somatic cell. This young animal is referred to as a clone. Reproductive cloning may require the use of a surrogate mother to allow development of the cloned embryo, as was the case for the most famous cloned organism, Dolly the sheep.

    http://www.genome.gov/25020028#al-3

    • materetmagistra

      @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "What is the difference between an adult skin cell that has been reprogrammed to be a stem cell, and an embryonic stem cell?"

      That would be the point of this article.

      An individual is not intentionally killed when a skin cell is removed from him. However, an individual IS INTENTIONALLY KILLED when embryonic stem cells are obtained.

      • William Davis

        Yet again you miss my point. The skin cells could be used to create a new individual, a clone. Thus killing those cells is killing the individual they could have become. I have two identical twin nieces. They are clones with exactly the same dna, but they are noticeably different. Individuality is more than dna.

        • materetmagistra

          @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "The skin cells could be used to create a new individual, a clone. Thus killing those cells is killing the individual they could have become."

          But, those cells have not YET BECOME an individual organism, eh? Therefore, no moral dilemma.

          • William Davis

            Just like a zygote, it has yet to become and individual organism, where individual has the specific definition of being able to survive "separate". Parasitic organisms are a special class of organism that cannot survive without a host. I don't want to call a zygote a parasitic organism, but it certainly functions that way until birth. At 20 weeks it is not only parasitic, I hope you at least understand my position, I don't necessarily expect you to agree with it.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "Just like a zygote, it has yet to become and individual organism, where individual has the specific definition of being able to survive 'separate'."

            But, you are relying on a certain interpretation of the word "individual." When a scientist speaks of an individual organism, he means an organism as DISTINCT from another organism. The mother and the child are DISTINCT organisms. The child is NOT a part of the mother's body.

            The individual child growing within the womb of his mother is exhibiting completely "age-appropriate" behaviors for a human being of his age. No one would expect a human being of such an age to live in an environment NOT SUITED to its survival. Much like no one would expect a newborn to be able to "live" under water.

            For someone who claims to be well-versed in science, surely you must know that parasites and hosts NEED BE DIFFERENT species - not one and the same species, such as the case between a mother human and her unborn child.

          • William Davis

            Me: "Parasitic organisms are a special class of organism that cannot survive without a host. I don't want to call a zygote a parasitic organism, but it certainly functions that way until birth."

            You:"For someone who claims to be well-versed in science, surely you must know that parasites and hosts NEED BE DIFFERENT species - not one and the same species, such as the case between a mother human and her unborn child."

            Did I not make it clear that I that a zygote is only functionally parasitic? I find the way you misrepresent me to be dishonest. I thought Catholics were supposed to be honest, you, like many others, show that Catholics are no better than anyone else. Belief in God has no bearing one's actions, and is thus pointless, it was always supposed to be about getting people to do the right thing, which I don't believe you are doing here. Disagreeing is fine, misrepresenting me is dishonest and unethical.

            Sure, a zygote has a individual genome, but it is not functionally an individual organism, it is functionally a parasitic organism. At 20 weeks, the fetus has the capability of functioning as an individual organism, though it is still functionally parasitic until birth

            Parasitism: A form of symbiosis in which one organism (called parasite) benefits at the expense of another organism usually of different species (called host). The association may also lead to the injury of the host."

            http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Parasitism

            Notice the word USUALLY, it does not have to be a different species. The definition fits the relationship between zygote and mother perfectly. Ask any mother what pregnancy does.

            Human being:"any individual of the genus Homo, especially a member of the species Homo sapiens."

            http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/human+being

            Individual:

            5.Biology.

            a single organism capable of independent existence.

            http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/individual

            Go argue with the dictionary, my definitions are COMPLETELY VALID.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "Sure, a zygote has a individual genome, but it is not functionally an individual organism, it is functionally a parasitic organism. At 20 weeks, the fetus has the capability of functioning as an individual organism, though it is still functionally parasitic until birth..."

            The unborn human being is functioning EXACTLY like one expects a human being of that age/stage to be functioning. That any human organism may be "dependent" on others for care does not change WHAT that human being is.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Thus killing those [skin] cells is killing the individual they could have become [through cloning].

          You cannot kill something that is not actually alive in the first place any more than you can run an engine on potential energy.

          • William Davis

            Skin cells aren't alive? You took biology? A long time ago i was involved with a lab testing pig skin as it is similar to human skin. They were complaining about the tissue dying prematurely. Where have been all these years?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            What do skin cells grow up to be? What about skin cells in the wild, in a state of nature? As an artifact, set up and sustained by humans, many things are possible.

            There is a difference between "living" and "alive." To be alive requires one to be a self-organizing system, not to merely be magical organic tissue.

          • William Davis

            Alive "having life : living : not dead"

            Living "a : having life"

            Some dictionaries define living as "alive". You might be able to make up your own definitions in catholic world, but I'm not going to use them.

            In a state of nature, skin cells die, with intervention, they can become a clone. Left alone, a zygote dies, if it doesn't bond with the mother for a few days. If the mother rejects the bonding (this is a problem for cloning actually, if we try to clone a mother and put it in her womb, the zygote refuses to form a placenta, it is almost as if the zygote is unwilling to harm it's own tissue and suck out it's nutrients, foreign dna seems to have no problem binding, usually it is half mother and half father of course).

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Some dictionaries define living as "alive".

            Some dictionaries define "simple" in such a way that a maze would not be considered a simple curve while a figure-8 would be. But this would not fly in topology. The same is true in other branches of philosophy than mathematics. Colloquial speech does not make it in evolutionary theory, either. Now, you may not want to use the definitions "made up" by math world, but that would hamper your discussion of topological curves somewhat.

            A being is alive if it is a self-organizing system. That is, it contains (and acts on) all the information needed to develop into a mature state. It is not "assembled" like a mousetrap or any other artifact. (This is where ID arguments fail.) For terrestrial life forms, the information is encoded in the DNA molecules. This DNA resides in the organism itself, not in the mother or a computer data bank.

            You seem to think that because some embryos don't make it all the way that there is not a clear line from embryonic form to mature form in the natural order, a line that does not exist in nature for single sperms or skin cells or spleens. An artifact is an artifact, even if it has been assembled using organic tissue.

          • William Davis

            Alive:1. Having life, in opposition to dead; living; being in a state in which the organs perform their functions; as, an animal or a plant which is alive
            Any organism or a living form that possesses or shows the characteristics of life or being alive

            http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Alive

            http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Living_thing

            By both of these definition, skin tissue is alive. It consumes fuel, the cells reproduce, all of the above. You really do not know as much about biology as you pretend. I've read plenty of books on biology, genetics and evolution. I have NEVER seen someone make a dichotomy like you just have. Alive and living are two different adjectives that describe anything composed of functioning cells, it is arguable if the terms apply to viruses that are not like cells but have life-like properties. Can you give me an online source? If not, you are clearly wrong.
            "Life is often defined in basic biology textbooks in terms of a list of distinctive properties that distinguish living systems from non-living. Although there is some overlap, these lists are often different, depending upon the interests of the authors. Each attempt at a definition are inextricably linked to a theory from which it derives its meaning (Benner 2010). Some biologists and philosophers even reject the whole idea of there being a need for a definition, since life for them is an irreducible fact about the natural world. Others see life simply as that which biologists study. There have been three main philosophical approaches to the problem of defining life that remain relevant today: Aristotle's view of life as animation, a fundamental, irreducible property of nature; Descartes's view of life as mechanism; and Kant's view of life as organization, to which we need to add Darwin's concept of variation and evolution through natural selection (Gayon 2010; Morange 2008). In addition we may add the idea of defining life as an emergent property of particular kinds of complex systems (Weber 2010)."
            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/life/

            Looks like even Aristotle is fine with calling tissues "life", I fail to see what ground to have to stand on, but source it if it's there. I'm really not an uniformed chump like you seem to think I am.

            The chain of life started with the first living organism. We really don't know how that happened, evolution explains how life changes, but to me, it does not adequately explain how it started. Perhaps we will know one day, we've only been at this science stuff for a few hundred years.
            The first cell reproduced and made more, and eventually evolved into us. None of this would have happened so the chain started there.
            Surely embryonic stem cells have some unique self-organizing properties that do not exist in other tissues, but other tissues self-organize and repair, the cells reproduce. I draw the line of a human being at 20 weeks, and this is a genuine opinion that is completely informed scientifically. You can draw the line at conception, that is your right, but do not pretend my view is unscientific. I'm sure you saw my definitions of individual, and the difference between genetic individuality and functional individuality.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Alive:1. Having life, in opposition to dead; living; being in a state in which the organs perform their functions; as, an animal or a plant which is alive

            By both of these definition, skin tissue is alive.

            What organs does a skin cell possess that they "perform their functions"? A living tissue may be kept going by artificial means, and may even be usef to cobble an artifact. But it does not do so by its own nature.

            I have NEVER seen someone make a dichotomy like you just have.

            Then you have encountered something new! Treasure it. I have never seen anyone state dogmatically that a human being does not exist until 20 weeks gestation like you have, so we are on equal ground there. I have seen multiple time when people try to equate organs, parts, and tissues with an organism. Sometimes it is skin tissue; sometimes it is the elbow. (An elbow is alive!)

            Looks like even Aristotle is fine with calling tissues "life"

            He might have no problem calling tissues "alive" insofar as they are a tissue of a living organism. But he never suggested that the parts of an organism were themselves organisms, since they lack the substantial form required. (Granted this example uses an artifact, not a natural form: But it's like having a transmission and claiming thereby to possess an automobile. Even if you can get the transmission to run in some sort of engineering test set.)

            Basically, Aristotle distinguished three kinds of living beings by distinguishing three kinds of souls: the nutritive, the sensitive, and the rational. The least power-full of these is the nutritive soul, which possesses the powers of nutrition (it takes in external matter, destroys its form, and incorporates it into its own matter), development (it grows and diversifies into organs, etc.), and reproduction (in its mature form, it produces likenesses of itself). In addition, it maintains a balance in itself, which we nowadays call "homeostasis." If this is all she wrote, you are talking about plants and fungi, which are whole organisms. Aristotle did not recognize souls (energy, life) for any lesser matter. (Obviously, animals and humans also possess these powers, but they also possess additional powers, making their souls (energy, life) more complex.)

            other tissues self-organize and repair, the cells reproduce.

            But only if they are
            a) naturally incorporated as part of an organism
            or
            b) artificially maintained by clever humans.

            There are single-cell organisms. But not all single cells are organisms.

            I draw the line of a human being at 20 weeks

            But this makes your humanity contingent on the technological achievments of other beings. Suppose some new advance results in keeping 19-week embryos alive. Do they become human this week, but would not have been human last week before the new technology was available? What about less technologically-advanced countries, where even at 20 weeks the kid is not going to survive "on its own"? Would she be human in the US or Western Europe, but not human in Africa or rural Latin America?

            Whether X is human should depend only on X herself, not on the expertise and proximity of medical professionals or equipment.

          • William Davis

            P.S. I do not like abortion, I think it is wrong, but I don't think it the same as killing an actual baby. I also think it should be legal up to 20 week, like the majority of the western world. I just have a very different view of life than you do, but this has no bearing on my compassion. In fact, I think it is more compassionate to allow abortion rather than curse unwanted children to an existence in foster home or in a family that hates them. You don't agree, that's fine, but my view is legitimate and well thought out.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It's interesting that the default assumption is that the family hates them. Especially when on the other hand we find so many childless couples eager to adopt.

            The real problem, perhaps, is that children are unwanted. But that is another consequence of the triumph of the will over the intellect and a different topic for discussion at another time.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      What is the difference between an adult skin cell that has been reprogrammed to be a stem cell, and an embryonic stem cell?

      Simple. One is a self-organizing system with a complete set of instructions; the other is not. Which is which may be left as an exercise for those with at least a high school biology class under their belt.

      • William Davis

        Lol, until you inject that skin cells DNA into a stem cell, this is how we clone. Biology has changed a lot since you went to high school old timer. I'll consider rebutting ye old slippery slope argument later, mater burnt me out for now.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Let me know when a human being results from that.

          • William Davis

            We could do it, but we consider it unethical. You want us to engage in unethical practices to prove a point? We know it works with higher animals like sheep.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "We could do it, but we consider it unethical."

            How so?

          • William Davis

            Unlike abortion, there is no benefit that outweighs the cost.

            http://www.quora.com/Why-is-human-cloning-considered-unethical

          • materetmagistra

            I don't have time to read through extra blogs....Why don't you tell me in your own words what you consider to be the most compelling reason cloning is unethical.

          • William Davis

            You have time to ask me the same question over and over again, but you don't have time to read blogs? It was short anyway.

            I this point I suspect you are trying to bait me into becoming angry and behaving irrationally, not going to happen. I suspect you don't have memory problems but know exactly what you are doing, difficult to be sure.

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "I this point I suspect you are trying to bait me into becoming angry and behaving irrationally, not going to happen."

            I'm just asking you questions. I'm still waiting on the WHAT is the unborn if it is NOT YET a being of the human species? It must be something - an ACTUAL something. It can't be NOTHING for 20 weeks.

          • William Davis

            Liar, many people have answered the question.

          • materetmagistra

            So, your answer is that it is NOT YET a human being?
            Well, what is it?

            [I think your argument might have a flaw.]

          • Papalinton

            Yes, many, many people have answered the and explained the the underlying reasons. It is simply that those answers do not comport with the Magisterium, nor will they ever because how can you argue against supernatural superstition?

          • William Davis

            I've resorted to using Bible verses for fun, Exodus 21 in particular, just to see what happens ;)

          • William Davis

            Leviticus 19"11'You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another."
            You also never dealt with the verse in Exodus, clearly God saw a miscarriage as something other than murder. You answer this question.

          • Doug Shaver

            Let me know when a human being results from that.

            Are you saying you know it can't happen? Or are you admitting that your ethics are contingent on current medical technology?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, only that if X is potentially Y, it is not actually Y. You would not call in an art critic to assess a tube of paint, even though that tube of paint is potentially Mona Lisa. So that an artist could take a skin cell and make something out of it, like a lampshade or a clone does not endow the skin cell as such with the significance of lampshades or clones. The material cause is not the effect.

          • Doug Shaver

            Sounds like something Aristotle would have said.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Perhaps so. Chastek put it this way:

            The matter which someone uses is the least significant part of the artwork, and it is defined purely functionally. Marble or granite might be sculpted, but so could anything that could play a marble- or granite-like role. If I were writing with a quill I'd need ink, but anything that could play an ink-like role would do no matter what it was. If you told me that the stuff in my inkwell was really a dessert topping I might well just shrug and keep on using it if I couldn't tell the difference.

            Matter, in other words, is whatever some agent can use to make a form. Both human and non-human agents use whatever is around to make whatever gets made. Birds will make nests out of twigs, or shards of paper, or swizzle
            sticks, or whatever can play the nest-matter role. There's nothing that is just nest-matter to the exclusion of anything else. It's this purely functional character of matter which explains why it can never be primary in existence.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't agree with Aristotle. The fact that some modern philosophers agree with him means nothing except that I don't agree with them, either.

  • Mike

    Great piece - the vatican also apparently make a financial investment in one of the adult stem cell firms that seems to be making progress in this ethically sensitive area.

    • William Davis

      I like it and it provokes some serious discussion. This is a major ethical difference between myself and Catholicism. We have a very different understanding of what life is and what defines person person hood.

      • Mike

        I know. Other ppl have an even more different understanding of what defines person hood. History is full of 'different ideas' personhood.

        • Krakerjak

          Since I am burning my bridges behind me on this site...that is fine, but I cannot ever remember coming across such an intolerant Catholic such as yourself. You are a real prick...as is Kevin. I know that this will formalize my banning. I hope you and Kevin are happy.....as I believe that you guys are responsible for most of the deletion of comments on this site...and I think Brandon is aware of this, if not in collusion. Sayonara,

          • Mike

            Take it easy kraker and relax alittle...we're all just trying to do our best in life and figure what all of this, this beauty, this tragedy, this reality means, if anything at all.

      • Mike

        I think you might enjoy this guy's presentation seeing as how you seem to be into history:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAN3kQHTKWI

        • Doug Shaver

          I think you might enjoy this guy's presentation seeing as how you seem to be into history:

          Notwithstanding his credentials, that's not history. It's evangelical apologetics.

          • Mike
          • Doug Shaver

            I know about the Pilate stone. It's very old news for anyone who has argued with apologists for as long as I have. I don't see how it contradicts what I said.

          • Mike

            Ok, all the best and let's catch again in the future.

  • William Davis

    That's disgusting, given that ESCR harvests dead unborn children.

    What would have happened to these children if not for ESCR? They would be dead anyway. The body naturally disposes of unused sex cells, these are all potential unborn children. The female disposal is incredibly annoying, blood for a week. In fact, 10-20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, almost always before 20 weeks. This is usually due to the fetus not developing properly. In other words, the female body is DESIGNED (assuming God exists) to abort nearly 20% of all possible babies because they were not quite right. The ones that do not get miscarried end up with birth defects usually.

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/basics/definition/con-20033827

    Here are some picture's of the "children" we are talking about

    https://www.google.com/search?q=embryonic+stem+cell&rlz=1C1CHFX_enUS494US494&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=gVD3VMC0N4OVyATEmIGgAw&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAg&biw=1440&bih=806#tbm=isch&q=embryonic+stem+cell+microscope&revid=967401684

    At what point does calling a cell a "child" become silly?

    • materetmagistra

      @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "In fact, 10-20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, almost always before 20 weeks."

      How does that support an argument that it is therefore OK, or moral, to intentionally kill a LIVING human being?

      That's like saying that because SOME human beings die before reaching adulthood, it is OK to intentionally kill human beings BEFORE they reach adulthood.

      • William Davis

        The mother's body kills the embryo by rejecting it, the embryo does not die on it's own. I thought that was obvious, thanks for pointing out the need for that clarification. I tend to assume people understand biology better than they actually do ;)
        You could also say that the mother's body simply rejects it, and then it dies because it cannot survive on it's own. Same thing, different way of looking at it.

        • materetmagistra

          @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "The mother's body kills the embryo by rejecting it, the embryo does not die on it's own."

          (1) All miscarriages are not of one type.

          (2) Rejection by the mother's body is not "intentional killing." That the mother's body is capable of such an action DOES NOTHING to support an argument that INTENTIONALLY KILLING an unborn human child is OK or moral or justified.

          • William Davis

            The rejection of the embryo is clearly by design, and if something is designed or evolved to do something, it does so intentionally, or at least by design.
            Interestingly enough, the entire process of human reproduction is designed around killing potential babies. Nearly 200 million sperm enter the vagina, the most can actually produce specific enzymes that tend to kill off male or female sperms cell specifically. Out of the millions of potential sperm, 1 or not makes it to the egg. The process still isn't done, as the mother's body continues to evaluate the egg to determine if it is "worthy" of the mother's investment. Rejection is deeming the offspring unworthy just like enzymes that kill specific sex cells. There are also specific anti-sperm antibodies that are studied in their relation to infertility.
            Reproduction has always been a war zone, we just never knew until recently. By 20 weeks, the war is mostly over, and the offspring is clearly viable. At 20 weeks, my ethics now calls what were a group of cells a human being.

          • materetmagistra

            William Davis: "The rejection of the embryo is clearly by design, and if something is designed or evolved to do something, it does so intentionally, or at least by design."

            Nature, acting "by design," does not have a MORAL dimension. Human beings, having the choice whether to act or not, are MORAL creatures.

            @William Davis: "Reproduction has always been a war zone, we just never knew until recently. By 20 weeks, the war is mostly over, and the offspring is clearly viable. At 20 weeks, my ethics now calls what were a group of cells a human being."

            Well, William, that gets you nowhere. Again, just because some human beings have very short lives DOES NOT justify ANY intentional killing of human beings. In addition, your stated morality doesn't justify intentionally killing human beings prior to the 20th week - because you simply cannot tell which of the unborn children will naturally make it to the 20th week (and beyond.)

          • William Davis

            It justifies it to me. You've been a catholic too long, thinking you can tell me how to justify moral decisions. 20 weeks rules out partial birth abortions and all kinds of horrible things. At 20 weeks it becomes a human being, so anything before that is not killing a human being, and that is just how I look at it, and the legal profession seems to look at it this way as well. You can't tell me how I define a human being, I look at the data, and I do that. You have the right to vote for your opinion, but it will never become law. Money runs the U.S., and having abortion illegal saves money and reduces crime.

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "At 20 weeks it becomes a human being, so anything before that is not killing a human being,..."

            OK. An organism that is only POTENTIALLY something must ACTUALLY BE something else. What kind of organism is existing prior to the 20-week date?

          • William Davis

            It's a potential human, just like every sperm cell, and every egg cell.

          • materetmagistra

            That's not an answer. I did not ask what it can POTENTIALLY be. I asked what it IS NOW. It must be SOMETHING.

            Science can identify that tiny living organism as belonging to the human species. You want to pretend science hasn't advanced to this point. How "unscientific."

          • William Davis

            My skin cells are also belonging to the human species. We've established that they are potential human being through artificial means.
            Our dna starts as a sperm, and and egg, combines, then goes through stages of zygote, fetus, then neonate (newborn child) Some people draw the line with the neonate, I draw it at 20 weeks when it's a fetus. I call this a happy compromise and closer to your position than many people.
            Notice a zygote is not a fetus, and a fetus is not an infant. All are human, not all can survive on their own ;) The sperm and egg are just as human as the zygote. Perhaps we should challenge God for allowing 200 million sperm to die to get one potential baby, yet I think our conversation has devolved to this point, lol, so I'm just going to have fun.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "The sperm and egg are just as human as the zygote."

            But, the sperm and the egg are NOT human beings. The zygote IS a human being.

          • William Davis

            Neither I and the majority of the western world agree with you, so whatever. I say it isn't a human being, you know why.

          • materetmagistra

            Agree with ME? I'm simply agreeing with SCIENCE.

            Science can determine that what beings existence when fertilization is complete is:
            (1) a biological human being;
            and,
            (2) alive.

            If you do not agree that it is a biological human being - what is it ACTUALLY? And, how do you determine that it is ACTUALLY that and NOT a biological human being?

          • William Davis

            Do you have Alzheimer's?

          • materetmagistra

            I can't "forget" an answer you NEVER gave.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Neither a sperm cell nor an egg cell is a potential human being. There is nothing in the nature of either that naturally points toward that end. Only a fertilized egg is a self-organizing system that develops naturally in that direction.

          • William Davis

            Tell that to a sperm cell as it does all it can to reach the egg. Most of the poor bastards die trying to do what they were made to do, eventually (at 20 weeks of course ;P) become a human being. The mother and father are hard wired to do the biding of the egg and sperm. The Church has been fussing about that for years, lol. I'm being insulting at this point because you guys started it, I don't mind, my side has won this argument and it is written in law. I'll take my "legally informed biology" (which it isn't, I've studied this an made my own decision) over you "mythically informed biology" with your silly soul stuff any day.
            As for comparing the needs of a zygote with the needs of a infant: whatever dude.
            As for the slippery slop argument, abortion has been legal for what, almost 40 years? Don't see any concentration camps yet, get real.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Tell that to a sperm cell as it does all it can to reach the egg.

            You seem to be assigning mystically-informed desires to a cell.

            my side has won this argument and it is written in law.

            Just like in the 1930s! Lots of things get "written into law." That makes it neither true nor right.

            over you "mythically informed biology" with your silly soul stuff any day.

            The word "anima" simply means "alive" although I grant you that Descartes and the scientists of the Revolution muddied the waters with their "ghost in the machine" nonsense. Most people today accept the scientific woo-woo uncritically. But except for a recent piece in Scientific American which contended that "life" is an artificial distinction made by human beings, it is relatively simple to substitute "life" or "alive" every time you see "soul." That way, you get closer to what Aquinas and the other old-timers were saying, and it doesn't look as silly as the post-Cartesian stuff.

            There is nothing mythical about DNA or self-organizing systems.

            As for comparing the needs of a zygote with the needs of a infant: whatever dude.

            Note to David Nickol.

            As for the slippery slop argument, abortion h as been legal for what, almost 40 years? Don't see any concentration camps yet, get real.

            That should be "only" forty years, no? And it's hard to argue against a slippery slope when we're already halfway down it. Some of us remember how the present state of affairs was poo-poohed as the imaginings of lunatics no more than fifty years ago. Contraceptives for married couples would never lead to their use by unmarried strangers. Their inevitable occasional failure would never lead to abortions (or to an epidemic of single motherhood). Legal abortions would never be more than "safe, legal, and rare." Now we hear people like Singer and others arguing for "fourth trimester abortions." Developmentally, when compared to other mammals, all human babies are born as fetuses. So Singer said that parents might decide to abort their child up to two years after birth. (They are still unable to survive on their own, after all.) Then he backed off and said he was not entitled to set a limit for other parents.

            Who needs concentration camps when you have dumpsters? We can off the Untermenschen without the need for the extra expense.

          • William Davis

            Scientific American which contended that "life" is an artificial distinction made by human beings, it is relatively simple to substitute "life" or "alive" every time you see "soul." That way, you get closer to what Aquinas and the other old-timers were saying, and it doesn't look as silly as the post-Cartesian stuff.

            So skin tissue has a soul, interesting but it makes the word meaning. When skin tissue dies, does it's soul go to heaven?

            http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/graphusabrate.html

            Looks like your slippery slope is going the wrong way. Now that much of the "free love" hippy nonsense is out of the way, and people are aware and concerned about STD, abortions continue to drop.

            What does the Church propose about feeding the human population and resource consumption? This Pope is the first I'm aware to recognize climate change as a potential problem. We have very new and specific problems that your morality has no recipe for dealing with, your generation has left a mess (somewhat accidentally I think) for mine to clean up. Since I don't believe in free will, and I believe you've been driven by your instincts, I don't blame you, you are a product of causation. Medical science has clearly changed morality, just like the industrial revolution alleviated slavery. Medical science will continue to change morality, as we continue to extend lives, we will have to make intelligent and compassionate decisions about where to draw the line.

            I helped my wife make the decision to take her brain dead father off life support because he was no longer able to survive on his own. For you to impugn that as an immoral decision is not only immoral in itself it is repulsive.

            I also notice you have no compassion for a mother who made a mistake, was raped, or otherwise. Your lack of compassion is also repulsive.

            Apparently "God's law" didn't have much problem with it Exodus 21

            22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.

            They thought like I do, it bad for the child to miscarry, but it isn't the same as killing the women.

            http://www.beliefnet.com/News/2003/01/The-Biblical-Basis-Forbeing-Pro-Choice.aspx?p=0#

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So skin tissue has a soul.... When skin tissue dies, does it's soul go to heaven?

            No, and n/a.

            Looks like your slippery slope is going the wrong way.... abortions continue to drop.

            And this has some bien pensants concerned. Among whom is the drop occurring?

            What does the Church propose about feeding the human population and resource consumption ?

            Pretty much what she has proposed from the start: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be good stewards, all that sort of thing.

            We have very new and specific problems that your morality has no recipe for dealing with

            LOL. But then the Late Modern likes to have specific procedures spelled out and is sometimes nonplussed by general principles requiring some thought to apply.

            your generation has left a mess (somewhat accidentally I think) for mine to clean up

            Unfortunately, the decline of education means you probably won't know how!

            Since I don't believe in free will....

            Since the will has degrees of freedom to the extent that the intellect is imperfect, this is tantamount to believing that knowledge is perfect and universal. I don't think that holds up.

            you are a product of causation.

            You couldn't help but write that. Why should anyone pay any more attention to words that were simply caused than they would to the whispers of the trees as the wind blows through them?

            Medical science has clearly changed morality

            How so? Has it made it more moral to murder? Or just made it easier?

            just like the industrial revolution alleviated slavery.

            That doesn't explain
            a) the disappearance of slavery in medieval Europe.
            b) the boost to slavery by the cotton gin and other industrial innovations in the US South.

            Medical science will continue to change morality, as we continue to extend lives, we will have to make intelligent and compassionate decisions about where to draw the line.

            For euthanisia?

            I helped my wife make the decision to take her brain dead father off life support because he was no l onger able to survive on his own. For you to impugn that as an immoral decision is not only immoral in itself it is repulsive.

            I have impugned it only in your imagination. Nothing in traditional morality requires the maintenance of heroic measures. It is only required that you do not deliberately and directly kill. I would hope you did not take him off life support in order to kill him or because he was "unable to survive on his own." I hope instead you did so with the intention to let nature take its course. Perhaps I should tell you how my mother died?

            I also notice you have no compassion for a mother who made a mistake, was raped, or otherwise. Your lack of compassion is also repulsive.

            We never cease to marvel at the crimes we commit inside your head. What makes you think I would lack compassion? It is unclear what exactly you are talking about here.

          • Doug Shaver

            What does the Church propose about feeding the human population and resource consumption?

            The church seems to think it's better for a million people to live in misery than for one person to never be born.

          • William Davis

            Unlike the church, I believe a terrible life is better off not being lived. There are many fates worse than death, and I do not equate never having lived with dying.

          • materetmagistra

            @Doug Shaver: 'The church seems to think it's better for a million people to live in misery than for one person to never be born."

            No, Doug, it is not simply "for one person to never be born." [Interesting use of the word "person" by the way.]

            It is that INTENTIONALLY KILLING a human being, a person, is IMMORAL and wrong, and simply not anything one human being has the authority to do to a FELLOW human being.

          • Doug Shaver

            It is that INTENTIONALLY KILLING a human being, a person, is IMMORAL and wrong

            More wrong than intentionally causing a million people to live in misery?

          • materetmagistra

            Yes, more wrong.
            The dead person cannot be revived with food or given a job.
            Oppression can be culled. Life cannot be restored.

          • Doug Shaver

            Is that a general principle? Is an irreparable wrong always worse than any reparable wrong?

          • materetmagistra

            Here's the general principle:

            Intentionally killing an innocent human being is wrong because it violates his/her right to life.

            You ask about causing people to live in misery. Define misery.

          • Doug Shaver

            Define misery.

            That would sidetrack the discussion. Let's talk about a specific example. I suspect you would agree that living in a Nazi concentration camp was living in misery. If one person causes a million people to live that way, is he guilty of a lesser moral offense than someone who murders one person? Please assume for the sake of discussion that none of the million is intentionally killed by their captors or guards.

          • materetmagistra

            @Doug Shaver: "More wrong than intentionally causing a million people to live in misery?"

            It is not OK to do either. Both would be violating human rights. To ask which is worse implies one is OK. Neither is.

            If you want to compare, though, don't change so many variables - - >

            Is it more horrifying that Harry was murdered or that Fred was made to live in 'misery.' [whatever THAT is....]

            Is it more horrifying that Pol Pot murdered two million people, or that he made two million live in 'misery.' [Again, not sure what 'misery' exactly means....]

          • Doug Shaver

            To ask which is worse implies one is OK.

            Oh? So, the lesser of two evils never really exists? Whatever seems less evil is actually not evil at all?

            Again, not sure what 'misery' exactly means....

            I gave you an example. That was a way of saying, "Whatever else it might mean, it certainly means this." Do you dispute that? Do you want to argue that the meaning of misery might not be applicable to life in a Nazi concentration camp?

          • materetmagistra

            Evil is evil and is not to be done, even IF it is the "lesser" of two evils.

            What is misery to one person, though, may not be misery to another.

          • Doug Shaver

            Do you want to argue that the meaning of misery might not be applicable to life in a Nazi concentration camp?

            What is misery to one person, though, may not be misery to another.

            I don't believe that answers my question.

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "Since I don't believe in free will, and I believe you've been driven by your instincts, I don't blame you, you are a product of causation..."

            Will, meet Ignatius:
            Ignatius Reilly's claim: "No, a human person has free will and sentience."

            William Davis, how do you determine that a thing is a human"person"??

          • William Davis

            I have already answered this question many times, I'm sorry you are unable to remember the answer.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: ". By 20 weeks, the war is mostly over, and the offspring is clearly viable. At 20 weeks, my ethics now calls what were a group of cells a human being."

            You determine that a thing is a human "person" by your "ethics." Quite circular, eh?

            The only other thing I can see is that you think "viability" is important. Which is equivocating - because by one sense of the word, the human fetus would not be ALIVE if it were not "viable." Your use of the term indicates that you will not call it a "person" unless it can maintain life in an environment unsuited to its age - at that it is simply defining the AGE of the being, not WHAT the being is.

            Again, what exactly is your definition of "person"??

          • William Davis

            A functional mind. I do not consider a brain dead person on life support a person either. My wife and I had to let my father in law pass because the hospital he was in over sedated him and allowed him to inhale his own vomit. They revived a corpse with no brain, I will remember his lifeless eyes forever. Even after removing life support his heart continued to beat and he continued to breath, but his eyes demonstrated he was clearly gone, dead even though his body was alive. Most evidence supports a human mind and the ability to feel pain around 24 to 27 weeks. 20 weeks gives a month's cushion to ensure there is no mind to kill. I hope this is something you comprehend, though I already know you will not agree with it, we've done this before, even if you do not remember.

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "Most evidence supports a human mind and the ability to feel pain around 24 to 27 weeks. 20 weeks gives a month's cushion to ensure there is no mind to kill."

            So, you consider a "person" to at a minimum be a biological human being (you do say, "human mind.")

            But, you claim, that is not enough. Not only does a being need to BE a human being, it also needs to be able to "feel pain." But, what about "feeling pain" makes someone a "person"? After all, squirrels and chickens and guinea pigs "feel pain."

          • Max Driffill

            And we should acknowledge that animals other than human can indeed feel pain and be said to suffer. And we ought to minimize, as much as we can, the amount of suffering our actions cause other creatures that can suffer.

            Entities that lack nervous systems can't feel pain, can't suffer. And sometimes the suffering an entity can feel will be outweighed by higher order suffering that could be ameliorated by some suffering of a creature at some lower strata of consciousness.

            If there is no nervous system and simply a ball of cells, then it really doesn't matter. There is no "person" there to injure. There is no entity capable of reflection, or of suffering in the case of embryonic stem cells.

          • That's right. Beyond functionalities, one must consider structural realities, even though we might only be able to refer to them vaguely, in other words, not just how it does this or that but what is doing this or that. The essentialist approach, otherwise deeply flawed, properly intuits that certain continuities matter, while the nominalist approach, otherwise deeply flawed, properly intuits that certain discontinuities matter. Aristotelian notions of successive souls and some hylomorphic conceptions reflect these intuitions. Logical necessities, in principle, cannot successfully map over metaphysical probabilities, so one cannot reasonably insist on strict definitions that are wholly nonarbitray, only on a nonstrict identity that's adequately nonarbitrary. An individual's past but not its future participates in its somewhat dynamical identity, both in Hartshorne's process-relational view and in common sense, as reflected in everyday pronoun usage. Neither Aristotle nor Thomas Aquinas were being wholly arbitrary in describing ensoulment schemes, so, designating certain neural structures as a personhood demarcation would be adequately (not absolutely) nonarbitrary. In a probabilistic reality, filled with epistemic indeterminacy and ontological vagueness, with only a fallibilist approach available, any essentialistic insistence on strict identity, logical necessity and absolute nonarbitrariness collapses in absurdity, morally and practically, not resonating with most moral intuitions and sensibilities.

          • materetmagistra

            @ Max: "And we ought to minimize, as much as we can, the amount of suffering our actions cause other creatures that can suffer."

            I disagree with this premise. Dentists NEED to cause some suffering (hurt) for the sake of our oral health (to prevent harm.) To simply reduce "suffering" out of hand isn't necessarily ALL good.

            To boot, following that reasoning, KILLING a person who was unconscious would be OK. You have minimized any suffering, eh? However, here you have "harmed" [caused a human to be "worse off"] a human even though you have not caused him "hurt" or pain.

            But, our experience is that killing fellow human beings is WRONG. It doesn't matter that the human being does not feel pain when you kill him. What matters is that your action has caused him to be "worse off" or HARMED by your action.

            That is what abortion does to the very young human being - it might not "hurt" or cause pain before a certain age, but it MOST DEFINITELY causes him "HARM," causes him to be worse off than he was before hte abortion.

          • Luke Cooper

            What MM lacks in cogency, she attempts to make up for in tenacity. I think she confuses the two.

          • William Davis

            "n Nazi Germany, the penalties for abortion were increased again. In 1943, providing an abortion to an "Aryan" woman became a capital offense. Abortion was permitted if the foetus was deformed or disabled.[2][3]

            The Cross of Honour of the German Mother (German: Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter), referred to colloquially as the Mutterehrenkreuz (Mother’s Cross of Honour) or simply Mutterkreuz (Mother’s Cross), was a state decoration and civil order of merit conferred by the government of the German Reich[4][5] to honour a Reichsdeutsche German mother for exceptional merit to the German nation.[5][6][7] Eligibility later extended to includeVolksdeutsche (ethnic German) mothers from, for example, Austria and Sudetenland, that had earlier been incorporated into the German Reich.[7]"

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

            I can start comparing you to Hitler too but just because Hitler happened to be anti-abortion, doesn't mean you're like Hitler for being anti-abortion.

            I apologize for getting personal yesterday, but it isn't like I wasn't provoked. Being called uneducated and a Nazi isn't exactly heart warming. I agree with Sylvest that person hood is a continuum not a sudden transition. I wouldn't be against a somewhat early age, maybe 16 weeks, to err on the side of caution, but I suppose I might not want to go down the "slippery slope" off pushing it too close to conception ;) Nice arguing with you, you're as ornery as I am, lol.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Being called uneducated and a Nazi isn't exactly heart warming.

            Where did I call you that?

            The National Socialists did not advocate abortions for the Master Race, certainly. They wanted more "Aryans," not fewer. They practiced eugenics by controlling who could marry whom, and by culling the handicapped and the "inferior races." (Early advocates of birth control and abortion in the West were also concerned with the reproductive success of darker-skinned folks and hoped by these means to cut down on their numbers.)

            I agree with Sylvest that person hood is a continuum not a sudden transition.

            So at some point one is three-fifths of a person? But then, every human being is a person to one degree or another, just as everything has a height or a temperature. Suppose that at some point of development little Jane is 0% person, then at another point (t) is 0.1% of a person. But then there must be a point when she is 0.05% of a person, and a time before that when she is 0.025% of a person, and so on. That is in the nature of a continuum. You never reach 0%.

          • William Davis

            To be clear, I define a "person" as a mind. The mind really begins to develop around 20 weeks, and the baby can respond to stimuli, this is where I draw the line. I would even be willing to go back to 15 weeks or so, I only want to allow enough time for a woman to realize she is pregnant and a week or two to make a decision. A zygote has no mind.

            If you think about it, this puts me on the same side as modern anti-abortion movement that are pushing to limit abortions to before 20 weeks. I still don't like abortions, but I believe it is up to the mother before 20 weeks. Once the baby can respond to stimuli, we at least have some percentage of functional mind. Here is a link in reference.
            http://www.mccl.org/unborn-babies-can-feel-pain.html

            I'd vote for the 20 week limit, as later abortions are truly horrific and wrong (not that earlier abortions are right, but this is the line I draw to force my morality on the mother), in my opinion. Perhaps we are uneasy allies after all ;)

          • William Davis

            My primary criticism is that life begins before conception, conception is just a genetic combination, it is only a special moment if we MAKE it special. Of course, engaging in the activity that creates this special moment surely feel special ;)

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "My primary criticism is that life begins before conception...."

            What an absurd claim - that the life of a distinct human individual begins BEFORE it begins.......

          • William Davis

            It's not absurd, it is absolutely true. Fertility clinics can inspect the dna to verify there will not be genetic disease before conception. There are two halves, both are alive before they combine, this is quite a correct and useful scientific view.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_vk0aSkJaVA:disqus: "There are two halves, both are alive before they combine, this is quite a correct and useful scientific view."

            Yes, the sperm and egg are ALIVE, but they are NOT biological human beings. Once fertilization is complete, a NEW human being BEGINS existence.

          • William Davis

            Nope, just a zygote. It's human being at 20 weeks. Don't you see how silly this has become?

          • materetmagistra

            A human zygote IS a human being - a human being at a certain age/stage of development. If you think it is NOT a human being, do tell - WHAT is it? [Logic tells us that a zygote which is not yet this POTENTIAL thing must ACTUALLY BE another thing. What is "the OTHER thing" the zygote ACTUALLY is, if it is NOT a human being?]

          • Papalinton

            Catholics are as misguided as ever. In evolutionary terms individual humans are not the end product of that process. The basic life force of the evolutionary process is the survival of the gene, be it human, animal, vegetable. Any decent biology text will tell you that. The human individual is simply the convenient carrier by which the gene propagates and maintains its immortality. After a new carrier is born to continue the propagation of the gene, the old body has done its job, is surplus to evolutionary requirement and after around 80 or so years is disposed of, returned back into the elements from which it was first formed. This has been going on on this earth for a few billion years. Anyone with a modicum of scientific knowledge knows that humans are no particular special variety of life form to which all other life types strive to be, as if humans represent the pinnacle, the top of the evolutionary tree. Such a view is illusory, false and utterly facile. And even then there is no guarantee that genes will survive, strive as they might for immortality. Those with a little bit of learning, and a degree of humility, know that it is only ignorance coupled with religious silliness that perpetuates this 'human superiority' fallacy.

            I commend your reasoned and erudite arguments against materetmagistra's theological silliness.

          • Cminor

            Dude, you make it sound as though a few DNA strands have conscious intent. Which is it? Random or purposeful? You can't have both.

          • Papalinton

            No. No conscious intent. Just the ordinary, common old natural selection and random mutation variety.

          • Cminor

            So those genes are striving to no avail. I could be wrong about this, but I didn't notice anyone above arguing against ESCR from human superiority. How exactly does our unexceptional position in the universe justify our cannibalizing our own for spare parts?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            At 20 weeks it becomes a human being, so anything before that is not killing a human being, and that is just how I look at it, and the legal profession seems to look at it this way as well.

            So the lawyers are deciding biological questions? Or the money managers and profiteers?

            having abortion illegal ... reduces crime.

            I think you meant legal. But it will be interesting to hear a non-racist version of the abortion-reduces-crime argument. Go ahead.

          • William Davis

            I have yet to see a racist version of the argument, just google it for non-racist versions, good luck finding a racist one. Here's a quick link

            http://scholar.harvard.edu/barro/files/99_0927_crimerate_bw.pdf

            Harvard is pretty good.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            They almost always boil down to fewer black babies = fewer crimes later on. That was the Freakonomics argument.

          • Guadalupe Lavaca

            William, I've read many of your responses and you are very sure of yourself. But I can't say you are always correct. In some circumstances the law does define a fetus younger than 20 weeks a human being. Some states consider it murder if you kill a fetus at any stage of development. A fetus can be a victim of a crime.

          • William Davis

            Looks like many of these laws are getting overturned in courts base on Roe vs Wade precedent. Thanks for bringing that up. If someone injures a woman and causes a miscarriage, I think the charge should be more than just assault, but less than murder. Do you have links to specific laws you have in mind? This is a pretty good overview I found on the net.

            http://lsrj.org/documents/factsheets/13_Fetal_Rights.pdf

            One reason I do this is because I want people to point out when I'm wrong, but I request someone to be specific and source their claim.

            With regards to your comment on thinking critically, you are correct, my childhood would certainly generate a bias. I've done the best I can to take this into consideration and mitigate the bias as much as possible, though removing it completely is impossible. Apologetic sites do a really bad job overall, but I've found some of the thoughts from David Nickol and Johnboy Sylvest to be very compelling from a philosophical standpoint, much better than anything I've found on a website. Feel free to peruse my comments for any errors of fact you think I'm committing, though we will obviously disagree on the interpretation of those facts.
            I'm certain of my opinions because of the efforts and methodology I've put into forming them. I'm also certain of them because of the failure counterarguments and general behavior of many Christians I've debated. If you look enough in my comments, I'm quick to admit when someone shows me to be wrong. I get frustrated quickly when I feel the person I'm talking to is playing games with me, and that was the impression I got from Mater. I later figured out it was desperation, making her situation a little sad.

          • Legislative intent determines the definitions of words used in laws. The meanings of these words don't map univocally from common sense or colloquial usages to legal purposes. Neither do they apply univocally from municipal to parochial to state to federal statutes and codifications. Nor do they even apply univocally from one federal law to the next. Remember the hullabaloo when Mitt Romney pointed out that corporations are persons, too? At any rate, legislatures typically craft state criminal statutes in a manner consistent with Roe, variously defining terms, carefully disambiguating them.

          • William Davis

            Personally I'm fine with states enacting their own rules here since it is such a debate. State rights has a major use of allowing states to function as "legal laboratories" and test the efficacy of specific laws. If a state did make abortion illegal for 20 years, it would be very useful for testing the relationship to crime rates, and how many illegal abortions occur in a modern setting. One problem, however, is that many people would likely just go to a neighboring state to get an abortion. One major reason I'm for having abortion before 20 weeks legal is the fact that there were many abortions before it was legal, some with very horrible results. At least something legal can be regulated and we can guarantee more humane forms of abortion.

          • William Davis

            I find it a little disappointing you hide your comment history, but if you really are a lawyer, feel free to give me your opinion on how these state laws can hold up against the precedent set by Roe vs. Wade, if you have info I'm unaware of, I'm more than willing to learn :) Like I said before, be specific and source if possible.

          • William Davis

            I thought this was interesting

            http://www.womenonwaves.org/en/page/460/abortion-laws-worldwide

            Looks like the only countries that have abortion illegal are countries that are highly catholic, muslim or complete third world countries. Almost all of South America has it illegal. The Pope's declaration that ensoulment occurs at conception is the real reason Catholics are against it. I reject the soul hypothesis completely, it originated from Vedic Hinduism. If you are Catholic and from South America, I'd suspect you have a very different bias on the subject than I do, but a very strong bias. I don't think anyone can be unbiased when it comes to religion, and I'd like to be believe in heaven, but I think the facts speak for themselves. At least I hope you recognize that I have the courage to present where I'm coming from and the biases that are a part of my baggage. If I'm biased against Christianity, wouldn't you say it is because of Christianity?

          • Nature, acting "by design," does not have a MORAL dimension.

            If you are right, and all embryos are living human beings, doesn't it seem strange that God set up a method of reproduction that, by design, results in the forgotten deaths of billions of children?

          • materetmagistra

            If you do not think that human embryos are "living human beings" - what do you think they are? They need to be SOMETHING.

            And, again, that some human beings live very short lives does nothing to answer the question of whether it is OK, or moral, to intentionally kill fellow, LIVING human beings.

          • If you do not think that human embryos are "living human beings" - what do you think they are?

            Embryos.

            And, again, that some human beings live very short lives does nothing to
            answer the question of whether it is OK, or moral, to intentionally
            kill fellow, LIVING human beings.

            Absolutely. I agree with you there. My point is this: If you're right about embryos, then God is the Universe's chief abortionist. He's set up a process that kills thousands of times more babies each year than all of Planned Parenthood.

          • materetmagistra

            @paulrimmer:disqus: "Embryos."

            An embryo of WHAT species, Paul?

            @Paul Brandon Rimmer: "If you're right about embryos, then God is the Universe's chief abortionist. He's set up a process that kills thousands of times more babies each year than all of Planned Parenthood."

            Gee. Wouldn't he be the chief murderer, too?
            What could THAT mean? Let's lock him up and throw away the key.

            God, as the author of life, has an authority that we do not. No human being has just authority to take the life of a fellow human being - because every human being holds equal inherent/inalienable rights.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            God, as the author of life, has an authority that we do not.

            He may have the power, but he does not have the moral right. You would have to prove that.
            Creating something does not give you complete authority over it.

          • materetmagistra

            The important point is does one human being have the authority to violate the right of a fellow - equal - human being?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would agree with that, but not on the basis of Divine Command Theory.
            Free and sentient beings have moral rights. Embryos posses neither free will nor sentience.

          • materetmagistra

            Embryos happen to be immature "free and sentient beings."

            Why would being immature mean one would not have the rights concomitant with WHAT ONE IS - a biological HUMAN BEING?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Are embryo's sentient?

          • No. Sentience occurs during fetal development. While from a process perspective, one can meaningfully refer to latent, incipient, sentient, sapient and nascent states of human life, moral "patiency" would precede moral "agency." I'm deeply sympathetic with Carol Tauer's "psychic sense" of personhood, which emerges in the late first trimester.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would hesitantly suggest that some minimal sentience is necessary and sufficient to have some sort of moral patiency.
            Beings with a greater level of sentience and thus free will have greater moral rights.

          • In any case, it needn't be approached either-or but in degrees. Because I conceive the nervous system as distributed rather than merely cerebrally, even our earliest nonconscious experiences might enjoy a degree of psychic continuity with our more sentient life. I resonate with Tauer's argument viscerally, not fully equipped to defend it philosophically. I would concede there's more moral patiency for sentient life but would like to get off the slippery slope much earlier in gestation. Much of what remains legal, not just with life issues, I experience as morally repugnant.
            Your point remains well taken. Some of my reasons come from my heart, not just my head.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            For what its worth, I have moral qualms about ESCR, but do not have any moral qualms about first trimester abortions. I just don't like the idea of mass creating and disposing of embryos for research.

          • William Davis

            Have you considered this?

            Exodus 21: 22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

            God's law is fine with treating a miscarriage as something minor. You keep quoting "thou shalt not kill" which makes no sense in the proper context. You keep asking the same questions, so I'm going to do the same, how do you propose to resolve this conflict?

          • Doug Shaver

            No human being has just authority to take the life of a fellow human being

            Should I infer, then, that you're opposed to capital punishment?

          • materetmagistra

            I am.

            However, there are situations of legitimate "self-defense" that may end with the transgressor losing his life.

          • Doug Shaver

            Finally, something we agree on.

          • Human embryo, like human skin cells, or human tumors. They're all human.

            God, as the author of life, has an authority that we do not.

            So the one who decided to start a life has the divine right to dispose of that life? Sounds like a woman who gets an abortion is in very good company, indeed!

          • materetmagistra

            @paulrimmer:disqus: "Human embryo, like human skin cells, or human tumors. They're all human."

            You are equivocating terms here. Human skin cells, tumor cells in a body, and a human embryo are HUMAN (predicate adjective.)

            However, of those three, ONLY one happens to also be a human (predicate nominative.)

            A human embryo happens to be an organism - an individual of the human species - while the skin cell and tumor are PARTS of an organism.

          • However, of those three, ONLY one happens to also be a human

            Not to me, and that, I think, is the material point. When does a group of cells qualify as a human individual? Under what circumstances?

          • materetmagistra

            Yes, I do see that you are unwilling to accept the common biology in this situation.

            You ask: "When does a group of cells qualify as a human individual?"

            Well, science can identify that hat particular cell is a complete being, a complete organism. It contains everything it needs to direct its being.

            And, then science can identify WHAT TYPE of being that particular organism is -
            (1) by knowing that it has a human mother and father, it cannot be anything BUT a human being; and,
            (2) for those who doubt this basic biological truism, one merely has to look at the genes.

          • What makes something a 'complete organism', and do all 'complete human organisms' deserve life? It may be possible, with some future medical intervention, to use some original DNA from a tumor to generate a unique human being. Would that human being have started as a tumor? In a sense, yes. That person could say "I used to be a tumor". But that tumor was never a human being.

          • materetmagistra

            No, the tumor is NOT a human being. At the point it would cease being a tumor - essentially a part of an existing human being - and became an organism fully capable of directing its own growth and development, THAT would be the DISTINCT point signalling that something of a different sort exists. Where do you see that point in the normal process of human beings coming into being? Well, at the point of fertilization.

            You ask: "What makes something a 'complete organism', and do all 'complete human organisms' deserve life?

            Biologists do identify levels of organization in living things. Organisms happen to be - -

            "Entire living things that can carry out all basic life processes. Meaning they can take in materials, release energy from food, release wastes, grow, respond to the environment, and reproduce. Usually made up of organ systems, but an organism may be made up of only one cell such as bacteria or protist. Examples - bacteria, amoeba, mushroom, sunflower, human."

            Do all biological human beings [if alive, must be a complete organism] deserve life? Well, according to the understanding of universal human rights, all human beings hold fundamental human rights inherently and equally simply by virtue of BEING a human being. Therefore, yes, at all moments a human being is alive, it would hold inherent human rights.

          • No, the tumor is NOT a human being. At the point it would cease being a tumor - essentially a part of an existing human being - and became an organism fully capable of directing its own growth and development, THAT would be the DISTINCT point signalling that something of a different sort exists.

            I think that point, that moment, happens sometime between conception and birth. I'm not sure exactly when.

          • materetmagistra

            Human embryologists know:

            The point of fertilization marks a distinct point where that which was merely PART of two other human individuals BECOMES (after fusion of genetic material) a NEW and unique individual of the same species that is capable of directing its own growth and development and maturation.

          • If this is a widely known fact, then it should be easy for you to demonstrate it.

          • materetmagistra

            Lifted from Trent Horn's writing:
            ------------------------------------------------
            The standard medical text Human Embryology and Teratology states, “Although human life is a continuous process, fertilization is acritical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed. Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud’s textbook The Developing Human states, “ Human life begins at fertilization,” and Langman’s Medical Embryology also states, “Development begins with fertilization.” Finally, the fourth chapter of Scott Gilbert’s textbook Developmental Biology is titled, “Fertilization: Beginning of a New Organism.”

            Leading pro-choice philosophers agree that human fetuses are human beings. David Boonan, author of A Defense of Abortion, writes, “Perhaps the most straightforward relation between you and me on the one hand and every human fetus on the other is this: All are living members of the same species, homo sapiens. A human fetus after all is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development.”

            Peter Singer holds the same view: “It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species homo sapiens.’ Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of the living organism. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.”

            After reviewing medical and embryology textbooks, I have yet to find a single book that denies that a human embryo or fetus is a human organism, and since by definition a human fetus is a stage of development for a
            human organism, I doubt I ever will find such a claim in a serious textbook.

            -----------------------------------------------------
            -----------------------------------------------------

            Not to mention the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Rounds writing: The disclosure actually mandated by § 7(1)(b), in concert with the definition in § 8(4), is “[t]hat the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” § 7(1)(b), and that “human being” in this case means “an individual living member of the species of Homo sapiens . . . during [its] embryonic [or] fetal age[],” § 8(4). The State’s evidence suggests that the biological sense in which the embryo or fetus is whole, separate, unique and living should be clear in context to a physician, cf. Gonzales, 127 S. Ct. at 1627 (“[B]y common understanding and scientific
            terminology, a fetus is a living organism while within the womb, whether or not it is viable outside the womb.”), and Planned Parenthood submitted no evidence to oppose
            that conclusion. Indeed, Dr. Wolpe’s affidavit, submitted by Planned Parenthood, states that “to describe an embryo or fetus scientifically and factually, one would say that a living embryo or fetus in utero is a developing organism of the species Homo Sapiens which may become a self-sustaining member of the species if no organic or environmental incident interrupts its gestation.” Wolpe Aff. ¶ 6. This statement appears to support the State’s evidence on the biological underpinnings of § 7(1)(b) and the associated statutory definition. Planned Parenthood’s only other evidence, Dr. Ball’s affidavit, ignores the statutory definition of “human being.” Finally, this biological information about the fetus is at least as relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion as the gestational age of the fetus, which was deemed to be relevant in Casey. See 505 U.S. at 882. As a result, Planned Parenthood cannot meet even the less rigorous requirement to show a fair chance of prevailing, much less the more rigorous requirement applicable here to show that it is likely to prevail, on the merits of its claim that the disclosure required by § 7(1)(b) is untruthful, misleading or not relevant to the decision to have an abortion.

            [Access at http://media.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/08/06/053093P.pdf%5D

          • So far you've slammed me with a whole bunch of quotes from various authorities. But I don't see any evidence behind the claim.

            Why not go with Gary C. Schoenwolf (... [et al.] (2009). "Development of the Urogenital system". Larsen's human embryology (Thoroughly rev. and updated 4th ed.). Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier. pp. 505–507. Ref. on Wikipedia), who claim that individual human life doesn't start until the third to eighth week of development, when most of the organs start developing?

            The legal arguments won't help much either, because you claim that it is a matter of science that single cells can be people. Now, there may conceivably be a legal argument for treating single cells as people. The law treats corporations as people, after all. But that's not a scientific argument.

            I propose that we set aside arguments from authority. How do you define "human organism", and what makes embryos human organisms, but sperm and eggs and tumors not human organisms? What can someone specifically detect that indicates that a particular cell is a person?

          • materetmagistra

            @Paul Brandon Rimmer: "If this is a widely known fact, then it should be easy for you to demonstrate it."

            I demonstrated how widely known this fact was - from embryologists to pro-abortion supporters to judiciary. Isn't that what you were asking for? Here are links to two pages that list numerous embryology textbooks and what they say about the distinct point in the life of every human being known as fertilization:

            http://www.lifenews.com/2015/01/08/41-quotes-from-medical-textbooks-prove-human-life-begins-at-conception/

            https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/embryoquotes2.html

            No, I don't suspect you will look at them - but there are over 40 different textbooks/experts quoted from a wide range of dates. I submit such as evidence that this claim, that fertilization is a distinct landmark in the life of a biological human being, is a widely known claim.

            To counter, you checked wikipedia - and totally ignored the opening sentence on that page (Embryo): "An embryo is a multicellular diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development, from the time of fertilization until birth, hatching, or germination. That Wikipedia notes one reference (why not more? can you find more than one?) that does not follow the accepted definition, you think means something. I'm not sure what. Apparently this particular person does not have a wide following, or more people would be supporting his view. Why don't they? Quite possibly he doesn't make good sense.

            Moving along......

            @paulrimmer:disqus: "I propose that we set aside arguments from authority. How do you define "human organism", and what makes embryos human organisms,"

            How does a scientist tell that an organism is a biological human being? If in doubt - genetic testing.

            How does a scientist tell which of the embryos he's studying is a human embryo? Well, if he can't tell by obvious features, he could use genetic testing.

            @Paul: "... but sperm and eggs and tumors not human organisms?"

            No scientist is fooled into thinking these are even ORGANISMS. An organism will grow and develop through identifiable (and known) stages as it matures into the adult organism. A sperm cell, an egg cell and a tumor cell are nothing but PARTS of an individual organism - and genetic testing can confirm the individual they are PART of (as the genetic code is the same throughout the PARTS of the organism.)

            @Paul: "What can someone specifically detect that indicates that a particular cell is a person?"

            A scientist can determine if a particular cell is behaving as an organism or is simply one of the many cells OF a particular organism.

            If he cannot determine that the organism is human (a human sperm and human egg can only result in human offspring) - he can resort to genetic testing.

          • How does a scientist tell that an organism is a biological human being? If in doubt - genetic testing.

            What about genetic testing determines whether a cell is a biological human being? What is the character of the genes that distinguishes single-celled people from single-celled non-people?

          • materetmagistra

            @paulrimmer:disqus: "(because I suspect that the question of whether a group of cells is an individual is more one of philosophy than of science),"

            The question of whether the group of cells is functioning as a complete entity or whether

          • The question of whether the group of cells is functioning as a complete entity or individual or whether the group of cells is simply PART of an entity is easily determined by scientists.

            How so? I'd concede that there's something of science here, but also something more of philosophy. After all, there's James Lovelock's Gaia theory, that argues there's a scientific case for saying that the Earth itself is a single entity, that we are all part of one large complete functioning structure. To draw broad moral conclusions from this scientific theory would be monstrous! I could go and shoot someone across the street; It wouldn't be killing an individual, but merely killing off a small part of the Earth-organism.

            I would argue that a tumor is also, in a different sense, an individual entity. It grows, it changes, it's human, it has its own unique DNA. It is born in cancer cells in the body, and eventually it will die, either with the body or by itself. Should tumors be granted human rights? That also seems monstrous!

            Now we come to the fetus. It would indeed be that, like the tumor, the fetus is an individual human entity feeding off of another. Should the fetus be treated as a tumor? I'd argue that would be a big mistake, but my argument would rest on philosophical, not scientific reasons.

            There's a scientific case, depending on the meaning of "individual organism/system" both that tumors are individuals and that humans are not individuals, but are part of a single macro-organism: the Earth.

            Ask this biologist if the zygote created when fertilization is compete is a distinct individual of the species homo sapiens, or if it is a PART belonging to some distinct entity (and, what specific entity that would be.)

            I now have. She said that the embryo is part of the woman's body just as much as skin cells are, at least until individual organs develop. She said even then that she thinks it's part of the woman's body, and can be treated as any other part of a woman's body, until it's disconnected at birth. I don't entirely agree with her assessment, for philosophical reasons, but I cannot say there's scientifically anything wrong with it.

          • materetmagistra

            @Paul Brandon Rimmer: "I would argue that a tumor is also, in a different sense, an individual entity. It grows, it changes, it's human, it has its own unique DNA. It is born in cancer cells in the body, and eventually it will die, either with the body or by itself. Should tumors be granted human rights? That also seems monstrous!"

            The tumor is merely PART of an entity - albeit a part with a "damaged" genetic code. And, by definition, no one would identify the tumor as an organism.

            @Paul: " I'd concede that there's something of science here, but also something more of philosophy. After all, there's James Lovelock's Gaia theory, that argues there's a scientific case for saying that the Earth itself is a single entity, that we are all part of one large complete functioning structure."

            The science part is the part you are trying to confound and deny by equivocation. It most certainly can be known by science whether the human embryo is a distinct being, a complete organism, and whether it is a human organism and whether it is alive. Do you deny that science? On what grounds?

            @Paul: "I now have. She said that the embryo is part of the woman's body just as much as skin cells are, at..."

            Unfortunately she is not "doing science" but playing "philosopher." If the developing embryo were "part" of the mother, the mother, for the time being, would have four arms, four legs, two heads, and maybe even a penis! How irrational. By definition, the embryo is a complete (biological) individual of the human species. The embryo has its OWN genetic code and controls its OWN development. Matter of fact, this tiny human being actually effects changes in the mother's body.

            The conclusion that because one human being is dependent upon another human being for safety and nutrition the two human beings must therefore be considered as a single biological organism is neither scientific nor sound. My three-year-old is completely dependent upon me for food and safety, we are certainly not the same biological organism. I am dependent upon the grocer for nutrition - for meat - outside of hunting season (my city will only allow me four chickens in my yard, totally insufficient to supply meat and eggs for a large family.) Certainly being dependent upon him does not make me "one being" with him.

            Ask your co-worker exactly how she concludes that two individual biological organisms can be considered as ONE individual biological organism.

          • It most certainly can be known by science whether the human embryo is a distinct being, a complete organism, and whether it is a human organism and whether it is alive. Do you deny that science? On what grounds?

            I'm skeptical that this is a scientific claim because I haven't been presented any empirical evidence of the claim. I actually have great difficulty imagining what such evidence would look like; I'm skeptical that it could possibly be a scientific claim.

            To make this point as strongly as I can with a hypothetical:

            Science is provisional. It is always open to revision. If it is a scientific fact that the embryo is a person, then this is a fact open to revision. If scientists later discover that the embryo is not a person, will you revise your position on abortion?

          • materetmagistra

            @Paul Brandon Rimmer: "Science is provisional. It is always open to revision. If it is a scientific fact that the embryo is a person, then this is a fact open to revision. If scientists later discover that the embryo is not a person, will you revise your position on abortion?"

            It is a scientific fact that the human embryo IS a LIVING human BEING:
            (1) the scientist can tell if the tiny human being is ALIVE - it is growing and developing;
            (2) the scientist can tell outright that the tiny being would be a HUMAN being because it has human parents - if you will not accept that truism, then genetic testing could verify that the being was a member of the human species.

            So, there is no doubt that that the tiny being that comes into existence when fertilization is complete IS a biological member of the human species - and, if it is growing and developing, it is a living member of the human species.

            However, science cannot tell us that simply because a being can be identified as a member of the human species - it is therefore a "person" - a being who has value. That is NOT an issue science can solve - it is a philosophical issue.

            There are two different parts to the equation.

            (1) Science being able to identify objectively the BEING in question

            (2) Human reasoning/Philosophy being able to recognize this being as a "person" - a being with rights that are inherent and inalienable.

            All of those on here who claim that we cannot know that the tiny being that begins existence when fertilization is complete IS a biological member of the human species are flat out wrong. Science has advanced enough to identify whether the being in question is a biological human being. There is no question.

            The question, the crux of the matter is PHILOSOPHICAL.

            Some claim that simply being a biological human being is NOT ENOUGH to also be a "person." As such, there are biological human beings that DO NOT HAVE HUMAN RIGHTS. Which makes NO sense to me. They claim that being a "person" with rights is a SUBSET of the larger SET biological human being. But, I ask, WHO gets to decide how big that SUBSET is and how the subset is DETERMINED. If we, as fellow human beings, get to decide WHO belongs in the subset of "person," that subset could very well simply exclude those fellow human beings that we DON'T WANT to "give" rights to - much like the oft-used situation in Nazi Germany. Or, like the United States in 1973 - the unborn don't "deserve" rights, because it would be "difficult" to honor their rights. We like our "easy."

            I reason that as fellow human beings - EVERY fellow biological human being MUST have inherent and inalienable rights equal to mine. We are equally biological human beings - therefore WHY WOULDN'T we have equal rights based on what we share equally. As such, the SUBSET "person" must equal (be the same as) the SET biological human being. THAT IS THE ONLY WAY that the rights of every human being can be protected equally and will NOT be usurped by those who would care to subject some group to "inhuman" treatment for whatever motive. No biological human being has authority over another biological human being to claim more rights for himself. They have equal rights by virtue of WHAT they are, not WHO they are.

          • You say:

            It is a scientific fact that the human embryo IS a LIVING human BEING:

            Then you say:

            So, there is no doubt that that the tiny being that comes into existence
            when fertilization is complete IS a biological member of the human
            species

            These are incompatible. Science doesn't provide certainty in anything. So, please, answer the question. If in the future scientists discover that the embryo is not a biological member of the human species, will you revise your position on abortion?

          • materetmagistra

            @Paul Brandon Rimmer: "If in the future scientists discover that the embryo is not a biological member of the human species...."

            If it has human parents, it cannot be anything but a human being. We can be sure about that.

            If it is growing and developing, we can be sure that it is alive.

            If you can "prove" that this being is SOMETHING OTHER than a human being - provide the name of that being and how you know it is that: _______________________ .
            You see, logic indicates that if it is a being and is NOT YET a HUMAN being - it must ACTUALLY be some OTHER type of being.
            --------------------------------

            Regardless - you claim science cannot provide certainty in anything - so it most certainly will never arrive at the point you suggest - KNOWING that the very young human being is not actually a human being. Your argument goes nowhere, and is quite absurd.

            ------------------------------

            Which leaves you in the position of NOT being able to PROVE that the tiny human being existing from the time of fertilization IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT a human being. And, because every hunter knows that unless one knows for sure that the movement in the bush IS SURELY NOT a fellow human being, one SHOULD NOT SHOOT, lest one accidentally kills an innocent human being. Being skeptical does NOT GIVE YOU the right to pull the trigger. If you do not know for sure, JUSTICE implores you to wait until you have PROOF, and, according to you , science can never give you that proof - so, you have no right in JUSTICE to take the life of that tiny being having existence within his mother.

          • You see, logic indicates that if it is a being and is NOT YET a HUMAN being - it must ACTUALLY be some OTHER type of being.

            Or maybe it's not a being at all. Philosophers discuss being. They tend to use the term 'ontology' when they do so.

            Before we move on, it sounds as though you now think that the question of whether an embryo is a human organism or not is one of logic, and not of biology. If this is correct, then I'm glad we agree that this is not an issue science can resolve.

            If you disagree, then please answer my question: If scientists discover that the embryo is not a human organism, would this affect your position on abortion?

          • materetmagistra

            @Paul Brandon Rimmer: "Or maybe it's not a being at all. Philosophers discuss being. They tend to use the term 'ontology' when they do so."

            So as to not get too far off topic by your equivocation [re: the word "being"] - - ->

            The use of the word "being," I intended: a living thing; or this: being = a living thing that has (or can develop) the ability to act or function independently

            organism

            animate thing, living thing - a living (or once living) entity

            (1) The question of the WHAT - the being that exists - the organism that exists - CAN BE known by science. Are you confused as to whether that being/organism/offspring is alive or not? a plant or not? an animal or not? what type of animal? These are all things we can answer. We CAN know that the tiny being/organism/offspring formed at fertilization is a biological human being.

            (2) The question of what MEANING that has is one of philosophy. The question of human rights is philosophical, as well as who would hold such rights if they do exist. Which means that you and I will never have SCIENTIFIC proof, proof that can be sampled under a microscope, or in a genetics lab, which shows definitively WHO has rights. There are only two choices that I can think of:

            (a) rights are NOT inherent nor inalienable and are only assigned [naturally by men];

            (b) rights are inherent and inalienable and ALL biological human beings hold them equally simply by virtue of being biological human beings.

            If you choose (a) you will have to explain WHO (which human beings) has the authority to bestow or deny rights on a fellow human being. And, if you choose (a) I am not sure that you would be able to agree with the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," or the Bill of Rights: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people," which both seem to indicate that human beings HAVE rights (which would indicate the understanding that rights are inherent.)

          • David Nickol

            Haven't you noticed, however, that neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution of the United States recognizes or establishes a right to life for the unborn? There is a minority that argues the Fourteenth Amendment protects unborn "persons," but even Justice Scalia doesn't buy that. He famously said:

            And indeed, there are anti-abortion people who think that the Constitution requires a state to prohibit abortion. They say that the Equal Protection Clause requires that you treat a helpless human being that's still in the womb the way you treat other human beings. I think that's wrong. I think when the Constitution says that persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws, I think it clearly means walking-around persons. You don't count pregnant women twice.

          • materetmagistra

            David Nickol: "Haven't you noticed, however, that neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution of the United States recognizes or establishes a right to life for the unborn?"

            The Declaration states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."

            Explain again how that differs from view (b) presented in my comment above?

          • David Nickol

            Explain again how that differs from view (b) presented in my comment above?

            You are on extremely weak ground trying to use the Declaration of Independence in an argument about abortion. For one thing, the Declaration has no legal force in US law. For another, it is a matter of debate whether Jefferson even understood women—let alone the unborn—to be included when he referred to "all men."

            Abortion was legal in colonial times. Jefferson seems to have expressed no negative opinions on the topic. If the Founders really believed what you imagine they believed about all men being created equal, abortion and slavery would have been prohibited, and women would have been allowed to vote and own property.

          • materetmagistra

            David Nickol: "You are on extremely weak ground trying to use the Declaration of Independence in an argument about abortion."

            Isn't that exactly what you mean to do with your:

            "Haven't you noticed, however, that neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution of the United States recognizes or establishes a right to life for the unborn?" ??

          • David Nickol

            By the way, suppose I am not an American. Why should I accept the Declaration of Independence as an authoritative document about anything at all? It is a great political document in the history of the United States, but there is absolutely nothing about it that deals with the question of when life (in the sense of personhood) begins.

          • materetmagistra

            My argument is this: (b) rights are inherent and inalienable and ALL biological human beings hold them equally simply by virtue of being biological human beings.

            That the Declaration holds a similar view is simply a support for said argument.

          • David Nickol

            That the Declaration holds a similar view is simply a support for said argument.

            The Declaration of Independence being a document, it does not hold any view. And the viewpoint you are trying to attribute to Thomas Jefferson, which he was allegedly expressing in the Declaration, is your own viewpoint, not Jefferson's. It is preposterous to attribute to Jefferson the idea that all males and females, be they adults, children, fetuses, embryos, or zygotes, are "equal" and have a right to life. No serious "right to life" argument can be based on what Jefferson intended to say when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

          • materetmagistra

            @davidnickol:disqus: "The Declaration of Independence being a document, it does not hold any view."

            Fair enough. The Declaration espouses a certain view of human rights.....a view that men acknowledged and signed their names and honor to and died defending.

          • Until you answer my question, I'm not going to engage in this discussion with you any longer.

          • materetmagistra

            Paul, you yourself stated: "Science doesn't provide certainty in anything."

            Therefore, according to you, this is simply an impossibility: "If in the future scientists discover that the embryo is not a biological member of the human species....."

          • I'm editing this to remove my previous, unhelpful response.

          • It seems as though you either don't understand how science is done, or you don't understand my question.

            Science is the most reliable source of knowledge about the physical world to which we presently have access, but that source of knowledge is always provisional, it's always open to correction and reinterpretation.

            Evolution is a scientific fact. It could be wrong. Maybe we will later discover that the genetic relations between different species is due to alien interference, and that all present species did not evolve from a single species over billions of years. If scientists were to discover this, then I would change my mind about evolution.

            If it is a scientific fact that embryos are human organisms, then it must be possible that, in the future, scientists will discover that this fact is a mistake. They may find out that actually embryos are not organisms, but simply part of another organism. Or they might discover that embryos are not human.

            If scientists made this discovery, would this change your position on abortion? If not, why not?

          • materetmagistra

            Paul Brandon Rimmer: "Science is the most reliable source of knowledge about the physical world to which we presently have access, but that source of knowledge is always provisional, it's always open to correction and reinterpretation."

            The problem, Paul, is that you are refusing to accept the "the most reliable source of knowledge about the physical world to which we presently have access" regarding the nature of the tiny human being growing within the body of his mother.

          • I hear what you say, whoever you are, and then I go and talk to respected biologists, and they tell me something different. Who am I going to believe?

            And are you ever going to answer my question? If an answer isn't contained in your next response, I'm done. I'm not responding anymore. So you have a choice now. Answer the question, or say a final word; I'll be happy to give it to you, for the three or four other people who are following this over-long discussion thread.

          • materetmagistra

            @paulrimmer:disqus: "...they tell me something different."

            Well, ask them to tell you exactly what biological species the human embryo belongs to if it does not belong to the human species. If it is not actually one thing, it must actually be something else. What species would that be?

          • materetmagistra

            @paulrimmer:disqus: "...and then I go and talk to respected biologists, and they tell me something different."

            If those biologists can not tell the difference between a member of the human species and a member of any other species, I am sorry, but I cannot call them "respected biologists."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The embryo is a member of the species homo sapien at the embryonic stage. This is a scientific claim that can be established.

            Personhood is a philosophical claim about homo sapiens.

          • My skepticism arises about whether the claim that the embryo is an entity unto itself, and not simply part of the woman's body, like a kidney or a tumor, is a scientific claim.

            If it is, then there is the possibility that it will later be discovered, either that what scientists thought was an individual organism, is actually not an individual organism, but instead only part of another living organism. Alternatively, I suppose it's possible that someone could discover that the embryo isn't human, but is something else and then becomes human at some later stage. That's more outlandish, but it cannot be ruled out a priori as a matter of science.

            If one of these two things were discovered, would it change your mind about abortion? Should it?

            My deep doubt is about whether these are purely scientific claims, and not already highly philosophical (and, at very early stages, quite speculative).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Whether the embryo is a distinct entity in its mother's body seems clearly able to be shown true or not biologically. I can't fathom how it could be argued that it is not a distinct life. This is not to say that the two do not have a symbiotic biological relationship.

            As far as humanity goes, the proabortionists have done their best to muddle concepts like human and person so as to justify what they want justified. When you were a two days old embryo you looked just like and behaved just like all two day old homo sapien embryos.

            It seems totally absurd to say that a two day old homo sapien embryo could be classified like a kidney or cancerous tumor.

          • It seems totally absurd to say that a two day old homo sapien embryo could be classified like a kidney or cancerous tumor.

            It may well be, but the distinction drawn may not be scientific. After all, if scientists were to discover that, biologically. a two day old embryo is a part of a body, and not an individual organism any more than a two day old tumor, would that have any affect on your position about abortion?

            If you don't think it is at all possible that scientists could discover this, maybe that is because this isn't a scientific question.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If a two-day-old human embryo could suddenly grow into a kidney or tumor then I would see no obstacle to removing it for a good reason. But two-day-old embryos never do that. They grow kidneys and even unfortunately may grow tumors of their own.

            You seem an agnostic about the kind of distinction-making that scientists perform all the time.

          • That sort of distinction-making, when I make it as a scientist, is always provisional. It can be wrong. What would you do if this distinction, between embryo and tumor as regards "being an individual organism", is wrong?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'd change my mind.

          • That's a great answer.

          • Max Driffill

            That it may be. but it isn't yet a human being. It is a ball of cells that may develop into a human being.

          • materetmagistra

            A "ball of cells" that can carry out all basic life processes happens to be called an "organism. An organism can also be composed of simply ONE cell, as long as it is directing its own life processes.

            And, there is only ONE type of organism capable of developing into a MATURE human being, and that would be an IMMATURE human being - which is exactly what a human zygote happens to be.

          • William Davis

            I'm out of time for now, good luck with this. They are going all ad hominem on me, I take that as a sign that they recognize the truth in my arguments and genuinely upset by it. I'm getting a little arrogant and condescending in response, not a good place to be in a debate, I'll check again tomorrow. I apologize again if I seemed insensitive yesterday, sorry to hear about your Dad. Mine has prostate cancer in remission, so that day will be upon me before long :(

          • So sorry to hear this, William.

          • William Davis

            Thank you.

          • Loreen Lee

            And I understand now why I was becoming more and more satirical in my comments. I'm sure though that you will be back.

  • GCBill

    This piece does a good job illustrating the difference between science-based and value-based objections, as well as the importance of distinguishing between them. But the it doesn't apply this reasoning consistently. The disagreement over abortion is, like the stem cell debate, over the significance of the biological facts. It's not just about when life begins. Just because SCIENCE says the fetus has distinct genetic material and is on a particular developmental trajectory doesn't mean that there can't still be principled reasons for supporting abortion access. You might not agree with them, but citing embryological facts is in no way sufficient to address them.

    WRT iPS, the only reason we know it's as good as ESCR is because we tested both. With that in mind, I don't understand why this article brings their apparently equal efficacy up in the midst of moral arguments that would have prevented such testing in the first place.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Just because SCIENCE says the fetus has distinct genetic material and is
      on a particular developmental trajectory doesn't mean that there can't
      still be principled reasons for supporting abortion access.

      Are you familiar with the Progressive arguments for the eugenics programs of the early 20th century?

      • David Nickol

        Are you familiar with the Progressive arguments for the eugenics programs of the early 20th century?

        This does not even come close to being an argument.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          It wasn't an argument. It was a question.

          Perhaps a counterexample. I have noticed that people who will make allowances for offing human beings at one stage of development will balk at offing them at other stages, even though the eugenicists had principled reasons for separating the idea of being a human and allowing for its termination (or more humanely, its sterilization).

          • Doug Shaver

            eugenicists had principled reasons

            So does everyone else. We all have principles. We just don't all have the same principles.

      • GCBill

        The ones that made use of Social Darwinism (which also can't be inferred from mere biological facts)? Somewhat, although I am no expert.

      • Doug Shaver

        Are you familiar with the Progressive arguments for the eugenics programs of the early 20th century?

        I have heard about them. I have not studied them, but I don't need to in order to know that "Eugenecists said X, therefore X is wrong" is a fallacy.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          "Eugenecists said X, therefore X is wrong" is a fallacy.

          You have it backward. It's more like "Argument X supports eugenics" therefore "it may not be the argument you wish to deploy." Unless, of course, you are willing to follow the consequences of applying Argument X wherever they may lead.

          • Doug Shaver

            It's more like "Argument X supports eugenics"

            That's what eugenicists said. I don't have to agree with them about what their arguments actually supported.

            Unless, of course, you are willing to follow the consequences of applying Argument X wherever they may lead.

            I know where my arguments lead and where they don't lead.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Well, we've already seen that some folks here have insisted that a being be "self aware" before considering it a "person," but then balked at explaining how sleeping beings or beings in a coma would be exempt from this. Someone also suggested that the being be able to "survive on its own" before it could be a "person," but then balked at explaining how this did not exclude beings on newborn infants, children, or the handicapped and those on life support.

            Perhaps it was not yourself who made these arguments, but others on your side. But it does seem to be a repeated feature of ad hoc arguments and objections-of-convenience.

          • Doug Shaver

            Perhaps it was not yourself who made these arguments

            No, it wasn't. My criteria for determining whether some entity is a proper object of moral concern are a bit more complex than that. They won't fit in a sound bite.

  • Krakerjak

    When it comes to biological research, I have no doubt that we have to be very cautious and not simply do things because they can be done, especially in the area of DNA, genetic manipulation and stem cell experimentation. There should be some sort of international bioethics watchdog in place, composed mainly of bioethicists and scientists. The concerns of cultural and religious ideologies can be given some consideration, but their opinions should not be allowed to take precedent over decisions reached by this international bioethics watchdog think tank, nor should any political or corporate entity be allowed to have any controlling interest in how this research is done, we should be especially wary of corporate and religious interests. Having said all of this, But speaking to those who want to make this about abortion, I do not want to make this into another loop into the never ending spiral into the anti -abortion "debate". We have the existing laws and we have to work within that framework. I am not a religious person...but personally I do think that some of the abortion"rights" for some has devolved into abortion as a form of birth control or gender selection method in some cases, but for those of us are of that opinion, are we supposed to turn the world upside down by demanding that governments of the world see it that way? I don't think so.

    • William Davis

      One can argue, but I think 20 weeks, when the child can survive on it's own (and thus is an individual human being) is the best place to draw the line, but surely this can and will be debated. It seems to revolve around how you define "individual". I think abortion in general is a bad thing (though it should only be illegal after 20 week), but the use of leftover embryos from fertility clinics for scientific research is something else entirely. That is what this article isn't telling you, this embryos were going to die regardless. Are we going to make fertility clinics illegal?

      • materetmagistra

        Hey, William. Every one of us is "going to die regardless." Does that mean any one of us could be justifiably intentionally killed to further "scientific" research? [Sounds incredibly familiar to something that happened in the 1930s.....]

        • William Davis

          Broken record, and a liar.

          • materetmagistra

            Merely pointing out a problem with your reasoning.

        • Krakerjak

          Dick Head!

      • Krakerjak

        I think that part of one of my comment was either truncated or deleted, but in essence what I was saying was that some persons use abortion as a method of birth control or gender selection....and though not a Catholic I am oppossed to that!The abortion laws are already in place and I see no need to fight the"battle" again in which we will end up with the same result. I think that the theists and the secularists should just suck it up. It is now what it is.

      • Papalinton

        Those in the medical profession worked this out long ago. Only the ignorant argue otherwise.

    • Doug Shaver

      There should be some sort of international bioethics watchdog in place, composed mainly of bioethicists and scientists.

      Why international? Should we assume that we Americans are so ethically incompetent that we need the rest of the world to tell us the difference between right and wrong?

  • Krakerjak

    It seems that SN is not allowing the posting of cartoons or links from certain individuals such as myself...but still allows links posted by Mike. That seems to say...if you post pro catholic links....but the rest of you riffraff can go to hell.

    Mike's Link. https://strangenotions.com/stem-cell-research-and-science-vs-religion/#disqus_thread

    • Mike

      My link is to a lecture by the former Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University on the Veritas Forum, you should check it out.

  • Krakerjak

    It seems that SN is not allowing the posting of cartoons or links from certain individuals such as myself. If that is the way SN wants to muzzle participants...shutting middle of the road people out! that is fine....For all intents and purposes by their muzzling me....they are banning me. If they want to play dirty...I can too. I will most likely be setting up a blog devoted to rebuttal of the SN blog.

    http://primalillusion.blogspot.ca/p/freedom-of-expression.html

    • William Davis

      On the bright side, at least they aren't after your head. Can you image a Muslim version of this site? Although I've often enjoyed your cartoons, they remind me of Charlie Hebdo, lol.

      • Krakerjak

        May not be after my head yet....but perhaps would like to remove another part of my anatomy resulting in permanent celibacy pour moi.

    • Loreen Lee

      In hope that you read this comment, please know that from my perspective you have set for me a good example. The best.

  • The concept of personhood refers to a metaphysical stance not a scientific definition. Per my recollection, roughly two-thirds of people (at least in the US, maybe even worldwide but I forget) either don't view such as emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research as moral issues or, if they do, as morally unacceptable.

    This doesn't mean they have reflectively engaged the metaphysics of personhood, but it does mean that the implicit metaphysical presuppositions of both their common sense and common sensibilities do not resonate with static, substantialist, essentialist conceptions of human personhood, the types of concepts that lead to the classical sorite paradox, which results from the conflation of logical and efficient causations (e.g. which incremental addition of individual grains of sand results in a "heap" of sand?). A more dynamic, process approach better frames up reality's emergent realities and wouldn't require an essentialist capitulation to nominalism (abandoning, for example, the principle of identity). Instead, it employs what Hartshorne called "nonstrict" identity (see:http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2833 ).

    In drawing a distinction between an individual human life and an individual unborn human person, it wouldn't necessarily follow that the former has no moral status (a separate conversation), only that the latter has a degree of moral significance according it the same inviolability as all other persons.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It would be great if you would write in a more popular style.

      • Perhaps a concrete example would help. Most people rushing into a burning building, faced with the choice between either rescuing a cryotank of 200 frozen embryos or a terrified, crying two year old, I hope, would rescue the 2 year old. This wouldn't demonstrate that the embryos had no moral significance but would clearly suggest they had less? Common sense, common sensibilities, metaphysical implications?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That was much more understandable.

        • Garbanzo Bean

          Johnboy, you often bring up this cryotank example. It is silly, and way beneath the usual intelligence of your comments. Suppose there were two two-year olds. One is in an iron lung, and the other is standing there crying. Which one do you save?

          • Thanks for your kind remarks. Perhaps you could elaborate, because your parody didn't succeed for me?

          • Galorgan

            I think (?) his point is that your analogy isn't fair because the 200 frozen embryos need a host to be viable. Thus he would choose the healthy 2 year old because it would mean at least one life would be saved (for the exact reason he would save the healthy two year old over the one with the iron lung).

            Of course all you need to do is construct the scenario where you have 200 viable willing and wanting hosts in waiting. On the other hand, he then might say that IVF is a sin so he still wouldn't do it and therefore the 200 embryos would die eventually even if he did save them (along with the one child). Of course that asks two questions: 1. So, 200 frozen embryos are not worthwhile in themselves? and 2. Death of embryos is preferable to IVF when we already have the cells (apparently it's already preferable to stem cell research)?

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Perhaps you could elaborate, because your parody didn't succeed for me?

            1. The parody extends to the fact that it is not humanly possible to save the child in an iron lung, just as it is impossible to save the embryos. Frozen embryos are stored in a locked vault, in large containers weighing more than a manageable amount.
            2. Going beyond my parody, it is also entirely unnecessary to attempt to save the embryos. Their containers can withstand a great amount of heat, and the off-gassing nitrogen would actually help to repel flame. They also are not in danger of smoke inhalation.
            3. Your example simply attempts to elicit the presumed bias of your hearers, much like a slave-owner saying "who among you would save your slave out of a fire, ahead of your own child?"
            I hope that helps, let me know if you desire further elucidation.

          • As I suspected, your parody relied on a misconception regarding cryotank portability. Thanks for clarifying.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            No it did not. Portable cryotanks are used short term for transporting. Otherwise, large tanks are used to reduce the frequency with which nitrogen must be added.
            The bias is strong with you.

          • I feel like I'm missing something, but ... invite others to help us out

            peace!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That is not what I took from the thought experiment. I figured that Johnboy's point was that the humanness of the two year old was greater than the total humanness of 10,000 embryos. Because we would save the two year old before we save the embryos, without second thought; the thought experiment captures our intuition on the subject, though we may not be able to prove philosophically why a two year old is more human.

          • Michael Murray

            It's a thought experiment and as such doesn't rely on the detail of the equipment. You have to choose between the embryos and the child. You can save one but only one. Imagine whatever you need to imagine to make that a reality.

            It's like the trolley problem.

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

            The solution is not to argue about the colour of the handle of the lever.

          • Papalinton

            What's the purpose of the question? What is it trying to elicit?

          • See this:
            http://prolifephilosophy.blogspot.com/2012/07/thought-experiment-burning-ivf-facility.html

            Does this work for you?

            The only counters I've seen, like the one above, essentially state (tortuously) why, for all practical purposes, the embryos wouldn't need to be treated as persons. In other words, they might cohere with certain others' moral intuitions but they don't resonate with mine.

          • Papalinton

            Thanks for the reply Johnboy. But my question was directed at Garbanzo Bean.

          • David Nickol

            One is in an iron lung, and the other is standing there crying. Which one do you save?

            What is the answer? I don't get your point.

            Are you suggesting that each of 200 frozen embryos has the exact same moral worth as a 2-year-old child when it comes to taking lives, but a 2-year-old has more moral worth than 200 frozen embryos when it comes to saving lives?

            Or are you suggesting that in Johnboy Sylvest's scenario, what virtually any human being would do (save the 2-year-old) is not what, morally, they should do (save 200 lives rather than a single life)?

      • William Davis

        I usually read extremely fast, things slow down a lot when reading Johnboy ;) I usually like what he has to say (though I'll admit there have been a few times when I didn't understand what he was saying myself, lol. He clearly has a much deeper understanding of varied philosophical topics than I do.)

    • Ignatius Reilly

      That was a really good article that you linked to.

    • William Davis

      I can go with that. I think abortion is bad, but it is a necessary evil. Person hood in development is a matter of degrees, not some magic dichotomy, in my opinion. Neither I, nor anyone I know has had an abortion, in fact, I've only had sex with my wife (unusual for a 30 year old). I think the idea that the road to my identity started with the first living cell, though that cell is far removed from my current identity. Those against masterbation and birth control draw the line at sperm and egg cells, those against all abortion (but not against birth control) draw the line at conception. Some of us draw the line at 20 weeks, which allows for some leeway but prevents more hideous forms of abortion. I could be argued into sliding it back a little, but there needs to be enough room for the woman to realize she is pregnant. To behave as though there is a scientifically confirm line to draw, and to disagree is against science is dishonest, that's why I'm wearing myself ragged arguing.

  • David Nickol

    I don't see how this new post (or the previous one) is particularly conducive to dialogue between Catholics and atheists. Also, I am not sure what is to be gained in 2015 by defending the Bush Administration against a 10-year-old charge of being "anti-science." Still, SN has a right to post anything it pleases, so this is an observation, not a complaint.

    I would agree that putting ethical restrictions on federally funded research is not "anti-science" in and of itself.

    I don't think science can answer such questions as whether a fertilized egg is a "person" (or should be treated as a person if not definitively proven to be a person), so the answers to the ethical questions are philosophical ones, not scientific ones. I am not sufficiently well informed as to the most current thinking on induced pluripotent stem cells as potentially, fully functional equivalents to embryonic stem cells, but I doubt that research has progressed to the point that science can learn just as much studying induced pluripotent stem cells as studying embryonic stem cells.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      whether a fertilized egg is a "person"

      The argument is that it is a "human life." In the past, several groups of humans have been regarded under law as not fully "persons."

      • David Nickol

        I think it all boils down to personhood. Is a fertilized egg, or an embryo before some particular stage of development, a person with a right to life? Calling it a "life," a "human life," a "member of the species homo sapiens," a "human being," or whatever else one wants to call it is just potentially obfuscation. To say a "human life" has a right to life is to say it is a person.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The philosophical and religious objections are to the deliberate taking of a human life. It is not to treating that human life as less of a person. (There may be reasons for objecting to that, but they are different reasons for different ends.) Adding in the often politically- and ideologically-defined notion of "person" is an actual obfuscation and leads to silliness like "so you want to allow fetuses to vote!" (We don't allow children to vote, either; but no one denies that they are persons. But logic and reason have fled from the Late Modern world.)

          In philosophy, a "person" is an individual substance of a human nature or more simply "an individual human being." (And keep in mind that this refers to humans metaphysically, not biologically. If the Zaklogs of planet Morg possess the rational powers of intellect and will, then they are also humans.) This leaves aside the political issues of voting or 3/5th of a person or Untermenschen and the like. So one need only verify:
          a) being
          b) human
          c) individual
          as well as concepts folded into these such as "substantial being."

          • David Nickol

            But logic and reason have fled from the Late Modern world.)

            Oh, come on!

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Not yet gone entirely; but you may have noticed the poor logic often employed these days. The triumph of the will over the intellect and the consequent focus on pleasuring the appetites at the expense of reason. New Age behaviors. The intrusion of "consensus" into science. The occasional loosening of alpha risks in statistical claims in order to ensure that a favored result is "statistically significant." The recent argument that some scientific theories are just so dang elegant that empirical verification should not be required. Ever since the 1950s, the phrase "I feel that...." has been replacing "I think that...." in common discourse. Not to mention ism-ism, studies studies, and so on. Compare virtually any argument posed after say 1968 to any argument posed prior to say 1900.

          • In philosophy, a "person" is ... problematic and controversial?

          • Doug Shaver

            In philosophy, a "person" is ... problematic and controversial?

            Controversial, at least.

          • :-)

          • I think the question is best summarized as, what human matter should we make it illegal to kill, and why?

            I can admit that, whether you call it a "person" or a distinct human being, ending a pregnancy should not be criminalized, nor should generating embryos for research. I don't have any moral qualms about assisted suicide or removing life support from some humans. I also have no moral concerns about killing in self-defence. The issue of whether the thing being killed is a distinct human being is not the end of the question. The question for me is whether the thing has its own interest in surviving, and whether we as a society have an interest in not killing it.

            The question for Catholics seems to be whether it has a soul. And even if it does it is okay to kill it in self defence. If that is the case, to win this argument you need to convince me that a soul exists.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I don't have any moral qualms about assisted suicide or removing life support from some humans.

            What about smothering one with a pillow? The problem with making exceptions to the rule that all human life is sacred is that the line for the exceptions is somewhat notional and may shift over time. When one becomes callous enough, one no longer feels "qualms." Recall that when Congress considered a law that would protect the lives of babies born accidentally in the course of an abortion, the Usual Suspects voted it down; so even after the pregnancy, the kid is not protected.

            The question for me is whether the thing has its own interest in surviving.

            Oddly enough, Darwin claimed that all living things had this interest, since all will struggle for survival. If you mean that the "thing" has a conscious interest in surviving, then you must explain how you protect people who are sleeping, or in a coma. If you mean a reasoned interest in survival, then you must explain how to protect animals, plants, and the mentally handicapped. Again, the problem with these ad hoc rationales is that they often have implications beyond the immediate political needs. If a fetus flinches from the knife does that display an interest in survival? If not, what about a cat who likewise flinches?

            The question for Catholics seems to be whether it has a soul.

            Nah. All living things have souls, since that is what the word "anima" means: "alive."

            English, as usual, has an extra word, so we don't often glom onto the fact that to the Greeks and Latins the question "Does X have a soul?" translates simply as "Does X have life?" We can determine that by some elemental questions: whether it takes in nutrients from its surroundings, whether it grows and diversifies, and so on. (In essence, whether it is "in motion.")

            Once past that hurdle, we can get down to the interesting questions, such as what are its various powers? How do the souls of animals differ from those of plants? Does any portion of a soul outlast the physical body? And so on. That a petunia has a soul is no more mysterious than that a basketball has a sphere. A soul is simply the substantial form of a living being. It is not some Cartesian "ghost in the machine."
            http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/07/in-psearch-of-psyche-some-groundwork.html

            And even if it does it is okay to kill it in self defence.

            No, it is never okay; but it may be the lesser of two evils. Moral philosophy is not a simple black-and-white set of instructions, like a lab procedure or a civil law. It is a set of principles from which to reason about the world.

          • Yes I do have moral qualms abotut smothering someone to death with a pillow, depending on the circumstances.

            I do not consider any human life to be sacred. I don't think anything is sacred. I think human life is the most important thing in the universe, but I don't consider it sacred.

            I can't speak for Darwin with respect to what he means by "interest in survival" I am using in the sense that Peter Singer uses it. Meaning, is the entity aware of its existence, can it reflect on that fact, in these cases I think no one should end its life unless there are some pretty narrow extenuating circumstances.

            I suppose Catholics are entitled to use words to mean what they want, but recognize that non-Catholics don't imply "alive" by "soul". I think you know what I meant.

            You're right, morality is not simple it is complex, I never said it wasn't. But neither is civil law or laboratory procedures. But it doesn't mean we can't discuss what principle s to apply and what rules to make about these issues. Indeed we have to. In my country, rules against assisted suicide were recently found unconstitutional. There was nothing simple or uncontroversial in the discussion or the decision. But we do need to take a position and we need to be able to justify it.

            After all this I still don't know what your positions is on killing humans? Can it ever be justified? You seem to suggest no. Which I don't think is necessarily unreasonable, but I'd like to know what it is and why.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Yes I do have moral qualms abotut smothering someone to death with a pillow, depending on the circumstances.

            Depending on the circumstances?

            I do not consider any human life to be sacred.

            That's nice for the Untermenschen to know. We'll be sure to hide when you show up. I guess you're no humanist, then.

            I don't think anything is sacred.

            Chances are you regard "free speech" and other such things as sacred.

            I am using in the sense that Peter Singer uses it.

            Eek. That's the guy who said parents should be able to kill their children, even after birth, and even backed away from putting a 2-years old limit on it.

            is the entity aware of its existence, can it reflect on that fact,

            Both of which are entirely subjective, which I suppose is good news for whoever is doing the subjecting. How do you handle people who are asleep or in a coma?

            I suppose Catholics are entitled to use words to mean what they want, but recognize that non-Catholics don't imply "alive" by "soul".

            Actually, Aristotle was not a Catholic.

            But you are right that discourse in this area by non-professionals does tend to be sloppy and generally falls into the deficient usages made popular in the Scientific Revolution by Descartes. For that matter, most people get along fine without the specialized knowledge. The difficulty comes when someone claims to debunk the concept. Then it becomes important that they do not flail comically against a straw man or a popular misunderstanding; much like the man who claims to have disproven evolution by pointing out that dogs do not evolve into cats. What good would it do to say that while "evolutionists are entitled to use words to mean what they want," we must recognize that non-evolutionists don't use the term in the same way. Such an argument would not stand up for a New York minute.

            After all this I still don't know what your positions is on killing humans? Can it ever be justified?

            Why are you so anxious to justify killing humans?

            Certainly. It is never good, but it may be sometimes the lesser evil. Life is the supreme material good, since if a being lacks life, it cannot pursue any other goods. Hence, the deprivation of life is the greatest material evil.

          • Yes depending on the circumstances. For example, if it was my beloved child, a god existed, and the god told me to.

            No, I regard free speech as important and valued. I have no need for the term sacred.

            Yes peter singer, though I do not agree with the killing of children up to the age of two. Actually he doesn't either, except where the children will die and will be in agony until then. I don't agree with him on that.

            Yes it is subjective as virtually everything is. I don't handle people who are in comas.

            I didn't say, or imply Atostotle was Catholic.

            At the end of the day we share the same view on killing. Basically utilitarianism. We weigh our actions and judge other by reference to human life.

            You consider human life a superior good to God?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Yes depending on the circumstances. For example, if it was my beloved child, a god existed, and the god told me to.

            Tacitus, The Histories, Book V: "It is a crime among [the Jews] to kill any newly-born infant." They were unique among ancient folk in not sacrificing their children to the gods, as the Syrians, Greeks, and Romans did. (Recall Agamemnon sacrificing his daughter to secure favorable winds or the Phoenicians and their Moloch.) They devised a story to emphasize this. Not sure why you always want to be so literal just to score one over the Jews.

            No, I regard free speech as important and valued. I have no need for the term sacred.

            The Greeks had no word for "velocity," either. That doesn't mean they didn't recognize change of location over time. Whether you use a term or not does not change whether you employ the idea. Maybe you think "sacred" has only to do with gods? As for example, the sacred soil of France or a sacred trust.

            I don't handle people who are in comas.

            Then how do you maintain coherence in your requirement that life be "reflective" before you would withhold the knife? If you are going to define human life as "such and such" then you must cover all cases of such and such. The problem with ad hoc special pleading is that it lacks logical consistency.

            I didn't say, or imply Atostotle was Catholic.

            What you said was, "I suppose Catholics are entitled to use words to mean what they want" with regard to the meanings of anima. But the idea of soul goes back to Aristotle. They were not using the words "to mean what they want." They were using the words to mean what they had always meant.

            At the end of the day we share the same view on killing. Basically utilitarianism.

            The measure of man is not his "usefulness," giving the powers the excuse to eliminate those who are no longer useful. Man is an end, not a means.

            You consider human life a superior good to God?

            Why would you say that?

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes I do have moral qualms abotut smothering someone to death with a pillow, depending on the circumstances.

            My problem with it is that smothering is a really unpleasant way to die, even for someone who wants to die.

          • David Nickol

            The problem with making exceptions to the rule that all human life is sacred is that the line for the exceptions is somewhat notional and may shift over time.

            You fail to mention that it has long been the case in Catholic medical ethics that "extraordinary means" need not be used to prolong life. So while assisted suicide is totally unacceptable within Catholicism, removing life support in certain cases is perfectly acceptable.

          • We had a conversation about suicide several weeks ago at Vox Nova, which some may find of interest:
            http://vox-nova.com/2015/01/25/was-it-suicide/

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Certainly. That's because there is a huge gulf between letting nature take its course and actively and intentionally killing them. In fact, I think I did mention it somewhere here.

            It is one thing to give someone a dose of morphine in order to alleviate pain even though it may end the patient's life as a side effect, and quite another to give someone a dose of morphine in order to kill them.

          • David Nickol

            I am talking about the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining treatment. I doubt that we are in disagreement on what the basic Catholic position is, but in actual practice there are specific cases in which some ethicist might argue withdrawal of treatment was active killing, while others might argue it was "letting nature take its course."

            There was the following from the CDF at the time of the Terri Schiavo case:

            The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper end, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.”

            I have seen arguments by Catholic medical ethicists that it it is not that simple. (Actually, if you read the article I linked to, the CDF acknowledges that it is not as simple in the brief statement above makes it seem.)

            To take one case, distant in-law of mine was dying of terminal cancer and went into a hospice. She refused all treatment except for painkillers and would accept water but not food. I am reasonably confident no Catholic ethicist would insist that she be fed either by mouth or by tube, although I am not sure how to square that with the above statement.

            To take another, I saw a gut-wrenching television show about a family in which the mother had early-onset Alzheimer's. The woman's family said that is she got something like pneumonia, they were going to instruct the hospital to withhold all treatment. I am reasonably confident (but not altogether sure) in this case Catholic medical ethicists would say that if all that is required to treat the pneumonia would be a simple course of antibiotics, withholding treatment would not be permissible.

            In yet another case, the father of someone I used to know had an inoperable brain tumor that was pushing on his skull to the point that it was misshapen. My friend didn't know if his father even recognized him. It was a terrible situation. One day the man collapsed (heart attack), the family called an ambulance, and the paramedics resuscitated him. He lived a few more months. In this case, I am reasonably sure that the right thing (or at least a permissible thing) to do was not to resuscitate him.

          • Doug Shaver

            The problem with making exceptions to the rule that all human life is sacred is that the line for the exceptions is somewhat notional and may shift over time.<I don't need exceptions because I don't belong to your religion. The notion of sacredness is irrelevant to my ethics.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It's not a religious issue.

          • Doug Shaver

            Outside of religious contexts, the word "sacred" means nothing to me.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            This can easily be repaired by recourse to a dictionary, where we find that in addition to the religious meaning you know of, the term also means "highly valued and important, deserving great respect." As in "a sacred responsibility" or "a sacred trust" or "the sacred soil of Russia.

            The word derives from Old French sacrer, "consecrate, anoint, dedicate" (from Latin sacrare, "to consecrate; set apart, dedicate." Obviously, persons and places may be "set apart" or "dedicated" to the gods -- as the oak was sacred to Wotan, and the ancient PIE may have originated in that usage, but the term is not exclusively religious. Valley Forge and Gettysburg are sacred to Americans, set apart and dedicated for non-religious reasons.

          • Doug Shaver

            Recourse to a dictionary would show that it's not actually impossible to be a married bachelor. That has never kept philosophers from using "No bachelor is married" as an example of a necessary truth. They can do that because in the contexts where they do it, there is no realistic likelihood of any misunderstanding.

            In the context of a forum devoted to the defense of Christianity, I am not about to say that I regard anything as sacred.

          • materetmagistra

            You are the type of person the law protects us from.

          • Doug Shaver

            You are the type of person the law protects us from.

            If you think, based just on what I've said in this forum, that I'm the sort of person you need any protection from, then you have a badly distorted view of human nature.

          • materetmagistra

            @dougshaver:disqus: "The notion of sacredness is irrelevant to my ethics."

            If you don't hold human life as sacred, as having worth and merit that should not be infringed upon or violated, as being something not of our own making, then your ethics are suspect as you will not hold the human person as the sole subject of those ethics.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't doubt for a minute that you regard my ethics with a great deal of suspicion.

          • materetmagistra

            Brian Green Adams: "I can admit that, whether you call it a "person" or a distinct human being, ending a pregnancy should not be criminalized,"

            But, you're begging the question - you are already assuming that abortion should not be criminalized.

            What is your argument that abortion should NOT be criminalized? Do you have one?

            @Brian Green Adams: "The question for Catholics seems to be whether it has a soul. And even if it does it is okay to kill it in self defence."

            Killing is never "okay," but, indirectly causing the death may be justified - in the case of self-defense, if one had to use an amount of force that was lethal in order to preserve one's own life, that could be justified. If one used a disproportionate amount of force, though, and caused death, that would not be justified. Life is not of our own making; therefore, the taking of life is a serious matter.

          • Doug Shaver

            And keep in mind that this refers to humans metaphysically, not biologically. If the Zaklogs of planet Morg possess the rational powers of intellect and will, then they are also humans.

            Not in my dictionary. I may call them people, but I'm not calling them humans.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Understood. Some folks once had the same reaction to Negroes. I think you may be confusing the metaphysical question with a biology question.

          • Doug Shaver

            Some folks once had the same reaction to Negroes.

            They were mistaken. I am not.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Well, they were just as certain, so we might not rely too heavily on the certitude of the speaker for a philosophical definition. I think you are simply restricting "human" to a particular biological "species" rather that applying it more broadly in its root meaning of "a rational animal." Of course, recognizing the essential humanity of the Zaklogs of Morg is a moot point until and when we encounter the Zaklogs. Odds ain't looking too good at this point. All the examples of aliens that Augustine gave were "somewhere out there" on Earth; and one kind of alien -- the Pygmies -- actually did exist. But it gave him a chance to say that we cannot deny humanity to any rational animal, no matter what his shape or color.

          • Doug Shaver

            Well, they were just as certain, so we might not rely too heavily on the certitude of the speaker for a philosophical definition.

            My certitude has nothing to do with it. Words are defined by usage. People generally do not use the word "human" as you have proposed using it.

            And it is not likely they ever will, no matter what kinds of life we discover elsewhere in the universe. Or do you think every science fiction writer since Day One has been grossly mistaken in their assumption that when we meet other rational beings, the one thing we will certainly not call them is human beings?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Words are defined by usage.

            Indeed; but usage by whom? The general public? That would not work for evolution or for algebraic topology. Why should it work for philosophy. (I would suggest further that there are usages that confuse or blur important distinctions (e.g., "truth" vs. "fact"), as well as changes that make older writings near incomprehensible (as in the present situation). To understand what the older writings mean, we have to understand how those writers used the term.)

            People generally do not use the word "human" as you have proposed using it.

            Of course not. At one time, they did not generally use it to include the Untermenschen, either. Earlier still, the equivalent word simply meant "us," and all other tribes were not-people.

            do you think every science fiction writer since Day One has been grossly mistaken in their assumption that when we meet other rational beings, the one thing we will certainly not call them is human beings?

            I have no doubt that writers in any age have carried most of the conceptual baggage of that age.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In topology there are definitions and axioms and from those we have theorems. We use the same words to mean the same thing, because in topology and in all of mathematics we have very precise definitions. Philosophers are not that lucky, because many of the words they use have everyday means that have changed. Just like an Aristotelian soul is different from the everyday concept of soul.

            Define human person precisely. Show that human persons have the right to life. Then show that embryos are a human person.

            Or just take the special case of embryos. Show that embryos have the right to life, which superseded any rights the mother may or may not have.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Imagine trying to discuss curves or spaces with the everyday concept of "simple" or "compact."

            If you are going to discuss the concept of "soul" as developed by Plato, Aristotle, and others and adopted by the Orthodox and Catholic churches, then it is best to use the definition developed by Plato, Aristotle, and others and adopted by the Orthodox and Catholic churches. Otherwise, you are flailing away at the Cartesians and their other modern epigones.

            Define human person precisely.

            A person is an individual substance of a rational nature. An individual substance is complete and subsistent per se apart from others. The core of the definition can be found in Boethius, De persona et duabus naturis, c. ii (early 6th cent.) Boethius is often called "the last of the Romans" and was working to translate Aristotle into Latin (which had never been done before) when the Ostrogoths offed him.
            (a) substance: means "standing under." It is the Aristotelian category that underlies all the other. It is a translation of Aristotle's ousia prote.
            (b) complete: it means that it does not form a part of something else. Thus, a spleen or a skin cell is not a person.
            (c) subsists in itself: means that a person is the ultimate possessor of his nature and all its acts, the ultimate subject of predication of all his attributes
            (d) apart from all others: this means a universal (Aristotle's ousia deutera) is not a person, since the universal has existence only in the existence of others. E.g., there is no "black man" only men who are black.
            (e) rational nature: means that non-intellectual supposita are excluded: dogs and birds are not persons.

            The idea of "person" had been hammered out earlier in a series of general councils, but was adopted by secular authorities into Western law. This is discussed in part in Toby Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West, where it discusses the Western Legal Revolution. The term originally referred to the masks worn by the actors in Greek theater.

            Show that human persons have the right to life.

            This follows from the definition and from the good as defined in The Nichomachean Ethics. One finds it in, for example, William of Ockham's Op. nonaginta dieris that persons have natural rights to life, liberty, and property.

            Then show that embryos are a human person.

            This requires showing that they satisfy the above definition as "an individual human being."
            (a) the embryo possesses being, since if it exists physically, then it certainly exists simply. This can easily be verified empirically.
            (b) the embryo is human, in the sense that she is genetically a member of H. sap. She is not equine, canine, insectoid, etc. This can also be verified empirically by a DNA test.
            (c) the embryo is an individual since she exists apart from her mother. A simple DNA test would confirm that the embryo is not only a distinct substance from the mother, but also a self-organizing system, needing no information from outside itself in order to develop.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'll have to give this some thought. Thanks for the detailed response though.

            Since an embryo lacks e), can we conclude that it is not a human person, or do you mean something else?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, it still possesses a rational nature, even if that waits to be expressed. Human beings also have a faculty of reproducing their kind, but the faculty is not expressed until puberty. They have a power of sensing colors; but some people are color-blind and the faculty is not expressed until some while after birth.

            From the POV of general relativity, what we see are three-dimensional cross-sections of four-dimensional being. That is, time is simply another dimension, and a being is a "worm" stretching through Minkowski 4-space.

          • Doug Shaver

            Indeed; but usage by whom? The general public? That would not work for evolution or for algebraic topology. Why should it work for philosophy.

            You're a statistician. I'm a philosopher. I know what works for philosophy.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think you may be confusing the metaphysical question with a biology question.

            No. I am dismissing your metaphysics as ungrounded in reality.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In what sense is either "rational" or "animal" ungrounded in reality?

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't regard either as a metaphysical concept.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "Rational" certainly is. There is no physical rational running about to be measured, weight, or counted. There is only this person and that person and the other person. Likewise, "animal." There are physical substances that can be classified as animals, but animal per se is not a physical substance. There is this dog and that spider and the other coral, but there is no "animal." So what do we call things that are not physical? They are either mathematical or metaphysical.

          • Doug Shaver

            So what do we call things that are not physical?

            I usually call them concepts.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Yeah, but that gets you tangled up in Russell's Paradox.

          • Doug Shaver

            Russell thought it was a problem. I don't.

      • Doug Shaver

        In the past, several groups of humans have been regarded under law as not fully "persons."

        When our society decided that that was a mistake (and therefore changed the law), what was our reason?

  • Life begins before conception. My parents were alive. The sperm and egg are alive. Embryos are as much distinct humans are tumors are distinct humans.

    • William Davis

      That was what I said, I've about given up on materetmagistra. This person continually misrepresents and almost outright lies about what I'm saying. I thought Catholics should hold to a higher ethical standard, I guess I was wrong.

      • Catholics are people, just like anyone else. Some are honest. Others are not.

        • William Davis

          Sure, just venting ;)

      • That was what I said

        And you're right.

    • materetmagistra

      @paulrimmer:disqus: "Life begins before conception. My parents were alive. The sperm and egg are alive. Embryos are as much distinct humans are tumors are distinct humans."

      Again, I think you do know exactly what the author meant by his, "[L]ife begins at conception." He meant the life of each individual human being. of course your parents were alive - and were human beings [since science has demonstrated that like begets like.] Of course the sperm and egg were alive - they were living cells belonging to either your mother or your father. But, once those two cells fused, the individual that would be known as 'Paul Brandon Rimmer' began his existence. The cells ceased existing as parts of another organism - instead becoming a NEW, 'like' organism, being capable of developing the necessary organs and parts when needed.

      Of course tumors are not "distinct humans," distinct human beings. They are run-away parts belonging to a distinct organism. However, a human embryo happens to be a distinct human being - albeit a very young, immature human being. Given enough time, the embryo grows and develops into a MATURE human being - a tumor will never do that.

      • But, once those two cells fused, the individual that would be known as 'Paul Brandon Rimmer' began his existence.

        This may well be true, but this is a philosophical or religious claim, not a scientific claim. Nothing about "the individual formerly known as Prince" or "the individual known as Paul" or... what is your name?... none of this sort of information will appear in any hard science. It cannot be measured or inferred from bare measurements alone.

        This is not to denegrate or dismiss the claim, by the way. It's just to make sure that we are not talking past each other. That life begins at conception is a scientific claim, and it is, literally interpreted, obviously false. That my particular DNA code was first assembled at conception is also a scientific claim and is (as far as I know) probably true. That an individual person, 'Paul Rimmer' began at conception is a philosophical claim, and it is a philosophical claim that I don't agree with. I don't think it is possible for individual cells to be people.

        Of course tumors are not "distinct humans," distinct human beings.

        Right. Neither are embryos. Unique DNA isn't enough.

        • materetmagistra

          @paulrimmer:disqus: " I don't think it is possible for individual cells to be people."

          The question you first need to answer is: Can a human being ever be ONE cell.

          And, the answer to that is, Yes. At fertilization a human being is one cell. Then it is two cells. Then it is four cells, and on and on.

          Yes, there is a point where a human being IS ONE CELL.

          • The question you first need to answer is: Can a human being ever be ONE cell.

            My answer is "no".

          • materetmagistra

            Paul Brandon Rimmer, what then IS the human zygote? If it is NOT an individual of the human species, WHAT is it? What species does said organism belong to?

          • It's a human zygote.

          • materetmagistra

            What is a human zygote if it is NOT a biological human being in the earliest stage of development?

          • A group of human cells that may well at one point become a human person.

          • materetmagistra

            Feigning ignorance is not very becoming of you, Mr. Rimmer.

            Scientists have a particular identification for "groups of cells" [or even a single cell] that operate as an organism - -
            Organisms=
            Entire living things that can carry out all basic life processes. Meaning they can take in materials, release energy from food, release wastes, grow, respond to the environment, and reproduce. Usually made up of organ systems, but an organism may be made up of only one cell such as bacteria or protist.Examples - bacteria, amoeba, mushroom, sunflower, human

            Scientists identify the human zygote as being a complete living human being.

            If this human being continues to exist [i.e. it does not die or is not killed], all it does is MATURE. It remains a human being at all points during its life.

          • I thought we were getting somewhere in the conversation, but I suppose not. I will not continue communicating with someone who accuses me of being a liar, so I'll bow out of the conversation now. Accusing someone of deceptive motives lacks a certain Christian charity, don't you think?

          • materetmagistra

            I'm sorry. I actually admired your understanding of physical science on this blog. Quite possibly you are not as learned when it comes to Biology. I can accept that. But trying to deny that which is accepted Biology is not becoming of a scientist.

          • I'm willing to continue the discussion, so long as we can agree to trust each other, that each of us is being honest.

            If this is known biological fact, that embryos are human beings, why do many embryologists object to such terminology?

            More, if it's a scientific fact, why don't you simply demonstrate it, rather than defining it? If it's science, you should be able to provide the evidence. What evidence is there that a given single cell is a human person? Does the empirically supported selection principle select only those cells that are human beings, or also cells that are not human beings? Does it get all possible cells that are human beings?

            This is what we'll need to explore.

          • materetmagistra

            Lifted from Trent Horn's writing:
            ------------------------------------------------
            The standard medical text Human Embryology and Teratology states, “Although human life is a continuous process, fertilization is acritical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed. Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud’s textbook The Developing Human states, “ Human life begins at fertilization,” and Langman’s Medical Embryology also states, “Development begins with fertilization.” Finally, the fourth chapter of Scott Gilbert’s textbook Developmental Biology is titled, “Fertilization: Beginning of a New Organism.”

            Leading pro-choice philosophers agree that human fetuses are human beings. David Boonan, author of A Defense of Abortion, writes, “Perhaps the most straightforward relation between you and me on the one hand and every human fetus on the other is this: All are living members of the same species, homo sapiens. A human fetus after all is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development.”

            Peter Singer holds the same view: “It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species homo sapiens.’ Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of the living organism. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.”

            After reviewing medical and embryology textbooks, I have yet to find a single book that denies that a human embryo or fetus is a human organism, and since by definition a human fetus is a stage of development for a
            human organism, I doubt I ever will find such a claim in a serious textbook.

            -----------------------------------------------------
            -----------------------------------------------------

          • materetmagistra

            (See below or above comment first)

            Not to mention the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Rounds writing: The disclosure actually mandated by § 7(1)(b), in concert with the definition in § 8(4), is “[t]hat the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” § 7(1)(b), and that “human being” in this case means “an individual living member of the species of Homo sapiens . . . during [its] embryonic [or] fetal age[],” § 8(4). The State’s evidence suggests that the biological sense in which the embryo or fetus is whole, separate, unique and living should be clear in context to a physician, cf. Gonzales, 127 S. Ct. at 1627 (“[B]y common understanding and scientific
            terminology, a fetus is a living organism while within the womb, whether or not it is viable outside the womb.”), and Planned Parenthood submitted no evidence to oppose
            that conclusion. Indeed, Dr. Wolpe’s affidavit, submitted by Planned Parenthood, states that “to describe an embryo or fetus scientifically and factually, one would say that a living embryo or fetus in utero is a developing organism of the species Homo Sapiens which may become a self-sustaining member of the species if no organic or environmental incident interrupts its gestation.” Wolpe Aff. ¶ 6. This statement appears to support the State’s evidence on the biological underpinnings of § 7(1)(b) and the associated statutory definition. Planned Parenthood’s only other evidence, Dr. Ball’s affidavit, ignores the statutory definition of “human being.” Finally, this biological information about the fetus is at least as relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion as the gestational age of the fetus, which was deemed to be relevant in Casey. See 505 U.S. at 882. As a result, Planned Parenthood cannot meet even the less rigorous requirement to show a fair chance of prevailing, much less the more rigorous requirement applicable here to show that it is likely to prevail, on the merits of its claim that the disclosure required by § 7(1)(b) is untruthful, misleading or not relevant to the decision to have an abortion.

            [Access at http://media.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/08/06/053093P.pdf%5D

        • Alexandra

          "That life begins at conception is a scientific claim, and it is, literally interpreted, obviously false."

          Yet (individual) life beginning at fertilization is true for all animal species.

          • The beginning of the existence of the individual, or the origin of that individual's genetic information? The first seems to be a religious claim. How could science possibly rule out that I was alive before I was conceived, for example? Does science rule out the possibility of reincarnation, say? The second seems to be a scientific claim.

          • Alexandra

            (I was using "individual" as an adjective not a noun.)

            "The beginning of the existence of the individual, or the origin of that individual's genetic information?"

            (For life here on earth) would you give me an example where an animal exists without its unique genetic information? Is there an example where this doesn't coincide?

            "How could science possibly rule out that I was alive before I was conceived, for example?"

            True.
            Science itself is limited. Yet there is a philosophical foundation to the sciences. In biology this provides a useful frame of reference (for life on earth.) Otherwise, beginning of "life" could be defined many ways- when the first molecules formed, or organic molecules, or perhaps when the species evolved , or when carbon came into existence, or with the first cell forming.

            For the Catholic, irrespective of when we define when life begins, we believe it should be valued.

          • (For life here on earth) would you give me an example where an animal exists without its unique genetic information?

            I cannot, but I can give an example of when that animal's genetic information exists without the animal, which would seem to me to be the material point. A good example would be how someone's cells (or entire body, even) can be frozen and preserved following their death, with hopes of some future medical resurrection. There are several human bodies with genetic information that are not human people.

            Another example, a tumor can have a unique genetic code, and it's human, and it could conceivably (with some future scientific intervention) become a human animal, but it's not a human animal.

            True.Science itself is limited.

            Excellent. I'm glad we're on the same page as regards the scientific case for single-celled people starting at conception. What is the philosophical argument that some single cells might be people? I'll disclose my own philosophical position on individuality shortly.

          • Alexandra

            I truly look forward to reading about your position. I can't really speak much to your question. The Church doesn't take an official position on some of these ideas, so the discussion is fairly open. Johnboy S. covers philosophy wonderfully. He might be a good person to ask. For the Catholic, if it's alive and human, it should be respected.

    • Alexandra

      You are right, adult humans, human gametes, human embryos, and human tumors all consist of living human biological material. For Catholics, human beings are both matter and soul. That is why there is a distinction made between tumors and gametes, vs. adults and embryos. (I am sorry to hear about the loss of your parents. I will keep them in my prayers.)

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Saying we shouldn't do something isn't "anti-science," since science can't, and doesn't, answer questions of should and shouldn't:
    those are moral and ethical questions, beyond its scope. But just
    because the questions are beyond the scope of science doesn't mean that
    science shouldn't be bound by them:

    I largely agree with this. I am for a fuzzier demarcation of knowledge categories than many on this site, for instance, I do not think metaphysics and science are always separate and distinct, but rather interrelated at the boundaries.

    Someday, we'll likely do the same at the thought of destroying the bodies of unborn children for science.

    We don't do that. This is simply rhetoric on Heschmeyer's part.

    In fact, the one mistake the editorial makes is in treating the question
    of when life begins as if it were a moral or ethical question. It's
    not, or at least, not primarily. It's a scientific question.

    Whether or not something is life is probably a scientific question. However, what life is and why it should be protected is something more philosophical. This is not a question strictly for science or strictly for philosophy.

    And science is quite clear on it: life begins at conception.

    This is false. Catholic theology is quite clear that life begins at conception, using a soul theory that we have reason to believe is wrong. Please provide the science that shows that life begins at conception. Define life while you are at it, so we know what you are talking about.

    it's illegal to destroy fertilized bald eagle eggs, because those are baby bald eagles.</blockquote.

    No that is not true. It is illegal to destroy eagle eggs, because bald eagles are an endangered species and a national treasure. This is a very bad example.

    embryos are human beings, unique members of the species homo sapiens, with DNA and epigenetic material distinct from both zygotes and both parents.

    You can't just assume what you are trying to show. (I guess you can, but nobody is going to accept your argument.) Unique DNA is not a sufficient condition for human life.

    I would point out that according to the Joe's life begins at conception argument, Zygotes are also human beings.

    In fact, if one familiarizes oneself with the arguments within the Bush
    and Obama Administrations on the question of ESCR, it's clear which side
    is the thoughtful and scientific side, and which embraces "progress" at
    any price

    I don't think the Bush administration was particularly thoughtful or scientific.

    Charo's leering is disturbing: she's playing the Parker Selfridge to Kass' Dr. Augustine (that's an Avatar reference, folks), demanding Kass and Co. shut up with their silly "ethical concerns" so we can do what we want to do.

    What does "leering" mean in this context?

    Now, the entire field of embryonic stem-cell research may prove to be
    completely extraneous. That is, adult stem cells, with a few
    modifications, appear to be able to do everything embryonic stem cells
    can do, and there's no need to kill babies to get them.

    We don't kill babies to get embryonic stem cells. This is again rhetoric.

    That's amoral science. No longer is the argument that ESCR is needed to
    save lives: it's increasingly obvious that iPS cells can do so as well.
    Now, it's just a question of curiosity: if we're going to say iPS is as good as ESCR, shouldn't we keep doing them both to compare? That's disgusting, given that ESCR harvests dead unborn children.

    But it doesn't harvest unborn children. Heschmeyer has claimed this five times and has provided zero evidence. If you are going to claim that Zygotes and embryos are human children, it would be nice to see some evidence or an argument.

    • Sometimes, people discuss ensoulment philosophically, at other times, theologically. Either way, the church has no official position regarding the timing of same. The grounding of some of its moral teachings regarding the beginning of human life often proceeds normatively, not metaphysically, which is to suggest that the church doesn't teach that ensoulment (personhood) coincides with conception but, instead, that human life must be treated with all the dignity accorded human persons, for all practical purposes, from the moment of conception.

      The church thus seems to implicitly acknowledge the ontological ambiguities regarding the concept of personhood and doesn't clarify or disambiguate it. Some arguments then seem to proceed stating that, if one's ontologically uncertain, then, de-ontologically, one must take precautions, following the morally safest course of action. Most are familiar with the deer hunting analogy - don't fire into the bushes if you are unsure whether it's a deer or a wo/man.

      Among other problems (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4244577/ ), though, this argument confuses empirical uncertainties and conceptual ambiguities. It certainly seems to have normative impetus for those who thus remain conceptually perplexed, but a supermajority of people don't subscribe to such a radical agnosticism regarding human personhood and the early human embryo.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        That's interesting. I would have sworn that the Catholic Church taught that ensoulment happened at conception. I thought it was in the catechism, but when I checked I found nothing about the time of ensoulment.

  • David Nickol

    William Davis has noted the following:

    In fact, 10-20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, almost always before 20 weeks.

    It is also a fact—and a more startling one, I think—that 60% to 80% of the "pre-embryos" that result from conception live only a few days. I have pointed to the following many times, which comes from a presentation by The President's Council on Bioethics:

    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. . . .

    Now, let me make perfectly clear that it would be a very poor argument indeed to claim that so many of the "people" who are conceived die either before "clinical pregnancy" (or implantation), and so many more spontaneously abort (miscarriage) that there can be nothing immoral about abortion or embryonic stem cell research. That does not follow at all. However, I think it does raise questions—and specifically from a Christian point of view—as to why, if a person with an immortal soul comes into existence at the moment of conception, so many people never life a "life on earth." So many people never hear the Gospels. So many people never have any chance at all to be baptized. So many people, perhaps the vast majority of people, don't fit into the Christian story. I am old enough to remember the old Baltimore Catechism question and answer:

    Q. Why did God make you?

    A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world,
    and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.

    It really doesn't apply to the 60% or 80% or more "people" who are conceived but don't survive for more than a few days.

    • materetmagistra

      @davidnickol:disqus: "It really doesn't apply to the 60% or 80% or more "people" who are conceived but don't survive for more than a few days."

      God shortening the life of a human being, is different than one human being intentionally killing another human being. That all human beings are mortal DOES NOT support an argument that intentionally killing each other is OK, or moral.

      • Luke Cooper

        But it's okay when God intentionally kills or commands killings?

        • materetmagistra

          As God is the author of all life, it can be no other way.

          Besides, we can know the immorality, the wrongness, of human beings killing fellow, innocent human beings WITHOUT questioning God's Will.

          • Luke Cooper

            Then you believe in divine command theory. Say a woman got an abortion and she said it was God's will for her to do it. Would you be okay with an abortion then?

          • materetmagistra

            Given that God's Will is pretty clearly stated in the Commandments - Thou shalt not kill - the most reasonable conclusion would be that the woman is confused and mistaken and in need of help.

          • Luke Cooper

            God commanded killings in the Bible. Unless God changed from the OT to the NT, why is it unreasonable to think that it was within God's will for a woman to have an abortion today?

          • materetmagistra

            Because the Commandments are extremely clear - Thou shalt not kill - and to love one's neighbor as one's self. The particular OT passages you refer to speak to a particular people in a certain situation at a particular time.

          • Luke Cooper

            My next questions would derail the discussion, so I will bow out of this thread.

          • materetmagistra

            What is interesting, is that MY defense of the immorality of intentionally killing a fellow human being DOES NOT reference ANY one religious tradition or teaching. Rather, it is by virtue of our human reason that we come to the conclusion that we (each human being) hold certain rights simply by virtue of WHAT we are (human beings), and that these rights are equal - because we are all equally this type of being - human. So, yes, I agree, to continue asking religious questions would have no bearing on my argument, and would be suspiciously off-topic.

          • Luke Cooper

            Sigh... You're something. I don't understand how you can't see any difference between a what most people refer to when they say a "fellow human being" and blastocyst of undifferentiated cells in a uterus, for example. I don't know at what precise moment a group of cells should be called "human," but it seems silly to me to instill the same rights that I have in something hasn't ever had the capability to be aware of its existence, develop emotional connections to others, feel pain, etc. I personally have no problem with abortions that occur before the fetus is capable of feeling pain, which seems to occur somewhere between 20 and 28 weeks, but that's just me.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_LogicalC:disqus: "I don't understand how you can't see any difference between a what most people refer to when they say a 'fellow human being' and blastocyst of undifferentiated cells in a uterus, for example."

            Sure, I can "see" differences - just like I can "see" differences between a 96-year-old woman and a newborn, or between a five-year-old boy and his twenty-five-year-old father. But, even though each of those human beings (including the human embryo) "looks" different - each has ONE THING IN COMMON - each is a biological human being.

            Each is as equally "human" as another - and THAT is the sure basis of our "equal" human rights. Being older does NOT make one "more" human any more than having white skin would make one "more" human. Trying to couch human rights in something besides our shared humanity leaves rights "unprotected" - as one group of humans will simply deem the "unwanted" human beings as lacking the necessary feature of "personhood." In other words, simply being a biological human being wouldn't be enough.....one would have to be a human being AND exhibit some particular feature or ability or age.

          • Luke Cooper

            Sorry--I did not mean "see" as in "visually perceive." I should have substituted "see" with "understand." But that you compare a five year-old with a 25-year old brings up an interesting point. We don't give a five year-old the "right" to vote, marry, or consent to sex with an adult. Nor would we allow a 25 year-old with the intellectual "age" of a 5 year-old to consent to sex; s/he would be deemed legally incapable of giving consent. There are developmental milestones at which certain rights are deemed appropriate. Your argument is that the right to life is inalienable from fertilization on. I disagree. As I said above, "I personally have no problem with abortions that occur before the fetus is capable of feeling pain, which seems to occur somewhere between 20 and 28 weeks, but that's just me."

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_LogicalC:disqus: "There are developmental milestones at which certain rights are deemed appropriate. Your argument is that the right to life is inalienable from fertilization on. I disagree."

            So, you are suggesting that a "right to life" is not an inherent and inalienable right?

            @Luke Cooer: "Fertilization is one relatively distinct point at which one could grant the unalienable right to life, but why not grant that right at birth, another relatively distinct point?"

            Do men "grant" inherent and inalienable rights? How can they be inherent and inalienable then? Or, is it more appropriate to say "recognize"? I guess that would answer the question - men are not "granting" each other rights - they are "recognizing" each other's equally endowed rights.

          • Luke Cooper

            So, you are suggesting that a "right to life" is not an inherent and inalienable right?

            No, not necessarily. I am arguing that the right could be granted / recognized at a later stage of development than you say it should be.

            Do men "grant" inherent and inalienable rights? How can they be inherent and inalienable then?

            If not men, then whom? If your answer is God, I've never see any compelling reasons for why I should believe that a moral one exists. Inherent at some stage of development. I might have introduced the term inalienable, but it was in an effort to capture your position. I don't necessarily agree in the inalienable right to live, as I can think of situations in which I think killing may be justified.

            I don't think I have a problem with either term, grant or recognize, but I could be convinced that one is more appropriate than the other.

          • materetmagistra

            @Luke Cooper: "...as I can think of situations in which I think killing may be justified."

            OK. That would be "justified." As in, the rights ARE INALIENABLE, correct?

            Catholic teaching is that one is justified in preserving one's life even to the point that one may have to strike a lethal blow to a transgressor. One does not INTEND death, but death happens. One is not culpable for that death, and that death was tragic, but unavoidable. If one can stop the aggressor with lesser than a lethal blow, one is obligated in justice to preserve the transgressor's life.

            How does this apply to the innocent human being having existence within the womb of its mother?

          • Luke Cooper

            Sorry--I should have said inviolable in my above example about justified killing, not inalienable. My ethical terms are coarse.

            You haven't responded to many of my points above, so I'm going to stop responding to yours. If you don't have a compelling reply to my general argument ("I am arguing that the right could be granted / recognized at a later stage of development than you say it should be."), I don't see how we can make progress.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_LogicalC:disqus: "I am arguing that the right could be granted / recognized at a later stage of development than you say it should be."

            But, if a right is inherent or inalienable, how can it be "granted"? Why should it only be "recognized" at a later stage? Who decides what "stage" that would be? How do they have that "authority"?? Would they have that authority "inalienably" or inviolably ??

          • Luke Cooper

            But, if a right is inherent or inalienable, how can it be "granted"?

            I see no problem with this. If you do, I can't help.

            Why should it only be "recognized" at a later stage? Who decides what "stage" that would be? How do they have that "authority"?? Would they have that authority "inalienably" or inviolably ??

            I've given my rationale to you elsewhere for the first question. As for the others, you should ask yourself the same questions.

          • William Davis

            Let me ask again,

            Exodus 21: 22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

            God's law is fine with treating a miscarriage as something minor. You keep quoting "thou shalt not kill" which makes no sense in the proper context. You keep asking the same questions, so I'm going to do the same, how do you propose to resolve this conflict?

          • Doug Shaver

            But, even though each of those human beings (including the human embryo) "looks" different - each has ONE THING IN COMMON - each is a biological human being.

            Agreed. But such a reduction of humanity to biology strikes me as disingenuous, if not simply hypocritical, considering the scorn that is usually heaped on secularists when they do it.

          • materetmagistra

            How can our human rights be equal if they are not couched in the ONE thing all humans share equally - being equal members of the human race, the human species? And, how do we know we have a biological human being versus a being of another species?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            We don't all have free will and sentience?

          • materetmagistra

            Free-will and sentience are attributes of a biological human being. They are not necessarily "equally" endowed; and, some would say animals exhibit sentience. So, no, I do not think couching our human rights in an "ability" would work - after all, some human being would then have the "authority" to decide if the ability was to an adequate level, eh?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But we all have it (free will and sentience) at varying levels, correct?

          • materetmagistra

            Human beings are the TYPE of being that exhibits such powers, yes.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            While embryos do not have those properties. Therefore, embryos are different from adult humans in a very fundamental way.

          • materetmagistra

            They are not different in an essential way, though - merely in accident.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            To my mind it is an essential difference.

          • materetmagistra

            Unfortunately for you the rules of logic don't support your "personal interpretation."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            How so?

          • materetmagistra

            Defining words in a "personal" way to support your argument does NOT make a sound argument.

          • Luke Cooper

            You should take your own advice, MM.

          • materetmagistra

            Ignatius defines this reality: "Therefore, embryos are different from adult humans in a very fundamental way -to my mind it is an essential difference."

            But, this difference does NOT make the embryo DIFFERENT in an ESSENTIAL way from the adult human. The difference only shows a difference in ABILITY, not KIND, not essence. Ignatius has not shown that the embryo and the adult are two different types of things - that they are not ONE and the same - living human beings.

          • Luke Cooper

            We disagree on what are essential differences. You don't get to dictate what is and what is not essential. I agree with Ignatius here. What are the essential qualities of living human beings? You need to describe these things before progress can be made.

          • materetmagistra

            From basic philosphy: "The distinction between essential versus accidental properties has been characterized in various ways, but it is currently most commonly understood in modal terms: an essential property of an object is a property that it must have while an accidental property of an object is one that it happens to have but that it could lack."

            Is the above "agreeable"? Or, do we disagree on these two terms?

            Assuming you agree to the above -

            (1) What is an 'essential property' regarding human being?

            (2) Is 'sentience' an essential property or an 'accidental' property?

            What must all human beings have in common? All MUST have....without it one IS NOT a human being....membership in the species Homo sapiens - by virtue of being a biological human being. If one is not a biological human being, one would NOT be this thing, would NOT be a human being.

            Sentience? Well, Ignatius answers his own question - "While embryos do not have those properties......" Human beings at the embryo age/stage do not have this property, WHILE they do have the property of being a biological human being. As such, a biological human being CAN LACK this property and STILL BE a biological human being, making the property of sentience a non-essential, or accidental property.

            Pretty much any property that will change as the being matures is an accidental property - it does not change WHAT TYPE OF THING the being is.....it simply depends on what AGE the being is.

          • Luke Cooper

            By your definition, the only essential characteristic of a human is its membership of the species Homo sapiens. Sentience must be accidental by your definition, because there are Homo sapiens which lack this capability, such as those with anencephaly. You're not doing yourself any favors here, MM.

            Human beings at the embryo age/stage do not have this property, WHILE they do have the property of being a biological human being. As such, a biological human being CAN LACK this property and STILL BE a biological human being, making the property of sentience a non-essential, or accidental property.

            So what? Why should I care about whether or not something is biologically human or not? I care about what properties something has much more. A fetus lacks most or all of what we think of when we think of a human being. Why should a fetus have more rights than the woman, who is usually thinking, feeling, desiring, etc. hosting it without intention or desire?

          • materetmagistra

            @Luke Cooper: " Why should a fetus have more rights than the woman, who is usually thinking, feeling, desiring, etc. hosting it without intention or desire?"

            The fetus and the woman have EQUAL Rights to Life. Being EQUAL, neither has a right to intentionally kill the other.

            @Luke Cooper: "I care about what properties something has much more."

            Which is what is at the root of the terrible injustices in this world. Certain governments cared more about the property of skin color, or the ethnicity of one's parents, or one's mental capacity, MORE than they valued the essence of humanity itself. We are not EQUAL by any accidental property - ONLY by the ESSENTIAL PROPERTY we share equally - which is our humanity. Subjectively choosing some "non-essential" property is how the oppressive governments justify atrocities against some unwanted sub-class of humans.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Which is what is at the root of the terrible injustices in this world. Certain governments cared more about the property of skin color, or the ethnicity of one's parents, or one's mental capacity, MORE than they valued the essence of humanity itself. We are not EQUAL by any accidental property - ONLY by the ESSENTIAL PROPERTY we share equally - which is our humanity. Subjectively choosing some "non-essential" property is how the oppressive governments justify atrocities against some unwanted sub-class of humans.

            Sentient beings have rights. What does skin color have to do with sentience.

            Why do you misrepresent our views like that? It is obvious that myself and I believe Luke as well feel that there are certain properties like sentience and free will that rights emerge from.

          • materetmagistra

            Then you would have to allow "human rights" to be recognized in certain animals that exhibit that property. Not to mention you would have certain human beings, even mature human beings, that lack capacity to "feel", thus they would not have "human rights." That is an absurd proposition - animals WITH human rights and humans WITHOUT human rights.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Yes I would allow that animals have rights. Mature human beings also have rights. The question is why do embryos have rights?

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "The question is why do embryos have rights?"

            Not all embryos have rights. Only those embryos belonging to the biological human species. Why? For the basic reason that they are human beings.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            How do you know this? How mature do they have to be? Who decides?

            Not under question. We are only concerned with whether or not embryos have rights.

            However, I would argue that human persons have rights based on our sentience, free will, and autonomy. I would also argue that human persons have rights on the basis of utility. And finally I would argue it on the basis of intuitionalism.

            Not all embryos have rights. Only those embryos belonging to the biological human species. Why? For the basic reason that they are human beings

            You are equivocating human species with human person. You haven't given any reason for us to believe that humans have rights, besides the declaration of independence, while failing to note that the founders did not consider slaves, women, or embryos to be fully human.

          • materetmagistra

            @Ignatius Reilly: "You are equivocating human species with human person."

            These aren't equal? Which is the larger group?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No, a human person has free will and sentience.
            If you are going to call embryos members of the human species than the species is a larger group.

          • materetmagistra

            OK.

            Your claim: Not every biological human being is a human person.

            How can we know which biological human beings are part of the subset 'human person'??

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Those with free will, sentience, or the capacity for pain.

          • materetmagistra

            Who will decide the criteria to determine:

            (1) existence of free will;
            (2) existence of sentience;
            (3) whether a capacity for pain is present.

            What if some individual is killed before an official file of proof for the above has been determined.

            What court will decide?
            Who will determine the make-up of the court?

            It certainly seems much simpler to simply have the scientist determine if a being is a BIOLOGICAL HUMAN BEING. If the living and growing being has a human genome, it MUST be a human being, and therefore hold human rights.

            Objective.
            Demonstrable.
            No chance for subjective ill-will to cloud anyone's judgment.
            You know, the ill-will toward those with a Jewish heritage in Germany in the 1930s-1940s.
            And, like the ill-will toward African-American slaves in the U.S. during the 18th-19th Centuries.

            And, no one will fall through the cracks. Drawing the "line" at biological human being is sure to cast an adequate net. All those who could possibly have human rights WOULD BE COVERED.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Who will decide the criteria to determine:

            (1) existence of free will;
            (2) existence of sentience;
            (3) whether a capacity for pain is present.

            What if some individual is killed before an official file of proof for the above has been determined.

            What court will decide?
            Who will determine the make-up of the court?

            The government of the United States. We the people. Currently, we hold that personhood begins at birth, or that the mother has a "right to privacy" that supersedes the infants right.

            With time, I hope that practices like partial birth abortion and late term abortions will be restricted.

            It certainly seems much simpler to simply have the scientist determine if a being is a BIOLOGICAL HUMAN BEING. If the living and growing being has a human genome, it MUST be a human being, and therefore hold human rights.

            Simpler perhaps, but simple does not mean that it is correct. Plus there are many reasons to allow for the early term abortions.

            We could allow that person in the first trimester we do not have a human person, but in the last trimester we definitely do. However, we do not know when in the second trimester personhood begins. In this scenario, we would not harm anymore persons, if we allowed abortion through the first trimester, rather than never.

            Objective.
            Demonstrable.
            No chance for subjective ill-will to cloud anyone's judgment.
            You know, the ill-will toward those with a Jewish heritage in Germany in the 1930s-1940s.
            And, like the ill-will toward African-American slaves in the U.S. during the 18th-19th Centuries.

            Evil men and women will do evil things regardless of what we think about the concept of personhood.

            And, no one will fall through the cracks. Drawing the "line" at biological human being is sure to cast an adequate net. All those who could possibly have human rights WOULD BE COVERED.

            Sure, but it is a social good to allow things like early term abortions and contraceptives.

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "Sure, but it is a social good to allow things like early term abortions."

            True social goods benefit all, not just those who are not oppressed.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            True social goods benefit all, not just those who are not oppressed.

            Beings without consciousness, free will, and the capacity for pain cannot be oppressed. Can we oppress oak trees?

            That's the entire question, isn't it? IS the CURRENT LAW just? Same thing that the issue of slavery went through. There are simply some things - fundamental human rights - that are not decided by a vote, not able to be separated (justly) from the human being. Repeating "how it is" does not prove that is the way it SHOULD be.

            Equivocating early term abortion with slavery is an interesting moral equivalence to say the least. Funny, you seem to like what civil societies thought about human rights when it seems to help your points (it doesn't), but then when someone points how civil society operates currently, you talk about how civil society is wrong.

            Why do you argue about things that we agree about? I said in my post that I hope certain types of abortions will be restricted. Obviously, I don't think this is the "best of all possible worlds." Why are you tearing down strawmen? And why are you so dishonest? I am at least the 4th poster who has pointed this out to you.

            I'm sure there were some good reasons to keep slavery legal, too.

            Seriously? Do you want to engage in dialogue or do you want to straw man my positions?

            I gave you my criteria for human personhood multiple times. Why do you act like I have never said it? Again you are being dishonest.
            Just because I cannot always determine if being X is a person, does not mean that there are not times that I can conclude that being Y is not a person or that being Z is. Basic logic. Universal quantifiers and all that.

            I am done responding to your comments in this thread. You seem unable to try to understand your opponents position as I have tried to understand you.

          • Check out this chapter: "Elusive Lines Slippery Slopes and Moral Principles" in this book: _A Life-Centered Approach to Bioethics: Biocentric Ethics_ by Lawrence E. Johnson, Cambridge University Press, 2010

            One may be able to access much of it via a google e-book search engine.

            The Reader's Digest condensation:

            A great many moral norms and legal codes routinely draw lines through gray areas with sufficient confidence that the black and white areas lie safely on either side. Any essentialistic insistence on nonarbitrary criteria will lead to greater normative absurdities than the consequences the essentialists suggest (fallaciously) in their slippery slope arguments.

            In a reality that has continuities and discontinuities, epistemic indeterminacies and ontological vagueness, physical probabilities not necessities, conceptual (non)arbitrariness, itself, presents in degrees on a continuum, which, when suitably moderated, not only gives us darned good ontological traction on the deontological slippery slopes but keeps us safely downhill.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Thanks Johnboy. I'll have to check that out.

            I think I'm going to give this thread a rest. After the last comment MM responded to me with, I feel like she has zero interest in understanding what myself and other think about the topic, but just wants to prove herself right. I feel inner peace slowing washing over me.... :-)

          • Luke Cooper

            *standing up and clapping for your valiant efforts*

          • Luke Cooper

            The fetus and the woman have EQUAL Rights to Life.

            Not to me, they don't.

            Being EQUAL, neither has a right to intentionally kill the other.

            I don't think they're equal, otherwise, I'd agree with you.

            Certain governments cared more about the property of skin color, or the ethnicity of one's parents, or one's mental capacity, MORE than they valued the essence of humanity itself.

            Then it's a good thing that I don't use those properties as determinants of who should get what rights :) Your term "mental capacity" comes close, but is not one that I'd use as a sole determinant of personhood. You're equivocating the concepts of being Homo sapien with humanity. I don't know of anyone who uses those terms interchangeably. What do you think is the "essence of humanity itself"? Remember, humanity and biological Homo sapien refer to different concepts.

            We are not EQUAL by any accidental property - ONLY by the ESSENTIAL PROPERTY we share equally - which is our humanity.

            More equivocation between Homo sapien and humanity.

            Subjectively choosing some "non-essential" property is how the oppressive governments justify atrocities against some unwanted sub-class of humans.

            1. I never called my brief and incomplete conceptualization of personhood properties non-essential.
            2. Subjective does not imply that something is also without basis or reasoning.
            3. I'm not an oppressive government, nor do I think my conceptualization of personhood properties could be used to justify atrocities.

          • materetmagistra

            Ho·mo sa·pi·ens
            (hō'mō sā'pē-enz) The genus and species of humankind.

          • Luke Cooper

            Sorry, this doesn't clarify anything for me. Can you explain what you hoped it would clarify?

            Edit: Is this an attempt to bridge the concepts of Homo sapiens and humanity by an introducing the possibly intermediate term "humankind"?

          • materetmagistra

            What human being is not also a member of Homo sapiens (or not also a member of humanKIND?) What member of the species Homo sapiens is not also a human being?

            Seems to be a perfectly good definition.

          • Luke Cooper

            Irrelevant to our discussion. I think you are question-dodging again. I said that you were equivocating on the concepts of Homo sapiens and humanity. I don't disagree with this general definition of Homo sapiens, so I don't understand what you are trying to prove by supplying it here. You know that our disagreement lies elsewhere. This is going nowhere.

            Edit: Minor word changes.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_LogicalC:disqus: "Irrelevant to our discussion."

            How so?

            The life of every human being begins at conception, when a new and unique human being, a human individual, begins existence.

            Universal human rights are understood to be held inherently and inalienably - simply by virtue of being a human being - a member of the species Homo sapiens. It is generally considered a human rights violation to directly kill innocent human beings.

            That tiny and young (and innocent) human being having existence within the womb of his mother is directly killed in an abortion.

            Abortion is therefore a human rights violation. Just governments, charged with securing human rights, do not legalize abortion.

          • Luke Cooper

            We've been over this all before, MM. If you can't see why and where, that's not my problem.

          • materetmagistra

            Well, Luke Cooper, since universal human rights depend upon our BEING human beings, understanding WHAT a human being IS, and how to identify if a being IS a human being is far from being "[i]rrelevant to our discussion."

            In fact, it is THE crux of the matter.

          • Luke Cooper

            You're taking my words out of context again, and you've lost my remaining respect for you as a result.

          • The back and forth regarding essentials won't progress matters, anyway, because one can't solve a philosophical problem with the same failed metaphysic (essentialistic & substantialistic) that created it. One needn't demonstrate how a substantialist-essentialist approach fails in the particular case regarding human personhood because the metaphysic has already been discredited regarding reality, in general.

            That said, I am generally sympathetic to the essentialist approach because it often closely tracks common sense and moral intuitions and its primary critics employ a nominalist and functionalist approach that doesn't work either, metaphysically or morally. This makes for dense jargon and it's hard to flesh out in a combox, so, I encourage any and all to investigate further the essentialism-nominalism debate. Thankfully, because of philosophers like Charles Sanders Peirce and Charles Hartshorne, other choices present that avoid the essentialism-nominalism conundrum, preserving realism and accounting for reality's dynamical attributes, following what Hartshorne called "moderation in metaphysics" and Peirce called a fallibilist metaphysics.

          • Luke Cooper

            You're so much more knowledgeable about philosophy than I am that it makes me feel like I have only a child's grasp, haha. Thanks for the input. At this point, I'm willing to wager than any back and forth with MM won't progress matters. I know where the problems lie, and I don't think either one of us is willing to budge.

            I don't know quite where my views fit in philosophy WRT how I think about this topic, but I am quite influenced by Eleanor Rosch and prototype theory. Some of my research was on the weighting of polythetic diagnostic criteria sets in the DSM (which usually weight all criteria equally), and I am of the opinion that some features are more central than others and should perhaps be weighted differently. I probably over-apply the prototype conceptualization, but I generally think of most categories as having fuzzy boundaries and features than vary in their prototypicality.

            While MM and I probably agree on many of the features that the human being prototype has, we definitely weight the features differently when it comes to personhood.

          • Fuzzy, yes. One maneuver in metaphysics requires us to prescind from the modal category of necessities to that of probabilities, in other words, to ontological vagueness. So, from the most general category of logical necessities to metaphysical probabilities to physical actualities, mapping problems present when we model reality. Folks who traffic in logical necessities and syllogisms forfeit rather than enhance modeling power because reality presents dynamically not statically, process-like not substance-like. At the same time, we account not only for paradox but patterns, for chaos but order, for discontinuity but continuity, asymmetry but symmetry, randomness but systematics --- not via necessity but per probability.

            See:Species as Homeostatic Property Cluster Kinds and Species & Population Structure Theory in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and compare that to prototype theory.

            We're on the same sheet of music here.

            Well said. I apologize for the jargon but it was already obvious from your exchanges that your ontological intuitions were spot on. Thanks for sharing this.

          • Luke Cooper

            Thanks, Johnboy. I appreciate it. Thanks, too, for informing me that the SEP has an entry on species. I read the two sections you suggested, but think I need to read the entire piece before knowing how to respond more than what I wrote here.

            I haven't done much reading on classifying biological species specifically; I read Naming Nature by Yoon maybe four years ago (good, but pretty basic; not sure if I'd recommend). But otherwise, almost all of my thinking regarding taxonomy / classification were influenced by readings on the classification of mental disorders, sometimes referred to as psychiatric nosology. The ideas of "natural kinds" and "carving nature at its joints" came up a lot, and people often came down on different sides of the issue. The DSM has an interesting history in that the first two editions classified based on supposed causes rather than observable symptom clusters, whereas the third and following editions classify based on symptom clusters and basically hope that they might have an underlying cause. The principles of multifinality and equifinality, which basically suggest that similar underlying causes can lead to different observable symptom clusters and that different underlying causes can lead to similar observable symptom clusters, really throw a wrench into this system.

            I could talk about mental disorder classification all day, haha, so I'll stop here before I get too off-topic. Thanks, again.

            No need to apologize for your language use; I can't always follow it easily, but I assume that your language has a precision that mine could learn from.

          • Beyond its deficiencies in treating probabilistic concrete actualities and plausibilistically metaphysical possibilities as if they were static, not also dynamic, mis-mapping them conceptually to abstract logical necessities, the essentialist-substantialist approach employs an extreme Leibnizian view of identity. In correcting that view, however, most adopt the extreme Humean view, which brings ts own set of problems. Scroll down in this article, if you have the time or interest, to the discussion of Hartshorne's nonstrict identity: http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2833 One takeaway from that account suggests that identity will inhere in a state, not vice versa. In such a dynamical substance-process approach, one might see resemblances to the Aristotelian conception of successive souls (vegetative, sensitive and rational) and hylomorphic accounts, which provide nonarbitrary demarcations, even though fuzzy, as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

          • Luke Cooper

            Interesting. Thanks, again, for the info. I'll add it to my reading list :)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You have the burden of proof here. You are claiming that embryos have the right to life.

          • materetmagistra

            (1) All men are created equal and endowed with (inherently hold) certain inalienable rights - one of which is the right to life. [Declaration of Independence]
            (2) Human embryos are biological human beings at an early age/stage of development.

            ---> Therefore, all human beings, even the very youngest, inherently & inalienably hold a right to life.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Just because it is in the declaration of independence does not make it true. That is not a philosophical proof or demonstration or argument, which is what we are after. The founders do not have the same view as we do as to what constitutes a man: The believed that men were white male landowners.

            Embryos are not biological human beings by your own definition. They are not complete organisms - they need the mother to survive.

            Edit: So your demonstration fails.

          • materetmagistra

            Ignatius Reilly: "Just because it is in the declaration of independence does not make it true."

            I'd have to disagree there. Men died for the truths espoused within that document. Suggesting that the document is not sound, that our country is not founded on sound doctrine, could be considered subversive......

            @Ignatius: "Embryos are not biological human beings by your own definition. They are not complete organisms - they need the mother to survive."

            Human embryos are biological human beings. As long as they remain alive under their own direction, they are "complete organisms." How does "being dependent upon another human being" make one NOT a biological human being? One can certainly BE a biological human being and BE dependent upon others - that's what newborns are. That's what some precious old people are. That's what some physically challenged people are. Outside of "deer season" I'm dependent upon hog farms or cattle farms for my meat. Explain again how being dependent means you cannot be a biological human being.....

            To boot, if the unborn living being is NOT a human being, what type of being would it be? Logic dictates that a thing that is POTENTIALLY something must ACTUALLY be a something else. What is the unborn living being if it is not a HUMAN being? I think that puts the burden of proof on you. What IS the unborn living being, ACTUALLY?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'd have to disagree there. Men died for the truths espoused within that document. Suggesting that the document is not sound, that our country is not founded on sound doctrine, could be considered subversive......

            People died for false beliefs since the dawn of time. The founders were not monolithic in their views either, so you cannot say that the founders believed X, because the founders believed different things.

            My belief that rights are an emergent property is not in anyway subversive.

            Can you show me where the founders considered embryos to be human beings?

            Human embryos are biological human beings. As long as they remain alive under their own direction, they are "complete organisms." How does "being dependent upon another human being" make one NOT a biological human being? One can certainly BE a biological human being and BE dependent upon others - that's what newborns are. That's what some precious old people are. That's what some physically challenged people are. Outside of "deer season" I'm dependent upon hog farms or cattle farms for my meat. Explain again how being dependent means you cannot be a biological human being

            They aren't under their own direction.

            To boot, if the unborn living being is NOT a human being, what type of being would it be? Logic dictates that a thing that is POTENTIALLY something must ACTUALLY be a something else. What is the unborn living being if it is not a HUMAN being? I think that puts the burden of proof on you. What IS the unborn living being, ACTUALLY?

            There you go with the Caps again. Caps are associated with screaming and raving, not genuine dialogue, but whatever.
            A human embryo, but not a human being. You still have the burden of proof, because you have yet to show that from your definition of a human being, human beings must have rights. Citing the founders is not evidence, especially since they had a different view of what human beings are than you do.

          • materetmagistra

            @your: "They aren't under their own direction."

            Sure they are. Their genetics most definitely drives their life, their being, their development. Heck, their genetics actually causes changes in the mother's body....so, not only do they direct their own growth, they direct the mother's body, too!

            @your: "A human embryo, but not a human being."

            A human embryo is an immature Homo sapiens individual. If you do not think so, explain what it ACTUALLY is.

            Do you believe it is generally wrong to directly kill innocent human beings?

            Do you have any substantial biological evidence that immature human beings are something DIFFERENT than a biological HUMAN BEING?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So are embryo's individuals?

            Do you have any substantial biological evidence that immature human beings are something DIFFERENT than a biological HUMAN BEING?

            One is a clump of cells and the other is capable of complex thought patterns. That is a biological difference.

          • materetmagistra

            But, an embryo is not just any "clump of cells." There is no [non-embryonic] "clump of cells" that will mature into an adult human being given simply time [it arranges lodging itself in its proper environment and obtains its own nutrition when in this proper environment.]

            By the way, how "complex" do the "thought patterns" need to be? Who decides? Some might not call the newborn's thought patterns "complex" enough.....

            A human embryo has its own unique DNA - as such, it is a distinct human being, an "individual."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So when a human embryo twins, how does one individual become two individuals? This alone is evidence that embryos are not yet distinct human beings.

            The embryo is reliant on the mother for everything that sustains its existence.

            By the way, how "complex" do the "thought patterns" need to be? Who decides? Some might not call the newborn's thought patterns "complex" enough.....

            I'm not sure. I would say sometime in the third trimester. Aborting a embryo is moral, while infanticide is immoral. One can believe this without knowing the exact second that a fetus becomes an individual human person.

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "I'm not sure."

            Really? You seem to "be sure" that a human zygote is NOT a human being.

            @Ignatius Reilly: "Aborting a embryo is moral, while infanticide is immoral."

            How do you KNOW this?

            @Ignatius Reilly: "One can believe this without knowing the exact second that a fetus becomes an individual human person."

            Pretty vague. How interesting that you are so SURE that this POINT does NOT occur at fertilization.

            Regarding your "twinning" concerns - how does the fact that twinning happens PROVE that what exists prior to twinning IS NOT a distinct human individual?

            To me, that twinning CAN BE observed and known to happen can ONLY indicate that a human individual of a certain age HAS THIS ABILITY to "twin." I don't think the evidence that this happens can "mean" much more than that.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Really? You seem to "be sure" that a human zygote is NOT a human being.

            I'm nearly certain that a human zygote is not a human person. I'm also nearly certain that a human zygote does not have a right to life.

            How do you KNOW this?

            Utility: It makes for a better civil society to respect the life of others in our civilization. It's necessary to civilization.

            On the other hand, forcing women to carry to term every embryo in her body has negative utility.

            Natural Law: Zygotes and embryos are naturally and randomly disposed of by the body in great numbers, without care for whether or not the woman is ready or able to be a mother. This happens even if the woman would do anything in her power to be a mother and wants to be a mother. This is untrue of infants.

            It is judicious to abort embryos that would be unwanted, and adds little to the destruction of embryos that is already occurring naturally.

            Virtue Ethics: It is prudent to stop unwanted pregnancies from occurring before the fetus becomes a human person. It is just to respect a human person's life, because a human person has attributes like free will and sentience. This justice claim does not apply to the embryo, because it lacks these attributes.

            Pragmatic Ethics: In our current time, the mothers right to her body supersedes any right a fetus may have. This may change with further inquiry.

            And so on. One does not know the answers to ethical or philosophical questions, but one can take a look at the facts and discern coherent ethical systems. You, however, insist that only your ethical system is correct, and even worse you are insistent on using the government to force it down our throats.

            Pretty vague. How interesting that you are so SURE that this POINT does NOT occur at fertilization.

            Because for me, a human person has free will and sentience. This does not happen at fertilization.

            Regarding your "twinning" concerns - how does the fact that twinning happens PROVE that what exists prior to twinning IS NOT a distinct human individual?

            It doesn't prove it, but it certainly suggests it. What happens to the distinct human individual at twinning? Is it annihilated?

            To me, that twinning CAN BE observed and known to happen can ONLY indicate that a human individual of a certain age HAS THIS ABILITY to "twin." I don't think the evidence that this happens can "mean" much more than that.

            If you applied such a strict code of knowledge to your Catholic faith, you would probably find yourself faithless.

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "What happens to the distinct human individual at twinning? Is it annihilated?"

            Gee, Ignatius, if it wasn't really there [your opinion] how can anything happen to it?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't think there is a human individual there. I am asking you what happens to it, since you seem to think that there is.

          • materetmagistra

            It is a human organism prior to twinning.

            What happens to that particular individual?

            Science has not provided an answer.

            It might die and two different individuals come into being.

            it might remain as one of the individuals and a second may come into being.

            Neither situation would indicate that the FIRST individual would not be a biological human being.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            How would science provide an answer?

          • materetmagistra

            Science does not have to provide an answer. WE know enough that in this case, protecting human life at fertilization PROTECTS every human being in the situation above.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I have replied to this objection in another thread. We can discuss it there so we don't repeat ourselves. Well more than we have to :-)

          • materetmagistra

            Science can demonstrate that what is existing BEFORE twining happens to be (1) an organism, a living and growing organism; and, (2) an organism belonging to the human species.

            That that particular human individual has the potential to twin, to become two instead of one, does not change the fact that an individual of the human species is present at all moments since fertilization. It may not be the same individual, but there is always at least one human individual present. Therefore, the situation of twining is a RED-HERRING.

          • materetmagistra

            Ignatius Reilly: "Just because it is in the declaration of independence does not make it true."

            I'd have to disagree there. Men died for the truths espoused within that document. Suggesting that the document is not sound, that our country is not founded on sound doctrine, could be considered subversive......

            @Ignatius: "Embryos are not biological human beings by your own definition. They are not complete organisms - they need the mother to survive."

            Human embryos are biological human beings. As long as they remain alive under their own direction, they are "complete organisms." How does "being dependent upon another human being" make one NOT a biological human being? One can certainly BE a biological human being and BE dependent upon others - that's what newborns are. That's what some precious old people are. That's what some physically challenged people are. Outside of "deer season" I'm dependent upon hog farms or cattle farms for my meat. Explain again how being dependent means you cannot be a biological human being.....

            To boot, if the unborn living being is NOT a human being, what type of being would it be? Logic dictates that a thing that is POTENTIALLY something must ACTUALLY be a something else. What is the unborn living being if it is not a HUMAN being? I think that puts the burden of proof on you. What IS the unborn living being, ACTUALLY?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There is a joke that goes as such: A mathematician was asked to make a fence which would fence off the largest possible area. The mathematician made a very small fence around himself and said "I define myself to be on the outside."

            One can define terms however they want, though it is good to use conventional definitions wherever possible so people can understand what you are talking about. From the definitions and axioms one can reason to various conclusions and check for coherence.

            In order for you to show that embryo's have a right to life, you must first clarify what type things have rights (this would need to be shown) and then show that an embryo is such a being. Or you could show that an embryo by definition has some property that gives it rights.
            For me, rights are based on sentience and free will (among other things). Thus, I do not hold that embryos have rights. It is eminently arguable that beings with free will and sentient have rights. Your biological definition does not guarantee rights and it does not even include all human beings.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Why do humans have rights?

          • materetmagistra

            Well, if you want to shoot the existence of inalienable human rights even existing, you cannot invoke the premise of a "woman's RIGHT to abort." At that, the only "rights" we would have would be "privileges" given/granted by law. And, that would be difficult to support because we speak about laws being just or unjust - man's law is not an absolute regarding "rights."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I didn't say that humans did not have rights. I asked you why you think humans have rights. I can't comment on your argument unless you tell me why you think humans have rights. I'm not invoking anything.

            So, why do humans have rights?

          • materetmagistra

            But, WHY rights exist is a different question than HOW TO RECOGNIZE them.

            Learned men through the ages have debated the source of the rights that common men can recognize (through their own powers of reasoning.)

            My argument is that all human beings hold inherent human rights equally.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You still haven't answered the question.

            How to recognize rights? Or recognize something else?

            Well, is the "right to life" a right? How do you recognize it as one?

            The question is really not that different. I could as, why do human beings have the right to life?

            Edit: Why do you, materetmagistra, think that humans have rights?

          • materetmagistra

            Ignatius Reilly: "You still haven't answered the question....How to recognize rights? Or recognize something else?"

            But, I did - -> ...the rights that common men can recognize (through their own powers of reasoning.

            I agree with our Founding Fathers - "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,..."

            Seems quite succinct and to the point.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But, I did - -> ...the rights that common men can recognize (through their own powers of reasoning.

            So by what reasoning is the "right to life" a right?
            Are you saying that rights come from our Creator?

          • materetmagistra

            Our Founding Fathers said it quite clearly: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, ..."

            Ignatius Reilly: "So by what reasoning is the "right to life" a right?"

            Me: Self-evident reasoning.

            @Ignatius Reilly: "Are you saying that rights come from our Creator?"

            The Founding Fathers said that. I agree with them. Don't you?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Saying something is Self-evident basically means that it is nearly undeniable. It makes the proposition axiomatic. I usually don't say that things that are axiomatic are things that I reasoned to, which is why I was confused. What would you say to people who think that the right of abortion is self-evident? Or the rights of slaveholders?
            I don't think the creator gives rights. If there is a creator, I don't think he cares very much about us/ I think rights are an emergent property of what we are. Sentient beings with free-will.

          • materetmagistra

            @Ignatius Reilly: "I think rights are an emergent property of what we are."

            That's nice. You can have your "personal" understanding. But, if you attempt to change the understanding of rights this nation was founded upon, the CREED which underpins this nation, I would have to accuse you of subversive activity against this nation.

          • Luke Cooper

            MM, this nation was also founded upon slavery. Women couldn't vote back then, either. You're quoting from the Declaration of Independence like it's the only document of importance in the US. You're not making cogent arguments.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_LogicalC:disqus: "You're quoting from the Declaration of Independence like it's the only document of importance in the US."

            The Fourth of July mean anything to you?

            How many other "documents" do we celebrate as a nation?

          • Luke Cooper

            Hahaha. You're something. How about the Constitution, for starters?

          • materetmagistra

            Do you celebrate Constitution Day? When is it?

            Of course the Constitution is important. But, it cannot contradict that which is found in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. If the Constitution did, we wouldn't be the country founded by the Declaration of Independence. As evidence, I noted the importance given to July 4th over that other day - "Constitution Day." Not to mention that we have existed as a country BEFORE the current Constitution: We did not exist BEFORE the Declaration.

          • Luke Cooper

            You really think that the Declaration of Independence trumps the US Constitution because it has a holiday and the Constitution doesn't? Wow...

          • materetmagistra

            The traditions of our country most certainly illustrate the IMPORTANCE of these documents. The fact that the United States existed PRIOR to the current Constitution is an important piece of evidence, too.

            The Declaration is not fishwrap. The Declaration is THE DOCUMENT that formed this country - it is THE DOCUMENT that binds all citizens as ONE COMMON UNIT. Do you disagree?

          • Luke Cooper

            The traditions of our country most certainly illustrate the IMPORTANCE of these documents.

            Sure, it's historically important and even influential. I never said otherwise. So is the Bible. I see no reason to follow the Bible's teachings just because they appear in a historically important and influential work. Historically important and influential does not equate to legally binding, either.

            The fact that the United States existed PRIOR to the current Constitution is an important piece of evidence, too.

            So?

            The Declaration is THE DOCUMENT that formed this country - it is THE DOCUMENT that binds all citizens as ONE COMMON UNIT. Do you disagree?

            I disagree with your binding statement. Otherwise, it would have freed slaves.

          • William Davis

            Lol, Mater seems fine to sacrifice all logic, fact and historical understanding to attempt to argue her points. What is fascinating is that she is actually HARMING her cause by presenting it so poorly. The anti-abortion movement would be improved if she typed nothing at all. This declaration of Independence stuff is hilarious, and she accused Ignatius of "subversive activity" against the U.S. Not only are we heretical against the Church, but apparently we are treasonous against the country. The fact that we are supporting the LIBERTY of a woman seems irrelevant. "Wow" is what I said.

          • Luke Cooper

            It is a sight to behold. Grasping at straws, arguments with no traction, setting up arguments that dismantle her own position... "Wow" is right.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Are you being serious?

          • materetmagistra

            How do you define "subversive"??

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In this context, acting to destroy the USA. Akin to sedition or treason.

          • materetmagistra

            Subverting the Declaration would be an act destroying our nation......

          • Doug Shaver

            Subverting the Declaration would be an act destroying our nation

            The men who wrote that Declaration were committed to the necessity of questioning all human authority. If the present survival of our nation depends on our treating the Declaration the way Protestant fundamentalists treat their sacred scripture, then we are no longer the same nation that our founders created.

          • materetmagistra

            @Doug Shaver: "If the present survival of our nation depends on our treating the Declaration the way Protestant fundamentalists treat their sacred scripture, then we are no longer the same nation that our founders created."

            Indeed. Which is why I call what Ignatius Reilly tries to do above - giving "his interpretation" of what rights are - subversive.

            The Founding Fathers made some important claims. Interpreting these claims in 43,000 different denominational "views" will sink this country.

          • Doug Shaver

            The Founding Fathers made some important claims. Interpreting these claims in 43,000 different denominational "views" will sink this country.

            Yes, it would. Fortunately, the Constitution is not quite as incoherent as the Bible, which is why the country does not have as many political parties as Protestantism has denominations.

          • William Davis

            Exodus 21: 22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

            God's law is fine with treating a miscarriage as something minor. You keep quoting "thou shalt not kill" which makes no sense in the proper context. You keep asking the same questions, so I'm going to do the same, how do you propose to resolve this conflict?

          • materetmagistra

            How does that relate to the INTENTIONAL killing of an unborn child?

          • William Davis

            22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

            23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,

            24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

            25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

            If the child dies, it's just a fine. If the women dies, the punishment is capital. Clearly a huge difference.

          • materetmagistra

            These rules you mention - who do they apply to?

          • William Davis

            "Thou shalt not kill"
            Who does that apply to.

          • William Davis

            A month ago you wrote:

            "But, simply because one thinks something will require sacrifice and growth on their part, one should not beg out too quickly. What a society of self-serving wimps that would create! We should ALL strive to do the hard things - these are the things that build virtue and character."

            The hard thing for you to do would be to admit "God's Law" devalued unborn babies compared to the mothers. I think you actually have no virtue and poor character, so I'm sure you are just going to run away. You seem to be able to only mount one argument that you repeat over and over, then lie about someone answering your questions. Pathetic.

          • materetmagistra

            William Davis: "The hard thing for you to do would be to admit 'God's Law' devalued unborn babies compared to the mothers."

            Sorry, William Davis. We do not live in a theocracy. The creed of this nation tells us: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men..." I can tell by that passage that our government is charged with SECURING our fundamental right to life. Legalized abortion VIOLATES the fundamental inalienable right to life of the unborn human being - therefore it is an egregious wrong on the part of our government.

          • William Davis

            Not a human being until the mind forms around 20 weeks. Not even a U.S. citizen until actually born. You're wrong again.

          • materetmagistra

            A human embryo happens to be a living biological human being.....one living its human existence just fine without the need (yet) for a brain. When this tiny human being grows to the size for which a brain is needed, he will grow his brain. Having age-appropriate body parts DOES NOT prove that this tiny being is not a human being. Try again.

          • William Davis

            Yes it does.

          • materetmagistra

            Immature living human beings are simply NOT MATURE. Being immature does not make one A DIFFERENT TYPE OF THING. How absurd.

            What do Homo sapiens infants, teens, thirty-somethings, and octogenarians hold in common? How do you know they belong to the species Homo sapiens?

          • William Davis

            I think I understand why you are behaving the way you are, if I'm right, it makes your unethical behavior more understandable. You think people are out there slaughtering babies by the minute so you are desperate to stop it, and somehow you think you can convince us to change our mind. Correct me if I'm wrong.

            The problem is you are powerless to do anything about it, I'm not trying to offensive, I'm just stating the fact. If God is in control of the universe he has allowed this and there is no evidence abortion is going anywhere anytime, these are just the facts and I'll explain why.

            "Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. Decided simultaneously with a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the Court ruled 7–2 that a right toprivacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion, but that this right must be balanced against the state's two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting prenatal life and protecting women's health. Arguing that these state interests became stronger over the course of a pregnancy, the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the third trimester of pregnancy.

            The Court later rejected Roe '​s trimester framework, while affirming Roe '​s central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability.[1] The Roe decision defined "viable" as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid", adding that viability "is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks."[2]"

            You see I'm on the side of pushing viability back to 20 weeks because of new technology that can support premature babies. This is something consistent with the rule of law, and I prefer to err on the side of caution, this is the best we can do (I'm going to be on your side with this post) unless a constitutional amendment is passed, that would be the only way to override Roe vs Wade.

            You also need to understand legal precedent. "In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. Common law legal systems place great value on deciding cases according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar and predictable outcomes, and observance of precedent is the mechanism by which that goal is attained." I know of no case where the supreme court has gone against itself, it really can't because of legal precedent. Like I said, only a constitutional amendment specifically about abortion could make it illegal now, so I recommend you find peace with it for now. If you were at peace, you likely would not come across as a liar who misrepresents people's words and asks the same questions over and over again even though they have been answered over and over again.

            I apologize if I was overly harsh if you really are desperate as I now believe. It originally appeared to be arrogance and intentional deception, but the amount of time you are spending repeating yourself changed my mind. I hope you find peace, and I sincerely believe that aborting an embryo is not killing a baby. I'm confident you cannot bring up an argument I have not already considered, and I think the supreme court made the right decision. Over all I think the Supreme court does a good job.

          • materetmagistra

            They were saying the same thing about slavery....that it isn't going anywhere.

            However, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

          • William Davis

            Sorry you feel that way, best of luck.

          • William Davis

            The Supreme court has the final say in interpreting the constitution. This is what the Constitution says. The Supreme court ruled abortion legal until the fetus is viable. I agree that moving the limit BACK to 20 weeks is better. For you to deny the authority of the Supreme Court means you are a traitor to the country, not to mention a liar and all of those other things are guilty of. I'm only calling you a traitor because you have used this PATHETIC attack other people here. You are a despicable person.

          • William Davis

            P.S. I'm amazed at the arrogance of someone who would call their self "mother and teacher". You think you are the incarnation of the Church, the Pope referred to the church as mater et magistra. Wow...just Wow.

          • materetmagistra

            Better manners should have you giving me the benefit of the doubt that I am simply a mother and a teacher.

            Better arguing skills would have you stick to the topic rather than resorting to ad hominem attacks, bullying (name-calling is this), tossing in red-herrings, etc.

          • William Davis

            I consider your asking the same question repeatedly that has already been answered bullying and lying. I'm responding in kind.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is polite and good grammar to use italics instead of all caps when you wish to emphasis something.

          • materetmagistra

            Sorry, if I could do italics, I would.

          • Ignatius Reilly
          • materetmagistra

            Thanks.

          • Doug Shaver

            How can our human rights be equal

            Do you want to debate law or ethics? Human rights is a legal issue. I don't assume that whatever is legal is moral and that whatever is illegal is immoral.

          • materetmagistra

            The unborn child's right to live happens to be inexorably tied up with law and ethics, eh? So, it cannot be avoided.

          • Doug Shaver

            The unborn child's right to live happens to be inexorably tied up with law and ethics, eh?

            In my political philosophy, a right is something that the government can give or take away, nothing more and nothing less. And in a republic, the law is whatever the people's representatives say it is.

            When it is time to decide whether a particular right ought to be granted or denied, then of course ethical issues may well be given consideration. We might even regard those ethical issues as decisive. But that is for us to decide, if we are the government. And in that situation, if our our answer to an ethical question is to be our answer to the legal question, then we need to settle the ethical issue first.

          • materetmagistra

            Doug Shaver: "In my political philosophy, a right is something that the government can give or take away, nothing more and nothing less. And in a republic, the law is whatever the people's representatives say it is."

            Are you an American? How then can you ignore the creed of our nation? - - > "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men..."

            Not to mention the wording in the Bill of Rights - "Amendment IX - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

          • Doug Shaver

            Are you an American? How then can you ignore the creed of our nation?

            I'm not ignoring it. But I'm also not treating it as holy writ. Nothing is so just because Thomas Jefferson said so. I can disagree with him as well as I can disagree with the pope or the Bible.

            As an argument for the truth of any proposition, "It is self-evident" is pure question-begging. Jefferson was in effect conceding that he had no proof to offer. All he could do was insult the intellectual integrity or competence of anyone who disagreed with him.

          • materetmagistra

            As it was, a whole bunch of colonists signed that document and many others shed a great deal of blood in support of those principles.

          • Doug Shaver

            As it was, a whole bunch of colonists signed that document and many others shed a great deal of blood in support of those principles.

            That's an argument from martyrdom. Do you really want to go there?

          • materetmagistra

            Martyr: One who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle.

            Here are their final words:

            "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

            What do you think?

          • Doug Shaver

            Martyr: One who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle.
            . . . . . .
            What do you think?

            You left off this part: ". . . and in so doing, demonstrates the truth of such belief, cause, or principle."

          • Michael Murray

            How on earth could mentioning religion on this site be off-topic. Let alone suspiciously off-topic whatever that might mean.

          • materetmagistra

            @Michael Murray: "How on earth could mentioning religion on this site be off-topic. Let alone suspiciously off-topic whatever that might mean."

            I did not say that "mentioning religion on this site be off-topic" I said that trying to turn my argument in defense of the humanity of the unborn INTO a religious argument was suspect.

          • William Davis

            Have you thought about it this way?

            Exodus 21: 22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

            God's law is fine with treating a miscarriage as something minor. You keep quoting "thou shalt not kill" which makes no sense in the proper context. You keep asking the same questions, so I'm going to do the same, how do you propose to resolve this conflict?

            Trolling a troll can be fun ;)

          • Mike

            Damn you're good! You have alot of patience!

            Ask them if they'd feel the same way if it was their 4 week old gestational age child about to be sucked out and killed.

          • Papalinton

            Perhaps the 4 week old gestational age child is saying, "Thank Christ. Now I'll be closer to god a hell of a lot sooner."

          • Mike

            So would you off your child?

          • Papalinton

            Why do you ask such a stupid question?

          • Mike

            Bc you folks are arguing that abortion before 20 weeks is not illicit/immoral but is tantamount to killing a skin cell or a boil or some kind of bodily "growth".

            I just meant to make the abstract "abortion" before 20 weeks real personal.

            But actually i regret it so i am sorry i asked you that q in such a crude way - you're right it was a stupid q.

          • David Nickol

            I said that trying to turn my argument in defense of the humanity of the unborn INTO a religious argument was suspect.

            No one doubts or questions the "humanity" of unborn human beings. But then, no one questions the "humanity" of a brain-dead human body or a dead body, and no one would claim they have human rights.

          • materetmagistra

            When did I ever claim that a dead human being has rights?

          • David Nickol

            Would you deny the "humanity" of a brain-dead but otherwise living human body on a respirator?

          • materetmagistra

            A "brain-dead" person has ceased to exist. This person is no longer a "living organism."

            A person "living" with the aid of a respirator has not ceased existence. The body parts continue to function together, maintaining life.

          • Michael Murray

            I did not say that "mentioning religion on this site be off-topic" I said that trying to turn my argument in defense of the humanity of the unborn INTO a religious argument was suspect.

            Actually that isn't what you said what you said was

            to continue asking religious questions would have no bearing on my argument, and would be suspiciously off-topic.

            It certainly reads to me as if the asking of religious questions would be off-topic.

            Thanks for the clarification. Could you clarify my other question about whether the Ten Commandments forbid "killing" or "murder" ?

          • materetmagistra

            @michaelkmurray:disqus: "Could you clarify my other question about whether the Ten Commandments forbid "killing" or "murder" ?"

            Do you base your argument for or against abortion based on any religious tradition or teaching? I suspect you are trying to split hairs about some teaching in some Bible - and I'm not a Bible scholar. I'd suggest finding a Bible scholar and split hairs with him/her.

            That human beings are created equal and endowed with human rights (one of which is a right to live - a right to not be intentionally killed) is "self-evident" - it can be concluded by means of reason.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't really mind about the ten commandments. I was just putting it in as a reference point in case you were Catholic.

            My question is simple. Why do you say that a right not to be intentionally killed is "self-evident" when most ethical systems allow the possibility of being killed during war and some the possibility of being killed as a legal punishment. I would have thought that it is common to make a distinction between the right not to be murdered and the right not to be killed. My understanding is the Catholic Church makes such a distinction. Of course you might be a strong pacifist of some kind but that is not a common position in my experience and certainly not self-evident to lots of people.

          • materetmagistra

            Michael Murray, you write: "I would have thought that it is common to make a distinction between the right not to be murdered and the right not to be killed. My understanding is the Catholic Church makes such a distinction."

            A short aside to answer your question: The Catholic Church considers human life to be a gift - it is not of our own making. Each person has an obligation to respect the life another has been given. One also has a duty to preserve one's own life. It is here that those two equal rights collide - in preserving my own life I may have to use force against you, even to the point of a lethal blow. In the case of parents who have the duty to protect their children, they may need to deal a lethal blow to protect the lives under their care. In the case of government leaders who have the duty to protect their citizens, they may need to use force against transgressors to the point of dealing a lethal blow. The Catholic Catechism makes fascinating reading on these topics. The site below has the text, and it is searchable:
            http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

          • Michael Murray

            ... I'm not a Bible scholar.

            So why did you say

            Because the Commandments are extremely clear - Thou shalt not kill

            Do you believe killing is always wrong ? Or sometimes right in self-defence, war, legal punishment etc ?

          • materetmagistra

            I think i explained a bit to you in another response - all life is to be respected. But, one does have the duty to preserve one's own life - even unto needing to strike a lethal blow to a transgressor. If a lethal blow is not necessary to preserve your life, you are obligated to not use one.
            2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."65

            There's much more. you can read through the many details on your own: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a5.htm

          • But not everyone sees it that simply. I do not consider the killing of other human beings always wrong. Nor would I suggest do most people or even God. God had perfectly moral reasons for killing the first born of Egypt, Uzzah, when he sought to catch the falling ark, all of humanity save Noah, all of the residents of sodom and Gomorrah or in the ordering the killing of infant Amalakites.

            If we had an absolutist position on killing humans all war would be illegal, there would be no defence of self-defence to Murder charge.

          • materetmagistra

            Questions of self-defense or just war are off-topic. The unborn child is the most innocent human being that exists.

          • William Davis

            Let me ask yet again,

            Exodus 21: 22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

            God's law is fine with treating a miscarriage as something minor. You keep quoting "thou shalt not kill" which makes no sense in the proper context. You keep asking the same questions, so I'm going to do the same, how do you propose to resolve this conflict?

          • But you agree no prohibition on killing human beings is absolute. I think we will disagree on whether or not concepts like innocence can apply to embryos. I think it does not, because the being needs to be a moral agent before it is capable of being innocent or guilty. But to get to that we need a being that is in some sense self aware, and it is this attribute I would say engages moral concerns with its welfare.

            I also think there needs to be actual self awareness, not potential self awareness. Even if there isn't, I would agree that in some circumstances it is still wrong to end a pregnancy or kill an embryo, but conducting stem cell research on discarded embryos is not one of them.

            But again these are all secular concerns that I imagine are ultimately overuled by a theological position. If it is indeed true that God exists and it is against his nature to kill embryos in any circumstances, and "against his nature" is what morality means, then I would agree it is immoral. But one needs to establish these things first. Continually stating that embryos are the same as babies and that's why it's wrong to kill them will not convince any atheists.

          • Also, I guess you would not agree that the babies killed by god during the flood, in Egypt, in sodom and Gomorrah were the most innocent human beings that existed? I would, I cannot think of any reason that could justify that slaughter. But as this is generally considered to have been morally justified, Surely there must be circumstances in which babies are somehow bad enough to be worthy of killing? Or perhaps you don't think those things actually happened?

          • Good point, Brian.

            There are at least three kinds of "innocent" aggressors.

            See:
            http://catholicmoraltheology.com/from-the-honest-question-file-could-a-prenatal-child-be-a-innocent-aggressor/

            Everyday language doesn't capture the relevant distinctions between formal, material, remote and proximate realities. Questions of self-defense and just war type principles clearly apply, even though different people can reasonably offer competing interpretations and applications of such distinctions.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            What is interesting, is that MY defense of the immorality of intentionally killing a fellow human being DOES NOT reference ANY one religious tradition or teaching.

            But earlier in the thread you said:

            Given that God's Will is pretty clearly stated in the Commandments - Thou shalt not kill

            Sounds like a religious argument to me.

          • materetmagistra

            I was replying to someone's comment. my argument in defense of the right to life of the unborn does not depend on that comment.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Why is it wrong to destroy a mass of DNA and tissue?

            It is ok to say chop a tree down (trees have DNA), but it is wrong to use a 4 celled embryo for research? Why? It cannot be on the basis of DNA.

          • materetmagistra

            No - the criteria is not "having DNA."

            The criteria is BEING a HUMAN BEING - in other words, not simply ANY mass of DNA and tissue, but rather, that DNA and tissue making up a complete organism, a human being.

          • Luke Cooper

            At precisely what biological points are human beings no longer human beings? There are individuals born with fewer and greater chromosomes, for example. Are they human?

          • materetmagistra

            Hmm. A human being with a human genome having either fewer or greater chromosomes...

            You ask, "Are they human?"

            Huh? Of course they are a human being.

          • Luke Cooper

            Then, I'll ask again: At precisely what biological points are human beings no longer human beings? You seem to dodge the questions you cannot answer.

          • materetmagistra

            They certainly are human beings at all moments that they are alive.

          • Luke Cooper

            How do you know?

          • materetmagistra

            Logic dictates that if they no longer belong to the human species they must belong to another species.....
            Do you know of any such changes having occurred?

          • Luke Cooper

            Define human species. By what criteria do you know what is and is not human? Be precise.

          • materetmagistra

            Any member of the species Homo sapiens as determined by taxonomic nomenclature, by biological definition.

          • Luke Cooper

            Which biological definition? Be precise.

          • materetmagistra

            You can google those yourself.
            Find one that does not also include a one-day-old human zygote.

          • Luke Cooper

            How am I supposed to understand your position when you haven't even supplied a precise biological definition of human being? You keep on using the term "human being" like it's perfectly clear and everyone agrees on what makes a human being a human being. It's not perfectly clear and people disagree on what makes a human being a human being.

          • materetmagistra

            I think it's pretty clear - a biological human being. The most basic thing every human being has in common - being a member of the species Homo sapiens.

          • Luke Cooper

            I don't think it's pretty clear. How are we to proceed?

            Why is being a member of the species Homo sapiens important? What makes us special?

          • materetmagistra

            Being a MEMBER of biological species Homo sapiens MAKES us members of a rational kind. And, since we only know of one rational kind of animal at this point in time (E.T. is still fiction), being a member of this kind is what makes us special.

          • Luke Cooper

            Being a MEMBER of biological species Homo sapiens MAKES us members of a rational kind.

            No, it doesn't. Not unless you want to call an anencephalic fetus a rational being, or really any embryo or fetus a rational being. They lack the capacity to be rational, which by the way, you haven't even operationally defined what you mean by rational.

            being a member of this kind is what makes us special.

            I disagree. Our abilities to think, feel, desire, etc. is what makes us special. A fetus can do none of those except perhaps feel after 20-28 weeks.

          • materetmagistra

            @Luke Cooper: "Our abilities to think, feel, desire, etc. is what makes us special. A fetus can do none of those except perhaps feel after 20-28 weeks."

            A human fetus is exhibiting age-appropriate human capabilities. It is simply absurd to consider him LESS OF A HUMAN BEING for doing exactly what he should be doing AT HIS AGE.

          • Luke Cooper

            So why not give a fetus age-appropriate rights? I bet you're in favor of doing that with other rights (to vote, consent to sex, marry, etc.). I think of a human being as something more than an organism that has human DNA and the potential to develop into a human being. Ignatius' acorn / oak tree comparison works well here.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_LogicalC:disqus: "So why not give a fetus age-appropriate rights?"

            (1) Fundamental human rights are INHERENT. They are not "given." Who would "give" them?

            (2) A fetus is alive. Not taking it's life would be an age-appropriate right...it would be appropriate at all moments that unique individual was alive, eh?

          • Luke Cooper

            Sigh... We've been over this before. I don't believe that any organism with human DNA that has the potential to develop into a human being should have the inherent right to live. I'll bring in Ignatius' acorn and oak tree comparison again, but expand:

            Say that Mr. Arborist tells you and me that oak trees have the right not to be intentionally destroyed. From your perspective, that right extends to acorns as well, because acorns have the potential to become oak trees when the right conditions are met. From my perspective, that right does not extend back to acorns, because acorns and oak trees differ in some pretty big (pun intended) ways. If I had to come up with a point at which acorns become oak trees, I could give you a few different ones: when roots start to show, when the first stalk grows above ground (assuming a squirrel buried it or was otherwise covered), or even when the first leaf emerges. Let's say I go with the middle one. From that point on, I would agree with Mr. Arborist that I should not intentionally destroy it.

            Does this help clarify where we disagree?

          • materetmagistra

            You do realize that if that particular tree was on an endangered list - you would NOT want to get caught holding any acorns.

            You claim: "I don't believe that any organism with human DNA that has the potential to develop into a human being...."

            Hmm. What species does an organism that has human DNA belong to? Can it be anything OTHER than the human species? If you think so, what species?

            Has there ever been a case of an organism ACTUALLY belonging to a non-human species that has DEVELOPED into a human being? [Science fiction does not count.]

            Is there any scientist who wonders WHERE human beings come from? Is there any scientist that does not know that one man and one woman are the only ones having the "potential" to create NEW and unique human individuals? Is there any scientist that would think that the offspring of a man and a woman might be anything OTHER than a human being?

            I'm sorry, but the feigned scientific ignorance is getting old.

            You then claim: "I don't believe that [a human being] should have the inherent right to live."

            OK. You just denied universal human rights. I guess you'll have to provide some proof there that universal human rights really don't exist. Most of the world still sides with the view that universal human rights exist and that violating them is wrong..

          • Luke Cooper

            Hahaha. You're something.

            You do realize that if that particular tree was on an endangered list - you would NOT want to get caught holding any acorns.

            Then it's a good thing humans aren't endangered! I'd argue quite the opposite: We're invasive and should be "prudent" (that one is for Ye Olde) by not overpopulating our only feasibly habitable planet (currently).

            Hmm. What species does an organism that has human DNA belong to? Can it be anything OTHER than the human species? If you think so, what species?

            Did you know that an onion has five times more DNA than humans? We don't yet know enough about to manipulate the genome to approximate species, but it's not farfetched to me to think that something containing human DNA, in addition to other DNA, could develop into something other than what we would classify as a member of the species Homo sapiens. At what genetic "levels" is something no longer human? I don't know, but you seem to claim to.

            Is there any scientist that does not know that one man and one woman are the only ones having the "potential" to create NEW and unique human individuals?

            Hey look! Scientists in the UK are legally allowed to combine the DNA of three people to form an embryo! How about that? Not good enough for you? How about this one? It looks scientists may soon be able to create egg cells from male DNA and sperm cells from female DNA, thus giving same-sex couples the potential to create "NEW and unique human individuals."

            I'm sorry, but the feigned scientific ignorance is getting old.

            Indeed.

            You then claim: "I don't believe that [a human being] should have the inherent right to live."

            Ugh. See what you did there? You changed my claim by substituting my words for yours. Here's my quote, and I still stand by it: "I don't believe that any organism with human DNA that has the potential to develop into a human being should have the inherent right to live."

            Your last paragraph has a an ad populum fallacy and you're asking me to prove that something I don't think exists doesn't exist. That you can't see the problem with these issues is troubling.

          • materetmagistra

            Well, Luke Cooper, leaving science fiction aside, can you tell me that there exists "any organism with human DNA that has the potential to develop into a human being" that ISN'T ipso facto a HUMAN BEING?

          • Luke Cooper

            Since you haven't defined what you mean by human being, other being than a member of the species Homo sapiens, which you haven't operationally defined, either, I can't answer your question. If you think what I cited is science fiction, you have a poor grasp of science.

            Edit: Two minor word changes for clarity.

          • materetmagistra

            @Luke Cooper: "Since you haven't defined what you mean by human being, other being than a member of the species Homo sapiens"

            Human being = a biological human being

          • Luke Cooper

            And the carousel of circular reasoning continues to turn. Can you not see how silly this is getting?

          • materetmagistra

            Why wouldn't ALL biological human beings have human rights?

          • Luke Cooper

            Because some biological human beings can lack all or most features we associate with personhood (which I'll very coarsely define as the having the ability to experience consciousness). For example, I don't think that a newborn human baby with anencephaly should have the same rights as a newborn human baby who seems to have a normally developed brain, as the former would not have the ability to experience consciousness as we currently understand it.

          • materetmagistra

            Alright - have at it.

            Define "person."

            And, describe how we know which biological human beings are "persons" and which are NOT "persons."

          • Luke Cooper

            I just gave you my very coarse definition. Ignatius gave you another: sentience and free will. I really don't care to discuss this topic with you anymore. I've seen your arguments and find them unconvincing. I don't think I have the possibility of changing your mind, so I'm not going to spend doing something I think would be in vain. Take care.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            This is how your arguments goes. Humans have rights. Humans are mammals. All mammals must have rights. Field mice have the right to life.

            We make a justified distinction between embryos and humans. You do not.

          • materetmagistra

            You would not get high marks on that paraphrase attempt.

            My argument:
            Human beings, by virtue of being human beings, hold (inherently + inalienably) human rights.
            The right to life is a basic human right.
            Abortion violates a basic human right, therefore abortion is not something a just government can "legalize."

            What is the difference between a human embryo and a human adult?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Point is that I make a distinction between embryos and adult humans, just like you make a distinction between humans and mammals.

            The differences include, but are not limited to:

            Viability, sentience, and free will. Approximately 100 trillion cells.

          • materetmagistra

            But there are OBJECTIVE difference between other mammals and biological human beings.

            When looking at two "classes" of biological human beings - you suggest separating them by differences that are merely "accidental," that are merely factors of age or level of development or level of ability. At that, you ASSIGN one human being the AUTHORITY to decide if a fellow human being has rights. Many countries, many governments, have gone that route - and it's never pretty.

            Either universal human rights exist FOR ALL BIOLOGICAL HUMAN BEINGS (biological determination being the lowest COMMON denominator among ALL human beings), or, you will have SOME human beings with the POWER to deny OTHER human beings basic rights. Look through the annals of history and see how the latter situation turns out for those who don't get "selected" (meet the one human's subjective determination) as having rights.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There are also objective differences between embryos and humans.

            When looking at two "classes" of biological human beings - you suggest separating them by differences that are merely "accidental," that are merely factors of age or level of development or level of ability.

            But we are concerned with the essential properties of personhood. Regardless, not everyone is an essentialist. (philosophically speaking)

            At that, you ASSIGN one human being the AUTHORITY to decide if a fellow human being has rights. Many countries, many governments, have gone that route - and it's never pretty.

            Why would we do that? I am a firm believer in liberal democracy. We as a society decide and hopefully as a society we have learnt the lessons of history.

            As a proponent of liberal democracy, I prefer that one group does not legislate their morality on the rest of us.

            Either universal human rights exist FOR ALL BIOLOGICAL HUMAN BEINGS (biological determination being the lowest COMMON denominator among ALL human beings), or, you will have SOME human beings with the POWER to deny OTHER human beings basic rights

            That is a false dichotomy.

            How certain are you that the right to life begins at conception? By forcing us to accept your belief that life begins at conception, aren't you just legislating your morality?

            "What distinguishes the liberal from the conservative here is that, however profound his own spiritual beliefs, he will never regard himself as entitled to impose them on others and that for him the spiritual and the temporal are different spheres which ought not to be confused." - Friedrich Hayek

            By liberal he meant classical liberal.

          • materetmagistra

            Ignatius Reilly: "That is a false dichotomy."

            Either human rights belong to ALL human beings or just SOME.

            False dichotomy? Nope - those are the two choices. Either ALL biological human beings are persons or only SOME biological human beings are persons.

            You claim: "How certain are you that the right to life begins at conception? By forcing us to accept your belief that life begins at conception, aren't you just legislating your morality?"

            (1) All law legislates someone's morality.
            (2) Sure, I "believe" that at conception a biological human being begins existing. But, that is because SCIENCE demonstrates this fact. You would prefer to have us accept that there is NOT a biological human being formed at conception - even though science does not support such a claim? Why force an UNSOUND idea on everyone? That's just legislating ideology. I prefer to stick to objective, demonstrable SCIENCE.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That's not what you originally said. What you originally said is a false dichotomy.

            Yes, all laws legislate some type of morality. But there are some types of morality that are best left unlegislated - like a prohibition against eating pork.

            As for your number 2, science can only demonstrate what a human being is or is not as far as we define a human being. I would have you believe that there is not a human person at conception, only the potential for one.

            Science without philosophy does not tell us what a person is. Not all questions are scientific. You are making a category error.

          • materetmagistra

            @Ignatius Reilly: "That's not what you originally said. What you originally said is a false dichotomy."

            Am I clear now?

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "science can only demonstrate what a human being is or is not as far as we define a human being. I would have you believe that there is not a human person at conception, only the potential for one."

            Likewise, science can clearly identify (1) an organism exists when fertilization is complete; and (2) that the organism is a biological human being. The criteria are clear - the identification is either yes, or no.

            The claim that a "human person" is not the same thing as a biological human being is philosophical. You claim that not all biological human beings are also "human persons." I claim that all biological human beings are necessarily also "human persons." Which claim is the most reasonable?

            Your claim means that there exist biological human beings that are NOT "human persons." What defines the sub-group "human persons"? Who decides?

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_LogicalC:disqus: "Then, I'll ask again: At precisely what biological points are human beings no longer human beings? You seem to dodge the questions you cannot answer."

            When they cease existence - when they die.

          • Luke Cooper

            Not what I am asking. Forget it.

          • materetmagistra

            Can I help you. I think I know what you are getting at (not my first time around the block....)

            Are you trying to make the argument that if a person ceases existing as a "person" at "brain death" then it would follow that they could not be a person before the brain developed?

          • Luke Cooper

            not my first time around the block....

            I knew that already by looking at your comment history. I couldn't have known by the quality of your comments alone.

            Are you trying to make the argument that if a person ceases existing as a "person" at "brain death"

            No, I wasn't trying to make that argument there, else I would have made that argument.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            What are the properties of a complete organism?

          • materetmagistra

            Directing its own growth and development; maintaining homeostasis; a whole, living being.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So a Being is a Human Person if and only if it is a complete organism and has DNA that is recognizable as belonging to the species Homo-Sapiens. Is that your definition?

            What does it mean to direct its own growth and development?

          • Luke Cooper

            I think it's also important to mention to MM that people who can't maintain their homeostasis without aid (such as those on life support) would not be complete human beings by her/his definition.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Even a pacemaker would seem to create a lack of completeness.

            As I am sure you know, this is why emergent properties like free will and sentience are better markers for humanness. I'm still waiting for MM to tell us why, based on his/her definition why humans have the "right to life".

          • materetmagistra

            If someone with an auto-immune disorder is still living, they obviously are functioning well enough to maintain life.

            Homeostasis is much more than simply being dependent upon a machine. The machine supplies oxygen, or cleans the blood, or regulates heart rhythms...but the body retains an ability to remain alive, albeit dependent upon a machine to aid the broken "part." They are still ALIVE and they are still biological human beings.

          • Luke Cooper

            A human whose body cannot maintain it's own homeostasis necessary for survival without external aid goes against your definition of a complete being. So by your definition, that human would not be a complete human being, and should not have the same rights as someone who is a complete organism.

          • materetmagistra

            The specific question asked was, "What are the properties of a complete organism?" Which was asked in reference to being able to identify the youngest of the human beings, the zygote, the embryo, as BEING human ORGANISMS.

            That one has a human being who ends up dependent upon technology to extend his life....this dependence does not change WHAT he already is. There is no question by anyone here that he isn't a biological human being, a person. Who would make the case that Stephen Hawking is no longer a human being? Not I.

          • Luke Cooper

            Why should I care what something is biologically? Why shouldn't I care more about what properties something has? I'd really like to know what you think the essential properties of human beings are, biological or otherwise.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Then you have to modify your definition to include the personhood of Stephen Hawking. With your current definition he is not a person.

          • materetmagistra

            My "current definition" of 'person' is a living, biological human being. Stephen Hawking is that.

            The reference to "organism" was to answer someone's question about what an 'organism' was, not what a 'human being' was.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You said that human beings must be complete organisms. Or If being X is a human person then it is a complete organism.

            The contrapositive of this is that: If X is not a complete organism then it is not a person.

            Therefore, because Stephen hawing is not a complete organism he is also not a human person. That is what follows from your definitions.

          • materetmagistra

            Incomplete organisms are not alive.

            One cannot BE a living human being without being a complete organism; in other words, without being alive.

            Stephen Hawking continues being a complete organism - with the aid of technology, he remains living. AS such, he has NEVER CEASED being a living human being.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So you no longer hold to this:

            The criteria is BEING a HUMAN BEING - in other words, not simply ANY mass of DNA and tissue, but rather, that DNA and tissue making up a complete organism, a human being.

            and this definition of a complete organism?

            Directing its own growth and development; maintaining homeostasis; a whole, living being.

          • materetmagistra

            Yup - a living biological human being is a complete organism - a whole, living being. If it was not complete, it could not be alive.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            A complete organism, for a human being has a brain and respiration. Embryos are not human beings just like acorns are not oak trees.

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "A complete organism, for a human being has a brain and respiration."

            Not true. A human embryo is a complete human being: Simply an immature one. Forming a brain and breathing with lungs comes with a degree of maturing, with growth, with development. Matter of fact, the brain isn't actually fully "mature" until that embryo turns 27-years-old or so. There could be times, too, when the brain doesn't mature or develops very little. The human being is still "complete."

            @your: "Embryos are not human beings just like acorns are not oak trees."

            Huh? AN embryonic human being still belongs to Homo sapiens. [If it didn't, I think you'd be hard-pressed to come up with what it ACTUALLY was, if it wasn't an embryonic Homo sapiens, that is.]

            After all, exactly what IS the lacey oak acorn? It is actually an immature lacey oak tree. Biologists refer to that acorn as Quercus laceyi. Guess what biologists refer to the mature lacey oak tree as? Quercus laceyi. Sure, those acorns are at a different developmental age/stage than a mature tree, but that doesn't make them NOT Lacey Oaks.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            If you want to define a human being so that an embryo is included, that is fine. Now show that embryos have the right to life. Citing the declaration of independence does not work.

          • materetmagistra

            All human beings have a right to life.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Why?
            You are equivocating on the definition of human beings. You have a different definition than the rest of the world. Now, please, using your definition show that embryos have rights. (or at least give some evidence.)

          • It's interesting that most agree on the empirical facts, descriptively, on the axiological dispositions, evaluatively, and on the moral and practical approaches, normatively, regarding human realities. People disagree regarding such conceptual distinctions as human life, human being and human persons, interpretively.

            I believe Putnam once summarized the discipline of philosophy as the study of "distinctions that make a difference." Thus we explore ontological modes like possibilities, actualities, probabilities and necessities and distinctions like essentials and accidentals. Thus we formulate concepts and negotiate them, cashing out any pragmatic value in terms of moral consensus, when we agree, or in terms of parody and reductio ad absurdum, when we disagree.

            This is just to say that you have precisely located the impasse in this thread, that it's conceptual, involving definitions. Some, like Peter Kreeft and Frances Beckwith, have also precisely argued that such distinctions as made between a human being and a human person make no difference. Others have debated them in the literature, much of it available online. One might fruitfully check out those conversations, which I haven't the time to recap or critique, although much of what I contributed elsewhere in this thread does implicitly critique substantialist and essentialist approaches, unless they are nuanced by process and dynamical conceptions.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Some, like Peter Kreeft and Francis Beckwith, have also precisely argued that such distinctions as made between a human being and a human person make no difference.

            I don't suppose any "real" philosophers have argued this :-)

          • To the extent others have argued in a similar vein (not wholly unreasonably, in my view), most seem to realize (with suitable epistemic humility) that those arguments, while suggestive, aren't decisive?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It would seem to me that most Roman Catholics who put forth these types of arguments believe them to be very decisive. Certainly decisive enough to attempt to put their opinions into law.

            I, in general, side with those who put limits on what we know and the certainty that we know it. When I was Catholic, I was told that this was quite heretical of me.

            I hold that an embryo is not a human person, while an infant is. The cut-off is probably somewhere in the fetal development, but I cannot say precisely where.

            I suppose I was really just taking a shot a Kreeft. I find his facile caricatures (to use your expression) of great philosophers like Hume, Kant, Descartes, and even Marx, while taking for himself the role of Socrates, sets him apart as a particularly narcissistic philosopher (relative to his talents) with a great penchant for setting men of straw on fire.

            His other works are equally dull, without originality, and without the doubt that properly accompanies philosophical enterprise.

            This is not to say that atheists don't have our share of silly thinkers - I try not to read them either. :-)

          • Try this little thought experiment. Approach most of the topics in this forum --- not as theological vs atheological, but --- as essentialism vs nominalism or as rational realism vs empirical realism or as the generally 1) Aristotelian vs the generally 2) Humean.

            The 3) Platonic rational realism and 4) Kantian rational idealism do lack philosophic cachet, in my view.

            Sometimes contributors, whether implicitly or explicitly, seem to articulate perspectives from a 5) phenomenological, 6) pragmatic/semiotic, 7) analytic or 8) existential stance. Those contributions make the most sense to me (and many Thomists, by the way, find an orientation in these different "schools" of thought).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It would probably be a very good philosophical exercise. I'm not sure if I could pigeon hole all of the comments into a specific school though.

            I'm not really sure where I fit on the philosophical spectrum. I suppose I have a great deal of sympathy with the analytic philosophers from my study of them and mathematics. The existentialists are insightful as well. I would say that the analytics best capture how we should do philosophy, but the existentialists best capture human experience.

            Edit: I have not read nearly enough philosophy though

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Can one have normative certainties without ontological certainties?

          • Yes, in the sense that, when epistemically thwarted (e.g. due to methodological constraints), or ontologically occulted (e.g. due to
            metaphysical vagueness), we may nevertheless encounter pressing existential concerns that require a response.

            When informatively challenged (descriptively) but performatively responsible (normatively), we follow certain rules to attain the safest and/or most optimal outcome (evaluatively), whether practically or morally, existentially (interpretively).

            The normative certainty in such cases doesn't refer to guaranteed success but to guaranteed prudence, which means only that we've responded reasonably and in accord with epistemic, pragmatic and moral virtues, not even by necessarily doing the best we can but by doing something deemed good enough as the circumstances demand (cf. satisficing).

            Such rules have been articulated as equiprobability principles, moral probabilism, precautionary principles and such.

            More concretely, think of legal standards of evidence and burdens of proof. Because evidence presents in degrees, the normative impetus necessarily varies. The pertinent question emerges: What do you want to do with this evidence? Tell me what you want to do and I'll tell you how much evidence you'll need. Conversely, tell me how much evidence you have and I'll tell you what you can do. Hence, we speak of clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt or preponderance of the evidence or probable cause or reasonable suspicion and so on, which then dictates who can be stopped, searched, arrested, held, found liable, found guilty, etc

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Two people may come to two different (and even contradictory) but still reasonable responses to the existential concern. However, there is a tendency in these sorts of exchanges to think that our response is correct and dogmatically assert it over other equally plausible responses.

          • I always look for how much normative impetus ---> for others that one imparts to one's own "existential orientations," as a sign of epistemic hubris, naive realism or some other latent epistemic vice. I am equally put-off by those who claim that religion should be thoroughly purged or aggressively urged.

            That's why I defend what Hume (or was it Mills?) called the "license to hope" and James called the "will to believe" on normative and pragmatic grounds, precisely grounded in such as equiprobability principles. Such justify, in my view, an evaluative disposition or affective attitude toward ultimate reality, but the evidence doesn't further warrant claims that should bind others -- not evaluatively and certainly not morally.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Certain types of religious instruction is certainly abusive and it would be best done away with, but I would not approve of any government action to obtain that end.

            There is a tendency among some to attempt to keep their children in a religious bubble by homeschooling or sending their children to the proper schools and even colleges.

          • Instructively, while free exercise includes both religious liberties and matters of conscience (generally, moral positions), the courts (rightly so) have seldom constrained the former, often curtailed the latter (specifically protecting children from parental folly, whether medical, educational, etc). They implicitly "get" these norms and principles, which we seem to generally agree upon. Thankfully.

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "Why?"

            Using the premise of universal human rights needs no explanation. Our Declaration as well as legal traditions and systems throughout time have accepted this understanding of human rights. If you care to disprove this premise, have at it.

            The basic understanding of universal human rights is that ALL human beings are human. All human beings are equally human, and hold (inherently and inalienably) rights by virtue of WHAT they are - biological human beings.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In Ancient Rome, obviously deformed infants were required by law to be put to death. The Greeks also put infants to death via exposure. These civilizations are the bedrock of Western Civilization so you are historically wrong.

            Apparently your ethical system is not as "self-evident" as you think it is.

          • materetmagistra

            Do you think it is moral to do what the Greeks or the Romans did?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No, but it is meant as a counter example to your claim that embryos were given the right to life throughout all of time.

            Why don't you just admit that you made a false claim.

          • materetmagistra

            Ignatius Reilly: "No, but it is meant as a counter example to your claim that embryos were given the right to life throughout all of time. Why don't you just admit that you made a false claim."

            My claim is/was: The basic understanding of universal human rights is that ALL human beings are human. All human beings are equally human, and hold (inherently and inalienably) rights by virtue of WHAT they are - biological human beings.

            I know full well that some cultures, some governments did not RECOGNIZE universal human rights. However, that does not prove that universal human rights are non-existent.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The evidence for your claim that embryos have human rights is that some cultures gave embryos human rights. Not sure why that should be weighted more than the fact that some cultures did not.

          • materetmagistra

            That's not my evidence.

            My evidence is that universal human rights have a tradition of wide-acceptance.

            Besides, just because Greece and Rome might not have recognized certain human rigths DOES NOT MEAN that those human beings did not have them.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There are all sorts of traditions. Some good and some bad. You need more evidence than just tradition to make a claim stick.

          • materetmagistra

            Sorry.
            I'm arguing from a premise of universal human rights. The understanding of universal rights is extensive and wide-spread. Numerous governments, international organizations, non-profits, watch-dog groups, political treaties, businesses, etc. reference "universal human rights."
            If you are unwilling to accept that premise, feel free to disprove the truth of it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Fair enough. As a point in logic, it is not my burden to disprove your premises. It is your burden to offer proof (or argument) for your premises.

            My premise is universal personhood rights. One of those is the right to self-determination which the mother has, and which she can morally exercise with early term abortions.

            Would Vulcan have rights? Why or why not?

          • Luke Cooper

            Or how about Neanderthals?

          • materetmagistra

            Ignatius Reilly: "As a point in logic, it is not my burden to disprove your premises."

            If you want to claim my argument is not a strong one due to weak premises, the burden is indeed on you.

            @Ignatius Reilly: "My premise is universal personhood rights."

            Well, what are "personhood" rights? How do they relate to "human rights"? Are they equal to "human rights" , a subset of "human rights", or are human rights a subset of "personhood" rights?
            Define "personhood."

            Not sure yet about your premise - too much ambiguity. Therefore, such a premise can't lead to a very strong conclusion.

          • Ignatius Reilly
          • Ignatius, I'm willing to bet that, when you define human person as distinct from human being as further distinct from human life, you will 1) be arbitwary and 2) climb onto a swippery swope. ;)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Don't forget subversive!

          • materetmagistra

            @Ignatius Reilly: "My premise is universal personhood rights."

            Well, what are "personhood" rights? How do they relate to "human rights"? Are they equal to "human rights" , a subset of "human rights", or are human rights a subset of "personhood" rights?

            Define "personhood."

          • Doug Shaver

            Using the premise of universal human rights needs no explanation.

            Right. You said it. You believe it. That settles it.

          • materetmagistra

            Don't accept that premise?
            How is it false?

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not saying it's false. I'm disagreeing with your assertion that it needs no explanation.

          • materetmagistra

            That's what a premise is.[1. (Logic) Also: premiss logic a statement that is assumed to be true for the purpose of an argument from which aconclusion is drawn]

            If you do not think the premise is a strong one, you are free to explain how so. That the idea of "universal human rights" is pretty well accepted, I wonder what kind of evidence you'd put forth to deny this premise.

          • Doug Shaver

            That's what a premise is.[1. (Logic) Also: premiss logic a statement that is assumed to be true for the purpose of an argument from which aconclusion is drawn]

            The person proposing an argument is free to assume anything they want. But if those they wish to persuade object to any assumption, then the proposer of the argument is obliged to defend that assumption.

            I wonder what kind of evidence you'd put forth to deny this premise.

            It's your premise. You're the one needing evidence. Whatever is asserted without evidence can be denied without evidence.

          • materetmagistra

            @dougshaver:disqus: "It's your premise. You're the one needing evidence. Whatever is asserted without evidence can be denied without evidence."

            That's the thing - I have provided evidence regarding the wide-spread acceptance of "universal human rights." There is the Declaration of Independence, the United Nations Declaration of Universal Rights, the use of the phrase "crimes against humanity" in any number of political or international organizations, etc. Those who would DENY that such exists or would dispute such evidence are free to do so. But, all anyone here can ever muster is, "Well, I don't believe in such." Well, why not? What is the proof for their claim? I have provided proof. They have not.

          • Doug Shaver

            I have provided proof.

            You have said that declaration is widely believed. That is no kind of proof that the declaration is true. Proof of the declaration would be a fact that is inconsistent with the declaration's being false. Your argument, in effect, is that whatever lots of people must be true.

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "What does it mean to direct its own growth and development?"

            An organism has "organic unity" - its body parts function together, as a whole, to keep it alive.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So someone with an auto immune disorder is not a person then? After all they lack organic unity.

          • Doug Shaver

            Rather, it is by virtue of our human reason that we come to the conclusion that we (each human being) hold certain rights simply by virtue of WHAT we are (human beings)

            Let's see that reasoning. From what premises do you infer that conclusion?

          • materetmagistra

            I got that out of the Declaration of Independence.

            "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,"

            Do you not consider these truths to be self-evident?

          • Doug Shaver

            Do you not consider these truths to be self-evident?

            I don't regard self-evidence as proof of anything. Anyone who says something is self-evident is just assuming his conclusion.

          • materetmagistra

            Do you have a problem with the conclusion of the FOUNDING FATHERS?

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes. As a political statement, I don't agree with it. In my political philosophy, there are no inalienable rights.

          • Luke Cooper

            *gasp* Subversion! Treason!

            "Hello, 911?"
            "Yes, I'd like to report an emergency."
            "No, I won't hold!"

            Meant all in good fun :)

          • Doug Shaver

            Meant all in good fun :)

            So taken. Go for it.

          • materetmagistra

            You are free to denounce your citizenship.

            You are not free to subvert the foundational principles of the government.

          • Doug Shaver

            You are not free to subvert the foundational principles of the government.

            You equate dissent with disloyalty?

          • materetmagistra

            Are you suggesting dissent or disloyalty?

          • Doug Shaver

            Obviously, I am dissenting.

          • materetmagistra

            Do you have a problem with the conclusion of the FOUNDING FATHERS?

          • Michael Murray

            I though the commandments were usually interpreted as a prohibition on murder not killing.

          • William Davis

            Exodus 21

            22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. 23 If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

            God apparently thought a miscarriage wasn't even close to harming the women. You are apparently another Christian who has not read the Bible

          • The Ten Commandments are also pretty clear that we shall have no other gods before Yaweh, do you also think that we should outlaw other religions?

          • William Davis

            Lol, by considering abortion the same as murder, you are in clear violation of God's law, he makes it clear here. I like how you have put yourself above God and his law, how you bring in things from the OT and ignore the context. Until you respond to this, I'll be haunting you with it. It is one thing to think abortion is wrong, it is something else entirely to be a liar like you and abuse scripture in the process.

            Exodus 21: 22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

            God's law is fine with treating a miscarriage as something minor. You keep quoting "thou shalt not kill" which makes no sense in the proper context. You keep asking the same questions, so I'm going to do the same, how do you propose to resolve this conflict?

          • Doug Shaver

            we can know the immorality, the wrongness, of human beings killing fellow, innocent human beings WITHOUT questioning God's Will.

            It's not God's will I'm questioning. It's yours I'm questioning. If I were a woman and unintentionally pregnant, you would demand that I carry the pregnancy to term. I don't believe you have the moral authority to make that demand.

          • materetmagistra

            Of course I don't have the moral authority to MAKE YOU BECOME pregnant against your will - that's what makes RAPE such an egregious wrong.

            But, if you ARE PREGNANT, even if you don't want to be, you are carrying an OTHER human being, a living human being, within your womb. It is THAT human being that has a right to life that I will defend. Matter of fact, since governments are instituted among men to SECURE rights, a just government would not legalize the violation of that tiny human being's right to life.

            A just government will not MAKE any woman pregnant; but it WILL PROTECT the life of every citizen, no matter his age.

          • Doug Shaver

            But, if you ARE PREGNANT, even if you don't want to be, you are carrying an OTHER human being, a living human being, within your womb.

            What makes it human?

          • materetmagistra

            It is a biological human being. That is its nature - its essence. That is WHAT it is.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Is rational thought part of a biological human beings essence?

          • materetmagistra

            No.
            Infants are not able to think rationally. And, I think you would at least agree that a born child is a biological human being.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            yes, but that is not why infants have rights. Infants have the beginning of consciousness and they can feel pain.

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "yes, but that is not why infants have rights. Infants have the beginning of consciousness and they can feel pain."

            By that description, human embryos have the "beginning of consciousness," as they are capable of developing the organ needed for consciousness written into their genes, and it will develop at the age-appropriate time in development. Certainly you would not expect a human being to spring forth at the time of fertilization completely mature. What an absurd idea.

            By the way, there are indeed some adult human beings that cannot "feel pain." According to your reasoning, those people would not have human rights, even though they'd be adult human beings. Another absurd concept.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm glad you think my ideas are absurd.

            Able to develop the organs necessary for consciousness (with the help of the mother) is not the same as having the organs necessary for consciousness.

          • materetmagistra

            What exactly controls and directs the growth of the nervous system in the human embryo?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would assume it is written in the embryo's genetic code. This makes an embryo more like an algorithm to create a human person than a human person.

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: "I would assume it is written in the embryo's genetic code."

            So, how does the mother "help" the code?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The mother is like the hardware that the code runs on.

          • materetmagistra

            You do realize that there is no "connection" between the zygote and the early embryo until the umbilicus is completely formed in the 12th week of gestation.

            Are you claiming the mother and her child have a "wireless" connection before that time?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Implantation at 6-12 days.

          • materetmagistra

            You do realize that the "implantation" that you speak of is more akin to a velcro nerf dart sticking to a velcro dart board. The actual umbilical cord is not "mature" until the 12th week of gestation.

            How does the mother effect any influence on the DNA of the child?

            It is interesting to note that there are physiological changes effected in the mother by the DNA of the developing child.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The hardware doesn't affect the software, but without the hardware you can't run the software.

            I don't think the mother influences the DNA - at least I believe that is the current science, but I am not a biologist. However, without the mother the embryo cannot become a conscious being.

            Edit: It is rather poor design, isn't it?

          • materetmagistra

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus: " However, without the mother the embryo cannot become a conscious being."

            Actually, without the mother, the new human being CANNOT even come into being.

            Once the mother's body helps the new human being come into existence, the tiny human being "operates" just fine in the environment it "finds" itself; it directs its own growth and development just fine (as well as directing some changes in the mother's body, too)....that is, unless it dies due to natural causes OR someone intentionally causes its death.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Not sure what this has to do with my point.

          • materetmagistra

            Without the mother the embryo CANNOT exist, cannot even come into being.

          • David Nickol

            Without the mother the embryo CANNOT exist, cannot even come into being.

            Embryos stored in fertility clinics (created by in vitro fertilization) have never existed inside a woman's body.

          • materetmagistra

            Without an egg from a woman they would not BE, either.

          • Doug Shaver

            The only biological difference between a human zygote and a chimpanzee zygote is its DNA. Is our DNA the essence of our humanity?

          • Luke Cooper

            I can pretty much predict her responses by now: A chimpanzee is not a member of the species Homo sapiens, so it doesn't have the same inherent rights (the Declaration of Independence didn't mention chimpanzees). Good luck getting her to define the genetic boundaries of the species Homo sapiens!

          • Doug Shaver

            Good luck getting her to define the genetic boundaries of the species Homo sapiens!

            She doesn't need to. I'll stipulate that there is a genetic boundary, whether or not we can agree on where to draw it.

          • Luke Cooper

            I disagree that she doesn't have to. A large part of her argument hinges on what should and should not be a member of the species Homo sapiens. She seems to claim to know what is and isn't biologically human, and I'd like to see her supply those criteria or at least supply a detailed operational definition of species. Species seem to be "moving targets," and not all ways of defining species applies to all species.

          • Michael Murray
          • Luke Cooper

            Word. I saw that. Very cool :)

          • materetmagistra

            What does every human being have in common?
            Their biological nature as a human being.
            At every moment of a human being's life they are a biological human being.
            Abilities and size and level of development and degree of dependency change throughout a human being's life. As such, these cannot be essential properties to "be a human being."

          • Doug Shaver

            What does every human being have in common?

            A certain type of DNA.

            Their biological nature as a human being.

            Biology is chemistry of a certain type. I'm a reductionist, but if you say the essence of our humanity is our chemistry, then you're more of a reductionist than I am.

            Abilities and size and level of development and degree of dependency change throughout a human being's life. As such, these cannot be essential properties to "be a human being."

            Maybe, maybe not, but I'm not basing my ethics on Aristotelian essentialism.

          • materetmagistra

            An "essential property" identifies the BEING. It does not give "meaning" to the being. What is the "meaning" of being such a being?

            I'd say that being a human being (as identified by essential properties - namely its being a member of this group) means that one is endowed with certain fundamental, universal human rights.

            What's your take? How do you identify this being? And, what meaning is there in being this being?

          • Doug Shaver

            What's your take? How do you identify this being? And, what meaning is there in being this being?

            Why are you asking? I was hoping for a discussion of ethics. You're raising questions about metaphysics.

          • Doug Shaver

            That's not science. That's Aristotelian metaphysics.

          • materetmagistra

            Science vs. Reason.
            Is that what you believe?

          • Doug Shaver

            No. Science and reason is what I believe.

          • materetmagistra

            It is a biological human being. That is its nature - its essence. That is WHAT it is.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't have the moral authority to MAKE YOU BECOME pregnant against your will - that's what makes RAPE such an egregious wrong.

            Indeed? I'm sterile. Does that mean it's not so egregiously wrong if I rape someone?

          • materetmagistra

            There's not just one reason rape is an egregious wrong. I mentioned the one pertinent to the discussion. Thanks for clearing that up.

            If you don't believe in inalienable rights, though, given enough votes (enough "might"), rape could become a "right," eh?

          • Doug Shaver

            If you don't believe in inalienable rights, though, given enough votes (enough "might"), rape could become a "right," eh?

            As far as the law is concerned, yes. But as I said when we began this discussion, I do not equate law with ethics. No action is moral just because the law says you have a right to do it.

      • David Nickol

        That all human beings are mortal DOES NOT support an argument that intentionally killing each other is OK, or moral.

        I think I made that quite clear in what I wrote:

        Now, let me make perfectly clear that it would be a very poor argument indeed to claim that so many of the "people" who are conceived die either before "clinical pregnancy" (or implantation), and so many more spontaneously abort (miscarriage) that there can be nothing immoral about abortion or embryonic stem cell research.

        The question is what sense Christianity can make of a system of reproduction in which so many "people" are created but never live a "life on earth."

        • materetmagistra

          How does that question bear on the issue of the morality of abortion?

          • David Nickol

            How does that question bear on the issue of the morality of abortion?

            It depends very much on what the answer to that question is. I don't pretend to know the answer, but I think it is an important question for those who believe in immortal, spiritual souls.

          • materetmagistra

            But, we do not call the rights in question "soul rights." We call them "human rights." As such, these rights are inseparable from our humanity.

            How do you know you have a human being and not a being of a different species?

          • David Nickol

            But, we do not call the rights in question "soul rights." We call them "human rights." As such, these rights are inseparable from our
            humanity.

            Suppose somewhere in the distant future many intelligent races come together and cooperate (as in Star Trek, for example). Will we then have "human rights" that apply only to human beings but not Vulcans? We use the term human rights because human persons are the only persons (on earth) that we know of.

            How do you know you have a human being and not a being of a different species?

            For the basic rights that come with personhood, what is important is not the species. Wold you have approved of capturing, killing, and dissecting ET because he did not have human DNA?

            Also, do you believe a brain-dead person has a right to life?

          • materetmagistra

            @David Nickol: "For the basic rights that come with personhood, what is important is not the species."

            So, you think it possible (and JUST) that some non-human animal could hold "human rights" at the same time that some human being had NO human rights? How does that make sense?

            @davidnickol:disqus: "Wold you have approved of capturing, killing, and dissectingET because he did not have human DNA?"

            If a being of a rational sort came to be known, I'd have to think that it would be just to recognize him (and his kind) as holding rights that would be equal to human rights (and at that point the term would have to be broadened to include what ever "sort" his kind was.)

            @David Nickol: "Also, do you believe a brain-dead person has a right to life?"

            When one's body is no longer working as an integrated whole, no longer has "organic unity," he has ceased being.

    • William Davis

      I thank you and Sylvest for providing a reasonable point of view. I also apologize for stereo-typing Catholics when talking to materetmagistra and Ye Old. I think mater was intentionally trying to provoke me, but it could be memory issues, I can't tell. I actually like Ye Olde (in an arch rival kinda way), even though we got out of hand there at the end, being compared to Hitler and accused of failing High School biology tends to set me off a bit. I've had Catholics recently (one on this site) refer to me as a baby killer when abortion wasn't even being discussed, this is actually the first time I've debated abortion/stem cell research so in spite of the tone, I'm thankful for the oppurtunity.
      Out of curiosity, is the Church opposed to fertility clinics? From what I've read, most of the embryonic stem cells used in testing are rejects from fertility clinics that were going to be tossed anyway. If the Church is ok with the clinics, I fail to see how using the "waste" (I cringe at the term but it does apply) for research is somehow immoral. Actually fertilizing eggs just to kill is something I would also prefer to avoid.

      • The church consistently holds that in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem cell research, emergency contraception and abortfacient birth control fail to treat human life from the moment of conception, for all practical purposes, with all the dignity that must be accorded all human persons.

        • William Davis

          I found it surprising, I always knew about the anti-abortion stance, but not the stance on in vitro. As long as they aren't trying to make it illegal, I understand the stance I suppose. For me, helping couples far outweighs the need for handling embryo's (the fact that many embryo's fail is perfectly normal). I do think in vitro should be a last resort, however, and so do all good doctors. It's quite expensive so there is always that prohibition. I knew a nurse who worked in an in vitro clinic, she was quite proud of the work she did, helping people build a family, the idea there was something undignified about her work had never crossed our minds. Different worlds we live in :)

    • "However, I think it does raise questions—and specifically from a Christian point of view—as to why, if a person with an immortal soul comes into existence at the moment of conception, so many people never life a 'life on earth.'"

      That's an excellent question. I've never thought of it that way before. I would say you could apply the logic that is used for God loving still borns, those who die shortly after birth, and/or those who have such significant cognitive disabilities that they might never be able to "cognitively" know God. Simply because an individual does not survive or does not have the cognitive capacity to know, love, and serve doesn't mean that God doesn't love the individual and does not have a plan for the individual. Maybe the individual is created and then after their very brief time on earth go directly to Heaven and get to know, serve, and love God there for eternity without much experience on this planet. That's just me hypothesizing of course.

  • Krakerjak

    I have tried to post some new stuff! I accept that I am effectively banned!
    <BANNED....BANNED....BANNED.....AND BANNED....TAKE THAT KRAKERJAK!

    Sayonora all.....Thanks Loreen.

    • Loreen Lee

      Your cartoons are still at the above link. Not sure that You are banned. But if so, is there going to be yet another contra-brand? But let's not be pessimistic. You are one of the few with a sense of humor. Thank you for thanking me. But the only thing I can think of that justifies that, is that I have chosen to talk a little less over the last couple of posts. Can you check in to EN to see what's happening over there? Maybe they will welcome you, if you are indeed 'banned' here. You'd belong. Would you not?

      • Krakerjak

        As far as checking in to En...I have sent an email to Andrew, groveling on my knees but no response so far....I expect that he is as unforgiving as Brandon. But thanks.

        • Loreen Lee

          Well, Krakerjak. I feel responsible for that,. because after all you got banned for coming to my defense.
          With respect to your 'cartoons', it is indeed ironic that your humor has been banned, when so many comments contain content which, according to my understanding of Catholicism, should deserve more attention.
          I have been silent, among other reasons, because of the impact some of the comments have had on me. I am only surprised that Brandon, or the person who wrote this post, has not put forward a Catholic 'defense'.
          Hopefully, both Brandon and Andrew will see this comment. If not will put a plea in for you on their site tomorrow. I would say more about the direction of the comments on this post, but because it has driven home to me, just how conflicted both Catholic tradition, and the developments in Western civilization are, I am simply too 'tired' to address a situation which could not be summarized sufficiently within these comment spaces.
          Till tomorrow then, Krakerjak. (And is it true that your recent re postings have not been removed?) !!!!

          • Krakerjak

            Feel no responsibility for my banning on EN. You are one of my favorite people on both EN and SN....I will be happy to come to your defense on both venues if I see you being misinterpreted. Thanks for your support.

          • Mine, too.

      • Krakerjak

        Yes....checking as I speak! It all depends upon Andrew the Overlord and his Mercy if he is in the mood!

        • Loreen Lee

          Well, you didn't take the opportunity to call him 'evil', so I would think that from such an example, there should be some hope for you yet!!!

  • David Nickol

    It is ironic that a not insignificant number of Americans object to the use of "excess embryos," created and never used by IVF clinics, for embryonic stem cell research. But there seems to be little or no objection to the IVF clinics themselves. The Catholics I have spoken to about this say it is a case of picking battles that can be won. If the Catholic Church were to launch an all-out campaign against in-vitro fertilization clinics, no doubt it would be very unpopular. But it is of course these clinics that are the source of the embryos used in embryonic stem cell research. So in practice the Catholic approach is to look the other way when "excess" embryos are created, and then to strenuously object when they are donated for embryonic stem cell research, when the only realistic alternative is to destroy them.

    • Galorgan

      I've never thought about that from this angle before. I do see a lot of grandstanding from Catholics regarding ESCR, but only a little bit of criticism of IVF. And that's usually only when pressed about that exact issue.

    • materetmagistra

      Huh? You claim: "So in practice the Catholic approach is to look the other way when 'excess' embryos are created, and then to strenuously object when they are donated for embryonic stem cell research, when the only realistic alternative is to destroy them."

      From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

      2377 Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that "entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children."168"Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses' union . . . . Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person."169

      • William Davis

        What a terrible position for the Church to hold. It could not care less about poor couples WHO CAN'T HAVE CHILDREN. You think these people are going to these clinics for kicks?
        The church has always considered sex as a sinful act of the flesh, and now it is upset because we can make babies without sex, are you guys kidding me?
        Wow, I now consider the Catholic Church to be an enemy of liberty, compassion and progress.

        • materetmagistra

          Here's help of the sort you mention:
          http://www.naprotechnology.com/

          • William Davis

            That won't help many people.

          • materetmagistra

            NaPro technology actually has a HIGHER success rate for achieving pregnancy....

            http://www.naprotechnology.com/infertility.htm

          • William Davis

            NaPro clearly has it's applications, but it won't always work. Surely it is better to try something less invasive the IVF first, as may clinic says below. So far 5 million babies have been born of IVF, isn't that a good thing? Mayo clinic has a good description:

            In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a treatment for infertility or genetic problems. If IVF is performed to treat infertility, you and your partner might be able to try less invasive treatment options before attempting IVF, including fertility drugs to increase production of eggs or intrauterine insemination — a procedure in which sperm are placed directly in your uterus near the time of ovulation.

            Occasionally, IVF is offered as a primary treatment for infertility in women over age 40. IVF can also be done if you have certain health conditions. For example, IVF may be an option if you or your partner has:

            Fallopian tube damage or blockage. Fallopian tube damage or blockage makes it difficult for an egg to be fertilized or for an embryo to travel to the uterus.

            Ovulation disorders. If ovulation is infrequent or absent, fewer eggs are available for fertilization.

            Premature ovarian failure. Premature ovarian failure is the loss of normal ovarian function before age 40. If your ovaries fail, they don't produce normal amounts of the hormone estrogen or have eggs to release regularly.

            Endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the uterine tissue implants and grows outside of the uterus — often affecting the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.

            Uterine fibroids. Fibroids are benign tumors in the wall of the uterus and are common in women in their 30s and 40s. Fibroids can interfere with implantation of the fertilized egg.

            Previous tubal sterilization or removal. If you've had tubal ligation — a type of sterilization in which your fallopian tubes are cut or blocked to permanently prevent pregnancy — and want to conceive, IVF may be an alternative to tubal ligation reversal.

            Impaired sperm production or function. Below-average sperm concentration, weak movement of sperm (poor mobility), or abnormalities in sperm size and shape can make it difficult for sperm to fertilize an egg. If semen abnormalities are found, your partner might need to see a specialist to determine if there are correctable problems or underlying health concerns.

            Unexplained infertility. Unexplained infertility means no cause of infertility has been found despite evaluation for common causes.

            A genetic disorder. If you or your partner is at risk of passing on a genetic disorder to your child, you may be candidates for preimplantation genetic diagnosis — a procedure that involves IVF. After the eggs are harvested and fertilized, they're screened for certain genetic problems, although not all genetic problems can be found. Embryos that don't contain identified problems can be transferred to the uterus.

            Fertility preservation for cancer or other health conditions. If you're about to start cancer treatment — such as radiation or chemotherapy — that could harm your fertility, IVF for fertility preservation may be an option. Women can have eggs harvested from their ovaries and frozen in an unfertilized state for later use. Or the eggs can be fertilized and frozen as embryos for future use. Women who don't have a functional uterus or for whom pregnancy poses a serious health risk might choose IVF using another person to carry the pregnancy (gestational carrier). In this case, the woman's eggs are fertilized with sperm, but the resulting embryos are placed in the gestational carrier's uterus.

            http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/in-vitro-fertilization/basics/why-its-done/prc-20018905

          • William Davis

            I'm calling BS on your higher success rate. Real medical studies seem to be hard to find, and many of the methods used in "napro" have been around for a long time. Smells like another deception trying to steer people away from IVF if they really need it. No surprise coming from a liar like you:

            "So when one speaks about the ‘success’ rate of naprotechnology, one is including also these medical and surgical procedures, as opposed to IVF alone. This is not only not fair, but also unscientific (and probably fraudulent), as one should compare like with like. If I am to include people who took clomiphene or surgery as a success in one group, then with the IVF group I must also include those patients who did not arrive to IVF because the same medical / surgical treatments were used in the clinics offering IVF. We rarely (or at least that is how it should be) arrive to IVF before we have exhausted other methods as these.

            When one looks up the name of the inventor on medical journals , one does not find any papers listed on PubMed (the scholar database for medical articles) of the inventor of the technology, and neither does one find papers on naprotechnology itself – other than one. This latter is a study by three people who compared naprotechnology with IVF in Ireland. They look at only two GPs offering the service and admitted its results were promising but stopped short of saying it was as good as IVF. In fact, they say that cohorts (groups) of patients should be studied.

            So the scientific evidence is still lacking. The literature one finds is limited to those who use the technology, who of course can be said to have competing interests to say the least. I immediately got the feeling that one is taking a ride on Catholic teaching in order to have a technology which competes with IVF, when in reality it is offering nothing new other than new markers for ovulation. Then why give it such a buzzword of a name? One gets the feeling that the Catholic population is being manipulated. For example, one pragmatic argument against IVF was that it produces multiple pregnancies – twins, triplets, quadruplets… Yet so does clomiphene (a medical treatment which does not forego intercourse). In fact, clomiphene is the real demon of multiple births. So why is the argument used only against IVF?

            The real issue is that IVF foregoes intercourse and natural sex. This is what we should focus on. Certainly, Natural Family Planning, as I still prefer to call it, is still valid for larger numbers who need education or support. But there will remain those for whom this method can never be helpful.

            Those claims that IVF did not work for some couples and then naprotechnology did, probably should have never arrived to IVF in the first place. In any case, the numbers are not enough to approach a statistic and are probably due to abuse of IVF by offering it too early. This is not an argument against IVF; it is an argument against those negligent enough to offer a technology when it could be avoided. Responsible medical practice does not lead to this.

            Pierre Mallia is Associate Professor in Family Medicine, Patients’ Rights and Bioethics at the University of Malta; he is also Ethics Advisor to the Medical Council of Malta. He is also former president of the Malta College of Family Doctors"

            http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2012-04-25/opinions/naprotechnology-or-ivf-309134/

            I'm not easy to fool friend, and I'm quite good at recognizing when people are trying to mislead me.

            Here is another criticism of the Church's approach:

            http://www.mommyish.com/2012/03/29/unbearable-napro-technology-the-vatican-approved-infertility-treatment-that-recommends-adoption-714/2/

          • Doug Shaver

            That's not science. That's advertising.

    • William Davis

      Nvm about my question, you just answered it :)

  • niknac

    Science knows no bounds. Religion sets strict boundaries.

  • Krakerjak

    Apology to Andrew at Outshine The Sun....Estranged Notions. I grovel in the public forum here at Strange Notions.....and admit that I do not fit into their yes mold:

    It seems that my life here on SN will soon be cut short...and I would appreciate it if you, Andrew would allow me to participate once again on your site. I am sorry for past transgressions. How about it Andrew?

    • Loreen Lee

      Yes. Please Andrew. Hopefully, I have demonstrated that I do not need Krakerjak or anyone else to 'defend me'. So Perhaps this will give you just cause to allow his comments.

    • Loreen Lee

      Sorry to hear you are now 'Guest'. I'm not completely certain that you have made a necessary decision. Hope to have you back, soon.

  • Let's cut to the chase. The theistic argument here is that you believe it is immoral to destroy embryos because you believe it is against God's nature. That you interpret fertilization as the point in which a soul enters a single cell and you interpret the Bible and your tradition as indicatin god does not want that to happen. You would not be able to change that position even of non-embryonic cells were useless.

    We are not talking about when life begins here, a sperm cell is human and alive, and there is no concern about experimenting and killing them. We are talking about when a distinct human being emergers from other human cells. I agree that one dividing line would be fertilization, another could be viability, another could be birth.

    For me, the time when moral questions arise with other human matter is not when a distinct human being begins to exist, it is when a human being begins to have an interest in its own survival and well-being and whether ending its life causes harm balanced against good for others.

    These are often difficult and complex questions and indeed I am open to changing my views on them. But unless theists can convince me that a God exists we are going to get nowhere in this discussion. Moreover, it will get you nowhere to cage your argument in non-theistic principles such as the question of when a distinct human life begins to exist. This is far too simple of a paradigm. If you want to deal with non-theistic morality, you will have to wade into utilitarianism and virtue ethics.

    The analogy of baby eagles is poorly chosen. Americans have outlawed any killing of eagles irrespective of their age, I would say, because they are rare and your national bird I expect. It has nothing to do with moral questions or a widespread belief that killing baby animals is immoral. If this were the case, why would it not apply to all baby animals? How could we still get a nice veal parmigiana?

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Many of those arguing against embryonic stem cell research, seem to think that humans are beings that have unique human DNA. Therefore an embryo is human, because it has human DNA that is unique from other human DNA.

    From this definition of human life, it is impossible to show that killing humans is unethical. It is not unethical to kill a mass of DNA and tissue, unless it has emergent properties like consciousness and free will. The reductionism to DNA does not capture what it is to be human.

    If DNA was all that matters, should it not be wrong to kill Chimpanzees? Their DNA is very close to that of a human being.

    What about other living things? Trees also have DNA. Should it not be wrong to chop them down for firewood?

    We don't make ethical arguments on the basis of DNA. There isn't anything that I am aware of that makes human DNA particularly special. A human being, however, is special.

    Even from a purely biological conception of human life - we would say that human life is a particular combination of cells, DNA, and functionality. A hundred trillion celled human is not the same thing as a 4 celled embryo. If I cut myself, the blood has living cells with human DNA, but I would not call my blood human.

    It seems that Catholics are trying to clad their theological belief that life begins at conception, in a scientific framework, all while equivocating human life with human personhood.

    • I don't think this is entirely fair. I think Catholics, for theological reasons I have not heard, and/or do not agree with believe that once a human egg is fertilized it is of equal value to all other human beings in the eyes of god, and should accordingly be in the eyes of human beings.

      How and why they believe this is unclear, and I agree with you to the extent that they are trying to reach what can only be a theological moral position by appeals to humanist moral values of "human life" generally. I think this fails.

      I wish Catholics would just admit it is their theology, not humanist values, that underlies their position on this issue. It has to do with God's nature and will. Things we are poorly placed to understand even if such a God exists.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        I don't think this is entirely fair. I think Catholics, for theological reasons I have not heard, and/or do not agree with believe that once a human egg is fertilized it is of equal value to all other human beings in the eyes of god, and should accordingly be in the eyes of human beings.

        Have I indicated otherwise? My point is that trying to cast their beliefs in terms of science not only fails, but it is also disingenuous. Nearly every Catholic commenting in this thread, claims that "life begins at conception" is a purely scientific claim.

        Catholics believe that at conception, God ensouls the human with an immortal soul made in God's image.

      • Michael Murray

        I don't think this is entirely fair. I think Catholics, for theological reasons I have not heard, and/or do not agree with believe that once a human egg is fertilized it is of equal value to all other human beings in the eyes of god, and should accordingly be in the eyes of human beings.

        But even if you accepted this there is still a conflict with the rights of the mother. Someone who is rarely mentioned in these debates. The mother / foetus / baby relationship and dependency is unique in human experience and has to be dealt with as such. Personally I don't find statements like "it's killing" or "it's wrong" particularly helpful in resolving this dilemma.

        • Definitely agree it is a unique situation.

          And I agree that those statements don't help.

          I'm not really sure what I meant now. I'll withdraw the comment.

      • The church advances philosophical not theological arguments, basically arguing that if the precise ontological status of a human life remains doubtful, descriptively, the safest moral course must be followed, normatively, so as not to dare risk killing a person.

        Different people can reasonably find this compelling or not for various reasons I discussed hereinabove.

  • "Most Americans now support research that Bush stifled and Obama will fund."

    Which begs the question whether or not most Americans understand that there are different kinds of stem cell research. I didn't see the author of the quoted article mention whether or not most Americans understood the difference and if that knowledge affected their opinion.

    Good article. It provides a little bit of an analysis of what types of ethics have guided the different administrations and how their guiding principles effected policy decisions.

  • FreemenRtrue

    The Bush administration was correct that there is no need to exploit embryonic stem cells or to produce them for scientific research. The scientists simply want no restrictions on their behavior. The climate change hoax is collapsing daily if one can make the effort to read skeptical researches and credit the 18 year pause in 'warming' as well. Uninformed political hacks such as Obama and the far from Supreme Court should stop perverting science as they have done to marriage. Is there anything they will not destroy?

  • materetmagistra

    There are two sides to this debate:

    Those who want to be sure (without a doubt) that they are NOT violating the right to life of any human being that could possibly have an inherent and inalienable right to life. [And, so they set the bar at the lowest possible common denominator that all human beings share, which is the point at which they come into being as a biological human being (fertilization.)]

    and

    Those that are unwilling to extend rights one bit too far. [What is too far? Well, it's open to personal interpretation. One man claims "consciousness," one man claims being able to live outside of one's age-appropriate environment, one man claims having certain organs developed....]

    I ask, exactly WHAT is at risk if one casts TOO wide a net? What is at risk If one makes sure that all those beings that COULD POSSIBLY have these inherent and inviolable "human rights" are protected? What do you lose, @Ignatius Reilly, @briangreenadams, @William Davis, @Luke Cooper, @Paul Brandon Rimmer ??

    • Luke Cooper

      exactly WHAT is at risk if one casts TOO wide a net?

      How's this for starters? http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/arrested-having-miscarriage-7-appalling-instances-where-pregnant-women-were

      • materetmagistra

        Wow - talk about writing to elicit a certain response. Got any objective reporting on those stories? Any actual objective news about the case, what the sentence actually ended up being, what other factors in the case were, and what law actually was broken (to boot, this cannot be a case of extending a wider net, if this is CURRENT law.)

        Not to mention that someone on here reported an incredibly LARGE number of miscarriages that actually happen - - - apparently the majority of women who suffer a miscarriage aren't dragged through the streets as these articles are claiming.

        • Luke Cooper

          Here's the NY Times article referenced by AlterNet: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/08/opinion/pregnant-and-no-civil-rights.html

          In the NY Times piece, the authors reference their peer-reviewed study, which can be downloaded via link in the article. From the article's abstract, "In this article we report on 413 cases from 1973 to 2005 in which a woman’s pregnancy was a necessary factor leading to attempted and actual deprivations of a woman’s physical liberty."

          You seem to have no problem with that. What you fail to recognize is that, under your standards of human life, every miscarriage is a potential homicide case and should be treated as such. Do you realize how invasive this is? My sister miscarried. If you had your way, she would have had to report it to the police and give the fetus up for examination to ensure that she did not take steps to cause the miscarriage. And what if she did? What would the punishment be? Murder? Manslaughter? A hefty fine? Sterilization?

          Here's a case in El Salvador in which a woman was finally freed from jail after a miscarriage: https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2015/01/el-salvador-pardon-woman-jailed-miscarriage-triumph-justice/ You act like your standards are so neat and tidy, and that we're the monsters. It's ridiculous and it's why I stopped debating with you earlier. You have no moral high ground here, so please stop acting like we're the inhumane ones.

          • materetmagistra

            (1) Before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal in most of the states, how many women who suffered miscarriages were hauled away to jail? I can't think that even then they considered miscarriages as potential crimes. Do you have evidence that the did?

            (2) People die every day. Is every one of those cases investigated to see if a crime was committed? What makes you think it will be different with miscarriages?

            (3) Laws that are not just can and should be addressed. Do you agree that women who are addicted to drugs need help - even if they aren't pregnant? What if they have born children in their homes? Isn't it important to protect the innocent? How best to protect the children, born and unborn, and the mother herself? No, I do not think throwing these women in jail helps anyone. Do little children deserve to be born already addicted to crack? How would you address that problem? Do little children deserve to go through life without arms and or legs? How was that problem addressed?

            (4) Regarding the question of punishment. Do you think that any mother (or father) who knowingly and intentionally harms a child deserves some kind of punishment? How about engaging in behavior that one knows the likelihood of injury is great to a child? Now, in the case of a woman addicted to drugs who has little control over her addictions, the law has room to treat her differently than someone who intends to directly harm the unborn child.

            How about this case: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/19/charged-with-murder-for-a-miscarriage-in-oklahoma.html

            Was a crime committed? Did the violent beating cause the death of that unborn child. Should he be charged with a crime?

            In about 34 states there are fetal homicide laws. Would you abolish those laws? Would that be fair to the mothers and fathers of these unborn (and born) children when such crimes result in the loss of life of their child?

            No, their are no easy answers. Such is the legal system. Sentencing is rarely "easy." What is fair? How best to serve the public good? Why are the lives of only "wanted" children worthy of protection? How does being "wanted" give one more rights? Who determines if one is "wanted" enough to have rights?

          • Luke Cooper

            No, their are no easy answers.

            Finally! We agree! As for the rest, you're using terms like child and fetus interchangeably, which I and others have told you numerous times are not equivalent in our definitions of those terms.

            I think a woman has the right to determine whether a non-sentient, non-feeling bundle of cells growing in her body is wanted or not, and should be allowed to remove that bundle of cells from her body, up until at least 20-28 weeks (at which point, the bundle of cells seem to develop rudimentary feelings). I do not think that anyone should have the right to deny newborns of rights, even if they're not wanted, unless that child newborn will never be able to develop the capabilities of sentience and feeling. Again, sentience and feeling are terribly coarse definitions of personhood; I'm using them as examples of criteria that could be used to determine personhood.

            Edit: Used strikethrough on wrong word. Meant to say newborn.

          • materetmagistra

            Luke Cooper: "you're using terms like child and fetus interchangeably"

            Which would be the case in law should the right to life of the unborn child be realized to be equal to the right to life of the born child.

            Essentially there is no difference in KIND between the two - simply a difference in LOCATION or DEGREE of DEVELOPMENT (=age.)

            What does the mother's feeling have to do with KIND of thing the unborn child is? How can her "feelings" change the physical nature of what a thing is? And, does it need to be 'her' feelings? What about the feelings of the father?

            @your: "....unless that child newborn will never be able to develop the capabilities of sentience and feeling."

            (1) Every unborn human child IS EXPECTED to develop the capacities inherent with being a human being, eh? A human zygote, a human embryo, a human fetus - they are all EXPECTED to have the capacities of a mature human being, aren't they? Since they are simply IMMATURE human beings, one fully expects them to someday be a MATURE human being.....

            (2) Which means, you can't really tell who it is OK to kill UNLESS you let them MATURE, eh? You have just argued against killing the unborn child until you are able to determine their capabilities as an ADULT.

          • Luke Cooper

            Had you asked me these types of questions initially, rather than waiting until I told you I was moving on out of frustration, I would be singing a different tune. But I've already spent more time in discussion with you than I wanted to, and I can't justify spending additional time with you in this debate. Until next time!

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_LogicalC:disqus - but, that's the crux of the argument, isn't it?

            I totally agree that if the unborn human being IS REALLY nothing different than a "clump of cells" much like a fibroid growing in a woman's uterus, or an odd-looking mole on her skin, I have no moral interest in what she does with these PARTS of her body. In that case, abortion would really be a non-issue and not something Ms. Clinton and President Obama should want to make "Safe, Legal and RARE." Especially in the case of removing pre-cancerous cells......"RARE" would not be a good idea!

            However, the discipline of science provides us sure knowledge that the tiny being brought into existence when fertilization is complete is most definitely NOT merely a "part" of the woman. It is a separate being, a growing and developing being, a human being. It is a son, a daughter, a sister, a brother, a granddaughter, a grandson, a neighbor, a fellow human being. And, THAT is why I have a moral obligation to speak out: Abortion is the unjust usurption of another human being's right to his/her own body, his/her own life.

          • Luke Cooper

            You say it's unjust. I supplied you with reasons I think it's not. I know you're passionate about this, but being passionate does not make your argument any more cogent.

    • Michael Murray

      I ask, exactly WHAT is at risk if one casts TOO wide a net? What is at risk If one makes sure that all those beings that COULD POSSIBLY have these inherent and inviolable "human rights" are protected?

      That depends on how you plan to implement that protection legally. Nobody ever seems to want to discuss this. What do you do about the many, many women and men who are going to disagree with you? Compulsory registration of pregnant women ? Internment of women carrying foetuses deemed at risk ?

      • materetmagistra

        What do we do now with the many, many people who disagree about any certain law now - speeding, vaccinations, travel restrictions when you have been exposed to Ebola, registering with selective service, Ponzi schemes, fraud...??

        Do you agree that some born children are at risk for child abuse? How is that handled now? What authority does the government have in such situations?

        Have you ever had to handle a "crack" baby? Or, a baby with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? I don't know how old you are, but have you ever met a child whose mother used Thalidomide? What do you consider to be our social obligation to such persons? Is there really nothing that we can do to prevent such birth defects? Why are we vaccinating against Rubella - it doesn't fit my idea of "self-determination," I don't need/want that vaccination.......would you say I am obligated to take this vaccine? Why?

        • Michael Murray

          None of which actually answers any of my questions. Like I said nobody on your side ever wants to talk about this aspect of it. I can understand why.

          • materetmagistra

            @Michael Murray: "Like I said nobody on your side ever wants to talk about this aspect of it."

            Apparently you don't want to talk about it either, as you conveniently ignored any of the questions in my post above [where I am talking about it.]

            Do you think it was not wise to abolish slavery until enough jobs were found for all the slaves or enough economical labor could be guaranteed the plantation owners? Correcting injustice does not need to wait for anything.

            Protecting innocent human beings under the law is the correct action, is justice, even if we do not yet know how such cases might be litigated.

            As Trent Horn writes: "Punishments for crimes are not uniform because they are based on the killer's intent and the circumstances involved and not just on the crime committed. Not every homicide is considered first-degree murder, and punishment for homicide can vary from the death penalty to probation......If abortion were made illegal, "feticide" laws could be enacted that mirror current infanticide laws in language and range of punishments. That way, women who choose abortion, aa well as the men who cooperate and the doctors who perform the procedure, would be appropriately punished based on each person's level of moral responsibility."

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Violating the mother's right of self-determination.

      • materetmagistra

        Sure, I would agree that in general we each have a right to "self-determination."
        But, I do not believe that right is absolute.
        Do you think that right includes doing things to OTHER people's bodies?