On the other hand, AdultStemCellResearch takes similar cells without killing the donor, and has produced an astonishing amount of success. It is not covered in the press because it is not "Shocking;" therefore does not sell magazines and newspapers.
I'm sure my definition may not be sterile enough for some. You may find a suitable one for your at Wikipedia. This is just not a sterile subject to me. For a primer, try BrucePennington--
Your definition isn't "nonsterile", it is wrong.
Fetuses aren't human beings. They've never been considered human beings in all of human history, and until very recently babies weren't considered human beings either. Further, the people most advocating the "fetuses are human beings" stance don't recognize children as people. Why? Because human beings have independent values, wants, needs and will, and most religious fundamentalists were brought up using backwards parenting techniques and are incapable of recognizing their own children as independent people. Wait, actually this isn't hypocritical, it makes entirely too much sense.
If you discard entirely the criterion of being a person towards being a human being, then it's all too easy to decide that a bunch of protoplasm is a human being. If you don't, if you have a complex picture of a human being as a person then you have to conclude that 80-90% of adults are never fully human (they never pass the reflection test), small children and the mentally ill are not even mostly human (they don't pass the psychological consciousness test) and fetuses are only potentially human at best. But then, the very religious would have a vanishingly small proportion of full human beings, almost by definition, so they wouldn't credit the notion with any value. -- RK
(Discussion of LifesMeaning moved. HUGE apologies! I had the wrong web page listed under "What About Abortion and Stem Cell Research". It has been fixed!)
So if you will forgive me, I would appreciate a critique of the logic process you'll find in the article listed (and corrected!) above. sorry! -- BrucePennington
Bruce, Sagan was asked when human life begins, whereas the key question is when a particular human being's life begins. There would be a problem if it were feasible to treat some person by replacing a significant chunk of their brain with a corresponding chunk from someone else. How far could one go before it became the case that the recipient had been murdered and converted to become someone else? I don't think the formation of new DNA is relevant, since the concept of being alive doesn't apply at that level. True, a bunch of cells (with new DNA) developing in the womb could be regarded as separate life, but what if just one cell is removed and the rest allowed to grow to form a normal baby? Would that removed cell be considered a twin and its subsequent destruction murder? -- Anon
Thanks for taking a look! You raise three interesting issues:
Sagan was asked when human life begins, whereas the key question is when a particular human being's life begins
The problem is that the two are inseparable. Breaking that unbroken chain of life, requires the ending of an individual's life.
No, since we constantly lose cells - they're living human cells, but not human individuals. Individual life is not continuous.
Our legal problem is in how to determine when someone qualifies as having constitutionally protected life. This is now being questioned at the other end of the spectrum. Denmark is facing the debate of when is it Ok to end someone's life, without their consent.
...the concept of being alive doesn't apply at that level.
Is the tissue, is the forming DNA, alive or dead?
Would that removed cell be considered a twin...
Good question! If we don't know the answer, then we shouldn't kill. If there is doubt, don't kill. It is interesting that a primary code of hunting safety is "Positive ID, or don't shoot." Camo'd hunters get shot all the time because people violate this principal. In court, if there is reasonable doubt of guilt, we cannot convict/kill. In any facet of human life, if there is doubt we shouldn't be killing. -- BrucePennington
On the necessity of the Doctrine of Potential Humans
Except that there is no doubt involved. Only human life is protected by human rights, animal life is not. And fetuses are not humans. Fetuses are only PotentialHumans.
Which is why, IF you poison a fetus AND you let the fetus develop to term, THEN the violation of a potential human beings' rights you inflicted becomes a violation of an actual human beings' rights, at which point you are liable.
On the other hand, IF you poison a fetus AND you do NOT let the fetus develop to term, THEN the violation of a potential human beings' rights you inflicted becomes null and void.
Note that potentiality is commutative. An actual violation of a potential human is a potential violation of an actual human.
Bruce, you're grossly oversimplifying the subject by denying the primary importance of personhood. The proof that you're oversimplifying is that you're getting absurd results such as "if you take away a cell from an embryo then that individual undifferentiated cell is a human being". If you accept that doctrine then it's impossible to conduct genetic tests because they involve "murder" ... of cells. And that means you end up harming real human beings because you're sacrificing a few cells that can't possibly survive anyways.
What you're leaving out of your oversimplification is the fact that an important part of being human is personhood. Fetuses are not persons and so they are not fully human. Once you accept that, you have to accept other concepts that make the situation make sense. Potentiality is exactly that concept.
The concept of potentiality is absolutely crucial to resolving other violations of human rights. Let's take the case, a case that will be all too real in the near future, of creating a human being ex nihilo. Now, when the technology to do this becomes available it will also be possible to create a horribly deformed person who suffers in excruciating pain for their short life. Is this moral? If you reject the doctrine of potentiality, then yes it is moral. And it is moral precisely because there was no point during the person's life, even going back to embryonic cells, where the violation was inflicted.
Now, there's an out for this. Because we're not doublespeaking Talmudic scholars (or American constitutional scholars), we reject the notion that inaction is fundamentally different from action. That means, the inaction of coding the embryo correctly is the same thing as the action of coding it incorrectly. IOW, yes there was a violation of human rights and it occured precisely when the embryo was created. BUT, this out is really easy to close.
What if it's not possible to code an embryo correctly, because the technology and the scientific knowledge doesn't yet exist to do this? This is not a far-fetched scenario, it is pretty much inevitable. In fact, the current situation with cloning, where cloning creates malformed monsters, is very close to this. So we are back to is it moral to create a horribly deformed human being that will suffer in excruciating pain for the entirety of their short life? Since the action of coding it correctly is impossible, and no one has a moral duty to perform the impossible, so the answer goes back to 'yes, it is moral'.
Now, you can try to stretch protection of human life backwards to before the embryo. In that case, a computer simulation of an embryonic DNA code becomes a protected form of human life. In which case, to delete that computer simulation is to murder a human life. So what are we supposed to do with experimental DNA codes that have been found to be deficient in some way (eg, lead to horribly deformed people who suffer horribly)? Are we really supposed to keep them stored in computer banks in order to avoid erasing them? This is absurd. And you know what's even more absurd? The simulated DNA code isn't even alive in the first place, see, so it cannot possibly be murdered.
Note that the same logic applies to someone in cryogenic suspension. And in that case, at least the suspended person is indubitably a human being, just a non-living human being.
The fact that you get all of these absurdities when you reject the doctrine of potentialities, the fact that these absurdities are entirely resolved by the doctrine of potentialities, is proof that you cannot reject the doctrine of potentialities. And once you're forced to accept the doctrine of potentialities, then abortion is entirely moral.
Finally, the problem with your conception of morality is that you think it's some arbitrary set of rules tied to human emotions. And it really isn't. Morality has to be logically consistent, if it isn't then it's entirely meaningless. And the only way to make it logically consistent is to divorce it from arbitrary feelings like "killing tiny unborn babies squeaks me out". Feelings which are rather psychotic considering all the hallucinations of unborn babies that anti-abortionists have had. -- RK
Richard, you?ve completely tap-danced around my point: If there is doubt, do not kill. Where is the committee that defines PotentialHuman?s? If you read my you know this discussion is not about feelings, it is about logic.
OK, here is a logic question: A doctor can pull a fully developed baby by its ankles out of its mother and leave just the head inside. He can legally cut a hole in its skull and suck out the brains, killing the child. But, OOPS!, if the head falls out before the deed is done, now its murder to do the same thing. (This is why House Rep BarbaraBoxer? wants to limit constitutional life rights for newborns to after the parents take the child from the hospital). -- BrucePennington
On the Dividing Line between Actual Humans and Potential Humans
And you're persistently misunderstanding my point: there is no doubt. Nobody seriously thinks that some collection of cells is a human being. Nobody thinks that something that is indistinguishable from a lizard is a human being. People may have these oooh and awww how cute! reactions to a fetal ultrasound, but they have the exact same reactions to puppies and kittens.
If it will get you to accept that fetuses aren't human beings, I'll gladly kill a kitten right in front of you. It will have to be somewhere in Canada, but name the time and place, and I'll go out, adopt a kitten and slit its throat right in front of you. The possibility that I'll save a human life by changing your mind on this issue is worth more than an actual kitten's life.
As for your so-called logic question, here's a logic question for you. At what point do you have a pile of stones? Is one stone enough? No. What about two? No. So what about three? Well, keep going until you have a pile of stones. Now remove one. Is it still a pile of stones?
If you want to live in reality then you have to accept that most human concepts are fuzzy. We don't live in a world of math, and any laws that think in terms of math are going to be bullshit. Now, if you want to know where exactly the line between 'human being' and 'not a human being' is, then I'll tell you. The line is where labour can be induced and the newborn can independently survive without the aid of any technology. If it dies, it wasn't a human being yet. If it survives, it's a human being.
Now, it might occur to you to wonder why exactly we have idiots in various offices that make ridiculously arbitrary laws that have nothing to do with the underlying reality. Well, that one's easy so long as you understand that Anglo countries (and the USA worst of all) is totalitarian from its roots to its branches. So the laws are made by lawyers for the benefit of the cops and the courts, without the slightest concern for reality. That's how well-insulated the people in power are from reality.
Note that there isn't a single arbitrary thing in this definition since it is a well-documented fact that premature babies are physically and immunologically weaker than full-term babies, and they're also stupider as well, assuming they don't have outright mental defects. Assuming they don't die. I really, really don't see the point to using extremely expensive technology to keep potential humans alive just so they grow up to be more defective than the rest of the population when their own parents don't want them anyways. Did you ever think that premature babies are born premature for a reason, say, genetic defects that should be weeded out of the population?
That's the dividing line. You have a moral obligation to save an actual human being, who can survive independently without your aid. But you don't have any moral obligation to mortgage your life in order to save a potential human being, who can't possibly survive without extreme intervention at every step of the way. And in case you were wondering, yes babies really are different. If you give a baby up for adoption, the harm it will cause the baby to not be raised by the mother whose voice it bound to while in the womb is miniscule and completely insignificant compared to the extreme harm it causes to be born premature.
Now there's the issue of colostrum. Colustrum only occurs in the first week after birth and is important to the development of the newborn. Colustrum can be used to make an argument for the traditional Jewish delay before recognizing the newborn as a human being. If it's not completely independent of its mother, the newborn isn't a human being. And the colostrum issue only underscores the non-human status of premature babies since they can't even breastfeed. Premature babies actually have to have milk shoved down their throats and into their stomachs. That really is repulsive and it's precisely for this reason (the tubes, the inability to suckle, the non-human shape) that you'll have a hard time convincing people, even its own parents, that severely premature babies are human beings. And hospitals know this, which is why they lie and restrict access to them.
Finally, it might occur to you (it took me a good hour to wonder) to ask what a fetus is if it is not a human being. Yes, it's a potential human being, but what is it actually? That's a really good question and one that has a rather surprising answer. If a fetus isn't a human being because it doesn't have an independent life, then it follows that it's an integral part of a human being. A fetus is a part of its mother. IT, not he or she, is like an organ or other body part. And just like an organ whose growth is detrimental to the entire person, the mother can elect to terminate this growth. We do as much for tumours, even benign tumours. Of course, if the fetus is aborted without the mother's consent then that's a different matter since we do punish people who amputate others' limbs.
So to recap, the definition of a human being is a very complex thing, far more complex than it appears at first glance, and it includes all of the elements of:
A premature baby with severe neurological defects is not viable, and money shouldn't be wasted on extreme measures to try to preserve a neonate that isn't even viable anyways. Now, there can't possibly be any moral obligation demanded of women to function as some kind of life support systems for other entities, that's despicable and anti-human. So if a woman wishes to terminate her pregnancy, then fine, we certainly have the technology to induce it at will. And if the resulting neonate dies, well then it wasn't human anyways.
The reason we have abortion laws is because we have a pretty darn good idea when a neonate is viable or not. Before it's viable, we'll terminate the pregnancy by whatever means necessary to minimize the trauma to the mother. If that's crushing the fetus' skull then no problem, I'll volunteer to crush a kitten's skull with a hammer if it will prove the point. After the neonate would be viable, then it's a different question. At that point and barring medical complications, the law should compel the mother to carry to term. At that point, if the neonate were delivered prematurely, they would be weakened from the experience but would survive it. And similarly, if a gunman shot an 8 month pregnant woman in the belly and the fetus were aborted, then this should be considered murder. If there were a lot less hysteria around this issue, if the fundamental right of women to an abortion were respected, the law could afford to be a lot more nuanced and rational on the subject. -- RK
Bruce, I regret that I have to withdraw my offer to kill a kitten in front of you. I've been trying to imagine myself doing it since last night and I haven't succeeded. As consolation, I'll be glad to find and pay someone to do it in my stead. -- RK
That is among the most nonsensical and downright stupid hypothetical questions I've ever heard. The correct answer for both of them is "It's none of your damn business." The Fifth Amendment protects that answer. But let's reverse the hypothetical. We are now in Penningtontopia where abortion is illegal and there is no Fifth Amendment. The prosecutor brings in a pregnant woman. Prosecutor: "Did you visit your doctor on December 1?" Woman: "I did." Prosecutor: "And did you ask your doctor about getting an abortion?" Woman: "I did." Prosecutor: "And did your doctor give you some literature to review regarding this procedure?" Woman: "She did." Prosecutor: "And did you review that literature with the father of the child, and think about it and consider it yourself?" Woman: "I did." Prosecutor: "Did you then return to your doctor on December 9?" Woman: "Yes." Prosecutor: "Did you set up an appointment to have an abortion?" Woman: "Yes." Prosecutor: "No further questions. The woman is clearly guilty of conspiring to have an abortion." Judge: "Guilty! You are sentenced to twenty years in the state prison, you disgusting whore." Now, you may think, "God, this hypothetical situation completely misses the point of why I oppose abortion." Well, your hypothetical completely misses the point about the current legal situation.
You don't have any idea what you're talking about at all when you talk about the current legal situation. Not one clue. If you think for maybe five minutes, you can come up with a list of a dozen reasons why it should be that a man killing a fetus should be treated extremely differently than a woman terminating her own pregnancy. Note that both man and woman would be treated the same if they killed someone else's fetus. Just think, Bruce. Think.
But let's be blunt. This has nothing to do with the law. This has nothing to do with how you view fetuses. This has to do with how you view women. Are they property or are they people? If they're property, if by marrying (or sleeping with) a man they lose all personhood and become mere incubators then their consent to a medical procedure is irrelevant and the law should reflect that they must be banned from making this decision. I assume this is how it would be in Penningtonworld.
When the police came to the doctor's office and found a man with a machete standing over the brutally dismembered remains of his wife and doctor, and he said calmly and coolly, "That bitch was going to get an abortion and that doctor was going to give it to her." he would not be arrested, he would be given the highest accolades of a grateful populace for putting "that bitch" in the ground where she belonged. After all, the man has merely acted in defense of a third party to stop a murder and lethal force is authorized by law in such situations. Probably it would also be okay to just throw some dynamite through a window and kill everyone inside - they were all conspirators in the murder, after all. Right? This is what you dream of, I hope, because it's what you're fighting for.
And you think my example of Penningtontopia misses the point? Holy crap. I just SAID it missed the point, intentionally, didn't I? You didn't even bother to edit that part out - you just simply ignored it, completely did not read it, you were too busy clicking over to some maniacal right-wing news site where the latest clinic bombing is heralded with waving of flags and happy angels.