"A cruel debate opponent" "Pagan blasphemer" "Reverse-iconoclast" "don't get pissed at him b/c he pwn yalls whiney asses"
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Location: Indiana, United States

Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

Chris of Rights and Charles Martin <-- Lists of debunked Sarah Palin rumors

"Lan astaslem."
I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Moving to a new neighborhood - Issue #8

Special issue explanation here

This particular editorial had a different title when I first wrote and posted it on my old personal website. I've decided to change it, as it seemed rather trite, considering the subject matter.

Topic: Abortion

November 23, 2004

Do Unto Others...

Those who have experience in the workforce have no doubt been subjected to less than perfect employers. I am sure that most of us at one time or another has felt like just a number. We have resented being considered valuable only because of what we do for the company. This being reduced to something less than human can also be experienced when we make contact with just about any bureaucracy. We are looked at as units waiting in line, important only because we can sign on the dotted line or stand still and look into the camera for the invariably horrible id photo. This depersonalization of individuals may be a factor in road rage. We look at those other things in traffic slowing us down, getting in our way and forget there is a real human being in there. Is it any wonder that those with a lack of self-control or extreme selfishness may lash out in rage from time to time?

But this editorial is not about road rage or the indignity of waiting in line to renew your driver’s license. Rather, it is an examination of abortion and an issue that is very central to that discussion. Specifically the matter of whether or not the unborn are human beings worthy of the right to life.

One argument advanced for permitting abortion is that the unborn are not human beings or do not have personhood because they cannot think. Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) is what makes us human goes the argument. This seems entirely intuitive and easy to accept. After all, we know that when the brain ceases to function we do not consider the body being kept alive by machines to be worthy of protecting.

There are several flaws with this argument. One is that thinking ceases when a person is asleep or in a coma but both conditions are reversible. The response is that personhood has been achieved and should be protected until we know the chances of mental activity returning are extremely slim as in a persistent vegetative state. This is different from the unborn as they have not reached this state yet and they only have a potential to do so. But the strength of that reply is based on our experience of what normally happens. We know that sleep usually leads to being awake and that a patient can recover from a coma by way of medical intervention. Does it need to be mentioned that we know that pregnancy normally leads to a thinking infant being born? In fact, brain waves are detected at about six weeks after conception.

Still the reply is that this is only potential and hasn’t happened yet. But the examples of temporary cessation of thinking illustrate an additional flaw. The problem with using this definition of personhood is that it is based on how an individual is functioning. The examples show that while it is sufficient to define personhood; this criterion is actually not necessary in order to make that distinction. If it were necessary, every time a person is asleep or in a coma they no longer posses personhood and therefore no longer deserve the right to life. We can see this to be foolish and the argument for defining personhood in this manner has failed.

But another objection is that the unborn are not separate from the body of the mother. It is claimed that they have no rights until they exist independently. The hope is that combined with the personhood defined by function criterion we may now have a sustainable pro-choice argument that can avoid the absurdities that occur when the brain function argument is used alone. But this ignores the fact that the unborn are distinct from the mother by their genetic code and their own biological structure. We never talk of the mother having 4 feet, 4 hands, 4 eyes, 4 ears etc. during pregnancy. The unborn is also distinct in blood type. The genetic code contains the information for that unique individual’s hair and eye color, skin tone and fingerprints to name just a few characteristics that define an individual human being. The only thing left is the location of the unborn in the woman’s body. The claim being that we have a right to control our body. But that is what is under discussion. To use that as justification is to assume that it has been settled as true in this case. But that is begging the question. Even worse, it relies on the temporary location of the unborn to permanently deny them personhood. But we have already shown that temporary conditions do not result in someone not being a person to begin with.

So now, we have seen that several pro-choice arguments are rather shot through with holes. It might be hoped that together they provide a strong enough reason to support permitting abortion. This does not work and an analogy can help to see that. Imagine trying to catch water with a leaky bucket. You will not succeed. Adding another leaky bucket does not help either. The same goes for multiple “leaky” arguments trying to support a pro-choice position.

But we have to somehow make a determination about the unborn. Must we be afraid of fulfilling the knee-jerk criticism of forcing religion on others? Such is not the case. While many will be motivated by their religious beliefs and that is all well and good, we have enough information from science to make a judgment that avoids the objection of pushing religion on others. We also should not be apprehensive about telling people what to do. If we really can determine that the unborn deserve the right to life, we should protect them. Would anyone say, “I don’t believe it's right to kill a preschooler but I don’t think I should tell someone else not to do it”?

At conception, we have the beginning of a new human life. This life is unique and will be a continuum of a person’s life from conception to death. This is undeniable; the debate is why should we apply the right to life at the earliest stages of development of a person’s life. We do not have to worry about the absurd conclusion of protecting every skin cell, sperm or egg because we have a defining moment at conception. We have seen that efforts to place the right to life only after birth or the achievement of some functionality have failed. At the very least most can see that late term abortions, partial birth abortions and infanticide are wrong and should not be permitted. But how can we justify protecting life at conception?

This brings us back to defining a person by their ability to function as a person. We have seen the flaws with this argument. Along with these flaws is the error of talking about a potential person because they are not functioning as one yet. What we are actually talking about is being a person who has potential to function. The identification as a person comes from what we are not what we do. At conception all that is required to be a fully functioning individual exists. The development of those functions is merely at a very early stage. But that does not mean this is not a person.

All criteria that we would use to define a person are inherent within the zygote. We may choose to define personhood by function rather than by being or essence. We can then try to strengthen that flawed argument with an appeal to the temporary location of the unborn; but as we have seen that is just one leaky argument after another trying to maintain the denial of the fundamental right to life

The pro-life argument from conception really is the better choice for making our determination about the unborn, because it avoids the absurdities of the functional and location arguments. In fact, those arguments are so flawed they will also provide support for late term abortions and partial birth abortions as well as infanticide if one is to carry them to their logical and horribly brutal conclusions. Is convenience really worth that?

Finally, we do not like it when employers or bureaucrats determine our value solely by how we function or only when we are in the workplace. This depersonalization is not something we admire in others yet many who feel this way will turn around and do the same thing to the unborn. It might be convenient but if it is wrong for others to do that to us for their own benefit than we should not do the same thing to the unborn. Dehumanizing others for our own selfish benefit has terrible consequences. We can easily see the tragedy when that results in road rage. We have an even greater tragedy when we allow the unborn to be killed daily.


Previous Issues of "Moving To A New Neighborhood":

Issue #7 Are Chicago Women Really This Stupid?
Issue #6 OnStar and The Nanny State
Issue #5 The Limits of Our Languag
Issue #4 Abortion - Fundamental Issues
Issue #3 Mel Gibson Failed
Issue #2 Abortion - Knee Jerk Arguments
Issue #1 Jerry Springer and the Fall of Rome
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