Morning, All. As you are aware, Anon 2 and I have engaged in a debate over abortion. As this has taken place over several posts and more than a hundred comments, I thought for clarity I would breakdown Anon 2’s most recent comments to my most recent post on the subject. See below.
Jim 01 is from my recent post. Anon 2 is his or her reply to specific sections of that post. Jim 02 is my long-awaited comments to his.
Jim 01. “Moreover, the understanding in Western medicine is that conception occurs and pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg is implanted in the wall of the woman’s uterus and creates an umbilical cord to receive nourishment and eliminate waste.
“This understanding may resolve one problem for anti-abortionists who believe “life begins at conception”. Contraception that prevents implantation does not cause abortion, but rather prevents pregnancy.”
Anon 2. Definitions in medicine are fluid. It’s actually a relatively recent change to characterize conception as implantation (c. 1965 in the U.S.). And it’s not uniformly agreed upon in the “Western world.” (I love the self-absorbed arrogance of the “Western world,” i.e. the United State of America.)
Jim 02. Definitions change over time, true. One reason they change, particularly in science and medicine, is because our understanding of reality changes with new scientific revelations. I don’t see a problem with this.
Why was the change made? Because it’s harder to detect fertilization than implantation. We (scientists) adjusted the meaning of our words so it fits our inability to accurately measure reality. We want to answer the natural question, “When did the new human life start?” and doctors changed the question to “What’s the most convenient thing thing we can measure that approximate reality?” It’s a mistake to take the medical semantics of a word as the true meaning. Definitions are all arbitrary to some degree.
For clarity, just look it up in an English dictionary as you suggested earlier. Conception is defined to be fertilization.
Jim 02. I’ve said this before but apparently it hasn’t sunk in. The understanding of when human life begins and is due the protection of the U.S. Constitution, to use your term, is “fluid”. As I have pointed out, there is no magic moment when we can all agree the developing human is a person, although I have made numerous rational arguments for the best guess… at “birth”. Any other moment one chooses is mere speculation and personal preference, usually based on speculation about the supernatural.
I think I’ve said this before but the DNA isn’t what defines life (or person). The fact that DNA is even mentioned is to identify a separate human organism from the mother. The fact that the DNA is in flux doesn’t matter as long as it’s not the mother’s (or anyone else’s) DNA. When a woman says, “my body” referring to the organism growing inside, she is claiming something very sinister. She owns and controls another human life (or even lives). What a claim!
As for the DNA and soul connection. What are you talking about? Who posits that the soul is dependent on the DNA? Philosophically, the soul exists independent of the body. Theoretically it’s possible that 100 souls to possess one body. You don’t have a logical argument tying souls to DNA. Again the point is that the DNA distinguishes the new human life from the mother.
Jim 02. “. Again the point is that the DNA distinguishes the new human life from the mother.” That seems to be YOUR point. It isn’t mine and you know it. My point is that DNA does not a person make. It’s a requirement for sentience, but alone is not sufficient. My hair has human DNA and my hair can’t even vote.
Jim 01. “This position ignores the fact that most pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion, so that it is nature, or “Nature’s God”, that denies most fertilized eggs their destiny.”
Anon 2. I’m really not sure why you make this point. This ignores the fact that Christians (and others) believe God himself terminates the life of every human being eventually. It’s not really a scandal that God takes the life away from unborn babies; He does that for anyone who dies. The scandal is that a doctor who swore to do no harm does. (Hippocrates also forbade abortions, I understand.)
Jim 02“…believe God himself terminates the life of every human being eventually.” Here you’re speculating again. There is no empirical evidence, scientific proof, independent historical accounts, or sound logic to support the superstition that God (Jupiter, Thor, etc.) does anything, ever.
Jim 01.“But scientific facts and sound logic are not changed by imprecise language.”
Anon 2. Are you kidding? In 1965, the meaning of a medical word was voted upon. I’m sure it wasn’t unanimous because it’s not even unanimously agreed to now. The aggregate of personal opinions doesn’t actually remove the fact that they’re personal. Consensus does not make truth.
Furthermore, sound logic depends on the semantics of language. If you change the meaning of the words, the semantics of the logic changes. In other words, words matter.
Jim 02. “Consensus does not make truth.” “…words matter. We agree on this. Why do you mention it.
Jim 01. “To be a person one must have a ‘person-ality’.”
Anon 2. That’s rather arbitrary. Did you come up with that “person-ally”? Why does your personal opinion have anything to do with anything? You can’t say another’s definition of ‘person’ is arbitrary and posit another completely arbitrary one.
Jim 02. Anon 2: “That’s rather arbitrary.” Dictionary say: “–adjective
subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one’s discretion: an arbitrary decision.” As you are well aware, my definitions of “person” and “personhood” are hardly arbitrary because you, being as thorough as you are, have read my essay on abortion on my personal website. So you know I was careful to define the terms according to standard dictionary definitions and scientific journals and not arbitrary in the least. At the very least, to be a person, one must have a personality. To have a personality one must have preferences: likes and dislikes. To have a personality one must be sentient. Human embryos and fetuses have no preferences and are not sentient and are, therefore, not persons.
Anon 2. Maybe to be a person, something must be “su-person-ic”? :-)
Jim 02. Anon 2, what does supersonic (as in supersonic airplane) have to do with personhood? Methinks you have veered off the track here.
Jim “DNA does not a person make.”
Anon 2. Who in the world argues that? Talking with your imaginary straw man again?
Jim 02. Apparently you do not pay attention to the myriad Christian preachers and commentators who make this precise argument: “If it has human DNA, it’s human.” And boy do they ever avoid the “personhood” argument except to claim without evidence that a glop of cells containing human DNA is a person. To them, DNA = Personhood. Amazingly, I have even read on Christian websites where they claim an acorn is an oak tree. You can’t get any nuttier (pardon the pun) than that. In short, I don’t do “straw men”.
Jim. “Outlawing abortion will not end abortion. But it will result in untold misery and preventable death (as evidenced in every society that has made abortion illegal including the U.S. pre-Roe v. Wade).”
Anon 2. Children are miserable. I was one at one point. Killing me in utero would have saved my parents untold misery. I’ll agree to a point, but it just doesn’t rise to the level of justifying aborting unborn children.
Futhermore, the preventable death to which you refer isn’t the onus of making abortion illegal. Brutally killing an unborn baby because a woman is threatening herself (and the child) with a coathanger is not a rational policy. Not all methods of preventing death is honorable. There is a problem with this situation that abortion just doesn’t address.
Jim 02. Anon 2, can’t say I followed your line of thinking on this one. I said that outlawing abortion will not end abortion – meaning that desperate women will still seek abortions, but the procedure will then be illegal and dangerous rather than legal and safe. Outlawing abortion only makes for more misery. Why would you want laws and public policies that add to the amount of misery in the world?
Jim 01 “Over mere speculation, are you willing to outlaw abortion and force millions of women to have millions of children they don’t want and can’t properly care for? ”
Anon 2. What speculation are we talking about? Also, are you suggesting that I’m somehow forcing them to not want the baby or forcing them to not properly care for the baby? Surely not.
Jim 02. Surely not. However, in a momentary lapse, you did not answer my question: “Over mere speculation, are you willing to outlaw abortion and force millions of women to have millions of children they don’t want and can’t properly care for?”
Moreover, in my original post, I was quite clear when I used the term “speculation”. With rare exception, the anti-abortionists I deal with or know about are religious extremists – meaning Christian fundamentalists. To the detriment of society, they speculate on all manner of unprovable hypotheses: the existence of an all-powerful, all–knowing, benevolent deity who intervenes in human affairs and protects the innocent and vulnerable. They speculate that they can know what Jesus said and did two thousand years ago when historians of the gospels have reliably proved this false.
Without evidence, they speculate that there is a glorious afterlife for God’s chosen. Based on Bronze Age texts, they speculate that the world is merely 6,000 years old and humankind was created in a day rather than evolved over millions of years.
Speculate, speculate, speculate. And in doing so, they vote into high public office religious extremists (Russell Pearce, Gov. Brewer, etc.) who try to make abortion impossible because, in spite of overwhelming evidence and sound logic, they believe that human DNA = a person. That’s the “speculation” I’m referring to…as if you didn’t know.
Jim 02. Anon 2, we’ve beat this horse pretty good and, as the one responsible to thousands who read this blog, I need to get onto other topics. On the subject of abortion, your arguments have become weaker and not up to your former intellectual standards. So I see no point in pursuing this further. I’ll go back to writing on politics as ethic for a while. Jason is waiting on some definitions. For anyone who wants, I have many other arguments for keeping abortion legal and safe on my personal website: The Rational Polemicist. jg