Annnnnnnnd Video Five is Out

Here you go.

*Technically* legal or illegal, this is completely insane. And there are STILL people out there defending Planned Parenthood.

Amazing.

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102 Responses to Annnnnnnnd Video Five is Out

  1. Ilion says:

    And there are STILL people out there defending Planned Parenthood.

    Everyone (*) knows and has *always* known that abortion is murder, and that murder is PP’s main money-maker. Many people have found it useful to lie about what is going on and about what they know; and one lie needs to be supported by another.

    When a person, or a society, willingly worships The Lie, which is Death, how can others be surprised that they/it express their worship in ever more perverse ways.

    (*) including all those “personally opposed” Catholic politicians whom the One True Bureaucracy will not discipline

  2. tcsgamer says:

    Abortion isn’t murder, its the killing of an innocent human. Government s and some people make the distinction, and I think we should too. It shows them to be monsters by either admitting that some humans should be killed or admitting that they purposly dehumanise for the purpose of sexual freedom.

    • Isn’t the killing of an innocent human definitionally murder?

    • Ilion says:

      darrenl:Murder is when the state says that killing an innocent human is illegal. Killing and murder are not the same thing.

      The State (capitalization intended) doesn’t have the authority to define murder; only God has that authority.

      The state has the duty, given it by God, to punish murder. A state that *refuses* to punish murder, and instead promotes it, is a state whose rulers imagine they can ascend to God’s throne … this is a state that will presently be dead.

      And, by the way, ‘murder’ has nothing to do with whether the dead person is “an innocent human”; the distinction between ‘murder’ and ‘killing’ is one of justice

      • tcsgamer says:

        I agree with you; however, in terms of an argument to convince someone who thinks that abortion is just dandy, I’d get them to admit first that abortion does kill an innocent human…then let that sink in.

        It’s very easy to prove that abortion kills an innocent human. Do that, then let them connect the dots on the legal implications of that act.

        I’ve had good arguments by just ending the discussion saying, ” well, its unfortunate you think that some innocent humans should be killed. I for one think all innocent humans have a right to live”. Usually, this leaves them silent.

      • I’d get them to admit first that abortion does kill an innocent human…then let that sink in.
        It’s very easy to prove that abortion kills an innocent human.

        I don’t agree. You’re assuming you’re dealing with rational people. People are ALREADY horrified about what’s going on here; take advantage of it.

      • tcsgamer says:

        It’s not the irrational you’re trying to convince anyway. If you find that your interlockitor is irrational, part ways with the discussion as nothing more can be gained.

      • tcsgamer says:

        @illion

        All of what you are saying is true, but we live in a post-Christian West, which means that we need to start from the basics again….if they’re rational and interested in what is true.

        Quite literally ask them: what is abortion? What is a human? What is a person? What is a fetus? Keep it basic, and simple….like you’re talking to a two year old. All you need to do is plant a seed of doubt and I truely think getting them to admit what’s being killed is an innocent human is a good starting place.

      • I agree with you generally, but in the meantime we have a golden opportunity. We need to press it.

      • Andy says:

        tcsgamer,

        Quite literally ask them: what is abortion? What is a human? What is a person? What is a fetus? Keep it basic, and simple….like you’re talking to a two year old.

        Interesting. Just out of curiosity, how would you explain in basic and simple terms what a “person” is and why human personhood starts at conception – meaning that a fertilized human egg is a human person while an unfertilized human egg is not?

      • An unfertilized human egg is not on the path of development to a grown human being.

        This is basic biology.

      • Andy says:

        An unfertilized human egg is not on the path of development to a grown human being.

        This is basic biology.

        You are wrong about basic biology. Human development is a continuous cycle, and an unfertilized human egg is just as much part of the developmental pathway to a grown human being as a fertilized human egg is.

      • That doesn’t even make sense, Andy. One will grow into an adult. One won’t. That’s because one is human.

        Your argument is ridiculous and facile.

      • Ilion says:

        MtC:That doesn’t even make sense, Andy. One will grow into an adult. One won’t. That’s because one is human.

        Allow me to fix that for you — “Baring death, whether by the presently proposed murder or some future accident or illness, one will grow into the developmental state of the human organism which we term ‘adult’, and the other won’t. That’s becasue the former is already a human organism and the latter is not.

        Your argument is ridiculous and facile.

        Indeed it is. But pro-abortionists don’t *care* about that. What they care about is murdering babies and silencing those who want to put a stop to it.

      • That would be the more detailed form of the statement, yes. Thank you for it, as we seemed to have sarted down the “pedantic word games” rabbit hole.

      • Ilion says:

        That would be the more detailed form of the statement, yes. Thank you for it, as we seemed to have sarted down the “pedantic word games” rabbit hole.

        And one dare not allow the pro-murderers any wiggle-room.

      • Andy says:

        That doesn’t even make sense, Andy. One will grow into an adult. One won’t. That’s because one is human.

        Your argument is ridiculous and facile.

        You are saying that an unfertilized human egg isn´t actually “human” and that it isn´t on the “path of development to a grown human being”, and both of those claims are ludicrous. The first one is ludicrous because oogenesis in humans cannot produce anything other than a “human” egg. The second is ludicrous because you have a pathway that involves something like:
        x => y => z
        and you fully acknowledge that y is on the “path of development to” z, and you also acknowledge that x is on the “path of development to” y (or do you seriously intend to argue that you can somehow get a fertilized human egg without actually having an unfertilized human egg first?), but you deny that x must then logically also be on the “path of development to” z – this is transparently false.
        Based on experience, your next move will probably be something like arguing that the fertilized human egg will develop into an adult human being “on it´s own” (or something along that line) while an unfertilized human egg will not do that – which is also false, both the fertilized and the unfertilized human egg cannot proceed with development “on their own” at all. The unfertilized egg requires fertilization (which it obviously cannot do “on it´s own”) in order to proceed with development, if that doesn´t happen – development terminates in spontaneous abortion here. And the fertilized egg first develops into an embryo (which it can do mostly on it´s own) and then requires a healthy uterus to implant into (implantation into the uterine wall fails naturally roughly 40% of the time btw, terminating development at this step and leading to spontaneous abortion), which is something that it obviously cannot do “on it´s own” at all.
        You do not have a point here, such a sequence of developmental stages is called a life *cycle* for a reason – because there is no “start” and no “stop”, there never is a transition from “non-life” to “life” here (conception is the start of genetically unique life, not the start of life per se (a dead egg cannot be fertilized)) and there also never is a transition from “non-human” to “human” here. All you can do here is try to exclude everything that happens before conception via some kind of special pleading or you can try to argue that human personhood and moral worth is *fully* reducible to our genes – I would be very surprised if you can find a valid argument.

      • To Andy again:

        Your logic is so absurd I hardly know what to do with it. You claim it’s impossible to know when life begins. All right then. Why should there be any laws against killing people at all, then? Maybe we should just kill the disabled, and decrease the surplus population?

        The difference between an unfertilized and fertilized egg is that a fertilized egg will grow into a specific adult human being. This is manifestly obvious. The DNA distinguishing a human as unique is not present beforehand, and the egg is not a member of the human species genetically or otherwise, except insofar as its part of the mother’s cell structure.

        This is biology 101. If you doubt me, show me a quote from a biology textbook that denies a new member of the species homo sapiens exists before fertilization. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

        Any biology textbook. Any one.

      • Andy says:

        Malcolm,

        Your logic is so absurd I hardly know what to do with it.[1] You claim it’s impossible to know when life begins.[2]

        1. Erm, well… I do not doubt at all that it appeared that way to you, but that doesn´t really say anything because you didn´t read what I wrote very carefully, to put it at its mildest.
        2. Nope. Not at all. Not even close. That completely contradicts what I actually said and I have absolutely no idea on what sentence of mine this interpretation of yours could possibly be based on… What I said was:
        “there never is a transition from “non-life” to “life” here…. conception is the start of genetically unique life, not the start of life per se (a dead egg cannot be fertilized)”
        I didn´t say that it is impossible to know when life begins, I said that life per se *never* begins in the human life cycle (or any other life cycle for that matter) because no step in *any* life cycle corresponds to something “dead” becoming “alive” – an unfertilized human egg that is “dead” cannot be fertilized, a zygote that experiences cell death cannot develop into a morula etc.pp.
        Repetition for emphasis: *every* step in the human life cycle is both “alive” and “human”.

        The difference between an unfertilized and fertilized egg is that a fertilized egg will grow into a specific adult human being.

        This is actually not a difference between the two kinds of cells at all. An unfertilized human egg is just as much part of your life history (and that of any other human) as a fertilized egg is, the list of conditions that have to be met in order to reach the stage of
        an adult human is just a little longer.

        This is manifestly obvious. The DNA distinguishing a human as unique is not present beforehand,

        That is actually only approximately true (your DNA is not cast in stone at the moment of conception, even monozygotic twins are not completely genetically identical, only almost), but lets ignore that. Exactly as I anticipated, you are now engaging in genetic reductionism, and I am positively certain that you do not actually subscribe to this position. But lets check: do you, or do you not, believe that human personhood is fully 100% reducible to your genes?

        and the egg is not a member of the human species genetically or otherwise, except insofar as its part of the mother’s cell structure.

        The fertilized human egg is 100% dependent on the body of an adult woman, just like the unfertilized egg is. You are correct when you point out that the fertilized egg is genetically distinguishable from the mother, but so what? I already asked you about your
        stance re genetic reductionism above, if you do not subscribe to genetic reductionism (a very extreme and transparently false form of genetic reductionism btw), then this difference has exactly zero moral implications.

        This is biology 101. If you doubt me, show me a quote from a biology textbook that denies a new member of the species homo sapiens exists before fertilization. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

        I´m pretty sure that you meant “after” fertilization here. And your challenge is based on your misreading of my position that I pointed out above. I do not deny at all that a new member of the species Homo sapiens exists at that point. Here´s a challenge for you: try to find a biology textbook that denies that an unfertilized human egg is “alive” and / or denies that it is “human”. You won´t find one.

      • Your whole response is rife with a billion problems, but I don’t need to address any of them because you admit this:

        I didn´t say that it is impossible to know when life begins, I said that life per se *never* begins in the human life cycle (or any other life cycle for that matter) because no step in *any* life cycle corresponds to something “dead” becoming “alive” – an unfertilized human egg that is “dead” cannot be fertilized, a zygote that experiences cell death cannot develop into a morula etc.pp.
        Repetition for emphasis: *every* step in the human life cycle is both “alive” and “human”

        In that case, I’m sure that you are against abortion, right?

        Look, if your only argument is that an unfertilized egg is also an individual human being (which is almost too absurd to comment on, but we’ll pretend it’s not), then if you’re right all that’ll do is convince me we shouldn’t kill unfertilized eggs either.

      • I did not mean “after”, by the way. I meant before. There is a typo though: The typo is that the word “denies” should be “says”.

        Meanwhile, a quote from a biology textbook:

        “Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).
        “Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being.”
        [Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2]

        Also here:

        “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
        [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

        This is accepted biology.

        I don’t know what genetic reductionism is supposed to address. Actually, I believe that each human being as a soul, but I also believe that the presence of unique individual human DNA is how we know we’re dealing with a unique individual human.

      • Andy says:

        Your whole response is rife with a billion problems

        Are you sure it´s not one octodecillion to the power of googolplex problems?

        …but I don’t need to address any of them….

        …which you totally could, if you wanted to, with arguments that are not transparently flawed or based on completely misrepresenting what I said.

        …because you admit this:

        “I didn´t say that it is impossible to know when life begins, I said that life per se *never* begins in the human life cycle (or any other life cycle for that matter) because no step in *any* life cycle corresponds to something “dead” becoming “alive” – an unfertilized human egg that is “dead” cannot be fertilized, a zygote that experiences cell death cannot develop into a morula etc.pp.
        Repetition for emphasis: *every* step in the human life cycle is both “alive” and “human””

        In that case, I’m sure that you are against abortion, right?

        I´m going to respond to that with all the seriousness it deserves:
        You said earlier “One will grow into an adult. One won’t. That’s because one is human.” OMG, you deny the humanity of unfertilized eggs!!11! So you actually think that they are not just as much a fully human person like you, well then why not just treat them as a commodity and allow women to sell their eggs (which totally ARE fully human persons, what is wrong with you?!?!) for research purposes?? And while we´re at it, why don´t we also kill the disabled and the Jews??
        But also a serious response to what you say here: my point with that was that *no one* believes that all human life is also automatically a human person. You certainly do not, see above.

        Look, if your only argument is that an unfertilized egg is also an individual human being

        I never said or implied that. What I said is that an unfertilized egg is “alive” and “human”. If by “individual” you mean “having a unique and novel combination of human genes”, then yes, that is something that applies to a fertilized egg but not an unfertilized one. And if you think that this has any relevance, then I will again ask you again why you apparently think that human personhood can be reduced to genes. Look, you say that this here:

        – is not a human person. But if I would take that cell with a haploid set of human chromosomes and make it diploid, then it looks like this:

        – and suddenly, magically(?) is now totally a human person. Why? What do you think “personhood” means and how the hell do genetics relate to this concept?

        then if you’re right all that’ll do is convince me we shouldn’t kill unfertilized eggs either.

        That would be a huge double standard, they are fully human persons so we should not just refrain from killing them but rather do exactly as much to ensure their survival (and believe me, we could do A LOT) as we would do to ensure your or mine survival.

      • Andy says:

        Meanwhile, a quote from a biology textbook:

        One that doesn´t contradict anything I said and poses no problem whatsoever for my position. Again, do you think you can find a biology textbook that denies that an unfertilized human egg is “alive” and / or denies that it is “human”?

        I don’t know what genetic reductionism is supposed to address. Actually, I believe that each human being as a soul, but I also believe that the presence of unique individual human DNA is how we know we’re dealing with a unique individual human.

        But of those two things (assuming that there are indeed “souls”), only the DNA is tangible, and a) I do not see any reason for why DNA per se is supposed to have any moral relevance, b) you (or anyone else) has not demonstrated in any way that DNA per se has moral relevance and c) I consider it to be quite obvious that human personhood absolutely can NOT be reduced to our genes, but I´m to explain in more detail why that is if you actually do subscribe to such a position (which I find very hard to believe…).

  3. Mojo_Hand says:

    If a fetus has no moral value until point of development X, then what is the dilemma in selling the remains of organic matter that has no moral value? I’ve been posing that question to people who defend Planned Parenthood.

    Why try to skirt around the issue? Why not argue that federal law should be altered to allow abortion clinics to sell fetal remains? Yet, you see no “pro-choice” individuals arguing along these lines.

    Conservatives have made the mistake of being outraged too much by the commoditization of aborted babies. It makes it seem as though selling babies parts is, on the whole, more repugnant than the actual abortion. Why should anyone be surprised that an organization that specializes in terminating the unwanted has found a clever way of obtaining “reimbursement” by using every part of the Buffalo?

    So point out that there is nothing in the moral reasoning of the abortionist that should make the sale of baby parts unsavory, and that, given such reasoning, PP should be permitted to set prices for their meat. And if the abortionist would like to have their meat, we might as well force them to swallow the bone.

    • Conservatives have made the mistake of being outraged too much by the commoditization of aborted babies.

      I disagree. We’re getting Al Capone for tax evasion.

      • Mojo_Hand says:

        And that may come to pass. If at any point any kind of investigation is conducted by any kind of regulatory agency, there may be some fallout for Planned Parenthood. But that doesn’t seem terribly likely at this point. We live in an age where blatant malfeasance on the part of ‘choice entities’ no lo longer confers any guarantee of prosecution. Is the Department of Justice or FBI in the process of seizing Hilary’s private email server? Was anyone arrested in the IRS scandal for targeting conservative organizations? Why is it that we think these institutions will cease to act with impunity when no consequences can befall them? Planned Parenthood can persist in what they’ve been doing already, and simply thumb their noses at the critics. “It’s hammer-time, and you can’t touch this”, they can say. They’re a god in the progressive pantheon, and they can count on their adherents to self-flagellate for their benefit.

        The more likely outcome is that those sitting on the sidelines will find their neutrality on abortion more tenuous, and less convincing. These revelations about the trafficking of human meat will undoubtedly stir some self-examination on the part of many who are pro-choice.

        On further reflection, I should amend my previous statement. conservative outrage is undoubtedly well founded, but it should always be communicated that harvesting baby remains is quite simply the necessary outcome of making concessions on the moral value of a womb-bound infant.

      • But we’re already seeing companies drop PP funding like hot potatoes. This is all clearly making a difference.

      • Ilion says:

        I disagree. We’re getting Al Capone for tax evasion.

        And that clever albeit unjust farce is a major reason that the federal government has grown to be the enemy of justice.

  4. Mojo_Hand says:

    @Andy

    As to your first point, a human egg /= human.

    This is so simple, from a biological standpoint, that I’m surprised I have to point it out.

    An unfertilized egg is clearly not on the “path to development” into anything, as it has not been fused with a sperm so as to actualize its *potency*, and initiate the first stages of embryonic maturation. Your butchered understanding of the English language is probably what’s at fault here. If you’re describing an unfertilized egg as being “in development”, then you are clearly confused on what the word development means. You will not be able to find one single sentence of scientific discourse describing an unfertilized egg as being in a state of development. As in, descriptions stating that the unfertilized egg can be considered ‘a human person’ (rather than, incidentally, a component in human developmental anatomy) in the same sense that a fertilized egg can be. The unfertilized egg is part of a cycle of development, but cannot be said to have any kind of development in and of itself, as an egg will never become an embryo unless conditions subX are met. The cycle does indeed *stop* at the egg, and will remain *stopped* at the egg unless fertilization occurs.

    Your “logical” sequence is absurd. Indeed, it is so absurd that you have to work backwards, rhetorically, from Z to try and make any sense of it. If you started with X, and said that X is on a path to development into Y, then you simply invite the contention that is being argued in the first place, that X (the unfertilized egg), is in a static state (as in, no development) until fertilization act subX occurs. You’re attempting here to show that this is somehow an unbroken causal process, but can only do so by ignoring the very cause (fertilization) that is the bone of contention.

    You’re argument is silly, prima facie, and you should be embarrassed that you’ve even made it.

    • Co-sign on all of this.

      • Andy,

        Not only is Mojo Hand dead on, but your response doesn’t even come close to responding to what he’s saying.

        I’m tired of the game at this point – I think we’ve reached the “Clearly neither side is getting through to the other at all” section of the debate.

        The way I see it, I’m saying “By looking at the human genome I can tell if somebody is a unique individual human being”.

        Your response to that is “So you think a human is only his genes!!!!!”

        The two statements just aren’t identical, Andy.

      • Andy says:

        Malcolm,

        I´ll respond to this first:

        The way I see it, I’m saying “By looking at the human genome I can tell if somebody is a unique individual human being”.

        Your response to that is “So you think a human is only his genes!!!!!”

        The two statements just aren’t identical, Andy.

        First of all, as I pointed out to Mojo Hand already, the word “being” really is a poor choice of words here because it is way too ambiguous. A human zygote cannot be considered to be a “human being” according to how the phrase is commonly understood. “Individual” would be a better choice of words and “organism” probably the best one.
        But yup, the two statements aren´t identical. I also didn´t say that they were, you´ve left something very important out – that Mojo Hand and you claim that the creation of a novel and unique set of human genetic material in a human egg cell is sufficient(!) to create a human person and that the fertilized human egg thus is a human person.

        I´ll try to spell it out as a syllogism:
        1: The unfertilized human egg absolutely is *not* a human person and does not have the moral worth of an adult human being.
        2: The fertilized human egg absolutely *is* a human person and does have the same moral worth of an adult human being.
        3: The fertilized human egg is the result of modifying the genetic makeup of the unfertilized human egg, there is no other difference between the two cells.
        4. From #1-3: the personhood and moral worth of humans is fully reducible to genetic material.
        As far as I can tell, I am not in any way misrepresenting your or Mojo Hand´s position here (if I did misrepresent something that you wrote earlier, please point it out) and the conclusion in #4 does indeed logically follow (if you disagree, please explain the logical flaw you see here).
        From my vantage point, #4 indeed does turn out to be the foundation of your position and it is thus not actually “pro-life” (because the unfertilized egg is alive) but rather “pro-genes”.

      • It’s “pro-individual”, in fact.

        People aren’t reducible to their genes, but using people’s genes I cann tell if you’re a unique individual or not.

        The only difference is the change in genetic material in this case, yes, but that’s because this indicates that something very significant happened.

      • Andy says:

        Malcolm,

        People aren’t reducible to their genes

        The only difference is the change in genetic material in this case, yes.

        Sorry, but this is a contradiction.

        I cann tell if you’re a unique individual or not.

        Yes, at least approximately (think of twinning, both naturally and artificially). The question is why that should have implications for the moral status of an organism.

        I’m getting a distinct impression here that I’ve reached the limits of an argument from materialistic perspective.

        I´m happy to grant that materialism is false for the sake of the argument (I´m not even a materialist to begin with) – and nothing I said in this thread depends on the assumption that materialism is true.

      • People aren’t reducible to their genes

        The only difference is the change in genetic material in this case, yes.

        I’ll put it to you this way: Saying it’s “reducible to your genes” is sort of like saying that you’re reducing the difference between a house and a pile of wood to “nails”.

        Your reject an Aristotelian conception of nature, though, and as several people have pointed out, you’re devolving into nonsense.

        Your responses to Chad underscore this. You clearly don’t understand the things you think you’re criticizing.

        I’ll say this, though: I give you credit for patience. I would have figured you’d have gone off long ago (I would have, most likely). So, congrats for that, I guess.

        Chad’s response underscores that point.

      • Andy says:

        I’ll put it to you this way: Saying it’s “reducible to your genes” is sort of like saying that you’re reducing the difference between a house and a pile of wood to “nails”.

        Nope, it´s not like that at all. Not even close. What would be a metaphor that almost works is this one: “We first had 0.0000001% of the construction material we need for the house and a set of instructions for building it. Some of the instructions were very specific, others kind of vague, others very vague and some even essentially said “do whatever the fuck you want here”. Than we added a negligible amount of construction material and roughly doubled the set of instructions we have, but we have not yet started actually building anything with this stuff. What is noticeable is that this is the first time that someone had this particular combination of instructions. And now you are reducing the difference between those two states to modifications in our instructions for building the house.”

        Your reject an Aristotelian conception of nature, though, and as several people have pointed out, you’re devolving into nonsense.

        Well, kind of. People claim stuff like “I can do something that cannot possibly lead to x, and this action would clearly have the purpose of leading to x”, I reject that, and then those people call me insane for rejecting it. If you think that´s “devolving into nonsense”, be my guest.

        Your responses to Chad underscore this. You clearly don’t understand the things you think you’re criticizing.

        Well, I´m not so sure about that, I don´t find A-T metaphysics very interesting and never bothered to read much about it, but I still think that I have at least a vague idea of the basic premises. And the way people like Chad use it certainly does seem to be arbitrary and self-serving to me, even if I grant the truth of A-T metaphysics. But lets check how far of my understanding is off, example:
        I have a gun. Someone removed the firing pin from the gun and it is thus impossible to shoot with it, and I know that this is the case. Now, I take this gun to the firing range, and I start pulling the trigger. I do this over and over and over and over again. Does this activity have the purpose of shooting the gun, yes or no?

    • Andy says:

      Mojo_Hand

      An unfertilized egg is clearly not on the “path to development” into anything, as it has not been fused with a sperm so as to actualize its *potency*, and initiate the first stages of embryonic maturation. Your butchered understanding of
      the English language is probably what’s at fault here. If you’re describing an unfertilized egg as being “in development”, then you are clearly confused on what the word development means. You will not be able to find one single sentence of scientific discourse describing an unfertilized egg as being in a state of development.

      That is 50% false and 50% irrelevant. It is false because human egg cells actually do undergo “development”, this process is called oogenesis. To quote a totally unscientific source (Wikipedia):
      “Oogenesis, ovogenesis, or oögenesis is the creation of an ovum (egg cell). It is the female form of gametogenesis; the male equivalent is spermatogenesis. It involves the *development* of the various stages of the immature ovum.” (emphasis mine)
      If you want a scientific source, Gilbert´s “Developmental Biology” textbook is freely available and also uses this language (“development” and “differentiation”) in the context of oogenesis:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK10008/
      And the “irrelevant” of what you say here is that the unfertilized egg does not have the “potential” to start the first stages of embryonic maturation. And that is completely irrelevant because something similar can be said about *every* step in the human life cycle:
      – a zygote has the potential to develop into a morula but does not yet have the potential to develop into any later stages than that
      – a morula has the potential to develop into a blastula but does not yet have the potential to develop into any later stages than that
      And so on and so forth, all the way to an adult human who can start the cycle all over with gametogenesis – every element of the cycle has the potential to develop into the next element and ONLY the next one. You are trying to pick one of those steps and claim that this is the point where personhood begins, try to justify that without transparently flawed arguments like special pleading or resorting to genetic reductionism.

      As in, descriptions stating that the unfertilized egg can be considered ‘a human person’ (rather than, incidentally, a component in human developmental anatomy) in the same sense that a fertilized egg can be.

      Let me stop you right there. You have not yet defined what you think a “person” is and you also did not explain how your definition (whatever it turns out to be) does not fit a cell that corresponds to an unfertilized human egg, but does fit the cell if we make it diploid first.

      The unfertilized egg is part of a cycle of development, but cannot be said to have any kind of development in and of itself,

      Completely false, see above. It does undergo “development” and the “develop” it experiences is just as much part of the human life cycle as the development that a zygote experiences. You will disagree of course, but, again, I´d be surprised if your disagreement can be justified with a valid argument.

      as an egg will never become an embryo unless conditions subX are met. The cycle does indeed *stop* at the egg, and will remain *stopped* at the egg unless fertilization occurs.

      That is true but irrelevant. Because I can say something completely analogous for *every* step in the cycle, example: “the embryo will never continue to develop unless some conditions are met (primarily a successful implantation into the uterine wall), the cycle stops with the embryo and will remain stopped unless implantation occurs”. See how easy that is? And you can tell a completely analogous story for *every* step in the cycle, so what you are doing here is just special pleading.

      Your “logical” sequence is absurd. Indeed, it is so absurd that you have to work backwards, rhetorically, from Z to try and make any sense of it. If you started with X, and said that X is on a path to development into Y, then you simply invite the contention that is being argued in the first place, that X (the unfertilized egg), is in a static
      state (as in, no development) until fertilization act subX occurs. You’re attempting here to show that this is somehow an unbroken causal process, but can only do so by ignoring the very cause (fertilization) that is the bone of contention.

      Special pleading again. “Fertilization” is a condition without which the cycle stops at the unfertilized egg, but there are other conditions for all other steps in the cycle, and you didn´t even try to show why this one condition (fertilization) does make a huge moral difference while all other conditions in later or earlier steps of the cycle do not.

      You’re argument is silly, prima facie, and you should be embarrassed that you’ve even made it.

      Well, I almost said “right back at you”, because every part of your comment was either factually wrong, or irrelevant or logically flawed, but I don´t actually think that you need to be embarrassed for writing it – fallor ergo sum and all.

      • Mojo_Hand says:

        Your argument is flatly ridiculous, Andy. I’ve been debating the abortion issue with individuals for well over a decade now, and have never seen this argument, and that’s because this particular argument is plainly specious. You’re trying much too hard to be clever, and it seeps right through the fabric of your rhetoric.

        I am familiar with the process of oogenisis, but oogensis relates specifically to the production of eggs by a particular female animal. At no point in the text you provided was the unfertilized egg described as being an instantiation of, in this case, an amphibian. That’s simply not how things are understood in developmental biology.

        Ironically (for you), in Gilbert’s book on developmental biology, he describes the matter thusly:

        “Traditional ways of classifying catalog animals according to their adult structure. But, as J. T. Bonner (1965) pointed out, this is a very artificial method, because what we consider an individual is usually just a brief slice of its life cycle. When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult. But the dog is a “dog” from the *MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION* of a dog egg by a dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore, the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from fertilization through death.”

        As in, a female dog’s unfertilized egg cannot rightly be considered a “dog” in any biological or straightforward sense.

        Feel free to email Scott Gilbert and let him know that he’s engaged in special pleading.

      • Andy says:

        Your argument is flatly ridiculous, Andy. I’ve been debating the abortion issue with individuals for well over a decade now, and have never seen this argument, and that’s because this particular argument is plainly specious. You’re trying much too hard to be clever, and it seeps right through the fabric of your rhetoric.

        I can see that you are frustrated. This is probably because of the huge disconnect between the strength of your conviction and your ability to defend it intellectually.

        I am familiar with the process of oogenisis, but oogensis…

        …is apparently so familiar to you that you misspell it twice in one sentence.

        Ironically (for you), in Gilbert’s book on developmental biology, he describes the matter thusly:

        “Traditional ways of classifying catalog animals according to their adult structure. But, as J. T. Bonner (1965) pointed out, this is a very artificial method, because what we consider an individual is usually just a brief slice of its life cycle. When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult. But the dog is a “dog” from the *MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION* of a dog egg by a dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore, the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from fertilization through death.”

        As in, a female dog’s unfertilized egg cannot rightly be considered a “dog” in any biological or straightforward sense.

        What is ironic here, is that this quote you selected supports my position, not yours. I fully and 100% agree with Gilbert that an animal like a “dog” is not just a “dog” after it finished development into an adult, but rather that the *entire* life cycle corresponds to a “dog”, and, believe it or not, unfertilized eggs are part of this life cycle just as much as fertlized eggs are. Fertilization is the moment where a new life cycle begins because this is where you first have a cell with novel combination of genetic material, and the question that you are avoiding is – why is this supposed to have any moral relevance? The egg cell was “alive” before fertilization and it was also a “human” (or “dog” or whatever) cell before fertilization, you´ve changed nothing beyond the genetic makeup of the cell. If you think that your personhood and moral worth is reducible to you having a unique and novel combination of human genes, then it is obvious why you think that fertilization does turn a cell that totally is not a human person into a cell that totally IS a human person. But if you do not think that your personhood and moral worth is a function of your genes, then fertilization has *zero* moral significance. So, which one is it?
        Again, why don´t you try to define what the word “person” means in your opinion, how exactly genes are relevant for whether someone is a “person”, and how your definition does not fit an unfertilized human egg but totally does fit a fertilized human egg.

      • I can see that you are frustrated. This is probably because of the huge disconnect between the strength of your conviction and your ability to defend it intellectually…

        …is apparently so familiar to you that you misspell it twice in one sentence.

        That is totally irrelevant.

        Fertilization is the moment where a new life cycle begins because this is where you first have a cell with novel combination of genetic material, and the question that you are avoiding is – why is this supposed to have any moral relevance? The egg cell was “alive” before fertilization and it was also a “human” (or “dog” or whatever) cell before fertilization, you´ve changed nothing beyond the genetic makeup of the cell. If you think that your personhood and moral worth is reducible to you having a unique and novel combination of human genes, then it is obvious why you think that fertilization does turn a cell that totally is not a human person into a cell that totally IS a human person.

        I think it is reducible to being able to *tell* you are a unique and individual person. Genetics now allows us to do that.

        Being a human person means you are a unique member of the species homo sapiens. Period. That’s it.

        It’s not that difficult.

        Again:

        “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
        [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

        Why are you anti-biology, Andy?

      • Andy says:

        I think it is reducible to being able to *tell* you are a unique and individual person. Genetics now allows us to do that.

        WOW. So you actually do believe that personhood is reducible to genetics? Amazing. Well, I do not actually believe for a second that you are being sincere here, but lets work with that for a moment. So, that means that twins are not actually “persons” at all after conception because the twinning happens after it, right? (and monozygotic twins are not persons at all, oh my….) Also, since you believe that personhood is a function of your genes, that means that a person with Down syndrome is more of a person than you are, (s)he has three copies of chromosome 21 after all and you have just two.

        Being a human person means you are a unique member of the species homo sapiens. Period. That’s it.

        Congratulations, you managed to come up with a definition of “person” that happens to be a perfect synonym of “organism”. That alone shows how utterly useless your definition is. But it does provide some comic relief, because your definition also demonstrates that personhood is nothing that distinguishes any higher animal from any other animal – you reduce the concept of personhood to just being a unique member of a species. So my cat is a “person” (according to your definition) in the exact same sense as you or me are one – a unique member of a species.

        “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
        [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

        Why are you anti-biology, Andy?

        Why do you assume that I do not fully agree with that quote or that it is in any way problematic for what I am saying?

    • The egg cell was “alive” before fertilization and it was also a “human” (or “dog” or whatever) cell before fertilization, you´ve changed nothing beyond the genetic makeup of the cell.

      No, it was the cell OF a human or dog before fertilization…namely, of the human or dog it belonged to. The major difference here is that, barring death, whether by murder or some future accident or illness, one will grow into the developmental state of the human organism which we term ‘adult’, and the other won’t. That’s because the former is already a human organism and the latter is the cell of a human being, which has the potential to become a unique human when fertilized. We can tell this by looking at their unique DNA and genetic makeup.

      If you think that your personhood and moral worth is reducible to you having a unique and novel combination of human genes, then it is obvious why you think that fertilization does turn a cell that totally is not a human person into a cell that totally IS a human person.

      I think it has to do with being a *unique individual that, barring death or an accident, will grow into an adult*. Meaning, it is a brand new *human being*.

      But if you do not think that your personhood and moral worth is a function of your genes, then fertilization has *zero* moral significance. So, which one is it?
      Again, why don´t you try to define what the word “person” means in your opinion, how exactly genes are relevant for whether someone is a “person”, and how your definition does not fit an unfertilized human egg but totally does fit a fertilized human egg.

      Nonsense. Genetics is how we tell the new organism is a unique individual that will grow into a unique individual adult barring some sort of accident or murder.

      • Andy says:

        No, it was the cell OF a human or dog before fertilization…namely, of the human or dog it belonged to. The major difference here is that, barring death, whether by murder or some future accident or illness, one will grow into the developmental state of the human organism which we term ‘adult’, and the other won’t.

        Both are part of the same life cycle and the only difference is the list of conditions that have to be met to proceed all the way to adult individual is a little longer for one of the cells.

        That’s because the former is already a human organism and the latter is the cell of a human being, which has the potential to become a unique human when fertilized. We can tell this by looking at their unique DNA and genetic makeup.

        Yes, you keep saying that, I never denied it, and you keep avoiding my question as to why a cell having a unique and novel set of human genes is supposed to have any moral significance. Where exactly is the value here? It is evidently not in the cell being “alive” or in the cell being “human”, because the unfertilized egg is both, the value can thus only be found in the cell having a novel and unique set of human genes. But on what grounds do you claim that mere genes have any intrinsic value?

        I think it has to do with being a *unique individual that, barring death or an accident, will grow into an adult*. Meaning, it is a brand new *human being*.

        The “unique” here, means genetically unique, and you so far have not even tried to demonstrate how mere genes have any intrinsic value. And re “barring death or an accident, will grow” – as I said above, the list of conditions that have to be met to reach the state of an adult individual is almost the same for both cells:
        – succesfully develop into morula
        – successfully implant into uterine wall
        – successfully implant into blastula
        – ……
        And you only have to add one additional item for the unfertilized egg: “has to be fertilized”. As commenter Chad pointed out below, that one condition is indeed special in one way because it is a consequence of intentional actions instead of happening spontaneously. However, that can at most be used to argue that the fertilized egg has instrumental value – saying that the fertilized egg is *intrinsically* valuable because its parents had the intention to procreate, is a non sequitur.

      • Andy says:

        Correction: I meant “develop into blastula” in the above comment of course.

      • Mojo_Hand says:

        Andy,

        No one, and I mean no one, argues along the same lines that you do: that an unfertilized egg should be considered a proper instansiation of a human being.

        Not Peter Singer.

        Not Sam Harris.

        Not anyone.

        And no one argues this way because it makes the pro-abortion argument considerably more tenuous, and because it is, biologically speaking wrong.

        Were your argument actually compelling (and not simply the result of a gigantic category error), it would have shown up in some way in bioethical discourse. The reality is that, per the actual state of discourse, we have no reason to take you seriously. Indeed, I’ve made the mistake of taking you too seriously already. I contacted a friend of mine, who is currently in medical school, and asked her, according to your arguments, whether an unfertilized cell could be properly understood as a human being in one phase of its ‘life cycle’.

        Her response:

        “[The] unfertilized egg will never develop into a human being, because it only contains half the genetic material required for life. [I]t *must* be combined with a sperm cell. Otherwise, a woman would get pregnant every time she simply menstruated…”

        It becomes clear that in biology, and in medicine, they do not consider the unfertilized egg to be “life” in any sense of the word. And here we arrive at your marvelous category error. You argue that because the fertilized egg, and thusly the human Zygote, et al, is ‘alive’ and part of the human life cycle, that it is a matter of special pleading to suggest that the zygote deserves any special moral considerations when the unfertilized egg is also ‘alive’ and ‘human’ as well. It is obvious, on closer examination, that the unfertilized egg is neither ‘alive’ nor ‘human’ in the same sense as the zygote.

        The egg is surely ‘alive’ prior to fertilization, but it is once again specious to think they are ‘alive’ in the manner you so hope. Kidneys are ‘alive’ in the veritable sense that they sustain and are sustained by the organic processes of the body, but no one seriously pretends that a human Kidney is a human merely because it is ‘alive’. The unfertilized egg is a ‘human’ egg cell before fertilization, but this is about as meaningful as saying a heart is a human heart, or that a brain is a human brain. They are components in general human anatomy, anatomy that must function in order for a human being to complete their life cycle.

        You’re playing at a straightforwardly sophomoric word game where you try and describe the unfertilized egg as being a clear instantiation of a human being when, as demonstrated to you repeatedly, science does not recognize a unique entity of a given species until fertilization occurs. And yes, the fusion of two separate sets of genes is what seals the deal. You seem to think this is reductionist, and that this somehow poses and problem for pro-life individuals, but your thinking is expressly flawed here as well.

        You say:

        “Fertilization is the moment where a new life cycle begins because this is where you first have a cell with novel combination of genetic material, and the question that you are avoiding is – why is this supposed to have any moral relevance? The egg cell was “alive” before fertilization and it was also a “human” (or “dog” or whatever) cell before fertilization, you´ve changed nothing beyond the genetic makeup of the cell. If you think that your personhood and moral worth is reducible to you having a unique and novel combination of human genes, then it is obvious why you think that fertilization does turn a cell that totally is not a human person into a cell that totally IS a human person.”

        You probably didn’t realize that you have fundamentally admitted our position when you say: “Fertilization is the moment where a *new life cycle begins”*. If indeed fertilization is the beginning of a NEW life cycle, this is precisely where the discussion of moral worth becomes relevant. You’re whole shtick is that fertilizing the cell is simply one step in a continuous and unbroken cycle of human existence of which no specific part is morally relevant, but this cannot be the case if fertilization is what initiates this ‘new’ life cycle. Changing the genetic makeup of the egg is precisely what causes it to become a unique human individual. No one has argued that human moral worth is reducible to having a unique set of genes, but it is incontrovertible that the generation of a unique human being is dependent upon the fusion of two separate sets of genetic material. The unfertilized egg cannot rightly be considered a unique human being, because it lacks the aforementioned genetic input from the fusion of the sperm, and represents only the genetic information of the female sex. Not being a unique human being, the unfertilized egg cannot be considered to posses any kind of humanity or ‘humaness’ apart from the fact that it is simply a component in human reproductive anatomy.

        Our genetic identity is a component in an argument for why we posses moral worth as unique individuals, and there is very little reason to talk about the moral worth of unfertilized eggs when they are certainly not unique, individual beings in and of themselves. You cannot even have a ‘person’ unless that person can be considered a separate and distinct entity apart from their progenitors. What makes a human ‘human’ is, of course, not limited simply to being a distinct, unique individual, but the provided argument is sufficient to demonstrate why you’ve committed a category error.

        You argue:

        “What is ironic here, is that this quote you selected supports my position, not yours.”

        And here we come to realize that you are either willfully idiotic or dishonest (or both, as far as I’m concerned).

        You say further:

        “…the *entire* life cycle corresponds to a “dog”, and, believe it or not, unfertilized eggs are part of this life cycle just as much as fertlized eggs are”

        Except that Gilbert says nothing of the sort. When Gilbert says:

        “Therefore, the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from *FERTILIZATION THROUGH DEATH.”*

        We are, magically, supposed to include the unfertilized egg in the “life cycle” of the dog, even though Gilbert explicitly draws the line at fertilization? He he even puts quotes around “dog” when saying:

        “But the dog is a “dog” from the *MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION* of a dog egg by a dog sperm.”

        So as to indicate that the entity, a dog, does not become a dog, properly understood, until fertilization occurs. You are not being clever. You you are acting daft. Attempting to smuggle your argument into Gilbert’s explanation is only evidence of your impetuous deceit. You merely lack the courage to admit that your own source directly contradicts your claim.

      • Andy says:

        Mojo Hand,
        I am primarily wondering now whether your obtuseness is deliberate or not, because very little of this confused mess deal with what I actually said.

        No one, and I mean no one, argues along the same lines that you do: that an unfertilized egg should be considered a proper instansiation of a human being.

        It´s “instantiation” with a ‘t’. I´m usually not anal about spelling, but you kind of brought this on yourself with your earlier dickishness re “butchered understanding of the english language”. Also, yes, no one argues along this line, not even myself. I didn´t say *anything* like that. The word “being” is a terrible choice of words here because it is completely ambiguous, to quote Wikipedia:
        “Being is an extremely broad concept encompassing objective and subjective features of reality and existence. Anything that partakes in being is also called a “being”, though often this use is limited to entities that have
        subjectivity (as in the expression “human being”).”
        A fertilized human egg is *not* a “human being” as this phrase is widely understood, because a fertilized human egg does not and cannot experience subjectivity. What I actually did say is, that both a fertilized human egg and an unfertilized human egg are
        cells that are a) “alive” cells, b) “human” cells and c) cells that are “part of the human life cycle” – nothing of this is even remotely controversial. I never denied any of the biological differences between those two kinds of cells that you pointed to, what
        I rather said is that you did not show how those differences have *ANY* moral significance, you did not even try to do that despite me already pointing out this huge and crucial omission earlier. And if you had looked, you would have found out that there indeed are people who are arguing along the same lines as I do – pointing out that “life” and “(genetically) human” are per se not morally relevant and that the whole question boils down to what can be considered a human *person* instead of what can be considered human *life*.

        I contacted a friend of mine, who is currently in medical school…

        Cool, while we are playing credential cards – I have a master´s degree in molecular biology.

        …, and asked her, according to your arguments, …

        No, you most emphatically did not, and could not have done even if you wanted to, because you did not even begin to understand what I actually did argue, see above. But I´ll address it anyway just for fun:

        …whether an unfertilized cell could be properly understood as a human being in one phase of its ‘life cycle’.
        Her response:
        “[The] unfertilized egg will never develop into a human being, because it only contains half the genetic material required for life. [I]t *must* be combined with a sperm cell. Otherwise, a woman would get pregnant every time she simply menstruated…”

        Oh boy… This is so wrong on pretty much every level.
        First of all, I´ll point out again that “being” is a terrible choice of words here because neither a fertilized human egg, nor even a human fetus, are a “human being” according to how this phrase is commonly used.
        Second, the statement “[The] unfertilized egg will never develop into a human being” is trivially and completely wrong – if it were true, there would not be ANY humans. The statement lacks something “never develop into a human
        being, *unless* it is fertilized”. And as I already pointed out to you, there are similar “unless…” conditions for *every* stage in the human life cycle, like “the morula will “never develop into a human being” *unless* it successfully implants into the uterine wall”. The fact that there are such conditions thus does not distinguish the fertilized egg from the unfertilized egg at all. I already explained that at length and you did not even try to rebut it (if you actually even noticed or understood what I was saying, which is highly questionable).
        Third, your friend didn´t address the “life cycle” part, and this is so obvious that it is incredible that I have to spell it out for you – if the process of conception is part of the human life cycle, then it is logically inevitable that human sperm and egg cells are “part of the human life cycle” because conception is impossible without them! FFS, have
        a look at a chart of the human life cycle designed for kids, maybe that is intelligible enough for you:

        Fourth, that it only has “half of the genetic material” (it´s only half in terms of chromomes btw, not half in terms of “genetic material” per se) is indeed relevant but your friend missed the most important part – the genome is epigenetically programmed for totipotency. Pretty much all of your cells (basically everything except for gametes and red blood cells) have a full set of 46 human chromosomes, but they still cannot develop into an adult human because they do not have the required epigenetic modifications for that.
        And fifth, your friend confused menstruation with ovulation.
        So much for that – none of which had any relevance for what I actually argued for previously but what the hell.

        It becomes clear that in biology, and in medicine, they do not consider the unfertilized egg to be “life” in any sense of the word.

        This first of all doesn´t follow from what your friend wrote in any way and is second *complete and utter bullshit*. Cells can be “alive” or “dead” (yes, cell death is a thing, there is even such a thing as “planned” / “programmed” cell death – look up “apoptosis”). And guess what, dead sperm and egg cells *cannot* possibly be part of a human life cycle.

        And here we arrive at your marvelous category error. You argue that because the fertilized egg, and thusly the human
        Zygote, et al, is ‘alive’ and part of the human life cycle…

        Almost correct, one has to wonder then why you resort to complete misrepresentation as you did above when you actually are able to repeat something very close to what I in fact did say.

        …that it is a matter of special pleading to suggest that the zygote deserves any special moral considerations when the unfertilized egg is also ‘alive’ and ‘human’ as well. It is obvious, on closer examination, that the unfertilized egg is neither
        ‘alive’ nor ‘human’ in the same sense as the zygote.

        Aha, so I guess you came from a dead horse egg then? FFS, they are both “alive” and “human”. And there indeed are differences, differences that I never denied and differences for which you did not even as much as *try* to demonstrate that they have any moral significance whatsoever.

        Kidneys are ‘alive’ in the veritable sense that they sustain and are sustained by the organic processes of the body, but no one seriously pretends that a human Kidney is a human merely because it is ‘alive’.

        You´re getting closer. What you say here is indeed crucial to my argument, something being “alive” and “human” per se(!) does not mean that something is a human person deserving human rights.

        You’re playing at a straightforwardly sophomoric word game where you try and describe the unfertilized egg as being a clear instantiation of a human being when, as demonstrated to you repeatedly, science does not recognize a unique entity of a given species until fertilization occurs.

        Which is 100% irrelevant unless you intend to argue that your personhood and moral worth is reducible to you having a unique and novel set of human genes. If that is not what you believe – then it is swing and a miss here.

        And yes, the fusion of two separate sets of genes is what seals the deal. You seem to think this is reductionist

        Yes. Because it obviously is. This and only this is what makes all the difference between “totally not a human person” and “totally a human person” for you. You are completely reducing the concept of human personhood and moral worth to genes. Completely utterly 100%. The most extreme version of genetic reductionism that is conceptually possible.

        , and that this somehow poses and problem for pro-life individuals

        That depends. If you are proud of reducing human personhood and moral worth to biochemical trivialities, then it is not a problem for you at all.

        You probably didn’t realize that you have fundamentally admitted our position when you say: “Fertilization is the moment where a *new life cycle begins”*. If indeed fertilization is the beginning of a NEW life cycle, this is precisely
        where the discussion of moral worth becomes relevant.

        “Relevant” in the sense that this should be discussed? Certainly! That´s what I have been trying to do all the time but you have yet to come up with an actual argument. Your “NEW life cycle” is “new” in one sense and one sense only, you now have a
        novel and unique set of human genes. So fucking what? Is this really all you´ve got? If so, then I will have to consider whether it is worth explaining to you how it is beyond absurd to fully(!) reduce human personhood and moral worth to biochemical trivialities like this one, or just be satisfied with having exposed your position as being fundamentally a ridiculously extreme and transparently false version of genetic reductionism.

        You’re whole shtick is that fertilizing the cell is simply one step in a continuous and unbroken cycle of human existence of which no specific part is morally relevant, but this cannot be the case if fertilization is what initiates this ‘new’ life cycle.

        It´s “Your”. Also, that´s not my whole shtick. It´s not even part of my shtick, because I never claimed that no specific parts of this life cycle are morally relevant, I actually do consider you to be both part of human life cycle and I also consider your personhood (and that of any other person) to be of utmost moral relevance. Also, yes, the cycle is indeed “continuous and unbroken” wrt to “alive” and “dead” – there never ever is a transition of “non-life to life” here (life, per se(!), began exactly once). And also yes, there is something new at fertilization, something that for mysterious reasons is considered to be valuable by gene worshippers like you.

        Changing the genetic makeup of the egg is precisely what causes it to become a unique human individual.

        The word “individual” is probably the single most problematic term in all of biology but setting that aside, you are essentially correct here! To be a little more precise, you are just missing the modifier “genetically” before “unique”.

        No one has argued that human moral worth is reducible to having a unique set of genes

        :-D. Dude, you´ve *just now* argued for *exactly* that.

        but it is incontrovertible that the generation of a unique human being is dependent upon the fusion of two separate
        sets of genetic material.

        Change “being” to “organism” and this is correct.

        The unfertilized egg cannot rightly be considered a unique human being, because it lacks the aforementioned genetic input from the fusion of the sperm, and represents only the genetic information of the female sex. Not being a unique human being, the unfertilized egg cannot be considered to posses any kind of humanity or ‘humaness’ apart from the fact that it is simply a component in human reproductive anatomy.

        Yup, but “No one has argued that human moral worth is reducible to having a unique set of genes”, eh? 😉

        Our genetic identity is a component in an argument for why we posses moral worth as unique individuals…

        Yeah, yeah, got it, genetic reductionism ftw, but when will you finally argue for that instead of just claiming it?

        , and there is very little reason to talk about the moral worth of unfertilized eggs when they are certainly not unique, individual beings in and of themselves. You cannot even have a ‘person’ unless that person can be considered a separate and
        distinct entity apart from their progenitors. What makes a human ‘human’ is, of course, not limited simply to being a distinct, unique individual,

        When it comes to human personhood, then for you, it is actually absolutely limited to that. Giving a cell a unique and novel set of human genes is literally ALL that is required for you in order to turn a cell that totally isn´t a human person into a different
        cell that totally is a human person. That is exactly what you have explicitly and repeatly said and what you are still explicitly and repeatedly saying.

        We are, magically, supposed to include the unfertilized egg in the “life cycle” of the dog, even though Gilbert explicitly draws the line at fertilization? He he even puts quotes around “dog” when saying:

        “But the dog is a “dog” from the *MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION* of a dog egg by a dog sperm.”

        Gametogenesis is part of the “old” life cycle, not the “new” one. And, to make sure that even someones as slow as you can understand it: it is logically inevitable that human sperm and egg cells are part of a human life cycle if the process of conception is part of a human life cycle, because conception cannot possibly work without them!

      • Andy says:

        Mojo Hand,
        Oh btw, you can have the last word if you like. I´m still going to write a response to Malcolm, but I´m not even remotely interested in further conversation with you. I could tolerate your general unprovoked dickishness, but you are not nearly smart and interesting enough to make it worth it.

  5. Ilion says:

    Until she walked off the job one day a few months ago, I worked with a “proud liberal” (her description) woman. In other words, an amoral ditz who wants to use governmental violence to confiscate the fruit of my labor in order to subsidize her own life.

    Anyway, one day she “argued” that abortion isn’t murder because the murdered babies haven’t taken a breath yet.

    At the same time, you just *know* that she opposed such laws as the “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act”

    Pro-abortionists don’t *care* about logical consistency, much less about truth and morality: they worship Death.

  6. Mojo_Hand says:

    “Pro-abortionists don’t *care* about logical consistency, much less about truth and morality: they worship Death.”

    I am reminded of a G.K. Chesterton quote:

    “Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.” ~GKC: ‘The Uses of Diversity.’

    Prescient.

    Do you think Andy knows that he’s in a death cult?

    • Andy says:

      Mojo Hand,

      Do you think Andy knows that he’s in a death cult?

      I am just assuming that you identify as a Christian, if you do not – just ignore this comment. I love the irony in what you say here, because you are a member of the only extant belief system that actually is based on cultish veneration of death, and not just any death, but rather the death of the allegedly only truly innocent human person that ever lived (yeah, I know, the cultish veneration isn´t limited to his death, but that doesn´t change the fact that his death and the alleged consequences of it are still an object of cultish veneration in Christianity). Btw, this is not meant as an insult to your religious beliefs at all, I just love the irony of you calling me a member of a “death cult” because I think that there are situations where an abortion is the best option and that women should be able to choose this option (which doesn´t exactly constitute something “cultish” – a “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object”), even though you belong to the only actual extant death cult – Christianity.

      • Mojo_Hand says:

        ” I think that there are situations where an abortion is the best option and that women should be able to choose this option”

        Which is simply another way of saying that “In certain circumstances, I think that murdering one’s offspring is the *best* option”. Best? So, among a series of options, murdering one’s offspring is the most desirable? Well tell us, why is it the best option? Surely you won’t have any object or figure of import that you ascribe your justification?

      • I’m going to guess life of the mother, rape, and pregnant twelve to sixteen year old. Let’s see how I do.

      • Andy says:

        Mojo Hand,

        Which is simply another way of saying that “In certain circumstances, I think that murdering one’s offspring is the *best* option”.

        Indeed, and I go even further than that and claim that you completely and 100% agree with that and that your faux outrage is just that – faux.
        Hypothetical scenario: you are in a burning fertility clinic and you can either save the fifty year old janitor who lies unconscious on the floor or you can save a box with hundred human embryos ready for implantation, you only have the time to save one, do you, or do you not, choose the box and let the janitor die? And now after reading this you probably try to find excuses to avoid answering the question – “that situation is totally contrived!!”, “I would TRY to save both!!” etc.pp. – I´ve heard them all before. We both know your answer (you can really just admit that your answer is “No” – I promise I won´t crow over it).
        And now lets adapt the scenario a little, would it change your answer if I multiply the number of embryos in the box by 10? And, most importantly, what if you had to actively destroy the box yourself (instead of just passively letting it die) – what if that would be the only way to save the janitor (e.g. you are carrying the unconscious janitor, the box with the embryos blocks your way, flames are all around you and the only way forward is to kick the box to the side right into the fire), would you do that, yes or no?

      • Andy says:

        Mojo Hand,
        I forgot one important variation of the scenario:
        Your only way out of the burning fertility clinic is through the parking garage, you have the keys for two of the cars that are parked there – an old company van that has a cooling box with a human embryo ready for implantation in it, and your brand new shiny $250,000 Porsche. You have no special connection to the embryo (i.e. this is not an embryo derived from an in vitro fertilization of one of your wife´s eggs and the two of you have been trying for years to have children without success or something like that – it´s just one of many embryos derived from IVF of some egg and sperm donors you don´t know). The company van is farther away than your Porsche, and getting to it poses a very small but non-negligible risk of dying (lets say about an about 1 in 10,000 chance). Which car do you pick, knowing that the other one will be destroyed by the fire?

  7. Chad says:

    Andy,
    You find it ironic because Christianity puts the definition of life as that of eternal life; known as living and dying within God’s will and receiving his blessing. Death is living and dying apart from that. It sees a life lasting beyond thr material world.

    Also, Gentlemen such as Mojo and Malcolm; I woullf argue that the definitive difference between Andys pedantic and flawed argument is intention.

    That is, in the act of procreation there is the intention of life. This intention is inherent to sexual intercourse itself – every single created part of the act is ordered amd created towards the end of procreation. The only way that this is halted at any point of the act is an individual choosing Death. Death of faith, of hope, of love, and humility. Death of the Soul, and sometimes of life itself, as seen in the murder of the unborn.

    So, what is the difference between an egg and a sperm previously separate, living, but not in development as they wait to meet? Intention. An act that, when ordered in the manner of its created purpose, creates life through the fertilization of an egg.

    • The key here is that intention is something denied by most moderns but is also utterly non-religious and relevant to our lives – as the abortion debate proves.

      • Chad says:

        Yes.

        But watch him try and deny that actions have intentions that are inherent to the action. Such an idea is preposterous to anyone with intellectual integrity, yet he already went to actions outside of peoples control to deny intention of that within their control.

        Reallly now, it is so hard for him to imagine a process where the intention of humans can be overridden by that of God; such as the case of the baby not implanting in the uterus wall or an old age birth, such as Sarah and multiple mothers that prayed to God (at least one saint from this that I know of). That God, in his wisdom, decides that such is in the best interest of all, and for his own Glory.

    • Andy says:

      Chad,

      That is, in the act of procreation there is the intention of life. This intention is inherent to sexual intercourse itself – every single created part of the act is ordered amd created towards the end of procreation. The only way that this is halted at any point of the act is an individual choosing Death. Death of faith, of hope, of love, and humility. Death of the Soul, and sometimes of life itself….

      Erm, nope. Women don´t actually choose the “death of” mentrual periods aka menopause, for example. And unless you intend to live a celibate life after your wife enters menopause, you yourself do not take this “in the act of procreation there is the intention of life” unless “an individual choos[es] Death” thingy seriously.

      So, what is the difference between an egg and a sperm previously separate, living, but not in development as they wait to meet? Intention. An act that, when ordered in the manner of its created purpose, creates life through the fertilization of an egg.

      It doesn´t create life because neither the egg nor the sperm are dead (or, alternatively, if they happen to be dead, they cannot produce a zygote together). But you are correct that “intention” indeed does distinguish this one step of the human life cycle from all others, which instead happen spontaneously. However, if this is all about the intentions of the parents, as you say, then the fertilized egg doesn´t have any intrinsic value, but rather only instrumental value, at best (if the parents do not actually have the intention to procreate, then it doesn´t even have this instrumental value) – well, I do not disagree with that.

      • Chad says:

        After menopause you continue ro be open to the idea of life. God has many, many times decided to bless a couple with a child in their own age.

        So yes, I do take it seriously.

        And the people always have the intention to procreate if they take part in the act of procreation. Thats what it -IS- and nothing in this world can change that. Therefore it does have inherent value, as human life has begun. The two have become one flesh.

      • Andy says:

        After menopause you continue ro be open to the idea of life. God has many, many times decided to bless a couple with a child in their own age.

        Sure, everything is possible with God! And in exactly the same sense, a gay couple can totally be “open to the idea of life” while having sex, because if God uses magic to help infertile straight couples, then he sure might just use the same magic for gay couples.

        And the people always have the intention to procreate if they take part in the act of procreation. Thats what it -IS- and nothing in this world can change that.

        Dude, the word “intention” just means “what one intends to do or bring about”. I don´t even have to use a condom or get a vasectomy in order to have totally non-procreational sex with my wife, all I would have to do is have sex without wanting to procreate. I suspect that you are using a highly idiosyncratic definition of “intention” here that has little to do with the dictionary definition.

        Therefore it does have inherent value, as human life has begun.

        Nope, genetically unique human life has begun. Both sperm and egg are already “alive” and “human”. Also, you did not understand my argument as to why you cannot support a fertilized egg having intrinsic value with your position – you make this all about the intentions of the parents, and that means that you can only assign *instrumental* value to the fertilized egg (it is valuable as a means to achieve something for its parents, not intrinsically valuable – x deriving it´s value from the intentions of y and x being intrinsically valuable is a contradiction, if x is intrinsically valuable, then it´s value cannot depend on y´s or anyone else´s intentions).

  8. Chad says:

    Andy
    You cannot decouple intention from the objective ends of an act. If an act is meant to achieve something, the intention is always there.

    To say otherwise is to not understand anything about the reality of the universe and is the most sure road to insanity

    • Andy says:

      Chad

      You cannot decouple intention from the objective ends of an act. If an act is meant to achieve something, the intention is always there.

      To say otherwise is to not understand anything about the reality of the universe and is the most sure road to insanity

      You say that you having sex with your hypothetical post-menopausal wife would be an action that has the “objective end” of procreation, even though it cannot possibly result in procreation without divine intervention. And I say that this is ridiculous and arbitrary. And I repeat what I said earlier, one could say that gay sex also has the “objective end” of procreation with the *exact* same justification: yes, it is physically impossible for this action to result in procreation, but it could work with divine intervention.

      • Chad says:

        You are a man who has decoupled intentions and objective ends from reality. You are insane. You are the moral and intellectual equivalent of a man who started using a sword to slice cheese. Upon getting weird looks he thought he was on to something; he thought himself clever when really the looks were of concern. Having “discovered” that he can do whatever he wants with things and ignore objective intended uses of objects, he began using the sword for other things. He shaved with it; very carefully so as to not hurt himself more than a little. He started a business doing so for others, and found a few customers willing to hurt themselves for novelty of saying they’d shaved with a sword. He then had another idea; that he could do surgery! He wasn’t very successful, but there were a few people foolish enough and desperate enough to do so; some of them lived. A year later though, when he stabbed a random person in the heart saying his intention was to heal him, the people woke up from their madness, locked himm away, and debated whether to hang him or let him serve as a living example of the folly of humans thinking they can overcome objective intentions of reality.

        While in prison, the man met an old friend, and woefully related the fact that he is wrongfully imprisoned because all he wanted to do was help people while living life according to his own truth; to be a free man! His friend agreed and shook his head sadly, saying, “I know! The injustices of the world these days! Here I was using a gun to hammer nails when I realized it’d be more efficient to shoot the nails with the bullet to drive them in. These stupid people have me locked up because I accidentally shot my newborn child while putting in a nail to hang a picture. What right have they to tell us what to do or how to live our lives!?”

        Andy, you are the moral equivalent of them. The act of procreation has an objective end of creating life; of two people becoming one flesh. Nothing can change that. All people can do is do themselves and/or their children harm.

        Just as the act of sodomy has the objective end of making foul and disgusting the bodies and souls of each individual. The only way they can cleanse themselves is to humble themselves, repent, confess their sins, do penance and amend their lives.

        But, until you stop waving a gun around trying to use it to drive nails, I see no further point in talking with a mad man who shows no signs of getting better or being able to be led back to sanity with aid of another.

      • Andy, you don’t understand, I think what Chad means when he says “intention”. It’s actually not arbitrary, but pretty bog-standard metaphysics.

        Try Dr. Feser’s blog.

      • Chad says:

        Thanks Malcolm. Off topic – I haven’t read any of Fesers work; do you have a suggestion on where to jump in?

      • I own an audio book of “Aquinas”, but haven’t read it yet. I’ve basically gone through his blog archives. That said, I’ve heard “The Last Superstition”.

        I’m getting a distinct impression here that I’ve reached the limits of an argument from materialistic perspective. Like the scene in the Princess Bride where Montoya and the man and black admit they’re not left-handed.

        I HAVE gotten mostly what I wanted from it, though: An admission that a unique individual human organism forms at fertilization. But personhood arguments are hard to square up with materialism – to give Andy credit.

      • Chad says:

        Agreed. Any materialism argument should only be focused on agreeing that, at moment of fertilization, the baby is, in fact, a baby. From there it can go to whether it has intrinsic value – something no material argument can determine properly for anything in this world, let alone a human being.

        I’ll start trying to work Fesers blog into my reading schedule.

      • Andy says:

        Chad,

        You are a man who has decoupled intentions and objective ends from reality. You are insane.

        Thank you. I would feel very bad if a man who genuinely believes that he can have sex with a post-menopausal wife for the purpose of procreation (because God just might use magic to make the impossible possible) would call me sane 😉

        You are the moral and intellectual equivalent of a man who started using a sword to slice cheese.

        Says the man who proudly admits that he would fuck a post-menopausal woman to procreate.

        A year later though, when he stabbed a random person in the heart saying his intention was to heal him

        Which totally could have worked because God and magic and stuff, you know, like you fathering children with a post-menopausal wife.

        But, until you stop waving a gun around trying to use it to drive nails, I see no further point in talking with a mad man who shows no signs of getting better or being able to be led back to sanity with aid of another.

        Hmm… I wonder what the one objective purpose of insanity is. I know, why don´t you just pull one out of your nether regions? That seems to be one of your favorite pastimes.

      • Andy says:

        Andy, you don’t understand, I think what Chad means when he says “intention”. It’s actually not arbitrary, but pretty bog-standard metaphysics.

        I know what he means, and I´m still calling it arbitrary because the excuse that he uses for why sex between straight partners that happen to be infertile still has the purpose of procreation, is just that – arbitrary, you can use the same justification for literally every other action (an omnipotent God could do everything after all), but he is only picking the one that is convenient for him.

      • Chad says:

        The purpose of procreation is to further the race within marriage, to help each other achieve salvation, and for the fulfillment of concupisience. This is true, indisputable, and everything about the act and everything inbolved in the act is disposed thus.

        If one partner is infertile, the act is done with all these in mind and is always able to do so – it is being open to God’s will if he should bless you with a miracle as such, rather than expecting it.

        There is nothing arbitrary about it. The only thing arbitrary is your denial of reality. Hence your insanity

      • Chad says:

        But, I find it amusing that you treat miracles like they shoulf happen every day or to everyone. Just as you ignore other parts of reality, I should not find it surprising that you ignore the meaning og words

      • Andy says:

        If one partner is infertile, the act is done with all these in mind and is always able to do so – it is being open to God’s will if he should bless you with a miracle as such, rather than expecting it.

        There is nothing arbitrary about it. The only thing arbitrary is your denial of reality. Hence your insanity

        I´ll ask you the same thing that I asked Malcolm.
        Hypothetical xample:
        I have a gun. Someone removed the firing pin from the gun and it is thus impossible to shoot with it, and I know that this is the case. Now, I take this gun to the firing range, and I start pulling the trigger. I do this over and over and over and over again. Does this activity have the purpose of shooting the gun, yes or no?

      • You’re missing Chad’s point, though. There are three purposes to sex, and it is immoral to have sex with explicit intention of disrupting one of those three purposes.

        For one to be disrupted via a natural process is morally neutral.

      • Chad says:

        Malcolm
        He’s not missing the point, hes openly distorting what I said by ignoring specific words or twisting the meaning to suit his ends. His mind left out the “open to life” part, rather than expecting miracles. he also has no grasp of spiritual, in that a married couple, even if infertile, can still bring life into the world even if never blessed. They can do so while still fulfilling the other two parts of assistance in salvation and fulfillment of concupisience. Indeed, they cannot be separated.

        They can do so by adoption and by being spiritual parents to those in their lives – work, community, and church. They do so by bringing the life of salvation to every soul they meet by living out a properly ordered love of God, neighbor, and self.

        Sodomy can do none of these. It is taking an organ of the body and desecrating it through an act of literal, mental, and spiritual filth; one which results in the death of body, mind, and soul until each is cleansed. It does so for thr individuals as well as the society in which it takes place.

        To compare the two is to have no ability to discern reality, the intended purposes of created objects/beings/processes (true whether you believe in evolution or creation), and make active habits of intentionally retarding reason and intellect by replacing truth with falsehoods.

      • Andy says:

        Malcolm,

        You’re missing Chad’s point, though. There are three purposes to sex, and it is immoral to have sex with explicit intention of disrupting one of those three purposes.

        For one to be disrupted via a natural process is morally neutral.

        Well, I guess that makes you insane, a mad man, a moral monster and what have you according to the confused nonsense that is Chad´s worldview. You say that the purpose of sex can be “disrupted”, but Chad says that the purpose is always there, “*Nothing* can change that” and you are “*always* able to” fulfil the purpose of sex because miracles and stuff.

      • Andy says:

        Malcolm,

        You’re missing Chad’s point, though. There are three purposes to sex, and it is immoral to have sex with explicit intention of disrupting one of those three purposes.

        For one to be disrupted via a natural process is morally neutral.

        Seriously though, I think I already asked you that a long time ago on another blog, but how does what you say here constitute an argument for, say, gay sex being immoral from a natural law perspective? Gay sex is not like a straight fertile couple using a condom (which would frustrate the purpose of procreation), it´s rather like a straight infertile couple having sex – in both cases, the purpose of procreation cannot be frustrated because the constellation of partners isn´t even fertile to begin with. So, if gay sex fulfils the other purposes of sex, and doesn´t frustrate the purpose of procreation in the exact same way as sex between a straight infertile couple doesn´t frustrate the purpose of procreation – why should it then be considered to be evil from a natural law perspective?

      • Ah! NOW I remember you, and know how you found your way here. Lothar’s blog!

    • Andy,

      First off, a purpose that can’t be accomplished still exists. A cell phone getting no reception is still made with the purpose to call people.

      Seriously though, I think I already asked you that a long time ago on another blog, but how does what you say here constitute an argument for, say, gay sex being immoral from a natural law perspective? Gay sex is not like a straight fertile couple using a condom (which would frustrate the purpose of procreation), it´s rather like a straight infertile couple having sex – in both cases, the purpose of procreation cannot be frustrated because the constellation of partners isn´t even fertile to begin with. So, if gay sex fulfils the other purposes of sex, and doesn´t frustrate the purpose of procreation in the exact same way as sex between a straight infertile couple doesn´t frustrate the purpose of procreation – why should it then be considered to be evil from a natural law perspective?

      I’ll try to give a better answer than I did back then, but I will again point out that that pretty much every single natural law philosopher I’ve ever read agrees that homosexual sex is contrary to the natural law. The evidence points very strongly to the idea that it is perhaps you and I just “not getting it” (assuming my response really is inadequate) as opposed to the issue being a defect in natural law theory.

      But, my stab at it:

      The constellation of partners in an infertile but male/female couple is inherently different from a same sex sexual couple because a male/female couple, even when infertile, is still an act that is ordered towards sex when fully healthy.

      Am I saying a menopausal woman is not fully healthy? In this aspect of her health, yes, absolutely. It’s old age; when you get old, you inevitably get less healthy. In this case, the sexual organs are no longer functioning in a way that allows them to fulfill their primary purpose, but the secondary purposes can still be fulfilled.

      A gay couple is intrinsically incapable of that primary purpose. It’s not a health thing, it’s like humping a wall. The anus and penis are not ordered to be used in conjunction with each other during sex. The vagina and penis are.

      • Andy says:

        Malcolm,

        I’ll try to give a better answer than I did back then, but I will again point out that that pretty much every single natural law philosopher I’ve ever read agrees that homosexual sex is contrary to the natural law. The evidence points very strongly to the idea that it is perhaps you and I just “not getting it” (assuming my response really is inadequate) as opposed to the issue being a defect in natural law theory.

        I also think that every single natural law philosopher shares your position, and I have not seen one that answers this question or a closely related ones better than you do here.

        The constellation of partners in an infertile but male/female couple is inherently different from a same sex sexual couple because a male/female couple, even when infertile, is still an act that is ordered towards sex when fully healthy.
        ….
        A gay couple is intrinsically incapable of that primary purpose. It’s not a health thing, it’s like humping a wall. The anus and penis are not ordered to be used in conjunction with each other during sex. The vagina and penis are.

        The problem here is, that this is the *only* time when using x in a way that it isn´t “ordered towards” / “designed for” is considered to be *always* evil – even if the usage in question does *not* frustrate the primary end of x but rather maybe even fulfils the secondary ends of x. Example: no natural law philosopher considers it to be evil to use your feet and legs to operate the gas pedal and brakes of a car – your feet and legs were most emphatically not “designed for” doing that, but using them in this way doesn´t frustrate their alleged primary purpose (well unless you use a car or related objects to much, essentially stop walking completely and let the muscles in your legs deteriote to the point of being useless for carrying the weight of your body), so it isn´t an action that is always considered to be evil. So, gay sex seems to be a rather arbitrary exception here. Btw, I do not suspect that this is an intrinsic defect / inconsistency of natural law theory per se – I rather suspect that natural law proponents are *applying* it inconsistently when it comes to this particular issue.

      • Your objection is a good one. The Stanford Journal of Philosophy, which seems to be doing a decent job on the natural law end of the subject, is pretty good here:

        http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/homosexuality/#NatLaw

        I’ll throw my weight behind the second “contemporary argument” the Journal mentions, for this simple reason:

        So they then defend an account of sexuality which seems crudely reductive, emphasizing procreation to the point where literally a male orgasm anywhere except in the vagina of one’s loving spouse is impermissible.

        What they call “crudely reductive” quite literally describes the Catholic position – mine, of course – to a T. That is precisely true. I would hold masturbation, oral sex, fornication, hand jobs, contraception,et al to ALL be morally wrong, nor would I even blink to do so. While I won’t go so far as to say this position has historically “always” been held, I would also be surprised if anybody would have been shocked by this position back in, say, the middle ages.

        The Journal apparently objects to the idea on the grounds that it’s crude, but it is literally the exact position as held by the Catholic Church. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body seems to gel well with it from my untrained eye.

        I’d like to see a detailed defense of the perverted faculty argument as well. They don’t really attempt to give one, which is too bad, and it seems difficult to find, except for a summary by Stephen Law, who I haven’t trusted since he refused to admit his error in the Euthypro dilemma (which is no dilemma at all for classical theists, nor really even close to one). I imagine Dr. Feser could take a decent shot at it, though I’m not sure which of the two “contemporary” arguments he would throw his weight behind.

      • (My guess is that the reason they refer to it as “crude reductionism” is that so few people, especially politicians but really everybody, would be incredibly hesitant to go so far in their condemnation of sexual acts. This is almost certainly one of the reasons conservatives tend to suffer on this issue – many objections are actually on the money! People are simply afraid to “go there”.)

      • Mojo_Hand says:

        I should offer that many of these issues have been discussed in Edward Feser’s two-part series: “What’s the Deal with Sex”

        http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/01/whats-deal-with-sex-part-i.html

        http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/02/whats-deal-with-sex-part-ii.html

        It is, furthermore, illuminating to read the comments, given that many of the objections raised by Andy have been addressed with specificity: especially those objections stemming from what, exactly, constitutes the “natural” usage of our physiological attributes.

      • Chad says:

        Thanks, those were good reads

      • Andy says:

        Mojo Hand,

        It is, furthermore, illuminating to read the comments, given that many of the objections raised by Andy have been addressed with specificity: especially those objections stemming from what, exactly, constitutes the “natural” usage of our physiological attributes.

        Well, my objection was that using x in a way that x wasn´t “designed for” is per se *not* a sufficient condition for the activity in question being morally evil from a natural law perspective. You do such things literally all the time – your fingers were not “designed for” typing on a keyboard, your legs were not “designed for” operating the pedals of a bycicle or car, your nose was not “designed for” carrying eyeglasses. And so on and so forth ad nauseam. And *nothing* of this is considered to be morally evil by natural law proponents because those activities do not frustrate the natural ends of the faculties that are used. However, when it comes to sexual activities, a completely arbitrary exception is being made – now it is suddenly considered to be evil to use something in a way that is not “natural”, even if it doesn´t frustrate the primary end and potentially even fulfils the secondary ends of sex. Again, gay sex most emphatically does not frustrate the purpose of procreation in the way that, say, using a condom does – because a gay couple, just like an infertile straight couple, cannot procreate to begin with through sex. So even if one grants that gay sex is “unnatural” and also grants all the other premises required for natural law theory, it still doesn´t follow that it is always morally evil,
        I don´t see how Feser addressed this objection at all, can you quote the part where you think he addressed it?
        I´ll get to the questions from your earlier comment later,

      • Chad says:

        You’re specifically comparing natural creations to artifices. It’s a false comparison.

  9. Andy,
    I had a very long response written out, but you know what? Everything we’ve written? It’s all just word salad. Here is the crux of the issue, right here:

    Congratulations, you managed to come up with a definition of “person” that happens to be a perfect synonym of “organism”. That alone shows how utterly useless your definition is. But it does provide some comic relief, because your definition also demonstrates that personhood is nothing that distinguishes any higher animal from any other animal – you reduce the concept of personhood to just being a unique member of a species.

    You have just conceded exactly what we’re all trying to say. Being a member of the human species is exactly what makes us intrinsically valuable. I not only not deny this, I embrace it wholeheartedly.

    This whole argument once again boils down not to a biological argument, since you’ve finally conceded what I’ve been trying to say all along, but to a personhood argument.

    I think value is intrinsically bound up into being a unique member of the human species. You do not.

    That’s what we’re arguing about. The legalized murder of humans is evil, because individual members of the human species have intrinsic value irrespective of any point of development.

    But hey, let’s go a step further. Maybe your car scenario points to a deeper truth rather than a typical moral failure of human beings (I don’t think so, but let’s say so). Let’s say we only know that the unique organism is really going to grow into an adult organism, barring accident, at a later point in development. In that case it would STILL be a very early point in the first trimester abortion should be illegal.

    …If you accept humans as intrinsically valuable.

    So let’s try something else: When and why do you think humans are people?

    It can’t be consciousness. Then it would be okay to kill sleeping people, at least if they’re unloved and unwanted.

    It can’t be heartbeat. If somebody’s heart isn’t beating and yet they’re alive, the heartbeat is secondary.

    Brain waves doesn’t really work, either. There’s really no reason to believe minimal brain function makes a human fetus any different from this standard than a dog fetus.

    Are you perhaps a disciple of Peter Singer, who believes infanticide is morally tenable?

    • Andy says:

      Malcolm,

      well, I think you are on to something when you say that this is all fundamentally about personhood, I fully and 100% agree with that. I am puzzled though as to why you see that as me “finally conceding” something. Wasn´t it obvious that I tried to argue against the moral significance of something being merely(!) “alive” and “human” (like an unfertilized human egg is) precisely because this alone does not constitute personhood in my opinion?

      You say:

      You have just conceded exactly what we’re all trying to say. Being a member of the human species is exactly what makes us intrinsically valuable. I not only not deny this, I embrace it wholeheartedly.

      Erm, nope, I do not concede that – I deny that in the strongest possible terms. We do not disagree at all about what the minimal requirements are for being a “member of the human species” – I fully agree that conception is the moment where a new human organism / new member of the human species comes into existence, but I do not concede that this make the organism intrinsically valuable *at all*. I believe that the organism has zero intrinsic value (it might have instrumental value though) right after conception. And I also claim that disagreeing with that is only possible by fully(!) reducing the personhood and value of humans to genetic material – because modifications to the genetic makeup is the only thing that distinguishes the fertilized egg from the unfertilized one right after conception, so if only the fertilized one is a “human person” and “intrinsically valuable”, then both of those attributes must logically be fully reducible to genetic material.

      I think value is intrinsically bound up into being a unique member of the human species. You do not.

      Yup.

      That’s what we’re arguing about. The legalized murder of humans is evil[1], because individual members of the human species have intrinsic value irrespective of any point of development.[2]

      1. Make that legalized murder of human “beings” or “persons” and I fully agree with it.
      2. And that is only the case if human personhood and moral value is fully reducible to genetic material, see above and the syllogism in my last comment.

      So let’s try something else: When and why do you think humans are people?

      It can’t be consciousness. Then it would be okay to kill sleeping people, at least if they’re unloved and unwanted.

      It can’t be heartbeat. If somebody’s heart isn’t beating and yet they’re alive, the heartbeat is secondary.

      Brain waves doesn’t really work, either. There’s really no reason to believe minimal brain function makes a human fetus any different from this standard than a dog fetus.

      Excellent question! I think we first have to have at least some agreement on what “personhood” means. It´s a fuzzy concept and there is no unversally agreed upon definition, and not because theistic philosophers say one thing and non-theistic philosophers something different – there is plenty of disagreement here that has nothing to do with the question of whether theism is true or false. However, I think what is widely if not universally acknowledged among philosophers dealing with this question is, that personhood somehow relates to mind-dependent properties. One example (from the Wiki article on personhood):
      “Christianity is the first philosophical system to use the word “person” in its modern sense. [93] The word “persona” was transformed from its theater use into a term with strict technical theological meaning by Tertullian in his work, De Trinitate (“On The Trinity”), in order to distinguish the three “persons” of the Trinity. Subsequently, Boethius refined the word to mean “an individual substance of a rational nature.” This can be re-stated as “that which possesses an intellect and a will.” Thus, the word “person” was originally a theological term created and defined by Christians to explain Christian theological concepts.”
      I personally think that all of the attributes that are discussed in this context (some others are “having fears and desires”, “self-awareness”, able to consider oneself to be “the same thinking thing in different times and places”) are relevant for and a part of “personhood”, but I don´t think that all of them are a *necessary* requirement, a sine qua non of “personhood” (the presence of a will would be an example for a sine qua non here IMO and the ability to use speech and think in abstract categories (what Thomists call “rational soul” afaict) would be an example of what is *not* a necessary requirement IMO).
      Based on all that I think it becomes obvious that “personhood” cannot reasonably be considered to be a binary attribute, but rather must be considered to be a continuum – the question of when personhood begins thus turns into an instance of the Sorites paradox, there can be no *objective* moment that constitutes the beginning of personhood begins just like there can be no *objective* moment that delineates the end of “day” and the beginning of “night”. It´s not binary but rather a continuum with plenty of shades of grey between the two ends. In that sense, The problem I see here for your position is that a cell has no mind – it cannot have *any* of the attributes that are widely acknowledged as relevant and necessary for “personhood” in *any* sense, and that is why I do not consider the fertilized human egg to be a human person.

      Regarding your claim “It can’t be consciousness. Then it would be okay to kill sleeping people, at least if they’re unloved and unwanted.”
      – you can say something similar for all mind-dependent attributes so this is a very universal objection to what I am saying. However, I think it is misguided, because there is a world of a difference between “unconscious” and “nonconscious”.
      I´ll explain it with the concept of memories – try to recall one of the most precious memories you have, now, do you think that the value of this memory is dependent on it currently being part of your conscious thought? Do you think that it loses its value as soon as you start thinking about something else? How could it – it´s still there after all, you are just currently not thinking about it, why should that make a difference wrt its value? The point here is, that the value of cognitive faculties doesn´t depend on you using them at the moment, a person that is UNconscious doesn´t lack something, (s)he *has* something that (s)he is currently not using. A human embryo, for example, is not (yet) UNconscious in this sense, it is in a developmental stage where it is NONconscious.

  10. This, by the way, points to a fundamental truth about these sorts of discussions: There’s never been a biological problem. It’s always, always, always a personhood argument. Biology is all background noise.

  11. Andy, just so you know, I’m not attempting to censor or ban you (for me to do that you either need to break the commenting guidelines, which you haven’t, or you need to REALLY piss me off, which you haven’t – I’m a generally curmudgeonly guy). For some reason your response to me came up as pending, and when I approved it it vanished into the mists of time.

    (One time I did cut somebody off in a thread, though he was not banned.I would tell you if I were to do that, though.)

    In any case, I’ll only say for the record that I did not post a shorter response because I was getting frustrated with myself or you; I had a very long response already written, but decided it wasn’t actually necessary.

    Believe me or don’t believe me, but there you go.

    In any case, I reiterate what I said earlier. I’ll repeat a fun story about C.S. Lewis and Arthur C. Clarke to get the point across. It’s from a book called “From Narnia to a Space Odyssey”, and is a true story.

    Less sympathetic to our aims [about emphasizing the merits of space travel] was Dr. C. S. Lewis, author of two of the very few works of space fiction that can be classed as literature-Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. Both of these fine books contained attacks on scientists in general, and astronauts in particular, which aroused my ire. I was especially incensed by a passage in Perelandra referring to ‘little Interplanetary Societies and Rocketry Clubs’…

    An extensive correspondence with Dr. Lewis led to a meeting in a famous Oxford pub, the Eastgate… Needless to say, neither side converted the other. But a fine time was had by all, and when, some hours later, we emerged a little unsteadily from the Eastgate, Dr. Lewis’ parting words were, ‘I’m sure you’re very wicked people-but how dull it would be if everyone was good.’

    • Andy says:

      For some reason your response to me came up as pending, and when I approved it it vanished into the mists of time.

      Are you sure? Because I can see the comment in my browser window, and it´s still there after refreshing the page…

      Dr. Lewis’ parting words were, ‘I’m sure you’re very wicked people-but how dull it would be if everyone was good.’

      That´s the spirit! 😉

  12. Mojo_Hand says:

    Andy,

    You are correct that my ‘dickeshness’ was entirely unprovoked, and for that, I apologize. It was not right of me to attack your character or intellect in the way that I did.

    You say:

    “The word “being” is a terrible choice of words here because it is completely ambiguous”

    “Being” is indeed a broad subject, but there is no confusion concerning what a “human being” is. When pro-life individuals like myself say that a human embryo is a human being, we mean a “human being simpliciter, i.e. that kind of entity which, in virtue of its morphology, is a member of the natural kind human being.” (Oderberg) Your quote from Wikipedia is queer. Every other definition of “Human Being” that I have run across is evidently referring to a ‘Human Being’ as being a member of the species *homo sapien*. As in, a human organism. It even seems that Homo Sapien simply means “Man, Human Being”:

    From Wikipedia:
    The binomial name Homo sapiens was coined by Carl Linnaeus (1758).[2] The Latin noun homō (genitive hominis) means “man, human being”.

    It just so happens, on the philosophical account, that homo sapiens are both a being and an organism. Indeed, it is strange to think that a human being could experience anything at all unless they were also an organism. This should cause one to consider that totality of what constitutes a human being is not reducible to merely subjective experience (not that you’re necessarily arguing that).

    Furthermore, the word “being” is not “completely ambiguous”. Clearly, the Wikipedia article you have provided is describing specifically what “being” is, and doing so according to a set series of interpretations or arguments. If the concept of being were ambiguous in a way that rendered it totally unintelligible (completely), then you would never even be able to say that “being” really had anything to do with subjective experience, no? We can contest the accuracy of a particular understanding, but we cannot say that it ambiguous.

    So when you say that:

    “A fertilized human egg is *not* a “human being” as this phrase is widely understood, because a fertilized human egg does not and cannot experience subjectivity.”

    You are appealing to a concept -“Being”- of which you just said was “completely ambiguous”. How do you know that your own description here is reliable if what we mean by “being” can never be clearly understood?

    And again, I contest that your description actually utilizes the “widely understood” meaning of Human Being, given that the common understanding is clearly meant to identity a human formally and as an entity (a sentient organism) separate and distinct from other species.

    Lastly, if we accept that a human being is only any such entity that can experience reality subjectively, what should we say of people who are in catatonic states, or who experience reality in some distorted or deprivated way? Do they cease being human beings, or do they become sub-human beings? It is clear that subjective experience alone cannot fully account for all formal qualities associated with being a “human being”. Granted, your description of what constitutes a “Human Being” may include more attributes than subjective experience (or consciousness, as it so happens), so perhaps you ought to provide a set of attributes that you believe to constitute a proper instantiation of a human being in the way that establishes “personhood”.

    In your response to Malcolm, you indicate that personhood is reducible to having a “mind”.

    You say:
    “It´s not binary but rather a continuum with plenty of shades of grey between the two ends. In that sense, The problem I see here for your position is that a cell has no mind – it cannot have *any* of the attributes that are widely acknowledged as relevant and necessary for “personhood” in *any* sense, and that is why I do not consider the fertilized human egg to be a human person.”

    But you seem to indicate that the Will (and I would assume the exercise of it) is one of these necessary cognitive attributes that would need to manifest before true personhood can be established (indeed, the Will is the only one you have put forward as being necessary). Under your account, though, what do you really mean to say when a person exercises their will? And how can you exercise your will unless your cognitive abilities have developed to such an extent that you are aware of yourself as a willful entity? And how can you have such a cognitive ability unless your brain reaches a certain, identifiable/material stage of development? You’re arguing that their can be no objective point X where personhood begins, but in order to establish any sort of attributes associated with personhood, you must ultimately resort to describing those points of time where cognitive/brain development enables such powers of intellect (unless you argue that cognitive attributes develop independently of brain development). In that way, you have not evaded a binary stage between personhood and non-personhood, you have simply moved it up to another stage in human development: brain development. There are no “shades of grey”, as you would have then, merely different stages of brain development that enable or initiate the sorts of cognitive attributes you consider to make a person a morally important entity. Of course, you may not argue that the mind is reducible to the brain, but if not, you’re still plying a type of reductionism to your understanding of personhood: that personhood is reducible to a certain series of brain developments.

    I should also point out that your argument here concerning “necessary attributes” is tantamount to question begging, because what, precisely, is at stake here is whether or not possessing such attributes is necessary for “personhood”. Indeed, why is willfulness, among other cognitive displays of intellect, necessary for personhood? How is this not an ad-hoc, proscriptive understanding of what a person is? Note here that I am not arguing that, say, willfullness is not, indeed a component of personhood, only that I see no justification on your part why it should be considered necessary for personshood. I will explain.

    You referenced, via Wikipedia, the classical theistic understanding of personhood, but have left out a major distinction that separates classical understandings of personhood from the contemporary account. In the classical understanding, the way in which attributes are understood relative to personhood are descriptive. That is, a Human Being will posses these attributes by virtue of being the very sort of thing that a human being is. It is just in the nature of being human that one will posses these various cognitive abilities, and they will posses these cognitive abilities barring any kind of interruption or abnormality during growth into an adult. The contemporary account is proscpritive in that an entity does not become a human until it can display a set of characteristic attributes considered to be necessary for personhood.

    It can be described thusly:

    Traditional : It is in the nature of Entity X to be in possession of attributes A, B and C

    Contemporary: Entity Y does not become Entity X until attributes A, B, and C are demonstrable.

    The inherent weakness in the contemporary view, as has been hotly contested, is that you’re going to have a hell of time establishing precisely when and how attributes A, B and C become demonstrable. You may wind up like Peter Singer; arguing for what is effectively infanticide because you do not believe that the necessary components of peronhood properly manifest until well after the post-natal stage. This is also a secondary reason why you cannot claim that Personhood is part of a “continuum”. If personhood really is just a matter of possessing (I’m supposing simultaneously) a set of cognitive attributes, then the demonstration of these cognitive attributes (in unison) is just precisely what indicates personhood. You cannot say that the child is Willfull until the child exercises the will. And the child, in terms of demonstrating the will, can be said to exercise it a given point X? Can this not be said to be the “beginning” of personhood? Otherwise, how is your argument to have any persuasive force?

    That is, if we can never designate point X as being the obligatory starting point of personhood, how do we translate this ambiguity into common law or legal understandings that should moderate our behavior as humans? If you argue, “Well, it’s meaningless to say that personhood begins at point X, because their is a threshhold of development in which personhood manifests, and its all very fuzzy”, that effectively makes any argument for allowing abortion at specific point X both arbitrary and untenable. Why should abortion be allowed in the tenth week, or the twentieth week, et al, if one cannot even say what week a non-person becomes a person? You may insist that this is an imperfect way of taking into account the ambiguity of personhood, but you cannot say that any such argument has persuasive force in the legal or ethical sense. Law should ere on the side of caution and insist that, “not knowing precisely when entity Y obtains personhood, we should abstain from engaging in behavior of which we can never know to be ethical.”

    Now, to your major objective to the pro-life position. You ask why, precisely, does the fertilization of the egg cell in the biological sense (and ‘conception’ in the metaphysical sense) demarcate that point where a living cell becomes a morally viable entity. The rebuttal has been, that, at this particular point, we can say that a unique entity has come into existence, and that this entity is an instantiation of a human individual, and given the sort of thing that a human being is (an organic entity that will develop, mature, and obtain via self-directed biological processes, certain cognitive and physiological traits), we are obligated to treat it with the dignity deserved by any human being. Your retort is that this is “genetic reductionism”, and that it is untenable to think that personhood can be reduced merely to possessing a unique set of genes. But why? These are, after all, human genes. They are not, as it were, cat genes. Their structure is specific to our developmental and behavioral qualities as a species, no? Are they not embedded with exactly that sort of information and developmental potency that, through self-directed organic processes, actualizes the sorts of qualities you consider to be demarcations of personhood in the first place?

    Indeed, even if I were to bite the bullet and say that, yes, individual moral relevance is reducible to genetics, I don’t see how you could provide a legitimate objection given that your own position on personhood is reducible to brain development (brain development, itself, being regulated by those sorts of naturally directed processes defined by our DNA). Interestingly, personhood, as you see it, is causally dependent upon possessing unique human DNA. You could attempt, at this point, to explain to me why it is that any entity can achieve personhood in the way that you intend without first possessing a unique set of genes, but that’s going to be pretty difficult.

    If possessing unique genes is a necessary criteria for developing those sorts of mental faculties required for “personhood”, why could we not say, instead, that personhood merely consists of being in possession of those sorts biological qualities and potencies that enable willfullness, self-reflection, et al? This seems to me to be altogether much more tenable. There is no ambiguity in this interpretation. A human being just is that sort of creature that is in possession of unique, human DNA, and it is in the nature of the human being to develop certain physiological and cognitive faculties in a way that comports with those directives encoded in our DNA. Being willfull really just is part of being ‘a human being’, and is not some proscriptive feature we arbitrarily define as being necessary for personhood. That a Zygote can’t exercise its will is really of no concern, for we know that it certainly possesses that self-directed biological impetus (as is its nature) that makes it exactly that sort of entity that can exercise its will. Why, then, terminate such an entity when it is in possession of this unmistakable biological and developmental impetus?

    • I’ll co-sign again. And say for the record that I think you were right to apologize. Abortion debates are inherently nasty. There’s no real way around it.

    • Andy says:

      Mojo Hand,

      You are correct that my ‘dickeshness’ was entirely unprovoked, and for that, I apologize. It was not right of me to attack your character or intellect in the way that I did.

      Apology accepted, and I´ll also apologize for the harsh tone with which I replied to you.

      Furthermore, the word “being” is not “completely ambiguous”.

      Yup, the “completely” is certainly hyperbolic and can / should be removed from that description.

      So when you say that:
      “A fertilized human egg is *not* a “human being” as this phrase is widely understood, because a fertilized human egg does not and cannot experience subjectivity.”
      You are appealing to a concept -“Being”- of which you just said was “completely ambiguous”. How do you know that your own description here is reliable if what we mean by “being” can never be clearly understood?

      This is precisely why I suggested that “organism” would be a much better choice of words, because there is very little disagreement about the definition of “organism” (and none of this disagreement is relevant for the issue at hand here). *If* “human being” is supposed to mean a human organism with a mind capable of experiencing subjectivity, then the fertilized human egg is not a “human being”, and if “human being” is supposed to be merely a synonym for “human organism”, then the fertilized human egg is a “human being”.

      Lastly, if we accept that a human being is only any such entity that can experience reality subjectively, what should we say of people who are in catatonic states, or who experience reality in some distorted or deprivated way? Do they cease being
      human beings, or do they become sub-human beings?

      Note that your question here is not about biology, philosophy or ethics – this is now purely about semantics. If(!) you are using a definition for “human being” that entails subjectivity, then a human who permanently loses this capacity for whatever reason is no
      longer a “human being”, by *definition* of the phrase “human being” that you are using. Again, what I just said has nothing to do with biology, philosophy or ethics, this was purely about english semantics. This is why it is so important to clearly define our
      terms and try to select the most precise / least ambiguous word if there are several options.

      But you seem to indicate that the Will (and I would assume the exercise of it) is one of these necessary cognitive attributes that would need to manifest before true personhood can be established (indeed, the Will is the only one you have put forward
      as being necessary). Under your account, though, what do you really mean to say when a person exercises their will? And how can you exercise your will unless your cognitive abilities have developed to such an extent that you are aware of yourself as a
      willful entity? And how can you have such a cognitive ability unless your brain reaches a certain, identifiable/material stage of development? You’re arguing that their can be no objective point X where personhood begins, but in order to establish any sort of
      attributes associated with personhood, you must ultimately resort to describing those points of time where cognitive/brain development enables such powers of intellect (unless you argue that cognitive attributes develop independently of brain
      development). In that way, you have not evaded a binary stage between personhood and non-personhood, you have simply moved it up to another stage in human development: brain development. There are no “shades of grey”, as you would have then, merely different stages of brain development that enable or initiate the sorts of cognitive attributes you consider to make a person a morally important entity. Of course, you may not argue that the mind is reducible to the brain, but if not, you’re still plying a type of reductionism to your understanding of personhood: that personhood is reducible to a certain series of brain developments.

      I think I wasn´t clear enough about what I meant with the “shades of grey” here. I´ll use a specific example to explain it in a little more detail. Having a so-called theory of mind (i.e. “the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one’s own”) is, at least IMO, an important aspect of a “human person” – you would certainly be a *very* different person if you´d lose this ability or have not yet developed it. But little children who have yet to fully develop this ability (google “Sally–Anne test” if you are interested) are already conscious, self-aware and have a will etc. and clearly human persons in most senses (including the IMO most important ones) of the word. What I mean here with “shades of grey” is that there are thus developmental stages where some aspects of personhood are already present to some degree while others are not – there is no moment where a human that currently lacks *all* aspects of personhood, gains all of them at once, human rather develop them in a gradual fashion one after the other. This is why I think that this is an instance of the Sorites paradox.

      You referenced, via Wikipedia, the classical theistic understanding of personhood, but have left out a major distinction that separates classical understandings of personhood from the contemporary account. In the classical understanding, the way in which attributes are understood relative to personhood are descriptive. That is, a Human Being will posses these attributes by virtue of being the very sort of thing that a human being is. It is just in the nature of being human that one will posses these various
      cognitive abilities, and they will posses these cognitive abilities barring any kind of interruption or abnormality during growth into an adult. The contemporary account is proscpritive in that an entity does not become a human until it can display a set of
      characteristic attributes considered to be necessary for personhood.

      It can be described thusly:

      Traditional : It is in the nature of Entity X to be in possession of attributes A, B and C

      Contemporary: Entity Y does not become Entity X until attributes A, B, and C are demonstrable.

      Good point. Note though that it was also part of the traditional view that developing males have no soul until 40 days after conception and that women have no soul until 90 days after conception, the view that ensoulment happens at conception is a modern one. And this demonstrates one of the main problems I see with the traditional view – it is based on “essences” but lacks a reliable method to figure out at what point something actually has a specific essence (like e.g. the essence of a “human being”). Here I would again ask on what grounds you could possibly know that conception is the key moment – why not something earlier or later? And how is the presence of a unique and novel set of human genes at all relevant as to whether a cell has the “essence” of a “human being” or not?
      I don´t know if you are a Catholic, but the eucharist is a good example to illustrate what I mean here – when I would show a Catholic that what he is eating at mass is biologically(!) speaking just a cracker, that would not impress him at all and would be, if one acceptsA-T metaphysics, no reason for why the cracker should not have the essence of Christ despite its DNA telling a completely different story (doesn´t that show that if one accepts A-T metaphysics – empirical observations, like DNA studies, are not
      informative at all as to whether something has a given essence or not?)

      That is, if we can never designate point X as being the obligatory starting point of personhood, how do we translate this ambiguity into common law or legal understandings that should moderate our behavior as humans? If you argue, “Well, it’s
      meaningless to say that personhood begins at point X, because their is a threshhold of development in which personhood manifests, and its all very fuzzy”, that effectively makes any argument for allowing abortion at specific point X both arbitrary and untenable.

      More or less arbitrary, yes, absolutely. But not untenable. This is not a new situation at all, societies deal with similar
      problems all the time:
      – At what age should people be allowed to vote?
      – At what age should people be allowed to drive a car?
      – At what age should people be allowed to consent to sex?
      – When is a war justified?
      etc.pp. Those questions are all instances of the Sorites paradox and they all thus have no objective answer, but rather only more or less arbitrary ones, and the challenge for a society is to find the one that is the least arbitrary.

      Why should abortion be allowed in the tenth week, or the twentieth week, et al, if one cannot even say what week a non-person becomes a person?

      Again, we deal with similar problems all the time. Why should a person that is 17 years and 364 days old NOT be allowed to vote, but a person that´s just one(!) day older magically becomes mature enough to vote?! That´s arbitrary. But it is certainly a better decision than saying “we can´t make an objective decision, so lets just say no one votes and get rid of democracy” for example. It´s also better than allowing *everyone* to vote, including toddlers, or only grant voting rights for people who are at least sixty years old and have at least two advanced degrees of which one needs to be political science?

      Law should ere on the side of caution and insist that, “not knowing precisely when entity Y obtains personhood, we should abstain from engaging in behavior of which we can never know to be ethical.”

      I do not disagree with that at all, I think we should err on the side of caution – but not allowing abortions, no matter how early the pregnancy is, is not “erring on the side of caution” – that would be like my hypothetical example above “we cannot decide
      objectively when people are mature enough to vote, so we´ll err on the side of caution and allow no one to vote”.

      Your retort is that this is “genetic reductionism”, and that it is untenable to think that personhood can be reduced merely to possessing a unique set of genes. But why? These are, after all, human genes. They are not, as it were, cat genes. Their
      structure is specific to our developmental and behavioral qualities as a species, no? Are they not embedded with exactly that sort of information and developmental potency that, through self-directed organic processes, actualizes the sorts of qualities you
      consider to be demarcations of personhood in the first place?

      No, they are not. Maybe you personally know a couple of monozygotic twins, they are genetically identical (well, not *exactly* 100% as adults, but exactly 100% in their earliest developmental stages) yet distinguishable both by physical traits (they do not have the
      same fingerprints for example) and by their personality (even if their personablities are very similar, close friends and family members usually still notice idiosyncracies that distinguish them). That your genes are essentially a blueprint for you is a very common
      misconception, but this is not what they are – your genes do determine some things, make others more likely or much more likely than not, and leave many things completely or almost completely unspecified. In other words, it would be false to say that you, as a
      human person, already existed in blueprint form at the moment of conception – you didn´t.

      Indeed, even if I were to bite the bullet and say that, yes, individual moral relevance is reducible to genetics, I don’t see how you could provide a legitimate objection given that your own position on personhood is reducible to brain development
      (brain development, itself, being regulated by those sorts of naturally directed processes defined by our DNA). Interestingly, personhood, as you see it, is causally dependent upon possessing unique human DNA.

      First of all, I think that personhood depends on a brain, yes – but I am not claiming that the mind is fully reducible to brain states here. I can happily grant that the mind is not fully reducible to the brain and my position here would remain unchanged.
      Also, re unique human DNA, no, if we would clone you, then your clone would not develop a personality indistinguishable from yours, he would become a unique human person (if he survives) despite being genetically your clone. You can thus drop the
      “unique” (and at least as far as I am concerned, you can also drop the “human” – I support the Great Ape Project and think that all great apes have the aspects of personhood that are most important from a moral perspective).

      If possessing unique genes is a necessary criteria for developing those sorts of mental faculties required for “personhood”, why could we not say, instead, that personhood merely consists of being in possession of those sorts biological qualities and potencies that enable willfullness, self-reflection, et al? This seems to me to be altogether much more tenable. There is no ambiguity in this interpretation. A human being just is that sort of creature that is in possession of unique, human DNA, and it is in the nature of the human being to develop certain physiological and cognitive faculties in a way that comports with those directives encoded in our DNA. Being willfull really just is part of being ‘a human being’, and is not some proscriptive feature we arbitrarily define as being necessary for personhood. That a Zygote can’t exercise its will is really of
      no concern, for we know that it certainly possesses that self-directed biological impetus (as is its nature) that makes it exactly that sort of entity that can exercise its will. Why, then, terminate such an entity when it is in possession of this unmistakable
      biological and developmental impetus?

      Every time you could have unprotected sex with a fertile woman, a potential for procreation, a potential for a novel human being, is irretrievably lost – the vast majority of people that *could have been* were never born, not even conceived, and no one considers that to be tragic. To me, when I think about an embryo being naturally aborted because it didn´t manage to implant into the uterine wall, I don´t consider this to be any more tragic than any of all those potential people that were never even conceived
      because their potential parents didn´t have sex. And I´m not sure but I suspect that one of the main reasons for why we see this so differently is that you view genes as a blueprint – that you think that you as a human person already existed in blueprint form
      after conception. I already talked about this issue further above I can explain that in more detail and give you other example beside the monozygotic twins issue mentioned above if you like), but this is probably not the only reason as to why we see this diffrently, and I currently have no clue what the others might be.

      A final general remark – the questions you pose here were very interesting.

      • I do not disagree with that at all, I think we should err on the side of caution – but not allowing abortions, no matter how early the pregnancy is, is not “erring on the side of caution” – that would be like my hypothetical example above “we cannot decide
        objectively when people are mature enough to vote, so we´ll err on the side of caution and allow no one to vote”.

        There is a big, fundamental difference here though: We’re not talking about giving rights to the people involved in the “shades of grey here” (the unborn humans).

        We’re talking about giving rights to the mothers to kill these people.

        So:

        1) The stakes for the unborn are much, much higher than every other example you gave. Even the stakes surrounding conscription aren’t so high.

        2) This isn’t about waiting to grant a fetus rights. It’s about not giving somebody else the right to kill them – people you admit may be human beings, in fact.

  13. Mojo_Hand says:

    Andy,

    I had a much longer response planned, but I realized that there is still quite a bit of uncertainty on my part concerning many of your major arguments. Namely, how you would actually define Personhood or a Human Being.

    I think it is incumbent upon you to do a couple of things:

    A. If personhood is what matters for moral relevance, and personhood ‘just is’ identical with possessing some number of *necessary* cognitive attributes, what are these cognitive attributes, in the particular? That is, specify which cognitive attributes are necessary (not just “important”) for personhood, and why, among any number of other cognitive faculties, these ones matter *necessarily* to personhood. Explicate your actual theory on personhood and why it matters.

    B. Lay it on the line and tell us when you think that the “human organism” becomes a “person” in the non-arbitrary sense that they have moral relevance: Pre-natal, Post-natal, 5, 6, 7 years old. When is it? Because, what we’re really talking about here (as Malcolm has indicated numerous times) is the ‘right to life’, or, more descriptively, that point in time where the state can no longer authorize medical professionals to kill living things at the behest of their progenitors.

    In passing, I’ll say that “right to life” has always been unappealing to me. I have never seen a reason why we should be talking about giving some entity the ‘right’ to continue doing what’s its been doing already: Living.

    • Ilíon says:

      Mojo_Hand:I think it is incumbent upon [Andy] to do a couple of things: …

      Like that’s gonna happen.

      Mojo_Hand:In passing, I’ll say that “right to life” has always been unappealing to me. I have never seen a reason why we should be talking about giving some entity the ‘right’ to continue doing what’s its been doing already: Living.

      1) We don’t give any “entity the ‘right’ to continue doing what’s its been doing already: Living.” God, and God alone, gives that right. All we do is admit that the entity possesses the right or deny that he does — that is, either we align ourselves with God, or we oppose him (and opposing God is even more pointless that opposing gravity).

      2) As you *ought to* understand, speaking of a “right to life” (as, for example, the DoI does) is another way of saying, “right not to be murdered”.

  14. Mojo_Hand says:

    Andy,

    For whatever reason, WordPress will not allow me to ‘reply’ to your comment directly. In any case:

    You Say:

    “Well, my objection was that using x in a way that x wasn´t “designed for” is per se *not* a sufficient condition for the activity in question being morally evil from a natural law perspective. You do such things literally all the time – your fingers were not “designed for” typing on a keyboard, your legs were not “designed for” operating the pedals of a bycicle or car, your nose was not “designed for” carrying eyeglasses. And so on and so forth ad nauseam. And *nothing* of this is considered to be morally evil by natural law proponents because those activities do not frustrate the natural ends of the faculties that are used.”

    When it comes to questions of how one’s sexual organs are used, then what we’re all really talking about is the very sort of act in which they are utilized: sex. What is sex, why is it important, ect? Edward Feser is explicating a traditional account of sex, why it matters, and how it should be understood as the sort of thing that it is. The traditional account either implies or specifies certain limitations on how we engage in sexual acts given a proper understanding of what sexual intercourse entails.

    Now, you seem to be under the impression that the argument from natural law is just another kind of “design” argument. But you will find very few, if any, Natural Law (or in Feser’s case, Thomistic) philosophers arguing that we understand the utilization of certain body parts according to how they were designed. It is, strictly speaking, not a design based understanding of the world. For the proponent of an Essentialist philosophy it is of little consequence to their argument whether we were created Ex-Nihilo via a creative act, or came into being over tens of millions of years of evolution.

    We’re really concerned with those ends (teleologically speaking) as they correspond or comport with the innate potencies of the object (hands, feet, penises) in question. The feet are not “designed” to operate a gas pedal, but there is nothing in the operation of a gas pedal that frustrates the natural utilization of the feet. Indeed, you are utilizing the feet in such a way that corresponds with just those sorts of potencies intrinsic to it: to move them about, to place them on solid objects even to the extent that you can manipulate those objects, ect. Whether or not you’re frustrating the natural ends of the feet corresponds very closely with the very act of which you are trying to perform. If you are trying to use your feet to operate the gas pedal of a car, it would fundamentally frustrate the usage of the feet if you were to tie cinder blocks to them and thus inhibit or render impossible the operation of the gas pedal via the feet. Consequently, the natural law philosopher would find the proposition that feet were designed (or not designed) to operate the gas pedal on a car an unessential proposition.

    The utilization of our anatomy, and whether or not the utilization of such is frustrated, corresponds very closely with the act in which they are being utilized. For instance, while it wouldn’t necessarily constitute a moral wrong to wear sunglasses indoors, and inhibit your eyesight to a certain degree, it would be wrong to wear sunglasses while performing some kind of life-saving surgery, given that it prohibits you from fully utilizing your sensory powers in a kind of act that demands the uninhibited capacities of sight.
    You say, further:

    “However, when it comes to sexual activities, a completely arbitrary exception is being made – now it is suddenly considered to be evil to use something in a way that is not “natural”, even if it doesn´t frustrate the primary end and potentially even fulfils the secondary ends of sex. Again, gay sex most emphatically does not frustrate the purpose of procreation in the way that, say, using a condom does – because a gay couple, just like an infertile straight couple, cannot procreate to begin with through sex. So even if one grants that gay sex is “unnatural” and also grants all the other premises required for natural law theory, it still doesn´t follow that it is always morally evil.”

    As a matter of physical description, it is clear that vaginal intercourse is an act of a different kind from sodomy. I believe Malcolm pointed this out above. The mere physical description of what each particular act entails makes it clear that they are different in kind. Sex between an infertile couple is thus not “like” sodomy between a homosexual couples because the very acts in question are different in a fundamental sense: they entail different descriptions as to the acts. It is not enough to simply point out that infertile couples cannot have children and homosexual couples cannot have children. It is manifestly clear that what prevents infertile couples from having children entail a distinct and separate series of problems apart from *why* homosexual couples cannot have children, and these problems correspond directly to the ends intrinsic to our sexual apparatus.

    The ends of the penis are to become engorged, and enable pleasure to the extent that it results in ejaculation. But ejaculation doesn’t just occur for any willy-nilly sort of reason, either. It’s clear from a biological standpoint that ejaculation is necessary during sex if impregnation is to result. Ergo, the ends of the penis are directly related to an act (sex): an act that, biologically, results in pregnancy, which is necessary for the perpetuation of our species. Meanwhile, you can ejaculate in a man’s rectum as much as you’d like, but this will never result in pregnancy (though it probably will result in debilitating and painful anal fissures and general incontinence later on in life). Indeed, even from the standpoint of intentionality, no two (or more) homosexuals can really pretend that they are engaging in the sort of act that will result in pregnancy. But an infertile couple can, indeed, engage in a sexual act with the intention of becoming pregnant, even if their faculties fail them on account of some problematic dysfunction in their physiology.

    Sodomy thus frustrates the natural ends of sex in the same way that contraception frustrates the natural ends of sex: by preventing our sexual organs from fulfilling their natural ends (ejaculation, the taking in of semen, ect) in the act of sex; sex being that sort of unitize activity that naturally results in pregnancy. It should be noted that infertile couples, even if their sexual faculties are temporarily or permanently impaired, are still engaging in that sort of act that normally results in pregnancy. Elizabeth Anscombe discusses this at length in “Contraception and Chastity”:
    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/AnscombeChastity.php

    You say:

    “I don´t see how Feser addressed this objection at all, can you quote the part where you think he addressed it?”

    I stated that your objection was discussed in the comments. Specifically, the question of what constitutes true frustration of our faculties is discusses to the extent that wearing sunglasses frustrates the utilization of the eyes. Evidently, you may not have the time to read through the some 600 comments whereabouts the matter is discussed, and is not my intention to suggest that merely posting said links was some kind of automatic refutation of your position.

    I look forward to your response to my queries concerning personhood and ‘right to life’.

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