All My Thoughts on Abortion

"Also, a fertilized egg is not a unique person, simply by virtue of containing specific genetic information. If this were the case, then we would not be able to recognize identical twins as two distinct people."

I didn't say "by virtue of" I simply said that a fertilized egg is

1) human tissue
2) Alive
3) A complete genetic identity

I used the word "unique" in the original post because I want people to understand that this isn't a "proto-human" indistinguishable from a card-board cut-out (a hovering idea that makes the rationalization away of value of life all too easy) – it IS an individual and complete human identity. In the case of twins we have two identical occurrences of number 3 which might remove SOME of the uniqueness of the DNA (having the same genes doesn't mean that all of exactly the same genes are expressed – this is why even identical twins are not ACTUALLY identical) – but has no effect on the fact that what you're looking at is the genetic package that will be able to tell you how it feels not too long in the future.

Dolly the Sheep showed that a mammal can be cloned from a single differentiated adult cell. Meaning that you have millions of cells in your body with a specific "genetic package" containing all the information necessary to build a human being. This does not mean that you have millions of human beings in your body. Simply that you have millions of complete sets of instructions for making a genetically specific human being.

That's what's in the nucleus of a fertilized egg cell, a complete sets of instructions for making genetically specific human being; not a human being itself.

I think you should read up a bit more on the dolly experiment - as it isn't just a case of removing a hair follicle and watching it grow.

I have no problem considering Dolly at any stage of her development a separate sheep. But a great deal was needed to turn the parent DNA into working genetic machinery -- basically achieving what sex does through a far more laborious process for the purpose of cloning.

You've only re-introduced the idea of twins whilst at the same time ignoring the arguments concerning sperm and egg in the original post.

A hair follicle, like a sperm, like an egg, like a skin cell, like literally any other cell in your entire body -- will remain always that unless otherwise acted upon. It is only YOUR DNA and not that of a separate person. Cloning only introduces moral dilemmas in regards to cloning itself – not for abortion. If – after you've gone through the complicated procedure of impregnating a woman with the genetic equivalent of a person who is already alive, that fertilized cell has begun the process of human development and is worthy of protection. They are most certainly a different person at this moment (as twins are considered different people) – and are fundamentally different than a hair follicle, skin cell, mouth scraping, sperm or egg.

Just to be clear – imagine a sperm on its own, an egg on its own, a hair follicle on its own, a skin cell on its own, and a pregnant woman. Only one of these has begun a process that will result in the birth of another human being – and for the purposes of this argument it makes no difference if that human being is a clone (naturally as in the case of a twin, or artificially as in the case of a scientifically induced clone) or not.

I should also mention that these are good examples of how a detail of the argument is singled out and treated out of context – thus missing the point.

When I say "Genetically distinct individual" it's not uncommon for someone to see the word "genetic" and then bring up the cases for twins – or in this case, clones. They then reduction-ad-absurdum it until it bears no resemblance to the original statement. A genetically distinct individual could also be stated as "Scientifically recognized separate organism in the initial stages of its development"; but then another word from that sentence gets isolated, and r.a.a'd (again missing the actual meaning of the sentence).

This is a case of making something far more complicated than it should be for purposes of rationalization.

An ingredient of something cannot EVER be considered as the WHOLE thing.

A brick can never be considered a building – it can be considered a POSSIBLE future ingredient of a building but nothing more.

However once an initial process has been COMPLETED and another process has been set in motion (as is the case of sex, or the manipulation of DNA to produce a fertilized sex cell with the same genetic package as someone else) you have a situation where another organism has begun the initial phase of it's growth. There is no more "potentially Johnny, Potentially Mary, Potentially Opus or Fred or Mary" – there is "Organism X".

For some reason the logic behind this is very easy to see when considering the check analogy or the rock to jewel analogy SEPARATE from the abortion issue. But when you bring it in to the abortion issue the rationalization engines go in hyper-drive – and the isolation of words out of context begins anew.

Let's revisit the rock to jewel analogy. You've got five rocks in front of you – they all possess the same properties as each other except for one, the one that will become a diamond within a few days.

For people who are pro-abortion to be consistent, they would need to say that ALL five of those stones are morally equivalent.

But if you were to ask any of them which they would value more they would almost certainly say the one that would change into a diamond.

Why is that? It's NOT that that other rock has better POTENTIAL – it is that that special rock IS in fact a diamond in the beginning phases of it's development, and that it's ability to express it's value (in the case of a diamond, being able to cut glass, it's rarity or beauty etc... in the case of a human being – sentience, the ability to communicate etc) will be there if it's allowed to continue it's growth.

Again – what has happened so many times on the OG or even here, is that someone would isolate a word (let's say "value" here) and go off on a tangent completely ignoring the actual statement itself – the message being that determining the value of something SOLELY by the properties it possesses at any exact moment is false and short sighted.

If you have a problem with the analogy, or the thrust of the argument – then tell me why those five rocks should be morally equivalent, or why that post-dated check should be considered the qualitative equivalent of random ink on paper. Or at least try to tell me which qualities conceptually or logically differ between the analogy and the unborn child that will become something that everyone values barring accidents or conscious intervention.

I have no problem with aborting a partially formed human without the ability to suffer if you have a good reason to do so (ie it would cause suffering to you, a person WITH the capacity to suffer to keep the baby). If the fetus does possibly have the ability to suffer then I do have a problem with it.

I have no problem with switching off life support machines for brain dead patients, or of euthanasia of elderly relatives who are in pain and who desire it. It is all to do with a balance of suffering for me. Early stage abortion for good reason is justified to me in the context of weighing suffering.

"after you've gone through the complicated procedure of impregnating a woman with the genetic equivalent of a person who is already alive, that fertilized cell has begun the process of human development and is worthy of protection."

Interesting. So a zygote that is constructed from an egg cell, and a differentiated adult cell nucleus in a laboratory only becomes a human being once it is inserted into a woman's uterus, since only then does it have the potential to become a human being.

"Let's revisit the rock to jewel analogy. You've got five rocks in front of you ? they all possess the same properties as each other except for one, the one that will become a diamond within a few days."

A diamond is simply a transparent crystal of tetrahedrally bonded carbon atoms. For a rock to become a diamond within a few days, it needs to be carbon based, and be subjected to extreme heat and pressure. For example if the rock was run through this diamond press:

http://www.professionaljeweler.com/pjicons/archives/feb00/0200dn3.jpg

Which costs $20,000 a day to operate, then it would be valuable when it came out, but not before it went in. Is that what your trying to tell us Robert, that with out a uterus a zygote is worthless?

"A diamond is simply a transparent crystal of tetrahedrally bonded carbon atoms. For a rock to become a diamond within a few days, it needs to be carbon based, and be subjected to extreme heat and pressure. For example if the rock was run through this diamond press:"

Oh sweet mother of god - please tell me you understand the concept of thought experiment.

This is exactly what I'm talking about when I'm referring to an irrelevant detail being focused on - the purpose of the analogy had nothing to do with a known mineral process - it was an attempt to illustrate the value inherint in an object that goes through well known predictable changes and the arbitrary nature of deciding on that objects value SOLELY by characteristics it can exhibit in this point in time. OK - to make the EXACT same analogy possibly easier.

Imagine you've got five Snazzo's in front of you - all of these Snazzo's have essentially the same properties at this moment however there is ONE snazzo - snazzo number five - that in a few days will possess all the properties of a Dweezlebot. The Dweezlebot is possibly the most valued thing in all of Kizzledom. Would you - as a logically thinking Twerdum choose any of the other four Snazzo's or would you choose the one that would be a Dweezlebot?

If you wuold choose the one that would be a Dweezlebot then you would be deciding the value of smoething on properties that it currently does not exhibit - and hence understanding at that point that the value of an object does not solely rest on the ability to express certain given properties at that exact moment in time.

Now for my luck you'll google Dweezlebot and it would have been a fictional character I've accidentally copied and you'll take me through the life cycle of a dweezlebot.

"Is that what your trying to tell us Robert, that with out a uterus a zygote is worthless? "

Artificial cloning is another entirely different kettle of fish -- and the need to bring about a situation where we'd have a sperm meeting an egg etc outside the womb is so entirely different from what occurs during natural conception that it has no place in this debate. As far as cloning - I'm not sure what I think on that as I haven't considered it long enough.

Robert,

I know what a thought experiment is. Do you know what the Fallacy of Argument by Weak Analogy is?

All of your analogies have been weak because: The properties which give the things in your analogies value, are different from the properties which give human life value. The sense in which human life has value is different than the sense in which these market commodities have value. The creation of more people who did not previously exist does not have the same effects on society as the creation of precious commodities that did not previously exist. The destruction of previously existing people is grievous in a sense that the destruction of previously existing precious commodities is not.

You can use analogies to explain how you feel, but you can't use those analogies to prove anything, unless they are perfect. If you really want to prove something; may I suggest a series of deductive syllogisms.

"The properties which give the things in your analogies value, are different from the properties which give human life value. The sense in which human life has value is different than the sense in which these market commodities have value."

Again - missing the point entirely. You're missing the point for all of those reasons I've explained previously. The analogy is sound because:

1) It's NOT about comparing market value to human life value.

2) It's NOT about properties of human life.

What IS IT ABOUT?

It's about

Something having a value for properties it as of yet does not have. People judge the value of an unborn child based on properties it at that moment does not exhibit - I demonstrated in a very straightforward matter why THIS is a logical fallacy.

To restate the entire discussion in super concise form for you so you get my point...

"Why do you believe the fetus is not worth protecting"?

"Because it doesn't exhibit properties X, Y, and Z"

"So you're judging the moral value of the fetus based on the absense of properties that for you define the value of human life"?

"Yes"

"So you value human life when it possesses these properties but don't value it when it does not"?

"That's correct"

"But in the case of a fetus, they are in a very well known and highly predictable developmental stage whereby barring any major catastrophe - they will exhibit ALL of those things which you value so highly - does this not make them special somehow?"

"Well..."

"And does this possibly question where you draw the line on human life - if you value it in general - because you've simply drawn the line at an earlier developmental stage - but a stage at which the cascades of events which result in something you DO value so highly has already been started."

And this is where the point of the analogy can be drawn - but you're exhibiting that traditional method of just not getting it. I warned, I think, about fifteen times throughout this thread that it's about the LOGICAL fallacy of placing value on an object SOLELY by characteristics it can exhibit at THAT moment in time -- and NOT about equating monetary value with moral value etc etc.

But to either argue for arguments sake, or because you simply fail to see the point -- you continued along lines which I've already said (and have shown) are pointless and irrelevant.

So tell me - pretty please - focusing on this most salient point --

WHY should the VALUE of an object (moral or otherwise) be judged SOLELY on properties it exhibits at one moment in time.

THAT is the question that I've asked a hundred times here - but let me guess... you're going to talk about market fluctuations in China and the geological processes that result in diamonds right?

Chance,

Sorry I didn't see your post earlier.

If your position is guided by the balance of suffering (and even mine is in VERY extreme cases like rape or threat to the mothers life) -- do you believe there is a point pre-birth where the life of the child outweighs the potential suffering of the mother?

What extremes are on your scale in this case? The reason I ask this is that in the vast majority of cases abortion is used as a contraceptive method by irresponsible women who "just don't have time" for a child at the moment.

Hi Robert, yes I believe there is a point where the life of the child outweighs the potential suffering of the mother. For me this is some time between neural tube closure and brain differentiation, so quite early. Once an embryo has a brain and nervous system I'm dubious about abortion except for special reasons. Every case needs weighed on it's merits though and I certainly feel banning the procedure completely would be wrong.

Robert, you're the one missing the point entirely. I understand your arguments, but I also understand why they are wrong. I propose that most fertilized egg cells do not have any value outside of that which their owners assign to them, and I offer you the following explanation of why:

Any sensible decent person would want to see India's population drastically cut as a result of lowering the birth rate. However, not all of those sensible decent people would want to see India's population drastically cut by the random euthanization of adults.

You see we don't value all human life because all people are useful, we value all human life because we accord people rights. We accord people those rights because they posses human attributes. No human attributes, means no rights, and no value.

For this reason, 100 illiterate beggars are valuable. While at the same time, 100 possible future illiterate beggars that could be produced have no value at all. This may seem like a paradox, but it's true. When you understand this, you will understand why the main thrust of your argument is wrong.

It's a moral problem to destroy a human being that already exists. It is not a moral problem to chose not to create a human being that never existed. Does that answer your question, or do you need to know more?

"It's a moral problem to destroy a human being that already exists. It is not a moral problem to chose not to create a human being that never existed. Does that answer your question, or do you need to know more?"

Ah - so you THINK you've understood my analogies, but demonstrate with your entire post that you do not. Interesting.

When you say a moral problem to destroy a human being that already exists - the question is where do you draw the line.

Your assertion that:

"I propose that most fertilized egg cells do not have any value outside of that which their owners assign to them,"

Has already been dealt with in the initial post - read it again if you've missed it - and this has nothing to do with the analogies.

So answer these VERY simple questions in as few words as possible - so you can see YOUR problems correctly framed.

1) Do you believe that the value of something (moral or otherwise) is solely determined by properties that it doesn't possess at that exact moment.

2) At what point would YOU draw the line. I'm assuming you would be against terminating a pregnancy at 3 days before birth (although your statement quoted previously somewhat contradicts this) -- but I'd like to know at what stage you would consider the fetus morally valuable enough to protect regardless of whether or not the mother values it.

Before going on about how much you understand what the analogies meant - answer those questions directly and unambiguously.

1) It depends

2) No idea, it's a huge grey area.

Sorry, I can't say more, but I've never heard any convincing answer for exactly what should and should not be allowed. There are areas of applied ethics that have very black and white answers. This is not one of them.

So what you're essentially doing is throwing your arms up in the air saying "I don't know" about whether or not something can be considered murder.

All the while deciding with your position that it's better to err on the side of whatever the mother wants - ie: Screw it... can't define it so just let her terminate the pregnancy whenever she wants?

Nope, I didn't take a definitive position. I simply stated that you didn't prove your case, and then explained why.

The problem is that you were never actually referring to my position - you were referring to irrelevant details like the geological processes to create a diamond.

When I tried to isolate where you were going wrong by asking distinct questions - you refused to answer.

If you're going to claim any understanding of my arguments - then you'll need to answer those questions unambiguously because THAT is what they directly relate to. I've explained this a dozen times before and illustrated it as clearly as I could -- but it only seems possible for you to understand if I can pin you down to a claim.

All you've done is say "you can't compare the two because of (fill in irrelevant detail concerning the nature of diamonds or how banks literally cash checks here)" and left it at that. I've told you CLEARLY why those details are irrelevant, and when I tried to direct you in a position to understand it (by asking those aforementioned questions) you simply refuse to answer.

I told you exactly where I was going, and I answered your questions honestly. What I refused to give you was a position that you could attack. I don't have a position on this issue, and even if I did, effectively attacking that position would not make your previous argument valid.

You're correct that I never referred to your position. I merely critiqued your argument. I could agree with your position, and still think that your argument is invalid. Consider this example of a faulty argument:

"Take the fraction 16/64. Now, canceling a six on top and a six on the bottom, we get that 16/64 = 1/4."

"Wait a second! You can't just cancel the six!"

"Oh, so you're telling us 16/64 is not equal to 1/4, are you?"

Even if 16/64 = 1/4, the argument above is still wrong. Even if it is morally wrong to abort a single celled zygote, your argument is still wrong.

It's not morally wrong to some people. What is obvious is that different people reach different conclusions.

"You're correct that I never referred to your position. I merely critiqued your argument. I could agree with your position, and still think that your argument is invalid. Consider this example of a faulty argument:"

The point is - is that you WEREN'T critiquing the argument.

The point of the argument was to show how we can rationalize away value once it involves a great deal of responsibility and that something can possess value (moral or otherwise) for specific characteristics it may not yet possess.

What actually happened in our exchange was that you focused on irrelevant details. I told you clearly why those details are entirely irrelevant and you ignored it.