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> When does "life" begin?, ...and why does it matter?
turnea
post Jun 10 2005, 04:52 PM
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In an effort not to drive an interesting thread off topic I would like to take up this debate here.
QUOTE(turnea)
Any competent biologist could tell you that the life (in the scientific sense) of a sexually-reproducing organism (usually, biology can be pretty strange at times) begins at conception.

In fact the way some on the left continue to refer to fetus as "potential life" is anti-rational at it's heart.


QUOTE(ampersand)
A similar thing happens in the abortion debate about "when life begins." When pro-choicers say "life," they're not referring to biological life, but to what might more technically be called "personhood"; the state of being a person entitled to civil rights, which is different from the state of merely being biologically alive.

Pro-lifers, on the other hand, tend to use "life" to mean "biological life." This allows them to mistakenly claim, as Turnea did, that "the way some on the left continue to refer to fetus as 'potential life' is anti-rational at it's heart." It's only anti-rationalist if we falsely pretend that pro-choicers are using "life" to refer to literal biological life, which they are not.

My response would be a simple, say what you mean because the life of an organism is a scientific concept but let's try and get a handle on this further.

QUOTE(Cephus)
No, any competent biologist would tell you that life is an unbroken chain going back billions of years. The sperm is alive, the egg is alive, yadda yadda. Now if you want to talk about something that is genetically human, then certainly that happens at the point of conception. Life, however, happened a long, long time ago.

So then...

When does the life of a human being begin? At conception? At birth? Somewhere in between?

Is reference to zygote/fetus as "potential life" misleading?

If so do you think think is purposeful on the part of "pro-choice" spokespeople?

Does this terminology have an anti-rational effect on the abortion debate?


Edited to Add: Notice this is not a free-for-all abortion debate, I am fully aware that the question of abortion is not settled within the parameters laid out for this debate.
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Erasmussimo
post Jun 10 2005, 05:28 PM
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When does the life of a human being begin? At conception? At birth? Somewhere in between?
I'll take a stab at this with an answer that will leave most people frustrated. At the instant of conception, the "human being lifeness" of the fertilized egg is exactly zero. At the moment of birth, the "human being lifeness" of the newborn is exactly 100%. During the intervening period, the "human being lifeness" of the blastosphere/zygote/fetus shows secular (not necessarily linear) increase. It is arguable that it reaches 100% at the moment that the fetus is viable outside the womb. Indeed, I rather like an approach based on "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny".

Is reference to zygote/fetus as "potential life" misleading?
No, it's absolutely correct. However, it's not so useful a term for the purposes of the debate. Potential remains a far cry from actuality.

If so do you think think is purposeful on the part of "pro-choice" spokespeople?
Well, everybody likes to spin the truth. I don't hold it against them.

Does this terminology have an anti-rational effect on the abortion debate?
I don't think it has an anti-rational effect on the abortion debate. I think it is less illuminating than my "degree of human being lifeness" concept, but it's probably more useful than arguing about when the fertilized egg/blastosphere/zygote/fetus develops a soul.
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turnea
post Jun 10 2005, 05:36 PM
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QUOTE(Erasmussimo @ Jun 10 2005, 12:28 PM)

When does the life of a human being begin? At conception? At birth? Somewhere in between?
I'll take a stab at this with an answer that will leave most people frustrated. At the instant of conception, the "human being lifeness" of the fertilized egg is exactly zero. At the moment of birth, the "human being lifeness" of the newborn is exactly 100%. During the intervening period, the "human being lifeness" of the blastosphere/zygote/fetus shows secular (not necessarily linear) increase. It is arguable that it reaches 100% at the moment that the fetus is viable outside the womb. Indeed, I rather like an approach based on "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny".
*


Okay, but from where does this scale of "human being lifeness" gain its credibility?

In the scientific sense the criteria for life.

1.Metabolism (converting energy to a usable form)
2. Responding to stimuli.
3. Cellular Structure.
4. Grow at some point in the organism's development.

The criteria for being a human being is simply being a member of the species Homo sapiens which zygote, from the moment of conception is.

I don't think this is a subjective matter at all...
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Vermillion
post Jun 10 2005, 05:47 PM
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QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 05:36 PM)
1.Metabolism (converting energy to a usable form)
2. Responding to stimuli.
3. Cellular Structure.
4. Grow at some point in the organism's development.

The criteria for being a human being is simply being a member of the species Homo sapiens which zygote, from the moment of conception is.


I disagree. Yes of course there is in the strictest sense 'life' from the moment of conception, then again there is 'life' in fresh yoghurt.

When is it a person? Well, this can be, has been and certainly will be again, debated ad nausium here and in countless other places.

However, in my personal opinion, no a zygote is not a homo-sapien any more than a skin cell is homosapien. Both contain human DNA, but that does not a human make. A zygote is a potential human, which a skin cell is not (cloning aside) so the best we can refer to it as is a potential human.

When does it become human? I will tell you flat out, I have no idea. If I had to take a guess, I would say when it has the capacity to survive on its own outside the womb. If it cannot do that, then it is still a potential human.
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lordhelmet
post Jun 10 2005, 05:50 PM
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QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 12:52 PM)


So then... 
 
When does the life of a human being begin? At conception? At birth? Somewhere in between? 
 
Is reference to zygote/fetus as "potential life" misleading? 
 
If so do you think think is purposeful on the part of "pro-choice" spokespeople? 
 
Does this terminology have an anti-rational effect on the abortion debate?


Edited to Add: Notice this is not a free-for-all abortion debate, I am fully aware that the question of abortion is not settled within the parameters laid out for this debate.
*



When does life begin? Well, it never ended. The cells that create the human were alive and so was the result of the joining of the sperm and the egg.

A fetus is alive. Referring to it as "potential life" is not only misleading, it's scientifically incorrect.

All the terminology within the abortion debate is designed with politics in mind. Both sides do this. However, the press is biased (in general) by adopting much of the "pro choice" rhetoric as the middle ground of the debate.

The point of the abortion debate IMHO is not "when life begins" but rather "is it ethical to kill one's fetus and if so, up to what point?".

Some people think that killing a fetus that is less developed than a brook trout is ethically wrong. Those people tend to fill the "pro life" side. I personally don't agree with them.

Others think that it's a "woman's right" to kill their fully developed fetus up to the moment it leaves the woman's body. A fetus that nearly everyone would conclude was a human "baby" if it were delivered via C-section at that moment in time. Those people represent the NARAL, NOW, and the majority of the democrat party including the former president and first lady.

I think that the ethical position is far closer to the "pro life" side rather than the extremist, and unethical position held by the majority of the democrats today. I think that abortion should be legal and is ethical up to the point where the fetus has developed into something that we decide, via our democratic process, represents a "human life". It's not a black and white point in time, and it's a tricky case, but it's something we need to decide as an issue. That point would likely be found somewhere in the first trimester by most reasonable people.

Unfortunately, our left-wing activist judiciary has short-circuited that critical discussion/debate and our democratic process and invented a "right" to unlimited abortion on demand in the fine print (so fine that it's invisible) of the 14th amendment to the US constitution. But, that's another thread I think....

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turnea
post Jun 10 2005, 06:03 PM
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QUOTE(Vermillion @ Jun 10 2005, 12:47 PM)
However, in my personal opinion, no a zygote is not a homo-sapien any more than a skin cell is homosapien. Both contain human DNA, but that does not a human make. A zygote is a potential human, which a skin cell is not (cloning aside) so the best we can refer to it as is a potential human.

When does it become human? I will tell you flat out, I have no idea. If I had to take a guess, I would say when it has the capacity to survive on its own outside the womb. If it cannot do that, then it is still a potential human.
*


Again, I really don't think this is a matter of personal opinion as I do believe scientists have definition to the concept of being a a member of a species.

There is, of course, substantial difference between a zygote and a skin cell in that a zygote is a distinct organism whereas a skin cell, as lone differentiate tissue matter, is merely a piece of the whole organism.

The fact that human development takes place largely within the womb does not change the fact that it is in large part (I know there are differences but bear with me), analogous to the development of amphibians and other vertebrates.

A tadpole is a member of Rana catesbeiana as much as the bullfrog we would be more likely to recognize certainly.

The same goes for every jellied egg in the frog pond.

Human beings have adapted to have this portion of development take place within the womb something marsupials have not quite managed and monotremes are even close to.

That doesn't change the basic nature of the process, an organism in development is still a member of it's species.

This post has been edited by turnea: Jun 11 2005, 01:05 AM
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Vermillion
post Jun 10 2005, 06:05 PM
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QUOTE(lordhelmet @ Jun 10 2005, 05:50 PM)

Others think that it's a "woman's right" to kill their fully developed fetus up to the moment it leaves the woman's body.  A fetus that nearly everyone would conclude was a human "baby" if it were delivered via C-section at that moment in time.  Those people represent the NARAL, NOW, and the majority of the democrat party including the former president and first lady.


You were doing so well. Was it not possible to make a coherent point without throwing this silly, invented political blather into the debate? Your opinion was interesting, these invented facts are just wrong.

Bill and Hilary Clinton support Roe vs. wade, which makes abortions legal, and makes no differentiation in terms of date, so also technically makes late term abortions legal. That has been the rallying cry of the far right to try and portray them as 'baby-killers'. In fact Hilary clinton does not like abortion, refers to it constantly as a tragic decision in the life of a young woman, and campaigns tirelessly to reduce the need for abortion. That is why abortion rates in the US dropped sharply during the Clinton presidency, and are rising sharply during the Bush Jr presidency, a practical result of Bush Jr's silly 'abstinance only' programs.

Now then, I am happy to drop this, can we maybe get back to debating the question without the invented and uncessary political slander?

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Erasmussimo
post Jun 10 2005, 06:08 PM
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QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 10:36 AM)
In the scientific sense the criteria for life.

1.Metabolism (converting energy to a usable form)
2. Responding to stimuli.
3. Cellular Structure.
4. Grow at some point in the organism's development.

The criteria for being a human being is simply being a member of the species Homo sapiens which zygote, from the moment of conception is.

I agree, your four criteria for life are good ones. There's no question in my mind that the object in the woman's womb is alive. However, I do distinguish between "life" and "human life". Your distinction here is the presence of human DNA. As Vermillion points out, your definition includes a skin cell as "human life". More to the point, its applicability to the larger abortion debate would make killing a skin cell as significant an act as killing a fertilized egg. Surely you do not take that position?

Do you disagree with my claim that a blastosphere is less human than a human being?
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lordhelmet
post Jun 10 2005, 06:15 PM
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QUOTE(Vermillion @ Jun 10 2005, 02:05 PM)

QUOTE(lordhelmet @ Jun 10 2005, 05:50 PM)

Others think that it's a "woman's right" to kill their fully developed fetus up to the moment it leaves the woman's body.  A fetus that nearly everyone would conclude was a human "baby" if it were delivered via C-section at that moment in time.  Those people represent the NARAL, NOW, and the majority of the democrat party including the former president and first lady. 


You were doing so well. Was it not possible to make a coherent point without throwing this silly, invented political blather into the debate? Your opinion was interesting, these invented facts are just wrong.

Bill and Hilary Clinton support Roe vs. wade, which makes abortions legal, and makes no differentiation in terms of date, so also technically makes late term abortions legal. That has been the rallying cry of the far right to try and portray them as 'baby-killers'. In fact Hilary clinton does not like abortion, refers to it constantly as a tragic decision in the life of a young woman, and campaigns tirelessly to reduce the need for abortion. That is why abortion rates in the US dropped sharply during the Clinton presidency, and are rising sharply during the Bush Jr presidency, a practical result of Bush Jr's silly 'abstinance only' programs.

Now then, I am happy to drop this, can we maybe get back to debating the question without the invented and uncessary political slander?
*



Bill Clinton, as president of the United States vetoed, multiple times, legislation that would have prevented late term (partial birth) abortions. That is a fact, not my rhetoric and it's certainly not "slander". He could hide behind any excuse that he wanted but he signed on the dotted line to show exactly where he stood.

My point was extremely coherent and HISTORICALLY ACCURATE. With respect to the former first lady, I'm frankly not interested in what Hillary Clinton "says" about abortion, I'm more interested in what she, and NARAL, and NOW "do" about it. The extremist abortion crowd stay silent while Hillary attempts to "move to the right" in order to help her chances for the presidency because they know where she'll be when the chips are down.

These extremists are opposed to ANY restrictions on abortion including the prohibition on late term abortions and EVEN the notification of parents when teenage children attempt to obtain one.

Don't lecture me about what those people believe. It's their actions that speak for themselves. They are radical, extremists, and they have tried to subvert the overdue debate on ethics of abortion ever since Roe V. Wade. That's why EVERY nominee for the democrat nomination MUST pass the litmus test that they would reject ANY justice who would not reaffirm that decision that short-circuited our democratic process.

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turnea
post Jun 10 2005, 06:18 PM
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QUOTE(Euramussimo)
However, I do distinguish between "life" and "human life". Your distinction here is the presence of human DNA. As Vermillion points out, your definition includes a skin cell as "human life". More to the point, its applicability to the larger abortion debate would make killing a skin cell as significant an act as killing a fertilized egg. Surely you do not take that position?

As I said to Vermillion the key difference here is the difference between a portion of an organism (a skin cell is a piece of differentiated tissue from a whole organism) and a whole organism.

Fully developed a zygote is not, but it is certainly an organism in and of itself.
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Sleeper
post Jun 10 2005, 06:20 PM
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Right now my wife is a little over 8 months pregnant. The 'fetus" inside her weighs 7lbs, 1 oz and we were told that actually 3 weeks back when she was 6lbs6oz that if she were to be born early everything would be fine. Meaning she could easily survive out of the womb if born early from that point forward. Would any of you say that my child is not a human being at this point?
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Vermillion
post Jun 10 2005, 06:25 PM
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QUOTE(lordhelmet @ Jun 10 2005, 06:15 PM)
Don't lecture me about what those people believe.  It's their actions that speak for themselves.  They are radical, extremists, and they have tried to subvert the overdue debate on ethics of abortion ever since Roe V. Wade. That's why EVERY nominee for the democrat nomination MUST pass the litmus test that they would reject ANY justice who would not reaffirm that decision that short-circuited our democratic process.


Actually, if you read carefully, I was lecturing you on your seeming inability to be involved in a debate without trying to score cheap insulting political points which are entirely and completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I will just say, I am very amused by this recent contention among the far-right republicans that law should somehow bend entirely to democratic will.

I wonder if they would think the same if 'democratic will' went against far-right republican values? Would they be so quick to defend it if 51% of the population of the US favoured Gun registration or control?


I don't want to derail this debate, or shall I say, further contribute to your derailing it, so I shall leave it at that.

QUOTE(sleeper)
Right now my wife is a little over 8 months pregnant. The 'fetus" inside her weighs 7lbs, 1 oz and we were told that actually 3 weeks back when she was 6lbs6oz that if she were to be born early everything would be fine. Meaning she could easily survive out of the womb if born early from that point forward. Would any of you say that my child is not a human being at this point?


No, I would agree that at the point at which a foetus could survive outside the womb, it could be considered human. That, by the way, is why most countries (Canada, UK and Europe) allow abortions but only allow abortions that late on very valid medical grounds.

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Amlord
post Jun 10 2005, 06:27 PM
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Let's keep focused on the actual Topic for Debate:

When does the life of a human being begin? At conception? At birth? Somewhere in between?

Is reference to zygote/fetus as "potential life" misleading?

If so do you think think is purposeful on the part of "pro-choice" spokespeople?

Does this terminology have an anti-rational effect on the abortion debate?


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Erasmussimo
post Jun 10 2005, 06:33 PM
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QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 11:18 AM)
As I said to Vermillion the key difference here is the difference between a portion of an organism (a skin cell is a piece of differentiated tissue from a whole organism) and a whole organism.

Good point. OK, so we modify your original definition with the additional requirement that the item in question must not be a portion of a larger organism. Works for me -- but we still haven't achieved agreement on the human part of all this. As you observe:

QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 11:18 AM)
Fully developed a zygote is not, but it is certainly an organism in and of itself.

So we really get down to the question of whether an incompletely developed human life is to be regarded in the same fashion as a completely developed human life. And here is where values, not science, takes over. There is an undeniable difference between an unviable fetus and a baby: the fetus cannot survive outside the womb. Does this difference constitute objective proof that the fetus is not human? No. We simply cannot produce a purely objective definition that either accepts or rejects viability as a defining human characteristic of an organism. At this point, we slip into the gray area of personal opinion.
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turnea
post Jun 10 2005, 06:57 PM
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QUOTE(Erasmussimo @ Jun 10 2005, 01:33 PM)

So we really get down to the question of whether an incompletely developed human life is to be regarded in the same fashion as a completely developed human life. And here is where values, not science, takes over. There is an undeniable difference between an unviable fetus and a baby: the fetus cannot survive outside the womb. Does this difference constitute objective proof that the fetus is not human? No. We simply cannot produce a purely objective definition that either accepts or rejects viability as a defining human characteristic of an organism. At this point, we slip into the gray area of personal opinion.
*


Not if we are mater-of-fact about the nature of development. As sentient beings, we are prone to romanticize the "miracle" of birth, but the analogues in the rest of the animal kingdom are quite clear.

To wit, a human is not fully developed until they reach sexual maturity. The same is true of all mammals which is why a mule isn't technically a member of any species but a hybrid of two separate species.

That does not mean a pre-pubescent child is not a member of our species.

Development happens to a homo sapien, it doesn't turn something into a homo sapien.

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Erasmussimo
post Jun 10 2005, 07:37 PM
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QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 11:57 AM)
To wit, a human is not fully  developed until they reach sexual maturity...
That does not mean a pre-pubescent child is not a member of our species.

And what do we mean by "fully developed"? There are millions of sexually mature youngsters in this country to whom we do not grant the full rights an adult enjoys. They can't drink alcohol, drive cars, or vote. Our legal system obviously does not consider them "fully developed". The Constitution does not permit a person to be President unless he exceeds the age of 35; does that mean that 30-year olds are not "fully developed"? This is a ferociously tricky question.

Let me make it even messier. Most comparative anatomists agree that the human baby is kicked out of the womb prematurely; by comparison with most other species, we shouldn't leave the womb until after at least 18 months of pregnancy. A newborn baby is medically viable, but hardly viable in the context of the hunter-gatherer environment in which our ancestors grew up. I'm not suggesting that infanticide is just as ethically correct as abortion; I'm just pointing out how messy these considerations can become.
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turnea
post Jun 10 2005, 07:51 PM
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QUOTE(Erasmussimo @ Jun 10 2005, 02:37 PM)
And what do we mean by "fully developed"? There are millions of sexually mature youngsters in this country to whom we do not grant the full rights an adult enjoys. They can't drink alcohol, drive cars, or vote. Our legal system obviously does not consider them "fully developed". The Constitution does not permit a person to be President unless he exceeds the age of 35; does that mean that 30-year olds are not "fully developed"? This is a ferociously tricky question.

Fully developed in the biological sense, a member of the species able to do what a member of a species does... procreate. whistling.gif

As funny as it may sound modern science is pretty sure this is the essence of life, self-replicating DNA.

Now I have the theme from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" playing in my head. I hope you're all happy... laugh.gif

That is the definition of a species in biology, a class of organisms that can reproduce viably.

Unless an organism reaches this point somewhere is development it not a member of an animal species.

That does not mean that a developing animal (human) that has not yet reached this point is not a member.

QUOTE(Euramussimo)

Let me make it even messier. Most comparative anatomists agree that the human baby is kicked out of the womb prematurely; by comparison with most other species, we shouldn't leave the womb until after at least 18 months of pregnancy. A newborn baby is medically viable, but hardly viable in the context of the hunter-gatherer environment in which our ancestors grew up. I'm not suggesting that infanticide is just as ethically correct as abortion; I'm just pointing out how messy these considerations can become.
*


This is the sort of argument that experts like to have, but human beings are not the only animals whose young are not fully fit at birth.

A baby impala can run like the wind first day out of the womb, a baby kangaroo barely has to fortitude to crawl into it's mother's pouch. A newborn echidna is egg-bound.

I don't think it get's any clear than I put it earlier.

Development happens to a member of a species, it does not turn a "thing" into a member of a species.

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post Jun 10 2005, 08:01 PM
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When does the life of a human being begin? At conception? At birth? Somewhere in between?

A fetus becomes a child when the woman in whose body it resides determines that she wants it to be one. Equally an embryo is merely a little bag of cells until it is planted in the body of a woman who wants it to become her child. To create a human being is in principle an act of will. A tawdry act of indiscretion after drinking too much at an office party; being raped by one's father; forgetting to take one's birth control pill; all may create a fetus, but only the decision of the woman bearing it makes it a human being. This simple principle is not often stated by abortion rights advocates, but I think that almost all of them implicitly believe it. It should be stated explicitly and often, because it is the only morally consistent contradiction of the alternative.

The alternative is that every act of sex, even incestuous rape, is capable of producing a human being which the woman bearing it must accept as her child at least until birth and through nursing. Equally every laboratory embryo is a sacred object for which a mother should be found. The purpose of this ideology is not to honor life but to control the sexual lives of women, and their lives even beyond the sexual by dooming them to unwanted and unnecessary motherhood. That this tramples upon medical science along the way is of small concern to its advocates.

Is reference to zygote/fetus as "potential life" misleading?

I don't think that it is called a "potential life" so much as a "potential child."

I am sure that the distinction is confusing to those who insist that every fertilized egg is a precious, precious "baby" -- notwithstanding that for a considerable time, it will be palpably indisdinguishable from a pig or a walrus after a similar period of gestation. But it should not be misleading to those who understand that the creation of a human child is always an act of will.

If so do you think think is purposeful on the part of "pro-choice" spokespeople?

I think it is highly principled and, of course, purpose follows principle.

Does this terminology have an anti-rational effect on the abortion debate?

On the contrary, it is highly rational to maintain consistency with a clearly enunciated principle. The distinction between a fetus and a child is fundamental to the debate between those who believe that children are of human origin and those who believe that their origin is divine; or if you like, between those who believe that all children should be wanted and those who believe that children should happen by accident and even if unwanted.

This post has been edited by Vladimir: Jun 10 2005, 08:12 PM
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turnea
post Jun 10 2005, 08:11 PM
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QUOTE(Vladimir @ Jun 10 2005, 03:01 PM)

When does the life of a human being begin? At conception? At birth? Somewhere in between?

A fetus becomes a child when the woman in whose body it resides determines that she wants it to be one.  Equally an embryo is merely a little bag of cells until it is planted in the body of a woman who wants it to become her child.  To create a human being is in principle an act of will.  A tawdry act of indiscretion after drinking too much at an office party; being raped by one's father; forgetting to take one's birth control pill; all may create a fetus, but only the decision of the woman bearing it makes it a human being.  This simple principle is not often stated by abortion rights advocates, but I think that almost all of them implicitly believe it.  It should be stated explicitly and often, because it is the only morally consistent contradiction of the alternative.

Consistency and accuracy are two, quite different concepts.

That is what I meant by the human tendency to romanticize human reproduction.

If modern science is to be believed we are animals.

Our basic reproductive process is not different form the process of other mammals.

Choice has nothing to do with it, we can't decide what's a member of our species and what isn't based upon a whim.

At least we can't with any accuracy.

QUOTE(Vladmir)
The alternative is that every act of sex, even incestuous rape, is capable of producing a human being which the woman bearing it must accept as her child at least until birth and through nursing.  Equally every laboratory embryo is a sacred object for which a mother should be found.

The presence of a life and the value a life are two distinct concepts. One is an objective fact, the other a subjective judgment.

A fetus is certainly a living human being but it is a subjective call as to whether that human life deserves legal protection.

Such a call is beyond the parameters of this debate.
QUOTE(Vladmir)
I don't think that it is called a "potential life" so much as a "potential child." 
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I hear the quote "potential life" far more often than "potential child". The former is indeed the catchphrase in the abortion debate.

This post has been edited by turnea: Jun 11 2005, 01:09 AM
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Vladimir
post Jun 10 2005, 08:37 PM
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QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 03:11 PM)

Consistency and accuracy are two, quite different concepts.

The is what I meant by the human tendency to romanticize human reproduction.

If modern science is to be believed we are animals.

Our basic reproductive process is not different form the process of other mammals.

Choice has nothing to do with it, we can't decide what's a member of our species and what isn't based upon a whim.

At least we can't with any accuracy.


I think that the mere quesition of whether a fetus is correctly termed a "living human being" is not a particularly interesting one, if it does not imply anything about how this living human being should be treated. However my own view on this subject is that an early fetus is "living" in the same sense that the liver of the woman bearing it is living; it is "human" in the sense that it is human tissue; but it is not a "human being" since, if expelled from her body, would stand no more chance of life than her expelled liver would. Nor would I, or I think many others, regard fertilized embryos as "human beings," though everyone would agree that they consist of human tissue and could potentially become children.

I am not sure in any case that the term "human being," since it strongly connotes personhood, can be applied as a matter of fact and not of value.

There is no dispute concerning the DNA of which a fetus is composed; or much dispute on the degree of viability of fetuses of given age outside the womb. The entire dispute is whether every fetus is a child. That's why abortion supporters call abortion "baby killing."

We are animals, of course, and I would say just the same thing about chicken embryos being chickens or whale embryos being whales.

But ultimately, the question of which terms shall be applied is vacuous. The key question is, when does a fetus become a child? And I have given my answer to that. We are animals, but unlike the other animals, we produce our offspring by act of will.
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