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turnea
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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
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.
turnea
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...
Vermillion
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.
lordhelmet
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....
turnea
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.
Vermillion
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?

Erasmussimo
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?
lordhelmet
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.
turnea
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
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?
Vermillion
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.
Amlord
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?


Erasmussimo
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.
turnea
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.
Erasmussimo
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.
turnea
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.
Vladimir
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.
turnea
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." 
*


I hear the quote "potential life" far more often than "potential child". The former is indeed the catchphrase in the abortion debate.
Vladimir
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.
Erasmussimo
OK, so you're saying that the state of being partially developed does not deny an organism status as a human being. This suggests that the degree of development is irrelevant to the status as human. Hence a freshly-fertilized egg is just as much a person (for the purposes of this discussion) as a healthy adult.

All I can say is, I disagree. I believe that a freshly-fertilized egg has zero intrinsic "humanness". Sure, it has the potential to develop into a human, but at that point, it is so limited in its capabilities that I do not perceive it to be human.

I will not claim my perception to be objectively provable. I wish that there were some objectively provable criterion. But let me point out that my shades-of-grey approach is much more conformable than the black-and-white approach everybody seems to prefer. It should be possible to arrive at some objectively reasonable formula for "humanness" for a fetus at various stages in its development. We could then agree on a number to pick for permitting abortion. The fetus must be of development less than X%. Of course, we do this (to some degree) using the calendar: trimesters and such. What if we formalized this with a schedule permitting abortion at specified times under specified conditions?
Hobbes
QUOTE(Vladimir @ Jun 10 2005, 02:37 PM)
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.


Vladimir,

If this is the criteria, then why is it that we universally seem to regard the born infant as a human being, when it also has no chance whatsoever to survive on its own? The newborn doesn't even breathe on its own, until some action is taken on it...yet everyone would probably agree that it is a human being. It certainly can't feed itself for quite some time, also precluding life.

I guess the fundamental question here is 'What makes one a human being?' Certainly the criteria proposed by Turnea provides one definition. The issue then seems to be at what point is it really 'alive'. As shown above, being born certainly doesn't seem to be the case (it can't support itself either before or after that event). It doesn't seem to be the stage of development...we classify other organisms that are in the same stage of development as a human fetus as being a living member of that species (consider marsupials). I don't think this is really a scientific argument at all...it is more a political/religious/legal argument. I don't think the same discussion would be taking place if the topic were when is a marsupial infant a marsupial....scientifically, that is the same discussion, but it is lacking the political/religious/legal components.
turnea
QUOTE(Erasmussimo @ Jun 10 2005, 03:37 PM)

OK, so you're saying that the state of being partially developed does not deny an organism status as a human being. This suggests that the degree of development is irrelevant to the status as human. Hence a freshly-fertilized egg is just as much a person (for the purposes of this discussion) as a healthy adult. 

All I can say is, I disagree. I believe that a freshly-fertilized egg has zero intrinsic "humanness". Sure, it has the potential to develop into a human, but at that point, it is so limited in its capabilities that I do not perceive it to be human.

I will not claim my perception to be objectively provable. I wish that there were some objectively provable criterion. But let me point out that my shades-of-grey approach is much more conformable than the black-and-white approach everybody seems to prefer. It should be possible to arrive at some objectively reasonable formula for "humanness" for a fetus at various stages in its development. We could then agree on a number to pick for permitting abortion. The fetus must be of development less than X%. Of course, we do this (to some degree) using the calendar: trimesters and such. What if we formalized this with a schedule permitting abortion at specified times under specified conditions?
*



I will admit the distinctions we make here are difficult, but I will adhere to the basic point that "humaness" is not a subjective status.
QUOTE(Dictionary.com)
   
human
1. A member of the genus Homo and especially of the species H. sapiens.
 
2. A person: the extraordinary humans who explored Antarctica.

The fertilized egg (the precise term is zygote) because it adheres to the definition is in fact a human being.

I feel that denying said fact may well have an anti-rational basis, though I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a conscious effort.

To dispose of the misnomer 'potential life" damages the emotional quality of the pro-choice argument. The colloquial use of the term "human being" is value laden in our culture. Therefore in the face of clearly contradictory facts the term continues to be repeated.

Like I said in the opening post there is still the question of whether a fetal human being deserves legal protection. One that is inherently subjective. This does not settle the abortion debate.

..but the use of, oft-repeated incorrect terminology certainly doesn't help.
Erasmussimo
QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 02:28 PM)
QUOTE(Dictionary.com)
   
human
1. A member of the genus Homo and especially of the species H. sapiens.
  
2. A person: the extraordinary humans who explored Antarctica.

The fertilized egg (the precise term is zygote) because it adheres to the definition is in fact a human being.

You jump from a dictionary definition that does not show anything to support your claim that a zygote is a human, and then make your claim. I'm not going to hold the dictionary definition against you, as dictionaries are not written to determine difficult philosophical questions. What I will observe is that we already have good terms to use that precisely describe the object in question: zygote, blastosphere, fetus. Instead of trying to stretch one definition to fit these, why not simply use these?

QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 02:28 PM)
I feel that denying said fact may well have an anti-rational basis, though I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a conscious effort.

To dispose of the misnomer 'potential life" damages the emotional quality of the pro-choice argument. The colloquial use of the term "human being" is value laden in our culture. Therefore in the face of clearly contradictory facts the term continues to be repeated.

I agree that the term "potential life" is spin. I think that the use of any term other than the precise terms is misleading. So why don't we just stick with terminology that we all agree is correct: zygote, blastosphere, and fetus?
Aquilla
I am somewhat confused by this thread and the parameters set for it. Turnea's note at the end of it.....

QUOTE
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.



causes me to think this is simply an exercise in discussing biological development and not what I would consider to be human life. But, there are some things here I'd like to address.



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

Somewhere in between. Exactly where I don't know.


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

No, not at all. It is a factual characterization when discussing human life. This is reflected by my nebulous answer to the first question.


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

I am generally what would be considered to be a "pro-life" person and it's a term I use and one I'm comfortable with. The term is used in the abortion debate because that's the term the Supreme Court used repeatedly in the Roe V. Wade decision.


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

"Anti-rational".... hmmm.gif This seems to be the latest codeword around here used to minimalize the validity of religious beliefs. And, like it or not, religious beliefs have a place in the abortion debate. The Supreme Court acknowledged this in Roe v. Wade when they wrote the following.....

QUOTE
We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires. One's philosophy, one's experiences, one's exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one's religious training, one's attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one's thinking and conclusions about abortion.




If one wishes to exclude religious beliefs and concepts from the abortion debate, then quite frankly one doesn't have an abortion debate. Not a useful one at least.
turnea
QUOTE(Erasmussimo @ Jun 10 2005, 05:07 PM)
 
You jump from a dictionary definition that does not show anything to support your claim that a zygote is a human, and then make your claim. I'm not going to hold the dictionary definition against you, as dictionaries are not written to determine difficult philosophical questions. What I will observe is that we already have good terms to use that precisely describe the object in question: zygote, blastosphere, fetus. Instead of trying to stretch one definition to fit these, why not simply use these?

The immediate answer would be that an object can be accurately described by more than one term. Different aspects of the same object.

A zygote is both a human being and a zygote. Just as an infant is both human being and infant.

As to the relevance of the dictionary definition it was merely to next logical step after determining that the zygote is indeed a member of the species homo sapiens such a member is a "human."

I considered this point settled, correct me if I'm wrong of course.
QUOTE(Eurassmussio)
 
I agree that the term "potential life" is spin. I think that the use of any term other than the precise terms is misleading. So why don't we just stick with terminology that we all agree is correct: zygote, blastosphere, and fetus? 
*
 


..an interesting point, 'human being" is certainly a polarizing term. I would have no problem with careful neutrality towards the use of any accurate terminology.

My quarrel is with the use of inaccurate terminally.

Several well-educated people on this board have actually had to ask whether a fetus is a human being. It think that the "potential life" spin has had a great detrimental effect on the abortion debate.

The argument is fine, but don't let it be based on disinformation.
Erasmussimo
QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 05:40 PM)
The immediate answer would be that an object can be accurately described by more than one term. Different aspects of the same object. 
 
A zygote is both a human being and a zygote. Just as an infant is both human being and infant. 
 
As to the relevance of the dictionary definition it was merely to next logical step after determining that the zygote is indeed a member of the species homo sapiens such a member is a "human." 
 
I considered this point settled, correct me if I'm wrong of course. 

I'm still in disagreement here. For example, I would not say that a zygote is a human being. I would term it a "zygote of the species homo sapiens".

Our problem here is that the term "human being" is not a technical term, so it's impossible to apply technical considerations to its use. I'm happy talking about a "zygote of the species homo sapiens" or "fetus of the species homo sapiens" or "newborn of the species homo sapiens" or "adult of the species homo sapiens". But starting with an imprecisely defined term such as "human being" and then stretching it to include a zygote -- and THEN declaring that stretch to be objectively reliable -- that doesn't work for me.

QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 05:40 PM)
Several well-educated people on this board have actually had to ask whether a fetus is a human being. It think that the "potential life" spin has had a great detrimental effect on the abortion debate.

I think that their question is a reasonable one, for which there is no definitive answer. But again, I agree that anything less than the technical terminology is certain to introduce prejudicial connotations into the discussion.
droop224
God, I just wrote a whole essay and it disappeared when I hit spell check.

It's too late for me to write anything but the ending, so here I go, short and sweet.

Turnea

I noticed you interchange human and human being.

there is a distinct difference between something being human and something being a human. When some one uses the term a human they are referring to a human being. Being is the word that we need an operational definition for.

Is your heart human?? Yes, I think so
Is your heart a human being?? I'll let you answer.

You readily call a zygote or a fetus a human being without establishing what it takes to be a being. Is a tree or a blade of grass a being?? If not, why not... what do they lack. Myself I tend to believe that something must be sentient to be a being,

You merely make a leap that by proving something is human you have proven that it is a human being, as well. I do not believe this to be logical. Allow me to demonstrate.

Human skin cells are living
Human zygotes are living

Human skin cells are Human.
Human zygotes are Human.

Human skin cells are not Human beings... yet you say
Human zygotes are Human beings.

What gives the zygote the right to be classified as a being. I'm sure you know that the fact a zygote is human is insufficient because this would make the argument circular.

CruisingRam



[/quote]


If one wishes to exclude religious beliefs and concepts from the abortion debate, then quite frankly one doesn't have an abortion debate. Not a useful one at least.
*

[/quote]

Actually, it is my contention that pretty much ALL "social conservatives" HAVE no debate outside thier religion- so basically, every argument a "social conservative" has is based on his wish to enforce his religions edicts on others- which is not bad in and of itself- for instance, no matter what religion, and athiests too, agree that killing innocent poeple is bad- i.e.- the definition of murder (outside the abortion debate thumbsup.gif ) - so, though this is a moral debate, it has some universality. It is when there is NO rational argument by one side, just religious beliefs- that you get a theocratic type system, with "no useful debate" on ANY issue- because, in the end, it is just you forcing your religious beliefs on others at the point of a gun.

That is why so many debates get shut down here, and part and parcel of the reason this country is no longer "united" like we used to be.

51% of the country will dictate to the other 49% thier religious beliefs, with no attempt at rational explanations or debate just "my religion says so, to bad for you, might makes right, if you don't like it, you should move to another country."

Now- Turnea and others have attempted rational debate on this issue, but, as Erasmussimo pointed out, there is probably no rationalism at all in this particular debate- because there is no emprical evidence that can definately say "this is when a human becomes a human as we know it- this is when we get a "soul"- so, in the end, I don't know if there CAN be a rational debate on abortion- because, in the end, it is all wrapped up in personal values and beliefs.

It is when EVERY SINGLE social issue comes down to "my religion says so" and "my moral values are the best because they are based on judeo-christian principles" (the last one is a near direct quote) that you have NO further debate, no room for compromise, and only set up for a tyranny of the majority, as bad as any other despot in the world.

The logical extension of your outlook is Iran- a tyranny of the majority, based on religious principles very much the same as "judeo-christian" principles. Is America to be like Iran next? Only with a Christian outlook?



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


I don't know- right now, know one knows, and there is no objective way to determine this- anyone that says otherwise is merely guessing or acting on faith.

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

I concur with Erasmussimo

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

I agree with Aquilla on this one.


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

The entire debate is anti-rational- because there is no empirical evidence of when life begins, and no agreed on definition of what constitutes "human" life vs animal life, what a "soul" is etc- so it is impossible, in this arena, to have a truly objective and rational debate.

Now, this is a rare instance though, it is completely possible to have an objective and rational debate on other "social" issues- such as prostitution, gay marriage, guns, drug use etc. There is definable pros and cons to each issue, that can be, if neccesary, studied and quantified.


Remember, one of the parts of rationalism is challenging YOUR OWN arguments and beliefs systems on a rational basis "why do I believe life does/doesn't begin at "X" ? "



turnea
QUOTE(Erasmussimo @ Jun 10 2005, 10:07 PM)
Our problem here is that the term "human being" is not a technical term, so it's impossible to apply technical considerations to its use. I'm happy talking about a "zygote of the species homo sapiens" or "fetus of the species homo sapiens" or "newborn of the species homo sapiens" or "adult of the species homo sapiens". But starting with an imprecisely defined term such as "human being" and then stretching it to include a zygote -- and THEN declaring that stretch to be objectively reliable -- that doesn't work for me.
[...]
I think that their question is a reasonable one, for which there is no definitive answer. But again, I agree that anything less than the technical terminology is certain to introduce prejudicial connotations into the discussion.
*


Point taken. I would be willing to withdraw use of the term human being, even though strictly speaking it is correct seeing as a being is simply "something that exist". A mango for instance is a "tasty being" tongue.gif

But "being" tends to imply intelligence so consider it withdrawn

I would however say that describing a zygote as "a human" is not prejudicial in the least. It only seems that way because the argument has being twisted with falsehoods on what it means to be human.


QUOTE(droop224 @ Jun 11 2005, 12:57 AM)

there is a distinct difference between something being human and something being a human.  When some one uses the term a human they are referring to a human being.  Being is the word that we need an operational definition for.

Is your heart human??  Yes, I think so
Is your heart a human being??  I'll let you answer.

You readily call a zygote or a fetus a human being without establishing what it takes to be a being.  Is a tree or a blade of grass a being??  If not, why not... what do they lack.  Myself I tend to believe that something must be sentient to be a being,

You merely make a leap that by proving something is human you have proven that it is a human being, as well.  I do not believe this to be logical.  Allow me to demonstrate.

Understood, as I wrote before in this post if being implies intelligence (and again it does not denote intelligence) then by all means drop it.

A zygote however, is a human. Unlike skin cells which are of human origin but not members of the species in and of themselves.




QUOTE(CruisingRam @ Jun 11 2005, 03:27 AM)

Now- Turnea and others have attempted rational debate on this issue, but, as Erasmussimo pointed out, there is probably no rationalism at all in this particular debate- because there is no emprical evidence that can definately say "this is when a human becomes a human as we know it- this is when we get a "soul"- so, in the end, I don't know if there CAN be a rational debate on abortion- because, in the end, it is all wrapped up in personal values and beliefs.

Perhaps that is true of the public in general, but within this forum we define life scientifically.

Personally, I don't believe in a separate human "soul" anyway.

QUOTE(CrusingRam)

I don't know- right now, know one knows, and there is no objective way to determine this- anyone that says otherwise is merely guessing or acting on faith.

Biology is the study of life. Biologists are not so foolish as to engage in that study without at least having a sufficient definition of life, which a zygote meets soundly.

QUOTE(CrusingRam)

Remember, one of the parts of rationalism is challenging YOUR OWN arguments and beliefs systems on a rational basis "why do I believe life does/doesn't begin at "X" ? "
*


It's what the biology book said, don't blame me I don't write those things tongue.gif
CruisingRam
Turnea- perhaps I didn't explain myself correctly, so I will try again. thumbsup.gif

IN the abortion debate-

First we ask ourselves - and most agree "Is it wrong to kill innocent human beings"- okay- then the subject becomes- what makes a human being, which is wrong to kill, different from an animal, which is okay to kill- so, for lack of a better word- I think therefore , I am, and have, a "soul"- the unique properties that make our lives worth something more than a cows.

THAT is why I say you can't have a rational debate- because, though biology is science, and we can say a paramecium is alive- it is certainly okay to kill it, no harm done there- but it is wrong to kill human species life (with exceptions of course, but no exceptions to eradicating an ameoba) - so, when does this person become a sentient human with a "soul" (hey, if you can come up with a better word that accurately describes our superiority over other life forms on the planet, I will gladly use it too LOL thumbsup.gif )

So, you can couch "life" in biological terms, but it really doesn't get to an actual, rational, debate on abortion, because the REAL debate is around when this zygot, fetus, whatever, becomes more important than animals that we eat.

So, lacking any empirical evidence to the contrary, one way or the other, we have no basis for a rational argument- it is all based on beliefs.
turnea
QUOTE(CruisingRam @ Jun 11 2005, 07:55 AM)
So, you can couch "life" in biological terms, but it really doesn't get to an actual, rational, debate on abortion, because the REAL debate is around when this zygot, fetus, whatever, becomes more important than animals that we eat. 
 
So, lacking any empirical evidence to the contrary, one way or the other, we have no basis for a rational argument- it is all based on beliefs. 
*
 

Oh, you are referring specifically to the abortion debate.

That is in a sense correct as I acknowledged in the opening post where I specifically said that the question asked here does not settle the abortion debate.

I see where it related to the question of rationality and I agree that a decision of the matter requires a non-rational judgement call.

But even then I believe that the selection of values benefits on some level from having the truth clearly displayed before you.

It may be a personal judgement but it doesn't have to be a personal judgement based on ignorance or misinformation.

The debate can be rational right up until the point of the "leap of faith" that is necessary for both sides to come to their respective positions.
CruisingRam
Actually- I was refering more to what each side refers to as "life" in a rational sense- the biological definition of life is quite clear HOWEVER- biology, when it comes to the definition of life, DOES NOT make a difference between human life and animal life- and that is kind of my point- the real crux of the debate is flawed not because of how we debate life- biologists have determined amoebas are life- but when HUMAN life- and the essential parts that make us human, begins.

THAT is the question we can not answer with any clarity.
turnea
QUOTE(CruisingRam @ Jun 11 2005, 08:14 AM)
 
Actually- I was refering more to what each side refers to as "life" in a rational sense- the biological definition of life is quite clear HOWEVER- biology, when it comes to the definition of life, DOES NOT make a difference between human life and animal life- and that is kind of my point- the real crux of the debate is flawed not because of how we debate life- biologists have determined amoebas are life- but when HUMAN life- and the essential parts that make us human, begins. 
 
THAT is the question we can not answer with any clarity. 
*
 

Biology has a definition of "human life" as well. Life of the species homo sapiens.

I know that's not what you're referring to but the use of correct terminology is critical here.

"Human-ness" is not a subjective term, just like "life" it is defined.

It seems to me you are referring to the point at which human life becomes worthy of legal protections, which is indeed subjective.

Neither side has a monopoly on the truth in that matter.
droop224
Turnea
QUOTE
Point taken. I would be willing to withdraw use of the term human being, even though strictly speaking it is correct seeing as a being is simply "something that exist". A mango for instance is a "tasty being" 


Now if you withdraw a being do you also withdraw using the shorten version of human being... "a human"??? From hence will you only refer to a zygote as "human life", not a zygote is a human??

QUOTE
But "being" tends to imply intelligence so consider it withdrawn

I would however say that describing a zygote as "a human" is not prejudicial in the least. It only seems that way because the argument has being twisted with falsehoods on what it means to be human.


Well, we have a problem Houston. you withdraw the term being due to its implication of intelligence. But "a human" implies "a human being". So you can not withdraw "a being" without withdrawing "a human".

If A = B and B = C, then A=C

If A implies B and B implies C, then A implies C, even if you never again mention B

QUOTE
A zygote however, is a human. Unlike skin cells which are of human origin but not members of the species in and of themselves.


You saying so, doesn't make it so. What makes a zygote a Human rather than merely human.


QUOTE
Biology has a definition of "human life" as well. Life of the species homo sapiens.

I know that's not what you're referring to but the use of correct terminology is critical here.

"Human-ness" is not a subjective term, just like "life" it is defined.

It seems to me you are referring to the point at which human life becomes worthy of legal protections, which is indeed subjective.

Neither side has a monopoly on the truth in that matter.


First what is human is clearly defined. What is life is not clearly defined.

There is life
QUOTE
A.The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism.

B. The characteristic state or condition of a living organism


And then there is life:
QUOTE
A living being, especially a person: an earthquake that claimed hundreds of lives.

found at dictionary.com

Now, the second meaning of includes the word being

Right now you are merely saying "human life"... I have a sneaky feeling sometime soon you will be interchanging "a zygote is human life" to "a zygote is a human being". So the first definition of life is not too ambiguous, however I believe the second is. So let us use the first definition of life when applying the term "life". Agreed?? This way we don't have to stumble on what make something a being.
I do not presume to speak for others, but most on either side recognize a zygote is human life. They may not recognize it as a human or a human being. But I can concede, effortlessly that a zygote/fetus is human life. But to put this in perspective, I also view sperm as human life.



turnea
QUOTE(droop224 @ Jun 11 2005, 10:09 AM)
Well, we have a problem Houston.  you withdraw the term being due to its implication of intelligence.  But "a human" implies "a human being".  So you can not withdraw "a being" without withdrawing "a human". 
 
If A = B and B = C, then A=C 
 
If A implies B and B implies C, then A implies C, even if you never again mention B 

I was willing to drop "being" merely as a purely charitable act because I am aware of it's connotation. However, strictly speaking a zygote is "a human being."

I would not concede the language any further because if would result in the distortion of the truth due to loss of data that cannot be replicated in other terminology.

One or the other may go not both.
It would be a lie of omission.
QUOTE(droop224)
You saying so, doesn't make it so. What makes a zygote a Human rather than merely human.

A zygote is the first developmental stage for every member of the species. From the time of fertilization forwards they remain the same organism in biological terms. All physical characteristics of the adult will spring from that zygote growth and development.

Again this is the consensus of the scientific community, not my own manufacture.


QUOTE(droop224)
 
First what is human is clearly defined.  What is life is not clearly defined. 
 
There is life 
QUOTE
A.The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism. 
 
B. The characteristic state or condition of a living organism


And then there is life:
QUOTE
A living being, especially a person: an earthquake that claimed hundreds of lives.

found at dictionary.com

Now, the second meaning of includes the word being

Right now you are merely saying "human life"... I have a sneaky feeling sometime soon you will be interchanging "a zygote is human life" to "a zygote is a human being". So the first definition of life is not too ambiguous, however I believe the second is. So let us use the first definition of life when applying the term "life". Agreed?? This way we don't have to stumble on what make something a being.
I do not presume to speak for others, but most on either side recognize a zygote is human life. They may not recognize it as a human or a human being. But I can concede, effortlessly that a zygote/fetus is human life. But to put this in perspective, I also view sperm as human life.
*


The dictionary is written for laymen. They do not list the criteria for life that is agreed upon my the majority of biologists.

I will repeat them here.

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.

Life is clearly defined by biology (except in the cases of virus, prions, and other oddities.)

A zygote is a human. An immature human at it's first stage of development, but a human.
hayleyanne
I just wanted to interject some food for thought here. Turnea has posed the question of when "life" begins, in this thread. As we all know-- this question becomes politicized because it appears that there is a conflict between legalized abortion (specially late term) and murder (the taking of a human life).

If abortion were the same as murder, pro-lifers would generally support subjecting the woman to criminal sanctions on a par with murder. Even the most extreme pro-lifers simply want it to be "illegal". I do not believe any (except for those that kill abortion doctors maybe) would want to put a woman away for life for having an illegal abortion.

This tells me that any discussion about abortion has to accept that it is different from murder as we have defined that crime. I believe that a productive discussion about the ethics of abortion must acknowledge this. I don't believe that splitting hairs over when a fetus, or an embryo is considered "life" or if "potential" life is productive. But I may be missing something.

Turnea-- what is the purpose of asking this question about when life begins? Is it to thrash out arguments/proofs so as to get closer to answering that question and with that help to answer political questions like abortion or embryonic stem cell research?
droop224
QUOTE
I was willing to drop "being" merely as a purely charitable act because I am aware of it's connotation. However, strictly speaking a zygote is "a human being."


laugh.gif laugh.gif Well, don't do us any favors.... Beat us down with your logic if you feel you can.

Strictly speaking human flesh is "a human being" It is human, correct?? It "exists" which was your criteria to be a "being" correct?? I'll refresh, so you don't have to look.

QUOTE
Point taken. I would be willing to withdraw use of the term human being, even though strictly speaking it is correct seeing as a being is simply "something that exist". A mango for instance is a "tasty being" 
emphasis mine.

By your logic, all that exist or perhaps lives is a better word can be categorized as beings. Therefore if it is human and it lives or exists it is a "human being"

QUOTE
I would not concede the language any further because if would result in the distortion of the truth due to loss of data that cannot be replicated in other terminology.

One or the other may go not both.
It would be a lie of omission.


No you have a preconceived truth and though you try to mask it, it is very easy for me to see your next move. Debating is like chess... the more moves you can see ahead the better off you are. You can see "checkmate" if your opponent moves just this piece... just a little bit... there.

What's the point of giving up one if not the other, when they both mean the same thing. "a human" means "a human being". To say you will give up using the term being due to it's implication intelligence, but continue to use the term "a human" is to concede nothing!! laugh.gif "A human" implies "a human being" which implies intelligence, unless you man being as in... "all that exists/live" at which point I will concede a zygote is a human being along with skin cells!!

QUOTE
A zygote is the first developmental stage for every member of the species. From the time of fertilization forwards they remain the same organism in biological terms. All physical characteristics of the adult will spring from that zygote growth and development.

Again this is the consensus of the scientific community, not my own manufacture.


Everything you say here I agree with!! You have effecively explained how a zygote differs from a skin cell. You have not explained why this difference exclude skin cells from being human life.

QUOTE
The dictionary is written for laymen. They do not list the criteria for life that is agreed upon my the majority of biologists.

I will repeat them here.

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.

Life is clearly defined by biology (except in the cases of virus, prions, and other oddities.)


Which of the 4 criteria does skin not meet??

QUOTE
A zygote is a human. An immature human at it's first stage of development, but a human.


Fair enough, in the strictist form you are using.. A zygote is a human. Skin is a human..... technically tongue.gif
turnea
QUOTE(droop224 @ Jun 11 2005, 11:02 AM)
 
What's the point of giving up one if not the other, when they both mean the same thing.  "a human" means "a human being".  To say you will give up using the term being due to it's implication intelligence, but continue to use the term "a human" is to concede nothing!! laugh.gif  "A human" implies "a human being" which implies intelligence, unless you man being as in... "all that exists/live" at which point I will concede a zygote is a human being along with skin cells!!

Some of this is due to imprecise word choice on my part.

As you have suggested I will stick to strictly to logic from now on. I incorrectly stated that "being" implies intelligence.

I should have said "being" connotes intelligence. That is, the use of the term suggest intelligence not through its definition but through it's common usage.
QUOTE(Dictionary.com)

being noun

  1. The state or quality of having existence. See Synonyms at existence.
  2.
        a. Something, such as an object, an idea, or a symbol, that exists, is thought to exist, or is represented as existing.
        a. The totality of all things that exist.
  3.
        a. A person: “The artist after all is a solitary being” (Virginia Woolf).
        b. All the qualities constituting one that exists; the essence.
        c. One's basic or essential nature; personality.


As you can see the use of the term being does not necessarily imply intelligence. Nevertheless the connotation was so strong I was willing to drop is as long as an equivalent phrasing that may soften the connotation was employed.





QUOTE(droop224)

Everything you say here I agree with!!  You have effecively explained how a zygote differs from a skin cell.  You have not explained why this difference exclude skin cells from being human life.[...]

Fair enough, in the strictist form you are using.. A zygote is a human.  Skin is a human..... technically tongue.gif
*



A skin cell is human life (adjective) as it is obviously of human origin.

A skin cell is not a human, noun because if is not a member of the species in and of itself. Only a piece of a member.

A zygote is a member of our species. Not a piece of one.

Therefore a zygote is a human.

QUOTE(haleyanne)
Turnea-- what is the purpose of asking this question about when life begins? Is it to thrash out arguments/proofs so as to get closer to answering that question and with that help to answer political questions like abortion or embryonic stem cell research?

Good question.

That is part of the reason. As I've said before whther or not fetal humans deserve legal protection and at what stage is a subjective call.

I would prefer that such a call be made of the basis of the truth rather than the misinformation that the term "potential life" represents.

Secondly its a question of motivations I wanted to see is people who use the phrae "potential life"are distorting the truth on purpose to strengthen their case.

..and third the reasons for starting the thread are in large part academic. online2long.gif

Just looking to establish the truth.
droop224
QUOTE
Some of this is due to imprecise word choice on my part.

As you have suggested I will stick to strictly to logic from now on. I incorrectly stated that "being" implies intelligence.

I should have said "being" connotes intelligence. That is, the use of the term suggest intelligence not through its definition but through it's common usage.


Nothing is due to imprecise word choice, in my opinion. I just think your practicing your Obi-wan Jedi mind tricks on me.

Connote means imply, imply implies connotes. Use either word and the meaning is essentially the same to me.

It does not matter what we define a term. A being is whatever you wish to define it as for this debate topic is yours. I just don't want to use the word being thinking this and you use the word being thinking that. If we aren't on the same page we will keep flying right past one another.

So for this debate's clarification does being mean

A. to exist/live
or
B. to have intelligence
Erasmussimo
QUOTE(droop224 @ Jun 11 2005, 10:00 AM)
Connote means imply, imply implies connotes.  Use either word and the meaning is essentially the same to me.


droop24, I think you're being a little hard on turnea here. I perceive a semantic distinction between connote and imply, and I think turnea's characterization of that distinction is on the mark. Implication has the harder edge of logical force, while connotation refers more to common usage.
droop224
QUOTE(Erasmussimo @ Jun 11 2005, 12:15 PM)
QUOTE(droop224 @ Jun 11 2005, 10:00 AM)
Connote means imply, imply implies connotes.  Use either word and the meaning is essentially the same to me.


droop24, I think you're being a little hard on turnea here. I perceive a semantic distinction between connote and imply, and I think turnea's characterization of that distinction is on the mark. Implication has the harder edge of logical force, while connotation refers more to common usage.
*



laugh.gif laugh.gif To Big brained people like yourself and turnea with a vocabulary on par with Shakespeare... maybe there is enough significant difference to be noted... to a simpleton like me.. they’re all just synonyms. cool.gif Maybe one day I can get on you guys level laugh.gif

Until then, I just want to know what he means by the word "being". thumbsup.gif
Hugo
When does the life of a human being begin? At conception? At birth? Somewhere in between?

Of course, it begins at conception. It is highly irrational to argue otherwise


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

Yes, of course. Once again, biological fact ...life of one or more individual humans begins at conception. With cloning you might be able to argue human parts containing DNA are potential life.

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

In order to justify slavery, in a post-Enlightenment era, it was required to determine slaves were sub-human. Similarly, those committing genocide almost always argue that their victims are sub-human. Once you have successfully categorized a group as sub-human you can carry out all kinds of unhumane acts against that group.

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

Of course it does, just like when pro-lifers try to infer embryos are sentient beings. I think most people understand that the vast number of abortions kill a human being that is dumber than a cockroach.
Christopher
Regardless of when you consider life begins-since this leads back to abortion-- the simple question of who's body is it remains.
Who are you to force and person to do something with their body they do not by their own choice decide to follow?
If the woman decides she wants an abortion and you and the rest of society decide that it is not allowed and she tries to find a way to do so anyways--will you strap her down, force feed her and remove the baby and give it to someone else?

What does that make you? Who appointed you master?

Without complete independence of self all you are is a slave--regardless of how pretty a life you are then allowed to lead you are still a servant to the whim of others.

Try to "define" life all you wish--it is irrelevant.

Even if a woman becomes pregnant it is HER body. Who are you to force her to submit to your will? What right do you have?

Will we set up breeding farms for recalcitrant women who may someday defy orders if roe vs. wade is overturned?

Instead of trying to define life and try to circumvent the true question, why not instead decide just how free and independent a person is and just how much power society can claim over individuals to dictate their life and actions.

Are we free or servants?

logophage
To Turnea and Droop:

I think it's important for the debate to agree on terms. If you can't agree on the meaning of being or the meaning of a human, then you should choose different mutually agreed upon words. Debates often become muddled in semantic differences where there's arguing back and forth over both the meaning and political implications of those words. Why not bypass the issue entirely and use wording to avoid those problems?

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

This question is at its conception fundamentally misleading. The biological definition of life and the political definition of human life coupled with virtue-based moral theory have different things to say about this issue. It is tempting to associate ontology with ethics but this simply does not work as well as one would hope. It is not true or rather it is unproven that the ethics of life supervenes upon the ontology of life. Another way of putting this: issues of "life" in the biological domain are orthogonal to issues of "life" in the ethical domain. Basically, the term is overloaded.

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

In the biological domain, a zygote/fetus/skin cell/adult are all alive. There's nothing potential about them. In the ethical domain, however.... We should pick different words so that confusion is avoided.

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

I think both camps are talking past each other. The pro-choice camp uses terms from the biological domain to say something in the ethical domain. The pro-life camp uses terms from the ethical domain to say something about the biological domain. Technically, both camps are incorrect in their execution.

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

Yes. But, to be fair, the effect is also due to terminology confusion.
turnea
QUOTE(logophage @ Jun 11 2005, 03:24 PM)
I think it's important for the debate to agree on terms.  If you can't agree on the meaning of being or the meaning of a human, then you should choose different mutually agreed upon words.  Debates often become muddled in semantic differences where there's arguing back and forth over both the meaning and political implications of those words.  Why not bypass the issue entirely and use wording to avoid those problems?

Since this is in large part a debate on terminology I don't see where that's possible.

I don't know of any equivalent language that would fully substitute.

QUOTE(logophage)

This question is at its conception fundamentally misleading.  The biological definition of life and the political definition of human life coupled with virtue-based moral theory have different things to say about this issue.  It is tempting to associate ontology with ethics but this simply does not work as well as one would hope.  It is not true or rather it is unproven that the ethics of life supervenes upon the ontology of life.  Another way of putting this: issues of "life" in the biological domain are orthogonal to issues of "life" in the ethical domain.  Basically, the term is overloaded.

As of this moment, I don't recognize the concept of two differing "domains" for the term.

I think this is simply avoiding the question by denying a true answer exists. With few exceptions, either something is alive or it is not. To deny this is to deny reality for the sake of clarity.

That is about as self-defeating as it gets.

I have frequently acknowledged that the presence of life alone does not necessarily entitle a zygote to legal rights, this would distort the intent of constitutional framers in my view.

But the truth of the matter does exist... whatever it may be.

QUOTE(logophage)

In the biological domain, a zygote/fetus/skin cell/adult are all alive.  There's nothing potential about them.  In the ethical domain, however....  We should pick different words so that confusion is avoided.


As I see it we should state the truth. If people are confused by the plain truth, that's hardly something to be helped.
ampersand
QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 10 2005, 09:52 AM)
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.


You've unintentionally conflated two different things; the word "life" and the noun phrase "life of an organism." The latter phrase would be very strange to hear outside of a scientific context, so it's safe to assume that only the scientific meaning could apply.

It's true that people shouldn't make up new uses of words every time they have a new conversation. However, I'm not just making up the fact that the word "life" is commonly used out of scientific contexts; it's an everyday word, and it is constantly used in non-scientific as well as scientific contexts. Although you're privileging the scientific meanings of words, there is not actually a logical reason to say that scientific meanings are more correct than other meanings used by native speakers.

It is therefore likely to cause you to misunderstand what other people are saying, if you assume "life" is invariably meant in the scientific sense. It's more sensible to either agree on the meanings of words at the start of a particular debate, or if that is not possible, to give the speaker a reasonable benefit of the doubt when deciding what it is the speaker intended.

In other words, given two common usages of the word "life," one of which makes the speaker anti-rational, the second of which does not, it is more reasonable to assume that they meant it the second way.

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

The noun phrase "human being" is used in two senses in the abortion debate, to refer to the biological concept of "homo sapian," and to refer to the philosophical concept of "personhood."

If you were asking when a new homo sapian begins, I'd say it generally begins at conception. If you're asking when personhood begins, I can't say for sure, but I personally don't believe it can logically be said to occur before around the 25th week, which is when a functioning cerebral cortex begins.

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

I think the term "life," because it has two different meanings in this debate, can create miscommunication. I think it would be clearer all around if the term "potential person" were used instead.

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

Actually, I think the opposite. I think that some (not all) "pro-life" advocates deliberately pretend to not understand that terms like "life" and "human being" have both biological or philosophical meanings, in order to score cheap debate points. For example, responding to a pro-choicer saying "I think it's a human being after it can survive outside the womb" by saying "What it is before that point, a fetual frog? Of course it's a human being - look at the DNA!"

If we're eager to communicate, rather than score points, then in the scenario I describe above we should be quick to see that the term "human being" has been defined different ways by our two different speakers.

However, I also realize that many pro-lifers who say things like this are being sincere, and have merely failed to understand the viewpoint they're disagreeing with.

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

I think it tends to lead to miscommunication and unproductive debate, especially since many people on both sides of the debate may not understand how essential it is to reach agreed-upon meanings for terminology.

It would be better if people said "homo sapian" (sp?) when they want to refer to the biological concept, and "personhood" when they want to refer to the philosophical concept. To use "life" or "human" or even "human being" (etc) for both these terms inevitably leads to poor communication.
turnea
QUOTE(ampersand @ Jun 11 2005, 04:58 PM)
If you were asking when a new homo sapian begins, I'd say it generally begins at conception. If you're asking when personhood begins, I can't say for sure, but I personally don't believe it can logically be said to occur before around the 25th week, which is when a functioning cerebral cortex begins.

What is the logic behind that determination? The dictionary defines a person as "a living human" which a zygote is.

Personhood does not necessarily require intelligence.

QUOTE(ampersand)

Actually, I think the opposite. I think that some (not all) "pro-life" advocates deliberately pretend to not understand that terms like "life" and "human being" have both biological or philosophical meanings, in order to score cheap debate points. For example, responding to a pro-choicer saying "I think it's a human being after it can survive outside the womb" by saying "What it is before that point, a fetual frog? Of course it's a human being - look at the DNA!"

The "philosophical" meaning of life is hardly an established concept. If a person uses imprecise language they should expect to be misunderstood.

I myself have demonstrated that in the course of this debate. tongue.gif

QUOTE(ampersand)

It would be better if people said "homo sapian" (sp?) when they want to refer to the biological concept, and "personhood" when they want to refer to the philosophical concept. To use "life" or "human" or even "human being" (etc) for both these terms inevitably leads to poor communication.
*


When did "personhood" become a philosophical concept and on what basis is it's "philosophical" definition settled?
droop224
You want logic, here is logic
Turnea
QUOTE
What is the logic behind that determination? The dictionary defines a person as "a living human" which a zygote is.


human
QUOTE
n 1: a human being; "there was too much for one person to do".


Being
QUOTE
1.  To exist in actuality; have life or reality: I think, therefore I am.

both definitions at dictionary.com

Now we are right back to the question I think you either ignored or missed. I ask again,

QUOTE
So for this debate's clarification does being mean

A. to exist/live
or
B. to have intelligence


I really don't care which one you pick or you can find another definition for all I care.


logophage
QUOTE(turnea @ Jun 11 2005, 02:12 PM)
QUOTE(logophage @ Jun 11 2005, 03:24 PM)
I think it's important for the debate to agree on terms.  If you can't agree on the meaning of being or the meaning of a human, then you should choose different mutually agreed upon words.  Debates often become muddled in semantic differences where there's arguing back and forth over both the meaning and political implications of those words.  Why not bypass the issue entirely and use wording to avoid those problems?

Since this is in large part a debate on terminology I don't see where that's possible.

I don't know of any equivalent language that would fully substitute.

Is this a request for help? wink.gif I'd suggest first enumerating exactly what you wish to fall into each category. An appropriate label can be discovered subsequently.

QUOTE
QUOTE(logophage)
 
This question is at its conception fundamentally misleading.  The biological definition of life and the political definition of human life coupled with virtue-based moral theory have different things to say about this issue.  It is tempting to associate ontology with ethics but this simply does not work as well as one would hope.  It is not true or rather it is unproven that the ethics of life supervenes upon the ontology of life.  Another way of putting this: issues of "life" in the biological domain are orthogonal to issues of "life" in the ethical domain.  Basically, the term is overloaded.

As of this moment, I don't recognize the concept of two differing "domains" for the term.

If that's the case, then there is a fundamental impasse here. Many people believe the ethics of a thing and thingness are different questions. I would bet droop falls into this category; I know I do.

QUOTE
I think this is simply avoiding the question by denying a true answer exists. With few exceptions, either something is alive or it is not. To deny this is to deny reality for the sake of clarity.

No one is debating that it is possible to define what is alive with some ambiguity for viruses/prions (though I doubt your tautological definition is very useful). However, the debate, as you've stated it, seems to presume a link between life-ness and the ethics of life-ness. Unless you can clearly demonstrate that there is a link, then the debate question will remain forever muddled.

QUOTE
I have frequently acknowledged that the presence of life alone does not necessarily entitle a zygote to legal rights, this would distort the intent of constitutional framers in my view. 
 
But the truth of the matter does exist... whatever it may be.

I don't doubt that the legal system can say something about the rights of a zygote. Indeed, it has with various court cases.

QUOTE
QUOTE(logophage)
 
In the biological domain, a zygote/fetus/skin cell/adult are all alive.  There's nothing potential about them.  In the ethical domain, however....  We should pick different words so that confusion is avoided.


As I see it we should state the truth. If people are confused by the plain truth, that's hardly something to be helped.
*

I have no idea what this means. Perhaps, I am slow. Could you state this in a different way so I can understand?
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