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Re: 336 Million

Postby Metsfanmax on Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:15 pm

BigBallinStalin wrote:But why treat a person differently from a human being? Is this really just a novel approach in justifying the killing of 'human beings'?


Because it's not only human beings that can be persons. I consider many non-human animals to be persons.

"Simply being a member of the species Homo sapiens is not qualification for ultimate ethical protection."


Why not?


The better question is, why? If we're going to construct some rule that restricts the freedom of people to act as they desire, that rule should have some sensible justification. I contend that, if we started without assumptions of speciesism, no such rule can be logically established that only protects humans, and that protects all humans independent of cognitive functioning level.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby BigBallinStalin on Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:18 pm

Sure, there's plenty of rules for protecting humans, e.g. negative right to life/self-protection. Of course, some human beings like those in a vegetative state usually transfer their decision rights to another party at previous time (e.g. a guardian, a lawyer, their parents, etc.). That's done on a voluntary basis through a will, so I see no problem with this right applying to all humans.

The personhood argument is created in order to sidestep the problem of dealing with a living organism which cannot offer its consent (e.g. the fetus). So, let's raise the standard arbitrarily, so that the chosen few of our liking have the desired rules only apply to them. That's the underlying impression I keep getting from the personhood argument.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby Metsfanmax on Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:22 pm

BigBallinStalin wrote:Sure, there's plenty of rules for protecting humans, e.g. negative right to life/self-protection. Of course, some human beings like those in a vegetative state usually transfer their decision rights to another party at previous time (e.g. a guardian, a lawyer, their parents, etc.). That's done on a voluntary basis through a will, so I see no problem with this right applying to all humans.

The personhood argument is created in order to sidestep the problem of dealing with a living organism which cannot offer its consent (e.g. the fetus). So, let's raise the standard arbitrarily, so that the chosen few of our liking have the desired rules only apply to them. That's the underlying impression I keep getting from the personhood argument.


On the contrary, the fact that a fetus cannot offer consent is of primary importance. The personhood argument is not saying that because the fetus can't offer consent, we let its mother make the decision, since the mother is also affected by the pregnancy. To keep it simple, assume that the fetus is in the first trimester and can't feel pain. Then, the personhood argument says that the fetus does not even have interests; its own welfare is more or less negligible. The problem with the argument you're trying to make is to imply that it's in the interests of the fetus to have a decision made for it by its parents. But actually it is meaningless to speak of the interests of the fetus. It cannot feel pain or experience pleasure, and it has never been a person with memories. Ethically speaking, then, it is a non-starter to even begin to argue that it deserves protection inherently. In denying the personhood argument, you're lowering the standard arbitrarily, so that the chosen species of our liking have the desired rules only apply to them. The personhood argument offers a clear and consistent standard for how to deal with the ethics of murder: if the organism is self-aware (roughly), then killing it is murder and is more gravely wrong than killing other organisms. Any other standard is the ethical equivalent of cherrypicking, to get the result you already wanted ("rights" -- or lack thereof -- for the fetus).
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Re: 336 Million

Postby rishaed on Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:08 pm

Metsfanmax wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:
Metsfanmax wrote:Choosing a dividing line may be hard, but that is no excuse for picking a bad one. The argument of the beard doesn't actually address any of the important ethical questions involved in determining whether abortion or infanticide can be justified. The important determination is not whether a new organism exists, but whether that organism has any of the qualities that deserve protection. Simply being a member of the species Homo sapiens is not qualification for ultimate ethical protection. This thought process is what has allowed us to mistreat non-human animals for so long, and similar reasoning has fueled events like the Holocaust -- dehumanize your opponents, and their lives are no longer worth protecting. We can solve these problems by making it not special to be human but special to be an organism that is self-aware.


I may be misunderstanding your example about the Holocaust, but isn't the personhood argument essentially dehumanizing a particular group of homo sapiens?


No, the personhood argument is saying that only organisms that are self-aware deserve something similar to the "right to life." Infant humans are not a group, but rather a developmental stage in the biological process. The same logic would apply to non-human animals; an infant pig does not deserve the same protections as an adult pig. The important part is that this is a scientifically demonstrable property that no one can reasonably object to once it has been properly established.

I'd prefer if we just removed the word "dehumanize" from our vocabularies. Humans are not unique, just slightly more advanced than the other creatures (though perhaps not dolphins).

And yet you mention the Holocaust, and dehumanizing, which in a sense is treating humans the same as you would a sheep a goat or a pig, or those kittens in Milo and Otis if you so choose. Plus you say that we need to make Self-Awareness the standard, and not being a human (thus allowing you to say that natural rights, and human rights cannot apply to them because they are not aware enough to be a Human in a full form of the word). At which point are Humans Self Aware, neither you nor I can answer this question. Nobody can point a finger and say "AHA!! Every person is self aware at this period of time after birth ect..." We do not have either an exact time/place where we can definitely say that a person is self-aware. Hey you could probably kill me while I'm sleeping and say to the judge, Sir its not murder he was not self-aware that his life was in danger. Because when I sleep, I might be dreaming. However I might also just wake up and feel like a giant black period occurred 2 seconds ago, when in reality I was sleeping for 6-8hrs. Thus I dispute Self-Awareness as a standard for judging Personhood. It CANNOT be continuously applied to every moment of our lives, thus removing our rights when it is broken up, such as in sleep.

In Conclusion I might Add that I agree with D1G's Argument. And will never agree to the killing of infants, babies, or abortion.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby Funkyterrance on Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:27 pm

Metsfanmax wrote:On the contrary, the fact that a fetus cannot offer consent is of primary importance. The personhood argument is not saying that because the fetus can't offer consent, we let its mother make the decision, since the mother is also affected by the pregnancy. To keep it simple, assume that the fetus is in the first trimester and can't feel pain. Then, the personhood argument says that the fetus does not even have interests; its own welfare is more or less negligible. The problem with the argument you're trying to make is to imply that it's in the interests of the fetus to have a decision made for it by its parents. But actually it is meaningless to speak of the interests of the fetus. It cannot feel pain or experience pleasure, and it has never been a person with memories. Ethically speaking, then, it is a non-starter to even begin to argue that it deserves protection inherently.

This is an interesting point which I'll follow with a small tangent.
Are you then saying that if a person were kept in a completely artificial environment, devoid of outside stimulation from birth and then killed in a completely painless way then it's not murder?

A lot of the problems with arguments over when a fetus becomes a person is that they too heavily rely on specific clinical details(sensitivity to pain, etc.). When does your intuition tell you when a tree begins? When it grows leaves, when it grows bark, or the moment it's biological processes start as a seed is first exposed to moisture? I would say the last is the most agreeable to our sensibilities yet when it comes to people this "intuition" is ignored in exchange for a more convenient conclusion.
Last edited by Funkyterrance on Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby Ray Rider on Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:14 am

This is an interesting discussion you guys have going here, I'm enjoying reading it. Kudos for staying civil and not devolving into ad hominems.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby Metsfanmax on Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:57 pm

rishaed wrote:And yet you mention the Holocaust, and dehumanizing, which in a sense is treating humans the same as you would a sheep a goat or a pig, or those kittens in Milo and Otis if you so choose.


I do not see my proposal as lowering human persons to the standard of being; I see it as raising the standard of non-human animals to how we already treat adult humans. But with that said, there are consequences that come with this approach. In particular, we must seriously take responsibility for our ethical decisions. I do not think it is appropriate any longer for us to assert the existence of unchanging and absolute ethical principles. These were undoubtedly useful in earlier periods. However, collectively as a society we have developed enough peace and stability that we can re-think these rules and come up with ones that better fit reality. That is, we no longer need to pigeonhole ourselves into a specific box just because we think that society will be better off that way. We are intelligent enough and have our act together enough to take these ideas and run with them. I don't argue for this just because I disagree with things on some abstract level. Instead, the status quo leads to some seriously unfortunate results. As an example, many people who are in serious pain and have made the rational decision to end their lives, cannot legally get assistance to do so in most jurisdictions. That is because we still cling to an absolute right to life framework in most cases, at least formally. But in reality that is not how most of us think. Most people recognize that life is full of shades of gray, and that it can be deleterious to insist on this, as when a patient is dying from an incurable disease. Similarly, if someone is in a persistent vegetative state, with no chance of regaining consciousness ever again, we cannot reasonably insist a family incur high medical costs over years when the patient has ceased to be a person.

Plus you say that we need to make Self-Awareness the standard, and not being a human (thus allowing you to say that natural rights, and human rights cannot apply to them because they are not aware enough to be a Human in a full form of the word).


That is true, I don't believe in "human rights." I cannot really conceive of any right which ought to be automatically granted simply because an organism is a member of the human species. We can do better with our language and with our ideas.

At which point are Humans Self Aware, neither you nor I can answer this question. Nobody can point a finger and say "AHA!! Every person is self aware at this period of time after birth ect..." We do not have either an exact time/place where we can definitely say that a person is self-aware.


It may be true that there is no one day that divides the time between an infant is self-aware and when it is not. However, there is certainly a period at the beginning of a human's life when there is zero chance of that human being a person (simply because the proper biological mechanisms in the brain do not exist yet), in which case we should not treat it like a person. If we were to make this a policy matter, we would choose the dividing line for murder at some point after birth at which no human could yet be a person, but long enough after birth that it is apparent whether the infant has some terminal or debilitating disease that will make its life not worth living. I would only advocate for a few weeks after birth.

Hey you could probably kill me while I'm sleeping and say to the judge, Sir its not murder he was not self-aware that his life was in danger. Because when I sleep, I might be dreaming. However I might also just wake up and feel like a giant black period occurred 2 seconds ago, when in reality I was sleeping for 6-8hrs. Thus I dispute Self-Awareness as a standard for judging Personhood. It CANNOT be continuously applied to every moment of our lives, thus removing our rights when it is broken up, such as in sleep.


I actually addressed this earlier in the thread, so you can see my thoughts in more depth there. The gist is that to overcome the ethical questions associated with temporary unconsciousness (e.g. sleep, coma), an organism should be a person if it has ever been self-aware and will (or could) ever be self-aware again.

Funkyterrance wrote:
Metsfanmax wrote:On the contrary, the fact that a fetus cannot offer consent is of primary importance. The personhood argument is not saying that because the fetus can't offer consent, we let its mother make the decision, since the mother is also affected by the pregnancy. To keep it simple, assume that the fetus is in the first trimester and can't feel pain. Then, the personhood argument says that the fetus does not even have interests; its own welfare is more or less negligible. The problem with the argument you're trying to make is to imply that it's in the interests of the fetus to have a decision made for it by its parents. But actually it is meaningless to speak of the interests of the fetus. It cannot feel pain or experience pleasure, and it has never been a person with memories. Ethically speaking, then, it is a non-starter to even begin to argue that it deserves protection inherently.

This is an interesting point which I'll follow with a small tangent.
Are you then saying that if a person were kept in a completely artificial environment, devoid of outside stimulation from birth and then killed in a completely painless way then it's not murder?


I believe that even this person would have hopes, desires and memories. This person would be self-aware. It would be murder.

A lot of the problems with arguments over when a fetus becomes a person is that they too heavily rely on specific clinical details(sensitivity to pain, etc.). When does your intuition tell you when a tree begins? When it grows leaves, when it grows bark, or the moment it's biological processes start as a seed is first exposed to moisture? I would say the last is the most agreeable to our sensibilities yet when it comes to people this "intuition" is ignored in exchange for a more convenient conclusion.


I disagree, principally because the relevant definition of personhood is based on what you describe as clinical details (such as the ability to feel pain and be self-aware). What is missing too often from the abortion debate is the question of why it is wrong to kill a human. We need a consistent ethical answer to this before we can broach the abortion or infanticide subjects. I argue that it is especially wrong to kill persons (as opposed to merely sentient beings) because there is some significant difference that sets persons apart from the merely sentient (such as self-awareness). So if we agree in this way that killing a normal adult human is more wrong than killing an adult snake, then we agree that the reason it is more wrong is because the human has self-awareness and has hopes and dreams for the future that the act of killing lays waste to, and because the act scares other people and makes them live less pleasant lives. But notice that we couldn't have reached this conclusion without establishing some facts biologically, such as that normal adult humans are self-aware, and that normal adult snakes are not. As a result, we cannot help but agree that it is of crucial importance in the abortion debate to determine which organisms are self-aware and which are not, because in fact that is the defining characteristic that makes the killing so gravely wrong. If ever we are in doubt and suspect that an organism may have some self-awareness, we should give it the benefit of the doubt and give it the same protection that all persons enjoy.

Note that all this skirts the issues associated with how we treat non-human animals in other ways. The act of killing (assuming it can be done painlessly) is a unique ethical issue, because if an organism is deceased then it no longer has any preferences. So if you could be completely sure that you could kill a merely sentient organism without any pain (e.g. insects), then it should not be treated as murder. However, in reality it is never so simple. We can't really be sure that what we are doing is painless to a creature. In fact, the commercial meat industry inflicts great pain to cows when they are slaughtered for beef. So even though we could conceive of situations in which we could kill an organism without causing any pain, in practice we can almost never be sure of this, so we should abstain from such acts.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby rishaed on Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:06 pm

Metsfanmax wrote:
rishaed wrote:And yet you mention the Holocaust, and dehumanizing, which in a sense is treating humans the same as you would a sheep a goat or a pig, or those kittens in Milo and Otis if you so choose.


I do not see my proposal as lowering human persons to the standard of being; I see it as raising the standard of non-human animals to how we already treat adult humans.
And yet I feel that these things are indeed one and the same. What are you going to do make all animals sacred animals? Such as the Cow for the Hindi Religion?
Metsfanmax wrote: But with that said, there are consequences that come with this approach. In particular, we must seriously take responsibility for our ethical decisions. I do not think it is appropriate any longer for us to assert the existence of unchanging and absolute ethical principles. These were undoubtedly useful in earlier periods.

I think that unchanging ethical rules were put there for a reason, secular or Scriptural (some of which overlap) I am a great believer in the inherent evil in the human race, and have found this to be true even in my own life and struggles. It is these unchanging laws that make the peace and stability that you say we have developed. To throw one of these laws out would be similar to throwing out the law of Gravity in my opinion. I know that if I drop something, no matter how heavy it is whether paper or a bowling ball, it will fall towards the ground. However if Gravity is no more then my certainty and trust in objects falling towards the ground in every case is no longer well founded, and thus negates the possibility of the law of Gravity on Earth.
There is a reason that Theft is illegal, and has been for ages on end. There is also a reason why it says Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Metsfanmax wrote: However, collectively as a society we have developed enough peace and stability that we can re-think these rules and come up with ones that better fit reality. That is, we no longer need to pigeonhole ourselves into a specific box just because we think that society will be better off that way. We are intelligent enough and have our act together enough to take these ideas and run with them.

I think I have addressed the first sentence here already. I disagree with you that we are pigeonholing ourselves into a box, as I stated earlier most if not all ethical laws that are unchanging and absolute have been so (as you mentioned) for an extreme amount of time, and as such hold much wisdom and knowledge already into them. The basic nature of humanity as a whole has not changed since then IMO so why would you think that the outcome at the end would be different? Its similar to a teenager who won't listen to his parents and has been through the school of hard knocks because he threw out their advice and later realizes that they were right.
Metsfanmax wrote: I don't argue for this just because I disagree with things on some abstract level. Instead, the status quo leads to some seriously unfortunate results. As an example, many people who are in serious pain and have made the rational decision to end their lives, cannot legally get assistance to do so in most jurisdictions. That is because we still cling to an absolute right to life framework in most cases, at least formally. But in reality that is not how most of us think.

Suicide IMHO is a decision neither made rationally, but rather emotionally (especially at a young age). Seeing as I have attempted this in the past, I can speak from first hand knowledge. Looking back I am glad that I did not succeed in my attempt. I partially regret ever attempting it, and will never do it again. I only partially regret it because now I know and can tell others that It really isn't a viable option, and Thank God for every life that is saved because someone stops them. Logically speaking Suicide is running away from your problems instead of confronting them. You don't have to eliminate the person causing the pain to stop the pain or find a way to heal it and move on. I am glad for the absolute right to life framework we have. It is what keeps murder, murder and keeps death as a serious thing. If you are talking a medially sick person, they can as my Grandmother did, choose rather to go off of what is keeping them alive. However I would say that these people have a motivation other than revenge, and can make a more logical choice than the first group. However I also think that these people dying of an incurable disease as you say are more serious in considering every option, and the people it will affect. These people can (if not already) prepare for their death in a way that people who for whatever reason just go and hang themselves suddenly do not. There are ways for the doctors to reduce, and try to remove the pain without having to kill the person to do it.
Metsfanmax wrote: Most people recognize that life is full of shades of gray, and that it can be deleterious to insist on this, as when a patient is dying from an incurable disease. Similarly, if someone is in a persistent vegetative state, with no chance of regaining consciousness ever again, we cannot reasonably insist a family incur high medical costs over years when the patient has ceased to be a person.

I don't think that the patient has ceased to be a person. ;) And as such, I do not see Life as a shade of grey. You are either alive, or you are dead. There is no in between state. You may try to argue that a person in a persistent vegetative state is in between, however is that true? Is it the fact that we keep them "alive" by using artificial means, or is it the fact that they cannot respond in any way? I don't know the answer, and probably never will.
[quote=Metsfanmax"]
Plus you say that we need to make Self-Awareness the standard, and not being a human (thus allowing you to say that natural rights, and human rights cannot apply to them because they are not aware enough to be a Human in a full form of the word).


That is true, I don't believe in "human rights." I cannot really conceive of any right which ought to be automatically granted simply because an organism is a member of the human species. We can do better with our language and with our ideas.

At which point are Humans Self Aware, neither you nor I can answer this question. Nobody can point a finger and say "AHA!! Every person is self aware at this period of time after birth ect..." We do not have either an exact time/place where we can definitely say that a person is self-aware.


It may be true that there is no one day that divides the time between an infant is self-aware and when it is not. However, there is certainly a period at the beginning of a human's life when there is zero chance of that human being a person (simply because the proper biological mechanisms in the brain do not exist yet), in which case we should not treat it like a person. If we were to make this a policy matter, we would choose the dividing line for murder at some point after birth at which no human could yet be a person, but long enough after birth that it is apparent whether the infant has some terminal or debilitating disease that will make its life not worth living. I would only advocate for a few weeks after birth.

Hey you could probably kill me while I'm sleeping and say to the judge, Sir its not murder he was not self-aware that his life was in danger. Because when I sleep, I might be dreaming. However I might also just wake up and feel like a giant black period occurred 2 seconds ago, when in reality I was sleeping for 6-8hrs. Thus I dispute Self-Awareness as a standard for judging Personhood. It CANNOT be continuously applied to every moment of our lives, thus removing our rights when it is broken up, such as in sleep.


I actually addressed this earlier in the thread, so you can see my thoughts in more depth there. The gist is that to overcome the ethical questions associated with temporary unconsciousness (e.g. sleep, coma), an organism should be a person if it has ever been self-aware and will (or could) ever be self-aware again.[/quote]
1. It is also probably true that you probably don't believe that there is a God, and thus your stance on "Human rights" as you put it fits quite logically for stance of "Survival of the Fittest."
2.I find this to be highly hypocritical. You cannot say that there is zero chance that a human being is not or will not be a person/self-aware. And yet as a child inside the womb the surroundings and emotions/actions of the mother effect you, and can cause distress which is a trait of awareness of surroundings and of others. I also find offensive the statement of some debilitating or terminal disease which makes their life not worth living. All humans deserve the right to live. And further more, you might consider those with Aspergers, Down Syndrome, Alzheimers, or someone with a heart disease all people who can be "terminated" during pregnancy or shortly after birth. And yet these people can make a contribution to society that probably very few of us will ever make. Why? Because the focus that they have is different and the viewpoint of the world is different, and yet it may be their viewpoint that could change the world.
Where would it stop, logically you would have to "terminate" every baby that was not fully "functional" with no inherent DNA/physical disabilities. People like Mozart would have never been able to live.
3. Drop the again. Why, because we can all be self aware at some future point in time again. An infant sleeps and wakes up the same as we do. It is influenced by its environment and has emotions like we do. It knows who its mother is, and is quite attached to her. It is suggested that Music such as Bach and Mozart are good for intelligence (this might be a common rumor...) Sure we might die by some sickness early in life. However we cannot choose everything that effects us, neither can we pick and choose most everything like in the Game of Life (or Risk).

Funkyterrance wrote:
Metsfanmax wrote:On the contrary, the fact that a fetus cannot offer consent is of primary importance. The personhood argument is not saying that because the fetus can't offer consent, we let its mother make the decision, since the mother is also affected by the pregnancy. To keep it simple, assume that the fetus is in the first trimester and can't feel pain. Then, the personhood argument says that the fetus does not even have interests; its own welfare is more or less negligible. The problem with the argument you're trying to make is to imply that it's in the interests of the fetus to have a decision made for it by its parents. But actually it is meaningless to speak of the interests of the fetus. It cannot feel pain or experience pleasure, and it has never been a person with memories. Ethically speaking, then, it is a non-starter to even begin to argue that it deserves protection inherently.

This is an interesting point which I'll follow with a small tangent.
Are you then saying that if a person were kept in a completely artificial environment, devoid of outside stimulation from birth and then killed in a completely painless way then it's not murder?


I believe that even this person would have hopes, desires and memories. This person would be self-aware. It would be murder.

A lot of the problems with arguments over when a fetus becomes a person is that they too heavily rely on specific clinical details(sensitivity to pain, etc.). When does your intuition tell you when a tree begins? When it grows leaves, when it grows bark, or the moment it's biological processes start as a seed is first exposed to moisture? I would say the last is the most agreeable to our sensibilities yet when it comes to people this "intuition" is ignored in exchange for a more convenient conclusion.


I disagree, principally because the relevant definition of personhood is based on what you describe as clinical details (such as the ability to feel pain and be self-aware). What is missing too often from the abortion debate is the question of why it is wrong to kill a human. We need a consistent ethical answer to this before we can broach the abortion or infanticide subjects. I argue that it is especially wrong to kill persons (as opposed to merely sentient beings) because there is some significant difference that sets persons apart from the merely sentient (such as self-awareness). So if we agree in this way that killing a normal adult human is more wrong than killing an adult snake, then we agree that the reason it is more wrong is because the human has self-awareness and has hopes and dreams for the future that the act of killing lays waste to, and because the act scares other people and makes them live less pleasant lives. But notice that we couldn't have reached this conclusion without establishing some facts biologically, such as that normal adult humans are self-aware, and that normal adult snakes are not. As a result, we cannot help but agree that it is of crucial importance in the abortion debate to determine which organisms are self-aware and which are not, because in fact that is the defining characteristic that makes the killing so gravely wrong. If ever we are in doubt and suspect that an organism may have some self-awareness, we should give it the benefit of the doubt and give it the same protection that all persons enjoy.

Note that all this skirts the issues associated with how we treat non-human animals in other ways. The act of killing (assuming it can be done painlessly) is a unique ethical issue, because if an organism is deceased then it no longer has any preferences. So if you could be completely sure that you could kill a merely sentient organism without any pain (e.g. insects), then it should not be treated as murder. However, in reality it is never so simple. We can't really be sure that what we are doing is painless to a creature. In fact, the commercial meat industry inflicts great pain to cows when they are slaughtered for beef. So even though we could conceive of situations in which we could kill an organism without causing any pain, in practice we can almost never be sure of this, so we should abstain from such acts.[/quote]
And yet you advocate for what you consider "merely sentient" infants to be killed if such is desired. These statements are highly conflicting. Sure we know that certain things remove pain, and that overdoses remove that. However not all humans are the same, which makes me believe that not everything that causes one person pain, causes another person pain.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby Funkyterrance on Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:15 am

Metsfanmax wrote:
I disagree, principally because the relevant definition of personhood is based on what you describe as clinical details (such as the ability to feel pain and be self-aware). What is missing too often from the abortion debate is the question of why it is wrong to kill a human. We need a consistent ethical answer to this before we can broach the abortion or infanticide subjects. I argue that it is especially wrong to kill persons (as opposed to merely sentient beings) because there is some significant difference that sets persons apart from the merely sentient (such as self-awareness). So if we agree in this way that killing a normal adult human is more wrong than killing an adult snake, then we agree that the reason it is more wrong is because the human has self-awareness and has hopes and dreams for the future that the act of killing lays waste to, and because the act scares other people and makes them live less pleasant lives. But notice that we couldn't have reached this conclusion without establishing some facts biologically, such as that normal adult humans are self-aware, and that normal adult snakes are not. As a result, we cannot help but agree that it is of crucial importance in the abortion debate to determine which organisms are self-aware and which are not, because in fact that is the defining characteristic that makes the killing so gravely wrong. If ever we are in doubt and suspect that an organism may have some self-awareness, we should give it the benefit of the doubt and give it the same protection that all persons enjoy.

Note that all this skirts the issues associated with how we treat non-human animals in other ways. The act of killing (assuming it can be done painlessly) is a unique ethical issue, because if an organism is deceased then it no longer has any preferences. So if you could be completely sure that you could kill a merely sentient organism without any pain (e.g. insects), then it should not be treated as murder. However, in reality it is never so simple. We can't really be sure that what we are doing is painless to a creature. In fact, the commercial meat industry inflicts great pain to cows when they are slaughtered for beef. So even though we could conceive of situations in which we could kill an organism without causing any pain, in practice we can almost never be sure of this, so we should abstain from such acts.

Why the focus on ability to feel pain and aspirations for the future? I'm not sure how these two characteristics are plucked as the defining characteristics of personhood.
There exist animals that have a lower pain threshold yet higher brain function than some other organisms and vice versa so this can't be part of the definition. It's also very arguable that a person who does not necessarily have any plans or wishes for the future is still a person and killing this person would still be murder.
Ending life is the key, specifically a human life since we all know what it is to be human(species). I can't say what goes through a cow's head because I'm not a cow and neither can you. You can argue that "animals are people too" all you want but the majority of humans need some sort of Dr. Doolittlian evidence in order to believe this and rightly so. The bottom line is that we probably shouldn't be killing animals either though because there is the same "unknown" element.
However, your "pain+hopes=person" argument doesn't hold water because we can "suspend" an adult human in any combination of those characteristics or lack thereof and it's still not ok to kill them. My implication being that the fetus is just one "state" of a person just like being doped up to not feel pain or being depressed beyond the point of caring about the future is a state of a person. Granted being a fetus is an early state, its a state nonetheless.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby BigBallinStalin on Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:15 am

Metsfanmax wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:Sure, there's plenty of rules for protecting humans, e.g. negative right to life/self-protection. Of course, some human beings like those in a vegetative state usually transfer their decision rights to another party at previous time (e.g. a guardian, a lawyer, their parents, etc.). That's done on a voluntary basis through a will, so I see no problem with this right applying to all humans.

The personhood argument is created in order to sidestep the problem of dealing with a living organism which cannot offer its consent (e.g. the fetus). So, let's raise the standard arbitrarily, so that the chosen few of our liking have the desired rules only apply to them. That's the underlying impression I keep getting from the personhood argument.


On the contrary, the fact that a fetus cannot offer consent is of primary importance. The personhood argument is not saying that because the fetus can't offer consent, we let its mother make the decision, since the mother is also affected by the pregnancy. To keep it simple, assume that the fetus is in the first trimester and can't feel pain. Then, the personhood argument says that the fetus does not even have interests; its own welfare is more or less negligible. The problem with the argument you're trying to make is to imply that it's in the interests of the fetus to have a decision made for it by its parents. But actually it is meaningless to speak of the interests of the fetus. It cannot feel pain or experience pleasure, and it has never been a person with memories. Ethically speaking, then, it is a non-starter to even begin to argue that it deserves protection inherently. In denying the personhood argument, you're lowering the standard arbitrarily, so that the chosen species of our liking have the desired rules only apply to them. The personhood argument offers a clear and consistent standard for how to deal with the ethics of murder: if the organism is self-aware (roughly), then killing it is murder and is more gravely wrong than killing other organisms. Any other standard is the ethical equivalent of cherrypicking, to get the result you already wanted ("rights" -- or lack thereof -- for the fetus).


Thanks for posting. I'll be lurking about this.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby daddy1gringo on Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:02 am

First of all, let me agree with what some others have said: I like the turn that the tone of this discussion has taken. Everybody is being very reasonable and respectful (even BBS!) on a usually pyrotechnic subject. I will try to maintain this, and I hope everyone else will too.

Metsfanmax wrote:Choosing a dividing line may be hard, but that is no excuse for picking a bad one.
Agreed, though I naturally think that sword cuts the other way. ;)
The argument of the beard doesn't actually address any of the important ethical questions involved in determining whether abortion or infanticide can be justified. The important determination is not whether a new organism exists, but whether that organism has any of the qualities that deserve protection. Simply being a member of the species Homo sapiens is not qualification for ultimate ethical protection. This thought process is what has allowed us to mistreat non-human animals for so long, and similar reasoning has fueled events like the Holocaust -- dehumanize your opponents, and their lives are no longer worth protecting. We can solve these problems by making it not special to be human but special to be an organism that is self-aware.
But how is the standard that you have chosen any less arbitrary and convenient to your way of thinking than any of the others?

Furthermore, part of the reason you appeal to the argument of the beard is because you assert without proof that it's bad that the pro-choice side logically leads to infanticide. But I hope I have demonstrated that not everyone on our side of the issue sees that as an absurd conclusion (in fact, it is a problem with the standard pro-choice argument).


Now here you bring up an interesting point. You are absolutely right: I made no attempt to prove that infanticide is wrong, and for good reason. At least up until the time that I posted that, a couple of years ago, even the staunchest pro-choice advocate would have agreed that it goes without saying. Pro-life people were saying for years that the kind of reasoning pro-choice folks were doing would lead to advocating infanticide, to which the pro-choice would answer something like, “Don’t be ridiculous; that’s ‘chicken little’ alarmism. Of course it will never lead to that.”

What that tells me is that one of two things is true: either, as you seem to be indicating, there is a significant and growing number of adherents to ideas like those you are giving here, or there is not.

If there is not, well, hey, the majority is not always right, and sometimes the lone “crazy” person is actually the herald of progress, but the fact that even the pro-choice people, who are not hindered by obsolete superstitions as people like me are, still agree that killing a born infant is unthinkable, might be reason for you to reconsider your position.

If there is a significant and growing group who hold with your ideas, then the rest of the pro-choice camp needs to reconsider their position, because what their opponents predicted is coming true: their type of thinking is indeed moving into what they agree is unthinkable.

In particular, the argument from the beard does not apply when we're talking about personhood, because there is surely some period of time until significantly birth
I think this is a typo: doesn’t make sense grammatically. Could you rephrase?
where an infant shares none of the qualities of a fully developed person.
Once again, those standards that you choose, how are they any less arbitrary and convenient, any more logically ethical, than the ones you reject? They still have all kinds of grey areas and “slippery beard” problems. Also it doesn’t answer the question that all of the other standards have to answer: “Who will decide?” In this case that question is particularly haunting in that they will have to judge whose cognitive function, whose thinking, is good enough to qualify for having the right to live. All kinds of room for abuse here.
Even if we accept WestWind's standard of when the fetus can start to feel pain, that still justifies most of the abortions that take place today.
Right, which is part of why I don’t use standards like that. The one I use is actually the most logical and clear-cut. Remember also that I said there would still be room for dialogue concerning conflicting circumstances, like rape and the life of the mother; it would just mean recognizing that this is indeed a human life.
I urge you not to skirt the real, ethical issue by choosing a standard that is convenient for you to think about. Serious issues require serious solutions.
Obviously, I don’t believe that I am. Let me end with a real-life example that I have mentioned before. I know of a doctor who became pro-life one day when he performed an abortion in the afternoon, when that same morning he had performed life-saving surgery (heart, or spine, I can’t remember) on a fetus no further along than the other. He had to ask himself, “If I didn’t just take a life, then whose life did I save this morning?” What would you say to that doctor?
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Re: 336 Million

Postby tzor on Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:21 pm

Metsfanmax wrote:On the contrary, the fact that a fetus cannot offer consent is of primary importance. The personhood argument is not saying that because the fetus can't offer consent, we let its mother make the decision, since the mother is also affected by the pregnancy.


But by the same logic of consent, it would be perfectly fine for a mother to terminate a child at any age up to the age of consent for that child, right?

Let's not consider that "consent" by the mother is a complex issue, in most cases, abortion is an "offer they cannot refuse," from financial conditions, family members and even so called "friends," the general consideration of a guardian is the person they are in charge of, not their own personal interests. It it because the mother is "affected by the pregnancy" that she cannot be a proper impartial guardian of her pre-born child.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby BigBallinStalin on Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:37 pm

tzor wrote:
Metsfanmax wrote:On the contrary, the fact that a fetus cannot offer consent is of primary importance. The personhood argument is not saying that because the fetus can't offer consent, we let its mother make the decision, since the mother is also affected by the pregnancy.


But by the same logic of consent, it would be perfectly fine for a mother to terminate a child at any age up to the age of consent for that child, right?

Let's not consider that "consent" by the mother is a complex issue, in most cases, abortion is an "offer they cannot refuse," from financial conditions, family members and even so called "friends," the general consideration of a guardian is the person they are in charge of, not their own personal interests. It it because the mother is "affected by the pregnancy" that she cannot be a proper impartial guardian of her pre-born child.


Well, to be blunt, children between the ages of 1-17 tend to complain louder than a "pre-born child."
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Re: 336 Million

Postby BigBallinStalin on Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:23 pm

Question for everyone:


1. Humans have stages of life: egg+sperm, fetus1, fetus2, fetus3, newborn, child, teenager, adult, old (to speak crudely).
2. Some pro-choicers say, "egg+sperm and fetus1" are acceptable stages for annihilation.
3. Then, some pro-lifers say, "ah, if those are acceptable, then the rest are acceptable."

(A) Why do they say #3? Why do they carry that analogy beyond the details of stages and into all stages of a human?

(B) Instead of speaking about 'humans', 'persons', etc., why not just focus on the stages of life and decide which one is acceptable?
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Re: 336 Million

Postby john9blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:08 am

if you say that some stages are acceptable and some aren't, then you need to explain what makes the younger stage fundamentally different from the higher stage... things like "birth" or "pain reception"... what makes them important?

i don't think pro-choice advocates have given good reasons for their cutoff points.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby Funkyterrance on Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:25 am

BigBallinStalin wrote:(B) Instead of speaking about 'humans', 'persons', etc., why not just focus on the stages of life and decide which one is acceptable?

Probably because the stages are not really separable things from the being as a whole.
If a baby was, upon conception, sensitive to pain, etc, pro-choicers would just find another reason why killing it is acceptable. It's all about being able to get rid of the problem before it becomes a problem, so to speak. Generally speaking though, the further away from an adult human the fetus is the more comfortable people are with destroying it because it's "not a person" to them yet.

It's not the specifics of the act of performing an abortion that are important, that's just the way western-thinking individuals are comfortable dealing with the subject because it appeals to our "scientific" world view and has the further benefit of leaving all kinds of grey areas ripe for the plucking.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby ooge on Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:41 am

Over 100 million sharks killed a year,consumed by The Chinese in shark fin soup.Sharks predate the dinosaurs and will go extinct if this continues.more people only make problems like this worse.One day humans consuming other humans may be the only source of meat.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby Funkyterrance on Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:56 am

ooge wrote:Over 100 million sharks killed a year,consumed by The Chinese in shark fin soup.Sharks predate the dinosaurs and will go extinct if this continues.more people only make problems like this worse.One day humans consuming other humans may be the only source of meat.

Are you suggesting we start killing Chinese people who eat shark fin soup? You lost me.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby ooge on Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:08 am

Funkyterrance wrote:
ooge wrote:Over 100 million sharks killed a year,consumed by The Chinese in shark fin soup.Sharks predate the dinosaurs and will go extinct if this continues.more people only make problems like this worse.One day humans consuming other humans may be the only source of meat.

Are you suggesting we start killing Chinese people who eat shark fin soup? You lost me.


population control while it is heartless now,is the only way to save the human race in the long term.With scientific advances, Abortions should become unnecessary.China was stuck in a numbers game.This is why they instituted these drastic measures.India will be doing something similar before long.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby BigBallinStalin on Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:49 am

john9blue wrote:if you say that some stages are acceptable and some aren't, then you need to explain what makes the younger stage fundamentally different from the higher stage... things like "birth" or "pain reception"... what makes them important?

i don't think pro-choice advocates have given good reasons for their cutoff points.


What is a human other than stages of development--both physical and mental?

If we say, "all humans are precious," then where is the angst against women who treat their bodies with mediocrity, thus increasing the chances of miscarriage?
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Re: 336 Million

Postby BigBallinStalin on Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:51 am

ooge wrote:
Funkyterrance wrote:
ooge wrote:Over 100 million sharks killed a year,consumed by The Chinese in shark fin soup.Sharks predate the dinosaurs and will go extinct if this continues.more people only make problems like this worse.One day humans consuming other humans may be the only source of meat.

Are you suggesting we start killing Chinese people who eat shark fin soup? You lost me.


population control while it is heartless now,is the only way to save the human race in the long term.With scientific advances, Abortions should become unnecessary.China was stuck in a numbers game.This is why they instituted these drastic measures.India will be doing something similar before long.


Did you know that there's no correlation between population density and GDP per capita?

Did you know that as a country advances economically, the growth rate of its domestic population decreases?

I'm really not concerned about rampant population growth.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby ooge on Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:02 am

BigBallinStalin wrote:
ooge wrote:
Funkyterrance wrote:
ooge wrote:Over 100 million sharks killed a year,consumed by The Chinese in shark fin soup.Sharks predate the dinosaurs and will go extinct if this continues.more people only make problems like this worse.One day humans consuming other humans may be the only source of meat.

Are you suggesting we start killing Chinese people who eat shark fin soup? You lost me.


population control while it is heartless now,is the only way to save the human race in the long term.With scientific advances, Abortions should become unnecessary.China was stuck in a numbers game.This is why they instituted these drastic measures.India will be doing something similar before long.


Did you know that there's no correlation between population density and GDP per capita?

Did you know that as a country advances economically, the growth rate of its domestic population decreases?

I'm really not concerned about rampant population growth.


income,GDP,is not the same as resources witch will dwindle with unfettered human expansion.There are about A billion people alive today only because a scientist in recent history figured out how to grow particular crops in previously unsuitable areas for crop production.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby daddy1gringo on Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:35 am

ooge wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:
ooge wrote:
Funkyterrance wrote:
ooge wrote:Over 100 million sharks killed a year,consumed by The Chinese in shark fin soup.Sharks predate the dinosaurs and will go extinct if this continues.more people only make problems like this worse.One day humans consuming other humans may be the only source of meat.

Are you suggesting we start killing Chinese people who eat shark fin soup? You lost me.


population control while it is heartless now,is the only way to save the human race in the long term.With scientific advances, Abortions should become unnecessary.China was stuck in a numbers game.This is why they instituted these drastic measures.India will be doing something similar before long.


Did you know that there's no correlation between population density and GDP per capita?

Did you know that as a country advances economically, the growth rate of its domestic population decreases?

I'm really not concerned about rampant population growth.


income,GDP,is not the same as resources witch will dwindle with unfettered human expansion.There are about A billion people alive today only because a scientist in recent history figured out how to grow particular crops in previously unsuitable areas for crop production.
I'm with BBs here. (and you said you don't believe in miracles) Those of us talking here only have influence on policies concerning population-related issues in the countries we live in, mostly US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc. In those developed countries population growth is for the most part leveling off. Rampant population growth is mostly in the less-developed world.

The suggestion that the earth shows any signs of lacking the resources to feed its population is just misinformed. There is plenty of food. The problem is that a few of us consume too much of it. Just the food thrown out in the US could feed all of the starving in the world. The problem is selfishness, not population.
The right answer to the wrong question is still the wrong answer to the real question.
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Re: 336 Million

Postby ooge on Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:54 am

daddy1gringo wrote:
ooge wrote:
BigBallinStalin wrote:
ooge wrote:
Funkyterrance wrote:
ooge wrote:Over 100 million sharks killed a year,consumed by The Chinese in shark fin soup.Sharks predate the dinosaurs and will go extinct if this continues.more people only make problems like this worse.One day humans consuming other humans may be the only source of meat.

Are you suggesting we start killing Chinese people who eat shark fin soup? You lost me.


population control while it is heartless now,is the only way to save the human race in the long term.With scientific advances, Abortions should become unnecessary.China was stuck in a numbers game.This is why they instituted these drastic measures.India will be doing something similar before long.


Did you know that there's no correlation between population density and GDP per capita?

Did you know that as a country advances economically, the growth rate of its domestic population decreases?

I'm really not concerned about rampant population growth.


income,GDP,is not the same as resources witch will dwindle with unfettered human expansion.There are about A billion people alive today only because a scientist in recent history figured out how to grow particular crops in previously unsuitable areas for crop production.
I'm with BBs here. (and you said you don't believe in miracles) Those of us talking here only have influence on policies concerning population-related issues in the countries we live in, mostly US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc. In those developed countries population growth is for the most part leveling off. Rampant population growth is mostly in the less-developed world.

The suggestion that the earth shows any signs of lacking the resources to feed its population is just misinformed. There is plenty of food. The problem is that a few of us consume too much of it. Just the food thrown out in the US could feed all of the starving in the world. The problem is selfishness, not population.


This is the scientist.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug
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Re: 336 Million

Postby _sabotage_ on Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:59 am

GDP does not mean a damn thing. The cancer rate increases, good for GDP. For some an oil spill is a good opportunity. It's called broken window economics.

Actually, the population boom is said to result from the discovery of nitrogen fixation. You may be surprised to learn that plants grow everywhere.
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