So I was having an online discussion with my younger brother a little more than a week ago about abortion. Being a devout and pro-life Catholic he held the opinion that life starts at conception, that it a fertilized egg is human and should be treated as human because it is a unique life different than the host parent. I have also been reading bio-ethics and many different places on the debate and they all seem to revolve around trying to justify scientifically what I can best describe as trying to answer the question, "when is an embryo tantamount to a human being?" 

     Of course, that one question gave way to the larger question, "What makes us human?" Where do we define the limits of humanity? Is it strictly in a biological sense as in form, shape, and structure? Is it in potential in the case of infants? Is it in behavior; could someone act in a way that they are no longer considered, if even for a moment, a human? Is it in ability whether physical or mental? Is humanity a transitive property; in other words, is it a label that can be taken away or does it last regardless once it has been gained? Are their varying degrees of humanity where a person could be considered "more human" than someone else?

I am very curious to hear all of your thoughts and ideas!

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Abortion has been a tough issue for me.  I had a friend who used it as a form of birth control because she just couldn't remember to use a condom or take a pill.  Needless to say, we're not friends anymore.  Abortion should be illegal in that case, I think.  I have a problem with abortion laws because most people see it as a "black and white" issue when it most definitely isn't.  Laws are passed that keep women from getting an abortion based solely on how far along the woman is in her pregnancy.  Incest and rape don't matter, the fact that the woman doesn't want a child and is therefore more likely to abuse or neglect it doesn't matter, mental health of the pregnant woman doesn't matter.  It's not wrong in all cases, nor is it right in all cases.  The fact that religious doctrine says it's wrong doesn't matter to me.  Personally, I think if government is going to make all these laws that follow religious doctrine, the religious people should have to prove that their doctrine is true.  If not, they have no business trying to say what's right or wrong and then pushing that belief on everyone else, especially in matters of medicine.

I'd like to point out first that I appreciate your reply! Secondly, what I'm trying to get at is deeper than just the conundrum of abortion. It's like an onion and this is only one of the layers of a larger issue. Some of those other layers we have yet to see in society like: if an artificial intelligence is so like a human can it be considered one? Why? Would it have the same moral worth? Would terminating it as a program be murder? Why?

Those same questions can be applied to abortion. Is a fetus so like a human that it can be considered one? Why? Would it have the same moral worth? Would terminating it be murder?

Humanoid androids face the same questions. Someone who has had his or her internal organs mostly replaced by bionic machines is another question. Are people with severe physical and/or mental disabilities less human then people without? Why? At the heart of all of these questions  is the singular question: What does it mean to be human?

So a simpler question for you, now that I hope you understand better what I am asking and how abortion relates to it, Why did you have a problem with your friend using abortion as birth control? It was obviously a substantial problem as you don't talk to her anymore, but as a Devil's Advocate here, why was what she did wrong?

As a side note... I'll admit that I find it distasteful because of it's blatant disregard for her own body as well as the man involved with the pregnancy. I know a guy who recently found out his girlfriend miscarried and even though it is a completely natural occurrence, he was really torn up about it because he highly values having a family one day. If they were early term abortions, well I won't hold that fact against her.

Scientific American Magazine » May 2009

In Brief

  • Chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans and share nearly 99 percent of our DNA.
  • Efforts to identify those regions of the human genome that have changed the most since chimps and humans diverged from a common ancestor have helped pinpoint the DNA sequences that make us human.
  •  The findings have also provided vital insights into how chimps and humans can differ so profoundly, despite having nearly identical DNA blueprints.


I'm going to have to check out this issue of the magazine at the library so I can read the rest of it (for free). I also look forward to see what others have to say about this.

It's definitely one way to describe it. Being human is being homo sapiens.

In the matter of evolution it is said that every child resembles the parent, but eventually, there is so much change that the child no longer resembles the ancestor. Without the ancestral forms, it is difficult to see what the species was like whales who at one point were predatory land mammals. How do we tell when one species is no longer like the other?

One of the delineations for what constitutes a different species is successful interbreeding. If one species can interbreed with another and produce fertile offspring it's still of the same species. Hence, why different breeds of dogs are all the same species, and different breeds of cats are all the same species, but horses and donkeys and lions and tigers are not the same species.

On the other hand, Neanderthal's and Humans could interbreed (we know this from mitochondrial DNA studies) and produce viable offspring, but they are considered different species. Were we still the same species then and just misappropriately labeled? If they are both human by that definition, then why are they still considered different? Is it a matter of genetic variance? Where do we draw that line? At a million variances? 5 million? 10 million? Can we point to certain combinations and say that it is more important that there are changes is these areas, say dealing with optical function, and not others like body hair? Where do we justify in form and physical substance and structure where that delineation is?

But as we learn more about what we can do with gene manipulation and as technology allows us (one day) to control our own evolution, will we eventually become something other than human? Will we consider ourselves to be human and other-than-human or will there just be to much pressure to admit fundamental genetic differences? Interesting note: I once heard a futurist (and I wish I could remember his name) say that in a thousand years, if things go as they do now, there will be two species of humans: a tall and fair one and a short, squat and ugly one. Oh, and everyone will be some shade of brown and red hair will be extinct.

actually..... you can be homo sapiens sapiens (most likely - most modern humans) or homo sapiens.......   though that is no longer published as its misused by those with an agenda.

I thought homo sapiens sapiens merely indicated a subspecies to differentiate between us and homo sapiens idaltu and any other sub-species of homo sapiens that may emerge in the future.

French author Vercors defines humans as being denatured beast as they are unique in seeing themselves, in recognising themselves and the environment they live in as two seperate identities. However when it comes to the far more complex question of delineating the beginning of a human life, I believe you find yourself up agaisnt an unaswerable question as any answer would have to define the terms in the premise, such that any answer would be circular in it's nature (eg human life is x thus x is human life). Much the same problem can be found when defining the nature of life itself. Is a virus alive? Well what's life? Anything that can make copies of itself? Why? Well because that's what all life does? Well what about a virus? See what I mean? I think what you ask here is an impossible question to answer absolutely. The moral ramifications are less absolute and easier to solve. Hope that helps.

The human being is an animal, a mammal, an ape, a Great Ape, a hominid, a homo sapiens.

The human being is an upright, bipedal, relatively hairless ape, w/an opposable thumb.

The human being does not have oestris but reproduces by having relatively free and frequent sexual intercourse w/pregnancies occuring when the females happen to be fertile.

In other words - we do NOT have souls and are NOT made in some god's image. We evolved over millions of years - and our unsavory traits are as human if not more human than the ones we deem fine and good. Hitler was as human as Martin Luther King Jr - and, indeed, Hitler's behavior was more in line w/human behavior throughout history. It's history's Martin Luther King Jr's who are the rare ones, it's Hitlers who are common. Sad but true.

As for the abortion question: yes, the fertilized egg is human and on its way to being born a baby. A human fetus carried to term will not come out a girraffe.

It was worse than stupid to try to argue that a fetus became human only after this or that point in its development. The job from the get was to make a case for ending the life of an as yet unborn human being. This would not have been easy, but it would have settled the matter for good. The same twisted, self-righteous monsters who troll around abortion clinics to taunt women on their ways in and out are the same twisted, self-righteous monsters who troll around prisons when executions are about to be carried out. If they can justify killing an adult, we can justify killing an unborn baby - and using many of the same arguments after a bit of tailoring. The issues are hardly different!

It was a mistake to attempt to make abortion look less horrible than it does! The correction of that mistake lies in making the alternative - the birth of an unwanted baby - look worse (which it is).

If the right questions are put to most people, one finds that most people support the idea of abortion at least in cases of rape/incest or when the mother's life is in danger. Many even support the idea of abortion when the fetus is shown to be diseased. That's not the whole, but it's a good start.

I do not like the idea of abortion - especially as a means of birth control - but I do not want to see it illegalized. Legal abortion is necessary, no matter how ugly it might be. Women cannot be forced to have babies that they do not want. Besides, illegalizing abortion will only hurt the poor who cannot board planes for countries where abortion is legal.

And let's not forget that there is no evidence that more aboritions are being performed legally post Roe V Wade than were being performed illegally prior to Roe V Wade.

In the case of incest there is a good probability for some order of mental defect in the offspring. Dad and daughter do not make for healthy babies necessarily. Forcing a woman to carry to term a fetus arising out of rape is one thing- WRONG!

If you view abortion as murder, then the woman should be charged with capital murder, right? After all, they contract with the doctor in a conspiracy to commit murder. Analogous to hiring a hitman.

Paul, you have the habit of not answering comments when you know you're going to look wrong or foolish. Man up and answer me.

You noticed that too? Makes me wonder if he isn't scrambling to find responses among his canned sermons.


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