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!

Tags: humanity

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We progress with variations, each variation bearing a family resemblance to its forebears, but eventually a creature is produced bearing little or no resemblance to its ultimate forebears. Thus, we are all children of an amoeba but we are not amoebas anymore and bear no resemblance to an amoeba whatsoever.

(I apologize in advance for any imagery that expression might call to mind.)

Only the hose nose knows what the hose nose knows.

I'm not the doctor, I'm the doctor's son. But I'll do the doctorin' till the doctor comes.

We don't know if a virus can feel or has a consciousness... but we know plants and animals do..... doesn't stop us from eating them or doing what we have to.

An unborn thing is just that... a collection of cells with a consciousness - and this consciousness is far less than that of a plant at 24 weeks with it gradually increasing as the brain develops - which it really does best AFTER BIRTH when the senses gradually become engaged - at a meteoric level until the age of 4.

I don't believe there is much credible evidence that plants feel pain. I agree many other species do on the basis:

1. They have very similar nervous systems that are connected to brains.

2. When subjected to a pain stimulus, their behaviour is simialr. Screams, fear reactions, avoidance, etc.

3. Pain is a very important to the survival of the species, not just our own.

The only reason pain evolved is so an organism can sense danger and then do something to avoid the pain. There's no evolutionary reason for plants to have pain, or consciousness for that matter.

Well, no, that's not really true.  Plants do have defensive responses to certain stimuli. The evolutionary reason is likely the same as in humans.  'Pain' and 'consciousness' almost certainly aren't the correct words to use, but I think it would be incorrect to say that there would be no evolutionary reason for these traits to exist in some form or another.

For some plants, being eaten is good for survival. I think that we can be confident plants do not suffer pain as we understand it.

Dying is good for all species (not for the individuals). It makes way for the next generation and for the worst genes to be eliminated from the pool.

Good point. 


Pain tells a creature that damage is imminent or is happening. Of course, it's irrelevant when a prey animal feels pain during active predation. Their role in nature is to provide nutrition to the predator just as, however we happen to die, we become worm food (unless we are cremated, in which we are given back to nature via a shortcut).

Maybe what makes us human is whatever the scientists say makes us human.


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