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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Ok. Neither the baby, senile person or insane person are capable of considering how they value their lives. The baby too young, the others lacking cognitive ability. You are doing your best to avoid the question, so I'll put it another way. A baby is born in an alleyway, unwanted. The mother cares not and leaves. The baby is incapable of assigning it's own value to it's own life. Does the baby's life have a value? Could a passer by, unconcerned about the baby, and certainly placing no value on its life, take the baby's life? It would seen that in your book, there would be nothing unethical about the killing given the life is valueless.

On the second issue, what you first described as a horse of a different colour, you now concede is a horse of an identical colour. You now accept that we all, humans and other animals, are meat automatons. The flimsy distinction you first made, about a choice (which you now accept is not really a choice) only humans make about the post evaluation of value derived from survival, is no different between humans and other animals. In short, all creatures, including humans, are meat automatons acting according to their nature. You put forward NO reason to think that humans are any different than animals in their ability to value their own lives, either acting according to their nature.

Your arguments blatantly contradict each other. Sober yet?

A baby is born in an alleyway, unwanted. The mother cares not and leaves. The baby is incapable of assigning it's own value to it's own life. Does the baby's life have a value?

If someone gives it value. You seem to be asking if value can somehow inhere in something without someone giving it a value. If gold existed, but no people, how valuable would it be? It wouldn't have a value. What makes a life any different?

You mean no one cares about the baby? What about legislators who have passed laws against murder?

Could a passer by, unconcerned about the baby, and certainly placing no value on its life, take the baby's life? It would seen that in your book, there would be nothing unethical about the killing given the life is valueless.

Why is it only the passerby's evaluation that counts here? Surely people care about abandoned babies in alleys.

Anyway, it might be nice if everyone's life had value, but I don't know how you could make that work without going beyond what a consistent atheist could believe.

On the second issue, what you first described as a horse of a different colour, you now concede is a horse of an identical colour. You now accept that we all, humans and other animals, are meat automatons. The flimsy distinction you first made, about a choice (which you now accept is not really a choice) only humans make about the post evaluation of value derived from survival, is no different between humans and other animals.

I never flip-flopped on MY meaning of choice. YOU forgot what I mean by choice.

In short, all creatures, including humans, are meat automatons acting according to their nature. You put forward NO reason to think that humans are any different than animals in their ability to value their own lives, either acting according to their nature.

An elephant may exhibit what looks on the surface (an impenetrable surface, BTW) a bit like human behavior, but you have no more evidence that evaluation is in the elephant's repertoire than that grief is!

You aren't saying that animals have free will, are you? After all, if you believe, as you profess, that people have free will making them responsible for their actions, and if animals have behaviors which look like human behaviors, then it would seem to follow that predatory animals need to be held responsible for their predation.

@Unseen. OK. We have slightly more clarity. Forget legislators. We are talking about your ethical outlook. The baby in the alleyway lacks inherent value in your world. That is clear now.

Your argument did flip flop when you had to concede that both we and the other animals are meat automotons, forced into this admission by your determinist position.

The struggle for life gives the creature innate value and i apply my ethics accordingly.

Again your views on the capacities of other animals are unparsimonious, should we not, in the knowledge of evolution,
expect similarity?

@John Major

NOTHING has innate value. It has the value people give it, be it gold or babies. For value to be innate, you need a deity.

My argument never flip-flopped. I thought you understood my position well enough to know that humans aren't an exception to determinism. What do you think our free will discussions have been about?

So, you think animals have free will? I don't think anything does. But according to your similarity theory, we need to hold animals to account for the harm they do, don't we?

OK, we'll agree to disagree. Doesn't seem capable of proof. The evidence for me comes from evolution. The struggle to survive, to preserve life, marks its value. You came close to agreeing with me when you said that the struggle for survival is valuable. Why would it be vauable if that which it sought to preserve, the life, was not itself valubale?

I'm sorry if someone has already said this, but in my opinion (I should rather say "in my understanding") what makes us human is a certain amount of genetic similarity to one another and a certain amount of genetic difference from our pre-human ancestors and from our nearest primate relatives.

I don't think that the human question is in any way related to the abortion issue, which for me is about whether women should be required to give birth against their will (and the answer to that, of course, is no.)

@John Major

OK, we'll agree to disagree. Doesn't seem capable of proof. The evidence for me comes from evolution. The struggle to survive, to preserve life, marks its value. You came close to agreeing with me when you said that the struggle for survival is valuable. Why would it be vauable if that which it sought to preserve, the life, was not itself valubale?

What you don't get is that survival value is something totally different from value as in the value of gold or of a human life. The same word in terms of spelling and pronunciation, but the two senses of "value" are as different in meaning as the two different meanings of "cleave" (to cling to something, to cut something into two pieces).

Well I didn't say survival value - that's the ability of an organism to survive. I described that which survival value seeks to preserve - life.


When you value a piece of gold, a baby, a terse response on a forum, you do that because it is in your nature to do so, right? But if you have no choice but to value that gold, baby, etc, how can the term 'value' have any meaning for you? Can anything therefore have value? You are not freely choosing or assigning relative weight.

I agree, because I consider value to be simply measurements that are taken completely related to the need to act, but not being able to know what is the best action.  So we measure out things and call those measurements values.  It was actually something that triggered my deconversion.

Any action other than the best is a mis-measurement.  Because of that, any better action will always have a higher value than any number other mis-measurements that come across as being other potential things you can do.  The mis-measurements are just worse decisions.  All those extra decisions that you seem to have freedom of will to do, really can't have value, because value is just measuring in order to figure out the best action.

I compare it to measuring tape, because it shows in a good visual manner how potentialities are so pointless with measurement.  There are a lot of potential measurements on a measuring tape, but the only one you are concerned with when measuring something like a window, is the measurements of that window.  Those other potential measurements just don't matter.   Other potential mis-measurments don't matter with any kind of measurement, beyond that of the most accurate one you can get.

Well I didn't say survival value - that's the ability of an organism to survive. I described that which survival value seeks to preserve - life.

You talk about survival value as if it's a separate intelligent being because you describe it as seeking something.

Let's be precise about what a survival value actually is. It is some feature, behavior, appearance, or other characteristic which happens to function to preserve more lives than it snuffs out.

When we talk about the value of something, be it a hunk of gold, a piece of real estate, or a person, that is the value it has to others. Neither gold, nor real estate, nor people have an innate value. Some people like to talk that way, but it is not a way of talking one can support as if it's a fact.

I can prove how much gold or real estate is worth. We don't like to think about placing value on human life, and yet it is done all the time. It's done by companies deciding how safe to make their products. It's done by military commanders weighing the cost of the lives likely to be lost in an operation vs. the advantage gained, etc.

A human life has the worth someone gives it. Yes, you can give your own life a value in your mind, but if no one else agrees with you (think of how most people regard Jerry Sandusky) your self-evaluation won't count for much. You can clutch it to your heart, but otherwise it's meaningless unless others agree with you.

Real value comes from an external source. The value of a human life isn't innate any more than the value of a hunk of gold.

Blaine - stretch your memory all the way back to the very first episode of "Mork and Mindy," - you know, before Williams grew a back-beard - Mork explained he was rich, that when he left Ork, he had taken a whole bag of the most precious mineral on the planet. Mindy asked what it was, gold? diamonds? Mork answered, "Better than that - SAND!"

A hunk of gold has no value to a man from Ork.

RE: "There Ya' Go!"

Not to correct you Blaine, but it's "'ere Ya Go!"

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