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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One thing for sure, what makes us human is our ability to discuss scientifically what is and must be on the one hand, but on the other hand our ability to discuss philosophically what can be and should be.

In this sense, I don't see yet how science can define what should be, except in terms of how it can obviously enhance what humans require for survival and health.

So I see two major, distinct abilities that make humans unique: 1) to invent and use science to describe and enhance our natural existence; 2) to wisely choose how to use resources (and science) above and beyond our own, personal survival requirements. (I think Clay Shirky has written about the latter as "Cognitive Surplus"?)

In everyday life, we seem to imply that it's our frailties and flaws that make us human: "I'm only human," "to err is human," etc. When do we say "To be great is human" or "To be kind is human"? Sure, some people are great or kind, but they don't seem to define us in any way we actually talk about, do they?

The human cognition is unique, because it enables only humans to experience so much individuality, that they can prefer to refuse to breed.  Human cognition allows us to consider breeding as irrational harm on women's bodies.  Animals breed by instinct.   No animals are capable to remain consciously childfree.   

@ maruli - Human cognition allows us to consider breeding as irrational harm on women's bodies.

Sorry, maruli, I feel that is what a woman's body is meant to do, that is what a woman's instinct is to do, and that is what my brain wanted - to have children, as opposed to 'breeding'. I didn't consider it breeding, and I couldn't imagine my life without them. Certainly there are many women choosing not to have children, for whatever reason, career, lifestyle, education, more power to them, but for me, wasn't talked into it, it wasn't expected of me, and with women's freedom to choose, the miraculous pill, freedom to have sex whenever, and whenever I deem to choose it.  When I had my three children, it was like shelling peas, so easy, no trauma, no damage to body, and the joy of having children, unbelievable, and actually quite surprising to me. When a woman 'chooses' to have a child, and by chance, she can't for whatever reason - she can actually become unbalanced.  I have personally see this happen, another friend who had a miscarriage, traumatised and went into a deep depression.

I even planned to have my children's birthday in the one month, so I would only have to have one birthday party.

I am talking about families where religion doesn't rear it's ugly head, as mormons and their walking incubators, or catholics, before the pill was invented, or muslims where the female is a chattel. In western society, it is, or should be choice. People who get pregnant with so much contraception around, have got to be thick, no excuses. For a female to have control, and making the choices she wants to make, and everybody else can go take a hike. Women making the choice, whatever that choice is - that is what it is all about.

I am also pro-abortion, shouldn't get pregnant, but once again, leave it up to the woman to make her choice if she can feed, cloth, house and educate that child. Every child must be wanted - what is the point, otherwise.

That is the difference between humans and animals - we have contraception, and it is getting better all the time - thanks to Science.

By the by - sex is certainly instinctive too - yahoooo!!!

Suzanne, you are strengthening my point.  

Both your and my cognition are allowing us a conscious choice of what is beneficial for each of us as a different individual. 

Your choice was breeding in the full awareness of having the option of an alternative.

I as a woman have the awareness, that breeding would have been nothing less than biological abuse of my body, and I had the conscious choice to refuse compliance with such an act of unrewarded self-harm.  

Animals lack the cognition to have a choice.   This choice makes us distinct as humans.


But you and I represent two extremes.   There are many breeders, who do experience harm:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808121949.htm

    "A Tel Aviv University researcher has found that approximately one third of all post-partum women exhibit some symptoms of PTSD, and a smaller percentage develop full-blown PTSD following the ordeal of labor."

@manuli - You are strengthening my point

Really! - I as a woman, knew that my body was made, through evolution, and the sex that I was born with, in this case, female, I chose to have children - and yes, it was my choice. We are lucky enough to have Science to make the choice. But my body is made for it, my instinct is made for it - no trauma of any kind, it was dead easy.

The whole process of pregnancy was brilliant - and I could say, that any woman who doesn't experience this, they are missing out on the most amazing experience of their life, to have a baby growing inside of you, but I won't because for the woman to 'choose' not to have children, that is totally up to her. I actually feel sorry for men, as they will never know that feeling of absolute awe.

Once again, I can not imagine my life without them. You choose not to have children, good for you, that is your choice, and power to you - but we are still animals, animals with intelligence, of sorts, but still animals, who want to spread their genes, and have sex. All instinctive.

Animals lack the cognition to have a choice. This choice makes us distinct as humans - well, lucky us.

There are many breeders, who do experience harm - no doubt, and that is sad - and there are many woman who have children who have a brilliant experience. What happens when a woman is denied her chance to have children, for whatever reason.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_abduction

I just don't blanket statement anything to do with women, it is their choice, no matter what the choice is, and I chose to have three children.

The lifestyle we lead today, that is the family unit, is against nature. Women should look after women, as in a village setting - too much can be expected from women today, but I am still over women moaning how hard it is - and for the women around me, it was joy, nothing to compare with it. My daughter has two children, once again, a breeze. I do not know of any female whose body was damaged in any way, or had a traumatic time whatsoever. That is not to say, there are woman who had a 'bad' time - just no blanket statements again.

There are now, in an enlightened society, catering for grieving parents of a miscarried baby, which is a fairly recent civil act. Women find it very difficult to 'get over' the death of a baby. There are now Associations for Miscarriage, because the women feel, and it doesn't matter what trimester it is, the woman will grieve as if it was full term. Same instinct as a gorilla or chimpanzee. Oh, yes, we are animals, we just have Science backing us up.

Suzanne, what is good for you is not automatically good for others.  

My only emphasis is on the cognitive ability for choice.   My original statement is "Human cognition allows us to consider breeding as irrational harm on women's bodies."   Allowing the consideration of an alternative as thinkable does not imply any evaluation of the alternatives.      

By the way, I know what I am talking about.   Animals have no cognition, what happens to their body, they have no cognition of being pregnant as a conscious experience.  Humans suffer in anticipation of unavoidable harm.  I was pregnant once, when abortions were still illegal in Germany.    The weeks, while I was desperately seeking someone to restore me, were the worst time of my life.   I was completely helpless against the cancer in my belly.   The parasite was growing there and I had not power to stop it from abusing me from inside.   I have never again been so grateful in my life as I have been to the doctor, who risked to go to jail for helping women like me.

I repeat, this is about choice, breeding is a good choice for women like you, who want it, not breeding is an equally good choice for women like me, who are not attracted to children and who have no breeding instinct. 

Suzanne, you appear nearly like a missionary for breeding.   But I have no mission to tell women not to breed, if they enjoy it, and you have not mission to claim, that breeding is beneficial for all women, because you subjectively experience it as beneficial for yourself.   

I do not deny the existence of instincts.   My own interest is the evolution of cognition and the way, how the human brain attempts to solve the contradiction and cognitive dissonance between instinctive urges and cognitive needs and insights.  

I have been extensively blogging about this.   People can have different possible identities, depending on how much they experience themselves in an accepting way as determined by their instincts, or if they identify with their cognition being impaired by detrimental instincts.   

@Suzanne, what is good for you is not automatically good for others.  That, is what I have been saying all the way through.

My original statement is "Human cognition allows us to consider breeding as irrational harm on women's bodies."

And that is what I am saying - what is right for you is not right for me. You choose to do anything you like with your body, to choose to have children, or choose not to have children, cognitive choice - we, as humans, just happen to evolve the way we have, but we still have instinctive, animalistic traits, tendencies, we just happen to get to the top of the totem pole earlier than anybody else. But that is all. Humans still have animal behaviors, territory, competition, sex, with the additional power to make cognitive choice. Just don't ignore the instinct - it is still very strong, and we still have a lot of evolving to do.

What are you reading - Suzanne, you appear nearly like a missionary for breeding. The exact opposite - we are human, shear luck, we make cognitive choices, lucky us.

Not breeding is an equally good choice for women like me - again, what exactly are you reading - I never make blanket statements. Not having children, your cognitive choice, good for you, power to you. But I don't call people who choose, through cognitive choice - non-breeders, they are, usually women, who have made your choice. I am saying, I didn't have any horrendous damage done to my body through childbirth, that was my experience, you have made a choice because you may damage your body, or whatever, your choice. And by the by, you don't' know' if childbirth would damage your body or not. I have never, and would never, judge any woman about her choice of what to do, or not. And the sooner women stop condemning each other for their choices, the better.

I was pregnant once, when abortions were still illegal in Germany.

I thought there may have been a reason why you were so vehement, and there could not be a more terrible reason. I sympathize with you. I am so sorry you were pregnant, when it was a bad time for you? or you did not have family support? or the bloke was a cretin, and you did not want him to be siring a child of yours? or you were too young?

The parasite, the cancer - wow, I have to think it was the bloke who was a cretin here.

Abortion has been legal for as long as I can remember, here.  In my mother's generation, different story, but in my generation, there was no stigma attached to either abortion or having a baby - either way, totally acceptable - that is society, that is civility. I have known a girl who had three abortions. I just thought she was thick. Still no trauma, no damage to the body, and no regrets about having an abortion - big differences, than to call the state you were in parasitic  and cancerous.

Depending on how much they experience themselves in an accepting way as determined by their instincts, or if they identify with their cognition being impaired by detrimental instincts - 

You have been making choices, because of a very bad situation, where you went through terror, just don't put that terror and disdain onto other women.

that breeding is beneficial for all women - duh, Once again, I have never said that, would not say it, will not say it - and I don't know how else to say it - and by the by, my cognition is not impaired by detrimental instincts.   Wow, you really are mixed up. My instincts are alive and well, very healthy indeed, usually driven by lust :)

I have long been obsessed with the question. 'what makes us human?'. During my trains of thought contemplating on the question, I stumbled upon some insights which I have elaborated in the following blog of mine -

http://whatmakesushumans.com/what-makes-us-human/

Please feel free to read it and let me know what you think...

What is it about sophisticated time awareness (STA) that makes us human? All creatures have something unique about them. For example, the barreleye fish is the only fish with a transparent head, but it's possible that someday a variation may give the fish an opaque head. If so, has the barreleye fish stopped being a barreleye fish? Maybe you're overreaching. Why isn't it our DNA that makes us human?

I read your article.  

I fully agree that time awareness is a constitutive ingredient in human uniqueness.  But this is only important when having an impact upon the behavior.  The time awareness enables humans to make rational decisions based upon the extrapolation of memorized past events into the future.   This includes the additional cognitive ability of comparing the benefits of behaving by instinct with the benefits of acting against instincts.   Instincts are merely an option, not a determination as in animals.

Acting against instinctive urges is as much an constitutive ingredient of human uniqueness as is the time awareness. 

Examples:

By the ingroup-outgroup and the hierarchy instinct, someone may rob another person's food or even kill and eat him.    By cognitive long-term insight, this instinct is overridden by the wisdom of cooperation for a long-term shared improvement of the food supply.

By his physiological instinctive urges, a man may rape a woman, who if lucky escapes a repetition of the atrocity.   By cognitive long-term insight, he overrides his instincts and makes her his monogamous companion.

By the procreation instinct, everybody would breed and some of them would later mistreat the unwanted children.   By cognitive long-term thinking, people are able to be aware in advance, if they want to breed or not and if not breeding spares them 18 wasted years of slavery.   (Suzanne, no provocation to restart a futile debate about this)

@maruli - and if not breeding spares them 18 wasted years of slavery.   Suzanne, no provocation to restart a futile debate about this - no debate! 

Well, that is not going to happen, but I do like to discuss and get differing points of view, it is part of my education, to learn from wise and intelligent people.

I want to know how other people think and feel.

You blanket statement everything - 18 wasted years of slavery - wow, what slavery? you just have no idea, and that is very sad. You are confused. The first eighteen years are the fantastic ones, it is the next few years that are shit, when kids are going out on their own, experimenting in so many ways, and parents just hope they come back alive, and sometimes they actually don't. But that is life.

 The question you should be asking is, from the women on this site who have children, who have Extrapolated the memory of past events into the future - do they regret anything, did they think of an embryo as a parasite and cancerous, are they sorry they went through the birthing process and do they consider the first eighteen years of a child's life slavery? 

And, most important - Would they go through the process again?

Do you hate men, or do you hate being female? I love both - that is not to say there are some, if not most males are dubious, BUT there are many good men around, intelligent, caring, respectful, sense of humour, and of course, sexy - they are hard to find, granted, but they are worth the search. Don't need a relationship, but want a relationship, if it doesn't work out that way, give them the flick, one is better on one's own.

That is not to say, there are horrendous, vengeful, stupid, low IQ, manipulating, bitches who just love to crush the balls of any male they happen to come across. I know there are men on this site, who have had the experience, some don't like women for very good reason, then there are men, who learnt, and are a lot more choosy, with experience, and also give the women the flick, if it doesn't work out. But that is life, too.

I just don't condemn female for their choices, have children, not have children, have abortions, not have abortions. Women should support women. I do condemn women who manipulate and abuse men, and I have great respect for the men who work hard for their families in shithouse jobs, and love their families.

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