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!
Naaah, better not - I was informed last night by a moderator that I had called one of our members "senile," when it should be obvious that I simply made a general statement of fact, with which no one beyond the age of forty can disagree.
I've been told that when senility creeps up on you, one tends to nod off at inappropriate times - case in point --
I'm not sure how I can be responsible for the assumptions of others, but I'd never call you that - anyway, it's time for my na
If that's true in some strictly technical way, they are still instincts in common parlance. Even so, I don't see how the distinction changes anything.
What do instincts have to do with a baby's value?
So, let me see if I am understanding you. Babies, the senile and insane, all incapable of considering the value of their own lives, have no value other than that provided by others. If I'm following you, if there is no one to value a baby, etc, then their life has no value. Where a baby etc have no one to value them, they may be dispensed with, perhaps slaughtered like a farm animal?
It would depend upon whether the baby, the senile person, or the insane person is capable of conducting a process of evaluation to arrive at a decision. When it comes to people who can't do that (fetuses, comatose people, senile people, and insane people), they are cared for by other people who place a value on their lives. If we didn't value their lives, they would be killed or allowed to die. I should think that's very obvious!
As a determinist, you do what it is in your nature to do. Just like the other animals? You say that accepting the value of survival after EVALUATION is a horse of a different colour, because of the choice we make. But you repeatedly say that as a determinist, you do what is in your nature. That 'choice' was not a choice was it, just you following your nature. You are failing to make clear how you are any different to any other meat automaton.
You got it. As a determinist I hold that while we make choices, we choose what we choose because there was no other choice supported by the entire state of affairs that led to the choice. Savvy? That choice is due to who we are our physical person and in terms of our brain state) and the influences on us at the time we make the choice. I know you'd like to think we can make the choice truly freely but I have no idea what truly freely could possibly mean. Randomized perhaps? If that feels like freedom to you, more randomization to you. There is no middle ground, unless you believe that God gave you free will.
Now we have a greater understanding of the term parsimony, I believe you are being unparsimonious in labelling all other animals as meat automatons. It sounds, like Descartes, you see humans as special, apart from other species when in fact evolution shows us that we exist in a continuum.
Well, people are basically meat automatons, too. Isn't that what a determinist would believe?
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.
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.)