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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I told him to smell a rose. He corrected me in saying that it was in fact the gas exuded from the rose, and not the rose itself that could be smelt. Spock lol.

Does not compute! Does not compute!

I'm betting that his entire operating system is severely corrupted!

What does "it's an it" mean? or imply?

It's a human "it" by its DNA. I think it's a stretch to argue that, DNA aside, it's not human. I just don't think the state has a right to stick its nose into a woman's business and dictate to her how she should handle a pregnancy.

Stutz. If animals could be shown to suffer would it matter to you? Would you then move the goal posts? When you say that you have a common sense understanding, does that mean you havent have looked at the evidence?

Of course it would matter. But I still define suffering as the ability to experience mental anguish about one's situation. That's not as easy to prove as simple pain or fear, which are neurological. Anguish is a kind of psychological pain, and there's little evidence to suggest the existence of that outside of humans and some of the higher mammals.

I didn't say my understanding is common sense. It's not obvious or self-evident. The point I was making is that I think my view happens to be a more precise definition of the average person's view of animals. In other words, it's reaches the same conclusion that most people reach (but not necessarily for the same reasons). I do like to think my view is more evidence-informed than most people's, but I'm no biologist.


So you would not describe feeling pain over a sustained period as suffering? It seems that your view of suffering of other animals is very human centric. You seem to be saying that if animals cannot suffer as we do, it does not count.

Anguish I will define as mental torture. You think other animals, perhaps chickens, cows and pigs cannot feel anguish? All animals developed behavious to survive. Herd animals herd. They feel safe in numbers. Being seperated from the herd causes stress, perhaps anguish. The cries of a dieing animal being attacked also cause a herd to take flight. A fear response to help the survival of the species. I am uncertain why you would exlude herd/social animals from mental suffering. I would arge that cognitive ability can reduce anguish as well as heighten it. We can make sense of pain or prolonged pain, other animals may not, perhaps heightening the fear.

I could describe in detail the extreme behavious that animals exhibit when simply deprived of the opportunity to follow an instinct - broilers and veal calves spring top mind, so too pigs. Given what we know of evolution, it seems unparsimonious to me to suggest starl differences between us and other (farm) animals.

Most people simply do not take the time to look at the evidence. They know more about the lives of polar bears than broiler chickens or pigs in factory farms.

Lastly, I'd like to know where you stand on the value of life, any life be it himan or other animals. Kris Freestena says human life has no intrinsic value whatsoever. Unseen says it is self-defined but is yet to consider the value of a baby's life, or that of a senile or insane person, unable to place value on his or her own life.

Well, as I've said several times, I am of the opinion that pain and fear are neurological (and I'll add that I would define pain/fear + time = stress), while anguish is psychological. They are two different categories. By listing the ways some animals behave when under stress, you haven't taught me much about their psychology.

Sorry if my view seems human-centric. It is fair to point out that I might be biased. This does not argue against my views, though, and I'll say again that I think it probably applies to several of the higher mammals.

No idea where you got the herd/social animals thing, as I never said anything about that. Once again, again as I've said several times, it's the degree of consciousness that I think is salient here.

What scale are you using to measure the degree of consciousness? Which comes first, the animals we like to eat or the measure of consciousness? Do you draw the line so as to rationalise your penchant for pig or cow flesh?

The way I do it is a combination of the measure of the creature's personal conscience and it's measure of consciousness. 

 If it is an essentially soulless (figuratively speaking) creature that has no concern for other creatures that is important for me.  Wild pigs for instance are bizarre and insane and kill pretty much anything in their path and eat the bones.  I don't have a problem eating psycho-animals.  

I would agree with Stutz about consciousness.  An animal has to have a sense of self to be a person.  If it doesn't have a sense of self, it can't be treated like a person just because what it experience bears similarity to the human experience we call suffering.

For instance a crab can't suffer in the way a human can.

So how should we treat a baby, a senile person or perhaps an insane person who has little or no sense of self? Should they be treated like us other people, are they people at all? Good ethics requires an attempt at consistency in my view.

I know little about psycho pigs, they sound scary. Are you saying the guiding principle ought to be the behaviour of the animal, rather than say a an appreciation of their capacity to suffer. Cows, pigs, chickens seem fairly placid to me. Would you therefore reframe from eating them. Would you extend behaviour as a determinant of treatments for our own species?

@John Major

Species-ism explains why we treat our own kind differently. It's very natural to treat one's own species as special.


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