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Science doesn’t say that!

Have you ever noticed how the religious regard ‘scientism’ and ‘reductionism’ and demands for concrete evidence as barely a notch above obscenities? That is, until they need to reduce complex issues to simplistic claims and don the mantle of Science to support their beliefs. Then they become Holy Writ.

You can really see this behavior in the abortion debate, where suddenly anti-choicers decide that humanity is defined by a particular arrangement of alleles in the genome. Case closed, they say, Science has spoken! Unfortunately, they get the science wrong, and we know their commitment to the authority of sacred science will be discarded the instant a scientist says something they disagree with…like, say, there is no soul and the mind is a product of the brain, or you are an evolved variant of an ape, or maybe, just maybe, genes aren’t the magic ju-ju beans you think they are.

A classic example was published in the Independent. Look how Declan Ganley bows and scrapes to the authority of science, multiple times!

Of course, the only way to guarantee that the law protects all individual members of the human species equally, is that at a minimum, from the moment that a member can be identified as such, the law insures immunity from deliberate bodily destruction.

This moment of identity is unequivocally known today as conception (as indeed the word itself suggests), when the DNA of a new member of the human species arises. It is scientifically indisputable that the DNA discovered here by science is that of a unique individual distinct from their biological mother, and that this DNA is the unique and irreplicable identifier of a unique member of our species.

So the question is not whether we know when the human individual is first created (this is unequivocally proven by science), but rather whether an individual’s right to life can be made subject to another and one individual human can be fully owned by another to the point where their very life is subject only to the whims of another.

None of us are created in the fullness of our potential, but science has shown us that human life is a journey, not a static moment. Our potential is gifted us at our conception – our appearance, talents and very fingerprints are hardcoded, and the rest is up to us. We are all conceived with the destiny to be born, grow, mature, slowly fade and die. The deliberate and targeted interruption of this process at any point is the ending of a single, unique, never-to-be-replaced human existence, and is the most base form of discrimination. That is why we make killing another human the most serious of all the crimes.

I’ve got news for you, Ganley. Science does not have such unambiguous answers as you claim; human-ness is an emergent property of a gradual process of development, and no one is going to ever be able to say, “Here, right here, is the magic instant in which an embryo becomes fully human.” That’s because “human” as used in law and sociology and philosophy and even theology is something complex and very, very hard to define, so looking for a mathematically precise and sharp boundary in the vagueness of complexity is a contradiction in terms.

You can try to do it by putting on blinders and pretending that the genetic sequence of an individual is sole criterion, and that it is well-defined and unambiguous, but it isn’t. It just creates more problems.

Genetically, we’re nearly identical to chimpanzees. They have the same genes in roughly the same organization on their chromosomes; they have some novel variants, or alleles, but every newborn chimp also has a “unique and irreplicable” arrangement of alleles. Why aren’t you declaring their lives precious and demanding protection? Why not say the same for cows and ears of corn? They are also genetically special.

But, you will say, they are uniquely human. And I will ask what that means. If I have a mutant gene (and I do! On average, I’ll carry a few hundred novel mutations relative to my parents) that isn’t shared between me and all other humans, am I still human? If I have a cytologically detectable chromosomal rearrangement, am I still human? How many differences are allowed between two genomes before you can say one is not of the same species as the other? Is an embryo with a unique deletion in one chromosome still human? If an embryo has a unique mutation that makes it infertile as an adult when interbreeding with other members of the species, is it still human?

That magic line in development should be getting a bit smearier in your head about now. Conception isn’t necessarily associated with the generation of a unique person.

I’m glad that he noticed that science sees development as a journey, but a little disappointed that he couldn’t see that that actually contradicts his claims about conception as a singularity. Just the genetic complement is not enough. A blastocyst, a hollow ball of cells with an inner mass that will become the embryo proper, has exactly the same genes as a five year old person or an octagenerian. But it doesn’t have limbs or eyes or brain, it doesn’t think or feel, it doesn’t dance or learn. It is…a hollow ball of cells. It’s got cilia and might spin in place. That’s about it. It’s human only the most trivial, reductionist sense.

That should tell you something. There has to be something more. There has to be a complex history of epigenetic interactions that set up tissue domains and generate morphology and trigger physiologically functional activity in different cells. That isn’t there yet. That history is a significant part of what makes you what you are right now, and it’s absurd to pretend that that doesn’t matter and that everything is plainly established at the moment of conception.

And of course, he’s factually wrong. To claim that “appearance, talents and very fingerprints are hardcoded” is not true, and all you have to do is look at identical twins to see that it is false. There is a good similarity in appearance, but if you know any identical twins at all well, you know that you can tell them apart…and that their differences increase with age. I’ve known a few elderly identical twins, and you wouldn’t know that they were identical unless you’d been told so, because variation accumulates. “Talent” is also meaningless; there is evidence that some broad characteristics (musical ability, for instance) are heritable, but so much of what we call “talent” is not intrinsic, but the product of hard work and discipline.

Also, fingerprints are not hardcoded. Identical twins have general similarities in the arrangements of whorls and loops, but are readily distinguishable in the details.

Science would not belittle the significance of all the essential changes that go on after conception, so I think Mr Ganley was a bit premature in claiming its authority for his dogma. How about if we recognize instead that science actually tells us that the process, that journey he regards as so vital, is the interesting part, and that imposing arbitrary dividing lines on a continuum is a silly exercise that he’s trying to use to put boundaries where there are none?

Comments

  1. Pteryxx says

    Now I want to know how many different individual humans exist in my white blood cell population…

  2. says

    I always like to point out that while it is not the case for humans, unfertilized eggs of some forms of life can develop into mature adults (drone bees), which shows they are living members of that species even if the do not undergo fertilization.

  3. says

    A lot of these concepts are “vague” in a philosophical sense. Vagueness presents a lot of really interesting challenges ( wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagueness ) because if you’re dealing with vague things, it gets hard to say when that thing is whatever you’re being vague about. On vague things it’s easy to mount an epistemological attack against assertions of whatever stat you are being vague about.

    Consider a bald person. If I find they have one hair, are they still bald? What if they have 125 hairs? If they have 126 are they no longer bald? A good litmus test to see if you’re dealing with a vague concept is to quantify it, then as if there is a clearly-defined break-point and how why it’s defined at that particular point.

    Human-ness is vague as all getout. So you can have lots of fun with questions surrounding the break-point that lets you say something is human or not. I think vagueness is the reason rational prople shy away from making certain kinds of claims – i.e. that species are different if there is more than a certain percentage of difference. Because that begs the question “So you’re saying that a human with one more mutation over that break-point isn’t human anymore? Then what are they?” Vagueness is also a critical issue to the abortion debate, of course.

  4. la tricoteuse says

    robertbaden:

    I always like to point out that while it is not the case for humans, unfertilized eggs of some forms of life can develop into mature adults (drone bees), which shows they are living members of that species even if the do not undergo fertilization.

    Careful, they might just decide that every time a woman fails to halt menstruation by being pregnant, she’s committing a murder a month.

  5. raven says

    unfertilized eggs of some forms of life can develop into mature adults (drone bees),

    That is true of some fish and reptiles as well, copperhead snakes, komodo dragons, and others.

  6. quisquose says

    Ask Declan Ganley if humans have a face. He should think that they do.

    Then point out that a blastocyst doesn’t have a face.

    When he replies that it “will have a face” he should realise how crappy his arguments are.

  7. says

    One thing I started worrying about when I first ended up on the pro-choice side was that anti-abortionists were out to redefine “humanity” based solely on the genome and thus bring us closer to enacting aggressive eugenics policies, and no, I don’t mean the kind where super science cures all genetic ills in the womb. The “ethnic cleansing” kind.

    Well, I guess I don’t have to worry about them doing it secretly anymore.

  8. rhyneocerus says

    Not to mention that not all conceptuses, are, in fact, destined for birth. That’s just blatantly untrue.

  9. slatham says

    What #5 says appeals to me. I used the same argument about 15 years ago. If conception is when a valuable human life begins, the religiously anti-abortion nuts ought to instead focus their efforts on all thee failed implantations and other spontaneous abortions. I claimed then, and still strongly suspect, that those greatly outnumber medical abortions.
    The other line I took wasn’t as successful; it only confused my rivals. I asked when at conception was the important point. Was it when the sperm contacted the egg, when it penetrates the vitelline layer, when genetic material enters the egg, when the egg becomes non-receptive to other sperm, when the sperm’s nuclear material joins the egg’s nuclear material in a nucleus? I don’t know much about these processes, and of course they knew less, and they complained, “What difference does it make?” I replied that maybe a pill that prevented one of the stages would become available, and it would be important to know if such a pill’s interventions occurred prior to the instant that a new-innocent-unique-valuable-human-with-a-soul came into being. They refused to define the moment, and they refused to allow that such a pill could be ethically used (hmmm).
    Looking back, the two directions of conversation that I was trying (and failing) to tie into a single argument actually were related — the responses showed that these particular anti-abortionists didn’t care about science, and they cared even less about the new human. What seemed to motivate them most was that women who didn’t want a child (and the doctor’s who aided them) should be punished.

  10. dccarbene says

    In some strange parts of the world, Corporation = human – where do they hide their DNA?

    What about Trisomy-21? Non-human? The people I have met with it are human to me – and, interestingly, are not entangled in angels/head of pin type arguments.

    Folks with Turner syndrome? Human to me.

    Cell culture? Blastocyst? Not human to me.

    What about a parthenogenetic child? Wasn’t created by fertilization, but human to me.

    Is this really so hard? I agree – looks actually do count in one’s take on things.

    Oh, and corporations – not human to me.

  11. gmacs says

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has thought this about that bullshit argument. If a unique genetic code is supposed to be the basis for personhood, doesn’t that imply that monozygotic twins are each half a person?

    Does this mean that if two identical twins fall into poverty, they are together only entitled to the benefits for one person? Does a mother of identical twins on WIC only get enough to feed one child?

    Anyhow, it doesn’t matter, because I fail to see the importance of a complete genetic code in the concept of personhood. It’s just an excuse to say “science” from a bunch of assholes who, for the most part, are otherwise anti-science.

  12. frankensteinmonster says

    What is all the fuss about ? The matter has been already settled long ago. Everyone knows that whether something is human, or fulfills some or all criteria of personhood is utterly irrelevant. the only thing that does matter is bodily autonomy defined as the complete and absolute right to do anything with your own body and anything inside it. Unless, of course, you happen to be inside someone’s else body. Then you have no bodily autonomy or rights whatsoever, you are an evil cancerous parasite, and the person you are in can do to you anything he/she pleases. Oh, and anyone who does not agree with this definition enthusiastically enough is defined to be an evil slave driver and death cultist who has no place in the civilized society.
    .
    Now, you can all proceed mauling me. Starting by claiming that I support Declan Ganley’s genetic crap no matter how many times I will say the very opposite.

  13. vaiyt says

    so much of what we call “talent” is not intrinsic, but the product of hard work and discipline.

    There’s this composer who’s often cited around these parts as an example of natural talent for music, with a phenomenal absolute pitch ability. What few people know is that, since his youth, his father subjected him to several hours of being asked to determine the note of a random noise, and every time he missed, his father would smack him.

  14. vaiyt says

    @14: Good try, but we have seen that one before. It’s not the fetus’ bodily autonomy versus the woman’s, because the woman is not using the fetus’ body, only the opposite.

  15. frankensteinmonster says

    It’s not the fetus’ bodily autonomy versus the woman’s, because the woman is not using the fetus’ body, only the opposite.

    .
    just like I said :

    Unless, of course, you happen to be inside someone’s else body. Then you have no bodily autonomy or rights whatsoever, you are an evil cancerous parasite, and the person you are in can do to you anything he/she pleases.

  16. says

    Unless, of course, you happen to be inside someone’s else body

    Your use of “you” above presupposes an individual with certain properties exist, so you’re just begging the question.

  17. says

    @la tricoteuse

    “Careful, they might just decide that every time a woman fails to halt menstruation by being pregnant, she’s committing a murder a month.”

    They’d have to give up chastity being a virtue, and lose that much control over women. Ain’t going to happen.

  18. la tricoteuse says

    @la tricoteuse:

    Careful, they might just decide that every time a woman fails to halt menstruation by being pregnant, she’s committing a murder a month.

    They’d have to give up chastity being a virtue, and lose that much control over women. Ain’t going to happen.

    Or start marryin’ ‘em off early again and pass the control on to the husband! :D

  19. coyotenose says

    Claiming that a zygote, et al, is a human being strikes me as almost identical to claiming that a dictionary is a novel. Look, all the words are there!

  20. coyotenose says

    Now, you can all proceed mauling me.

    Poor victimized you.

    The rest isn’t even worth a sniffle, since all you can do is commit rapid-fire logical fallacies.

  21. unbound says

    A couple of things I remember reading long ago:

    – Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all fertilized eggs are aborted naturally (don’t implant in the uterus, etc)
    – Exceptionally rare, but apparently a handful of cases are documented, is the occurrence of an egg not requiring fertilization (the chromosome didn’t split) which results in essentially the woman cloning herself.

    Not sure what the religious nuts have to say about that little problematic facts…

  22. frankensteinmonster says

    Your use of “you” above presupposes an individual with certain properties exist, so you’re just begging the question.

    .
    Careful reading would reveal that this is not the case. But, who cares what a monster really said, when we can just claim it said such and such stupidity and it has no say in it.

  23. mythbri says

    @unbound #25

    Exceptionally rare, but apparently a handful of cases are documented, is the occurrence of an egg not requiring fertilization (the chromosome didn’t split) which results in essentially the woman cloning herself.

    Does this mean that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, but in fact Mary’s clone?

    Damn. That’s much more interesting than immaculate conception by divine rape.

  24. says

    every newborn chimp also has a “unique and irreplicable” arrangement of alleles. Why aren’t you declaring their lives precious and demanding protection? Why not say the same for cows…?

    Don’t be silly. The gulf separating a Magical, Blessed Human Blastocyst from a lowly beast is infinite.

  25. dobbshead says

    Now I want to know how many different individual humans exist in my white blood cell population…

    Chemotherapy is like the holocaust.

  26. says

    Our potential is gifted us at our conception – our appearance, talents and very fingerprints are hardcoded, and the rest is up to us. We are all conceived with the destiny to be born, grow, mature, slowly fade and die.

    These are two of the dumbest assertions I’ve read in some time.

  27. dobbshead says

    @frankensteinmonster

    I kind of want to play your game. Let’s grant for the sake of argument that a fetus is a full blown person with rights and such, how many years in prison should a woman get for knowingly aborting a pregnancy?

  28. mythbri says

    @dobbshead #32

    knowingly aborting a pregnancy

    Don’t forget miscarriages. That’s still manslaughter, if you accept that fetuses are persons.

  29. dobbshead says

    That’s still manslaughter

    I don’t think so, manslaughter is “the unjustifiable, inexcusable, and intentional killing of a human being without deliberation, premeditation, and malice.” In a miscarriage you need to prove intent and deny the excuse of uncontrollable bodily functions. A person who injures a pregnant woman through an unjustifiable and intentional action may be guilty of manslaughter, but the woman herself would be very difficult to convict except in specific cases.

    However, obtaining an abortion under this assumption is highly criminal: It’s at least murder in the second degree and it is done in a conspiratorial manner with at least one accomplice! It’s a class A felony.

  30. skepticmd says

    Serious question here. I agree with these statements I was just wondering if anyone had a source on the first statement. I have been looking for something supporting this and I figured this would be a damn good place to find someone who actually knows what they are talking about and where the research might be.

    “– Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all fertilized eggs are aborted naturally (don’t implant in the uterus, etc)
    – Exceptionally rare, but apparently a handful of cases are documented, is the occurrence of an egg not requiring fertilization (the chromosome didn’t split) which results in essentially the woman cloning herself.”

  31. Tualha says

    Suppose Mr. Ganley goes to the doctor next month, and his doctor tells him he has a malignant tumor. It’s got to be removed or he’ll die. Does Mr. Ganley know that his hypothetical tumor has the same genes he does? Hey, that’s your twin brother there, mate! It has a right to live! Killing it would be murder!

    And let’s not forget about placentas! A placenta is genetically identical to the embryo it arose from, after all. We should put all placentas on life support as soon as they’re delivered. Right now we just throw them away. Why, that’s mass murder!

    Won’t somebody please think of the placentas?

  32. cyberCMDR says

    @frankensteinmonster
    Frank, how does this concept deal with the technical possibility of cloning? A lot of the cells in my body can now, in theory if not in practice, be used to create a brand new human being. Is it immoral of me not to do so? I mean, the potential is there, and we have to enable these cells to fulfill their potential, right? They’re human cells, after all.

  33. dobbshead says

    Won’t somebody please think of the placentas?

    Playing devil’s advocate, the placenta itself has a near zero probability of becoming an autonomous human being. A fertilized egg implanted in a uterus has a much high probability of becoming an autonomous human being. At some point that probability goes to unity and we have what any reasonable person would call a human and agree the law should protect.

    The question is where do we draw that line? There is a tension between financial well-being and new life that is very real and argues for the necessity of abortion in family planning. Outlawing abortion puts people in the position of either risking destitution or breaking the law, which is unacceptable to me. Combine that with the bodily autonomy argument and the uncertainty of when we should call a new life truly certain and it’s pretty clear that abortion must be legal.

  34. says

    I wonder if frankenweasel is as supportive of the involuntarily extraction of his blood and bone marrow for nine months (followed by shitting a grapefruit) as he is of women’s involuntary subjection to same.

    Aw, I’m just fuckin witcha! I do not wonder AT ALL.

  35. says

    We are all conceived with the destiny to be born, grow, mature, slowly fade and die.

    fixed.

    Unless, of course, you happen to be inside someone’s else body. Then you have no bodily autonomy

    as SC said, pretty much by definition. and if you’re in someone else’s body, then it’s pretty fucking obvious that they have the right to evict you from there. No one has the right to be in anyone else without their consent (when born people do that, we call it rape)

    In a miscarriage you need to prove intent and deny the excuse of uncontrollable bodily functions.

    but it is always the woman’s fault. she was eating the wrong things, drinking the wrong things, having the wrong levels of exercise, not taking her vitamins, etc.

  36. mythbri says

    @dobbshead #40

    The question is where do we draw that line?

    We draw it at birth. There is a clear difference between “born” and “not-born”. If you are born alive, you are a person. You do not infringe on anyone’s bodily autonomy by your mere existence. Your care can be transferred to other people. You gain rights and responsibilities as you age. No one is allowed to infringe on your bodily autonomy.

  37. mythbri says

    @SallyStrange #45

    I know, even though I couldn’t find any specific cases. Thanks for the link.

    In my state, some lawmakers tried to pass a bill that would allow women to be jailed if they endangered their fetuses. It was written in response to an incident in which some poor girl, pregnant, desperate and without any resources, asked her boyfriend to punch her in the stomach until she miscarried.

    People were horrified. Not that this girl didn’t know what her options were, or who to turn to, or how she could have prevented the pregnancy in the first place. No, they were horrified that she would go to such lengths to get rid of an INNOCENT WIDDLE BAYBEE!!!

    And they wrote a law that was so nebulous (like the one PZ posted about yesterday), that any woman who miscarried could have been prosecuted. She decided to drive a car at 8 months and got into a fender-bender? BAM! Her ass is jailed. She decided to play tackle football at 3 months? BAM! Her ass is jailed. She decides to go to outside at 6 months, and slips on an icy sidewalk? BAM! Her ass is jailed.

    It didn’t pass, fortunately. Surprisingly.

  38. frankensteinmonster says

    I wonder if frankenweasel is as supportive of the involuntarily extraction of his blood and bone marrow for nine months (followed by shitting a grapefruit) as he is of women’s involuntary subjection to same.

    Funny how the dogmatic mind works – you don’t toe the party line, so it starts responding to you like you were the stereotypical straw man enemy as painted by its ideology, completely ignoring what you really say or do.
    .
    Just like you are right now responding like I were the stereotypical anti-choicer ( aka pro-lifer ), no matter what I actually say. It feels like I am arguing with a pre-recorded audio or an computer game NPC.

  39. dobbshead says

    We draw it at birth.

    We as a country (USA) draw it at the end of the 2nd trimester, after which point abortion becomes illegal. There is ethical grey area in to allowing a woman to voluntarily abort when the fetus (infant? newborn? pre-mature thingy?) can survive on its own. Then the bodily autonomy argument breaks down for supporting abortion at that point, because if the fetus is not dependent on the mother to survive then mother no longer has the right to kill it when it is ‘evicted’. The mother could only claim the right to kick it out and then abandon it, although I’d probably call that mother a bad person.

    responding to you like you were the stereotypical straw man

    You said that the bodily autonomy argument isn’t compelling, and that a fetus has a right to life didn’t you? Did I misunderstand you?

    I asked you, if we grant that how many years should a mother get for murdering a fetus? You haven’t responded. We’re not talking in abstracts, we’re talking in real terms about matters of law. Making abortion illegal criminalizes it. Making a fetus a person makes abortion murder, which is a class A felony. The logical conclusion is that mothers who obtain abortions are murderers and should be thrown in jail. Do you support that conclusion? If not, how do you avoid it?

  40. says

    Then the bodily autonomy argument breaks down for supporting abortion at that point, because if the fetus is not dependent on the mother to survive then mother no longer has the right to kill it when it is ‘evicted’.

    this is silly. considering that the easiest way to evict a fetus that late in development IS inducing birth, abortions at that stage only happen when birthing for some reason isn’t an option.

    although I’d probably call that mother a bad person.

    totally. being extremely poor/deprived/in a life-threatening situation etc. totes makes a woman “a bad person”

  41. says

    @dobbshead – Outlawing abortion also puts people in the position of routinely being killed and maimed, since, as it turns out, people who do not wish to be pregnant will have abortions whether they are legal or not.

    http://www.peoplesworld.org/outlawing-abortions-doesn-t-stop-them-study-says/

    I know you were playing “devil’s advocate.” I just saw your comment as an opportunity to point out the horrific and well-known consequences of outlawing abortion. We in the US are (fortunately) so far removed from the bad old days, I fear we may have lost the urgent sense of moral outrage at all the senseless suffering that led to Roe in the first place. I think it’s important to keep the effect on women’s lives in the forefront, given how little they factor into the current discourse.

  42. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It feels like I am arguing with a pre-recorded audio or an computer game NPC.

    Ditto, nothing but same old, same old bullshit. You don’t have a new idea, which makes you a bad crank for challenging what we think.

  43. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    It feels like I am arguing with a pre-recorded audio or an computer game NPC.

    You aren’t arguing anything, you are just sneering.

    Just like you are right now responding like I were the stereotypical anti-choicer ( aka pro-lifer )

    frankensteinmonster isn’t any stereotypical any-choicer. No, he is a special cupcake forced-birther.

    no matter what I actually say.

    Well, let’s look at what you actually said,

    the only thing that does matter is bodily autonomy defined as the complete and absolute right to do anything with your own body and anything inside it. Unless, of course, you happen to be inside someone’s else body.

    Pure drivel. As has been said already, no human* has the right to use of another human’s organs. How is this so hard to understand?
    *granting the asinine notion that the thing in question is a human
    ***
    Jadehawk,

    totally. being extremely poor/deprived/in a life-threatening situation etc. totes makes a woman “a bad person”

    Also, she is choosing for herself how to live her own life. Surely, choices re: women’s lives should be made by a man.
    /snark

  44. brianpansky says

    “happen to be inside someone’s else body” maybe try drinking their blood and eating their tissues (read up on what pregnancy is). and getting out of their body if they tell you to.

    which is weird, they are not separate bodies at this point.

    ” It feels like I am arguing with a pre-recorded audio” right back at you, and that last post was the most non-shocking “nothing more to do but troll” post I’ve seen in a while.

  45. says

    @unbound @ 25 and in addition to replies by others:

    Your first statement is well-established. The rate of spontaneous abortion early in pregnancy is quite high, and may be up to 50%, although assessment of the true prevalence is difficult because for very early spontaneous abortion the woman concerned does not know the embryo was ever present. I pulled that number from Wikipedia and its sources; others may be able to provide better references.

    Your second statement is false. Such a phenomenon would be parthenogenesis, which has never been observed to naturally occur in any mammal. Parthenogenesis can be induced artificially in mice and other lab animals, but leads to developmental abnormalities because of resulting anomalies in genomic imprinting. And now we reach the limits of my knowledge of biology. PZ or the more biologically-included members of the horde can no doubt explain why mammalian parthenogenesis doesn’t happen in more detail.

    Edit: Wikipedia informs me that Hwang Woo-Suk and his team unknowingly produced parthenogenetic human embryos. But there is no indication that any of those would have been viable.

  46. dobbshead says

    considering that the easiest way to evict a fetus that late in development IS inducing birth

    I totally agree. The abortion argument is moot at this point, since any abortion that is likely to happen is necessary for health reasons. I was specifically talking about voluntary abortions, which excludes abortions that occur to save the life of the mother. It’s still reasonable to restrict women from obtaining voluntary abortions when the fetus is capable of living on its own from a bodily autonomy perspective so long as you allow those same women to ‘evict’ the fetus. (Disclaimer: just because I think this is a reasonable argument doesn’t mean I think it is compelling by itself, just that it should be considered in the balance.)

  47. dobbshead says

    being extremely poor/deprived/in a life-threatening situation etc. totes makes a woman “a bad person”

    No, but the hypothetical woman who purposefully waits until the fetus is viable, ‘evicts’ the fetus early by choice, and then abandons said newborn has made choices indicative of being a bad person. Such a woman is a) statistically improbable and b) well within her rights. I just wouldn’t want her over for dinner.

  48. frankensteinmonster says

    You said that the bodily autonomy argument isn’t compelling, and that a fetus has a right to life didn’t you? Did I misunderstand you?

    Of course. there is no difference between “ban all abortions, zygote = baby” and “personhood starts with the onset of cortical activity, (and ends with its irreversible cessation), so very late in the pregnancy, say 25 week+, the fetus should be protected”. its all the same. evil woman enslavers all alike. See, no difference.

  49. jnorris says

    Others may have pointed this out, but to determine if the just conceived single cell is human the DNA would have to be removed for sequencing. Wouldn’t that destroy the cell/human?

  50. dobbshead says

    “personhood starts with the onset of cortical activity, (and ends with its irreversible cessation), so very late in the pregnancy, say 25 week+, the fetus should be protected”

    I’m calling bullshit, you never said that in this thread. You said:

    Then you [a fetus] have no bodily autonomy or rights whatsoever, you are an evil cancerous parasite, and the person you are in can do to you anything he/she pleases. Oh, and anyone who does not agree with this definition enthusiastically enough is defined to be an evil slave driver and death cultist who has no place in the civilized society.

    At no point did you define your position. You’ve just ranted about how unfair everybody is here and how you disagree with everybody. That, combined with the above writing, leads directly to the conclusion that you think a fetus is a person. It’s not our fault that you suck at writing.

  51. mythbri says

    @dobbshead #52

    At some point that probability goes to unity and we have what any reasonable person would call a human and agree the law should protect.

    The question is where do we draw that line?

    Are you talking about humans or are you talking about persons?

    We as a country (USA) draw it at the end of the 2nd trimester, after which point abortion becomes illegal. There is ethical grey area in to allowing a woman to voluntarily abort when the fetus (infant? newborn? pre-mature thingy?) can survive on its own.

    A woman who miscarries after the second trimester, or a woman who gives birth to a dead fetus, is not given a certificate of death (not to my knowledge – I’m open to correction on this, of course). Even after the second trimester, when abortion is only available if medically necessary, the law does not consider it to be a person. Just look at the recent kerfuffle with the Catholic hospital trying to mitigate paying damages to a man who lost his wife and unborn twin sons – the hospital is making the argument that they should only have to pay damages on the woman who died, not the fetuses that died within her. The law is not “protecting” fetuses – it is infringing on bodily autonomy. If the law were actually protecting fetuses, then it would acknowledge them from a legal standpoint. It does not. It should not.

    Also, a fetus that has not yet been born by definition cannot survive on its own. It’s still cooking. It has the potential to survive on its own if expelled, at which point it would be a person.

  52. says

    Of course. there is no difference between “ban all abortions, zygote = baby” and “personhood starts with the onset of cortical activity, (and ends with its irreversible cessation), so very late in the pregnancy, say 25 week+, the fetus should be protected”.

    There is a difference, and they’re both wrong.

    Is your argument that the criterion for personhood (and let’s assume for the sake of argument that this term has ethical meaning) is cortical activity? Have you thought this through? Have you considered it in light of the chimp and cow examples PZ mentions?

  53. says

    It’s still reasonable to restrict women from obtaining voluntary abortions when the fetus is capable of living on its own from a bodily autonomy perspective so long as you allow those same women to ‘evict’ the fetus.

    not really. restrictions on bodily autonomy would still only be “reasonable” if they were responding to a genuine rather than a hypothetical problem. and in any case, one would still have to argue that mandating one invasive procedure over another for the preservation of a 3rd party is a valid violation of bodily autonomy. So far, that’s not the case.

    there is no difference between “ban all abortions, zygote = baby” and “personhood starts with the onset of cortical activity, (and ends with its irreversible cessation), so very late in the pregnancy, say 25 week+, the fetus should be protected”. its all the same. evil woman enslavers all alike.

    what exactly is the difference between “personhood starts at conception, therefore you lose your right to decide who is allowed inside your body and when” and “personhood starts at 25 weeks, therefore you lose your right to decide who is allowed to be inside your body and when”?

  54. says

    Of course. there is no difference between “ban all abortions, zygote = baby” and “personhood starts with the onset of cortical activity, (and ends with its irreversible cessation), so very late in the pregnancy, say 25 week+, the fetus should be protected”. its all the same. evil woman enslavers all alike. See, no difference.

    Well, it’s true that the final outcome – i.e. enslavement of women – is the same regardless of which justification you choose for infringing on women’s bodily autonomy.

  55. says

    We as a country (USA) draw it at the end of the 2nd trimester,

    And Canada has abortion on demand.

    There is ethical grey area in to allowing a woman to voluntarily abort when the fetus (infant? newborn? pre-mature thingy?) can survive on its own.

    No, there isn’t.

    At some point that probability goes to unity and we have what any reasonable person would call a human and agree the law should protect.

    What anyone would “call a human” is irrelevant.

  56. says

    At the end of the day, men like this are just stuck on the belief that what makes a baby is not 9 months of a woman’s body working hard, but 30 seconds of a man ejaculating. They will bend all sorts of common sense, law, and logic in order to give credit for creating life to men and not women, even though women are the ones whose bodies are bent out of shape and who provide nutrients and who go through the painful, bloody process to bring forward life.

  57. brianpansky says

    “””” difference between “ban all abortions, zygote = baby” and “personhood starts with the onset of cortical activity…””””

    all red herrings by this point. reading any of the responses?

    bodily autonomy already makes the “person huwd” irrelevant.

    the unaddressed question is: what exactly is your position on bodily autonomy? you started out with it, but didn’t show two crucial things. the reasoning behind your position, and the exact conclusion of your reasoning.

  58. brianpansky says

    your lack of clear position causes the following confusion:

    “I wonder if frankenweasel is as supportive of the involuntarily extraction of his blood and bone marrow for nine months (followed by shitting a grapefruit) as he is of women’s involuntary subjection to same.”

    but you don’t answer the question, you just troll:

    “Funny how the dogmatic mind works – you don’t toe the party line, so it starts responding to you like you were the stereotypical straw man enemy as painted by its ideology, completely ignoring what you really say or do.”

    liek, wut?

    forced marrow extraction. does you supports it? I’m guessing your troll reply is a “no”, so the question becomes:

    why do you support forced blood and tissue donation to unborn but not to born?

    these are the questions. I do want to know the answers. tell.

  59. kieran says

    Declan Ganely, read this a few days ago and all I could think of was what a gobshite. Also why was the indo giving this failed politician space to write such swil, it was just Declan “I want all the foreigners out of Ireland” Ganely with his little think tank libertas and his money from US military contracts. I didn’t realise as well as being a euroskeptic he was also an opus dei head. You learn something new everyday

  60. says

    @frankensteinmonster:
    Careful reading would reveal that this is not the case

    Uh, no. Careful reading does not reveal that at all. When you write that (paraphrasing) “you” are inside someone’s body, you are presupposing that you exist and are a “you.” I don’t grant a cluster of cells “you”-hood.

  61. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    please don’t humor Frank’s delusion that he is worth talking to

  62. frankensteinmonster says

    I’m calling bullshit, you never said that in this thread. You said:

    Look, when I said “Now, you can all proceed mauling me.” I was not talking about persons who can understand that there can be more positions than two extremes, like most probably you are. Yes, it was a little bit of hyperbole from ‘few, but producing most of the traffic’ -> ‘all’, I thought that it would easy to understand.
    .
    I was talking about of Libertarianism reeking extremists like

    Well, it’s true that the final outcome – i.e. enslavement of women – is the same

    .
    Yeah right, the ban on abortions for non-medical reasons after 24 weeks, when there is like zero demand for them is the same as putting all women in chains. This is the same b/s as when Libertarians chant their ‘taxes are theft/slavery’ mantra. The same black and white extremist ‘anything less than all is equal to nothing’ pattern of unthought. Either I can make with my body completely anything( included things nobody really wants to do) or I am a a slave as if I were chained to the bed for the entire life. Either I can keep all my money for myself, or I am as a slave to the state as prisoners in the gulag. And so on.

  63. katenrala says

    I’ve explained in simplest way possible that I can think of, that a man or male’s act of reproduction is over as soon as he ejaculates, thus their say has no meaning beyond that point, whereas a woman or female person’s act of reproduction isn’t over until a baby is born, thus their say to continue or end their act of reproduction is all that matters.

    I mostly use this against men and male persons who want a “financial abortion,” that is those deluded to believe that since women and female persons can acquire an abortion to end their pregnancy, so should they so that they won’t be on the hook for child support even if the woman or female person they mated with decides to finish their act of reproduction.

    But I think when it comes to who should make the laws regarding abortion, the same thinking could apply, as it’s women and female persons whose act isn’t over at orgasm but takes 9 months plus or minus a few weeks, it should be up to female persons and women on who gets to decide the laws regarding abortion.


    Could there be an implementation of a flagging system so the trolls, like frankensteinmonster, who aren’t worthy of even being educational objects for lurkers get dumped in the dungeons if they get enough enough negative votes or flags by regular commentators or invisibly empowered commentors who don’t even know they’re empowered? Xie has no arguments and just seems to want to cause offense and threadjacks like in the New Mexico law thread

  64. katenrala says

    @ frankensteinmonster

    Do you have an investment in abortion?

    Are you a female person or woman?

  65. frankensteinmonster says

    When you write that (paraphrasing) “you” are inside someone’s body, you are presupposing that you exist and are a “you.” I don’t grant a cluster of cells “you”-hood.

    .
    As a matter of fact., neither do I. But I don’t think that sentences like ‘when X satisfies condition Y then Z’ presuppose that there are some X-s satisfying this condition, or any X-s at all . You know, vacuous truth and stuff.
    .
    Example : “all dragons earning more than $ 1 billion per year have to pay extra taxes” does not presuppose the existence of super wealthy dragons, or, in fact, any dragons.

  66. frankensteinmonster says

    Could there be an implementation of a flagging system so the trolls, like frankensteinmonster, who aren’t worthy of even being educational objects for lurkers get dumped in the dungeons if they get enough enough negative votes or flags by regular commentators or invisibly empowered commentors who don’t even know they’re empowered?

    .
    The best way of winning an argument is silencing the other side, isn’t it ?

  67. katenrala says

    @ frankensteinmonster

    Oh noes! Asking you about your sex and gender is an ad hom…! somehow…

    Well, no, actually I wanted to know where your viewpoint might stem from. Mind answering the questions presented to you so you appear less vague and more constructive?

    The best way of winning an argument is silencing the other side, isn’t it ?

    I’m actually interested in discussions with the other-side. I’d evaluate your arguments and present a counter if I thought you were interested in a good-faith discussion.

    That instead of argument you’d rather just waste space and other’s energy instead deserves a boot in my opinion, as “winning” a argument with you wouldn’t be worth the glyphs wasted on the screen.

    And it’s not like your unique, just another derailer and threadjacker and I think a system to boot your ass, and the asses of those like you would be good for the community so people of the other side who are honest and wish to discuss things in good faith can stay and not be associated with those like you.

  68. says

    There is a good similarity in appearance, but if you know any identical twins at all well, you know that you can tell them apart…and that their differences increase with age.

    Fun Fact: I know a pair of identical twins who, although being in their 60’s are still very identical and that includes their clothing. They live here in the house, in two flats next to each other, one of them single the other one with his wife. That means they must communicate in the morning on how to get dressed…

    +++

    A person who injures a pregnant woman through an unjustifiable and intentional action may be guilty of manslaughter

    No, that person is guilty of an illegal abortion and of course attempted manslaughter against the woman.

    dobbshead

    Then the bodily autonomy argument breaks down for supporting abortion at that point, because if the fetus is not dependent on the mother to survive then mother no longer has the right to kill it when it is ‘evicted’. The mother could only claim the right to kick it out and then abandon it, although I’d probably call that mother a bad person.

    Ohhh, the precious second trimester premie argument.
    First of all, the woman still has every right to decide what procedure she undergoes.
    Second, I’d probably call you an asshole for passing your judgement on this hypothectical woman about whom you don’t know shit but judge her because she fails to be the good little woman who gives up everything for the wee babby who doesn’t have a life, dreams, ambitions or consciousness at all.

    It’s still reasonable to restrict women from obtaining voluntary abortions when the fetus is capable of living on its own from a bodily autonomy perspective so long as you allow those same women to ‘evict’ the fetus. (Disclaimer: just because I think this is a reasonable argument doesn’t mean I think it is compelling by itself, just that it should be considered in the balance.)

    You still think it’s reasonable to tae away a woman’s bodily autonomy for the sake of a fetus, aka you’Re being anti-choice. So, how do you decide the risk she has to take? Actually, the most dangerous thing to premies is natural birth. Do you think it’s reasonable to require her having a c-section for the benefit of the fetus? Which medical services, medication, anything do you allow her to have, where do you limit her options, what will you force her to do?

    No, but the hypothetical woman who purposefully waits until the fetus is viable, ‘evicts’ the fetus early by choice, and then abandons said newborn has made choices indicative of being a bad person. Such a woman is a) statistically improbable and b) well within her rights. I just wouldn’t want her over for dinner.

    Oh stuff your hypothetical Slutty McSlut, the woman specifically created in the anti-choice mind to be able to despise those evil wommenz who get abrtions where the sun doesn’t shine.

    Jadehawk

    considering that the easiest way to evict a fetus that late in development IS inducing birth, abortions at that stage only happen when birthing for some reason isn’t an option.

    they usually happen when a life-birth is what you want to prevent because there’s something seriously wrong with the fetus. And it’s a heart-breaking procedure because it usually means the death of a much-wanted and much-loved fetus for whom the expecting parents have already prepared a nursery. But they are just reduced to pawns by the pro-forced birth assholes and all those seeking a “reasonable limit” on a woman’s bodily autonomy.
    Disgusting.

  69. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    The best way of winning an argument is silencing the other side, isn’t it ? – frankensteinemonster

    You’d have a point there, if you’d actually made an argument. moslty, you’ve whined about how everyone misrepresents and mistreats you (remarkably like StevoR, now I come to think of it). You’ve now hinted at what your own position is (identifying the start of “personhood” with that of cerebral activity, and a ban on “non-medical” abortions, however you intend to define those*, after 24 weeks). What you have not done is produce any argument whatever in favour of these positions, although no-one has prevented or tried to prevent you doing so.

    *However liberally you word it, there are going to be possible cases where you would be forcing an unwilling woman to continue with a pregnancy. Suppose a woman discovers at 24 weeks that her partner has done something she cannot forgive, she breaks up with him, and desperately wants to be rid of the fetus he’s fathered. There’s no physical risk to her health beyond the normal, considerable risks of late pregnancy and childbirth, and she’s not suicidal or clinically depressed or anxious – she just really, really wants it out of her. Let’s hear it straight out from you frankensteinmonster: should she be legally entitled to an abortion, or not?

  70. dobbshead says

    No, that person is guilty of an illegal abortion and of course attempted manslaughter against the woman.

    I was talking about an absurd hypothetical world where a fetus is considered a full legal person. Apparently that world actually exists in some parts of the planet and it is horrifying.

    You still think it’s reasonable to tae [SIC] away a woman’s bodily autonomy for the sake of a fetus

    First, just in case it hasn’t been clear, I support the right to obtain an abortion at all points during the pregnancy. This is because in the region in time when the bodily autonomy argument becomes the weakest, the demand to regulate abortions also becomes the weakest. We need to construct statistical phantom bad people to even voice moral opposition! Pointing out when the opposition has a reasonable point doesn’t mean that I take the opposition’s conclusion.

    If you are going to use bodily autonomy as your compelling argument, it cuts both ways. Before the fetus can live on its own, it has no right to bodily autonomy because its body is in no way autonomous. If the fetus can live on its own, then by the same argument it has a right to bodily autonomy. The woman retains hers, and so can choose to remove the fetus, but if she chooses to do so in such a manner that it will kill the fetus when other options exist then she is infringing on the fetus’ bodily autonomy. This is the moral grey zone.

    Do you think it’s reasonable to require her having a c-section for the benefit of the fetus?

    This depends on the balance of options. If the c-section and abortion have the same risk to the mother, but one has a chance of allowing the fetus to survive then the bodily autonomy argument suggests that the fetus’ right to bodily autonomy justifies limiting the mother’s right to bodily autonomy. The question then becomes, to what lengths can we force a woman to go to protect the fetus’ bodily autonomy?

    These questions and moral grey area are best left to the mother and doctor to decide and should not be proscribed as a matter of law. Hence why I support abortion being legal for the full length of pregnancy.

    Do you have an investment in abortion? Are you a female person or woman?

    As much as I disagree with frankensteinmonster’s viewpoint, and as much as I think xe has done a terrible job articulating those views, this is still ad hominem and attacks standing to make an argument rather than the [terrible] argument itself. Don’t do that.

    And in case you wonder about MY standing, I’m a cis-man in a hetro marriage. We plan on having children so I have a direct stake in having access to a full range of family planning tools, including abortion. Raising children is a terrible financial burden and we want to wait until our careers are ready.

  71. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If the fetus can [is] live on its own, then by the same argument it has a right to bodily autonomy.

    Fixed that weak and irrelevant argument for you.

  72. says

    If the c-section and abortion have the same risk to the mother, but one has a chance of allowing the fetus to survive then the bodily autonomy argument suggests that the fetus’ right to bodily autonomy justifies limiting the mother’s right to bodily autonomy.

    Wow, so you suggets that a woman, a full conscious human being has to be cut open against her will , risking her life AND her future ability to have children she might actually want for the benefit of an unconscious potential human being?
    BTW, bodily autonomy never has included the right to live. If you die of my decision to go on a holiday instead of donating you bone marrow, your bodily autonomy has not been infringed upon. If the fetus dies as the result of me wanting an induced vaginal birth and my refusal to let them use forceps, well, bad luck.

  73. David Marjanović says

    Now I want to know how many different individual humans exist in my white blood cell population…

    I’m tempted to say “billions and billions”!

    I replied that maybe a pill that prevented one of the stages would become available, and it would be important to know if such a pill’s interventions occurred prior to the instant that a new-innocent-unique-valuable-human-with-a-soul came into being. They refused to define the moment, and they refused to allow that such a pill could be ethically used (hmmm).

    Wow, so much honesty and indeed self-awareness. I didn’t think they were capable of that.

    please don’t humor Frank’s delusion that he is worth talking to

    I’ve never understood this attitude. Yeah, it’s pretty common, but I’ve never understood it and still don’t. The delusion is wrong, so why not say so???

    .

    :-) Oh hello! I think I recognize you! :-)

    That means they must communicate in the morning on how to get dressed…

    Or they have very similar tastes and identical cupboard contents.

  74. Dana Garrett says

    I think it is irrelevant to debate anti abortionists at the level of the biology and genetics of fertilized eggs and fetuses. One can grant that these entities are forms of human life, even forms of unique human life, and still have not said anything germane about when it is morally justifiable to abort. If cellular human life itself was sufficient to dissuade us from abortion, it should also dissuade us from surgically removing tumors The question is when, if ever, the fetus in utero becomes a person. Undoubtedly, a precise moment is impossible to identify (and what the criteria is for appropriately using the designation “person” is debatable), but it is unambiguous that in the early stages of development it is inappropriate to use the term. Equating live human genetic material per se with personhood is a bit like holding up an acorn and declaring it’s an oak tree.

  75. says

    I always think the point that forced-birther policies result in overall more deaths makes it an open and shut case. Why does that unique set of cells have more rights to life than the living, breathing, human that contains them?

  76. dobbshead says

    Fixed that weak and irrelevant argument for you

    I agree, the argument is weak. I don’t think it is irrelevant, however, because it is the best a rational person can do to argue for abortion restrictions and it fails to be compelling. It is as more important to understand the weakness of our arguments as their strengths.

    Wow, so you suggets that a woman, a full conscious human being has to be cut open against her will , risking her life AND her future ability to have children she might actually want for the benefit of an unconscious potential human being?

    No, I’m suggesting that if (and only if!) there are two procedures with equivalent risk to the mother, one which requires that the premature infant (I use this term to denote a fetus with a reasonable probability of survival outside the uterus) be killed and one which might result in it living, the mother can be compelled to undergo the procedure which might save the infant. This compulsion can be justified by the argument to the right to bodily autonomy. The tricky questions come when you start asking how far the woman can be compelled to go to save the life of the infant. When there is no real risk to the woman, then the compulsion is minor relative to the rights of the autonomous body within her. However, even a minor risk or inconvenience can start to break the balance leading to the extreme case you cited.

    My answer is to avoid the question and trust that the woman involved is best suited to make these fine moral decisions in consult with her doctors and family.

    A fun alternative questions to chew on: Can a doctor who normally performs abortions be compelled to perform an abortion when there is a reasonable chance that the fetus can be born alive?

  77. Anri says

    Ok, frankensteinmonster, protip:

    It is much easier to argue against your actual position if you tell people what that position is.

    What abortions do you approve of, and why?
    What abortions would you legally prosecute, and why?
    On what basis do you assume your opinion on a woman’s possible abortion outweighs her own, if at all?

    Answering these questions will help the folks here argue against your actual position, instead of trying to make assumptions based on your somewhat oblique statements.
    Of course, that might be a lot less fun for you than playing the extended ‘gotcha’ game you’re doing currently, I dunno.
    Sadly, it will also mean you’ll have to free up at least one typing hand from the cross you’ve nailed yourself to.

    And, as always, there’s an XKCD for that.

  78. says

    As a matter of fact., neither do I. But I don’t think that sentences like ‘when X satisfies condition Y then Z’ presuppose that there are some X-s satisfying this condition, or any X-s at all . You know, vacuous truth and stuff.

    Yeah, but you tried to use that construction in a way that implied the condition (selfhood) was satisfied. That’s why I called you on it. I couldn’t tell if you were making a mistake or arguing in bad faith and now I see it’s the latter.

  79. bradleybetts says

    @FrankensteinMonster #14

    What is all the fuss about ? The matter has been already settled long ago. Everyone knows that whether something is human, or fulfills some or all criteria of personhood is utterly irrelevant. the only thing that does matter is bodily autonomy defined as the complete and absolute right to do anything with your own body and anything inside it. Unless, of course, you happen to be inside someone’s else body. Then you have no bodily autonomy or rights whatsoever, you are an evil cancerous parasite, and the person you are in can do to you anything he/she pleases. Oh, and anyone who does not agree with this definition enthusiastically enough is defined to be an evil slave driver and death cultist who has no place in the civilized society.
    .
    Now, you can all proceed mauling me. Starting by claiming that I support Declan Ganley’s genetic crap no matter how many times I will say the very opposite.

    Frankly I don’t think that deserves a mauling based on the fact that summoning the effort to administer said mauling would suggest a modicum of respect for this “argument” where none exists. Instead I am merely going to call it out for the depressingly obvious, sneeringly superior, holier-than-thou ego-masturbation that it is, condemn it for the setting-up-and-knocking-down of empty strawmen which appears to be entire point of it, spit on it, and move on with my life happy in the knowledge that I will almost certainly never have to meet or put up with you or your ignorance in meatspace.

  80. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    A fun alternative questions to chew on: Can a doctor who normally performs abortions be compelled to perform an abortion when there is a reasonable chance that the fetus can be born alive?

    Hypothetical bullshit like this inane question just gives hope the anti-choice/forced-birth faction. Which is why we should ignore them and call them inane and irrelevant. Keep it real. Ask yourself what the medical ethics are. Then you have your answer before even asking it. No need for “gottcha” hypotheticals to be treated with anything other than contempt and derision.

  81. Anri says

    Nothing, hmm?

    Amazing – or perhaps not – when called upon to actually stake a sensible claim, and defend it, how a certain type of commenter suddenly can’t find to time to post.

    Oh, well.