Bioethics, Ethics, Pro-Life

A violation of God’s Will: Abortion- or why no Christian should be pro-choice

Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 174

The foresight which Dietrich Bonhoeffer showed in this passage from his book, Ethics, is astounding. Bonhoeffer was a pastor who stood up to the Nazi regime and was martyred–hanged by the Nazis–for his activism on behalf of the innocent lives being slaughtered by Hitler. His view on abortion lines up exactly with his views on preserving human life in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer’s argument anticipates and cuts off a number of pro-choice arguments for abortion. Let’s see how.

Bonhoeffer’s argument does not depend whatsoever on whether the unborn is a human being or not (and the unborn is indeed a human being). His argument instead is based upon God’s will for that unborn entity. Examine once more what Bonhoeffer said: “The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of life.” The focus here is not so much on the status of the unborn as a human or not, but rather the focus is upon God’s will for the unborn. Why is it that God set the world up in such a way that the nascent (developing) human being grows into a toddler, adolescent, adult, and senior? Bonhoeffer focuses the argument directly upon God’s will. God has willed that from conception, a plan for a human life is set into motion. Thus, to terminate a pregnancy is to destroy part of God’s plan, a plan for a human life.

For Christians, this logic is binding. The pro-choice objection that the fetus is not a human person is a rabbit trail at this point.  Another objection must be thrown out the window as well: namely, the notion that even if the unborn is a human person, the mother has an absolute right to bodily autonomy. For the Christian, God’s will trumps any supposed absolute autonomy. God’s will is absolute. It must be obeyed. To go against God’s will is to sin.

Is there a way for Christians to avoid the implications of Bonhoeffer’s argument? It seems the only way to do this is to deny that God wills for there to be a human being as the result of a pregnancy. I confess that I do not see any possible way for this argument to be convincing. The objector would essentially have to say that God’s will for the unborn is based entirely upon that of the parents’ will. For, after all, if God did not will for there to be a human being as the result of a pregnancy, what would God’s will regarding the conceived being be? It seems that it would have to be arbitrary. But this would seem to be untenable given the doctrine of the nature of God as perfection.

Therefore, Bonhoeffer’s ingenious argument leads to the inescapable conclusion: no Christian can endorse abortion. The fact of the matter is that God so set up the world that the process of human growth begins at conception. Unless there is a complication in the pregnancy or there is an outside source intervening to terminate the pregnancy, the result of conception is a human being.

All Christians say in chorus: Let God’s Will Be Done!

Links

Abortion: The Holocaust of our Day- I explore more reasons to reject the pro-choice position for both Christians and non-Christians at length.

Pro-Life- check out my numerous posts on the issue of abortion.

Abolish Human Abortion- Join the movement. We must abolish human abortion. Stop the at-will destruction of human lives.

Sources

The image is from Abolish Human Abortion, a movement I highly recommend to my readers.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1955).

SDG.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

125 thoughts on “A violation of God’s Will: Abortion- or why no Christian should be pro-choice

  1. Well said and well done! This IS a binding issue for Christians (whether they agree or not!). Thanks for your good word!

    Grace and Peace!

    MSB

    *From:* J.W. Wartick -Always Have a Reason [mailto: comment-reply@wordpress.com] *Sent:* Monday, September 24, 2012 7:31 AM *To:* msbeates@genevaschool.org *Subject:* [New post] A violation of Gods Will: Abortion- or why no Christian should be pro-choice

    J.W. Wartick posted: “Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The si”

    Posted by mikebeates | September 24, 2012, 6:35 AM
  2. Sometimes I do wonder why Christians, of all people, want to make this subject complicated. It isn’t, as you point out. The only thing that complicates the issue is our definitions of “fairness” and “rights.”

    Too bad Bonhoeffer was aborted by his mother country.

    Posted by Anthony Baker | September 24, 2012, 7:24 AM
    • Thanks for your comment, Anthony. I really don’t see any way a Christian could avoid this argument. Like I say in the post, they would have to argue that God’s will for the unborn is determined by the will of the mother/father/whoever decides the baby’s fate.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 24, 2012, 1:07 PM
  3. Obviously this post is written from the standpoint of the theist and adopts a number of givens as a result, and rightly so!

    With that said, I commented on your last post regarding abortion and you did not respond to a statement I made. You mentioned that statistics do not lie and that abortions occurred at a much higher rate once it was legalized. I responded and said that should be expected, as tracking illegal abortions was likely a daunting (if not impossible task).

    Obviously, as an atheist, I maintain objections to the concept of “god’s will” and other similar ideas. I would also not recommend theists using that idea as a lead-idea in the public arena. That just smacks of theocratic heavy-handedness in my observation.

    The fact remains that there IS strong scientific debate regarding the point at which a zygote becomes “life.” With that debate is the concept of attempting to establish when suffering would be involved on behalf of the fetus.

    All of that notwithstanding, I am anti-abortion but I tend to vote pro-choice. I simply have a problem with the idea of the government telling a woman what she may and may not do with her body. I think that sets a bad precedent for future legislation. Int he short term, we should focus on minimizing abortion while still providing an “out” in safe clinics if it is needed.

    Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | September 24, 2012, 9:14 AM
    • I appreciate your comment. I think there are a number of conceptions here, however.

      First, you say that ” tracking illegal abortions was likely a daunting (if not impossible task)”–actually, this is not impossible, and just like any other criminal activity we can make estimates which tend to line up with the actual numbers. But this is hardly central to my arguments against abortion.

      You wrote “That just smacks of theocratic heavy-handedness in my observation.”

      I’m confused by statements like this. Do you not vote your values? Should I object that you voting your values smacks of secular humanistic heavy-handedness? I think that would be fair, but wrong. People can and should vote how they believe. To say someone has to set aside their faith in the public arena is to denigrate the religious other.

      “The fact remains that there IS strong scientific debate regarding the point at which a zygote becomes “life.” ”

      Show me that debate. Show it to me. Demonstrate to me this scientific debate.

      The actual fact is that there is scientific consensus that life begins at conception. Period. Just open an embryology textbook. Life begins at conception. Anyone who says otherwise is either deceiving others or blatantly ignorant of the scientific consensus. Philosophical debate about human personhood? Yes. Debate over whether a new human life begins at conception? No.

      “I am anti-abortion but I tend to vote pro-choice.”

      Why are you anti-abortion?

      “I simply have a problem with the idea of the government telling a woman what she may and may not do with her body.”

      Really? Would you say a woman has absolute bodily autonomy? Let’s say she went to a hospital and demanded they cut off her arms and legs because she doesn’t want them any more. Should the government say she can’t do that? Why not?

      Not only that, but the zygote/fetus etc. is absolutely not the woman’s body. Unless you’re willing to say that an entity with different DNA, 50%-ish of the time a different gender, and the like, can be the same as a person’s body. I don’t know about you, but I have never heard of someone generating ‘body parts’ that are made of a new set of DNA with a different gender.

      “I think that [government involvement in telling a woman what she should/should not do] sets a bad precedent for future legislation.”

      Again, should we allow people to just go around hacking off body parts if they want? What if they want to kill themselves? Why do we even provide counseling for suicidal people, on your view? After all, it is what they want to do with their body.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 24, 2012, 1:00 PM
      • “I’m confused by statements like this. Do you not vote your values?”

        Of course I do. I also think it is important that church and state remain separate entities / ideas / institutions. Do you not agree with the separation?

        “Show me that debate. Show it to me. Demonstrate to me this scientific debate.”

        I misspoke. You clarified what I was thinking when you mentioned the philosophical debate about human personhood. That’s what I was trying express.

        “Why are you anti-abortion?”

        I am anti-abortion because I don’t think it is a good thing. Because of my stance on whether the fetus has achieved personhood at various stages of development, I do not consider it murder. However, I feel the practice should be minimized.

        I am opposed to government prohibition for activity that will occur whether the activity is prohibited or not. So, I also think meth and heroine are bad things. Their illegal status, however, does not preclude them from being used.

        “Again, should we allow people to just go around hacking off body parts if they want? What if they want to kill themselves? Why do we even provide counseling for suicidal people, on your view? After all, it is what they want to do with their body.”

        If people want to amputate their limbs, why shouldn’t they? Their decision in no way affects me.

        We counsel suicidal people because it is unlikely they’re of sound mind to make an informed decision regarding their life. Sometimes, though, they are (terminally ill people in great pain, or those who wish to avoid that pain before it materializes).

        Morality as legislation is not only ineffective, but it is costly to enforce…or even attempt to enforce. Further, standing up a protocol that force women to use a coat hanger instead of visiting a sterile clinic is a step backwards. And they’re forced due to no other choice (if the prohibition you desire would come to fruition). Surely you do not expect abortion to cease entirely if it were made illegal, do you?

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | September 24, 2012, 3:51 PM
      • “I also think it is important that church and state remain separate entities / ideas / institutions. Do you not agree with the separation?”

        How does the separation of church and state effect my beliefs? It seems to me that what you’re saying is the state should interfere with my right to vote what I believe.

        “I am anti-abortion because I don’t think it is a good thing.”

        Why isn’t it a good thing?

        “I am opposed to government prohibition for activity that will occur whether the activity is prohibited or not. ”

        Are you opposed to making murder illegal? What about stealing? Should people be allowed to abuse their wives? Should rape be legalized? All of these things happen, but they are illegal. By your logic, we should just make them all legal! It would be cheaper to stop trying to enforce them all, wouldn’t it?

        “If people want to amputate their limbs, why shouldn’t they? Their decision in no way affects me.”

        “We counsel suicidal people because it is unlikely they’re of sound mind to make an informed decision regarding their life. ”

        But you’ve argued for absolute bodily autonomy. These statements don’t line up. Who are you to say that someone else is not of sound mind?

        “Surely you do not expect abortion to cease entirely if it were made illegal, do you?”

        This is a consequentialist argument against the pro-life position which is exactly the same type I argued against elsewhere.

        Consequentialism, to me, seems obviously false. I don’t accept this argument. Nor will I be even remotely convinced by it until I see an argument for the truth of consequentialism.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 24, 2012, 4:29 PM
  4. “How does the separation of church and state effect my beliefs? It seems to me that what you’re saying is the state should interfere with my right to vote what I believe.”

    You didn’t answer my question and, instead, posited another. I will answer it anyway.

    The separation of church and state should not affect your beliefs at all. That is the point. You’re free to worship whomever or whatever you want. You’re not free to project that belief system onto other through the legislative process. Hence, the separation. (Freedom OF religion includes and implied freedom FROM religion as well. Because legislating Christian ideas of morality would necessarily affect everyone, it would present a violation of the separation.)

    “Are you opposed to making murder illegal? What about stealing? Should people be allowed to abuse their wives? Should rape be legalized? All of these things happen, but they are illegal. By your logic, we should just make them all legal! It would be cheaper to stop trying to enforce them all, wouldn’t it?”

    No. You clearly missed the delineation that makes these issues separate. Murder, rape, theft, spousal abuse, etc affect another sentient person, typically against their will. This limits the victim party’s free pursuit of “happiness.”

    The debate then comes back, of course, to whether a blastocyst qualifies as an equivalent “life value” as a born, sentient human being. You can make an argument to that point, to be sure, however there is not widespread consensus on the idea.

    Abortion isn’t a good thing because, among other things, it can lead to emotional trauma for the mother (and potentially the father too). Further, the need for abortion is often the result of irresponsibility. We should curb the irresponsibility before we resort to an outright ban.

    “But you’ve argued for absolute bodily autonomy. These statements don’t line up. Who are you to say that someone else is not of sound mind?”

    I’m not qualified to say that. A clinical psychiatrist, on the other hand, would be qualified to make this determination. In every state in the USA, a person deemed mentally defective is unqualified to make an informed legal decision. So, they can’t make the decision to end their life. That’s not complicated or ambiguous.

    “This is a consequentialist argument against the pro-life position which is exactly the same type I argued against elsewhere.”

    I’m not asserting a consequentialist argument. I’m simply stating that people such as yourself (who call for an outright ban) should be fully aware of the ugly consequences of such a position.

    Since you didn’t answer my main question from the previous comment…could you indicate if you do or do not support a wall of separation between church and state?

    Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | September 24, 2012, 5:00 PM
    • “You’re free to worship whomever or whatever you want. You’re not free to project that belief system onto other through the legislative process.”

      That’s exactly my point. You’re saying that I’m not free to vote what I believe. That doesn’t seem like separation of church and state to me.

      Your follow up: “could you indicate if you do or do not support a wall of separation between church and state?”

      What do you mean by a “wall of separation”? Again, it seems to me your application is this: “You can’t vote for what you believe in, but I can, because I’m not ‘religious.’” That actually seems to me to be a major attack on the freedom of conscience of the religious other.

      “You clearly missed the delineation that makes these issues separate. Murder, rape, theft, spousal abuse, etc affect another sentient person, typically against their will.”

      Now you’ve got it! You see, you’ve begged the question against the pro-life position. By trying to press against me the notion that I shouldn’t be against making abortion illegal, you have assumed my position is false. Only by assuming that the unborn is not a human person does your argument work.

      “Abortion isn’t a good thing because, among other things, it can lead to emotional trauma for the mother (and potentially the father too). Further, the need for abortion is often the result of irresponsibility. We should curb the irresponsibility before we resort to an outright ban.”

      But the unborn are not human persons, on your view. So if abortion is due to “irresponsibility,” who cares? It doesn’t affect anyone but the people making the decision? I don’t get your argument. You’ve said numerous times that we shouldn’t do things that affect other people. But then you say that abortion is bad because it only affects the people making that decision. I don’t see how that works, on your view. After all, they’re not hurting anyone else, on your position. So why is it bad?

      “I’m not qualified to say that. A clinical psychiatrist, on the other hand, would be qualified to make this determination. In every state in the USA, a person deemed mentally defective is unqualified to make an informed legal decision. So, they can’t make the decision to end their life. That’s not complicated or ambiguous”

      You’ve missed my point. Absolute bodily autonomy is either absolute bodily autonomy or it is restricted. If it’s restricted, then you need to start making qualifications. That’s exactly what you’ve done: if someone isn’t in a right mental state, they can’t make decisions about their absolute bodily autonomy (which is no longer absolute, for you stop them from doing whatever they want because you think they shouldn’t make a decision in certain mental states).

      “I’m not asserting a consequentialist argument. I’m simply stating that people such as yourself (who call for an outright ban) should be fully aware of the ugly consequences of such a position.”

      Do you see the contradiction here? You realize that you just said that the reason I should be worried about a ban on abortion is because of the consequences. At risk of sounding a bit condescending–and I’m not trying to–do you know what consequentialism is? Because you just made an argument that could go under an entry in a philosophical encyclopedia on the topic. Your argument turns on the consequences of an action not on the deontological status of the action itself.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 24, 2012, 5:13 PM
      • Let me simplify my question (as I think we’ve found the root of the issue, at least politically)…

        How do you define separation of church and state and, subsequently, how should it be implemented / maintained, if at all?

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | September 24, 2012, 5:22 PM
      • Andrew, why are we setting aside the actual topic of this post: abortion?

        I don’t think I have a working definition of church and state. All I know is that I’m very skeptical when anyone says that people shouldn’t be allowed to vote in a certain way on any issue.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 24, 2012, 5:26 PM
      • “That’s exactly my point. You’re saying that I’m not free to vote what I believe. That doesn’t seem like separation of church and state to me.

        Your follow up: “could you indicate if you do or do not support a wall of separation between church and state?”

        What do you mean by a “wall of separation”? Again, it seems to me your application is this: “You can’t vote for what you believe in, but I can, because I’m not ‘religious.’” That actually seems to me to be a major attack on the freedom of conscience of the religious other.”

        Voting is not the only political factor implicated by the concept of separation. You’re free to vote however you want. You should recognize a responsibility, however, to not project your particular creed onto the public domain.

        Would you be a staunch advocate of faith-based legislation if in, say, 40 years, an exploding Muslim population eclipses the Christian voting bloc and wishes to enact Sharia-type laws? This is why the wall is protection not just for me, but for you as well.

        “Only by assuming that the unborn is not a human person does your argument work.”

        Right. That wasn’t contested. I think there is room for debate, though, on the human qualities of a 16-cell blastocyst vs. a 36 week term fetus.

        You’ve missed my point. Absolute bodily autonomy is either absolute bodily autonomy or it is restricted.”

        It IS absolute…among those with the legal cognitive capacity to recognize and execute autonomy.

        I do understand the consequentialist argument. It was not central to my argument. With that said, I think it is still and important consideration. The mere fact that an argument appeals to actual consequences does not, in any way, mean we should ignore those consequences, does it? Consequentialism can be useful for pragmatic applications. Certainly more useful than a philosophy-on-paper approach to the real world.

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | September 24, 2012, 5:38 PM
      • “You’re free to vote however you want. You should recognize a responsibility, however, to not project your particular creed onto the public domain.”

        Again, I ask: “Why?”

        You see, this is largely due to genuine interest in the answer. I’m not sure either way. But to me it seems that people who say the kind of statement you’re making are themselves projecting their creed into public domain. After all, you have yet to show me why that principle is one that everyone should follow for all time.

        “Would you be a staunch advocate of faith-based legislation if in, say, 40 years, an exploding Muslim population eclipses the Christian voting bloc and wishes to enact Sharia-type laws?”

        This is indeed very scary to think about. But again, I would ask this: why shouldn’t Muslims be allowed to vote for what they want?

        You may misunderstand me here: I’m not asking these questions to try to lead your towards a conclusion. I’m asking genuinely, as in I actually do wonder. I haven’t ever seen any justification for the notion that people shouldn’t vote what they believe other than just that statement.

        “on the human qualities of a 16-cell blastocyst vs. a 36 week term fetus.”

        I can’t promise you when, but I have a post in the works defending personhood from conception, as opposed to just human being-ness. It would take too much space to go into here.

        “It IS absolute…among those with the legal cognitive capacity to recognize and execute autonomy.”

        Why? Why that restriction?

        “The mere fact that an argument appeals to actual consequences does not, in any way, mean we should ignore those consequences, does it?”

        No, but I am a deontologist, and I do not base moral decisions on consequentialist arguments. I find them largely irrelevant. You can justify just about anything you want with consequentialism.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 24, 2012, 5:44 PM
  5. Why is it that God set the world up in such a way that the nascent (developing) human being grows into a toddler, adolescent, adult, and senior? Bonhoeffer focuses the argument directly upon God’s will. God has willed that from conception, a plan for a human life is set into motion. Thus, to terminate a pregnancy is to destroy part of God’s plan, a plan for a human life.

    (a) How can a person come to have knowledge of God’s will in this case?

    (b) How would this line of reasoning, taken consistently, apply to issues like contraception?

    Posted by Thomas Larsen | September 24, 2012, 9:33 PM
    • Regarding (a), I think that the burden of proof here is very squarely in the camp of one denying this. Why? Because unless there is a natural or unnatural interference in the process, every time there is conception, you will get a child.

      Regarding (b), I’ve discussed this objection elsewhere, so let me sum up:

      To deny this argument, one would have to make an argument that God’s will for conception is something other than a human life. God’s will for intercourse can also be a celebration of marital love (a la song of songs), so we already have a plausible, Biblical, disanalogy in place for the case of contraception. So I would need to see a plausible, Biblical reason for thinking God’s will for conception is something other than just human life.

      Yet another problem for this line of argument [that my argument here works against contraception] is that it starts as a worry about whether my argument could be used for contraception as well. Note that the argument must turn to whether or not sex is supposed to entail conception. I would just reiterate that we have in the Bible God’s affirmation of marital inctercourse for reasons other than conception.

      So let’s say that you could establish an exact analogy. You’d still have to show a Biblical reason to make the analogy work in the same way as the argument.

      I am doubtful about that possibility.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 24, 2012, 9:38 PM
  6. Let me play “devil’s advocate” for a while. Two different logical arguments occurred to me as I read the post and comments. Not that I specifically support either argument, but the arguments still exist. Mostly I am interested in how they fit into your theological outlook. (If nothing else, you can hone your own arguments and understanding to better deal with such arguments.)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “God has willed that from conception, a plan for a human life is set into motion. “

    This seems to be the crux of the argument. Yet many pregnancies naturally end before coming to term. So God’s plan often includes the human life never being born. Isn’t this termination also ‘God’s will’? So how wrong can it be to end a pregnancy if God’s plan includes exactly the same sort of ending on a regular basis?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    And how about the plan for the end of the human life that God set in motion? Surely God’s plan for our lives also includes a plan for calling us to Heaven at a time of His choosing. So, logically, the “unnatural extension” of a human life would ALSO be against God’s plan. So curing cancer or CPR or antibiotics are ways of depriving us of God’s plan to call us to heaven! Should these acts “against God’s plan” also be abolished?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Posted by tjfolkerts | September 25, 2012, 6:49 PM
    • Thanks for the comment. I think the answer to the first point would be to fit it into the overall picture of the Fall. Due to the Fall, bad things happen, even naturally. The whole creation groans due to sin (Romans 8:18ff). Due to sin, there are natural, disastrous consequences. One of these is the unfortunate event of a miscarriage.

      I think the second point is interesting, and oddly has been used by some throughout history to argue against things like reducing the female’s pain in labor. But again, we need to point back to the Fall. We live in a fallen world in which lives end in physical death. But that does not mean that we are called to merely allow this to happen. I don’t see anything that says medicine is forbidden in Scripture. The Bible does teach that God knows when we will die, our days are numbered–God knows them. However, nowhere does it say we should not work to fight disease, famine, and the like. Indeed, we are called to do so.

      Regarding the argument here against abortion, the use of the second argument would be to beg the question. Strangely, it would beg the question in a way that justifies the entire pro-life position. In order for the notion that we shouldn’t try to treat injury, illness, or the like to work as an analogy to the argument here, one would have to say that the unborn is indeed a human person. For, if the unborn is not a human person, then the analogy doesn’t mean much. It would be like debating God’s will regarding a rock. It’s completely disanalogous. If the unborn is a human person, then to say we should be allowed to go around killing them would be to say we should be allowed to kill people for x reason [x being whatever pro-choice reason you pick].

      So then it would be a dilemma for the person pressing this argument:

      Either the unborn is a human person, and the analogy [possibly] works, but pro-choice is overthrown

      or

      The unborn is not a human person, and the analogy fails, but the argument works for Christians.

      Of course, I believe the unborn is a human person, logically, religiously, and philosophically. So maybe the analogy works for me, but I think the fallenness of our world means we should work against it regarding our health, physical ailments, and the like. So I don’t think the argument itself works.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 25, 2012, 8:37 PM
      • “Due to sin, there are natural, disastrous consequences. One of these is the unfortunate event of a miscarriage.”

        Do you believe miscarriages occur as a result of the mother’s sin, the original (“Fall”) sin, or some combination thereof?

        Is God in control of this process as an omnipotent being?

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | September 26, 2012, 6:58 AM
      • Those are two excellent questions.

        Regarding the second, I would say it depends what you mean by “Is God in control…?” I believe God is in control in the sense that he created the universe and guides all things according to His ultimate plan. However, I do not think God exercises meticulous, total control of the causal relations of all things. All things supervene upon God’s power, but God does not explicitly cause all things (as on Calvinism).

        Regarding the first, it follows from my answer to the second question that things like miscarriages are an ultimate result of the Fall. It is not that God causes miscarriages, but that the Fall corrupted mankind and resulted in all creation groaning for salvation.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 26, 2012, 9:31 AM
  7. I see. Thanks for the answers!

    Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | September 26, 2012, 9:57 AM
  8. Of course, the logic of God with regards to abortion is somewhat dubious. It seems rather bizarre to rail against pro-choicers for aborting when God designs a system whereby natural (spontaneous) abortion is so prevalent, and then omits doing anything about it. Thus there is a mix of active and passive will that embryos, foetuses and blastocysts have more chance of perishing than surviving. Ans all this happens unbeknownst to people, invalidating most theodicies, if not all.

    God loves abortion.

    http://skepticink.com/tippling/2012/09/29/god-loves-abortion/

    Posted by Jonathan MS PearceJ | October 11, 2012, 7:06 AM
    • Comments like these make me wonder whether the skeptic has any intellectual honesty. Apparently you refuse to acknowledge the robust Christian doctrines of the Fall, original sin, and the like. But hey, being disingenuous is so much easier.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 11, 2012, 9:53 AM
      • Skeptics don’t have any intellectual honesty? The same type of people who weren’t content with the church’s explanations of the origin of the earth or the movement of the earth through our solar system? THAT group of people struggle with intellectual honesty?

        When did intellectual honesty become the equivalent of accepting “robust doctrine” like the Fall of Man?

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | October 11, 2012, 10:38 AM
      • You read my statement incorrectly, Andrew. When I say “the skeptic” the referent is the one making the comment like that of Jonathan’s, which I would say shows little reflective honesty.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 11, 2012, 11:39 AM
      • Hi there JW

        I think your ad hominem is a little on the un-warranted and kneejerk side of things. I have acknowledged many doctrines and have rejected many crucial philosophical positions in my time, some truly fundamental ones, based on skeptical analyses of commonly accepted philosophies (eg free will).

        Your comment seems nothing more than a hand-waving gesture. Let us, if you will, look a little more closely at the point which you seem to claim is intellectually dishonest. Taking as given, despite obvious issues, God as existing and being omnibenevolent, we have this:

        1) at least 2/3rds of all conceived and fertilised eggs are spontaneously aborted
        2) most of these happen without the mother’s (or anyone else’s) knowledge
        3) God knows about this, knew about this and even actualised by design the world in which this happens
        4) Therefore, in either an active or a passive way, God wants this death (in the millions, if not billions) to happen

        Now, you seem to throw in original sin “and the like” as somehow answering this with ease – otherwise I fail to understand your dismissive attack of me being disingenuous.

        However, it makes no real sense for original sin to work if:

        1) this is happening unbeknownst to anyone
        2) these collections of cells are somehow bestowed collective moral responsibility for the actions of those before them when they do not even have powers of cognition
        and so on. That’s even given the coherence of OS.

        Offering a theodicy, of which OS is a type, is difficult because one simply, and ad hoc, rationalises ‘some reason’ as to why God would not only allow this, but somehow DESIGN it. It presupposes free will anyway; but past that, it supposes that these embryonic entities can some how play a part in some greater good. For that is the only path of rationality for someone who espouses an omnibenevolent God. Everything God does must be categorised by being the most loving, in some manner (either intrinsically or consequentially).

        I have written elsewhere (obviously not here!) that God is a moral consequentialist and thereby loses out on delivering the grounding for objective morality. The morality of these unborns dying at the design of God (we are NOT responsible for designing spontaneous abortion) must surely be derived consequentially, rather than intrinsically. God, again, seems to be a utilitarian of sorts. There must be (ad hoc) a greater good. Or God is not omnibenevolent. Or does not exist.

        Either way, I HAVE given this some serious thought, and I DO think your claims of intellectual dishonesty and disingenousness are at best lazy, and at worst disingenuous themselves.

        Cheers

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 11, 2012, 5:14 PM
      • Your argument is blatantly fallacious. 4 follows in no way from 1-3. In fact, 1-4 are just a set of claims. So I hate to say it, but it seems like the argument isn’t really that well thought out.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 11, 2012, 8:45 PM
  9. Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification.

    I’m also sure you can see how I gleaned the conclusion I did, based on the sentence you wrote.

    In any case, I apologize for the confusion.

    Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | October 11, 2012, 11:58 AM
  10. “Your argument is blatantly fallacious. 4 follows in no way from 1-3. In fact, 1-4 are just a set of claims. So I hate to say it, but it seems like the argument isn’t really that well thought out.”

    Er, of course they are a set of claims!! Your point?

    1 and 2 are empirically evidenced.
    3 is true by definition of God.
    4 is arguable since we can argue over the term ‘want’ (how an atemporal being causally prior to creation can have any such characteristics of personhood is another argument). But we know, if he exists, that he at least ‘lets’ this happen. More to the point, he has ‘designed’ the natural system in which this happens – KNOWINGLY.

    So your continual handwaving is doing nothing but showing your own intellectual dishonesty, with all due respect.

    At the very least you need to offer a plausible reason as to why unknown foetal deaths in the millions occur.

    whilst simultaneously attacking a range of abortion reasons as being a-moral.

    Your problem is that the moral value that God attaches to these actions (or omissions) are derived from their consequences, in exactly the same way as those who go through with abortion value the morality of their actions.

    Now their may be very good reasons, but your refusal to even approach answering the issue is surprising.

    Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 12, 2012, 2:44 AM
    • Your argument’s conclusion literally does not follow from the premises. It is unsound. It is not hand waving to point out that the argument is fallacious.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 12, 2012, 6:53 AM
      • It is handwaving when one does nothing to support one’s claim.

        If you agree on 1-3, then let us look at 4. These things happen. You cannot deny this, surely. If these things happen, and God has the power to top them happening, and could have, indeed, actualised a world in which they would not have happened (by design), then God has reason to allow them to happen. This, if one attaches a value judgement to letting it happen, could be an omission. God could have acted, but didn’t. As I have said, we can argue over ‘want’ – I mean it here as ‘has greater reason to allow it than to disallow it’.

        The other option, again as mentioned, is that God has a ‘greater good’ style of reason to allow this to happen.

        You have done nothing to dispute this but claim it does not follow. Either God has a reason or he doesn’t. You claim 4 does not follow, which is the claim that God has a reason for letting these deaths happen. To deny this makes God even worse. He is letting this happen for NO reason.

        Please also point out the fallacy that you claim (I assume a non sequitur). Interestingly, I did not set it out properly as a logical syllogism (just a set of 4 statements), but there you go.

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 12, 2012, 8:30 AM
      • Look, Jonathan, your argument is logically invalid. Let’s look at it:

        1) at least 2/3rds of all conceived and fertilised eggs are spontaneously aborted
        2) most of these happen without the mother’s (or anyone else’s) knowledge
        3) God knows about this, knew about this and even actualised by design the world in which this happens
        4) Therefore, in either an active or a passive way, God wants this death (in the millions, if not billions) to happen

        No you didn’t set it out syllogistically, but I literally see no way that 4 would follow from 1-3 other than by adding 3′ before 3:

        3′: “If God knows about 1-2, then God wanted 1-2 to happen”

        Now I don’t mean to draw out your argument, which is why I have been waiting for you to actually draw it out. You haven’t, so I’m still waiting.

        “If you agree on 1-3, then let us look at 4.”

        I don’t. 3 is false.

        Yes I believe God would have known about 1-2, but in no way would I agree that God designed the world to Fall. I’m not a Calvinist. Your argument assumes a kind of ontology in which God controls the modal properties of worlds. I don’t assume that ontology. I’ve actually in some sense explicitly denied it elsewhere. I am a molinist, so I hold that there is a set of possible worlds, not that God himself makes up whatever set he desires to actualize.

        So 3 is false.

        4 of course would need its own support even if 4 is true.

        So there, I made your argument work for you, but I don’t actually know what your argument is because you’ve never actually told me. By your own admission you’ve just thrown 4 points out there. What’s the argument I am supposed to be addressing?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 12, 2012, 4:31 PM
      • And finally, even if 1-4 are supposed to be some kind of ill-formed argument, 3 is false, and I don’t see how 4 is true either. Maybe–maybe–your argument would work for a Calvinist, but then they would just distinguish between God’s determining will and the free but determined will of creatures. So yeah, not very convincing.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 12, 2012, 4:32 PM
      • Ah, and I forgot my point about 3′- which I was hesitant to make because I actually have no idea how you plan to bridge 1-2 to 3-4. If 3′ is your proposed premise, then I would say 3′ is also false. Simple foreknowledge of an event does not somehow entail willing an event.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 12, 2012, 4:36 PM
      • “Yes I believe God would have known about 1-2, but in no way would I agree that God designed the world to Fall. I’m not a Calvinist… So there, I made your argument work for you, but I don’t actually know what your argument is because you’ve never actually told me.”

        This says it all really. I did not mention the Fall, you did. I also implied Molinism (whenever one talks of actualising a given choice of worlds, Moilnism is the generally accepted mechanism, though it doesn’t need to be since that is about the order etc) which you claimed you had to do to make the argument work.

        3 is indeed a Molinistic account of divine foreknowledge.

        Either God stops these deaths or he doesn’t. He clearly hasn’t stopped them, so therefore he deems them necessary, or deems there enough good reason, to let them continue. This reasoning needs explaining. It’s really that simple.

        You are just fluffing around the edges throwing out soundbites to your readers in an attempt, it appears, to seem intellectually superior. But in failing to deal with the core issues, you fail to do so.

        “Simple foreknowledge of an event does not somehow entail willing an event.”

        Passive and active will. When you design systems, this can be muddled. If I drink beer, actively willingit, I do so to become happy and so on. However, I do not will the hangover. That is a natural byproduct of the beer drinking that I can do nothing about but not drink. Since my will to drink is higher than my will not to drink, I passivley will the hangover. It is far more complex with Go since he designs the system. If he willed to drink, he could just eradicte hangovers, or create perpetual miracles so they never happen, even though they might still be a natural byproduct, and so on. So with fetal deaths, he could design them OUT of the system, or miraculously eradicate them. Neither option seems to be fulfilled. Thus the will to allow them is stronger than in my drinking analogy with humans.

        If you have designed everything ex nihilo and know of all possible alternatives and of every outcome, then on Molinism you CHOOSE TO ACTUALISE this particular world over and above any other, weighing up all counterfactuals. So given the foreknowledge of these millions of fetal deaths, God still chooses this world.
        Why? What ‘good’ does this contribute, since things need to be measured against God’s omnibenevolence, which I assume you adhere to. God is love and all that.

        So given that God is love, how do you explain millions of fetal deaths? Forget 1 -4 and getting yourself in a twist, and seeming to want to squirm out of answering this; answer that question.

        These deaths are natural, and indeed happen across the animal kindgom. So why does this happen from a God is love perspective?

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 13, 2012, 2:12 AM
      • Oh my goodness. I don’t know what you think molinism is, but it seems pretty clear to me that you don’t understand it.

        I also implied Molinism (whenever one talks of actualising a given choice of worlds, Moilnism is the generally accepted mechanism, though it doesn’t need to be since that is about the order etc) which you claimed you had to do to make the argument work.

        I’m actually not sure what this sentence even means. The generally accepted mechanism for what? And are you suggesting that molinism is generally accepted? If so, that shows again how disconnected you are with the topic you are attempting to debate. Molinism is one view among many that are all hotly debate. Recent books (such as Molinism: the contemporary debate) show major resistance to the theory, along with strong proponents. So no, molinism is not generally accepted. And no, molinism does not imply that God can predetermine the set of possible worlds. Molina himself denied this.

        Either God stops these deaths or he doesn’t. He clearly hasn’t stopped them, so therefore he deems them necessary, or deems there enough good reason, to let them continue. This reasoning needs explaining. It’s really that simple.

        Right, back to my initial comment which you complained about: the Christian doctrine of the Fall. Your comments just assume that this world is somehow perfect and God just comes along and decides to cause miscarriages. Sorry, that’s not what the Christian doctrine of the Fall says. It really does seem to me that I just need to repeat what I said in my first reply: comments like yours show a lack of interaction with actual Christian belief. You just caricature it and then say you’ve shown how God would be evil or something absurd like that. But you fail to even get at one of the core tenets of Christian belief in order to understand the whole system.

        Of course, some Christians do reject the Fall and its implications. Maybe your argument would work for them, but I find such a system incoherent as well.

        If you have designed everything ex nihilo and know of all possible alternatives and of every outcome, then on Molinism you CHOOSE TO ACTUALISE this particular world over and above any other, weighing up all counterfactuals.

        Okay. I’m going to make one simple recommendation here: read literature on molinism before you pretend to understand it. I’m not being ad hominem here, which you may claim, instead I’m genuinely saying that if you’re going to say things about molinism, you need to actually understand it. Comments like these make it clear you do not.

        So given the foreknowledge of these millions of fetal deaths, God still chooses this world.
        Why? What ‘good’ does this contribute, since things need to be measured against God’s omnibenevolence, which I assume you adhere to. God is love and all that.

        The Fall, salvation, wiping away this veil of tears (eschatology), etc. Yes, the entire system of Christianity points to a whole worldview in which this is taken into account. But all you do is betray your lack of knowledge about the system.

        Now let’s review: so far, in every single comment you have either complained about me ‘hand waving’ or making ‘soundbites’ or the like. Yet in every comment I have presented an argument and shown how your argument failed. Every time you return and modify your argument, while also revealing a lack of knowledge about the topic. Who is it doing the hand waving?

        I’ve already shown how 3 fails, but you claim that due to your apparently superior knowledge of molinism I was wrong, 3 is a molinistic account. It’s not. I’ve already shown how the argument is invalid, and noted you’ve never actually drawn it out. In this comment, you continue to fail to do so. I’ve noted how your entire argument fails it doesn’t interact with the Christian doctrine of the Fall. You don’t even attempt to interact with it here.

        I’ll boil it down: show me the actual argument. I want to see it.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 13, 2012, 7:05 AM
      • JW

        I have read and even written about Molinism (with regards to divine foreknowledge in my first book). Thank you for continually assuming my knowledge based on almost nothing.

        You have serially thrown in red herrings and suchlike in order to avoid getting to grips with the question. It seems this is what you have offered:

        How do you account for millions of naturally caused unborn foetal deaths within the context of an all-loving deity who designed the world?

        Answer: The Christian doctrine of the Fall.

        And that is it. That is essentially what all those paragraphs of prose boil down to. It is not an explanation in any meaningful sense. People’s theories on the Fall differ – especially with regards to children and the natural world. Given that many Christians adhere to an age of accountability, and these foetuses will clearly not have reached that, please can you elucidate.

        Again, God could stop these foetal deaths but chooses not to. To what end do these deaths millions of ‘potential humans’ serve?

        You have done an exemplary job of not answering the question.

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 14, 2012, 9:41 AM
      • Jonathan. What is your argument. Please, show it to me. I have asked continually for what your actual argument is. It is you who have dodged the issue. Since presenting your initial “argument”–which is invalid as it stands by your own admission–you have done nothing to defend it. What is the argument?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 14, 2012, 2:51 PM
      • “Show me that debate. Show it to me. Demonstrate to me this scientific debate.

        The actual fact is that there is scientific consensus that life begins at conception. Period. Just open an embryology textbook. Life begins at conception. ”

        You are mixing up “life” and “development”. Conception is the starting point of human development, not the starting point of human “life” – the sperm and the egg that fuse during fertilization are just as much living human cells as the resulting fertilized egg is.
        What pro-choice and anti-choice people disagree on is whether a fertilized egg is a human *person* / should have the rights of a human person.
        Without presuming the religious ideas that there is something like a “soul” and that this “soul” is divinely created and attached to a fertilized egg in the precise moment of conception to be true – how would you argue that a fertilized egg should have a different legal and / or moral status than any other living human cell, like a sperm cell for example ?

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 19, 2012, 8:25 AM
      • Nope. Again, I quote specifically from textbooks that say life begins at conception. You are scientifically mistaken. Period.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 19, 2012, 3:13 PM
      • J. W.

        In your original post you said, “For Christians, this logic is binding.”

        Here in the United States, nearly all abortions are had by Christians. The abortion rate is highest among Fundamentalist Christians like yourself, followed closely by Roman Catholics, two loud Christian contingents which rail against the same safe, legal abortions they so often avail themselves of.

        It is clear that your statement, “For Christians, this logic is binding,” is false as demonstrated by the actions of Christians themselves. You should change your statement to reflect that this post is about your personal stance on abortion, not about what Christians in general think, believe, or are obligated to do. It should read something like this: I’m a Christian who considers this to be binding for me.

        Many of the pro-choice advocates in the US are Christian clergy. You cannot square that with, “For Christians, this logic is binding,” as if you speak for all Christians. You do not speak for all Christendom. You do not speak for all fundamentalists. You do not speak for Roman Catholics.

        If you really believe your god exists, and will punish transgressors forever and ever, Amen, why feel the need to outlaw abortion? Christians have proven their need for access to safe, legal abortions and if your god doesn’t like it, let it do something about it. If it really was your god’s will to keep zygotes, blastulas, embryos and fetuses out of landfills and sewage treatment plants, it shouldn’t dump so many of them out with the menstrual flow, and it surely should not rely on fallible human beings to make this determination via a notably flawed electoral process. Omnipotence should count for something.

        Posted by Russ | October 19, 2012, 9:21 AM
      • Your argument assumes that Christians are consistent in their theology. They’re not. Christians are sinners too.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 19, 2012, 3:11 PM
      • J.W.,
        Trying to figure out what your understanding is of the fertilized eggs that don’t survive. Would you say that they are the result of the Fall of man (i.e. the Fall not only resulted in intellectual and moral corruption, but biological and genetic, as well) ?

        Posted by James | October 12, 2012, 9:43 AM
      • The fall had a direct impact on human nature. Yes that includes, in some sense, their biological nature. No, I would not say that the fall is what YECs claim it is in that all animal death, etc. came about as a result of the fall. But I do believe in an historic Adam and Eve, so there were actually no miscarriages before the Fall, because there were no births or pregnancies before the fall. The fall did change human nature, it corrupted us with original sin and brought about physical death.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 12, 2012, 4:35 PM
  11. JW

    It is a question to you:

    Again, God could stop these foetal deaths but chooses not to. To what end do these deaths millions of ‘potential humans’ serve?

    You seem not to want to expand you answer past “The Fall”. I would like you to, in some detail if possible. In other words, this is not about me and picking holes in a formal argument. This is about you and your belief, and how you rationalise what appear to be rather a lot of pointless deaths, whilst also attacking those who are pro-choice (but that can come later).

    Cheers.

    Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 14, 2012, 5:55 PM
  12. JW, I have no argument, but am also interested in hearing what your thoughts are on Jonathan’s question.

    Posted by Nth_dimension | October 14, 2012, 7:49 PM
    • Simply put, I don’t think his question is valid. Simply put, God chose a world from among the set of possible worlds. The molinistic perspective (mine) holds that there are three moments of God’s knowledge (not temporal moments): natural knowledge (knowledge of necessary truths, etc), middle knowledge (knowledge of free creaturely counterfactuals), and free knowledge (God’s knowledge of the world[s] He creates). Now possible worlds are part of the natural knowledge of God, so a world with miscarriages is not full of that type of evil because God decided to set it up that way.

      Furthermore, the assumption in Jonathan’s question is that I am a ‘greater good’ theodicist, which I am not. Yes, I think that the greater good theodicy works–in a limited sense. I do not think that for every evil God explicitly has a purpose. Richard Swinburne draws this out in great detail when he argues in providence and the problem of evil that there are overarching goods that could not happen without evils. His version of the greater good theodicy is focused upon the notion that there are greater goods that offer overarching reasons for evil, but not that every individual evil has a set of goods to offset it.

      So, to put it most simply, the question just doesn’t apply to my view. I reject its very grounding. It assumes that every evil must have an ultimate “end”–that millions of deaths by miscarriages have some explicit end. I think that’s absurd. I don’t follow that reasoning, so I don’t see any need to answer the question that I feel like is confused.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 14, 2012, 7:58 PM
      • Why does it take someone else asking the same question for you to actually attempt to answer it?

        OK, now we can start talking.

        1) “Now possible worlds are part of the natural knowledge of God, so a world with miscarriages is not full of that type of evil because God decided to set it up that way.2 The way I understand Molinism, and correct me if I am wrong, is that necessary truths are that: necessary. In other words logical truths such as logic and maths etc. They are independent of the will of God and must be true. Miscarriages do not have to be true. Are you saying God has no power to stop them in the sam way he cannot square a circle?

        2) “the assumption in Jonathan’s question is that I am a ‘greater good’ theodicist, which I am not. .” Believe it or not, this is the point of questions – to find out what you believe. I am not a mind reader, and I apologise for not having read the entirety of your writing.

        3) “to put it most simply, the question just doesn’t apply to my view. I reject its very grounding. It assumes that every evil must have an ultimate “end”–that millions of deaths by miscarriages have some explicit end. ” – OK, so they have no end. However, they are not, as you say, necessary truths. I can conceive of a world where they didn’t happen. Also, you are forgetting perpetual miracles. So if God is omnipotent, he can stop them happening on a case by case basis. But doesn’t. SO this DOES need explaining. If it is not for a greater good, what is the reason God does not step in?

        Look, you have been nothing but curt and fairly disingenuous with your replies. Fine, it’s your blog. But please do not attempt to take the intellectual high ground and then produce replies like that – you do yourself no favours.

        Cheers

        JP

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 15, 2012, 2:50 AM
  13. “Nope. Again, I quote specifically from textbooks that say life begins at conception. You are scientifically mistaken. Period.”

    No, you are mistaken. I told you that you are mixing up “life” and “development” – your own quotes show that:
    - “Human *development* begins at fertilization…”
    - “Embryo: An organism in the earliest stage of *development*; in a man, from the time of conception to the end of the second month in the uterus.”
    - “In this text, we begin our description of the *developing* human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual. ”

    The sperm and the egg that are fused at fertilization are just as much living human cells as the fertilized egg is.
    But as I said, this is actually not even relevant for the disagreement between pro-choice and anti-choice people, no one disagrees with the notion that an fertilized egg is human “life”, the disagreement is over the question of whether a fertilized egg is a human person / should have the same rights as a human person. And how would you argue that a fertilized egg should have a different legal and / or moral status without appealing to religious ideas ?

    Posted by Andy Schueler | October 19, 2012, 3:29 PM
    • Read the texts again. A number of them specifically use human life. Also, are you suggesting that mothers spontaneously generate new DNA?

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 19, 2012, 5:24 PM
      • “Read the texts again. A number of them specifically use human life.”
        No, not a single one of the textbooks quotes you provide claim that “human life starts at conception”, the medical professionals you quote however do claim that. But this is misleading, human “life” does not start at conception because the sperm cell and the egg cell that fuse during conception are both living human cells as well.
        The question is: why should fertilized eggs have a different moral and / or legal status than unfertilized eggs ? The unfertilized egg is just as much a living human cell as the fertilized one.

        “Also, are you suggesting that mothers spontaneously generate new DNA?”
        Yes, all the time – each human cell has it´s own DNA (with a few exceptions like red blood cells), but what does that have to do with anything ? I saw in the article you linked to that you said:
        “1) The zygote has distinct DNA from the mother (and is therefore not part of the mother).”
        - here you seem to assume that all cells of a human persons have identical DNA content, but that is not true. Somatic mutations happen all the time – that does not mean that a mutated cell (most of your cells will have a few somatic mutations) stops being a part of you, even radically mutated tissue like advanced cancer is still a part of you.
        You also said:
        “2) About 50% of the time, the unborn has a different gender than the mother (and is therefore not part of the mother).”
        - “Sex” would be a much more appropriate term here than “gender”, but anyway – I fail to see how the presence of a different configuration of sex chromosomes changes anything, your body contains many cells that are haploid (all of your sperm cells), all of those have a different configuration of sex-chromosomes than the rest of your cells (just one of either an X or a Y chromosome instead of a copy of both), are they therefore “not a part of you” ?

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 19, 2012, 5:59 PM
      • Your distinction is on human life and living cells is disingenuous. You wrote “the medical professionals you quote however do claim that. But this is misleading, human ‘life’ does not start at conception because the sperm cell and the egg cell that fuse during conception are both living human cells as well.”

        Ah, so basically you are denying what the medical professionals said?

        On your definition, when does life begin and why?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 9:53 AM
      • “Your distinction is on human life and living cells is disingenuous.”
        - Why is that disingenuous ?

        “Ah, so basically you are denying what the medical professionals said?”
        - No, I said that it is misleading. (And note that what you are quoting there
        are expert *opinions*, there is a reason why you will not find such statements
        in an embryology textbook).

        “On your definition, when does life begin and why?”
        - Since the egg and the sperm that fuse during conception are already living human
        cells, there is no beginning – a “beginning” would imply that “life” came from “non-life”, but
        that does not happen in the course of human reproduction.
        I think the much more interesting question is: why should a fertilized human egg have
        a different moral and / or legal status than an unfertilized one (or any other human cell) ?
        I´ve heard the argument before that the fertilized egg has the potential to develop into
        a human being under the right conditions. But the same is true for an unfertilized egg, it
        also has “the potential to develop into a human being under the right conditions”, you just
        have to add one condition to the list: fertilization.

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 20, 2012, 10:07 AM
      • Why should a baby have a different legal status than an unfertilized egg?

        Also, you wrote:

        why should a fertilized human egg have
        a different moral and / or legal status than an unfertilized one (or any other human cell) ?
        I´ve heard the argument before that the fertilized egg has the potential to develop into
        a human being under the right conditions. But the same is true for an unfertilized egg, it
        also has “the potential to develop into a human being under the right conditions”, you just
        have to add one condition to the list: fertilization.

        You just answered your own question. Unfertilized eggs will not develop into fully grown human beings. Fertilized eggs will.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 10:09 AM
      • “Why should a baby have a different legal status than an unfertilized egg?”
        - Because it is a human being capable of feeling pleasure and pain. Unlike a liver cell or a sperm cell or an egg cell or an embryo or a fetus in early stages of development.

        “You just answered your own question. Unfertilized eggs will not develop into fully grown human beings. Fertilized eggs will.”
        Fertilized human eggs will develop into a human being *if* some conditions are given, most importantly:
        1. The fertilized egg manages to correctly move to the uterus and correctly attach to the uterine wall (which fails in >50% of all cases where the embryo will be aborted naturally, without any human intervention).
        2. The embryo develops into a fetus without abnormalities (fails in ~15% of all cases, again leading to the embryo (or fetus, depending on stage of development) being aborted naturally without any human intervention).
        3. The mother stays alive and healthy until the fetus reaches a stage of development where it is viable outside the womb of the mother.
        For the unfertilized egg, you just have to add another condition:
        4. The egg has to be fertilized.
        Why should this extra condition lead to a different legal and / or moral status for fertilized eggs compared to unfertilized ones ?

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 20, 2012, 10:25 AM
      • Human beings aren’t always capable of feeling pleasure and pain. Is it permissible to kill them in those situations?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 10:49 AM
      • “Human beings aren’t always capable of feeling pleasure and pain. Is it permissible to kill them in those situations?”
        - No. But an egg (fertilized or unfertilized), an embryo or a fetus in early stages of development are not human beings that temporarily lost consciousness and / or the ability to feel pleasure and pain, they only have the potential to develop into such beings. And unfertilized eggs also have this potential, they just need one extra step compared to fertilized eggs – why should fertilized eggs therefore have a different moral and / or legal status than unfertilized ones ?

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 20, 2012, 11:00 AM
      • an embryo or a fetus in early stages of development are not human beings… they only have the potential to develop into such beings.

        So you are suggesting that an embryo/fetus is a different species?

        unfertilized eggs also have this potential, they just need one extra step compared to fertilized eggs – why should fertilized eggs therefore have a different moral and / or legal status than unfertilized ones ?

        That’s pretty simple: do eggs begin to grow on their own?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 11:03 AM
      • What I mean by this is simple, but I think I need to clarify because I know the objection that will be raised: what I mean is this, do eggs have a full set of DNA? Are they human beings? If we tested the DNA of an egg would we say “That is a human being?”

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 11:04 AM
      • “If we tested the DNA of an egg would we say “That is a human being?””

        So that is what defines a human being? Because a liver cell would succeed in having that characteristic.

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 20, 2012, 11:27 AM
      • Nope. It’s not what defines a human being, but it certainly is part of it. Are you suggesting that things can be human beings without having a full set of DNA?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 4:23 PM
      • “So you are suggesting that an embryo/fetus is a different species?”
        - No. But you cannot use the words “species”, “cell” and “being” synonymously. A human liver cell is not a human being, an unfertilized human egg is not a human being and a fertilized human egg is also not a human being.

        “That’s pretty simple: do eggs begin to grow on their own?”
        - If by “on their own” you mean “do eggs start developing and differentiating without fertilization” then the answer is of course no, they don´t grow “on their own”. However, as I mentioned earlier,fertilization is simply another condition that has to be given in order for an egg to develop into a human being, why do you draw the line at this step and not earlier (e.g. unfertilized eggs before conception) or later (e.g. an embryo after succesful implantation ?).

        “do eggs have a full set of DNA? / If we tested the DNA of an egg would we say “That is a human being?””
        - A “DNA test” tests for the presence of human DNA. This DNA could come from almost ANY human cell (including dead ones like some skin and hair cells), a fertilized egg will “test positive” for the presence of “human DNA” just like a hair cell would (if it was human hair of course).

        “Are they human beings?”
        - Well, “being” is a notoriously ill-defined concept. But what is clear is that neither fertilized not unfertilized eggs are conscious (and never were) and they lack the capacity to feel pleasure and pain (or anything else) – without these things being given, how would you argue for a different legal and / or moral status for fertilized eggs compared to unfertilized ones without appealing to religious concepts like a “soul” ? (btw, why do you think does “ensoulment” happen at conception ? why not implantation for example ? )

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 20, 2012, 11:28 AM
      • Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Again, a full set of DNA is just part of what makes a human being a human being. However, an unfertilized egg fails to have that. I am still trying to see why you seem to think fertilization is an insignificant factor.

        owever, as I mentioned earlier,fertilization is simply another condition that has to be given in order for an egg to develop into a human being, why do you draw the line at this step and not earlier (e.g. unfertilized eggs before conception) or later (e.g. an embryo after succesful implantation ?).

        You seem to view human being as a process of becoming. Is that the case? If so, where is the non-arbitrary line of saying “that is a human being, this is not”?

        Please define what makes a human being. It’s hard to figure out what you’re trying to say about what makes a human being a human being.

        what is clear is that neither fertilized not unfertilized eggs are conscious (and never were) and they lack the capacity to feel pleasure and pain (or anything else) – without these things being given, how would you argue for a different legal and / or moral status for fertilized eggs compared to unfertilized ones without appealing to religious concepts like a “soul” ?

        When I sleep I am unconscious. Or what if someone knocks me out and while I cannot feel pain, they kill me? How do you get away with defining humanity through being capable of pleasure or pain? I am incapable of feeling pain if I am knocked unconscious. Therefore, I am no longer a human?

        Regarding the fertilized/unfertilized line: you have been suggesting that this is merely an arbitrary line. It is not arbitrary, it is empirical. Eggs do not grow. Fertilized eggs are human beings. Setting aside the difficulty of defining “life,” I can look into evolutionary literature and find that across the board, growth and self organization are two parts of the definition (cf. Fry, The Emergence of Life on Earth). Simply put, eggs do not self organize; nor do they grow.

        I think that the burden of proof is actually upon you in this situation: you are claiming that there is no real distinction between an unfertilized egg and a fertilized egg. Support that claim. What evidence can you cite to tell me that there is no real difference in them? Embryology across the board disagrees with you.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 4:33 PM
      • Also, the comments I would have to make to draw out the answers would be much too long. On why the line is drawn between fertilized egg/unfertilized egg see here. It seems to me your argument is based upon scientific ignorance about embryology. Again: you must justify the claim that fertilization makes no significant change in the egg. I think the post I linked here really destroys most of your claim. To whit:

        The skin cell that is removed when someone swabs the inside of your mouth does not turn into a unique individual with fundamental rights the moment it is extracted from the mouth. It remains a portion of you, though separated from the whole. Likewise, human sex cells do not possess these rights because they are properly classified as belonging to the original individual who generated it, even if they are separated from the whole. In other words, gametes occupy the same status as other cells that belong to an individual human; the ovum is part of the female and the sperm is part of the male. Thus, we rightly reject a right to life for those specific cells because the right to life is a property for the entire individual, not its specific parts. As another example, suppose a person needs to have an appendage amputated. The appendage does not possess a fundamental right to life, making it immoral to perform the amputation precisely because the right to life is a characteristic of the whole human.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 4:41 PM
      • “Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Again, a full set of DNA is just part of what makes a human being a human being. However, an unfertilized egg fails to have that. I am still trying to see why you seem to think fertilization is an insignificant factor.”
        - I did not say that it is “insignificant”. It is one step further towards developing into a human being than an unfertilized egg is, this step is obviously significant (as many other steps in human development are).

        “You seem to view human being as a process of becoming. Is that the case? If so, where is the non-arbitrary line of saying “that is a human being, this is not”?”
        - It seems obvious to me that there can be no “non-arbitrary line”. Just like you could not point to a precise moment where day turns into night, you cannot point to a precise moment where a developing human becomes a “person” / “being” (especially because these terms are rather ill-defined).
        What matters is the point of development where we want to give the developing human special protection (or even grant it full personhood and all rights that are associated with that), and for this, conception seems to be way too early IMO. I think that the solution which many developed countries have chosen so far – legalizing abortion, but placing restrictions on late-term abortions, is a reasonable choice.

        “When I sleep I am unconscious. Or what if someone knocks me out and while I cannot feel pain, they kill me? How do you get away with defining humanity through being capable of pleasure or pain? I am incapable of feeling pain if I am knocked unconscious. Therefore, I am no longer a human?”
        - It´s not about “defining humanity”. It´s about whether a tiny collection of cells deserves special protection under the law or even full personhood. There seems to be no disagreement that an unfertilized egg is not a person and does not need special protection under the law. Now my question would be why this should change immediatly after the moment of conception ? What is wrong with a regulation that allows early-term abortions and restricts late-term abortions to only be allowed under exceptional circumstances (e.g. to save the life of the mother) ?

        “Regarding the fertilized/unfertilized line: you have been suggesting that this is merely an arbitrary line. It is not arbitrary, it is empirical. Eggs do not grow.”
        - A human egg will develop and differentiate under the right conditions, for an unfertilized egg, the list of conditions is just one element longer than for a fertilized egg, and this is what makes the line arbitrary.

        “Fertilized eggs are human beings.”
        - What happened at conception that turned a single cell, which was *not* a human being, into something that is still a single cell, but also a human being ? Do you really want to define “human being” based on the DNA content of a cell ? (that would get rather messy… because many adult human beings with chromosomal abnormalities would cease being “human beings” if you do that ;-) ).

        “Setting aside the difficulty of defining “life,” I can look into evolutionary literature and find that across the board, growth and self organization are two parts of the definition (cf. Fry, The Emergence of Life on Earth). Simply put, eggs do not self organize; nor do they grow.”
        - They do self-organize, every living cell does that (how do you think a cell could survive without that ?). And there is plenty of human life that self-organizes and grows, but which we actively try to kill as soon as we find it (e.g. cancer). “Life” does not automatically imply things like “rights” / “personhood” etc.
        A human liver cell is just as much a living human cell as an egg cell is, the difference is the potential to *develop* into a human being.

        “I think that the burden of proof is actually upon you in this situation: you are claiming that there is no real distinction between an unfertilized egg and a fertilized egg.”
        - Of course there is a distiction. I never denied that. I asked why you think that this particular step in development should lead to a different moral and / or legal status compared to the preceding step in development (i.e. an unfertilized egg) ? As I pointed out above, this would imply that our rights as human beings are derived from having the “right DNA”, and somehow I doubt that you really mean that…. And again – there is no such thing as a “full human DNA set”, there are many chromosomal abnormalities (not all of which are related to disorders) that lead to a different configuration than the standard 44 autosomes + 2 sex-chromosomes – defining “human person” / “human being” based on DNA would get VERY messy…

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 20, 2012, 5:09 PM
      • “The skin cell that is removed when someone swabs the inside of your mouth does not turn into a unique individual with fundamental rights the moment it is extracted from the mouth.”
        - Neither does a fertilized egg. The fertilized egg will not develop at all if you extract it from the body of the mother, it will also not develop beyond the blastocyst stadium if it does not manage to properly attach to the uterine wall (which again, fails more than 50% of the time for completely natural reasons). And after that, it will still take months until the developing human would be viable outside the womb of the mother.

        “Likewise, human sex cells do not possess these rights because they are properly classified as belonging to the original individual who generated it, even if they are separated from the whole. In other words, gametes occupy the same status as other cells that belong to an individual human; the ovum is part of the female and the sperm is part of the male.”
        - Mere assertion. The claim here is that an egg cell is part of the mother, and stops being part of the mother right after conception – this makes no sense. What changed during conception that took something which was “part of the mother” and turned it into something that is “not part of the mother”. Once again, if you define this by the DNA content of cells, it will get very messy (do HIV-infected t-cells stop being a “part of you” because their DNA content changes ?)

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 20, 2012, 5:21 PM
  14. “The fall had a direct impact on human nature. Yes that includes, in some sense, their biological nature. No, I would not say that the fall is what YECs claim it is in that all animal death, etc. came about as a result of the fall. But I do believe in an historic Adam and Eve, so there were actually no miscarriages before the Fall, because there were no births or pregnancies before the fall. The fall did change human nature, it corrupted us with original sin and brought about physical death.”

    Wow, finally an answer, of sorts!

    Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 19, 2012, 3:43 PM
  15. “Your argument assumes that Christians are consistent in their theology. They’re not. Christians are sinners too.”

    If there exists one and only one god, yours, and it is actually telling everyone what it wants everyone to know about itself, then we should have consistent theology.

    Saying the Christians are not consistent in their theology is equivalent to saying they are not all listening to the same source which contradicts the one and only one god that Christians claim. Applying inference to the best explanation to the fact that there are so many Christian theologies, we are led to the best explanation being that they are all, you included, just making it up because their is no god to be listened to. Different theologies for different gods.

    You imagine a god who thinks like you do already think about abortion. You have it backwards. You are inventing your abortion-hating god from your personal preferences. Other Christians imagine a god who thinks like they already do about abortion. They too have it backwards. They are inventing their abortion-accepting god from their personal preferences. Don’t you think it’s just a bit too coincidental that no matter how far apart Christians are on an issue, the god they imagine always sides with them?

    Inference to the best explanation: there is no god and Christians everywhere invent their gods to like what they like and hate what they hate. If you already hate homosexuals, then so does your god. If you hate abortion, then so does your god. I you hate liberals, then so does your god. If you hate Roman Catholics, then so does your god.

    Posted by Russ | October 20, 2012, 9:59 AM
    • You fail to take into account the fact that on Christian theology, humans are sinners. We will unfortunately make mistakes in our theology.

      Your discussion over the ‘imaginary god’ is unfortunate, because some people do do that. However, it also insinuates that no one is capable of an attempt to do their best at objectively approaching an issue. I think that is very discourteous. It seems to me that your imagined worldview probably lines up with what you think is true about reality. Or, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you think your worldview is false. But if you think it is true, then isn’t it just so coincidental that no matter how much you disagree with other people, your worldview is correct?

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 10:02 AM
      • “…humans are sinners…”

        lol…there it is, the ultimate Christian cop out.

        nevermind when we can’t actually provide substantive or consistent responses or arguments, we’re sinners! what do you expect!?

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | October 20, 2012, 10:41 AM
      • Oh yes, Andrew. Your comment certainly doesn’t show any kind of “cop out” or lack of interaction with arguments.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 10:48 AM
      • J. W.

        You said, “You fail to take into account the fact that on Christian theology, humans are sinners. We will unfortunately make mistakes in our theology.”

        When you use the phrase, “the fact that on Christian theology,” you are suggesting that you are speak for all self-identified Christians, and that is simply not the case.

        You want your abortion stance to be the law of the land while you justify your position by the claim that it is based on what your god wants. But then you admit that you make mistakes concerning the wants and desires of your god. Inference to the best explanation again: there is no god and you are just inventing your god based on what you want your god to say. Your ideas alone have no weight, so you try to back them up by saying your ideas are actually the ideas of the creator of the universe. You do not know what your god wants. There are many Christian theologies all characteristized by “We will unfortunately make mistakes in our theology.”

        If you don’t like abortions, don’t have them. If you don’t like abortions in which you are the sire, don’t have sex. The choice is yours. Don’t try to pass off your personal opinions as the work of a god. If your idea has merit, that will be observable without having to claim it to be the work of a deity.

        Posted by Russ | October 20, 2012, 4:00 PM
      • First, consistency. Consistency. Let’s see some. How convenient that your criticism of the religious other just happens to line up with true reality. Your persistence in the “imaginary god” argument is ridiculous. You criticize me for believing something I think is true, but you of course think that there is no god, and that morality and ethics just happen to line up with your beliefs. Great! That’s a happy accident, isn’t it?

        Second, I’m confused… what Christian body denies there is such a thing as sin?

        Third, you clearly haven’t read much on what I’ve written on abortion. I don’t base my pro-life stance purely on religious reasons. To suggest that I do is false.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 4:22 PM
  16. It looks like Andy has provided some pretty good arguments to show how your approach is, at best, arbitrary. It is also dependent upon some kind of (moral) realism which allows one to subscribe morality to entities, and abstract ‘rights’ to entities.

    But back to my point.

    The fall had a direct impact on human nature. Yes that includes, in some sense, their biological nature. No, I would not say that the fall is what YECs claim it is in that all animal death, etc. came about as a result of the fall. But I do believe in an historic Adam and Eve, so there were actually no miscarriages before the Fall, because there were no births or pregnancies before the fall. The fall did change human nature, it corrupted us with original sin and brought about physical death.

    So let me get this straight. You believe:

    1) that the transgressions of Adam and Eve were so bad that this sin is transferred on to the rest of humanity from that day onward. That we are ;born sinner’.
    2) There were no pregnancies or miscarriages before the fall. Well, yes, if Adam and Eve were the first, this is pretty obvious.
    3) that the transgressions of Adam and Eve transfer on to collections of cells, such as blastocysts and embryos.

    The problems with this view are fairly fundamental. These cells have no personhood. They have no consciousness, no reflexivity and so on. And yet still God sees them apt and ready to transfer the sin of Adam and Eve on to. In fact, because of the sin of Adam and Eve, as in THIS IS THE CAUSAL REASON, millions of these entities (potential humans) die a year.

    God designed the natural system in which these entities were created an died. But hang on, are they created in order to die based on an actualisation of the world which took into account an original sin?

    And God allowed them to die. But one issue is that they die in their millions unbeknownst to anyone else in the world. what use is this death if not to serve a purpose? There is no repentence involved, since they are unknown. There is no reason that God would create a system which had perhaps BILLIONS of SECRET DEATHS!!! All because of one transgression of two people.

    These deaths happen in the same way throughout the animal kingdom, so it would appear, on evolutionary, biological and naturalistic hypotheses that these deaths fit into the known framework.

    What you posit in order to answer this is nothing short of ad hoc. It is bad enough to think that all of humanity bear the moral responsibility for a sin in the past (if I came up to you and punched you in the face for something your ancestor 1000 years ago did, I expect you might think that a little unfair), but to think non-sentient collections of cells in the millions and millions are also somehow equally responsible and as such DESERVE to die unbeknownnst to humanity is, well, insane.

    Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 20, 2012, 11:22 AM
    • On 1, yes. On 2, yes, it is obvious. On 3 no. I’m not a materialist. So yeah, the rest of your critique is pretty ridiculous. Your interaction with original sin betrays your lack of knowledge about the doctrine. I weary of this discussion. Are you done berating my beliefs without understanding them? Do you yet have any support for your own argument? You have completely abandoned it. I have yet to see you defend your premises upon examination.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 4:25 PM
      • So let me state it simply: Support your argument. I want to see you support the argument you put forward at the very beginning. Support it, or drop it. I have already pointed out how the only way to link the premises together is a premise that is pretty clearly false. So do you still think the argument is correct? Can you offer any argument to support it?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 4:35 PM
      • You know what’s amazing, JW? You’re never wrong! There’s never any holes in your ideas. How does it feel to be so right all the time?

        I’m not sure if your goal is evangelism or if you’re really just trying to convince yourself. If it’s the latter, I get that. If it’s the former, well, you’ve really reduced Christianity to a smug, quasi-intelligent venture.

        The more I read your blog, the more I’m grateful for leaving my faith.

        Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | October 20, 2012, 5:16 PM
      • I feel like this is pretty ad hominem. Further, there are things that I readily admit I am unsure of (see my most recent post on the Reformation). I nowhere claim I’m never wrong. I’ve actually admitted I’m wrong before and I have changed my views on a number of topics.

        Further, suppose I did think I was right about everything [something that is demonstrably false]: how in any way would that undermine my arguments or premises?

        Be honest: are you actually here to talk or are you just here to bash me? It has turned into the latter in many of your last comments. You say things that are untrue about my character, and insinuate that I am being dishonest. That’s pretty brutal. Why attack me?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 5:25 PM
      • This is all you do. You fail to give any account of your beliefs and then try to get me to produce a syllogism so that you can waste time and effort trying to pick holes in the logic as opposed to answering simple questions. You have failed singularly to give any account of why it would be necessary for God to design a system whereby millions of potential humans, as you would say, die, unbeknownst to anyone.

        The closest you have done is merely assert “The Fall” as if that answers it, and then spout off about me not ‘knowing enough about the Fall’ when there are different approaches, even by your own admission.

        I pointed out in my first post that it seems bizarre that God b actively, or passively (or both) allows this scenario (actualised this particular world with those ingredients out of all possible worlds).

        You then berated my knowledge of Molinism whilst at the same time misrepresenting Molinism in a really basic way by claiming that embryonic deaths are part of the necessary truths of God! Then when this was pointed out, you seemed to ignore this! Your approach seems to me to be a little disingenuous.

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearcej | October 20, 2012, 5:42 PM
      • I really don’t think it is unreasonable to ask you to defend your argument.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 8:33 PM
      • Also, to respond to this:

        “You then berated my knowledge of Molinism whilst at the same time misrepresenting Molinism in a really basic way by claiming that embryonic deaths are part of the necessary truths of God!”

        Look, this is why I say I don’t think you understand molinism. “Necessary truths of God” is not something I have claimed. I claimed that God has “natural knowledge” which is God’s knowledge of natural truths. That’s straight from Molina’s “On Divine Foreknowledge.” Necessary truths are not things that God designs; that’s why they are necessary and not contingent truths. So that’s just part of the reason I think there is some misunderstanding of molinism happening.

        What I’ve tried to do, however, is refocus the argument rather than chasing red herrings. I have repeatedly asked you to defend your argument; you’ve refused. Are you saying your argument doesn’t work? If not, then defend it.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2012, 8:52 PM
      • But my argument is a simple question to you, and nothing else. I would like you to give a full and rational accoutn (since you seem so dogmatic and convinced about the morality of abortion) to justify and rationalise why we live in a world where millions upon millions of feotuses and embryos die without reaching their human potential?

        It’s a pretty simple question that you have succeeded in sidestepping on every single occasion, other than throwing in “The Fall” and “Molinism” with no further explanation.

        I am asking you a question. I would like an answer! I have no issue with this scenario – it fits into the accepted naturalistic and biological model. You, however, need to explain it in the context of an all-loving God who designed and actualised every natural aspect of this world.

        As for Molinism, let me show your contradiction:

        Claim 1 – ” The molinistic perspective (mine) holds that there are three moments of God’s knowledge (not temporal moments): natural knowledge (knowledge of necessary truths, etc), middle knowledge (knowledge of free creaturely counterfactuals), and free knowledge (God’s knowledge of the world[s] He creates). ”

        Claim 2 – “Look, this is why I say I don’t think you understand molinism. “Necessary truths of God” is not something I have claimed. I claimed that God has “natural knowledge” which is God’s knowledge of natural truths. That’s straight from Molina’s “On Divine Foreknowledge.” Necessary truths are not things that God designs; that’s why they are necessary and not contingent truths. So that’s just part of the reason I think there is some misunderstanding of molinism happening.”

        Now if you can’t accept that you were wrong or made a mistake, it’s a sad day. And it’s sad that on the back of that, you berated MY knowledge!

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 21, 2012, 1:51 AM
      • On my way out the door, but regarding molinism, I did not contradict myself. The bolded section exactly lines up to what I said in claim 2. Put them side by side:

        The molinistic perspective (mine) holds that there are three moments of God’s knowledge (not temporal moments): natural knowledge (knowledge of necessary truths, etc)

        “Necessary truths of God” is not something I have claimed. I claimed that God has “natural knowledge” which is God’s knowledge of natural truths.

        What, exactly, is the contradiction? Or, what do you mean by “Necessary truths of God”? As I pointed out consistently in both quotes, God has natural knowledge of necessary truths. Molina himself says this in his Concordia on divine foreknowledge. The fact that you continue to press this as some kind of objection does indeed show that you know little about molinism.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 21, 2012, 8:09 AM
      • You are still making the same error. You are claiming that natural truths are necessary truths. They are not. The truth that embryos die in the womb is not a necessary truth, but contingent.

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 21, 2012, 8:43 AM
      • You are claiming that natural truths are necessary truths.

        You’re using the words in a way foreign to molinism. God natural knowledge just is knowledge of necessary truths. I think what you mean is “biological truths” in which case you’re importing a meaning of the term to molinism…. again this leads me to suspect that you just don’t know what you’re talking about there.

        The truth that embryos die in the womb is not a necessary truth, but contingent.

        This is correct. However, it is also correct that it is part of the world set in which we exist, which means that it is part of God’s natural knowledge.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 21, 2012, 1:42 PM
      • JW

        The confusion could well come down to this line:

        “Now possible worlds are part of the natural knowledge of God, so a world with miscarriages is not full of that type of evil because God decided to set it up that way.”

        You seemed (to me at any rate) to imply that the idea of spontaneous abortion was necessary. Thus we could be talking cross-purposes. Please can you clarify exactly how the choice of God choosing a world with millions of spontaneous abortions over and above any other world (ie one without them) and why? After all, this is what I originally asked you, and what remains to be adequately answered.

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 21, 2012, 1:51 PM
      • I am very sad that I hit the “back” button on my browser accidentally. Time to re-do what I was saying.

        Let me sum up:

        First, the set of possible worlds is indeed a necessary set. I’m not sure why this is confusing.

        Second, I’m not actually convinced that this is the only world out of the set of possible worlds that God created. I lean towards (though I’m admittedly very skeptical either way) the notion that God created a subset of possible worlds.

        Third, assuming for the moment God created just this world, your question seems to imply a kind of “greatest possible world.” What I mean by this is that if I provided an answer to the question, you could just as easily keep adding more and more “why?” questions forever. As my old philosophy professor and good friend says, “There could always be more hula girls.” One can always have a better possible world than our own. So I don’t really think the question is well formed to begin with.

        Fourth, why this world with that kind of evil though? I think that might be a valid question. If it is, then my answer would be pretty simple: in this world, God could bring about his saving plan for humanity. We fell into sin, which corrupted our very nature; God provided salvation. Evils happen, we deserve death and hell, God provides salvation in His grace. Every breath of life, every coming into being is a blessing from God, no matter how long (or short). So why this world? Simply because in this world, God could work his salvific plan.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 22, 2012, 3:35 PM
      • JW
        Aah, the backspace problem. I could have smashed many a computer because of that. I fell for you!

        Now we are beginning to talk like responsible debaters!

        “First, the set of possible worlds is indeed a necessary set. I’m not sure why this is confusing.

        Second, I’m not actually convinced that this is the only world out of the set of possible worlds that God created. I lean towards (though I’m admittedly very skeptical either way) the notion that God created a subset of possible worlds.”

        Craig and others would disagree with God being able to do this on the basis of God entering time. Time really confuses matters.

        “Third, assuming for the moment God created just this world, your question seems to imply a kind of “greatest possible world.” What I mean by this is that if I provided an answer to the question, you could just as easily keep adding more and more “why?” questions forever. As my old philosophy professor and good friend says, “There could always be more hula girls.” One can always have a better possible world than our own. So I don’t really think the question is well formed to begin with.”

        Now, that’s fine. i think this makes total sense. I have written about this before. I would declare that this must be, in some possible way, the best, most loving world that their could be – either now, or based on some eventuality which can only be arrived at by this method.

        This is EXACTLY what I have been asking. How is it necessary or even rationalised that so many deaths are needed in the context of this best possible world (maximal or whatever)? THIS is the point that you have failed to engage with.

        “Fourth, why this world with that kind of evil though? I think that might be a valid question. If it is, then my answer would be pretty simple: in this world, God could bring about his saving plan for humanity. We fell into sin, which corrupted our very nature; God provided salvation. Evils happen, we deserve death and hell, God provides salvation in His grace. Every breath of life, every coming into being is a blessing from God, no matter how long (or short). So why this world? Simply because in this world, God could work his salvific plan.”

        That was pretty much my question. Why these deaths (ie why this world with these deaths?)? So millions of embryos with no sentience, let alone responsibility, deserve death? The only possible answer, I could see, would be that this is the optimal possible amount of death for some kind of salvific plan. In other words, God’s salvific plan can only work to the most loving potential if perhaps a billion embryos and blastocysts die UNBEKNOWNST to humanity!

        Because this seems to be where you are going with this.

        Incidentally, this was the conversation I was hoping to have from the beginning. It just seems like you are almost ashamed of the answer because it seems pretty obvious what my question was. Can you answer as to whether you think my previous point about salvific plans is close to where you stand?

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 22, 2012, 3:59 PM
      • Jonathan,

        First, I would ask you to not play armchair psychologist. “It just seems like you are almost ashamed of the answer because it seems pretty obvious what my question was. Can you answer as to whether you think my previous point about salvific plans is close to where you stand?’

        No, I refused to answer the question because you presented an argument without supporting it and then insist that I answer your questions. (You still fail to defend the argument–alas!).

        Anyway:

        Craig and others would disagree with God being able to do this on the basis of God entering time. Time really confuses matters.

        I think Craig and others are wrong. God is timeless.

        I would declare that this must be, in some possible way, the best, most loving world that their could be – either now, or based on some eventuality which can only be arrived at by this method.

        And I think you’re wrong. There’s no such thing as a “most loving world.” Period. The very notion is incoherent. I would honestly say the burden of proof is upon you to show that the notion is possible. I don’t think it is.

        Why these deaths (ie why this world with these deaths?)? So millions of embryos with no sentience, let alone responsibility, deserve death?

        I don’t actually think this is true either. No one is without sin, not even one (Romans 3:10); we are sinful from the time we are conceived (Psalm 51:5). The notion that people begin in a state of innocence is false. Yes, there are some Christians who disagree. I don’t think they are correct.

        The only possible answer, I could see, would be that this is the optimal possible amount of death for some kind of salvific plan. In other words, God’s salvific plan can only work to the most loving potential if perhaps a billion embryos and blastocysts die UNBEKNOWNST to humanity!

        I’m starting to wonder if you actually read my whole response. I explicitly deny this. To whit, ” your question seems to imply a kind of ‘greatest possible world.’ What I mean by this is that if I provided an answer to the question, you could just as easily keep adding more and more ‘why?’ questions forever.”

        Maybe that wasn’t explicit enough. I’ll try to be more clear: There is no such thing as a best possible world. There is no such thing as an “optimal amount of death” or anything of the sort. Thus:

        Because this seems to be where you are going with this.

        …is false. It’s actually the opposite of what I’m saying. You’ve either mis- or not read what I said.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 22, 2012, 6:38 PM
      • “No, I refused to answer the question because you presented an argument without supporting it and then insist that I answer your questions. (You still fail to defend the argument–alas!).”

        I played armchair psychologist because you didn’t answer repeated questions from me, and then answered it when it was asked by someone else…

        “I think Craig and others are wrong. God is timeless.”

        That’s whole other issue which would be better talked about elsewhere. All I would say is that is logically incoherent (and also why intervening in multiple temporal worlds is problematic).

        “And I think you’re wrong. There’s no such thing as a “most loving world.” Period. The very notion is incoherent. I would honestly say the burden of proof is upon you to show that the notion is possible. I don’t think it is.”

        You think God is perfect, no. Can an ontologically perfect being do anything imperfectly? Thus the choice to actualise THIS world is a perfect choice, and the creation of this world (with full knowledge of its counterfactuals and future ontology) is a perfect creation.

        The only way I see out of this is if you deny the coherence of the term ‘perfect’. I would agree with you on that. I don’t think God CAN be perfect because the term is a goal oriented, non-intrinsic, term.

        “I don’t actually think this is true either. No one is without sin, not even one (Romans 3:10); we are sinful from the time we are conceived (Psalm 51:5). The notion that people begin in a state of innocence is false. Yes, there are some Christians who disagree. I don’t think they are correct.”

        How can a mere collection of cells have the property of having sin? What is the property of sin? Can you ontologically establish that something can have sin? I know this is crucial to your belief, but it is also exceptionally hard to philosophically establish. Why create things only to destroy them almost immediately? This is what needs explaining. Just to claim, as you might, that God has the right does not establish that God has the reason.

        “There is no such thing as a best possible world. There is no such thing as an “optimal amount of death” or anything of the sort.”

        But if God is optimally loving and powerful and good, then everything he does must be seen in this context, as mentioned above. If his creation (design by actualisation) does not adhere to his characteristics, then how can one claim he has such characteristics?

        I know you think you have this all sewn up, but there are so many questions leaking out of such an approach as to beggar belief.

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 23, 2012, 7:20 AM
      • @Jonathan- I noticed the post on your site. I’m confused as to why it irks you so much that I am unwilling to engage with someone who doesn’t even have the intellectual honesty to defend their argument. Why should I use my time debating someone who makes an argument and then insists they need not defend it?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 11, 2012, 12:03 AM
      • “@Jonathan- I noticed the post on your site. I’m confused as to why it irks you so much that I am unwilling to engage with someone who doesn’t even have the intellectual honesty to defend their argument. Why should I use my time debating someone who makes an argument and then insists they need not defend it?”

        JW – because I was merely asking you a question which you refused to answer until someone else asked it, and then you still skirted the issues. It was rather simple – how do you explain X in light of Y? All you wanted is a syllogism so that you could concentrate on debunking the logic rather than concentrate on the content of the question, it appears. You attempt to take the intellectual high ground in a fashion that does not promote open and honest debate. Your commenter Bossmanham was far more forthcoming, and I commend them for that (though on a side issue).

        My job, in my opinion, is to provide date which needs some kind of rationalisation. I just wanted to see what your rationalisation was. The best you did was “The Fall” with no real further explanation. And then when you did seem to start opening up, you stopped.

        So I blogged it.

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | November 11, 2012, 2:30 AM
    • Outstanding response! I’m not surprised it was inadequately responded to. That’s the norm around here.

      Posted by Andrew Marburger (@AndrewMarburger) | October 20, 2012, 5:12 PM
  17. I am specifically replying to some of the underlying stuff I’ve seen in the comments regarding church and state. I didn’t specifically write this post in response to this stuff (I wrote it a few days ago, plus much of it is quoting others), but I think it may be helpful when considering some of these issues: http://odayfam.com/buying-into-the-wrong-metanarrative/

    The key thing is that I don’t believe in a separation of church and state. I believe there is certainly a distinction, but I don’t buy into the separation. I honestly only read the first 10 comments or so, so this theme may no longer be relevant in the discussion; I’ll try to read more as I have time.

    Posted by Dan | October 20, 2012, 1:00 PM
  18. J. W.,

    You said, “First, consistency. Consistency. Let’s see some.”

    My position is consistent and the inference to the best explanation – that is, there is no god, so Christians and all other religionists are playing make-believe – has broad explanatory powers. It explains why Jewish scholars who have studied the Christianities deeply find nothing that compels them to believe it. The inference explains why Jews have no fear that not believing in Jesus has any consequences. It explains why Hindus can have such a proliferation of gods. And, the inference that there is no god also explains why you lose no sleep agonizing over your lack of belief that Allah is the one true god and Muhammed is his prophet.

    The inference that no god exists, meaning that all gods, including the Christian gods, are imaginary, also explains why you with different social influences would believe different things while still calling them Christian and claiming that they are binding on everyone who self-identifies as Christian.

    My position is consistent and it really does make sense of the current state of the world.

    Your position, being wholly imagination-based, is not consistent.

    You talk about the Fall, but just as we know that, contrary to early Christian teachings, our solar system is heliocentric, we also know that the Biblical conception of origins, cosmological and human, is out-and-out false. Modern evolutionary theory explains the coming and going of species, the current state of biodiversity on Earth, and so much more. We have no need to hypothesize gods to plug up gaps in our understanding. The inference to the best explanation that there are no gods, so everyone is making up what they want gods to say, also explains why Christians have so many different positions regarding modern evolutionary theory: there is no single source, no One God, telling them what is true, so, in most instances, they just follow the general mentality of their Christian religious social group. The Christian Kenneth Miller has one social-group approved approach to evolution, while Dr. Kent Hovind has another radically different approach to evolution that is approved by his social group, while both claim their position is warranted by their god.

    J. W., there was no Fall. There was no Garden of Eden, no Adam and Eve, no Original Sin, no need for an Atonement, no need to stage a mock human sacrifice(pretending to be dead for a short while, then going home is not a sacrifice). I’m sure that given their ignorance of the natural world and their willingness to attribute to the supernatural all they did not understand, Genesis was likely the best explanation to the bunch of ignorant, barbaric and superstitious scribes who wrote the Bible. The there-is-no-god inference also accounts nicely for Bibles having nothing in them that suggests they had a source smarter than the locals of the ancient Middle East. The god depicted in the Bible is called omniscience, but it was clearly only as knowledgeable as those who invented it.

    If you leap into the Fall as metaphor, then you open one of Christianity’s other Pandora’s Boxes: who gets to say what is and is not metaphor and who gets to say what the semantics, meaning, and purpose is behind the metaphor. Once you let yourself pick and choose from literary toolkit to perform your Biblical interpretation, you are admitting that, if the words written there are to make sense, then they cannot be read literally; you are admitting that the Bible is insufficient for the claims made for it. This puts you in the position of knowing what you want it to say before you select the literary interpretive device. The there-is-no-god-to-tell-all-believers-the-same-things inference makes sense of this common Christian apologetics ruse.

    In this blog post you try to justify your anti-abortion stance as its being against the will of your god, which you imagine gives you the right to project that onto everyone else. If it were the case that you could demonstrate that a god exists and further that you actually know its will, then you might be justified in using your god to back up what you have to say. But, you can’t demonstrate that a god exists and you freely admit that Christians make mistakes in their theologies. You ask me for consistency, but you admit that you can’t know that you have it right. If what was true was decided merely by group support, then Hindus are bearing truth, along with Buddhists, Taoists, and the followers of Kitchen God.

    When ideas that are recognized as important contradict, the demand for consistency requires that the contradiction be resolved. It’s strange, indeed, but important contradictory positions in theologies, including contradictory Christian theologies, persist as though no one cares about them, no one recognizes them as important enough to require resolving the contradiction. For example, Roman Catholics have the official doctrine “extra ecclesiam null salus” which means there is no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church. If that doctrine is true, it is a very important theological concern – you do not go to heaven if you are not Roman Catholic – but, non-Roman Catholics don’t believe a word of it. The Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox are perfectly content ignoring it. Only a tiny fraction of Christians care about theology, but even among those who do, they feel completely free and easy rejecting lots of Christian theology that promises they will go to hell. Here, again, the no-god inference makes sense of this.

    You have no right to claim you know a god’s will. You have no right to claim abortion, or anything else, to be a violation of a will that you and all the other Christians cannot know. You have no right to claim you speak for all those calling themselves Christian when you say, “no Christian should be pro-choice.” Christians get nearly all the abortions in the US. Christians need and use abortion as a family planning option. Christians have a proven need for access to safe, legal abortions. Every Christian should be pro-choice.

    Women who are against abortions, are not forced to have one. A woman who has gotten an abortion may have been socially pressured into it, but that social pressure is almost always applied by those from their Christian social group. Men and women who do not want to create the need for an abortion are free to not have sex, but, of course, that path is almost never followed, especially by Christians. Almost every US child born out of wedlock is a child born to a Christian, a Christian whose theology doesn’t see abortion as murder. Who, if either, has a mistake in their theology? You will both retreat into your respective Christian social groups both unjustifiably thinking you are correct.

    Posted by Russ | October 21, 2012, 11:02 AM
    • Russ,

      Far too much to respond to here. One of my standards for comments is to try to avoid approaching the length of the original post. It’s impossible to adequately respond once they get this long.

      Anyway, you’re free to assume there is no god, but I’m going to continue pressing the very same thing: consistency. On your view, people just imagine their religions in their own image. Well, frankly, it seems to me your worldview is fashioned in your own image. It conveniently makes you into the arbiter of truth and allows you to mock religious persons. How nice for you.

      Your comment is almost 100% a sham. It just repeats dogmatic atheism (again, a view which is happily, accidentally true on your view, and just happily lines up with all your favorite sayings), so I’ll just respond to what may be the single substantive sentence:

      Women who are against abortions, are not forced to have one.

      And if abortion is murder, that means it should be illegal whether or not people can or can’t have them.

      Anyway, until you show you’re capable of genuine interaction, consider yourself comment-banned.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 22, 2012, 6:45 PM
  19. To address the smokescreen that Andy Schueler is attempting to set up.

    //What happened at conception that turned a single cell, which was *not* a human being, into something that is still a single cell, but also a human being ?

    That’s pretty simple biology. A sperm contacts the egg and introduces the father’s DNA to the mother’s, which then spurs the creation of an entirely new set of DNA. A new human being at that moment exists and begins developing. We all develop through our entire lives. If your logic were to be correct, that less developed humans, born or not, are less valuable than humans that are more developed (see older). This is just thinly veiled age discrimination. It certainly doesn’t form the philosophical basis to deny a younger human’s personhood.

    //many adult human beings with chromosomal abnormalities would cease being “human beings”

    That doesn’t follow at all. They STILL have their own set of DNA that spurs development, even if we were defining individualism by simply having your own set of DNA (which certainly is a good starting point).

    //this would imply that our rights as human beings are derived from having the “right DNA”

    Actually you didn’t show this at all, Andy. You asserted it, but no one here ever claimed that a certain KIND of DNA is what makes an individual human being. Rather simply having your own set is a biological marker that would certainly point to a human being existing. Let’s not make straw men, sir.

    //Neither does a fertilized egg. The fertilized egg will not develop at all if you extract it from the body of the mother

    It actually will if placed in a similar environment. But guess what, Andy, you will cease to continue developing if we were to place you in a different kind of environment than you typically find yourself in. If, for instance, you were placed on the sun, you would cease to develop biologically very very quickly. Are you saying that simply being susceptible to death due to being placed in an unfavorable environment would somehow strip one’s humanity? Well then, none of us are people.

    // Mere assertion. The claim here is that an egg cell is part of the mother, and stops being part of the mother right after conception – this makes no sense.

    It’s no more mere assertion than half the claims you have made. It’s not strange at all. For instance, mammals have hair that is a part of them, and actually shares the same as the person they are a part of. But that hair often sheds. It falls from the person and suddenly is NO LONGER a part of them, even with the same DNA content. But it too also isn’t clearly a new human person with its own DNA. Two Siamese twins will have very similar, but distinct DNA. Yet they’re physically connected to each other. Yet they are two separate people.

    Likewise, when a new human person is formed at conception, it is a separate entity now forming in its parent. In its essence, a new person is formed.

    You’ve given us no scientific reason to think that a new person, once created, isn’t a new person. All that is different from you and me when that person begins to develop is its size, how far it has developed, its environment (which I’ve shown doesn’t determine one’s humanity), and how much it depends on others for sustenance. None of those things can properly be said to determine one’s humanity. Ergo, you need to try again.

    Posted by bossmanham | October 21, 2012, 12:40 PM
    • To address the smokescreen that Andy Schueler is attempting to set up.
      //What happened at conception that turned a single cell, which was *not* a human being, into something that is still a single cell, but also a human being ?
      That’s pretty simple biology. A sperm contacts the egg and introduces the father’s DNA to the mother’s, which then spurs the creation of an entirely new set of DNA. A new human being at that moment exists and begins developing. We all develop through our entire lives. If your logic were to be correct, that less developed humans, born or not, are less valuable than humans that are more developed (see older). This is just thinly veiled age discrimination. It certainly doesn’t form the philosophical basis to deny a younger human’s personhood.

      You seem to misunderstand. Andy is, it appears, to be appealing to the Sorites Paradox. As with the Sepcies Problem, where one cannot delineate between one species and another, and thus it calls into question any objective idea of species existing at all. This is a question of nominalism or conceptualism vs realism. It is a very important debate to be having.
      Thus to claim that human beings (ie personhood) happens at that point on the continuum and not before or after calls into question the objective idea that either personhood exists objectively at all, or that it happens at that particular point. If you are not well –versed in ideas of the Sorites Paradox etc, it is worth reading up about.

      //many adult human beings with chromosomal abnormalities would cease being “human beings”
      That doesn’t follow at all. They STILL have their own set of DNA that spurs development, even if we were defining individualism by simply having your own set of DNA (which certainly is a good starting point).

      The question is when an organism stops having personhood. At what point? And does this undermine when it starts, too?

      //this would imply that our rights as human beings are derived from having the “right DNA”
      Actually you didn’t show this at all, Andy. You asserted it, but no one here ever claimed that a certain KIND of DNA is what makes an individual human being. Rather simply having your own set is a biological marker that would certainly point to a human being existing. Let’s not make straw men, sir.

      It certainly seemed to be an argument over DNA. Since there is a range of DNA within different cell organisations and structures, to posit that the DNA of a fertilised egg is at least a necessary part of what defines personhood, then Andy is right.

      Gotta shoot now, more later.

      Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 21, 2012, 2:02 PM
      • Just one more observation, how does one avoid mereological nihilism if they simply accept this paradox at face value? No parts of wholes could exist at all if we couldn’t reach them by successive addition. How does the paradox not tear itself down, since formulating the idea itself requires individual letters and words that eventually have to be whole thoughts? I think that says a lot in solving the paradox. If you’re willing to accept that we simply can’t ever know when one thing becomes another thing, or that there are no ‘things’ made of parts, then I don’t see how we can continue a discussion on the subject. Intuitively, we see parts and wholes, and with the clear delineating line of conception, it’s pretty simple to the non-obtuse to see when a human life begins.

        But in the meantime, here’s a bunch of quotes from biologists who would agree with us regarding when a human biological organism begins to exist.

        Posted by bossmanham | October 22, 2012, 12:37 AM
      • “Just one more observation, how does one avoid mereological nihilism if they simply accept this paradox at face value? No parts of wholes could exist at all if we couldn’t reach them by successive addition. How does the paradox not tear itself down, since formulating the idea itself requires individual letters and words that eventually have to be whole thoughts? I think that says a lot in solving the paradox. If you’re willing to accept that we simply can’t ever know when one thing becomes another thing, or that there are no ‘things’ made of parts, then I don’t see how we can continue a discussion on the subject. Intuitively, we see parts and wholes, and with the clear delineating line of conception, it’s pretty simple to the non-obtuse to see when a human life begins.”
        - The problem that you are facing is that conception is not the “clear delineating line” you think it is. You have a continuum, and you point at a discrete point in this continuum (the precise moment where conception is finished) and argue that something that was just a single cell before, is now still a single cell (with some altered biochemistry) but also a “fully human person”. This precise moment where conception is finished is in no way the “clear delineating line” you think it is:
        1. If you want to assign personhood to everything that has a diploid set of human chromosomes, you would have to grant full personhood status to pretty much every other human cell as well (everything besides some gametes and red blood cells).
        2. If you want to assign full personhood status based on totipotency, you are facing absurd consequences based on modern biotechnology – it is already possible to reactivate totipotency in adult (not embryological) stem cells and it is very likely that the same will soon be possible with other cells as well. You would have to argue that these totipotent cells, which can cheaply be created in the lab in huge numbers, are full human persons *immediatly* after we have reactivated totipotency, this is just as arbitrary as assigning “full personhood” based on the “right DNA”.

        “But in the meantime, here’s a bunch of quotes from biologists who would agree with us regarding when a human biological organism begins to exist.”
        - These quotes get you nowhere because no one disagrees with the notion that a zygote is alive. Try to understand that, NO ONE argues that a zygote is “not alive” and only becomes “alive” after some months of development. Yes, a zygote is “alive”, and yes, a zygote is able to develop into a human being. What we disagree on is why conception should have any consequences for the rights of the cell and it´s personhood. As I argued above, assigning personhood to a fertilized egg, but NOT to an unfertilized one can only be done by reducing “personhood” to completely arbitrary biochemical changes and properties. The disagreement between pro- and anti-choice people seems to be whether “being human” / “personhood” can be reduced to DNA and / or totipotency or not. You argue that it can, and as I showed above – this entails absurd consequences.

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 22, 2012, 5:19 AM
      • //1. If you want to assign personhood to everything that has a diploid set of human chromosomes, you would have to grant full personhood status to pretty much every other human cell as well (everything besides some gametes and red blood cells).

        Which would be a problem if it had the same DNA as its parent. But we also have background knowledge regarding fertilization of a human egg and the resulting process that occurs. Why you attempt to discard that is bizarre to me, and it’s an ungracious rhetorical tactic.

        //If you want to assign full personhood status based on totipotency, you are facing absurd consequences based on modern biotechnology

        It depends on how that DNA is wired to develop said cell. And our background knowledge of that would inform us of whether that is a human or not.

        //Try to understand that, NO ONE argues that a zygote is “not alive” and only becomes “alive” after some months of development.

        All cells are alive. It’s our background knowledge of what that zygote was, and what it will become, that is epistemically indispensable in informing us what precisely it is.

        Posted by bossmanham | October 22, 2012, 2:20 PM
      • “Just one more observation, how does one avoid mereological nihilism if they simply accept this paradox at face value? No parts of wholes could exist at all if we couldn’t reach them by successive addition. How does the paradox not tear itself down, since formulating the idea itself requires individual letters and words that eventually have to be whole thoughts? I think that says a lot in solving the paradox. If you’re willing to accept that we simply can’t ever know when one thing becomes another thing, or that there are no ‘things’ made of parts, then I don’t see how we can continue a discussion on the subject. Intuitively, we see parts and wholes, and with the clear delineating line of conception, it’s pretty simple to the non-obtuse to see when a human life begins.”

        This is why the whole argument defines, as you would realise form the species problem, the context for realism vs ceneptualism. Just because I can perceive of a species being different to another for the purposes of labeling and taxonomy in order to categorise organisms for wholly human conceptual understanding, it does not follow that these delineations exist objectively. This is borne out by the fact that biologists vehemently disagree on the species of certain fossils – australopithecus or homo (Twiggy, I think, is an example).

        Of course, ‘species’ so not exist, due to the nature of evolution being entirely gradual. Biologists know this, though they are happy to derive definitions to fulfill certain ends. ‘Species’ is a concept, and only exists conceptually.

        The same, it could be argued, is applicable to the concept of personhood. Does this concept exist in some kind of platonic reality? I would argue that it is a concept, such like species.

        So rather than arguing about moral rights, and whether a small group of cells has personhood and moral rights, you really actually need to be able to defend property realism such that you can establish that personhood not only exists, but it is clearly defineable in absolute terms at certain points in the continuum of human development.

        Since to even define human as opposed to any other animal, and to define when homo spiens developed personhood in its evolution from habilis or australopithecus is even more demanding, the whole argument is FAR more philosophical and nuanced than many give it credit for.

        “Abortion is the murder of a human being” is , to me, a rather naive and underdeveloped accusation.

        Especially when God has done it perhaps a billion times.

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 22, 2012, 2:37 PM
      • ###
        Andy: 1. If you want to assign personhood to everything that has a diploid set of human chromosomes, you would have to grant full personhood status to pretty much every other human cell as well (everything besides some gametes and red blood cells).

        BOSSMANHAM: Which would be a problem if it had the same DNA as its parent. But we also have background knowledge regarding fertilization of a human egg and the resulting process that occurs. Why you attempt to discard that is bizarre to me, and it’s an ungracious rhetorical tactic.
        ###
        1. “The same DNA” cannot be a meaningful classifier in this context, the same DNA can lead to different human persons as it does in identical twins.
        2. Please have the common decency to at least explain what “background knowledge” you are even talking about before you accuse me of dishonest tactics.

        ###
        Andy: If you want to assign full personhood status based on totipotency, you are facing absurd consequences based on modern biotechnology

        BOSSMANHAM: It depends on how that DNA is wired to develop said cell. And our background knowledge of that would inform us of whether that is a human or not.
        ###
        We already can “rewire” adult stem cells to regain totipotency, and yes, we could implant them in a woman and it would develop – does it mean that this “rewiring” in the lab does create a “fully human person” in the precise moment where we activate totipotency ?

        ###
        Andy: Try to understand that, NO ONE argues that a zygote is “not alive” and only becomes “alive” after some months of development.

        BOSSMANHAM: All cells are alive. It’s our background knowledge of what that zygote was, and what it will become, that is epistemically indispensable in informing us what precisely it is.
        ###
        What “background knowledge” ? Yes, we know that the zygote will develop into an adult human if some conditions are given, just as an unfertilized egg would, the list of conditions is just one element longer.

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 22, 2012, 3:26 PM
      • Here’s where I see a difference: Unless one actively interferes with the fertilized egg, or some natural process terminates the pregnancy, it will develop into a human being. An unfertilized egg has none of these properties. Your argument tries to ignore the extreme disanalogies between the two states (fertilized and non).

        Let me put it to you in a question: are you suggesting there is no rational discontinuity between the fertilized egg and the unfertilized egg?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 22, 2012, 3:38 PM
      • “Here’s where I see a difference: Unless one actively interferes with the fertilized egg, or some natural process terminates the pregnancy, it will develop into a human being. An unfertilized egg has none of these properties. Your argument tries to ignore the extreme disanalogies between the two states (fertilized and non).

        Let me put it to you in a question: are you suggesting there is no rational discontinuity between the fertilized egg and the unfertilized egg?”
        - Of course there is a discontinuity between a fertilized egg and an unfertilized one. But discontinuities exist between all stages of development… I recognize that a fertilized egg is not the same as an unfertilized one. I also recognize that a fertilized human egg is “human life”. But I don´t see any reason to grant the fertilized egg any more rights than the unfertilized one has, it still is just a single cell.
        I´d like to ask you a question I asked BOSSMANHAM in another comment:
        ~60% of all Zygotes do not manage to attach properly to the uterine wall and are aborted naturally, without any human intervention. Do you weep for those “fully human beings” ? Do you think they deserve a name ? Full human rights ? A funeral ? Should we place all sexually mature women under constant medical supervision to assure that each of the millions and millions of embryos that are aborted naturally each year are being baptized (while the embryo is still alive) and given a proper funeral ? Would this not be the only logical consequence of considering zygotes to have full personhood ?

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 22, 2012, 4:05 PM
      • “~60% of all Zygotes do not manage to attach properly to the uterine wall and are aborted naturally, without any human intervention. Do you weep for those “fully human beings” ? Do you think they deserve a name ? Full human rights ? A funeral ? Should we place all sexually mature women under constant medical supervision to assure that each of the millions and millions of embryos that are aborted naturally each year are being baptized (while the embryo is still alive) and given a proper funeral ? Would this not be the only logical consequence of considering zygotes to have full personhood ?”

        This is a key point and one which seems to be being ignored. Since God allows these for some reason, which JW is unwilling to posit (apart from claiming ‘The Fall’ did it, which is not a reason – that is like asking me why I punched Jim in the face, and me answering “because of Jim” – it gives no account of the reasoning involved from my point of view).

        Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 25, 2012, 7:02 AM
    • “That’s pretty simple biology. A sperm contacts the egg and introduces the father’s DNA to the mother’s, which then spurs the creation of an entirely new set of DNA. A new human being at that moment exists and begins developing. We all develop through our entire lives. If your logic were to be correct, that less developed humans, born or not, are less valuable than humans that are more developed (see older). This is just thinly veiled age discrimination. It certainly doesn’t form the philosophical basis to deny a younger human’s personhood.”
      - So why do we not grant full personhood to human sperm cells and unfertilized human egg cells ? As I tried to explain in my last comment, the egg is still just a single cell after conception, all that has changed is that it has now 46 chromosomes instead of 23. And if you try to argue that “being human” starts at the precise moment where a cell has a full diploid human set of chromosomes – what would happen to people with chromosomal abnormalities, like people with down syndrome for example ? (3 copies of chromosome 21 instead of 2, 47 chromosomes in total) Are those people not “human beings” ? If you think they are human beings, despite not having the “right DNA”, you essentially agree that the set of chromosomes you have is irrelevant for your status as a human being. So, why does personhood not start earlier (why do we not grant personhood status to unfertilized eggs ?), why doesn´t it start later ? (at implantation instead of conception for example ?).
      If you insist that “personhood” starts at conception, you have to justify how “being human” can be reduced to “having the right DNA” – that will be a very hard job, and I doubt that you could do that consistently.

      “That doesn’t follow at all. They STILL have their own set of DNA that spurs development, even if we were defining individualism by simply having your own set of DNA (which certainly is a good starting point).”
      - So ? An unfertilied egg also has it´s “own set of DNA” and it also will develop into a human being under the right conditions, the list of conditions is just *ONE* element longer as I explained in an earlier comment.

      “Actually you didn’t show this at all, Andy. You asserted it, but no one here ever claimed that a certain KIND of DNA is what makes an individual human being. Rather simply having your own set is a biological marker that would certainly point to a human being existing. Let’s not make straw men, sir.”
      - This is not a strawman, it logically follows from your position. You say personhood starts at conception, and all that changes during conception is some biochemistry, most importantly the transition from 23 chromosomes to 46.
      Right after conception, the fertilized egg is still just a single cell, only with more chromosomes than before. If you say that the unfertilized egg is not a person, but the fertilized one is one *immediatly* after getting 23 additional chromosomes – it logically follows that “being human”, according to your view, is a consequence of having the “right DNA”.

      “It actually will if placed in a similar environment. But guess what, Andy, you will cease to continue developing if we were to place you in a different kind of environment than you typically find yourself in. If, for instance, you were placed on the sun, you would cease to develop biologically very very quickly. Are you saying that simply being susceptible to death due to being placed in an unfavorable environment would somehow strip one’s humanity? Well then, none of us are people.”
      - Again, how does the fertilized egg differ from the unfertilized one in this respect ? Both will develop into a human being under the right conditions – the list is just *ONE* element longer for the unfertilized egg. So, why is the unfertilized egg not a full person if it is not about having the “right DNA” ?

      “It’s not strange at all. For instance, mammals have hair that is a part of them, and actually shares the same as the person they are a part of. But that hair often sheds. It falls from the person and suddenly is NO LONGER a part of them, even with the same DNA content. But it too also isn’t clearly a new human person with its own DNA.”
      - So where do you draw the line ? Is radically mutated tissue like cancer not a “part of you” ? (and if so, how many somatic mutations / chromosomal rearrangements are required until the respective cell stops being a “part of you” ?)

      “Likewise, when a new human person is formed at conception, it is a separate entity now forming in its parent. In its essence, a new person is formed.”
      - No one doubts that a fertilized egg human life. The question is why it should have more rights / should be considered a person while an unfertilized egg is not a person and has no rights. This makes no sense unless you´d like to base personhood / rights merely on having the “right DNA”.

      “You’ve given us no scientific reason to think that a new person, once created, isn’t a new person. All that is different from you and me when that person begins to develop is its size, how far it has developed,”
      - Again, THE SAME is true for an unfertilized egg, it is just ONE STEP earlier in development.

      Posted by Andy Schueler | October 21, 2012, 2:13 PM
      • Jonathan,

        //You seem to misunderstand. Andy is, it appears, to be appealing to the Sorites Paradox

        That would be extremely interesting if there weren’t a clear line of delineation here. The people that try to place the point someone becomes a human sometime during the gestation period are the only ones that would face this issue. Also, if we’re going to latch on to this vague problem, then it’s hard to see when a human becomes a person at all, as I pointed out with the SLED (size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency) argument. (PS. I didn’t misunderstand anything).

        //As with the Sepcies Problem, where one cannot delineate between one species and another, and thus it calls into question any objective idea of species existing at all

        Except to push that problem to the extreme where those boundaries are discarded is silly and annoying. It’s clear that there ARE separate species. Just because it isn’t as clear where those lines are drawn exactly doesn’t mean we can’t draw them at all. The lines may be vague, but the things within those lines aren’t. Frogs don’t equal dongs.

        Andy,

        //So why do we not grant full personhood to human sperm cells and unfertilized human egg cells ?

        Because sperm cells don’t constitute an entire person. They would be like the hair that falls out that I mentioned above.

        // As I tried to explain in my last comment, the egg is still just a single cell after conception, all that has changed is that it has now 46 chromosomes instead of 23.

        And you’ve given no reason why we shouldn’t see that change as paramount in considering this issue. That seems rather obtuse of you.

        //what would happen to people with chromosomal abnormalities, like people with down syndrome for example ?

        Now you’ve moved the goalpost and are constructing a straw man; as if the number of chromosomes are what determine humanity. No, what determines humanity is a new human, which is what happens biologically (and you’d find no credible biologist who’d disagree with that), being formed. DNA is only one way of seeing that, and DNA is not identical to chromosomes. (DNA isn’t all that makes a person a person either, but you can tell when a new biological organism exists).

        //If you insist that “personhood” starts at conception, you have to justify how “being human” can be reduced to “having the right DNA”

        You realize biologists can differentiate between different species based on their DNA right? For all this bluster, you sure don’t seem to have even the most basic of a grasp on this issue. It’s quite simple.

        //So ? An unfertilied egg also has it´s “own set of DNA” and it also will develop into a human being under the right conditions

        Yeah, and that condition IS the introduction of the new DNA, which leads to the entirely new (third) set of DNA. This is simple, bro.

        //it logically follows that “being human”, according to your view, is a consequence of having the “right DNA”.

        An ungracious reading of one’s position, and some equivocation going on, but there’s is a wide berth of what is full human DNA, and what is a developing human being. ‘Right DNA’ and ‘full human dna’ can be construed as different things.

        // Again, how does the fertilized egg differ from the unfertilized one in this respect ? Both will develop into a human being under the right conditions

        Those conditions being paramount to the discussion. But the conditions include, but are not limited to, the environment. But this doesn’t address what I argued, and I’ve answered the other question above.

        //So where do you draw the line ?

        At a new human being existing. A sperm and an egg are not a human being. Together they become one. Cancerous cells are part of you and the DNA is derived from yours, but does not constitute a new biological organism. It’s pretty clear you’re willing, however, to push this ‘paradox’ as far as possible, but one can be too obtuse as well.

        //Again, THE SAME is true for an unfertilized egg, it is just ONE STEP earlier in development.

        Again, no it isn’t because the delineation is so painfully clear.

        Posted by bossmanham | October 21, 2012, 9:33 PM
      • “Andy: So why do we not grant full personhood to human sperm cells and unfertilized human egg cells ?

        BOSSMANHAM: Because sperm cells don’t constitute an entire person. They would be like the hair that falls out that I mentioned above.

        Andy: As I tried to explain in my last comment, the egg is still just a single cell after conception, all that has changed is that it has now 46 chromosomes instead of 23.

        BOSSMANHAM: And you’ve given no reason why we shouldn’t see that change as paramount in considering this issue. That seems rather obtuse of you.”

        - So, you do admit that you believe that the transition from a haploid set of chromosomes to a diploid one is “paramount in considering this issue” and the precise moment where we should grant a developing human personhood status. Which means that “personhood” is a direct consequence of having the “right DNA”. Why did you accuse me of building a strawman when I pointed this out earlier ? Where you confused about your own position ? Or do you just not like the term “right DNA” ?

        “Now you’ve moved the goalpost and are constructing a straw man; as if the number of chromosomes are what determine humanity. No, what determines humanity is a new human, which is what happens biologically (and you’d find no credible biologist who’d disagree with that), being formed.”
        - So, you do admit that the only thing that has changed immediatly after conception is some biochemistry – you still have a single cell, but this cell is now totipotent and has a diploid set of chromosomes, which is sufficient to grant it full personhood status. But you still deny that your position logically entails that “being human” can be reduced to simple biochemistry / having the “right DNA”. Iḿ not building a strawman here, your position is just inconsistent.
        Btw, pointing out that a zygote is human life gets you nowhere because no one disagrees with that. A fertilized egg is a living human cell (just like an unfertilized human egg btw).
        The question is why a fertilized egg should have any more rights than an unfertilized one *immediatly* after conception and why you think that this is the precise moment where a cell, that was not a person, is turned into something that is still a single cell but also a full person (without reducing “being human” to simple biochemistry / having the “right DNA”).

        “DNA is only one way of seeing that, and DNA is not identical to chromosomes. (DNA isn’t all that makes a person a person either, but you can tell when a new biological organism exists).”

        - Actually, your nuclear DNA is equivalent to your set of chromosomes (“chromosomes” do refer to the complete biological macromolecule, with modifications like methylations and acetylations and also bound proteins like histones). And you say that DNA is not “all that makes a person a person”, I obviously completely agree with that, but it seems completely obvious that everything else that “makes a person a person”, as you say, does not (yet) exist immdeiatly after conception… What specifically did you refer to here ?

        “Andy: If you insist that “personhood” starts at conception, you have to justify how “being human” can be reduced to “having the right DNA”

        BOSSMANHAM: You realize biologists can differentiate between different species based on their DNA right? For all this bluster, you sure don’t seem to have even the most basic of a grasp on this issue. It’s quite simple.”

        - You are commiting an equivocation fallacy.
        I asked you how you justify the reduction of “being human” to “having the right DNA”, and your reply is that different species can be distinguished based on their DNA. So, you are equivocating a “human being” with “human DNA”, which is beyond ridiculous – we can test for the presence of human DNA in dead(!) cells like hair or skin cells and they will test positive, just like a zygote would. So, unless you would like to argue for personhood status of hair cells, you´d better come up with a new argument.

        “Andy: it logically follows that “being human”, according to your view, is a consequence of having the “right DNA”.

        BOSSMANHAM: An ungracious reading of one’s position, and some equivocation going on, but there’s is a wide berth of what is full human DNA, and what is a developing human being. ‘Right DNA’ and ‘full human dna’ can be construed as different things.

        Andy: Again, how does the fertilized egg differ from the unfertilized one in this respect ? Both will develop into a human being under the right conditions

        BOSSMANHAM: Those conditions being paramount to the discussion. But the conditions include, but are not limited to, the environment. But this doesn’t address what I argued, and I’ve answered the other question above.”

        - Your replies could not be more vague. Be precise, you are reducing “being human” to biochemistry, that much is clear because you try assign full personhood status to a single cell after some biochemical changes happened. But you have not explained why the biochemical changes that happen during conception are any more important for “being human” than the biochemical changes that happened to the egg before and after conception.
        You say that “right DNA” and “full human DNA” are not the same thing, but you haven´t explained what *you* mean by these terms and why they refer to different things.
        You also have not explained how an unfertilized egg is any different from a fertilized one with respect to it´s potential to develop into a human being, given that the list of contions that have to be fullfilled for that is just ONE ELEMENT LONGER.

        One final question:
        Assuming we have the technology to transform differentiated(!) human cells (I´m not talking about embryonic stem cells) into totipotent ones, meaning that they have the potential to develop into an adult human if they are implanted, do you think these cells should be considered to have “full human personhood status” at the precise moment where totipotency has been activated ?

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 22, 2012, 3:57 AM
      • //Andy: As I tried to explain in my last comment, the egg is still just a single cell after conception, all that has changed is that it has now 46 chromosomes instead of 23

        Right. Good job. Substantially, it has changed from a human reproductive cell to a human being.

        //So, you do admit that you believe that the transition from a haploid set of chromosomes to a diploid one is “paramount in considering this issue” and the precise moment where we should grant a developing human personhood status. Which means that “personhood” is a direct consequence of having the “right DNA”.

        Having full DNA helps. But what constitutes the “right” dna may be broader than you’re allowing here (as DNA varies among human beings). People with down syndrome have human dna, but it’s slightly different than the typical human dna. I may not be able to point to a number of sand particles that makes a heap, but I know one when I see it. This situation is far more clear.

        Given what we know about the sperm cell and the female egg prior to this, and then what it becomes immediately after, we can confidently come to this conclusion. (psst, this is using hysteresis to overcome the ‘paradox’).

        //But you still deny that your position logically entails that “being human” can be reduced to simple biochemistry / having the “right DNA”. Iḿ not building a strawman here, your position is just inconsistent.

        I actually specifically denied that it can be reduced to this. But I do affirm that there is a biological marker we can use. The bizarre position is yours, which when taken to its logical conclusion would deny anything exists other than fundamental particles. I’m not the one with the problem here.

        //The question is why a fertilized egg should have any more rights than an unfertilized one *immediatly* after conception and why you think that this is the precise moment where a cell, that was not a person, is turned into something that is still a single cell but also a full person (without reducing “being human” to simple biochemistry / having the “right DNA”).

        No, that’s not the question at all, since that seems intuitively satisfying, and also seems to be the way God presents life in scripture (especially given the incarnation, as Christ was –conceived– in Mary’s womb).

        The question is, given that substantially and biologically there is no difference from an adult and a zygote, what right do you have to say that this human being does not have rights. Your burden of proof, bro.

        //What specifically did you refer to here ?

        A human is both spiritual and physical, but since we’re dealing with biology, I didn’t feel it necessary to derail the conversation with the metaphysics of substance dualism. Given there’s no good cut-off biologically to deny a human being rights once a new human being has been formed (at conception by all accounts except yours apparently).

        //You are commiting an equivocation fallacy.
        I asked you how you justify the reduction of “being human” to “having the right DNA”, and your reply is that different species can be distinguished based on their DNA.

        That’s not equivocal at all. It’s pointing out that human dna is intelligible, and that two human strains of DNA can be distinguished from one another. At conception, a third strain of DNA distinct from the mother and the father is formed. Ergo, a new human biological organism is formed, and begins developing parts. That it is derived from parts of its parents is irrelevant at that point.

        //we can test for the presence of human DNA in dead(!)

        And we can also see the biological markers of death in that instance, and that it was once a separate person. Reading DNA is different than having it.

        //Again, how does the fertilized egg differ from the unfertilized one in this respect ? Both will develop into a human being under the right conditions

        I’ve already answered this.

        // you have not explained why the biochemical changes that happen during conception are any more important for “being human” than the biochemical changes that happened to the egg before and after conception.

        Sure I have. The biochemical change results in a distinct being. I deny your premise that this is an insufficient marker to distinguish a new biological life. Please, where’s your argument that this isn’t sufficient. I’ve given a reductio ad absurdum that shows that no new human person could exist (indeed nothing at all could exist) if we were to follow this logic. That’s madness.

        //Assuming we have the technology to transform differentiated(!) human cells (I´m not talking about embryonic stem cells) into totipotent ones, meaning that they have the potential to develop into an adult human if they are implanted, do you think these cells should be considered to have “full human personhood status” at the precise moment where totipotency has been activated ?

        While I don’t think that’s ethical, yes I do think that would be a full person at its conception. Why wouldn’t it be?

        Posted by bossmanham | October 22, 2012, 2:12 PM
  20. J. W.,

    One of today’s most vocal defenders of Christianity is Dinesh D’Souza. His recent resigning “under pressure” from King’s College, the Christian college where he worked, and the comments he made about it, underscore that we are to have no confidence in what Christians claim is the will of a god. One of the things he said was,

    “I had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced.”

    Think about that: he had no idea. He’s the president at a Christian college, but he “had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles.” He has authored books on Christian apologetics and he “had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles.” If this guy isn’t getting the crib sheets from a god, other Christians are not getting them either, including you. For you to claim to speak for a god on abortion or any other issue is absurd. You only have your personal opinion, nothing more.

    I don’t care for Dinesh, but I do think it’s unfortunate that he was pressured into resigning by those who claim their imagined god is telling them something different from what D’Souza imagines a god is telling him.

    Posted by Russ | October 21, 2012, 12:42 PM
  21. Schuler’s criteria for humanity, apparently, is ‘- Because it is a human being capable of feeling pleasure and pain. Unlike a liver cell or a sperm cell or an egg cell or an embryo or a fetus in early stages of development.”

    There are a myriad of problems with this view. First off, why does he think feeling pain and pleasure somehow magically make one a human person with rights? If someone is in a state of not being able to have those sensations , such as after being knocked unconscious, do they then lose their personhood for a brief time? (Is it okay to kill a football player on the field if he’s been knocked out?) What degree of feeling pain and pleasure suddenly makes one human? It would seem that people in different stages of their lives feel these more intensely than others. Some with certain genetic disorders can’t feel pain at all. Does this make them sub-human?

    Second, how does he know when this happens within a human? The science is conflicted on the matter. Should we require some tests that determine if the developing child is feeling pain before an abortion?

    Third, since it seems very tenuous to place personhood on “feelings,” what if there is a non-physical component to humanity, such as the soul? How could we know when the soul enters this new human biological organism, beyond divine revelation? (Which we do have by the way).

    All in all, this seems like a far more ambiguous foundation to place the ‘personhood’ label on someone. The clear delineation line provided by the moment of conception is a far safer and more practical line of demarcation than the ambiguity of what “feelings” happen to be. You’re playing with ethical fire otherwise.

    Posted by bossmanham | October 22, 2012, 2:38 PM
    • Er, and the evidence for the soul is? There are more problems with ‘the soul’ than with anything you have mentioned. And the fact that no one can agree on what it is, ontologically, or what properties it has, or how it works, so on and so forth, that to posit it prompts more questions than it answers.

      i suppose you will appeal to the Bible to evidence the soul. Not quite good enough evidence in my books, unfortunately.

      Posted by Jonathan MS Pearce | October 22, 2012, 3:25 PM
    • “First off, why does he think feeling pain and pleasure somehow magically make one a human person with rights?”
      I don´t think that a 20 week old fetus is a human person. But I do think it deserves some protection under the law because it has developed some capacities to feel pain.

      “If someone is in a state of not being able to have those sensations , such as after being knocked unconscious, do they then lose their personhood for a brief time? (Is it okay to kill a football player on the field if he’s been knocked out?) What degree of feeling pain and pleasure suddenly makes one human? It would seem that people in different stages of their lives feel these more intensely than others. Some with certain genetic disorders can’t feel pain at all. Does this make them sub-human?”
      - As I said, I would not define personhood based on the ability to feel pleasure and pain. But a being that is capable of feeling pain should be treated differently than one which isn´t. That´s why laws against animal cruelty do not protect insects, nematodes or marine invertebrates.

      “Second, how does he know when this happens within a human? The science is conflicted on the matter. Should we require some tests that determine if the developing child is feeling pain before an abortion?”
      - Look at the science and err conservatively, that´s what the law in most developed countries already does.

      “Third, since it seems very tenuous to place personhood on “feelings,””
      - I don´t do that, as I said, the ability to feel pain is just the first thing that a fetus develops which I think would be reason enough to treat it differently than an unfertilized egg. I don´t consider a fetus to be a person.

      “what if there is a non-physical component to humanity, such as the soul?”
      - Cannot possibly be a basis for the law of the land unless you could prove that there is such a thing.

      “How could we know when the soul enters this new human biological organism, beyond divine revelation? (Which we do have by the way).”
      - I presume you mean the Bible.
      1. This is not recognized as “divine revelation” by a significant proportion of your fellow citizens.
      2. Based on the same “divine revelation”, people derived different dates for the moment of “ensoulment”.

      “All in all, this seems like a far more ambiguous foundation to place the ‘personhood’ label on someone. The clear delineation line provided by the moment of conception is a far safer and more practical line of demarcation than the ambiguity of what “feelings” happen to be. You’re playing with ethical fire otherwise.”
      - Again, it just simply isn´t a clear demarcation. I´m game for erring on the conservative side, but conception is simply absurd.

      Posted by Andy Schueler | October 22, 2012, 4:20 PM
      • I don´t think that a 20 week old fetus is a human person. But I do think it deserves some protection under the law because it has developed some capacities to feel pain.

        And what does that have to do with procuring rights?

        As I said, I would not define personhood based on the ability to feel pleasure and pain. But a being that is capable of feeling pain should be treated differently than one which isn´t. That´s why laws against animal cruelty do not protect insects, nematodes or marine invertebrates.

        So then unconscious athletes aren’t people. Noted. And no, the reason we don’t have laws against hurting bugs is because they aren’t people. But laws do not equal moral norms either. Rather they’re informed by them.

        - Look at the science and err conservatively, that´s what the law in most developed countries already does.

        Wonderful non-answer. Answer the question please. How do you know when a human begins to feel pain. How much pain must they feel. Only a little? More?

        - I don´t do that, as I said, the ability to feel pain is just the first thing that a fetus develops which I think would be reason enough to treat it differently than an unfertilized egg. I don´t consider a fetus to be a person.

        And I’ll go back to asking why. You’ve not given an answer. You simply bizarrely claimed that conception isn’t a good reason. When does a human become a person, then? Can you tell us why and what about the size, level of development, or environment suddenly magically grants personhood to a human organism?

        - I presume you mean the Bible.

        Ah ah, I didn’t ask you to respond to my parenthetical remark. Answer the question.

        - Again, it just simply isn´t a clear demarcation. I´m game for erring on the conservative side, but conception is simply absurd.

        False. Biologically this is when a new human organism exists. You can deny it, but you’re simply being obtuse. There truly is no reason to continue discussion here. You hold an irrational position.

        Posted by bossmanham | October 24, 2012, 11:59 AM
      • “Andy: I don´t think that a 20 week old fetus is a human person. But I do think it deserves some protection under the law because it has developed some capacities to feel pain.

        BOSSMANHAM: And what does that have to do with procuring rights?”
        - Most people agree that it is better to do no harm if it could be avoided in any way. That´s why we have laws against animal cruelty (which do not protect animals that feel no pain)

        “Andy: As I said, I would not define personhood based on the ability to feel pleasure and pain. But a being that is capable of feeling pain should be treated differently than one which isn´t. That´s why laws against animal cruelty do not protect insects, nematodes or marine invertebrates.

        BOSSMANHAM: So then unconscious athletes aren’t people. Noted. And no, the reason we don’t have laws against hurting bugs is because they aren’t people. But laws do not equal moral norms either. Rather they’re informed by them.”
        - I just told you that I do not base “personhood” on the ability to feel pain, so your objection is baseless. And while we don´t have laws against hurting bugs, we do have laws against hurting non-human mammals / birds etc. even though they are not people (can you guess why that is ? It´s not a hard concept…)

        “Andy: I don´t do that, as I said, the ability to feel pain is just the first thing that a fetus develops which I think would be reason enough to treat it differently than an unfertilized egg. I don´t consider a fetus to be a person.

        BOSSMANHAM: And I’ll go back to asking why. You’ve not given an answer. You simply bizarrely claimed that conception isn’t a good reason. When does a human become a person, then? Can you tell us why and what about the size, level of development, or environment suddenly magically grants personhood to a human organism?”
        - Conception is not a reason at all because it only changes some simple biochemistry. And there is nothing that “suddenly” turns a non-person into a person because development happens on a continuum. Perception, feelings, consciousness etc. are all part of “being human” and all those abilities gradually develop.

        “Andy: Again, it just simply isn´t a clear demarcation. I´m game for erring on the conservative side, but conception is simply absurd.

        BOSSMANHAM: False. Biologically this is when a new human organism exists. You can deny it, but you’re simply being obtuse. There truly is no reason to continue discussion here. You hold an irrational position.”
        - Fine, I´m not really interested in continuing this discussion with you either, you are a remarkably unpleasant and clueless person.

        Posted by Andy Schueler | October 24, 2012, 5:15 PM
  22. ###
    Andy: As I tried to explain in my last comment, the egg is still just a single cell after conception, all that has changed is that it has now 46 chromosomes instead of 23

    BOSSMANHAM: Right. Good job. Substantially, it has changed from a human reproductive cell to a human being.
    ###
    So, does the following statement capture your position accurately: “I believe that a totipotent cell with human DNA has full personhood status” ?

    ###
    Andy:So, you do admit that you believe that the transition from a haploid set of chromosomes to a diploid one is “paramount in considering this issue” and the precise moment where we should grant a developing human personhood status. Which means that “personhood” is a direct consequence of having the “right DNA”.

    BOSSMANHAM: Having full DNA helps. But what constitutes the “right” dna may be broader than you’re allowing here (as DNA varies among human beings). People with down syndrome have human dna, but it’s slightly different than the typical human dna. I may not be able to point to a number of sand particles that makes a heap, but I know one when I see it. This situation is far more clear.

    Given what we know about the sperm cell and the female egg prior to this, and then what it becomes immediately after, we can confidently come to this conclusion. (psst, this is using hysteresis to overcome the ‘paradox’).
    ###
    You are again claiming that conception is an objective point where one can draw the line. But I have yet to see an argument why this should be so. The zygote can develop into a human, yes, but so can an unfertilized egg, the list of conditions for that to work is just one element longer…

    ###
    Andy: But you still deny that your position logically entails that “being human” can be reduced to simple biochemistry / having the “right DNA”. Iḿ not building a strawman here, your position is just inconsistent.

    BOSSMANHAM: I actually specifically denied that it can be reduced to this. But I do affirm that there is a biological marker we can use. The bizarre position is yours, which when taken to its logical conclusion would deny anything exists other than fundamental particles. I’m not the one with the problem here.
    ###
    How can your position not be reduced to “a cell with human DNA and totipotency has full personhood status” (which is reducing “being human” to simple biochemistry) ? How does this not capture your position ?

    ###
    Andy: The question is why a fertilized egg should have any more rights than an unfertilized one *immediatly* after conception and why you think that this is the precise moment where a cell, that was not a person, is turned into something that is still a single cell but also a full person (without reducing “being human” to simple biochemistry / having the “right DNA”).

    BOSSMANHAM: No, that’s not the question at all, since that seems intuitively satisfying, and also seems to be the way God presents life in scripture (especially given the incarnation, as Christ was –conceived– in Mary’s womb).

    The question is, given that substantially and biologically there is no difference from an adult and a zygote, what right do you have to say that this human being does not have rights. Your burden of proof, bro.
    ###
    1. We don´t base our laws on what seems to be “intuitively satisfying” to you.
    2. There are quite a lot of substantial differences between an adult human being and a zygote. Differences like perception, feelings, consciousness, memories, dreams. Why do you try to reduce the human experience to the right DNA ?

    ###
    Andy: What specifically did you refer to here ?

    BOSSMANHAM: A human is both spiritual and physical, but since we’re dealing with biology, I didn’t feel it necessary to derail the conversation with the metaphysics of substance dualism. Given there’s no good cut-off biologically to deny a human being rights once a new human being has been formed (at conception by all accounts except yours apparently).
    ###
    The physical is the only thing that matters in these discussions because all of our fellow citizens can agree that the physical is actually real, this cannot be said for the spiritual.
    Btw, I pointed out that there is no “good cut-off” myself, because human development obviously happens on a continuum. But conception seems to be a rather absurd choice for me to draw the line. ~60% of all Zygotes do not manage to attach properly to the uterine wall and are aborted naturally, without any human intervention. Do you weep for those “fully human beings” ? Do you think they deserve a name ? Full human rights ? A funeral ? Should we place all sexually mature women under constant medical supervision to assure that each of the millions and millions of embryos that are aborted naturally each year are being baptized and given a proper funeral ?

    ###
    Andy: You are commiting an equivocation fallacy.
    I asked you how you justify the reduction of “being human” to “having the right DNA”, and your reply is that different species can be distinguished based on their DNA.

    BOSSMANHAM: That’s not equivocal at all. It’s pointing out that human dna is intelligible, and that two human strains of DNA can be distinguished from one another. At conception, a third strain of DNA distinct from the mother and the father is formed. Ergo, a new human biological organism is formed, and begins developing parts. That it is derived from parts of its parents is irrelevant at that point.
    ###
    So, based on the same reasoning, I could argue that identical twins are also the same person because they have the same DNA ? Seriously ?

    ###
    Andy: Again, how does the fertilized egg differ from the unfertilized one in this respect ? Both will develop into a human being under the right conditions

    BOSSMANHAM: I’ve already answered this.
    ###
    If you did, I missed it.

    ###
    Andy: you have not explained why the biochemical changes that happen during conception are any more important for “being human” than the biochemical changes that happened to the egg before and after conception.

    BOSSMANHAM: Sure I have. The biochemical change results in a distinct being. I deny your premise that this is an insufficient marker to distinguish a new biological life. Please, where’s your argument that this isn’t sufficient. I’ve given a reductio ad absurdum that shows that no new human person could exist (indeed nothing at all could exist) if we were to follow this logic. That’s madness.
    ###
    1. “Life” and “person” are not the same thing. No one denies that a zygote is “alive”.
    2. I have never seen this alleged reduction ad absurdum that you refer to, please quote it.

    ###
    Andy: Assuming we have the technology to transform differentiated(!) human cells (I´m not talking about embryonic stem cells) into totipotent ones, meaning that they have the potential to develop into an adult human if they are implanted, do you think these cells should be considered to have “full human personhood status” at the precise moment where totipotency has been activated ?

    BOSSMANHAM: While I don’t think that’s ethical, yes I do think that would be a full person at its conception. Why wouldn’t it be?
    ###
    There is no conception in this case, we just take adult stem cells and reactivate totipotency. You think at the precise moment where we do that we have created a cell that has “full personhood” ?
    Let me illustrate the absurdity of this position with another thought experiment (which is completely possible based on technology that is already available!): the cells that make up a human embryo are totipotent until the 16-cell stadium, so we could extract an embryo at this stage, and implant each cell into 16 women, then we wait, then we do the same again and implant the cells into 16*16=256 women. If we would do that, have we created 256 “fully human persons” based on a single zygote ?

    Posted by Andy Schueler | October 22, 2012, 3:55 PM
    • So, does the following statement capture your position accurately: “I believe that a totipotent cell with human DNA has full personhood status” ?

      If it is a full human organism that is alive and developing, then yes.

      You are again claiming that conception is an objective point where one can draw the line. But I have yet to see an argument why this should be so.

      Nope I’ve argued for it. You give a reason beyond “all you’ve done is doubled the chromosomes” (as if that doesn’t matter. Obtuse, my friend. Very very obtuse).

      1. We don´t base our laws on what seems to be “intuitively satisfying” to you.

      Actually we do. Most of our laws are informed by moral norms, which are based on our moral intuitions (moral sense). Just because your senses are defective doesn’t mean mine are.

      There are quite a lot of substantial differences between an adult human being and a zygote.

      No there aren’t. Look up the word “substantial.” At its essence, a human zygote is…human. Otherwise the descriptive qualifying word “human” means nothing. There are physical differences. No one is arguing against that. But physical appearance and constitution don’t determine personhood.

      conception seems to be a rather absurd choice for me to draw the line

      That’s because, as has been noted, you have a defective moral sense. But conception is literally the only good and logical line by which to distinguish simple part of the parent and new child.

      ~60% of all Zygotes do not manage to attach properly to the uterine wall and are aborted naturally

      ~100% of all people die in some way or another. How is this relevant? What a dumb point to make…

      Do you weep for those “fully human beings” ? Do you think they deserve a name ? Full human rights ? A funeral ?

      I absolutely do. When my mother had a miscarriage of my brother or sister, I grieved for them. When my friend’s wife had a miscarriage of a child they desperately wanted, we grieved. Your defective moral sense has made you a heartless person regarding these innocent lives. Should we not have funerals for all humans since they all die anyway? You don’t know how to follow your own logic.

      Should we place all sexually mature women under constant medical supervision to assure that each of the millions and millions of embryos that are aborted naturally each year are being baptized and given a proper funeral ?

      We don’t even do that with full grown adults. Stop with red herrings.

      So, based on the same reasoning, I could argue that identical twins are also the same person because they have the same DNA ? Seriously ?

      That doesn’t follow from what I said at all. Furthermore they don’t have identical DNA, and even if they did there is more than one set and there are two distinct organisms.
      It’s also not relevant, because even if we did consider them the same person, they’d still be given basic human rights.

      1. “Life” and “person” are not the same thing. No one denies that a zygote is “alive”.

      Human life and person are. I defy you to give me a counter argument.

      2. I have never seen this alleged reduction ad absurdum that you refer to, please quote it.

      “if we’re going to latch on to this vague problem, then it’s hard to see when a human becomes a person at all”

      ” If you’re willing to accept that we simply can’t ever know when one thing becomes another thing, or that there are no ‘things’ made of parts, then I don’t see how we can continue a discussion on the subject. Intuitively, we see parts and wholes, and with the clear delineating line of conception, it’s pretty simple to the non-obtuse to see when a human life begins.”

      There is no conception in this case, we just take adult stem cells and reactivate totipotency. You think at the precise moment where we do that we have created a cell that has “full personhood” ?

      That would be the conception. Equivocating on a concept changes nothing.

      If we would do that, have we created 256 “fully human persons” based on a single zygote ?

      Yes. We’ve now got 256 new human lives, however unethically developed.

      And as I stated above, you’ve got nothing here and there’s not much more to be said. No argument has been given that would challenge the proposition that human life begins at conception (when a new human organism is formed) and that there is any distinct reason to deny that human’s personhood beyond, “well it’s really little and its physical characteristics are different due to it being in early stages of development. We’ll wait till it can feel stuff (whenever that is).” About as arbitrarily ridiculous an assertion I’ve ever seen.

      The difference between you and me, Andy, is that I think humans are valuable because they’re human beings. You think they need to have certain physical and geographic characteristics. That’s petty and obtuse and almost identical from the reasoning behind slavery and segregation. Congrats.

      Posted by bossmanham | October 24, 2012, 12:29 PM
  23. “If it is a full human organism that is alive and developing, then yes.”
    - A single cell is not a full human organism.

    “Nope I’ve argued for it. You give a reason beyond “all you’ve done is doubled the chromosomes” (as if that doesn’t matter. Obtuse, my friend. Very very obtuse).”
    - It doesn´t matter at all, unless you´d like to argue for full personhood of every other human cell as well except for red blood cells and gametes, they all have 46 chromosomes (not counting chromosomal abnormalities).

    “Andy: 1. We don´t base our laws on what seems to be “intuitively satisfying” to you.

    BOSSMANHAM: Actually we do. Most of our laws are informed by moral norms, which are based on our moral intuitions (moral sense). Just because your senses are defective doesn’t mean mine are.”
    - Nonsense. Stoning gay people would be “intuitively satisfying” to the “moral sense” of many people (christian reconstructionists for example), we still don´t base our laws based on bronze age barbarism, no matter how much some people like it.

    “Andy: There are quite a lot of substantial differences between an adult human being and a zygote.

    BOSSMANHAM: No there aren’t. Look up the word “substantial.” At its essence, a human zygote is…human. Otherwise the descriptive qualifying word “human” means nothing. There are physical differences. No one is arguing against that. But physical appearance and constitution don’t determine personhood.”
    - So you are arguing that a zygote is “human” because otherwise nothing would be “human”…. Circular reasoning, try again.

    “Andy: conception seems to be a rather absurd choice for me to draw the line

    BOSSMANHAM: That’s because, as has been noted, you have a defective moral sense. But conception is literally the only good and logical line by which to distinguish simple part of the parent and new child.”
    - Mere assertion + ad hominem. Try harder.

    “Andy: Do you weep for those “fully human beings” ? Do you think they deserve a name ? Full human rights ? A funeral ?

    I absolutely do. When my mother had a miscarriage of my brother or sister, I grieved for them. When my friend’s wife had a miscarriage of a child they desperately wanted, we grieved. Your defective moral sense has made you a heartless person regarding these innocent lives. Should we not have funerals for all humans since they all die anyway? You don’t know how to follow your own logic.”
    - I was not talking about miscarriages or snowflake children. I was talking of embryos being aborted before they attach to the uterine wall. And since you seem to be rather confused about human reproduction, this means they are aborted before pregnancy even begins, and the woman does not even notice that (the aborted embryo is only composed out of a few cells). How would you grieve for such an embryo without even knowing it ever existed ? (To know that it exist, you would have to place all sexually mature and active females under constant medical supervision).

    “Andy: Should we place all sexually mature women under constant medical supervision to assure that each of the millions and millions of embryos that are aborted naturally each year are being baptized and given a proper funeral ?

    BOSSMANHAM: We don’t even do that with full grown adults. Stop with red herrings.”
    - How inconsistent of you. Millions and millions of “fully human persons” die each year without anybody even noticing that they existed, and you want to do NOTHING about it ??

    “Andy: 1. “Life” and “person” are not the same thing. No one denies that a zygote is “alive”.

    BOSSMANHAM: Human life and person are. I defy you to give me a counter argument.”
    - “Personhood” is a very controversial topic, you are reducing personhood to biochemistry – I am not.

    “Andy: 2. I have never seen this alleged reduction ad absurdum that you refer to, please quote it.

    BOSSMANHAM: “if we’re going to latch on to this vague problem, then it’s hard to see when a human becomes a person at all”

    ” If you’re willing to accept that we simply can’t ever know when one thing becomes another thing, or that there are no ‘things’ made of parts, then I don’t see how we can continue a discussion on the subject. Intuitively, we see parts and wholes, and with the clear delineating line of conception, it’s pretty simple to the non-obtuse to see when a human life begins.””
    - I don´t have the impression that you know what a reduction ad absurdum is, you might want to consider to look it up.

    “Andy: There is no conception in this case, we just take adult stem cells and reactivate totipotency. You think at the precise moment where we do that we have created a cell that has “full personhood” ?

    BOSSMANHAM: That would be the conception. Equivocating on a concept changes nothing.”
    - Since the reactivation is based on triggering genetic switches, we literally could play with a single cell and turn it into a “fully human person”, then back to a cell that is not a “fully human person”, then back to “fully human person” again, and we could play this all day long… You are reducing personhood to a biochemical triviality.

    “Andy: If we would do that, have we created 256 “fully human persons” based on a single zygote ?

    BOSSMANHAM: Yes. We’ve now got 256 new human lives, however unethically developed.”
    - If you would stop to think for a few minutes about this concept, you would realize the absurd consequences:
    Your reply is an admission that you consider a single cell with human DNA and totipotency to be a “fully human person”. All cells of an embryo however are totipotent until the 16 cell stadium (and yes, each of those cells has the potential to grow into an adult human being). Your definition of “personhood” thus means that a woman carries a new “fully human person” inside her body after conception, then 2 “fully human persons” after the first cell division, then 4, then 8, then 16 and then just 1 again! Your definition of “personhood” is absurd and completely incoherent.

    “And as I stated above, you’ve got nothing here and there’s not much more to be said. No argument has been given that would challenge the proposition that human life begins at conception (when a new human organism is formed) and that there is any distinct reason to deny that human’s personhood beyond, “well it’s really little and its physical characteristics are different due to it being in early stages of development. We’ll wait till it can feel stuff (whenever that is).” About as arbitrarily ridiculous an assertion I’ve ever seen.”
    - And I´ve yet to see a single argument from you why a fertilized egg should have any more rights than an unfertilized one. You have nothing besides developmental potential, which an unfertilized egg has as well, the list of conditions is just one element longer. You have nothing but mere assertions to argue for this one element being an objective demarcation criterion.

    “The difference between you and me, Andy, is that I think humans are valuable because they’re human beings. You think they need to have certain physical and geographic characteristics. That’s petty and obtuse and almost identical from the reasoning behind slavery and segregation. Congrats.”
    - No, the difference between us is that I value the things that actually make us human – perception, feelings, consciousness, dreams, hopes, fears etc. – and I am not willing to hurt any human being in order to protect a single cell.

    Posted by Andy Schueler | October 24, 2012, 5:04 PM
  24. I´d like to briefly summarize the point I was trying to make before I excuse myself from the discussion:

    People on both sides of the abortion issue recognize that a zygote is “human life”, I for one have yet to see anyone denying / doubting that point.

    What is highly controversial however is whether a zygote is not only “alive”, but also a “fully human person” which should be granted the same rights that an adult human being has. As I argued, this position would entail that a single cell, which contains a diploid complement of human chromosomes and is totipotent, has full personhood. No matter how one tries to define “personhood” (a term for which there is no universally, or even just widely, accepted definition), this does entail some rather absurd consequences:
    - it would mean that “personhood” (however one choses to define it) is a consequence of some genetic switches being triggered in a human cell, a process that is fully reversible (in the sense that a cell, which is totipotent, can loose this ability and also regain it). So, “personhood” would become something that a single cell can gain, loose and regain by simply triggering some genetic switches (which has already been demonstrated to be possible in the lab), and, IMHO, would reduce “personhood” to a biochemical triviality.
    - Since all cells of a developing embryo are totipotent until the 16-cell stage (meaning that each single one of those cells has the potential to develop into an adult human), it would quite literally mean that a woman carries a “fully human being” immediatly after conception, then 2 “fully human beings” immediatly after conception, then 4, then 8, then 16 and then just 1 “fully human being” again! Which illustrates that this definition of “personhood” is simply inconsistent.

    Furthermore, I argued that I don´t see any reason why conception should be an objective demarcation criterion between “personhood” and “non-personhood”, seeing how an unfertilized egg could also develop into an adult human being, with just one extra condition being required. JW argued that there is a rational discontinuity between the fertilized and the unfertilized egg because the former will develop into an adult human being unless some natural processes (failure to attach properly to the uterine wall for example) or unnatural processes (abortion) terminate pregnancy. I recognize that this discontinuity exists, but to me, it does not seem to be a reason to grant the fertilized egg any more rights than the unfertilized one has – the discontinuity between the fertilized egg and the unfertilized one is a change in developmental potential, that´s it. The list of discontinuities between a fertilized egg and an adult human being however is much longer:
    - a zygote has no perception of it´s environment, never had, and will not have one unless it undergoes a long and failure-prone developmental process.
    - a zygote has no feelings and no emotions, never had, and will not have them unless it undergoes a long and failure-prone developmental process.
    - a zygote has no consciousness, never had, and will not have it unless it undergoes a long and failure-prone developmental process.
    - a zygote has no memories, never had, and will not have them unless it undergoes a long and failure-prone developmental process.
    - a zygote has no desires and no fears, never had, and will not have them unless it undergoes a long and failure-prone developmental process.
    All of those qualities are associated with the “human experience” / “being human”. As I pointed out, “personhood” has no universally accepted definition, but assigning “personhood” to a single cell, that has none of the above mentioned qualities, never had them, and is not going to have them unless it manages to survive through a long developmental process, seems to be absurd to me (and the vast majority of people who are not opposed to abortion in early stages of pregnancy I presume).

    If one does believe in things like “souls” and in “ensoulment” happening at the precise moment of conception (which raises some interesting philosophical points for the problem of evil as Jonathan is pointing out), I have no problem seeing how one would be opposed to aborting an embryo even in the very earliest stages of development.
    But I have not seen any secular argument against abortions in early stages of pregnancy that people who do not believe in “souls” could accept as well. If one does not believe in a “divine plan”, allowing abortions in early stages of pregnancy does seem to be the moral choice – because it can prevent harm (for example by rape survivors not being forced to carry the child of their rapists, or by teenagers not being forced to have kids before they are physiologically and psychologically ready for it) but causes no harm (the alleged harms of abortions, like “post abortion syndrome” etc. have been intensively studied and found to be completely baseless).

    Posted by Andy Schueler | October 25, 2012, 10:06 AM

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Sources for Pro-life Apologetics « Ratio Christi- Apologetics At The Ohio State University - October 22, 2012

  2. Pingback: Abortion Clinics, Pro-Life Activism, and “Abolish Human Abortion” | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - April 2, 2014

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