Clinton’s Unapologetic Defense of Abortion Rights

Oct 24, 2016

By Adrienne LaFrance

Even in a presidential campaign that has become so intensely focused on gender, there was something surreal about watching Hillary Clinton’s response to a question about abortion in Wednesday night’s debate.

Here was the first woman nominated by a major party for the United States presidency, standing on the debate stage in “suffragette white,” and talking in no uncertain terms about her strong commitment to protecting a woman’s right to “make the most intimate, most difficult in many cases, decisions about her health care that one can imagine.”

Democrats are expected to support abortion rights, of course, but that support is often couched with carefully hedged language. This is an understandable impulse, given how divisive the issue of abortion remains.


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229 comments on “Clinton’s Unapologetic Defense of Abortion Rights

  • @OP – Democrats are expected to support abortion rights, of course, but that support is often couched with carefully hedged language.

    When there are god-besotted right wing fanatics like this around, (in this case in Poland), abortion rights really do need defending!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37713211

    But there are new proposals to outlaw abortions in cases where foetuses are unviable or badly damaged.

    Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS), has said his socially conservative party is working on a new restrictive bill.

    In an interview on 12 October (in Polish), he said:
    “We will strive to ensure that even in pregnancies which are very difficult, when a child is sure to die, strongly deformed, women end up giving birth so that the child can be baptised, buried, and have a name.”




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  • “Democrats are expected to support abortion rights, of course”, writes LaFrance. Of course! Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, Joe Manchin, Bob Casey (to name a few), are (unfortunately) pro-life Democrats. Asinine remark.

    “Surreal” indeed. Not a very good use of a great word. And it’s over used – like existential, which a lot of news anchors are using now. Read the article. Trite. One good observation: Clinton didn’t BS anyone with the usual “I know how strongly bla bla bla”, and “I have the utmost respect for bla bla bla…”

    I am glad that Hillary laid it on the line.



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  • I’ve never understood the reason for any controversy or debate on the abortion issue. Especially since I lack a uterus. But, I think it underscores the insecurity of devout believers and their inherent “gut feeling” thay they are, in fact WRONG about god and heaven.

    I mean, if a woman decides to have an abortion, it is a n abomination and she will spend ETERNITY in the place with the sulfur smell and guy in the red suit with the pitchfork, NO??? So, if eternity in hell is the punishment and you truly believe that, then why isn’t it enough?

    I mean these are people who are prowar, progun, prohate, then they throw in being prolife? What?

    And, perhaps the strangest thing to me is that they are clearly racist and misogynistic and the folks who seek these surgeries most commonly are…. you got it, minority (the women part here doesn’t really need stressing…does it?)

    So, let me get this straight. Heaven will be less crowded, there will be fewer minorities and women, and here on earth,well… the same… so why is it that none of this computes…

    Oh, that’s right the deluded are deluded. there it is.



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  • crookedshoes #3
    Oct 24, 2016 at 9:54 am

    then they throw in being prolife?

    Of course “ensoulment at conception” as a description of “life” illustrates that the anti-abortionist claim of being “pro-life”, simply demonstrates that they have no idea what “life” is, and this is a badge of “know-it-all pseudo-knowledge”, based on blind faith – as preached by some science illiterate!

    If you asked most of them about the basic “biology of life”, the answers would demonstrate utter cluelessness!



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  • Alan4,

    “Soul” is something I love when coupled to -music or -food. Mystical pretend time needs to be treated as exactly that. Clearly demonstrate that I have a “soul” and my dog does not (depending on who you ask), or relegate it to the realm of “belief”. But I need everyone to get their damn beliefs out of my policy and law and keep them to themselves. Mystical pretend time should be private and between the person who wants to engage and that behavior and a consenting deity. But, only with consent.

    And,

    Bonnie2, I find it more than just mildly pleasing that santa and satan are anagrams.. Makes a typo real real funny in certain cases.



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  • From a purely political perspective, the first priority for anyone who cares to “reform” the Republican party should be to cleanse “abortion” from their party platform or discourse. Outside of perhaps expressing a single soundbite: “I’m personally opposed to abortion” the repetitive emphasis should fall on: “but it is a private matter.” Granted that Republicans can still carry Texas, some local districts and a handful of states in the thinly populated deep south and midwest with the help of the anti-abortion vote, the issue is starting to kill them along with other alienating social issues: gay marriage, prayer in the public schools, hostility to contraception and Planned Parenthood, etc.

    Mike Pence, appealing to a dwindling provincial constituency, made a fool of himself talking about how “he” believes in the sanctity of life based on his evangelical Christian faith in a national [vice] presidential debate. The message is no longer resonating with the up and coming secularized electorate of Americans age 18 to 38 fortified by an emerging majority of older voters at the national level. Increasingly better educated, informed, secularized and tolerant Americans are fed up with the stale regressive-oppressive agenda of social conservatism.



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  • @ Melvin.

    True and agreed. Not only that, but it’s such a unique issue, as a man I don’t even feel qualified to debate it properly. I think it should be a wholly female decision from legislation all the way down. I don’t care if the man (sperm donor) contributes half of the equation required for fertilization. It’s been said before, and it’s certainly true, if men could get pregnant abortion would be a sacrament.

    I’ve excerpted Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s excellent essay “Is it Possible to be both “Pro-life” and “Pro-Choice”?” here before on occasion. Here’s a taste:

    “There is no right to life in any society on Earth today, nor has there been at any former time…: We raise farm animals for slaughter; destroy forests; pollute rivers and lakes until no fish can live there; kill deer and elk for sport, leopards for the pelts, and whales for fertilizer; entrap dolphins, gasping and writhing, in great tuna nets; club seal pups to death; and render a species extinct every day. All these beasts and vegetables are as alive as we. What is (allegedly) protected is not life, but human life.

    And even with that protection, casual murder is an urban commonplace, and we wage “conventional” wars with tolls so terrible that we are, most of us, afraid to consider them very deeply… That protection, that right to life, eludes the 40,000 children under five who die on our planet each day from preventable starvation, dehydration, disease, and neglect.

    Those who assert a “right to life” are for (at most) not just any kind of life, but for–particularly and uniquely—human life. So they too, like pro-choicers, must decide what distinguishes a human being from other animals and when, during gestation, the uniquely human qualities–whatever they are–emerge.

    Despite many claims to the contrary, life does not begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain that stretches back nearly to the origin of the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago. Nor does human life begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain dating back to the origin of our species, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Every human sperm and egg is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, alive. They are not human beings, of course. However, it could be argued that neither is a fertilized egg.



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  • I know this is only Social Media, but this description of a Late Term Abortion in the USA with reference to the political debate I found compelling.

    ***I had one dead twin. The other had severe Spina Bifida. It was so bad that his brain had developed outside his head, and his spine was open clear to the lumbar level. There was ZERO hope, and no medical miracle that could save him. Our dreams were shattered. These twins were from IVF. I was forty, and there would be no more pregnancies. ***

    Do you force this women to continue with the pregnancy because your personal god tells you that that is what must be done.

    https://www.facebook.com/alyson.draper/posts/10209809201680871



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  • Every human sperm and egg is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, alive. They are not human beings, of course. However, it could be argued that neither is a fertilized egg.

    One thing that cannot be denied is that fertilization of a human egg cell is exactly the very event that defines the beginning of a genetically distinct, individual human animal (twins notwithstanding). Whether or not it can be considered a “human being” rests on the definition of “human being”. What do we mean by this term? This is where the disagreements lie, and this is what we should be focused on.

    Can science define “human being”? Has it already? If so, please point me to the scientific definition that clears this up.



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  • @ PP

    Can science define “human being”? Has it already? If so, please point
    me to the scientific definition that clears this up.

    Do a Google search on the essay and read the entire thing (it’s 10 pages long). Sagan and Druyan attempt to do just what you ask. I’m not sure they do to everyone’s satisfaction of course, but here is part of their summary. The meat of the essay provides context for their summary:

    “Acquiescing in the killing of any living creature, especially one that might later become a baby, is troublesome and painful. But we’ve rejected the extremes of “always” and “never,” and this puts us–like it or not–on the slippery slope. If we are forced to choose a developmental criterion, then this is where we draw the line: when the beginning of characteristically human thinking becomes barely possible.

    It is, in fact, a very conservative definition: Regular brain waves are rarely found in fetuses. More research would help… If we wanted to make the criterion still more stringent, to allow for occasional precocious fetal brain development, we might draw the line at six months. This, it so happens, is where the Supreme Court drew it in 1973–although for completely different reasons.
    Its decision in the case of Roe v. Wade changed American law on abortion. It permits abortion at the request of the woman without restriction in the first trimester and, with some restrictions intended to protect her health, in the second trimester. It allows states to forbid abortion in the third trimester, except when there’s a serious threat to the life or health of the woman. In the 1989 Webster decision, the Supreme Court declined explicitly to overturn Roe v. Wade but in effect invited the 50 state legislatures to decide for themselves.

    What was the reasoning in Roe v. Wade? There was no legal weight given to what happens to the children once they are born, or to the family. Instead, a woman’s right to reproductive freedom is protected, the court ruled, by constitutional guarantees of privacy. But that right is not unqualified. The woman’s guarantee of privacy and the fetus’s right to life must be weighed–and when the court did the weighing’ priority was given to privacy in the first trimester and to life in the third. The transition was decided not from any of the considerations we have been dealing with so far…–not when “ensoulment” occurs, not when the fetus takes on sufficient human characteristics to be protected by laws against murder. Instead, the criterion adopted was whether the fetus could live outside the mother. This is called “viability” and depends in part on the ability to breathe. The lungs are simply not developed, and the fetus cannot breathe–no matter how advanced an artificial lung it might be placed in—until about the 24th week, near the start of the sixth month. This is why Roe v. Wade permits the states to prohibit abortions in the last trimester. It’s a very pragmatic criterion.
    If the fetus at a certain stage of gestation would be viable outside the womb, the argument goes, then the right of the fetus to life overrides the right of the woman to privacy. But just what does “viable” mean? Even a full-term newborn is not viable without a great deal of care and love. There was a time before incubators, only a few decades ago, when babies in their seventh month were unlikely to be viable. Would aborting in the seventh month have been permissible then? After the invention of incubators, did aborting pregnancies in the seventh month suddenly become immoral? What happens if, in the future, a new technology develops so that an artificial womb can sustain a fetus even before the sixth month by delivering oxygen and nutrients through the blood–as the mother does through the placenta and into the fetal blood system? We grant that this technology is unlikely to be developed soon or become available to many. But if it were available, does it then become immoral to abort earlier than the sixth month, when previously it was moral? A morality that depends on, and changes with, technology is a fragile morality; for some, it is also an unacceptable morality.

    And why, exactly, should breathing (or kidney function, or the ability to resist disease) justify legal protection? If a fetus can be shown to think and feel but not be able to breathe, would it be all right to kill it? Do we value breathing more than thinking and feeling? Viability arguments cannot, it seems to us, coherently determine when abortions are permissible. Some other criterion is needed. Again, we offer for consideration the earliest onset of human thinking as that criterion.

    Since, on average, fetal thinking occurs even later than fetal lung development, we find Roe v. Wade to be a good and prudent decision addressing a complex and difficult issue. With prohibitions on abortion in the last trimester–except in cases of grave medical necessity–it strikes a fair balance between the conflicting claims of freedom and life.”



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  • PeacePecan #10
    Oct 24, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Every human sperm and egg is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, alive. They are not human beings, of course. However, it could be argued that neither is a fertilized egg.

    One thing that cannot be denied is that fertilization of a human egg cell is exactly the very event that defines the beginning of a genetically distinct, individual human animal (twins notwithstanding).

    The individual is merely a mix of pre-existing DNA. A fertilised egg contains a complete set of chromosomes and a full set of DNA – just like every other cell in the body!
    Cloning experiments indicate that other cells can indeed give rise to viable offspring, so these claims to exclusivity are at best dubious.

    Also given that 70% of human fertilised eggs spontaneously abort or miscarry anyway, The odds are AGAINST ANY individual fertilised egg becoming a live baby and human being!

    Whether or not it can be considered a “human being” rests on the definition of “human being”.

    Practicalities are not decided by semantics.
    The words merely describe the phenomena.

    Most of the anti-abortion bigotry stems from ignorance and the theist mythical assertion of “ensoulment at conception”, generating a human being!

    You kill thousands of skin cells which each have a full set of human DNA, whenever you brush your teeth or have a scrub down in a shower. – as do the anti-abortionists who are ignorant of their own skin cells, but who are preoccupied with other people’s sex lives!

    I would define a human being as a human organism which is capable of living (breathing, feeding thinking), as an independent individual without a physical attachment to its mother.



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  • @steven007 #11

    Carl Sagan has been one of my favorite writers, thinkers, scientific personalities for a long time, but I had not read that (or perhaps I had, but had forgotten, which is certainly possible). Thanks, Steven. I appreciate that.

    I find it interesting that the term “human being” does not occur in the excerpt.



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  • One of the things that really is a head scratcher to me is the legion of people who do not oppose IVF and do oppose abortion and stem cell research.

    What about a dedifferentiated pluripotent stem cell derived from my own skin cells?

    What about the 400,000+ embryos that are currently frozen and in litigation because the two “parents” have decided to divorce in the middle of the IVF process?

    Oh, and what about the RCC claiming that “only abstinence is 100% effective birth control”?
    Really you fucking idiots, does the immaculate conception not factor into your opini…….. oh, that’s right you really don’t actually BELIEVE any of the scummy shit you spew. You just think everyone else should have to live according to it.



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  • The individual is merely a mix of pre-existing DNA. A fertilised egg contains a complete set of chromosomes and a full set of DNA – just like every other cell in the body!

    What’s so “merely” about a mix of pre-existing DNA? This is obviously what occurs at fertilization and what results in a distinct individual. There’s nothing “merely” about it. It’s the subject under discussion.

    Cloning experiments indicate that other cells can indeed give rise to viable offspring, so these claims to exclusivity are at best dubious.

    I have made no “claims to exclusivity”. In order for “other cells” to “give rise to viable offspring”, something has to be added, some technological process has to be applied which effectively duplicates production of an “egg” and “fertilization”. We are still left with the same question about what a “human being” is and when “being-ness” occurs.

    Also given that 70% of human fertilised eggs spontaneously abort or miscarry anyway, The odds are AGAINST ANY individual fertilised egg becoming a live baby and human being!

    Therefore, what? How do spontaneous abortions and probabilities figure in the question of the definition of “human being” and when “being-ness” occurs? Are you suggesting that because bad things happen to fertilized eggs and fetuses more often than not, then this means we should not consider them to be “human beings” (which we haven’t defined yet, by the way)? (If the odds were less than 50%, would that make a difference? Why?) I hope you can see how ridiculous that logic is.

    Practicalities are not decided by semantics.

    I made so such suggestion, as you will see when you re-read my post. What I asked for is a practical definition based on scientific evidence.

    The words merely describe the phenomen[on].

    So what “phenomenon” is described by the words “human being”? So far, nothing you’ve written here addresses that question.

    You kill thousands of skin cells which each have a full set of human DNA, whenever you brush your teeth or have a scrub down in a shower.

    Those skin cells share my genetic make-up. They are skin cells, not eggs, not fertilized eggs, not cells that have had something done to them to make them functional equivalents of eggs or fertilized eggs. A fertilized egg does not have the same genetic make-up of the “egg” it was before it was fertilized; a “mix” has occurred, as you stated correctly, above. This is the distinction that matters in this discussion. We are still left with the same question about what a “human being” is and when “being-ness” occurs.

    I would define a human being as a human organism which is capable of living (breathing, feeding thinking), as an independent individual without a physical attachment to its mother.

    I was actually asking to be pointed to a definition that exists in a scientific journal or other publication, written by subject matter experts.



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  • Peace: “… a definition that exists in a scientific journal or other publication, written by subject matter experts.”

    No such definition exists. Abortion is a procedure that necessarily kills an unborn human organism. With exceptions too numerous to cite, societies have “traditionally” treated abortion as “homicide” or a serious offense with mitigating or aggravating circumstances. At the same time, there have been diverse views about the personhood of the embryo or fetus with the burden of proof falling heavily on anyone who attempts to show that undeveloped products of conception constitute a human being in any functional sense. Seeking the authority of definition or description whether religious, scientific or philosophical, one will go round and round on the merry-go-round getting different arguments from different points of view.

    Ultimately we are stuck in a new world where abortion enjoys legal, social, and moral justification under certain conditions. For example, under defined conditions of non-viability AND the voluntary consent of the mother, abortion may be considered justified killing. Forced abortion on the other hand without the consent of the mother may be considered unjustified killing falling under statutes, social and moral condemnation associated -but not coterminous- with degrees of homicide.

    The argument diverges into an exercise in futility about “what a fetus really is” that has no intrinsic answer because medical technology has emerged that easily removes the unformed products of conception at very early stages on the developmental continuum of a nine-month pregnancy -and- the main argument about whether the procedure “should be allowed” on grounds of justified need or election on the part of the mother. Modern societies have moved in the direction of placing priority on the justified need or choice of the mother at the expense of the “potential” development of the embryo or fetus into a viable human baby.



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  • In another forum I asked a religious zealot who or what country performs the most abortions on the planet over history. After some fluffing around with the Zealot naming all the usual communist suspects, I informed him (Its always a HIM) it was god. As Alan4D said above, around 70% of fertilized eggs are spontaneously aborted in the first twelve weeks. All had souls according to the zealot. All were god’s creations. All would go to heaven. Did a quick bit of maths for the time that homo sapiens have been on the planet and found that God had aborted 100’s of millions of viable soul possessing human beings. And God had no valid defence, unlike the women who for good medical or social reasons chooses not to have a child at that time.



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  • Melvin #16
    Oct 26, 2016 at 1:10 am

    Peace: “… a definition that exists in a scientific journal or other publication, written by subject matter experts.”

    **No such definition exists*. Abortion is a procedure that necessarily kills an unborn human organism.

    Really???

    http://patient.info/doctor/termination-of-pregnancy

    Two medical practitioners must certify in good faith by signing form HSA1 (Certificate A in Scotland) that at least one of these criteria applies. Most terminations are performed under the second of these criteria. There is a general debate in political and public circles every so often that the upper gestational age limit ought to be reduced from 24 weeks to 22 or 20. This is due to the recognition of advances in neonatal care and improving the survival rates of some premature infants born around this time, setting up an environment of moral concern that babies who could survive are having their lives ended. 4-dimensional ultrasound also appears to show 20-week gestation fetuses displaying complex behaviours, prompting a call for a shift from viability as the main criterion, towards sentience.

    Currently, the British Medical Association (BMA) does not favour a reduction in the gestational age limit for terminations.[6] This is based on the fact that there is no significant improvement in survival statistics for babies born under the age of 24 weeks. The BMA also supports the position that the need for two doctors to certify should be removed in the first trimester.

    A minority of terminations are performed after 20 weeks. This is usually following amniocentesis, or in very young girls who have concealed or not recognised the pregnancy

    The detailed criteria are on the link.

    As I pointed out @#12, the capability for healthy independent survival is the main criteria – as is seems to be for the evolved spontaneous abortions.



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  • PeacePecan #15
    Oct 25, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    The individual is merely a mix of pre-existing DNA. A fertilised egg contains a complete set of chromosomes and a full set of DNA – just like every other cell in the body!

    What’s so “merely” about a mix of pre-existing DNA? This is obviously what occurs at fertilization and what results in a distinct individual. There’s nothing “merely” about it. It’s the subject under discussion.

    Actually there is – just as a piece of tissue with a slightly different mix of DNA, merely becomes part of a human being when organ transplants are carried out.
    A transplanted heart, lungs, or kidney, has slightly different DNA to the recipient, but is NOT a separate human being! it is not capable of living independently.

    Also given that 70% of human fertilised eggs spontaneously abort or miscarry anyway, The odds are AGAINST ANY individual fertilised egg becoming a live baby and human being!

    Therefore, what? How do spontaneous abortions and probabilities figure in the question of the definition of “human being” and when “being-ness” occurs?

    If there is no survival beyond birth or capability of survival beyond birth, it is not a baby! It is a bunch of cells – a zygote, embryo or foetus!
    The fact that theists have made up an arbitrary flawed definition based ignorance and wish-thinking, is irrelevant to modern medical science.

    Similarly the inability to recognise a continuous development process over a period of weeks and a demand for “beingness” to be designated at a fixed point, is a property of the assertions of the discontinuous mind, rather than some property of biological developmental processes.

    Are you suggesting that because bad things happen to fertilized eggs and fetuses more often than not, then this means we should not consider them to be “human beings”

    Your preconception that these natural spontaneous abortions are “bad”, is simply a reiteration of the flawed theist asserted preconceptions.

    Spontaneous abortions are a form of natural selection, which maintains the health and quality of the population. It is a process which rejects diseased, deformed, potential offspring of under-nourished and stressed mothers, who have poor prospects of raising them as normal healthy children.
    In this respect the criteria for spontaneous abortions are similar to the medical and social ones recognised in codes of conduct.

    (which we haven’t defined yet, by the way)?

    See #12 and #18.

    (If the odds were less than 50%, would that make a difference? Why?)

    No! Because the percentages of deformity, and poor prospects in foetuses, would be unaltered, so arranging for the birth of more deformed children into suffering with genetic birth defects, dying in poverty or in abusive circumstances, would be immoral according to modern medical criteria.

    I hope you can see how ridiculous that logic is.

    My logic is clear, and based on medical studies, and expert medical advice.
    Yours is based on circularity, derived from ignorant theist assertions.

    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002398.htm

    Weeks 23 to 25

    Bone marrow begins to make blood cells.
    The lower airways of the baby’s lungs develop.

    Clumps of cells with no blood cells in their fluids, and lungs which are not yet functional, are not independent living organisms.

    In any case most abortions are carried out much earlier than this.

    I think we are much better looking at medical advice from the codes of conduct given by doctors’ professional bodies, than from the sort of obsessed idiots I linked @#1 !



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  • @#19 – In any case most abortions are carried out much earlier than this.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/09/polish-mps-back-near-total-ban-on-abortion-which-could-see-women-jailed-for-up-to-five-years/#li-comment-212829

    Of the 5,650 women who used the service, 25.8% were aged between 30 and 34 and 24.1% were aged from 25 to 29.

    The lowest percentages were among women under 20, who made up 4.6% of those using the service, and over 45s who accounted for 2.6%.

    Three-quarters were seven weeks pregnant or less.



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  • Swallowing Trump

    American evangelicals are supporting Donald Trump even though he confessed to multiple counts of sexual assault and all manner of swindling. Why? Donald Trump promised to appoint a conservative to the supreme court. Evangelicals hope that will overturn Roe-v-Wade. Then it will be illegal to have an abortion no matter what stage the fetus, under any circumstances (e.g. rape, incest, expected death of the mother, child mother, non-viability of the fetus) and possibly even to ban birth control.

    They self-righteously think of this as preventing baby murder. Their religious beliefs befuddle them on the difference between a blastula, fetus and baby. They imagine a blastula has a soul, and a complex inner life comparable to a newborn. It does not. It has not developed a brain yet.

    It is just a variant on a blood cell. It is a potential human, just as a sperm cell is a potential human, but it has a long way to go before it has any of the attributes of a newborn baby. In the first month, it is smaller than a poppy seed. At 8 weeks, it looks like a tadpole.

    Radical evangelicals are willing to bomb abortion clinics, killing doctors, women, children and fetuses all over a tadpole. What nitwits!

    Evangelicals are trying to push their religious superstitions on others. It is effectively trying to force others to bow to their god. They don’t believe in religious freedom.



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  • Alan4: Peace is asking for a definition of a human being within the parameters of conception (the fertilized egg) along the continuum of development from zygote to embryo; from embryo through the simple to complex features of the fetus; from cells to globs of tissue to something that starts to look like a baby. In my view, clearly expressed in my comment, the “traditional” societal view that conception brought a human being into existence was a resounding “yes” in the past and abortion was largely banned. You link to criteria and regulations covering the 1967 Abortion Act – not laws strictly prohibiting most abortions -say- in 1927. Since 1960, a sea- change consensus has advanced that allows elective abortion at early stages of development on the nine-month spectrum. The state proclaims a compelling interest to protect the fetus in the late term because by then it has developed into a viable or possibly viable human baby. The state acting on a revolutionary legal, social and moral consensus emerging gradually over the last 60 years has permitted “safe and legal” abortions (legally-medically regulated) in the “earlier stages” = the first trimester. No one denies that this shift in norms regarding abortion has left the procedure free from controversy. The Catholic church defines “ensoulment” conferring full human being status at the moment of conception and brands abortion “murder.”

    Peace seems bewildered by the “Catholic” argument that judges the immediate products of conception to be a human being. The irrefutable logic of the position lies in the fact that the embryo-fetus is undeniably a living human organism albeit undeveloped and unborn. Today scientific descriptions of early fetal development have obviated claims that products of conception constitute a human being in any functional sense. The argument has shifted for the modern majority to when on the the continuum of development abortion should be permitted with the informed consent of the mother.

    Companion arguments of “why and how” law grants reproductive rights to women (the mother) rather than to the man (the father-sperm donor) or to the fetus are at once separate and related…and a crucial subject for another day.



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  • Melvin #22
    Oct 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    The irrefutable logic of the position lies in the fact that the embryo-fetus is undeniably a living human organism albeit undeveloped and unborn.

    This is simply self contradiction!
    “Logic” and “facts” are not simply labels to be stuck on to unevidenced assertions! Logic is a process of deduction or induction, and “facts” are established by evidence.
    As for “irrefutable” assertions which are devoid of evidence and logic, they simply require dismissal, not refutation!
    The (early stage) undeveloped and unborn, are not individual organisms!
    They are dependent clusters of cells incapable of independent living.

    http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Organism
    Organism
    An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis.



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  • Melvin #22
    Oct 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Companion arguments of “why and how” law grants reproductive rights to women (the mother) rather than to the man (the father-sperm donor) or to the fetus are at once separate and related…and a crucial subject for another day.

    I would suggest that the historical origins of the anti-abortion attitudes, are very likely to be derived from dominant male figures ensuring the birth of children they have fathered via the women they “owned” as wives, slaves, etc. as part of the workforce and power-base of their families, tribes, plantation businesses etc!



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  • As for “irrefutable” assertions which are devoid of evidence and logic, they simply require dismissal, not refutation!
    The (early stage) undeveloped and unborn, are not individual organisms!
    They are dependent clusters of cells incapable of independent living.

    Commendably, you are starting to put ‘abortion’ under descriptions that make sense to you and to contemporary social consensus with countervailing degrees of controversy. If Alan4 were socialized in a Christian western European culture a century ago, Alan4 would probably never entertain the “foul, evil propositions” you hereby proclaim. We humans start to talk differently about topics as we accept changing descriptions that coalesce with dynamic scientific, philosophical, moral, and social viewpoints that we believe advance our interests and purposes.

    A smart anti-abortion advocate would claim that you are “confusing” the early cellular products of conception with the right to kill an innocent organism (= living being) that will develop under normal circumstances into a human being. You are rationalizing the deliberate destruction of living human cells at an early stage of pregnancy to rid the mother of what would become a baby. Simply murder. To cement his argument he would demand to know how you and a pregnant woman would describe forced abortion in a case where the developing embryo-fetus was intimately cherished by the mother as “her” baby. The goo sucked out of her womb would be the same goo whether the abortion was elective or forced. The sensitive and incredibly complex judgements about human life cannot be solved by self-serving empirical assertions alone.



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  • Melvin #26
    Oct 26, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    If Alan4 were socialized in a Christian western European culture a century ago, Alan4 would probably never entertain the “foul, evil propositions” you hereby proclaim.

    A century+ ago western European culture had no idea about the early stages of foetal development, or early stage spontaneous abortions. It was only with the development of modern medicine, that the notions of homunculus were ditched! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus

    We humans start to talk differently about topics as we accept changing descriptions that coalesce with dynamic scientific, philosophical, moral, and social viewpoints that we believe advance our interests and purposes.

    Prior to the establishment of modern medical research, there was just biblical misinformation and know-it-all-ignorance! The only actual knowledge, was about later stage foetal development and miscarriages.

    A smart anti-abortion advocate would claim that you are “confusing” the early cellular products of conception with the right to kill an innocent organism (= living being) that will develop under normal circumstances into a human being.

    I am sure the assertive ignorant will make all sorts of weird asserted claims, using shifting semantics, emotive arguments, and fallacies of extension, but suggesting that such people are “smart” or “informed”, is laughable!
    I have yet to see a “smart fallacious argument”, or “smart circular thinking from delusional preconceptions”!

    The (allegedly) “pro-life” anti-abortion crowd, simply cherry pick half understood scraps of information from the modern medicine they reject, and mix them with their religious woo dogmas to pretend they have some substance and rational basis! Most of them are profoundly ignorant of even basic biology.

    Simply murder. To cement his argument he would demand to know how you and a pregnant woman would describe forced abortion in a case where the developing embryo-fetus was intimately cherished by the mother as “her” baby.

    Do you have any reports of such a weird hypothetical scenario ever actually happening?

    I suppose someone could equally well invent a situation where some doctor forcibly amputated the healthy leg of an unwilling patient, but that is hardly relevant any real medical issues!



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  • @Melvin #16

    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them.

    This phrase, however has me wondering:

    …the unformed products of conception…

    Unformed? What exactly does that mean?



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  • @Melvin #22

    I appreciate (again) your comments here. You seem to “get” me.

    But…

    Today scientific descriptions of early fetal development have obviated claims that products of conception constitute a human being in any functional sense.

    How is one to understand this statement when the term “human being” is so poorly and variously defined? Does a live fertilized human egg not function? Does a live human zygote not function? Does a live human fetus not function? These “products of [human] conception” function exactly as their internal, genetic programming instructs. They clearly exist (“be”), they are clearly alive, they are clearly human, and they can be observed to function as they “should” at each developmental stage, so in what sense are they not human beings”?



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  • @Phil #23

    Any pro-life argument, not about ensoulment or such, is based on the fallacy of division.

    Humanity…emerges.

    Hi Phil. Can you please explain what you mean by “the fallacy of division”? And in what sense does humanity emerge?



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  • Melvin: “…the unformed products of conception”

    Peace: “Unformed? What exactly does that mean?” By “unformed” I mean not yet constituted to a point where
    anyone could describe the entity coherently in relation to the functional properties necessary for minimum recognition of a holistic human being…(see below)

    Melvin: “…constitute a human being in any functional sense.

    Peace: “How is one to understand this statement when the term “human being” is so poorly and variously defined?” Your excellent question gets at the project we are all called to. The question invites us to offer as many various descriptions as we can think of and try to form tentative intersubjective agreements on how a human being functions in relation to its environment and other human beings, understanding that we will never arrive at intrinsic knowledge of what a human being “really is” apart from those descriptions. Many will avoid the exercise and simply default to “common sense.’ We know a human person when we see one. Others will apply descriptions from a religious point of view; some from a biological point of view, some from a neurological point of view; anatomical, cognitive, moral, evolved, created and on and on. Personally, I hope the beliefs we form from consensus will lead to striving for better and better practices that meet our needs, purposes and interests.

    William Shakespeare attempted to capture the majesty and wonder of the human being through Hamlet’s musing from a poetic point of view: What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?



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  • @Melvin #31

    By “unformed” I mean not yet constituted to a point where anyone could describe the entity coherently in relation to the functional properties necessary for minimum recognition of a holistic human being.

    Wow. That’s a lot of meaning to pack into a nonsense word. I would suggest “developing” as a word that fits better with your explanation of what you meant.

    What are “the functional properties necessary for minimum recognition of a holistic human being”? And why? And who determines these?

    And now I have to examine this idea of “a holistic human being”. Not only must we determine what is a human being, but now we must understand and recognize holism as well before we can know when in the development of a human organism it is worthy of legal protection?

    Could you please explain how or why holism is important in this context?



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  • PeacePecan #33
    Oct 27, 2016 at 7:19 am

    What are “the functional properties necessary for minimum recognition

    @#12 – I would define a human being as a human organism which is capable of living (breathing, feeding thinking), as an independent individual without a physical attachment to its mother.

    This is also the definition used by specialist medical bodies.

    What are “the functional properties necessary for minimum recognition of a holistic human being”? And why?

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/holism
    Definition of holism
    : a theory that the universe and especially living nature is correctly seen in terms of interacting wholes (as of living organisms) that are more than the mere sum of elementary particles

    The interactions of the parts of the entire independent organism. (linked @#24)

    And who determines these?

    In scientific medicine, it is determined by bodies of experts using research data on predicted outcomes, combined with ethical moral judgements of proportionately respecting the interests of the various parties involved.
    In backward countries and backward societies, anyone holding power can make up and enforce any laws they like, on any whimsical basis they like.

    Could you please explain how or why holism is important in this context?

    I think Phil did that with the link explaining the fallacy of division @#32. A few parts, incapable of independent function, is not a functional whole!



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  • PeacePecan #15
    Oct 25, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    Cloning experiments indicate that other cells can indeed give rise to viable offspring, so these claims to exclusivity are at best dubious.

    I have made no “claims to exclusivity”.

    But you are repeating claims from those who do!

    In order for “other cells” to “give rise to viable offspring”, something has to be added, some technological process has to be applied which effectively duplicates production of an “egg” and “fertilization”.

    It does in the specialised case of humans and primates, but in other mammals, reptiles, insects, corals, plants, etc. there are examples of cloning giving rise to new individuals

    We are still left with the same question about what a “human being” is and when “being-ness” occurs.

    The fallacy is in the vague term “being-ness” being presented as some defined property at some defined point in time!

    When does “egg-ness” become “chicken-ness”? or egg-ness become insect-ness? or egg-ness become frog-ness???

    The general view is that this is a chicken at hatching (or in the case of mammals, or at birth)!

    Medics give human foetuses a bit of leeway – back to capability for individual survival beyond birth, rather than actual survival.



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  • Peace: Wow. That’s a lot of meaning to pack into a nonsense word. I would suggest “developing” as a word that fits better with your explanation of what you meant.

    Bravo! You’re suggesting different descriptions by using words that are, in your view, more accurate. When I wrote the sentence it seemed wordy and inadequate that’s one reason why we need more input from you and other interested folks. Another reason is that no single description delimits “what a human being really is.”
    We need incessant inputs to round out our dynamic comprehension. (Every description should be considered but not every one will be accepted into a social (biological, medical, moral, religious) consensus. Some ways of talking about human beings will probably be worked out of the language; e.g. a human is a divinely created being injected with an immortal soul at the time of conception, beloved of God but tainted with the mortality of original sin, etc..

    Alan4: “I would define a human being as a human organism which is capable of living (breathing, feeding thinking), as an independent individual without a physical attachment to its mother.
    This is also the definition used by specialist medical bodies.”
    Bravo! This is an accurate description but not a complete one. The “medical” point of view could also apply to any mammal that reproduces sexually, gestates and gives live birth to its young (e.g. a dog or a cat). We need (and welcome) a lot more linguistic input -“talking about, writing about” on this one.



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  • Melvin #36
    Oct 27, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    This is an accurate description but not a complete one. The “medical” point of view could also apply to any mammal that reproduces sexually, gestates and gives live birth to its young (e.g. a dog or a cat). We need (and welcome) a lot more linguistic input -“talking about, writing about” on this one.

    Brain activity or “sentience”, could also be used as a criteria, but as my earlier link suggested, this would only make a marginal difference of a few days, in considering the stages of change, from human tissue to a whole organism. Viability in potential survival, still looks like the prime criteria.

    Once we move away from mammals there are new issues, where those who have only cherry-picked scraps of human biology, are utterly clueless about the range of sexual and reproductive possibilities.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis#Natural_occurrence

    As such, there are over 80 species of unisex reptiles (mostly lizards but including a single snake species), amphibians and fishes in nature for which males are no longer a part of the reproductive process.[32] A female will produce an ovum with a full set (two sets of genes) provided solely by the mother.

    Parthenogenesis is seen to occur naturally in aphids, Daphnia, rotifers, nematodes and some other invertebrates, as well as in many plants. Among vertebrates, strict parthenogenesis is only known to occur in lizards, snakes,[33] birds[34] and sharks,[35] with fish, amphibians and reptiles exhibiting various forms of gynogenesis and hybridogenesis (an incomplete form of parthenogenesis).[36] The first all-female (unisexual) reproduction in vertebrates was described in the fish Poecilia formosa in 1932.[37] Since then at least 50 species of unisexual vertebrate have been described, including at least 20 fish, 25 lizards, a single snake species, frogs, and salamanders.[36] Other, usually sexual, species may occasionally reproduce parthenogenetically and Komodo dragons; the hammerhead and blacktip sharks are recent additions to the known list of spontaneous parthenogenetic vertebrates.

    Anyone claiming offspring of these species “begin at fertilisation” is going to look very foolish!



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  • @ #35

    The fallacy is in the vague term “being-ness” being presented as some defined property at some defined point in time!

    By “being-ness”, I was referring to whatever it is that makes a being a being, which strikes me as an important part of the definition of human being. What you seem to be saying here is that being cannot (or should not) be defined.

    When does “egg-ness” become “chicken-ness”? or egg-ness become insect-ness? or egg-ness become frog-ness???

    Well, for all three of those, I suppose it could be at the moment the egg is changed from being an egg into a genetically unique individual organism of its species. That strikes me as a view that would be supported by scientific evidence. But it probably depends on how one defines “chicken being”, “insect being”, or “frog being”.

    The general view is that this is a chicken at hatching (or in the case of mammals, or at birth)!

    I would tend to agree that when chicken embryos hatch from their shells, they are chickens, and when mammals are born they are whatever mammal species they belong to, but I think there may be valid claims or views that they become those things (beings?) some time before those events occur.



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  • @ #37

    …the stages of change, from human tissue to a whole organism.

    You make a crucial mistake when you refer to the early stages in the development of a human organism as “tissue”. A fertilized egg is an organism. A zygote is an organism. A fetus is an organism. Every human animal, whether you refer to it as a being, a person, or whatever, is an organism from the moment it begins its own, individual development based on its own unique genetic blueprint, even if it is dependent on its environment, which may be a woman’s uterus or a test tube (or any other environment suitable for its development). It is an organism regardless of its developmental stage. I think you would do well to drop this mischaracterization from your standard repertoire. It is inaccurate and not helpful to productive discussion on the topic.



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  • @Phil #32

    From Wikipedia:

    A fallacy of division occurs when one reasons logically that something true for the whole must also be true of all or some of its parts. An example: The 2nd grade in Jefferson elementary eats a lot of ice cream.

    So, when one commits this fallacy in a pro-life argument, what is “the whole” and what is/are the part/s?



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  • Alan4: the stages of change, from human tissue to a whole organism.

    Peace: You make a crucial mistake when you refer to the early stages in the development of a human organism as “tissue”. A fertilized egg is an organism. A zygote is an organism. A fetus is an organism. Every human animal, whether you refer to it as a being, a person, or whatever, is an organism from the moment it begins its own, individual development

    You know, Alan4, I believe Peace has your number on this one. What is relevant to abortion is that the narrative has changed to where [some] societies and law permit the procedure when the organism lies within chronological parameters of defined primitive development. The need or desire of the pregnant woman for elective abortion have been given priority over the vegetable life of the fetus before the organism develops a functioning brain and nervous system. A major stumbling block in the discussion may come indirectly from focusing on later-term clinical abortions that conjure up bloody gruesome images. I suspect more and more abortions will be performed with pharmaceuticals within days or weeks of pregnancy. The minuscule products of conception will be passed in private and flushed down residential toilets. When education enhanced with social support motivate more and more women wishing to terminate an unwanted pregnancy to act promptly, clinical abortions will become far less invasive, disturbing and stigmatized. It is to be hoped that Peace will appreciate that the embryo or fetus is not a human being or person when removed at such an early primitive stage of development where neurological, sentient, of general functioning does not meet consensus descriptive criteria for “human or personhood” status. Repeating myself, the argument involves definitions, descriptions and narratives all the way down. We can never know what a human being exactly is nor should we care outside of understanding how a human being functions in terms of causes and affects available to our cognitive and linguistic powers.



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  • PeacePecan #39
    Oct 27, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    @ #37 – …the stages of change, from human tissue to a whole organism.

    You make a crucial mistake when you refer to the early stages in the development of a human organism as “tissue”. A fertilized egg is an organism. A zygote is an organism. A fetus is an organism.

    Nope! The mistake is all yours!
    Your contradiction of biological facts, and refusal to recognise the parts and properties of “an organism” which are missing from these stages in mammals, does nothing to support your claim.

    I provided and linked a clear definition of an “organism” @#24, so trying to redefine it to prop up a circular argument has no credibility.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/10/clintons-unapologetic-defense-of-abortion-rights/#li-comment-213243

    The early stages of development are human tissue, with no capability to live as independent organisms.

    No spontaneously aborted human fertilized egg or zygote has ever survived as an independent organism.



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  • Melvin #26
    Oct 26, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    This discussion is about USA and the West, so my earlier answer was in that context

    You are rationalizing the deliberate destruction of living human cells at an early stage of pregnancy to rid the mother of what would become a baby. Simply murder. To cement his argument he would demand to know how you and a pregnant woman would describe forced abortion in a case where the developing embryo-fetus was intimately cherished by the mother as “her” baby. The goo sucked out of her womb would be the same goo whether the abortion was elective or forced.

    Murder is “illegal killing” – so is related to law within human jurisdictions.

    However, forced abortions do happen, and have been happening, in China, as part of the one child policy and more recently the two child policy.
    These policies have raised millions out of poverty and starvation, by first bringing the population numbers under control and then stabilising them.
    This has involved radical action and suppression of theist counter forces which promote irresponsible breeding like rabbits to expand the numbers of deluded believers.
    These policies have been a resounding success in raising living standards and dealing with the dangerous human population explosion within that jurisdiction.
    The dictatorial nature of those governments have made mistakes and caused environmental problems, but they are decades ahead of the theocracies which are fuelling the highly destructive expasion of global human population numbers, and causing wars, suffering, poverty and starvation, through population pressure – on other continents.

    The sensitive and incredibly complex judgements about human life cannot be solved by self-serving empirical assertions alone.

    True of ASSERTIONS, but empirical evidence does not consist of ASSERTIONS, and is objective, – never “self-serving”.
    They certainly can’t be solved by asserted whimsical faith-thinking dogmas, in the absence of empirical evidence about projected outcomes.
    Single issue emotive arguments, almost invariably miss the big-picture.



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  • Melvin #41
    Oct 28, 2016 at 2:17 am
    A major stumbling block in the discussion may come indirectly from focusing on later-term clinical abortions that conjure up bloody gruesome images.

    You make very good points in this comment, and indeed propagandists do cherry pick emotive issues to pervert the issues.

    I suspect more and more abortions will be performed with pharmaceuticals within days or weeks of pregnancy.

    That is the modern way. It also has the advantage that medication ordered via the internet, can bypass theocratic obstructionism!

    We can never know what a human being exactly is nor should we care outside of understanding how a human being functions in terms of causes and affects available to our cognitive and linguistic powers.

    The developmental stages ALL have correct biological vocabulary defining them.
    It is only the confused semantics of those determined to use the fallacies of shifting meanings , who try to insist that there is one vernacular label (human being), which fits all stages of development, and therefore laws which apply to adults and children, can be applied to zygotes in order to obstruct medical procedures!



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  • Peace

    So, when one commits this fallacy in a pro-life argument, what is “the whole” and what is/are the part/s?

    Some here might say simply “the whole” is a sentient human. The parts are any tissues part assembled towards that end.

    The emergent yet still virgin capacity for suffering might be the Pete Singer start line of “whole”.

    An earlier line of mere physiological responsiveness might suit others.

    “The whole” is an entity with capacities. The parts are flesh and sinew, bone and brain matter.



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  • Hey,
    This is hilarious. I have a largely neutral position here, especially since I have no uterus. While it is true that i am pro-choice and a scientist, I guess my inherent bias is evident… but i simply do not care much about this much over hyped and over analyzed topic. I just do not care enough to have strong feelings….. But, Melvin, you are having your ass whipped.

    you are repeatedly running yourself into word mush and do not have any real anything to add to the clear and correct information you’ve been exposed to.

    Evidence is supposed to change beliefs not the other way around. If a dispassionate observer read through this (and i have) you SHOULD have had your belief changed by the facts. However, you throw words into sentences like “undeniable” “irrefutable” “holistic” …. Christ, it seems to go on ad nauseam…. These words actually mean something and are not simply sprinkled in to a sentence to give it more power or authority.

    For example, if your statement were “irrefutable” there would be complete consensus. Ready? Oranges exist; it is irrefutable. Ghosts exist; it is irrefutable. See, one is the appropriate use of the word and one is not. AND, more importantly, adding it to the second example only raises eyebrows, it does not make the assertion “more” true.

    now, just because you think you are right, the fact may be irrefutable in your mind, but see, your mind does not set the limits of our knowledge. And, when Alan4 clearly lays out our current knowledge, you bust out “holistic” and “unformed” and use your own personal definitions of these words.

    You have had a thorough ass whipping and your opinion should be changed (especially since I see how smart and seemingly un-indoctrinated you are)…. Let’s see just how deep your allegiance is to the fallacies and how plastic your neural network actually is.



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  • the parts and properties of “an organism” which are missing from these stages in mammals…

    Please enlighten us on what are the minimal “parts and properties” required to be considered an organism.

    No spontaneously aborted human fertilized egg or zygote has ever survived as an independent organism.

    No aquarium fish removed from the tank and placed on the floor has ever survived as an independent organism. Of course not, as it’s survival depends on a suitable environment. Would anyone claim that an aquarium fish is therefore not an organism?

    No human infant left in a dumpster or abandoned in the woods has ever survived as an independent organism. Of course not, as it’s survival depends on a suitable environment. Would anyone claim that a human infant is therefore not an organism?

    Independent organisms depend on suitable environments for survival.



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  • crooked shoes: ” I have a largely neutral position here, especially since I have no uterus. While it is true that i am pro-choice and a scientist, I guess my inherent bias is evident…” If you have a largely neutral position how can you also hold the pro choice position? If you are laying out evidence, the facts of the matter, that settle what beliefs we should adopt then how can “inherent bias” also play such a decisive role?

    Oranges exist; it is irrefutable. Ghosts exist; it is irrefutable. Speaking plainly is a virtue we aspire to, but the discussion here is not oranges and ghosts; it is about abortion, abortion (reproductive) rights, the human status of the fetus, what exactly is a human being and many other related topics.

    A pro-life anti-abortion advocate offers “evidence” that when a man fertilizes a woman’s egg, the fertilized egg becomes a living human organism. A procedure that removes the organism from the uterus necessarily kills the organism regardless of the defined stage of development. A pro-choice opponent can counter that miscarriages are commonplace so that deliberate abortion is “no different.” The pro-life advocate gets the last word within his frame of reference. If the pregnant woman and her fetus are reasonably healthy, the pregnancy will come to term, a human baby will be born and have access to precious life. The pro-life and pro-choice opponents privilege their respective arguments with “irrefutable” facts (perhaps “undeniable, decisive, conclusive” are better synonyms).

    I recommend prioritizing a woman’s unobstructed right to choose abortion during the first trimester legally and preferably later – up to a certain stage in the nine-month pregnancy. I’m uneasy about later[er] term abortions as the fetus approaches viability except in cases where the mother’s health is endangered or the fetus is defective. I believe that the earlier an elective abortion is performed, the less likely we (society) are to care about arguing questions of the human status of the undeveloped fetus. The question was once (and still remains among mostly devout believers) important. Today with the emergence of a new consensus, the majority in western European culture have to a great extent worked such arguments out of their parlance not because of the “facts of the matter” but because of predominate new scientific and moral language they use for a new “relevant” and useful way of talking about abortion.



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  • PeacePecan #48
    Oct 28, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    the parts and properties of “an organism” which are missing from these stages in mammals…

    Please enlighten us on what are the minimal “parts and properties” required to be considered an organism.

    You really should be able to look this stuff up for yourself in basic textbooks!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organism

    In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system, such as an animal, plant, fungus, archaeon, or bacterium. All known types of organisms are capable of some degree of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development and homeostasis. An organism consists of one or more cells; when it has one cell it is known as a unicellular organism; and when it has more than one it is known as a multicellular organism. Most unicellular organisms are of microscopic size and are thus classified as microorganisms. Humans are multicellular organisms composed of many trillions of cells grouped into specialized tissues and organs.

    .. . . and to be a whole multicellular living organism, these parts which are specialised organs, must present, functional, and supporting its regulated metabolism.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Category_mistake

    A category mistake (or category error) is a logical fallacy that occurs when a speaker (knowingly or not) confuses the properties of the whole with the properties of a part. It contains the fallacy of the fallacy of division (assuming the part has the properties of the whole).

    These arguments are fallacious in part due to the existence of emergent phenomena – that higher order properties may just “emerge” from the fact there many individual components working together.

    Phil has already pointed out and explained “the fallacy of division!

    No spontaneously aborted human fertilized egg or zygote has ever survived as an independent organism.

    No aquarium fish removed from the tank and placed on the floor has ever survived as an independent organism.

    You really are pushing these forced analogies beyond their limits.
    Any compatible fresh or salt water anywhere on Earth, as a fish environment, is not a comparable “environment” with a specific living womb and placenta!

    Of course not, as it’s survival depends on a suitable environment.

    You can’t simply redefine the reproductive organs of a mother as “an environment” as a question begging semantic shuffle!



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  • Melvin #49
    Oct 28, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    A pro-life anti-abortion advocate offers “evidence” that when a man fertilizes a woman’s egg, the fertilized egg becomes a living human organism.

    No such “evidence” exists, – if we are talking English and using normal biological definitions of words!
    That is merely a flawed assertion, so any subsequent arguments built on it, are of no merit and no substance!

    A fertilised egg or zygote is not an independent organism with the biological properties of an organism! – END OF scientific argument!

    If those who don’t know what an organism is, wish to keep churning confused and misused semantics and fallacies, that is of no relevance to real world understandings of issues.



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  • PeacePecan #48
    Oct 28, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    No human infant left in a dumpster or abandoned in the woods has ever survived as an independent organism.

    Of course a rescued human infant fed by a family would survive as an independent organism!
    It has all the properties of an independent organism! (For a start it is not attached to another organism.)

    If you do not know what an organism is, look it up.

    #50 would be a good place to start. You could also look up the words describing the properties of a living organism, if you do not understand them.



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  • @ Melvin; PP

    I think it should be noted that Alan is responding to you from a completely scientific, necessarily dispassionate point of view. Both of you it seems are letting your human emotion color your rhetoric (not surprising given the topic). Melvin using certain words as crooked pointed out, or emotional metaphors such as PP’s dumpster scenario. Now we can have opinions about the elements presented in these scenarios, but they are just that: opinions, not fact. I think he is just pointing out the scientific facts. I have a feeling we’re all on relatively the same side of this topic but choose to banter about it in different ways.



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  • @Phil #46

    “The whole” is an entity with capacities. The parts are flesh and sinew, bone and brain matter.

    So, in your view, what is a fertilized egg, a blastocyst, a zygote, or a fetus, a part of? Why are they not considered wholes or, in your words, entities with their own capacities? It seems to me that they qualify.



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  • Peace,

    fertilized egg, a blastocyst, a zygote…. entities with their own capacities

    I said capacities not potentials. A capacity marks the beginnings of agency and/or sentience. I gave examples.

    So, in your view, what is a fertilized egg, a blastocyst, a zygote, or a fetus, a part of?

    Potentially a human, once sufficient nutrients have gone in and been organised without error.



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  • PeacePecan #54
    Oct 28, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    So, in your view, what is a fertilized egg, a blastocyst, a zygote, or a fetus, a part of?

    A fertilised egg is a whole egg. A blastocyst is a whole blastocyst.
    A zygote is a whole zygote. An embryo is a whole embryo.
    A blood cell is a whole blood cell. A finger is a whole finger.
    An eye is a whole eye. A leg is a whole leg.
    None of these is a whole human or a whole organism!

    Why are they not considered wholes or, in your words, entities with their own capacities?

    They don’t have the capacities of a human person!
    They are only parts made of human tissue, and do not work as an organism until combined with all the necessary other parts.
    In early development stages, the other parts are absent, undeveloped, or dysfunctional.

    It seems to me that they qualify.

    As what?
    You really seem to be struggling with basic biology and basic logic.



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  • @ #50

    .. . . and to be a whole multicellular living organism, these parts which are specialised organs, must present, functional, and supporting its regulated metabolism.

    You are either unaware, have forgotten, or are in denial that there is a stage in the life-span of every human animal (maybe every animal, I’m not sure, but perhaps you know) when the animal consists of a single cell. At this stage, which is extremely short, the animal would be considered a unicellular organism, a contiguous living system, capable of some degree of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development and homeostasis. Once division occurs, then it would be considered multi-cellular. Of course, you will cite the definition you posted, which refers to humans as multi-cellular organisms, but do you seriously think that any biologist worth his/her salt would claim that human animals do not go through a single-cell stage before they become multicellular?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_embryogenesis

    Human embryogenesis is the process of cell division and cellular differentiation of the embryo that occurs during the early stages of development. In biological terms, human development entails growth from a one celled zygote to an adult human being. Fertilisation occurs when the sperm cell successfully enters and fuses with an egg cell (ovum). The genetic material of the sperm and egg then combine to form a single cell called a zygote and the germinal stage of prenatal development commences.

    At every stage of development, humans are whole organisms, whether that whole is a single cell or a mature adult. To think otherwise makes no sense. There’s nothing in the biological definition of organism that requires a certain level of development.

    Any compatible fresh or salt water anywhere on Earth, as a fish environment, is not a comparable “environment” with a specific living womb and placenta!

    Why not? Fish swimming about in their various bodies of water (my analogy actually involved an aquarium, but a bowl, or a lake, or an ocean will do just as well) actually are living (generally) in their suitable environments. Are humans developing in their various wombs not living (generally) in their suitable environments?

    You can’t simply redefine the reproductive organs of a mother as “an environment”…

    There’s no redefinition involved. No sane, knowledgeable person would suggest that a uterus is not an environment. That would be ridiculous.



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  • @Steven007 #53

    …or emotional metaphors such as PP’s dumpster scenario.

    The “metaphor” wasn’t intended to stir emotion, but I understand how it might. It struck me as representative of a real-life scenario. That’s the only reason I used it.

    Again, I appreciate your comments.



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  • Peace

    If it’s not a human, then what species does it belong to?

    The adjective human is applied to parts, classifications and artefacts as well as whole humans, or, as we should perhaps more clearly call them, Human Beings. These particular beings have the intermittent capacities for sentience and suffering.

    Humanity….emerges.



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  • @ #56

    A fertilised egg is a whole egg. A blastocyst is a whole blastocyst.
    A zygote is a whole zygote. An embryo is a whole embryo.
    A blood cell is a whole blood cell. A finger is a whole finger.
    An eye is a whole eye. A leg is a whole leg.
    None of these is a whole human or a whole organism!

    Clearly, you missed the point of my question (to Phil), but thank you for confirming that a fertilized egg, a blastocyst, a zygote, and an embryo are actually wholes of what they are. But, I hope you can see that you are being disingenuous when you refer to any of these things without including the word human. All of these things we are discussing here are early stages in the lifespan (life-cycle, life-time, whatever you wish to call it) of a human organism. (And, lest you misconstrue me, I agree with you and everyone else here that blood cells, fingers, eyes and legs are parts of and not whole organisms.)

    They don’t have the capacities of a human person!

    Who said anything about “a human person”? We’re not discussing personhood. First we’re trying to get to agreement on what a human organism is, then perhaps we’ll re-visit what a human being is (though I think Melvin dealt with that term to my satisfaction). Personhood is another fairly vague term, but I’d rather not further complicate things at this point. These terms are not (necessarily) interchangeable, and it’s really unhelpful when the correct words aren’t used.

    They are only parts made of human tissue,

    But you just said, above, that they are wholes. (You might want to go back and read that.)
    (And I thought we had already dealt with the “tissue” issue.)

    and do not work as an organism until combined with all the necessary other parts.

    What “necessary other parts” does a zygote need to combine with in order to work? What “necessary other parts” does a blastocyst need to combine with in order to work? What “necessary other parts” does an embryo need to combine with in order to work? All of these do what they do with what they’ve got as what they are, which are stages in the life of a developing, changing, growing organism.

    As what?

    (Please go back and read my question to Phil.) As “wholes”, which you have handily confirmed for me above.

    You really seem to be struggling with basic biology and basic logic.

    I’ll admit that I do struggle sometimes with logic, but I think I understand the biology well enough to engage in this discussion with you and challenge some of your statements.



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  • PeacePecan #57
    Oct 28, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    @ #50
    . . . and to be a whole multicellular living organism, these parts which are specialised organs, must {be}present, functional, and supporting its regulated metabolism.

    You are either unaware, have forgotten, or are in denial that there is a stage in the life-span of every human animal (maybe every animal, I’m not sure, but perhaps you know) when the animal consists of a single cell.

    I know about the progress of the single cell and its early division!
    I posted the description on my Medline link -way back @#19 in this discussion.

    At this stage, which is extremely short, the animal would be considered a unicellular organism, a contiguous living system, capable of some degree of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development and homeostasis.

    No it wouldn’t! – Just as a blood cell would not be considered unicellular organism!
    That’s why I list those properties and suggested you looked them up if you don’t know what the words mean.

    Once division occurs, then it would be considered multi-cellular. Of course, you will cite the definition you posted, which refers to humans as multi-cellular organisms, but do you seriously think that any biologist worth his/her salt would claim that human animals do not go through a single-cell stage before they become multicellular?

    This particular biologist posted a link to Medline which explained this transition from single cell to multicellular blastocyst @#19!

    wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_embryogenesis

    Human embryogenesis is the process of cell division and cellular differentiation of the embryo that occurs during the early stages of development. In biological terms, human development entails growth from a one celled zygote to an adult human being. Fertilisation occurs when the sperm cell successfully enters and fuses with an egg cell (ovum). The genetic material of the sperm and egg then combine to form a single cell called a zygote and the germinal stage of prenatal development commences.

    This repeats what I linked @#19 – You did read the #19 link didn’t you???

    At every stage of development, humans are whole organisms, whether that whole is a single cell or a mature adult.

    Nonsense!!!
    You can repeatedly reassert this as many times as you like (despite several explanations of biology and fallacies, from Phil and myself), but it will still be nonsense!

    To think otherwise makes no sense.

    It may continue to make no sense to you, until you understand the medical/biological terminology and the underlying processes.

    There’s nothing in the biological definition of organism that requires a certain level of development.

    Yes there is! I have listed and linked the required properties and capabilities of living organisms in several comments and links, – even highlighting some of them.
    You can confirm these in any basic biology textbook.

    There’s no redefinition involved. No sane, knowledgeable person would suggest that a uterus is not an environment. That would be ridiculous.

    The analogy is forced because “just any environment” is not a uterus, and adult fish do not live in a uterus.

    In doing so you have now repeated your illogical use of the fallacy of category error, with the reverse of your earlier use of the fallacy of division.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Category_mistake

    A category mistake (or category error) is a logical fallacy that occurs when a speaker (knowingly or not) confuses the properties of the whole with the properties of a part. It contains the fallacy of composition (assuming the whole has the properties of the part) and the fallacy of division (assuming the part has the properties of the whole).

    General environments do not have the properties of a uterus!
    Nor does a uterus have the properties of a general environment.

    The life-support connection between a dependent embryo and the mother is very specific in placental mammals.



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  • PeacePecan #61
    Oct 28, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    but thank you for confirming that a fertilized egg, a blastocyst, a zygote, and an embryo are actually wholes of what they are.

    They are only parts made of human tissue,

    But you just said, above, that they are wholes.

    It really IS very simple!
    Whole PARTS are not whole ORGANISMS! . . and parts which have not yet grown, are missing!



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  • @Phil #60

    Humanity… emerges.

    This is the second time you’ve written this (yes, I did notice it before, but I got distracted by “other things” and lost track of it). I’m having difficulty here processing your use of the word “humanity” in the context of a discussion about “human” beings, “human” organisms, and “human” what-have-you, where the adjective is intended to denote species, genetically (at least that’s what I thought). I thought you might mean to say something more like “human-ness”, but now I’m not sure. Humanity, which in common usage is synonymous with “humane-ness” or benevolence, doesn’t seem to fit in this discussion. Can you please clear this up for me?



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  • No such “evidence” exists, – if we are talking English and using normal biological definitions of words!
    That is merely a flawed assertion, so any subsequent arguments built on it, are of no merit and no substance!
    A fertilised egg or zygote is not an independent organism with the biological properties of an organism! – END OF scientific argument! If those who don’t know what an organism is, wish to keep churning confused and misused semantics and fallacies, that is of no relevance to real world understandings of issues.

    Some years ago, an anti-abortion advocate wrote in a magazine (I’m paraphrasing): It is a biological fact that a fertilized egg is a living human organism.” He was speaking English and using a normal biological definition in the sense that the fertilized egg is composed of human DNA. Beyond the stage of embryo at about 10 weeks the fertilized egg will develop into a human fetus with human tissue, human organs, human skeletal structure and incipient brain and nervous system. Obviously he is putting “fertilized egg” under a different scientific description from you in relation to the practice of abortion. Substantively he and you are presenting different narratives or non-fiction “stories” about the fertilized egg attached to the wall of the woman’s uterus. You may observe “empirically” that it is a glob of cells or tissue and nothing like a human organism. He may counter with the observation that “globs” could not develop into something that appears human within 10 to 14 weeks if the underlying material were not in a practical sense “human.” And now we get to the “experiments” that prove either case -and here is where the fur starts to fly. Let’s just suck the goo out of the uterus at 5 weeks and look at it. See! It’s just goo. No, let’s wait 32 to 36 weeks allowing for natural human development and adore the baby that pops out. Neither one of you is going to settle the matter “scientifically” because gestation is a process that takes place on a continuum. The matter is really settled by the mother who either decides to bring the baby to term or terminate the pregnancy by abortion under specified conditions of early stage development (usually the first trimester). The current, very recent consensus has deferred to the woman’s choice. The fertilized egg “is” goo or it “is” a deeply loved baby-child depending on her point of view.



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  • @ #63

    Whole PARTS are not whole ORGANISMS! . . and parts which have not yet grown, are missing!

    As I said earlier, it is quite clear to me that blood cells, fingers, eyes, and legs are parts. Please explain to me in what sense is a zygote, a blastocyst, or an embryo a part? What are they parts of?



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  • PeacePecan #66
    Oct 28, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Please explain to me in what sense is a zygote, a blastocyst, or an embryo a part? What are they parts of?

    They are the parts (cells and clumps of cells) being assembled to later form an organism and its specialist organs.



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  • Melvin #65
    Oct 28, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Some years ago, an anti-abortion advocate wrote in a magazine (I’m paraphrasing): It is a biological fact that a fertilized egg is a living human organism.

    Some years ago a Young Earth creationist wrote in a magazine : It is a scientific fact that the Earth is 6,000 years old! – What’s new???

    Woo-heads and pseudo-scientists make up their asserted “facts” as they go along!

    He was speaking English and using a normal biological definition in the sense that the fertilized egg is composed of human DNA.

    There is no such biological definition of “organism”. (see previous links)

    is composed of (or to be more accurate – contains) human DNA.

    That is the definition of a cell – any cell! blood cells, bone cells, skin cells, muscle cells, – all of which lack some of the properties of an organism!



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  • @ #67

    I don’t think that is what Phil was getting at, at least not precisely. I wasn’t so concerned with the “emerges” part. The question I had for Phil was regarding the use of the word “humanity” in this context. I’m sure Phil is quite capable of explaining himself.



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  • @ #69

    That is the definition of a cell – any cell! blood cells, bone cells, skin cells, muscle cells, – all of which lack some of the properties of an organism!

    Did you forget about unicellular organisms? Surely they have the properties of an organism.

    What is it about a fertilized egg that disqualifies it as a unicellular organism, for those few moments following fertilization, before it becomes multicellular?



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  • 73
    Cairsley says:

    To PeacePecan #72 et ante

    Humanity … emerges.

    This succinct statement of Phil Rimmer’s captures the idea of a process that occurs over a length of time, whereby a human individual comes into being. Whatever may be the characters and capabilities of a fully developed human being, these do not all appear at once. Hence in legal matters, such as relate to unwanted or otherwise problematic pregnancies, the need arises for decisions to be made to define the point in that process where it would be unacceptable to terminate the conceptus. Such decisions are based on what we as a society regard as necessary for an individual entity to be classified as a human being entitled to the protection of the law. Disputes over such decisions may lead some to think that there is something in nature called humanity or human nature, or that the term ‘humanity’ or ‘human nature’ refers to something that exists in nature. Or you may still be under the influence of older philosophical traditions that posited the existence of essences in an attempt to explain how things in the world differ from each other. In human reproduction (as in that of most (?) multicellular species) what occurs in nature is a process of gametes fusing and zygotes developing in a process that ends in death, but in the case of many (perhaps most), not before such developed individuals participate in activity that repeats the process of fusing gametes and producing zygotes, all in accordance with the instructions coded for in the DNA present in each cell. I trust you are not looking for the essence of humanity, what makes a human being human; but, if you are, you will sooner be milking the cows when they come home.

    Unicellular and multicellular organisms

    Yes, there are unicellular organisms, plenty of them, as this Wikipedia article indicates:
    Unicellular organism.

    In a multicellular organism the cells differentiate into various kinds, depending on the function that they have within the organism. Skin cells, bone cells, blood cells and so on play their part in the different parts of the organism and are therefore themselves readily thought of as being parts or parts of parts of the organism. Hence, in a discussion about cells of multicellular organisms, it is inappropriate and misleading to refer to unicellular organisms, in which no such complementary differentiation of cells occurs.



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  • (Moderator: Please remove my “It’s fulfilling to understand” comment above. Yours truly, Melvin)

    Peace: “Please explain to me in what sense is a zygote, a blastocyst, or an embryo a part? What are they parts of?

    Alan4: They are the parts (cells and clumps of cells) being assembled to later form an organism and its specialist organs.

    At what point in time on the continuum of gestation does the “assembling process” end and the “forming process” begin? At what point in time on the “later” continuum of gestation does the “forming process” produce a (human) organism and its specialist organs. Here is some “scientific” food for thought, or at least pertinent information on gestation up to the the 14th week:

    Week 5 is the start of the “embryonic period.” This is when all the baby’s major systems and structures develop. The embryo’s cells multiply and start to take on specific functions. This is called differentiation.
    Blood cells, kidney cells, and nerve cells all develop.
    The embryo grows rapidly, and the baby’s external features begin to form.
    Your baby’s brain, spinal cord, and heart begin to develop.
    Baby’s gastrointestinal tract starts to form.
    It is during this time in the first trimester that the baby is most at risk for damage from things that may cause birth defects. This includes certain medicines, illegal drug use, heavy alcohol use, infections such as rubella, and other factors.

    Weeks 6 to 7
    Arm and leg buds start to grow.
    our baby’s brain forms into 5 different areas. Some cranial nerves are visible.
    Eyes and ears begin to form.
    Tissue grows that will become your baby’s spine and other bones.
    Baby’s heart continues to grow and now beats at a regular rhythm.
    Blood pumps through the main vessels.

    Week 8

    Baby’s arms and legs have grown longer.
    Hands and feet begin to form and look like little paddles.
    our baby’s brain continues to grow.
    The lungs start to form.

    Week 9

    Nipples and hair follicles form.
    Arms grow and elbows develop.
    Baby’s toes can be seen.
    All baby’s essential organs have begun to grow.

    Week 10
    Your baby’s eyelids are more developed and begin to close.
    The outer ears begin to take shape.
    Baby’s facial features become more distinct.
    The intestines rotate.
    At the end of the 10th week of pregnancy, your baby is no longer an embryo. It is now a fetus, the stage of development up until birth.

    Weeks 11 to 14
    Your baby’s eyelids close and will not reopen until about the 28th week.
    Baby’s face is well-formed.
    Limbs are long and thin.
    Nails appear on the fingers and toes.
    Genitals appear.
    Baby’s liver is making red blood cells.
    The head is very large — about half of baby’s size.
    Your little one can now make a fist.
    Tooth buds appear for the baby teeth.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002398.htm

    By carefully following the continuous stages of gestation you will probably conclude that reasonable people are going to make different judgements about the definition of what constitutes a human organism. Holistically, I prefer to call the fertilized egg or blastocyst that embeds in the wall of the uterus a human organism for reasons given. I’m not disturbed by different people conferring the label at different points on the continuum -5 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks. Readers should appreciate that we are talking about elective abortion and forming at the least a legal consensus about the window on the continuum when we defer to the decision of the pregnant woman to proceed and when the state has a compelling interest in preserving the life of the unborn (exceptions noted). Abortion necessarily kills a human organism. We can’t get around that. If you believe it is an exact science and try to play the arbiter of Absolute Truth you’re going to need buckets to catch the shit thrown at you.



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  • Melvin #75
    Oct 29, 2016 at 3:01 am

    At what point in time on the continuum of gestation does the “assembling process” end and the “forming process” begin?

    This is a false dichotomy. No such point exists.
    As Phil and I, and now Cairsley have explained, the processes are combined in a process of EMERGING PROPERTIES over an extended time period.

    Abortion necessarily kills a human organism.

    This is just another wrong false assertion which again, fails to recognise the emergent properties and previously listed, characteristics required to be present in a living organism.

    As has been repeatedly pointed out the refusal to understand or recognise these criteria, simply indicates the ignorance and denial of the poster!

    We can’t get around that.

    Apparently some people can’t get their heads around that!

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_nauseam

    An Argumentum ad nauseam (also known as an Argument by repetition) is the logical fallacy that something becomes true if it is repeated often enough.

    If you believe it is an exact science

    Definition or scientific terms , is an exact science!

    and try to play the arbiter of Absolute Truth you’re going to need buckets to catch the shit thrown at you.

    If you think that repetitive shit-throwing while sitting in denial, is a rational argument, you know nothing about science or reasoning.

    Holistically, I prefer to call the fertilized egg or blastocyst that embeds in the wall of the uterus a human organism

    If you prefer to use wrong terminology, that does nothing to make a case.

    Someone could holistically, prefer to call the fertilized egg or blastocyst, a space shuttle, but that would be equally irrelevant!

    for reasons given.

    Those details are not reasons for ignoring objectively recognised properties of living organisms, or denying the established unambiguous scientific definitions.

    Here is some “scientific” food for thought, or at least pertinent information on gestation up to the the 14th week:

    This is merely repetition of the information on my Medline link @#19!



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  • My thanks to Cairsley (and Alan) for nailing “Humanity…emerges”.

    I wanted an aphorism of great simplicity. By humanity, I intended all those Cherishable Capacities of our nature.

    The capacity for suffering, pain introspected upon, from which some of our noblest senitments of compassion emerges, itself appears to emerge quite late on in development, from the inchoate tangle of a still forming brain, its missing parts fabricated from those umbilically fed building materials.

    As we see from embryonic development, the sequence of evolution tends to be replayed (because the engineering sequence contrived by evolving DNA must build on earlier platforms.) The six layer inferential stack of the cortex, potentially allowing introspective sensibilities, appears at 30 weeks after a rapid burst of brain growth starting from 26 weeks. At 23weeks the fetal brain is 30% of birth weight (8% of adult weight).



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  • Melvin #73
    Oct 29, 2016 at 12:39 am

    Why does woo-headed humanity, ever challenge the incarnation of Ultimate Scientific Authority.

    Delusion, ignorance and denial!

    Oh! perverse beings, soak in the enlightenment of far-reaching analogies that put an end to discussion, and let the Supreme Wisdom redeem your ignorance,

    In science, when an argument is shown to lack supporting evidence or flies in the face of the evidence, or fails to meet basic criteria, is fallacious, and is logically flawed, it is recognised as refuted and is discarded.

    END OF ARGUMENT – AMEN.



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  • PeacePecan #72
    Oct 28, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    @ #69 That is the definition of a cell – any cell! blood cells, bone cells, skin cells, muscle cells, – all of which lack some of the properties of an organism!

    Did you forget about unicellular organisms? Surely they have the properties of an organism.

    Unicellular organisms have the properties of an organism, but as has been pointed out repeatedly and explained in the comment to which you are replying, cells supported within multicellular organisms (such as fertilised eggs), are NOT unicellular organisms, but are cells without the full set of properties required for independent life as a separate organism.

    What is it about a fertilized egg that disqualifies it as a unicellular organism, for those few moments following fertilization, before it becomes multicellular?

    A lack of required properties:-

    @#18 – capability for healthy independent survival.
    @#24 (organisism) An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis.

    @#42 – I provided and linked a clear definition of an “organism” @#24, so trying to redefine it to prop up a circular argument has no credibility.
    The early stages of development are human tissue, with no capability to live as independent organisms.
    No spontaneously aborted human fertilized egg or zygote has ever survived as an independent organism.

    @#46 – “The whole” is an entity with capacities. The parts are flesh and sinew, bone and brain matter.

    @#50 + link – All known types of organisms are capable of some degree of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development and homeostasis.

    @#12 breathing, feeding thinking. (as criteria for human organisms)

    I suggest you re-read the information already provided, and as I previously suggested, look up the definitions of any terms you do not understand.



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  • PeacePecan #70
    Oct 28, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    @ #68 – They are the parts (cells and clumps of cells) being assembled to later form an organism and its specialist organs.

    Being assembled by what?

    Being assembled by their DNA switching genes on and off at different times and stages, while dependently interacting with the mother’s hormones, body chemistry, and the placenta.



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  • bonnie

    a maternal unit.

    The maternal unit’s humanity ensures this is where the harms most happen with abortion in this second trimester. Tests show a raised oxytocin level in the unit and bonding occurring from this time.

    Our society’s increased enthusiasm to count our chickens before they are, adds pressure to this. The support for women who choose late termination due to medical concerns is utterly paramount.

    Would that all abortions could be morning after pills, but they can’t. Would that pro-lifers stop multiplying up the real misery.



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  • Melvin #41
    Oct 28, 2016 at 2:17 am

    A major stumbling block in the discussion may come indirectly from focusing on later-term clinical abortions that conjure up bloody gruesome images.

    You make very good points in this comment, and indeed propagandists do cherry pick emotive issues to pervert the issues.

    I suspect more and more abortions will be performed with pharmaceuticals within days or weeks of pregnancy.

    That is the modern way. It also has the advantage that medication ordered via the internet, can bypass theocratic obstructionism!

    However, theocracies can be very determined!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-37789341

    A woman was reported to police in Northern Ireland and charged in connection with using abortion pills after she sought medical help, the BBC has learnt.
    The purchase and use of abortion pills is illegal throughout the UK.

    However, there is particular concern about their availability in Northern Ireland.

    This is because a termination is only allowed where a woman’s life or long-term health is put at serious risk.

    There are now warnings that women are putting their health at risk by taking abortion pills bought online.

    The drugs cause blood loss and some people are likely to need treatment if they use them.

    Women in England, Scotland and Wales are allowed to have an abortion within the first 24 weeks of their pregnancy if it is carried out in a hospital or a licensed clinic.

    In recent months campaigners have staged a series of stunts – including swallowing abortion pills in front of the police – as part of their attempts to challenge the stricter laws in Northern Ireland.

    “It’s a class issue now,” said Courtney Robinson of Socialist Youth NI, who spoke to me at a protest outside Newry.

    “Those who can afford it are travelling to England and having an abortion there privately.

    “And those who can’t afford it are here to either be in a dangerous situation or to get these pills online and face criminalisation.”

    There are fears that many who order pharmaceuticals online cannot be sure what they will receive.

    BBC News NI looked at numerous websites that advertise abortion pills and offer to deliver them to UK addresses.

    The Department of Health in Northern Ireland issued guidelines earlier this year stating that medical staff had a legal responsibility to give the police information to secure “the apprehension, prosecution, or conviction” of anyone involved in an illegal termination.

    That duty to make a report to police is contained in the Criminal Law Act (NI) 1967.

    However the guidance from Stormont goes on to say that all staff’s first duty is the care of the woman and that health professionals do not need to pass on information “if they have a reasonable excuse for not doing so”.

    It has been described by some as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” clause.



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  • @Melvin #74

    By carefully following the continuous stages of gestation you will probably conclude that reasonable people are going to make different judgements about the definition of what constitutes a human organism.

    Actually, this illustrates one of my frustrations in discussions such as this: based on the definition of organism, I can’t understand how any reasonable person with a good working knowledge of biology could fail to conclude that this living, changing, growing “thing” we are discussing is a human organism. I have no problem with rejecting it as a “human being” prior to some variously defined set of criteria, before certain properties emerge, as that term is not so much a biological one as a philosophical, social, legal one. I wish we could all be more careful in the use of these terms – as well as ” person” – as they are not interchangeable and cause lots of problems when misused in discussions.

    Holistically, I prefer to call the fertilized egg or blastocyst that embeds in the wall of the uterus a human organism for reasons given.

    Holistically or not, I think your preference is well supported by the definition and the biological facts.

    I’m not disturbed by different people conferring the label at different points on the continuum -5 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks.

    If you were referring to the “being” label, I wouldn’t disagree. However, it seems you are referring to the “organism” label, so I wouldn’t agree. The organism label may be reasonably applied at t = 0.

    Readers should appreciate that we are talking about elective abortion and forming at the least a legal consensus about the window on the continuum when we defer to the decision of the pregnant woman to proceed and when the state has a compelling interest in preserving the life of the unborn (exceptions noted).

    This reader appreciates that.

    Abortion necessarily kills a human organism. We can’t get around that.

    Agreed. But abortion does not necessarily (and should not) kill a human “being” (exceptions noted).

    If you believe it is an exact science and try to play the arbiter of Absolute Truth you’re going to need buckets to catch the shit thrown at you.

    There’s really no need to catch it.



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  • PeacePecan #83
    Oct 29, 2016 at 9:05 am

    I can’t understand how any reasonable person with a good working knowledge of biology could fail to conclude that this living, changing, growing “thing” we are discussing is a human organism.

    It seems the scientists present, have wasted their time explaining to you the fallacies which have been produced in support of this mistaken preconception, and what biologically constitutes the properties of “a living organism”, as distinct from examples of living tissue!



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  • Alan4: In science, when an argument is shown to lack supporting evidence or flies in the face of the evidence, or fails to meet basic criteria, is fallacious, and is logically flawed, it is recognised as refuted and is discarded.
    END OF ARGUMENT – AMEN.

    Sorry you read my snarky comment before the moderator removed it at my request. In any event the reader must ask the question whether something called “science” can talk about anything or if only people who practice scientific disciplines can talk about scientific findings. Only human beings, including scientists, or interested people who look up scientific articles on the internet, can put objects or processes under a description or a narrative. Scientist believe that their interpretations, the way they talk about their findings constitute a tentatively accurate picture of how phenomena work. The scientific ethic demands that further research must always be done and that we humans no matter how clever will never arrive at the Absolute Truth.

    Scientists can help guide our point of view generating consensus beliefs about accurate descriptions of the natural causes and effects of phenomena. Flat Earth adherents to the contrary, simple empirical topics generate little controversy. Consensus breaks down in cases where scientists and other stakeholders start talking about controversial subjects, in this case, human beings and how they should be treated. “The human organism – not human organism” debate about embryonic and fetal development cannot appeal to unanimous intersubjective agreement among scientists, “experts,” and lay people alike. There is no single authority because both sides can make cases that seem reasonable and persuasive to their constituencies.

    I get a sense that Alan4 is deathly afraid that if some of us believe the products of consumption constitute a “human organism” throughout pregnancy, then we are threatening a woman’s right to abortion. (We are giving ammunition to the “other” side.) I believe that abortion kills a human organism. “Killing a human organism” is “abortion” under a different description. I believe Alan4’s vehement “scientific” denial of this flies in the face of common sense. That is his right. Far worse, however, is attributing the way one talks about a complex, vitally important personal topic to represent Absolute Authority under the pretense of speaking Absolute Truth (there is no such thing) and therein finding justification for dismissing “mere opinions” with epithets that effectively shuts down dissent.



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  • Melvin #87
    Oct 29, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    “The human organism – not human organism” debate about embryonic and fetal development cannot appeal to unanimous intersubjective agreement among scientists, “experts,” and lay people alike.

    Some issues in science are so basic and confirmed so many thousands of times that to suggest that some amateur can redefine them with any credibility is laughable!

    There is no single authority because both sides can make cases that seem reasonable and persuasive to their constituencies.

    Oh! dear! Oh dear! Debate the pseudo-controversy of the pseudo-science false dichotomy! !!
    I know pseudo-science seems “reasonable” to the uneducated who can’t do logical reasoning! Self awarded badges of “reasonableness” stuck on irrational arguments, are a characteristic of pseudo-science!

    Every biologist knows what the properties of living organisms are, and how these distinguish organisms from non-living matter, and distinguish organisms from the organs which are PARTS of individual organisms!

    You have produced no credible challenge, analysis, or refutation, of these properties listed earlier, to suggest why they may not be the defining characteristics of living organisms.

    All you have done is suggest and assert without evidence, that some unspecified amateur lay people, hold vague personal opinions which they deem in their ignorance, to be “common sense”, disputing the million-fold use of regular definitions used by modern science for communicating information!



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  • http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/organism

    Full Definition of organism

    1
    : a complex structure of interdependent and subordinate elements whose relations and properties are largely determined by their function in the whole

    2
    : an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent : a living being

    Organisms carry out the whole functions of life as separate individuals.



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  • So if we must, let’s start with biology 1.01 !

    http://www.biology4kids.com/files/studies_labels.html

    Labels and Naming
    If you look on the shelves, you will see cans and jars that are labeled. If you look on your computer, you will see a label. Those labels tell you something about the thing in front of you. In the same way that objects have labels, scientists have created labels for all the living things on Earth. This naming system allows scientists across the planet to know which organism is which. While one culture may call a lion a lion, another culture may call it löwe. Across the planet, scientists can all use the same name Panthera leo.

    Labelling extends beyond species to consistency in labelling individual organs and emergent systems.

    Scientists can create their own specialist meanings for particular words in particular contexts, but are required to provide precise unambiguous definitions if they do so.

    Creating woolly-minded ambiguous semantic waffle in place of standard definitions, is not science!



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  • I believe that a primitive human organism -definitely one in the embryonic stage- is in no sense a human being or a person. I imagine that many women -I can’t speculate the share- who have an abortion understand that they have consented to kill the human organism in their womb. In any case they have consented to killing “something”
    growing into a human baby justified by legal, moral, and medical criteria that measures the formative and functional properties of the fetus on the continuum of pregnancy.

    Personally, I’m comfortable with first-trimester abortions and second-trimester abortions. During the third tri-mester, in cases where both mother and fetus are healthy, I become progressively averse to permitting abortion except when the health or life of the mother is at risk or the fetus is defective.

    Cairsley: Whatever may be the characters and capabilities of a fully developed human being, these do not all appear at once. Hence in legal matters, such as relate to unwanted or otherwise problematic pregnancies, the need arises for decisions to be made to define the point in that process where it would be unacceptable to terminate the conceptus. Such decisions are based on what we as a society regard as necessary for an individual entity to be classified as a human being entitled to the protection of the law. Disputes over such decisions may lead some to think that there is something in nature called humanity or human nature, or that the term ‘humanity’ or ‘human nature’ refers to something that exists in nature. Or you may still be under the influence of older philosophical traditions that posited the existence of essences in an attempt to explain how things in the world differ from each other.

    Bravo! At last a linguistic approach to describing the relationship between belief and practice. We do not define “essence” we express beliefs in language that are justified in practices. The process is multi-reciprocal.
    We wince at the abortion of a [healthy] 7 month-old fetus not because it is “essentially” a human being but because it triggers emotional beliefs about empathy, caring, cherishing the life of “something” we believe meets functional criteria for human status. Scientists can assist in justifying beliefs-practices; in rejecting previous beliefs-practices or in forming new beliefs-practices but they cannot tell us what something really, really is independent of its relation to our language, beliefs and practices.



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  • Melvin #92
    Oct 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Personally, I’m comfortable with first-trimester abortions and second-trimester abortions. During the third tri-mester, in cases where both mother and fetus are healthy, I become progressively averse to permitting abortion except when the health or life of the mother is at risk or the fetus is defective.

    I am also against late abortions which have no medical reason.

    However the issue of when a bunch of cells as collection of parts which is “work in progress”, becomes an independent organism, is a crucial issue.

    At early stages it is clearly tissue without a capacity for individual survival. At very late stages, there is a clear ability to survive birth as a live baby. As the move away from independent organism status at birth, becomes earlier, the premature births move into marginal areas where a bit of immaturity will be marginal but can probably be caught up in time.

    However as premature births move earlier still into the area of miscarriages, the levels of disabilities from under development increase.
    In this marginal zone, the survival of a baby as a separate organism is possible, but likely to be carrying progressively more disabilities the earlier the prematurity!

    I would therefore see it as being an ethical issue, that the capability for survival as a FULLY FUNCTIONAL separate organism, without disabilities arising from immaturity, (as distinct from genetic defects), is a key issue in looking at dates.
    As a general principle on abortions, the earlier the better.

    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001562.htm

    Prematurity can have long-term effects. Many premature infants have medical, developmental, or behavioral problems that continue into childhood or are permanent. The more premature an infant and the smaller the birth weight, the greater the risk of complications. But, it is impossible to predict a baby’s long-term outcome based on gestational age or birth weight.

    A premature infant’s organs are not fully developed. The infant needs special care in a nursery until the organs have developed enough to keep the baby alive without medical support. This may take weeks to months.

    Infants usually cannot coordinate sucking and swallowing before 34 weeks gestation. A premature baby may have a small, soft feeding tube placed through the nose or mouth into the stomach. In very premature or sick infants, nutrition may be given through a vein until the baby is stable enough to receive all nutrition through the stomach.

    Health conditions in the mother, such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, may contribute to preterm labor.

    There are many more details on this link.



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  • Every sperm is sacred, and must be allowed to be born and raised in squalor and poverty until old enough to be goaded into a situation where they can be shot by the gun-toting Righteous. Pro-life? About as pro-life as raising pheasants for the pheasant shooting season.



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  • @ #86

    From your linked article (emphasis mine):

    “We found lots of genes important for maintaining hormone signaling and mediating maternal-fetal communication, which are essential for pregnancy, evolved to be expressed in the uterus in early mammals,” Lynch said. “But immune suppression genes stand out. The fetus is genetically distinct from the mother. If these immune genes weren’t expressed in the uterus, the fetus would be recognized by the mother’s immune system as foreign and attacked like any other parasite.”

    I’m not aware of any parasitic tissues, but I’m no scientist so I hope you will forgive my ignorance. If you have a link to an article that explains parasitic tissues I’d love to see it.



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  • PeacePecan #95
    Oct 29, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I’m not aware of any parasitic tissues, but I’m no scientist so I hope you will forgive my ignorance. If you have a link to an article that explains parasitic tissues I’d love to see it.

    http://www.cell.com/cell/abstract/S0092-8674(06)00132-2?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0092867406001322%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

    Anti-Immunology: Evasion of the Host Immune System by Bacterial and Viral Pathogens

    If you google – “Immune defence, parasite evasion strategies” or something similar, there are numerous other articles.



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  • Alan4: I would therefore see it as being an ethical issue, that the capability for survival as a FULLY FUNCTIONAL separate organism, without disabilities arising from immaturity, (as distinct from genetic defects), is a key issue in looking at dates. As a general principle on abortions, the earlier the better.

    It would appear we have moved closer to agreeing to disagree on peripheral issues on abortion having fought through an enervating debate about definitions and labeling.

    Your scenario above opens a new can of worms. I’ve also entertained future medical advances that could “save” premature babies at an earlier and earlier stage. Perhaps status quo law and medical ethics would mandate immediate implementation of emergency measures to sustain the life of the child even with the lowest odds of viability. Two other conditional models of medical ethics might be brought to bear. In the U.S., doctors have the right to withhold treatment from cases where there is no substantive chance for survival; e.g., operating or administering chemotherapy on a terminal cancer patient even if the procedure might extend life several months. An informed medical consensus that a premature infant will die within a year or two regardless of what is done could justify withholding treatment. Finally, the awful decision might fall on the mother who wants a “normal” baby but may or may not want a defective child that is going to become a life-long burden. In this model the mother may be given choices that include her right to direct withhold-treatment, somewhat analogous to do-not-resuscitate, instructions to medical personnel. Given that there is no hopeful way to proceed under such conditions, the better way for society, medicine, mother and child would be simply to ensure a comfortable and painless, compassionate and respectful death for the hapless neonate.



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  • @ #96

    I’m sorry. Maybe my words were unclear, so I’ll try to be clearer. In the article at the link you provided at #86, one of the interviewed scientists seems to consider a fetus to be a parasite. (I posted the excerpt in my reply to you.) The parasites I am familiar with are organisms. In several of your earlier comments on this topic you have claimed that a fetus is not an organism, but tissue. I find the concept of parasitic tissue fascinating and would love to learn more about it, perhaps by reading about other cases in which tissue (which is clearly not an organism) expresses the characteristics of a parasite. Yet, the article at the link you posted at #96 seems to be discussing bacterial and viral pathogens. Bacteria are microorganisms and viruses are sort of like organisms but then also sort of not, but I’m pretty sure neither of these things would be considered tissue. Are you suggesting that bacteria and viruses are tissue, or did you misunderstand my question?



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  • Melvin #97
    Oct 29, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Alan4: I would therefore see it as being an ethical issue, that the capability for survival as a FULLY FUNCTIONAL separate organism, without disabilities arising from immaturity, (as distinct from genetic defects), is a key issue in looking at dates. As a general principle on abortions, the earlier the better.

    It would appear we have moved closer to agreeing to disagree on peripheral issues on abortion having fought through an enervating debate about definitions and labeling.

    Definitions are important if vague misleading semantics are to be avoided, and issues accurately dealt with on the basic of evidenced information.

    If we look at your comment @#92

    Mel. @#92 – We wince at the abortion of a [healthy] 7 month (28/9week) -old fetus not because it is “essentially” a human being but because it triggers emotional beliefs about empathy, caring, cherishing the life of “something” we believe meets functional criteria for human status.

    Emotional reactions to blood and guts, from poorly informed people in their little sanitised bubbles where meat grows on packets on supermarket shelves, is largely irrelevant to most medical issues.

    Mel. @#92 – Scientists can assist in justifying beliefs-practices; in rejecting previous beliefs-practices or in forming new beliefs-practices but they cannot tell us what something really, really is independent of its relation to our language, beliefs and practices.

    Scientists can tell people about real consequences in the real world which their emotional reactions vague semantic arguments blind them to.

    If we compare the use of the term “healthy”, with my scientific link @#93

    @#93 – Prematurity can have long-term effects. Many premature infants have medical, developmental, or behavioral problems that continue into childhood or are permanent.

    A premature infant’s organs are not fully developed. The infant needs special care in a nursery until the organs have developed enough to keep the baby alive without medical support. This may take weeks to months.

    Infants usually cannot coordinate sucking and swallowing before 34 weeks gestation. A premature baby may have a small, soft feeding tube placed through the nose or mouth into the stomach. In very premature or sick infants, nutrition may be given through a vein.

    So when your tear-jerking normally developing, healthy, ” 7 month (28week) example, is looked at in the light of objective science, it is obvious that if some medical condition in the mother triggers a premature birth 2weeks later, we are not looking at a healthy normal baby, but a struggling (possibly permanently) disabled one, which lacks the survival capabilities of an independent organism, and might just struggle to stay alive with heavy support from medical facilities trying to replace those missing capabilities, in countries where these expensive services are available.
    Ignoring this in favour of the misplaced emotional reactions you give @#92, has NOTHING to do with “empathy and caring” about real issues!

    This is a very different scenario to a bland assurance of “medical progress” enabling survival of a “healthy” foetus at an “earlier stage”!

    It is the difference between precise scientific information, and emotive woolly misleading semantics inflicting disabilities on children and families.



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  • PeacePecan #98
    Oct 29, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    @ #96 – I’m sorry. Maybe my words were unclear, so I’ll try to be clearer. In the article at the link you provided at #86, one of the interviewed scientists seems to consider a fetus to be a parasite.

    You may or may not know that bacteria exchange DNA between species and do not use sex to reproduce. Cells can also acquire bits of virus DNA mixed with their own. It is a cause of mutations.

    In order to resist destruction by the host’s immune defences, parasitic organisms need to fight or hide from these attacks. They have mechanisms built by their genes to do so.

    The evolutionary hypothesis is that some of these genes leaked into early egg-laying mammal ancestors, (like the platypus), allowing the eggs to be connected to the female reproductive system, providing additional nutrients, and a longer period of protected internal development before birth.

    The parasites I am familiar with are organisms. In several of your earlier comments on this topic you have claimed that a fetus is not an organism, but tissue. I find the concept of parasitic tissue fascinating and would love to learn more about it, perhaps by reading about other cases in which tissue (which is clearly not an organism) expresses the characteristics of a parasite.

    The most obvious example is the placenta. It is human tissue, and part of the embryo.
    It is not an individual organism, it cannot reproduce itself, and it resists attack by the mother’s immune system.
    In medical procedures, drugs providing resistance to attacks by the immune system, are also necessary in transplant surgery, if the implanted organs are to avoid attack and destruction as invading foreign tissue.

    Yet, the article at the link you posted at #96 seems to be discussing bacterial and viral pathogens. Bacteria are microorganisms and viruses are sort of like organisms but then also sort of not,

    Bacteria are organisms. So are parasitic worms.
    Viruses cannot reproduce independently of the their parasitised host cells, so are not considered as fully independent organisms.

    but I’m pretty sure neither of these things would be considered tissue.

    Bacteria are single celled organisms, but the term “tissue” (heart, lung, liver, skin,) usually applies to multicellular organs which are part of, and dependent on, a larger organism.



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  • Alan4discussion #100
    Oct 30, 2016 at 6:40 am

    To expand a little more:-

    the term “tissue” (heart, lung, liver, skin,) usually applies to multicellular organs which are part of, and dependent on, a larger organism.

    The placenta (organ) is a part of the embryo, but also an integrated part of the mother with intertwining blood vessels etc. .
    It is totally dependent on the mother, as is the embryo, via the placenta.

    It is only when the embryo grows into a later stage foetus, and is capable of independent living without the placenta, that is can be considered a separate organism or a potentially separate organism, with the functional set of properties and capabilities of an independent organism. (as explained @#19 and @#99)
    As was discussed earlier, this is a gradual emergent process without any hard and fast, sudden, transitional timetabled points.



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  • @ #100

    You may or may not know that bacteria exchange DNA between species and do not use sex to reproduce. Cells can also acquire bits of virus DNA mixed with their own. It is a cause of mutations.

    I understand that this was the focus of the article at the link you provided at #86. I did read the article, and I did understand its message.

    In order to resist destruction by the host’s immune defences, parasitic organisms need to fight or hide from these attacks. They have mechanisms built by their genes to do so. The evolutionary hypothesis is that some of these genes leaked into early egg-laying mammal ancestors, (like the platypus), allowing the eggs to be connected to the female reproductive system, providing additional nutrients, and a longer period of protected internal development before birth.

    In other words, fertilized eggs (zygotes) became indistinguishable from parasitic organisms (aside from the fact that in this case they are the same species).

    The most obvious example [of parasitic tissue] is the placenta. It is human tissue, and part of the embryo. It is not an individual organism, it cannot reproduce itself, and it resists attack by the mother’s immune system.

    Actually, the placenta is in two parts; one part is produced by the mother (the host), and one part is produced by the fetus (the “parasite”).

    https://simple.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placenta

    Placental tissue is not itself parasitic. In both cases (maternal and fetal) it is actually protective to both the host (mother) and the attached parasite (fetus/embryo). It facilitates nutrient transfer (among other things) and prevents them from doing harm to each other.

    Do you have any other “obvious examples”?

    Bacteria are organisms.

    Organisms, not tissue. Got it.

    
>Viruses cannot reproduce independently of the their parasitised host cells, so are not considered as fully independent organisms.

    (By the way, I’ve read that some scientists may be changing their minds about that. See here: http://www.popsci.com/new-evidence-that-viruses-are-alive)

    But for the time being we’ll go with what you stated. Not organisms, but also not tissue. Got it.

    Bacteria are single celled organisms, but the term “tissue” (heart, lung, liver, skin,) usually applies to multicellular organs which are part of, and dependent on, a larger organism.

    And apparently, as you have stated here several times, the term “tissue” applies to the immediate products of conception, namely (but not limited to), the zygote, the fetus, and the embryo. The zygote, as a single cell, genetically distinct from the mother (host), surely cannot be considered tissue in any sense of the word. And of course once the zygote has developed to the status of fetus, it is clearly multicellular, but if it is merely tissue, which you have defined here as “part of, and dependent on, a larger organism”, what larger organism is it a part of, and how/when did it become a part of that larger organism when prior to that it clearly wasn’t part of it? And how do we reconcile this with the clearly parasitic dynamic between the products of conception (parasite) and the mother (host) that is described in the scientific articles you and I were able to find?



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  • PeacePecan #103
    Oct 30, 2016 at 9:07 am

    @ #100

    In order to resist destruction by the host’s immune defences, parasitic organisms need to fight or hide from these attacks. They have mechanisms built by their genes to do so. The evolutionary hypothesis is that some of these genes leaked into early egg-laying mammal ancestors, (like the platypus), allowing the eggs to be connected to the female reproductive system, providing additional nutrients, and a longer period of protected internal development before birth.

    In other words, fertilized eggs (zygotes) became indistinguishable from parasitic organisms (aside from the fact that in this case they are the same species).

    Not exactly.
    Because a fertilised egg contains paternal DNA, it is not identical to the DNA of the mother.
    Without protection, it would be attacked by her immune as foreign tissue, if it tried to connect to her tissues and bloodstream.

    Zygotes and blastocysts use the anti-immune-system genes for protection during their development of the placenta and thereafter.

    Actually, the placenta is in two parts; one part is produced by the mother (the host), and one part is produced by the fetus (the “parasite”).

    That is correct. The two parts grow into one organ to act as a filtering interface between the two systems, and eventually between the two bloodstreams.

    Placental tissue is not itself parasitic. In both cases (maternal and fetal) it is actually protective to both the host (mother) and the attached parasite (fetus/embryo). It facilitates nutrient transfer (among other things) and prevents them from doing harm to each other.

    It is parasitic in the sense that the placenta and embryo both derive all their sustenance and much of their biological control, from the mother. They generate nothing independently to support themselves. All nutrients and oxygen along with some hormones, come from the mother.

    Do you have any other “obvious examples”?

    Bacteria are [single celled] organisms.

    Organisms, not [multicellular] tissue. Got it.

    Missed it???
    (@#100 – Bacteria are organisms. So are parasitic worms.)

    I mentioned parasitic worms(along with bacteria @#100) as multicellular parasites, and have previously explained the difference between single-celled organisms and tissue cells, – but parasitic insects would be another example where their multicellular tissues have evolved counter immune system protection.

    The zygote, as a single cell, genetically distinct from the mother (host), surely cannot be considered tissue in any sense of the word.

    Single blood cells are tissues, and like zygotes, are not capable of independent living as separate organisms. It really should not be that difficult to grasp! – especially after all the explanations on this discussion.

    And of course once the zygote has developed to the status of fetus, it is clearly multicellular, but if it is merely tissue, which you have defined here as “part of, and dependent on, a larger organism”, what larger organism is it a part of,

    Like the placenta, it is part of the mother until physically separated.

    Again, – this should not be difficult to understand for anyone who is not simply in denial.



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  • @ #104

    Not exactly. Because a fertilised egg contains paternal DNA, it is not identical to the DNA of the mother.

    Already stated and understood. The zygote is genetically distinct from either parent.

    Without protection, it would be attacked by her immune [system] as foreign tissue, if it tried to connect to her tissues and bloodstream.

    And here is where you contradict yourself. Earlier you described tissue:

    the term “tissue” (heart, lung, liver, skin,) usually applies to multicellular organs which are part of, and dependent on, a larger organism.

    So, I will repeat my previous response to this; the zygote, as a single cell, genetically distinct from the mother (host), with its own full complement of DNA which contains the instructions for developing itself into a baby, surely cannot be considered tissue in any sense of the word. And of course once the zygote has developed to the status of fetus, it is clearly multicellular, but if it is merely tissue, which you have defined here as “part of, and dependent on, a larger organism”, what larger organism is it a part of, and how/when did it become a part of that larger organism when prior to that it clearly wasn’t part of it?

    That is correct [regarding the placenta]. The two parts grow into one organ to act as a filtering interface between the two systems, and eventually between the two bloodstreams.

    The part of the placenta attached to the mother’s uterine wall is maternal tissue. Its cells have the mother’s genetic make-up. The part of the placenta attached to the fetus is fetal tissue. Its cells have the fetus’ genetic make-up. . They interface with each other, but they are distinct from each other. For each, their part of the placenta is an organ. For the mother, her part of the placenta is an organ which is part of the organism that she is. For the fetus, its part of the placenta is an organ which is part of the organism that it is. To try to describe this arrangement as anything else makes no sense.

    [The placenta] is parasitic in the sense that the placenta and embryo both derive all their sustenance and much of their biological control, from the mother. They generate nothing independently to support themselves. All nutrients and oxygen along with some hormones, come from the mother.

    You’ve described a parasitic relationship. The placenta is the organ (part belonging to the mother, and part belonging to the fetus) that facilitates this relationship and ensures that it doesn’t become deadly to either participant in the relationship.

    Single blood cells are tissues, and like zygotes, are not capable of independent living as separate organisms. It really should not be that difficult to grasp! – especially after all the explanations on this discussion.

    Actually, a single blood cell is not a “tissue”. Collectively, the blood cells are considered a connective tissue. Under normal circumstances, which includes a suitable environment, blood cells have a clearly defined function that does not include dividing and growing itself into the various stages that a zygote goes thru to become a baby of its species and get born. The cell that we call a zygote also has a clearly defined function, which, under normal circumstances, including a suitable environment, does include dividing and growing itself into the various stages it must go through to become a baby of its species and get born. They do this independently, as a separate organism, dependent on a suitable environment, just like all other organisms that depend on a suitable environment to live their independent lives.

    Like the placenta, [the fetus] is part of the mother until physically separated.

    This is a ridiculous statement. The only sense in which a fetus is “part of” the mother is the same sense in which a parasite is “part of” its host. A fetus has its own distinct DNA, just as a parasite’s DNA is distinct from its host. There is no logical or biological support for that view.



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  • Alan4: Full Definition of organism
    1: a complex structure of interdependent and subordinate elements whose relations and properties are largely determined by their function in the whole
    2: an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent : a living being
    Organisms carry out the whole functions of life as separate individuals.

    A little pleasure; a little pain but always back to the definitions (sigh).

    The individual is merely a mix of pre-existing DNA. A fertilised egg contains a complete set of chromosomes and a full set of DNA – just like every other cell in the body! Cloning experiments indicate that other cells can indeed give rise to viable offspring, so these claims to exclusivity are at best dubious. Also given that 70% of human fertilised eggs spontaneously abort or miscarry anyway, The odds are AGAINST ANY individual fertilised egg becoming a live baby and human being!

    No one is going to challenge scientifically accurate descriptions and practices but where do you want to go with the tortured narrow implications confined by such reductionism. Is the fertilized egg a clump of cells “like a toenail” or is it “different” in many ways and therefore also “like” something else. Is elective abortion like “clipping a toenail” or is it also “like” something else. “Cloning experiments” are certainly practiced and someday we may successfully clone human beings but the analogue ignores the pertinent context of the fertilized egg embedding in the wall of the uterus in the blastocyst stage. We are observing a holistic process from the start not a cloning experiment,only a full set of chromosomes” or “only pre-existing DNA” “like” every other cell in the human body.

    The “clump of cells” argument loses traction at the embryonic stage around 5 weeks and more decisively at the fetal stage around 10 weeks. We clearly observe the fetus to exhibit: a complex structure of interdependent and subordinate elements whose relations and properties are largely determined by their function in the whole. Arms, legs, all essential organs have emerged and definition (1) seems to apply from reasonable evidence-based perspectives. We are talking about a human organism because that is what we observe.

    Now the definition shifts from a focus on “clumps of cells” to a focus on “capacity to live independently of the mother:” If there is no survival beyond birth or capability of survival beyond birth, it is not a baby! It is a bunch of cells – a zygote, embryo or foetus! “Bunch of cells” conditionally works its way back into the full definition but the astute reader will notice that ambiguous new criteria have been added. We’ve already discussed the case of the circa 7 month premature birth where the vital signs are present and functioning during a window of opportunity to place the child in an incubator, force oxygen into its lungs, feed intravenously, even perform corrective surgery. The neutral scientific criteria suggest a different experiment:
    Rest the neonate on the breasts of the mother. If it dies, it is by definition a fetus that in turn by definition is a clump of cells. If it lives and starts to suckle, which is virtually impossible, then it is a baby. When the neonate’s last desperate rattles cease, the hysterically crying mother can be admonished by her doctor with: Emotional reactions… from poorly informed people in their little sanitised bubbles where meat grows on packets on supermarket shelves, is largely irrelevant to most medical issues.

    We who believe the fertilized egg, the blastocyst, the early embryo, the late embryo may reasonably be subsumed under the description “human organism” are not playing semantic games. To prove our sound reasoning we do distinguish “human organism” moving through conception-to early-to-late stages of pregnancy from “human being or person.” Personally I would not be inclined to define or label a seriously defective newborn a “human being or a person” (once more it depends on descriptions on a continuum, descriptions all the way down). No reasonable person would say that a newborn with immobilizing physical and mental defects was not a human organism. I understand why reasonable people like Alan4 cleave to an evidenced perspectives on the issue of definition and labeling of “human organism” when they cite a 70% spontaneous abortion rate for fertilized eggs. Other reasonable people adopt a holistic-process perspective where the fertilized egg, the “thing” that embeds in the womb is from conception a human organism. If it were not a human organism then the human female egg fertilized by the human male sperm could not have created it. Whether it has reached an initial stage where organs or anatomical properties emerge to be recognized as “human” or whether it has reached a later stage of possible viability, the fertilized egg remains a human organism throughout the entire process whether truncated or not.



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  • I need to apologize for misreading a specific point Alan4 clearly made: “If there is no survival beyond birth or [no]capability of survival beyond birth, it is not a baby! I get this. The reference here is to cases of premature birth that “by definition” deliver a fetus incapable of survival beyond a short period of time or already dead. The no-capability-of-survival criteria still begs the substantive question of “possible” or even “likely” survival of the fetus under conditions of premature birth where modern medical technology intervenes. Semantically the sentence is also contradictory for those sad cases where fully formed babies are stillborn.



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  • PeacePecan #105
    Oct 30, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Oh dear! oh dear! – Still in denial and making up muddled thinking!

    @ #104 – Without protection, it would be attacked by her immune [system] as foreign tissue, if it tried to connect to her tissues and bloodstream.

    And here is where you contradict yourself. Earlier you described tissue:

    the term “tissue” (heart, lung, liver, skin,) usually applies to multicellular organs which are part of, and dependent on, a larger organism.

    I do not “contradict myself”! You seem to be confusing the term “organs” (heart, lung, liver, skin,), with the term “organisms”

    So, I will repeat my previous response to this; the zygote, as a single cell, genetically distinct from the mother (host), with its own full complement of DNA which contains the instructions for developing itself into a baby, surely cannot be considered tissue in any sense of the word.
    http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Tissue

    Tissue – Definition – noun, plural: tissues

    An aggregate of cells in an organism that have similar structure and function.

    The fundamental types of tissues in animals are epithelial, nerve, connective, muscle, and vascular tissues whereas in plants, they are the meristematic (apical meristem and cambium), protective (epidermis and cork), fundamental (parenchyma, collenchyma and sclerenchyma) and vascular (xylem and phloem) tissues. Tissues that work in unison to carry out a specific set of functions form an organ.

    Oh dear! more denial based on asserted ignorance!
    Every cell, in every tissue in the body (apart from sperm and unfertilised eggs), has its own full complement of DNA!
    Its just that some genes are switched off and some genes for specialist purposes are switched on as needed.



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  • PeacePecan #105
    Oct 30, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    So, I will repeat my previous response to this; the zygote, as a single cell, genetically distinct from the mother (host), with its own full complement of DNA which contains the instructions for developing itself into a baby, surely cannot be considered tissue in any sense of the word.

    @Medline link – The zygote spends the next few days traveling down the fallopian tube. During this time, it divides to form a ball of cells called a blastocyst.

    Week 4 – Once the blastocyst reaches the uterus, it buries itself in the uterine wall.

    So it becomes a ball of human tissue, and then implants to form the placenta and attached embryo.

    And of course once the zygote has developed to the status of fetus, it is clearly multicellular,

    It is multicellular long before that! The single cell phase (like fertilisation) is very brief.

    Cell division is of course in no way an exclusive of zygotes or embryos Most tissues are systematically and routinely replaced by cell division!

    https://www.britannica.com/science/cell-biology/Cell-division-and-growth
    The cell division cycle
    In contrast, eukaryotes duplicate their DNA exactly once during a discrete period between cell divisions. This period is called the S (for synthetic) phase. It is preceded by a period called G1 (meaning “first gap”) and followed by a period called G2, during which nuclear DNA synthesis does not occur.

    but if it is merely tissue, which you have defined here as “part of, and dependent on, a larger organism”, what larger organism is it a part of,

    I have already answered this!
    Along with the placenta it is an integrated part of the mother, the mother’s nutrition to its cells, the mother’s oxygen supply, and the mother’s waste disposal of CO2 etc.

    and how/when did it become a part of that larger organism when prior to that it clearly wasn’t part of it?

    it become a physically connected part of the mother on implantation, – as has been explained on the earlier links.

    That is correct [regarding the placenta]. The two parts grow into one organ to act as a filtering interface between the two systems, and eventually between the two bloodstreams.

    The part of the placenta attached to the mother’s uterine wall is maternal tissue. Its cells have the mother’s genetic make-up. The part of the placenta attached to the fetus is fetal tissue. Its cells have the fetus’ genetic make-up. . They interface with each other,

    That is correct.

    but they are distinct from each other.

    That is simply wrong!
    In order to exchange nutrients, fluids, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, they are intimately integrated into one organ (called the placenta).



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  • Melvin #106
    Oct 30, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    No one is going to challenge scientifically accurate descriptions and practices

    Given the very specific definitions provided, there is clearly a self- contradiction here . . . .

    We who believe the fertilized egg, the blastocyst, the early embryo, the late embryo may reasonably be subsumed under the description “human organism

    . . . . as clearly these early stages do not meet the criteria of an “independent living organisms”.

    are not playing semantic games.

    . . . and denials add nothing to the claims!

    To prove our sound reasoning we do distinguish “human organism” moving through conception

    With the asserted self contradiction and denial of scientific definitions becoming laughable when described as “sound reasoning”!

    (I’m just off to buy a packet of trees – err seeds! 🙂 )

    -to early-to-late stages of pregnancy from “human being or person.

    It is correct to separate these early stages of development from the vaguer less defined label of “human person”, but the persistent repeated asserted denial of the biological definition of “organism” is amounting to trolling, and becoming tedious!



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  • Alan4: I’m just off to buy a packet of trees – err seeds! I like this. Seriously. We’re starting to
    talk about how we talk about “organism” versus “non-organism” that gets to the linguistic exercise we are engaged in. The analogy is apparent: a fertilized egg is to a human being as a [tree] seed is to a tree.

    THE EXPERIMENT

    Lady, our scanning of your uterus under your consent to an experiment to measure spontaneous abortion rates for fertilized eggs confirms that you passed a fertilized egg before it embedded in the uterus. We know that you desperately want a baby, and though trivially unfortunate, it was just a bunch of cells and not an organism in any objective sense.

    Week 5 in another round of the experiment: Mary, it’s been five weeks since your last period. The fertilized egg has definitely embedded: Week 5 is the start of the “embryonic period.” This is when all the baby’s major systems and structures develop. The embryo’s cells multiply and start to take on specific functions. This is called differentiation. I can see the joyful glow on your face but don’t get your hopes up too high. There’s still a significant risk of spontaneous abortion in the weeks ahead but not to worry the embryo is still only a bunch of cells and it’s not an organism in any sense.

    Jumping ahead: Weeks 35 to 37
    Baby weighs about 5 1/2 pounds.
    Your baby keeps gaining weight, but will probably not get much longer.
    The skin is not as wrinkled as fat forms under the skin.
    Baby has definite sleeping patterns.
    Your little one’s heart and blood vessels are complete.
    Muscles and bones are fully developed.

    Mary, we’re sorry to hear about your car accident and the impact to your abdomen that killed the fetus.
    But not to worry the fetus is still only a bunch of cells and it’s not an organism in any sense.

    I can only hope you see the problem here. There is no “authority” that permits only one description from one point of view. Mary can say with accuracy that she lost her “baby; ” you can say with accuracy that she lost a bunch of cells that did not meet a a stipulated multi-part definition for organism; or more crudely, she only lost a piece of meat. If Mary voluntarily used an abortafacient in the days after having unprotected sex or consented to a clinical abortion in legally permitted later stages of pregnancy, society should give priority to her decision. For most women abortion is a difficult if not wrenching or even excruciating decision because she understands that a human organism has taken up residence in her womb and that elective abortion will destroy this organism wherever it lies on the continuum of development. Standing there holding her hand while you read clinical articles from Wikipedia, and assuring her in “your own kind words” that you and the “authorities” you cite have settled what cannot be settled is a fool’s errand.



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  • Melvin

    For most women abortion is a difficult if not wrenching or even excruciating decision because she understands that a human organism has taken up residence in her womb and that elective abortion will destroy this organism wherever it lies on the continuum of development.

    If you have any evidence to back up this claim then please provide it. The assertion has been presented time and time again by anti-choice oppressors as the image of what they want women to feel. I don’t believe a word of it. An abortion can be a convenient solution to an unintended pregnancy that threatens to derail a woman’s life.

    Consider that on the way out of the abortion clinic a feeling of profound and grateful relief is often felt.



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  • @ #109

    I wrote:

    The part of the placenta attached to the mother’s uterine wall is maternal tissue. Its cells have the mother’s genetic make-up. The part of the placenta attached to the fetus is fetal tissue. Its cells have the fetus’ genetic make-up. . They interface with each other,

    You wrote:

    That is correct.

    I wrote:

    but they are distinct from each other.

    You wrote:

    That is simply wrong!
    In order to exchange nutrients, fluids, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, they are intimately integrated into one organ (called the placenta).

    They may be “intimately integrated”, but the parts are distinct (distinguishable from each other) in terms of the genetic make-up of the cells comprising each part, and in that they are separated by the fetal chorion.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chorion

    http://www.bartleby.com/107/12.html



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  • Melvin, your paternalistic, conditional support for abortion is inconsistent with your calls for population reduction. You incongruously claimed elsewhere that we have “a stubborn sense of embarrassment about telling couples how many children to have,” while simultaneously opposing the reproductive rights of women. https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/10/8-signs-youre-not-the-environmentalist-you-think-you-are/#li-comment-213348

    “…women…who have an abortion understand that they have consented
    to kill the human organism…”

    Conservatives euphoniously refer to human death as “passing” but women exercising their reproductive rights are “killing” human organisms, or even people. This is Humpty Dumptyism writ large; an Egg istential world view.

    “Personally, I’m comfortable with first-trimester abortions…I become
    progressively averse to permitting abortion…”

    Conservative males exhibit a desperate need to control women.
    “Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers” said George Carlin: “They’re not pro-life. You know what they are? They’re anti-woman. Simple as it gets, anti-woman. They don’t like them. They don’t like women. They believe a woman’s primary role is to function as a brood mare for the state.”

    Melvin fervently believes over-population is the most dangerous problem facing humanity and yet he is “progressively averse” to women’s reproductive rights, calling such women killers.

    Pro-life is just a euphemism for misogyny.



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  • LaurieB: If you have any evidence to back up this claim then please provide it. The assertion has been presented time and time again by anti-choice oppressors as the image of what they want women to feel.

    For the record, Alan4, PeacePecan and I have entered most of the 112 comments on the thread. The debate has centered on Resolved: The Fertilzed Egg (Zygote) Progressing Through The stages of Blastocyst, Embryo, and Fetus Until Viability May Be/ May Not Be Accurately Described As A Living Human Organism. That’s a mouthful. More generally, we are talking about the structural and functional properties of an “organism.” Much of our bickering is over semantics and point of view.

    For the record, Alan4 and I are pro-choice and make an “unapologetic defense of abortion rights.” We have nothing in common with “anti-choice oppressors.”

    Some women have stepped forward to express anguished regret for having an abortion. I tend to take them at their word. I have no problem if you do not. I cannot thin slice a distinction between “many and most” women find abortion a difficult – probably painful decision. I have no poll numbers. In a previous comment (way up there) on the thread, I tried to envision changes in abortion practice that minimize physical/psychic pain for women while defanging the larger controversy still raging today: “… later-term clinical abortions can conjure up bloody gruesome images. I suspect more and more abortions will be performed with pharmaceuticals within days or weeks of pregnancy. The minuscule products of conception will be passed in private and flushed down residential toilets. When education enhanced with social support motivate more and more women wishing to terminate an unwanted pregnancy to act promptly, clinical abortions will become far less [frequent], invasive, disturbing and stigmatized.



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  • Melvin,

    Willing and happy mums-to-be project forward, especially as they approach the start line of a new life together. Nature even assists in the second trimester. So what? Your point? You think folks will not give due enough consideration to the process?

    Deeply unhappy pregnant women want unpregnenting asap. Only folk like you want to inject misery into the process from the get go. Late aborters, always reluctant, though sometimes just thwarted by busy bodies, are quite unhappy enough without your help.



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  • Len: Melvin, your paternalistic, conditional support for abortion is inconsistent with your calls for population reduction.

    I believe abortion is necessarily the killing of a human organism but not the killing of a human being or person and therefore consistent with my values. For reasons given, the earlier the abortion the better. The conditional support part enters the picture when the fetus approaches viability -a stage in late[r] pregnancy that no one can pinpoint. With the consent of the pregnant woman, I believe abortion should be permitted at the latest stages of pregnancy when her health, safety or life is at risk or if the fetus is defective. (We could parse “exact meanings,” diverse scenarios and “exceptions” ad infinitum. No thank you.) My liberal pro-choice views have been decisively affirmed and do not conflict with my views on stabilizing then reducing world population. To the contrary, I would welcome universal socialized encouraged access to contraception and abortion on demand “free” at government expense.



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  • Phil: Only folk like you want to inject misery into the process from the get go. Late aborters, always reluctant, though sometimes just thwarted by busy bodies, are quite unhappy enough without your help.

    That’s crazy.

    (Note to moderators: The discussion is getting out of hand.)



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  • I may have mentioned this before in previous posts, however will do so again briefly for what it is worth. As a teenager I came across a medical book my uncle had purchased second hand. It was a massive very well illustrated surgical manual for doctors, quote old 50’s, 60’s or 70’s (I was a teenager in the 1980’s) and it was well out of date then. Anyway to my horror and fascination I found a section on the procedures for late term abortions. These were centered mainly around birth defects that risked the mothers life.

    Now I point this out here because the moral case was being made obviously by the doctors that this textbook was made by and for that even up until the day of the delivery the mothers life was of paramount importance. If it was the choice between the child and the mothers life then the choice was always save the mother. The mother may have felt differently but these doctors where having to confront this awful calculus every day and this was the consensus. Of course in most of these cases the child would not have survived so the argument would have been kill both or kill just one. The trolley problem manifest in the real world. There was a catalog of special tools for breaking up the skull of over-sized babies skulls, garrotes and other horrific instruments, but it left me with a new found respect for their ability to make these hard decisions and carry them out. Now days I’m sure that ultrasound scans would result in these abortions being carried out far sooner and less traumatically for all involved, certainly if they can be carried out before the brain develops. For me it put very much in context the hysterical demands of extreme religious conservatives who consider all life after conception as sacred. It is always a balance between harms and benefits, often hideous things need to be done for the greater good. Drawing the line takes a better man than me I think.



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  • Melvin,

    You’re right. That was uncalled for. I apologise. I was more than a little irritated. My comment is entirely unreasonable in implying such an intention on your part. I do though think, though unintended, your views when firmly promoted, have the effect that concerns me.

    I shouldn’t post having been reluctantly just woken by an ingratiatingly jolly alarm.



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  • Melvin #114
    Oct 31, 2016 at 2:53 am

    The debate has centered on Resolved: The Fertilzed Egg (Zygote) Progressing Through The stages of Blastocyst, Embryo, and Fetus Until Viability May Be/ May Not Be Accurately Described As A Living Human Organism.

    Which in an educated discussion, should be an open and shut issue – given the links and information provided!
    The terms “zygote, blastocyst, embryo, Fetus, and organism, are clearly biologically and medically defined – along with their features and properties!
    Somebody’s personal hang-ups, persistently asserted misconceptions, and wilful lack of understanding of terminology, makes no contribution to a constructive debate!

    Alan4discussion #99 – Oct 30, 2016 at 6:12 am
    @#99 Emotional reactions to blood and guts, from poorly informed people in their little sanitised bubbles where meat grows on packets on supermarket shelves, is largely irrelevant to most medical issues.

    Scientists can tell people about real consequences in the real world which their emotional reactions vague semantic arguments blind them to.

    @#93 – Prematurity can have long-term effects. Many premature infants have medical, developmental, or behavioral problems that continue into childhood or are permanent.

    Infants usually cannot coordinate sucking and swallowing before 34 weeks gestation. A premature baby may have a small, soft feeding tube placed through the nose or mouth into the stomach. In very premature or sick infants, nutrition may be given through a vein.

    we are not looking at a healthy normal baby, but a struggling (possibly permanently) disabled one, which lacks the survival capabilities of an independent organism, and might just struggle to stay alive with heavy support from medical facilities trying to replace those missing capabilities, in countries where these expensive services are available.
    Ignoring this in favour of the misplaced emotional reactions you give @#92, has NOTHING to do with “empathy and caring” about real issues!

    This is a very different scenario to a bland assurance of “medical progress” enabling survival of a “healthy” foetus at an “earlier stage”!

    @#111 – Lady, our scanning of your uterus under your consent to an experiment to measure spontaneous abortion rates for fertilized eggs confirms that you passed a fertilized egg before it embedded in the uterus. We know that you desperately want a baby, and though trivially unfortunate, it was just a bunch of cells and not an organism in any objective sense.

    This is just more made up nonsense which distracts from the real debate about of the levels of development and capabilities necessary for life as an independent organism! Scanners cannot detect fertilised eggs and many fertilised eggs spontaneously abort without embedding. Doctors deal with such matters sensitively

    The fertilized egg has definitely embedded: Week 5 is the start of the “embryonic period.” This is when all the baby’s major systems and structures develop. The embryo’s cells multiply and start to take on specific functions. This is called differentiation. I can see the joyful glow on your face but don’t get your hopes up too high. There’s still a significant risk of spontaneous abortion in the weeks ahead but not to worry the embryo is still only a bunch of cells and it’s not an organism in any sense.

    This is just biased, insensitive, fictitious, emotive, drivel – again diverting the debate away from the real issues of the reasons for spontaneous abortions, or levels of development and the disabilities likely from prematurity and immaturity of organs, before the full levels of an organism’s capabilities for independent life have developed!



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  • @ #121

    The terms “zygote, blastocyst, embryo, Fetus, and organism, are clearly biologically and medically defined…

    Yes, zygote, blastocyst, embryo, and fetus are clearly defined stages in the lifespan of a living organism which is genetically distinct from its parents, regardless of the strategies that have evolved to protect and promote its success in moving through these earliest stages and into eventual independence. It is not necessary to deny or lie about this known fact to support a pro-choice stance on abortion.



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  • Melvin #111
    Oct 30, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    We know that you desperately want a baby, and though trivially unfortunate, it was just a bunch of cells and not an organism in any objective sense.

    This is bizarre fictional fantasy!!

    No doctor is going to make insensitive statements like this, any more than they are going to say:
    “We know that you desperately want a baby, and though unfortunate, your miscarriage was just a foetus / embryo, in the objective sense!”

    Truly ludicrous irrationality!!!



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  • PeacePecan #123
    Oct 31, 2016 at 7:07 am

    @ #121 – The terms “zygote, blastocyst, embryo, Fetus, and organism, are clearly biologically and medically defined…

    Yes, zygote, blastocyst, embryo, and fetus are clearly defined stages in the lifespan of a living organism which is genetically distinct from its parents, regardless of the strategies that have evolved to protect and promote its success in moving through these earliest stages and into eventual independence.

    Oh dear!
    All my efforts at biological education have been unable to shift mistaken preconceptions! – But I suppose they are educational for other readers studying reasoning and science.

    It is not necessary to deny or lie about this known fact to support a pro-choice stance on abortion.

    It is not necessary to make up your own unevidenced “facts” and contradictions of evidenced science, or lie about linked definitions, to contribute something of merit to a debate! –
    Classic psychological projection!

    BTW: Re #113 – The presence of a membrane in the placenta does nothing to suggest it does not function as one organ, – indeed the membrane is essential to its function, but I am not going to go into those biological complexities here with those who are struggling to understand the basic definitions of scientific terminology.



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  • Melvin

    For the record, Alan4, PeacePecan and I have entered most of the 112 comments on the thread.

    Yes, I see that. Even though it appears like I swooped down out of nowhere and dropped a comment against you that’s not what happened. I’ve followed the whole thread as you guys were discussing the topic.

    We have nothing in common with “anti-choice oppressors.”

    I agree with that statement. I don’t believe that either of you are anti-choice. My comment #112 was, as you said above, “For the record” only and not aimed at anyone here.

    Some women have stepped forward to express anguished regret for having an abortion.

    Yes, I don’t doubt that these women and their sad stories exist. I also don’t doubt that the anti-choice bunch have plucked these women out of the evangelical community where women are indoctrinated from childhood to believe that they (and their unbaptized embryos) will burn in hell for all eternity if they fail to bring all pregnancies to term and sacrifice their own happiness and autonomy to raise those embryos whether they have the support and means to do so or not. This is a set up for mental health issues if I ever saw one.

    Still, based on the studies that my link will direct us to, and my own personal experience (which I realize counts for nothing in the scheme of things) given the number of abortions in this country at the current time and the shortage of vast numbers of depressed, suicidal post-abortion women, we need to consign this false idea to the garbage can.

    I don’t have to tell you or anyone here that the stakes are high and we can’t have these scare tactics floating around without a strong challenge. “For the record” statements are perfectly valid and important in these discussions.

    From:

    https://www.guttmacher.org/about/gpr/2013/06/still-true-abortion-does-not-increase-womens-risk-mental-health-problems

    The AMRC concluded that “rates of mental health problems for women with an unwanted pregnancy were the same whether they had an abortion or gave birth.”9 The authors determined that it was the “unwanted pregnancy [that] was associated with an increased risk of mental health problems” and that the “most reliable predictor of post-abortion mental health problems was having a history of mental health problems before the abortion.”

    My liberal pro-choice views have been decisively affirmed and do not conflict with my views on stabilizing then reducing world population. To the contrary, I would welcome universal socialized encouraged access to contraception and abortion on demand “free” at government expense.

    Your position is one with which the great majority of feminists would agree. I only suggest that you peruse the results of the studies on post-abortion mental health that I’ve included for future reference and consider that by using emotionally loaded phrases that create imagery of flushing embryos down the toilet is only serving the indoctrinated oppressors.

    When discussing this topic with anti-choicers I always try to start with a statement that we can both agree with. Usually it’s that we both want less abortions in this world. How we are to arrive at that goal is the daunting rest of the discussion! You are not even close to that position and this is very clear.



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  • PeacePecan #103
    Oct 30, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Bacteria are single celled organisms, but the term “tissue” (heart, lung, liver, skin,) usually applies to multicellular organs which are part of, and dependent on, a larger organism.

    And apparently, as you have stated here several times, the term “tissue” applies to the immediate products of conception, namely (but not limited to), the zygote, the fetus, and the embryo. The zygote, as a single cell, genetically distinct from the mother (host), surely cannot be considered tissue in any sense of the word.

    A zygote following its divisions, for most of its existence, is a multicellular clump of cells, (ie. cellular tissue) before implanting as a multicellular blastocyst and diversifying and differentiating into placenta and embryo.
    This cherry-picked fixation on single cells is a red-herring!



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  • @ #125

    BTW: Re #113 – The presence of a membrane in the placenta does nothing to suggest it does not function as one organ, – indeed the membrane is essential to its function…

    No such suggestion was made. The membrane is clearly essential to the functioning of the placenta, which consists of two clearly distinguishable parts, each being genetically distinct from each other, one produced by the mother, and one produced by the developing fetus, including the fetal chorion which exists at the interface of the two parts.



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  • @ #128

    A zygote following its divisions, for most of its existence, is a multicellular clump of cells, (ie. cellular tissue) before implanting as a multicellular blastocyst and diversifying and differentiating into placenta and embryo.

    If you prefer to refer to a living, growing, differentiating, developing organism that is clearly the product of the union of gametes (AKA offspring) as a “clump of cells”, you are free to do that. It doesn’t change the facts.



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  • PeacePecan #130
    Oct 31, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Alan @#128 – A zygote following its divisions, for most of its existence, is a multicellular clump of cells, (ie. cellular tissue) before implanting as a multicellular blastocyst and diversifying and differentiating into placenta and embryo.
    This cherry-picked fixation on single cells is a red-herring!

    If you prefer to refer to a living, growing, differentiating, developing organism that is clearly the product of the union of gametes (AKA offspring) as a “clump of cells”, you are free to do that.
    It doesn’t change the facts.

    That’s the thing about scientists!
    They quote evidenced facts from reputable sources, rather than making up their own fictitious ones!

    medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002398.htm Week 3The zygote spends the next few days traveling down the fallopian tube. During this time, it divides to form a ball of cells called a blastocyst.
    A blastocyst is made up of an inner group of cells with an outer shell.
    The inner group of cells will become the embryo. Week 5 is the start of the “embryonic period.” This is when all the baby’s major systems and structures develop.
    The embryo’s cells multiply and start to take on specific functions. This is called differentiation.




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  • More hilarity!!!! Wow, don’t you all know that all any non-science literate person wants to ACTUALLY argue is semantics to try and “get a win” for their untenable stance???? This is why this is worthless.

    Scientists telling laymen science and those laymen wanting so desperately to be deemed “correct” that they will engage in the silliest of discourse — semantics. Like when someone corrects the grammar of a non-english speaker because they can’t find flaw in their content.

    It is not semantics. A zygote is a zygote. Arguably, the most important event in your development occurs when you develop “a tube within a tube”. Certain animals do this “ass first” and are called deuterostomes, meanwhile, others do this “mouth first” and are classified protostomes. The cleavage of the cells can be spiral; it can be radial, bilateral, and even rotational. There can be three embryonic layers or two (or just tissue) — endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm. A coelom can develop, or a pseudocoelom, or the organism can develop as an acoelomate. Humans are deuterostomes that display indeterminate rotational cleavage, and have three embryonic layers and are true coelomates.

    Interestingly, if you’d like a lesson in evolution and how all of these patterns developed throughout the course of the last 3.8 billion years or so, I am your guy. (somehow I do not think you are gonna want that lesson)

    Now, Melvin, make sense of this. Study, read, think, analyze, and come back to the table when you have an inkling of what is actually being said to you, instead of stomping your feet and trying to demand that everything we’ve EARNED in our scientific investigation of this phenonema can be overturned because you really really really want to be right… really really really….

    And, I am most certainly biased and said as much, because I am scientifically literate, but I do not give a rat’s furry ass about the laws or your silly preening religious definition of the world.



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  • @ #132

    …don’t you all know that all any non-science literate person wants to ACTUALLY argue is semantics to try and “get a win” for their untenable stance?

    To whom is this comment directed, and to what untenable stance are you referring?



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  • @ #131

    The information in the medline article, as well as the information in several others you and I have cited here and elsewhere, are the facts I was referring to. Please go back and read them again, carefully.



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  • First I want to thank Phil for his apology. Thanks, Phil.

    Maybe it’s just my flagging stamina, but I’m tired of the overkill on the “organism” debate. No minds have been changed though we’ve flattered ourselves one and all to be great educators and guardians of the TRUTH. I see we’re all coming from different perspectives and definitions; descriptions and narratives.

    Pesrsonally I try to empathize with people who are making what they believe are sound arguments. If they argue in good faith, I will listen and try to understand whether I wind up agreeing or not.

    Abortion is a sensitive subject that requires graphic language. We who are pro-choice should not give ammunition to religious fanatics on the other side. Notwithstanding, I understand how thoughtful sincere pro-lifers ground some of their concerns in justifiable observations, evidence as they process it, and feelings from the core of their being.

    At the end of the day, the right to legal and safe abortion should not only be “granted” to women who want to terminate an unwanted pregnancy; but also encouraged as a facilitated option open to women who are contemplating abortion or otherwise ambivalent about a pregnancy. Easy access to to the procedure uninhibited by financial burden, interpersonal interference, or social stigma should be implemented by government in the public interest through an expedited program. Easy access to abortion presupposes the societal norm of universal access and ubiquitous use of effective contraceptives that will actually reduce the number and frequency of abortions. Easy, immediate access to abortifacients; e.g., the “morning-after” pill, will reduce the number and frequency of intrusive clinical abortions. Pro-Life folks, that’s the best we can do.



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  • PeacePecan #134
    Oct 31, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    @ #131

    The information in the medline article, as well as the information in several others you and I have cited here and elsewhere, are the facts I was referring to.

    I know! Despite their length and complexity, I read them , but am not “blinded by science”, wearing your bias blinkers, or handicapped by a lack of understanding of basic definitions.

    Please go back and read them again, carefully.

    I have read them!
    Perhaps you should spend a couple of months looking up the meanings of the scientific terms in them, so you can actually understand what they say, rather than simply asserting that they confirm your misconceptions.
    A lot of the concepts in them are far more complex than understanding the simple definitions of “organism” and “tissue”!

    You denials of the scientific definitions (which are backed by research and evidence), are doubly wrong!

    First the denial of the properties of an organism, disrupts and obstructs any intelligent discussion of the prospects of, and levels of, survival as independent organisms, and of the quality of life in the marginal cases of absent features and partially incomplete development, in premature births, where absent capabilities are artificially replaced by medical services, but where the disabilities of immaturity persist.

    Secondly the denial and contradictions of the proper use of the term (cellular) tissue is laughable! Especially after a linked definition from a biology education site was provided @#108.

    @#108 – http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Tissue

    Tissue – Definition – noun, plural: tissues

    An aggregate of cells in an organism that have similar structure and function.

    The term “tissue” in biology applies to any cluster (or clump) of cells in a part of a multicellular organism.

    The exchange is however educational for other readers, as irrational fallacious rhetoric, repetitively asserted by Dunning-Kruger confidence, is just the sort of twisting argument produced by the so-called “pro-lifers”, in searching fruitlessly to find flaws in the science in support of denial!

    PeacePecan #133
    Oct 31, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Re: -@ #132 (crookedshoes – biologist and geneticist)

    To whom is this comment directed, and to what untenable stance are you referring?

    You just don’t get it do you!!!



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  • Melvin #135
    Nov 1, 2016 at 1:06 am

    Maybe it’s just my flagging stamina, but I’m tired of the overkill on the “organism” debate.

    So am I, but educators sometimes have to work on the education of stubborn non-learners who are in denial, ducking issues, disrupting discussions, and obstructing progress.

    No minds have been changed though we’ve flattered ourselves one and all to be great educators and guardians of the TRUTH.

    I was rather hoping yours was changing and moving towards a more constructive consideration of the issues.

    I see we’re all coming from different perspectives and definitions; descriptions and narratives.

    Some come from the position of a careful study of evidence, others come from an intractable position of ignorant denial, and try for a “win” for their flawed misconceptions and preconceptions, over informed expert opinions.

    It is a false equivalence to try to suggest a parity for these views!
    All opinions are NOT equal!!



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  • crookedshoes #132
    Oct 31, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    More hilarity!!!! Wow, don’t you all know that all any non-science literate person wants to ACTUALLY argue is semantics to try and “get a win” for their untenable stance???? This is why this is worthless.

    Scientists telling laymen science and those laymen wanting so desperately to be deemed “correct” that they will engage in the silliest of discourse — semantics.

    It is ironically comical, that some think that objective observations made by thousands of scientists, and composited into concise descriptions of properties in definitions produced by expert bodies, can be refuted by the use of wishful rhetoric!

    Using the flawed criteria of “tradition” – Made-up-on-the-hoof rhetoric, or rhetoric and speculations, accumulated over periods of history from the ignorant, who lacked the facilities and capabilities to make objective observations.

    What was the name of that subject which provides expert information on the properties of life and living organisms? –
    Was it biology??
    We could ask some BIOLOGISTS or ask them to link some educational materials! – Oh! Wait a minute … . . . . .



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  • Alan4,
    Maybe I’ve been inexact with my language. Here’s another shot at it for Peace Nut and Melvin (and anyone else that has been lurking).

    You are entitled to your opinion and I do not care one bit if you are pro-life or pro-choice. I just wish you’d get the science correct. If you sat here and knew the biology and were pro-life (you’d be in the vast minority of pro-life folks), but I’d respect your knowledge and your opinion.

    But you are super super limited in your basic understanding of the biology. So, let’s remove the “abortion” word and subsequent emotional response to the debate and please please please learn the damn science. I do not want the science to “change you mind”. it might, it might not.

    I want you to stop fucking stepping all over my passion and shitting on knowledge to suit your own cognitive need of feeling “right” about your opinion. Abandon this strategy and just say “I do not understand the biology, but think that life begins ______________.” whenever you’d like to “believe”. then, at least you’ve got an honest opinion.

    But to sit for DAYS arguing with BIOLOGISTS about BIOLOGY should be the first sign that you are out of your nut. Now, there is an actual remedy for being ignorant of facts and topics….what is it again??? Ummm…. errr.. Oh, that’s right EDUCATION. Read a book, take a class, Oh I don;t know ASK A BIOLOGIST. But, stop botching the basics and you’ll actually become a more formidable pro-life (or pro-choice as it may be) advocate (and i do not care if your “side” wins or not)…

    But, you’ve made spectacular fools of yourselves and truly represent any cause poorly when you cannot engage in the simplest of conversations regarding what you purport to be well versed in. You are talking to experts. That seems to mean zero to you because you are talking AT us instead of WITH us. I teach this stuff. Why not listen?

    The natural world is so unspeakably wonderful that most who study it do not need to enhance it with frills and bullshit about souls and spirits. You are clearly smart enough to join the study and learn, what you haven’t done is invest the time. I have. So stop denigrating me because you think your google search added to your pastor’s sermon outweighs my LIFETIME of hard work.



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  • Meanwhile science continues to provide medical information on which decisions can be made.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37824048

    Pregnant women in England will soon be offered a safer, more accurate new test for Down’s syndrome, government ministers have confirmed.

    The non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) will be rolled out by the NHS from 2018.

    It should cut the number of women who need riskier diagnostic tests in pregnancy that can cause a miscarriage.

    But critics fear the new test, although optional, may lead to more women aborting babies with Down’s.

    A world without Down’s syndrome?

    Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and characteristic physical features.

    The NHS already offers screening to women 11 to 14 weeks into their pregnancy.

    Diagnosing Down’s

    At the moment, an ultrasound scan, the mother’s age and other factors such as smoking are combined to assess the likelihood of a baby having Down’s.

    Anyone with a greater than one-in-150 chance of giving birth to a baby with the condition is offered an amniocentesis, in which a needle is used to extract a sample of amniotic fluid surrounding the foetus for testing to get a clear diagnosis.

    It is a risky procedure and most of the women who are referred for amniocentesis will not have a baby with Down’s. Yet one in every 100 who has the test risks having a miscarriage.

    NIPT is a simple blood test that can more accurately inform women about the odds of their unborn child having Down’s, or indeed other genetic disorders such as Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes, before deciding whether or not to have amniocentesis.

    Experts estimate NIPT could avoid more than 6,000 of these invasive procedures each year. This means that there could be a reduction in the number of miscarriages related to amniocentesis from 46 to approximately three per year.

    This looks like it will greatly reduce the accidental miscarriages of foetuses which are normal

    But critics fear the new test, although optional, may lead to more women aborting babies with Down’s.

    As usual, the anti-abortionists want to but into other people’s lives and decisions.

    People could be making INFORMED OPINIONS rather than following dogma!!



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  • I took my car to my mechanic the other day because the turn signal was inoperable. he wanted to replace some shit and jobbies and do-hickeys behind the dashboard. I told him no way, rub the back tail lights with chicken feathers while reciting the lyrics to wonderwall and it should clear it right up.

    Would you believe that the damn guy insisted that the way to fix the turn signal was to replace the bit that had failed? you know the thing, the stetzlefogger. When he told me that he didn’t know what a stetzlefogger was, I was shocked. i had googled it and was pretty sure that the stezlefogger is the general ennui of the automotive spirit and the only way to appease it (DUH!!!) was to perform the rub et wonderwall ritual. After all, my dad did it, his dad did it, and so did his dad. it is tried and true.

    So, after fighting with him for three days, i decided to get a louder radio and drive around with it blasting, so I simply cannot hear the other motorists honking their displeasure. See, I was right all along.



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  • No minds have been changed though we’ve flattered ourselves one and all to be great educators and guardians of the TRUTH.

    Alan4: I was rather hoping yours was changing and moving towards a more constructive consideration of the issues.

    At the end of the day, the right to legal and safe abortion should not only be “granted” to women who want to terminate an unwanted pregnancy; but also encouraged as a facilitated option open to women who are contemplating abortion or otherwise ambivalent about a pregnancy. Easy access to the procedure uninhibited by financial burden, interpersonal interference, or social stigma should be implemented by government in the public interest through an expedited program. Easy access to abortion presupposes the societal norm of universal access and ubiquitous use of effective contraceptives that will actually reduce the number and frequency of abortions. Easy, immediate access to abortifacients; e.g., the “morning-after” pill, will reduce the number and frequency of intrusive clinical abortions. Pro-Life folks, that’s the best we can do.

    It’s up to each reader to decide if the comment I posted above constitutes a more constructive consideration of the issue. (“An Unapologetic Defense of Abortion”) If the rest is silence from your reading comprehension of these eight lines or if you wish to argue or comment, in any event, I’m good with that.



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  • Alan4: But critics fear the new test, although optional, may lead to more women aborting babies with Down’s.
    As usual, the anti-abortionists want to but into other people’s lives and decisions.
    People could be making INFORMED OPINIONS rather than following dogma!!

    I believe you’ve switched to the right track for this locomotive. Remember when Richard Dawkins recommended, by way of a tweet, abortion to the woman whose fetus was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome? Ironically the shit storm came from the atheist left with more fury than from the religious right. Radical feminists, and other “liberal” ideologues, mined the controversial tweet for propaganda to denounce Dr. Dawkins for the sin of Ableism, compounding his offenses with many other taboo “isms” in a concerted social media campaign to marginalize him from the “atheist movement” and install a new leadership driven by an authoritarian “Social Justice” ideology imposed by some pretty bizarre characters. Sadly the reputation of Richard Dawkins – a great scientist, intellectual and exemplary humanist – was badly but not irreparably damaged in some media circles.



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  • Melvin #143
    Nov 1, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Melvin #135 No minds have been changed though we’ve flattered ourselves one and all to be great educators and guardians of the TRUTH.

    Alan4: I was rather hoping yours was changing and moving towards a more constructive consideration of the issues.

    It’s up to each reader to decide if the comment I posted above constitutes a more constructive consideration of the issue.

    I have no problem with recognising that this emboldened quote and some other parts of your comments address real issues.

    The places where I was hoping you can change your mind, is in your denial of definitions, encouragement of Peace P. in denial of scientific definitions, and persistent assertion that rhetoric can refute science, – along with with strange claim that established scientific objectively based definitions, are just some sort of individual scientists’ personal opinions, – plucked out of the air, and on a par with the uninformed personal opinions of those uneducated in science.

    As crookedshoes points out, Peace is making a fool of himself, and you are joining in in doing so, by making similar denials, and making supporting statements for this silliness.

    Like this comment:

    Melvin #41

    Alan4:[@#37 – Brain activity or “sentience”, could also be used as a criteria, but as my earlier link suggested, this would only make a marginal difference of a few days, in considering the] the stages of change, from human tissue to a whole organism.

    Peace: You make a crucial mistake when you refer to the early stages in the development of a human organism as “tissue”. A fertilized egg is an organism. A zygote is an organism. A fetus is an organism. Every human animal, whether you refer to it as a being, a person, or whatever, is an organism from the moment it begins its own, individual development

    You know, Alan4, I believe Peace has your number on this one.

    This is your applause for an asserted laughable denial of the scientific meanings of both “organism” and “tissue”,??? – which was the diversionary farcical response by PP., to my clear explanations of the progressive stages of pregnancy and steps towards the essential capabilities for existence as an independent organism, where these are relevant to dates in considering effects of abortions or premature births!

    It is the sort of comment crookedshoes is referring to, when he tells you you are making a fool of yourself!

    However, I think YOU are capable of learning and correcting your mistakes.



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  • Upon reflection I see how we are denying the fluidity of language that perhaps
    could mitigate the hardline disagreement about what an object actually is; how we may be permitted to talk about something from a point of view that enjoys normal consensus. I appreciate the project of trying to describe an “organism” fully from scientific/biological perspectives, referencing all the processes -causes and effects- that constitute all the properties an “organism” has; without which an “organism” could not accurately be called an “organism.” (I appreciate the inputs from the project without granting ultimate authority to people engaged in the projects unilateral decision-making for practices in all scenarios). Because we are talking, at least at the level of DNA, about something related to the word “human” we may reasonably refer to “human DNA” – “human cells”“human tissue”“human fertilized egg”“human blastocyst”“human zygote/embryo”“human fetus”“human organism.” I stipulated ambiguously that “human organism” did not mean “human being” or “person” on a continuum of pregnancy distinguished by stages where we feel comfortable with abortion and subsequent late stages where we do not. Clearly I concede that “human organism” may accurately reference a “human being” walking around like you and me. Nonetheless It would be puzzling, if not weird, to use “human organism,” a term informed by an impersonal scientific point of view in such statements as: “You were wrong to embarrass Mary at the party. I know you dislike her but she is a human organism.”

    Conversely, “lump of cells” “glob of tissue” “hunk of meat” may also accurately reference a human being under conditions where certain judgements are made from a point of view. Once more the “appropriate” application of the term lies along a continuum where different people will make different judgements. A brain dead patient – a patient in a permanent vegetative state – a patient with advanced brain damage who can only sit and drool – a bed confined patient in an advanced state of Alzheimers, speechless, mindless, paralyzed may be “arguably”described with a range of different linguistic markers.



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  • Melvin #148
    Nov 1, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    I stipulated ambiguously that “human organism” did not mean “human being” or “person” on a continuum of pregnancy distinguished by stages where we feel comfortable with abortion and subsequent late stages where we do not. Clearly I concede that “human organism” may accurately reference a “human being” walking around like you and me.

    I think that is where we differed, and can now agree.
    Accepting that a “human being” and “human organism” (in the sense of a fully functional separate individual), are the same thing, means that each stage can be clearly identified and its properties properly discussed.

    As far as a near term foetus goes, along with the more civilised legislators and the medical profession, I am prepared to accept the foetus with the capability to live as a separate organism, as a human being, but this is in no way a fixed stage or point in time.
    There is no clear boundary, but as was earlier discussed, the more premature the foetus, the more likely are the probabilities of long-term disabilities and immediate medical problems if born at that stage.

    Because we are talking, at least at the level of DNA, about something related to the word “human” we may reasonably refer to “human DNA” – “human cells” – “human tissue” – “human fertilized egg” – “human blastocyst” – “human zygote/embryo” – “human fetus” – “human organism.”

    If these proper terms are used to describe the appropriate stages of development, ambiguity, slippery meanings, and confusion, can be avoided.
    When woolly questions such – when “being-ness” occurs?, are assumed to have credible answers conflicting with biological definitions, confusion arises.

    “You were wrong to embarrass Mary at the party. I know you dislike her but she is a human organism.”

    Obviously in general conversation we would refer to “human beings”, but once non-specialists or anti-abortionists, start sliding the term into areas where embryo, foetus etc. are more appropriate in medical debates, these issues need to be made clear, otherwise this becomes a semantic impediment to rational conversation and clear communication.

    In casual inconsequential conversation, it is as well to avoid pedantic picking over words.
    In discussing serious scientific, medical, or legal issues, accuracy and the absence of ambiguity is essential.



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  • Accepting that a “human being” and “human organism” (in the sense of a fully functional separate individual), are the same thing, means that each stage can be clearly identified and its properties properly discussed.

    Well this is interesting. I’m surprised to see these words written under your user ID. Based on this statement, one would be led to believe that these two terms are synonymous and interchangeable. Is everyone here reading this discussion okay with that?



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  • Melvin: I stipulated ambiguously that “human organism” did not mean “human being” or “person” on a continuum of pregnancy distinguished by stages where we feel comfortable with abortion and subsequent late stages where we do not. Clearly I concede that “human organism” may accurately reference a “human being” walking around like you and me.

    Alan4: I think that is where we differed, and can now agree.
    Accepting that a “human being” and “human organism” (in the sense of a fully functional separate individual), are the same thing, means that each stage can be clearly identified and its properties properly discussed.

    As far as a near term foetus goes, along with the more civilised legislators and the medical profession, I am prepared to accept the foetus with the capability to live as a separate organism, as a human being, but this is in no way a fixed stage or point in time.
    There is no clear boundary, but as was earlier discussed, the more premature the foetus, the more likely are the probabilities of long-term disabilities and immediate medical problems if born at that stage.

    We are very close to agreement: I know a sweet little girl about age eight who was born between the fifth and the sixth month of her mother’s pregnancy. Indeed she has some developmental disabilities. By way of information:
    Odds of a Premature Baby’s Survival by Length of Pregnancy

    Length of Pregnancy Likelihood of Survival
    23 weeks 17%
    24 weeks 39%
    25 weeks 50%
    26 weeks 80%
    27 weeks 90%
    28-31 weeks 90-95%
    32-33 weeks 95%
    34+ weeks Almost as likely as a full-term baby
    Sources: March of Dimes, Quint Boenker Preemie Survival Foundation

    For the sake of further “argument” which I have no taste for, we could ask how much earlier in the stages of pregnancy, advances in medical technology could impose viability. Here is where I conclude with my personal view that elective abortion in cases of unwanted “children” should be allowed before 7 months.



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  • Melvin #150
    Nov 1, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    For the sake of further “argument” which I have no taste for, we could ask how much earlier in the stages of pregnancy, advances in medical technology could impose viability.

    I think, in terms of the “earlier in the stages of pregnancy, advances in medical technology could impose viability”, the key question is not so much viability, as disability.

    @#148 – something related to the word “human” we may reasonably refer to “human DNA” – “human cells” – “human tissue” – “human fertilized egg” – “human blastocyst” – “human zygote/embryo” – “human fetus” –

    Of course it does not stop there!

    “human organism.”

    When discussing the details of the development of the separate human organism (ie. person), precise terminology continues to apply beyond birth.

    “(human) baby – child, adolescent, adult.”

    I also think that when discussing comparative embryology the term [species name] + embryo/foetus, works much better than confusing issues using “person” or “being” in the theist obsession, that human biology is in some way radically different to that of other animals.

    http://evolutionexplained.blogspot.co.uk/2011_12_01_archive.html

    Comparative Embryology: It is observed that in the development of an embryo, general traits appear before the more specialized, that the embryos of different species are more alike than the adults and depart progressively from each other during ontogeny.

    Many creationist misconceptions arise from cherry-picked bits of misunderstood human biology, and an ignorance of the diversity of general development features in other animals.



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  • Alan4discussion #91
    Oct 29, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Labels and Naming

    I explained the importance of precise language and proper labelling @#91

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/10/a-4-year-old-got-very-ill-taking-natural-medicines-and-doctors-have-warned-parents/#li-comment-213569

    The comment on this link, further illustrates why medical staff and scientists insist of precise language, while non-scientists and quacks cause confusion and mess-up by using sloppy ambiguous terminology!



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  • Viability of the foetus is a poor metric for the moral case against non-medical termination.

    One day we may be able to achieve non-maternal 9 month gestation, though the moral implications of that (no pre-natal oxytocin bonded mother, cooing affectionately in the last trimester) need exploring.

    Foetal suffering should be the metric.

    Pete Singer makes the case-

    Singer holds that the right to life is essentially tied to a being’s capacity to hold preferences, which in turn is essentially tied to a being’s capacity to feel pain and pleasure.

    In Practical Ethics, Singer argues in favour of abortion on the grounds that fetuses are neither rational nor self-aware, and can therefore hold no preferences. As a result, he argues that the preference of a mother to have an abortion automatically takes precedence. In sum, Singer argues that a fetus lacks personhood.

    Religious critics have argued that Singer’s ethic ignores and undermines the traditional notion of the sanctity of life. Singer agrees and believes the notion of the sanctity of life ought to be discarded as outdated, unscientific, and irrelevant to understanding problems in contemporary bioethics.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer



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  • Phil, Laurie, others—

    Not bad, Singer (whoever you are). I agree that the capacity to feel pleasure and pain is a good barometer to use; we feel no compunction about killing bacteria, and relatively little compunction about killing flies and fish (generally speaking, of course). A bear. I wouldn’t want to kill a bear or a dog or a turtle or a snake or a bird for any reason other than self defense, and people who actually enjoy killing these animals are unfeeling and should have been aborted. (Not really – but they should be severely punished. Put them in a pit with some starving coyotes and let them be torn apart. Hee-hee)

    A person is the most developed being there is, feels the most pain, has a personality. To kill a person is murder and is the worst crime known to man.

    There is no definitive, logic-based argument, finally, one way or the other. Ethical decisions in general, as I have always maintained, cannot be prescribed or discouraged on the basis of reason. One runs into difficulties, as you can see by this interminable thread. A foetus is a lower form of life, suffers not at all or very little. It can’t do anything, has no experience to speak of, doesn’t move about, make decisions, is not viable. So I see nothing wrong. (The longer you wait the more it may feel something. So earlier is better, but that’s the woman’s decision – who is the one closest to it! – and no one else’s – and late term abortions are rare but necessary at times.) A cluster of cells is definitely not a person, and can hardly be said to suffer. Anyone who says otherwise is a fanatic, and has no real sense of ethics. A real sense of ethics would require intuition as opposed to religious or logical arguments, sensitivity, and a sense of proportion based on an understanding of the continuum and the degree to which the being in question suffers.

    This subject never seems to go away. The laws will remain fair to women, hopefully – but there are no magical definitions, as I said. Nor should there be.

    As for the sanctity of life, Carlin put it well. Ask Lou Costello or Abraham Lincoln whether they’s prefer to come back. Can’t, right? So we are biased when we refer to the sanctity of life. We have never experienced the alternative.

    How was that comment? I hate discussing this. So tiresome.



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  • bonnie2 #155
    Nov 2, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Here’s some fresh meat,

    Actually this meat looks very much like stale tripe, from a well known dubious supplier of ancient festering material, and cherry picked pseudo-survey samples!

    @link – These findings come from a new study, conducted by Rice University, that analysed 137 in-depth interviews with scientists from the UK, Dawkins’ homeland. The interviews themselves were part of the wider ongoing Religion Among Scientists in International Context** (RASIC) study of 20,000 scientists from around the world, which is ostensibly looking at how scientists’ religious beliefs and practices impact their scientific decisions. The RASIC study is funded by the Templeton Foundation, which has crossed paths with Dawkins in the past.

    However if we look at actual numbers being quoted they are RATHER LESS than 20,000.

    @ link – According to Rice University, of the 137 scientists interviewed from the UK, 48 of them mentioned Richard Dawkins without prompting, and nearly 80 percent of those scientists (38 people) “believed that he misrepresents science and scientists in his books and public engagements” and that he conveys “the wrong impression about the borders of scientific inquiry.” Of those 38 people, 23 identified as non-religious and 15 as religious.

    So while flashing around big numbers and percentages, from a sample of 137, they found 15 religious scientists and 23 apologists who had self identified as wishing to comment on/criticise Richard Dawkins, as part of a survey sponsored by Templeton in the cause of their policy of seeking to prove the compatibility of religion and science!

    The remaining 20 percent [who had mentioned Richard Dawkins without prompting] — 10 scientists who all identified as non-religious—said that Dawkins plays “an important role in asserting the cultural authority of science in the public sphere.”



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  • Alan4 Of course it does not stop there!
    “human organism.”
    When discussing the details of the development of the separate human organism (ie. person), precise terminology continues to apply beyond birth.

    Once again back by popular demand……Alan4: Full Definition of organism
    1: a complex structure of interdependent and subordinate elements whose relations and properties are largely determined by their function in the whole
    2: an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent : a living being
    Organisms carry out the whole functions of life as separate individuals.

    What precise terminology do we apply to “human beings/persons” as they start to lose “organs separate in function but mutually dependent” during a stage when the individual is no longer constituted to carry on the activities of life.” We can think of thousands of cases where a person or a human being or a human organism after (or before) birth contingently loses the organs that seriously incapacitate *organisms from carrying out the whole functions of life as separate individuals.**

    Dramatic cases may tragically be cited. The quadriplegic soldier who has lost arms and legs and vision who has suffered brain damage that leaves him conscious but only able to to vocalize sounds and receive food through spoon feeding. More generally, we are more familiar with the aging process that leaves a once vigorous, intelligent person bed ridden, variously bereft of vision, hearing, speech, cognition through strokes and brain damage.

    Though “different” in many ways from the fetus with respect to properties we may or may not ascribe to the primitive fetus, where is the functional difference? The analytic definitions above do not fully describe an organism. They may give us helpful but not decisive guidelines for making judgements about the practice of abortion. The definitions are less helpful in making judgements about euthanasia. The definition remains the same. The judgement change according to observations from a point of view: Pragmatist Principle: What does not make a difference in practice does not make a difference in belief.



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  • Hi Dan

    Singer is a bioethics prof at Princeton.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer

    I’ve seen him speak two times (in Harvard Sq of course!) and I have two of his books here on my shelf. One is read the other not yet. If I ever meet up with this guy I promise you I’ll clam up and never speak a word. I consider him to be a morally superior human on the face of this earth and compared to him I’m bound to come off as a brutish thug, just relatively that is.
    (Wayne’s World meme: I’m not worthy!!)

    Ethical decisions in general, as I have always maintained, cannot be prescribed or discouraged on the basis of reason

    But here’s the thing about ethics from my amateur view of it. When someone has been brought up in the church (or other religion) then all we have to go on for knowing good/bad etc. is the bad old book that gets presented along with all of that. You know, the petrified rules of the tribe from more than two thousand years ago. So for someone like me who only had that paradigm shoved down their throat then pragmatic ethics really does appear to be based on rational thinking, logic and a modern way of looking at things. It almost seems like working through an equation sometimes. I’m very interested in reading how these pragmatic ethicists work through everyday problems in their way. I’m reading a book on bioethics by Ron Lindsay currently.

    I wish the public schools would spend more time on teaching kids to work out problems using the methods I’ve learned from reading on ethics.

    I don’t know if we have any disagreement here. I doubt it but you know how I have to get my two cents in on this whenever I perceive the remote hint of a prompt. hee hee right back at ya.



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  • Melvin #157
    Nov 2, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Alan4: Full Definition of organism
    1: a complex structure of interdependent and subordinate elements whose relations and properties are largely determined by their function in the whole
    2: an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent : a living being
    Organisms carry out the whole functions of life as separate individuals.

    What precise terminology do we apply to “human beings/persons” as they start to lose “organs separate in function but mutually dependent” during a stage when the individual is no longer constituted to carry on the activities of life.” We can think of thousands of cases where a person or a human being or a human organism after (or before) birth contingently loses the organs that seriously incapacitate *organisms from carrying out the whole functions of life as separate individuals.

    This brings us back to the comments on disabilities from immaturity at birth, and quality of life.

    That is why both Phil and myself suggested simple survival, is not a good criteria in making decisions on abortions.

    The “full functions of life”, are those which enable survival as separate individuals.

    In comments on prematurity at birth, we looked at medical replacement of missing essential or desirable functions, as props maintaining a disabled person alive.

    Basically, if the organs provide sufficient partial functions to keep the individual alive, they meet the conditions of the definition.

    If they don’t, the individual is no longer living.



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  • LaurieB #158
    Nov 2, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    So for someone like me who only had that paradigm shoved down their throat then pragmatic ethics really does appear to be based on rational thinking, logic and a modern way of looking at things. It almost seems like working through an equation sometimes. I’m very interested in reading how these pragmatic ethicists work through everyday problems in their way.

    It really is quite simple!
    Evidenced reasoning is essential to make realistic predictions of outcomes from actions, so without reason, outcomes are likely to be random, or if following antiquated dogmas, perverse!

    Evaluations of competently predicted outcomes “like working through an equation”, are necessary, in order have a realistic basis on which to make any moral judgements at all.



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  • It is kinda cool that when terms get defined clearly and agreed upon sense can be made of a topic and even, sometimes, middle ground (or not so middle ground) can be found. I still wish folks would learn the science (hence the “terms and definitions”) and stop vilifying those who do know it. But, this has to be a nice example of communication working properly. I was rooting for you melvin, and you did come through. Bravo.



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  • Laurie,

    I mentioned Singer up at #46. I presumed we were all up to speed on this as background and my comment was not introducing anything new. It seems as ever I was wrong to presume. At work I rely on others to remind me that the thoughts in my head are not necessarily thereby in any others’.

    Singer is essential reading on ethics.

    I’ve mentioned before that one of the cleverest people I know is a bioethicist. With a slew of degrees, she was one of the mega-fauna here back in the day. Compassionate and clear headed. She had one of those brains I hear from on a BBC R4 programme, “Law in Action”. Moral arguments are dealt with with such expedition, even during differences of opinion. The semantics of all terms used is secure and stable. The “Good” in a specific situation is identified and agreed. The arguments just zip along, noting clearly areas of risk and uncertainty and reasons for dissent or demur.

    It almost seems like working through an equation sometimes.

    Which two books?



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  • Laurie,

    I just meant that you can’t say “you must be ethical here because…” or expect to convince someone that “this or that (abortion, for example) is not unethical because…” My point was that while some acts are ethical and some are not (and abortion per se isn’t unethical), it would be fruitless to try to convince anyone of that using reasoned or scientific arguments. Perhaps you can; but it’s exceedingly difficult. I will say this: you can teach someone to unlearn indoctrination, as I think you suggested; and you can certainly learn pragmatic ethics (a good term) and legal ethics and be guided by such teaching – a good thing indeed; but that is not the same as actually teaching someone what or how to feel, when they lack the capacity. (Nature versus nurture again. I keep going back to that.)

    I wonder whether Singer would agree that while you cannot teach people to be ethical, you can teach ethics, and even teach people to behave ethically – or whether he appreciates the distinction. Go ask him. Thanks.

    You – a “brutish thug”? Sounds quite apt indeed.

    Bonnie,

    Those scientists are a bunch of priggish moralists. They’ve been around forever. Fuck ’em. I am sure Dawkins doesn’t care what they think. Why should we?

    Phil,

    You’ve mentioned this gal before – one of the mega fauna(!) I am sure she’s great, tremendous, fantastic, incredible. (Yawn)



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  • Dan,

    I think you yawned before. But I was endorsing Laurie’s point on the mode of thinking, rather than trying to keep you awake.

    Sadly, as I get older, repetion is going to happen more…



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  • Peter Singer is a provocative guy. I tend to consider seriously some of the bioethical practices he recommends that violate public consensus on current moral imperatives regarding treatment for viable new borns with disabilities at the extremes of incapacitation. By the way, what he recommends “is” infanticide by scientific definition.

    By Jessica Chasmar – The Washington Times – Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    Disability activists have launched a petition demanding Princeton University professor Peter Singer resign over his outspoken support for euthanasia and infanticide.
    Mr. Singer, who teaches bioethics at the private Ivy League university, has for years promoted public policy that would legalize the killing of severely disabled infants, the petition states.
    On his faculty page, Mr. Singer argues: “Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents.
    “Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment. That will often ensure that the baby dies,” Mr. Singer continued. “My view is different from this, only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life support — which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection — but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely.”
    More recently, in an April interview with WND’s Aaron Klein, Mr. Singer said bluntly: “I don’t want my health insurance premiums to be higher so that infants who can experience zero quality of life can have expensive treatments.”

    I empathize with anyone who fears the slippery-slope implications of this practice and declines to push the button in an actual case.



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  • Peter Singer and others have argued for granting legal and moral “personhood” rights to antropoid apes. Singer writes: I founded the Great Ape Project together with Paola Cavalieri, an Italian philosopher and animal advocate, in 1993. Our aim was to grant some basic rights to the nonhuman great apes: life, liberty, and the prohibition of torture.
    The Project has proven controversial. Some opponents argue that, in extending rights beyond our own species, it goes too far, while others claim that, in limiting rights to the great apes, it does not go far enough.
    We reject the first criticism entirely. There is no sound moral reason why possession of basic rights should be limited to members of a particular species. If we were to meet intelligent, sympathetic extraterrestrials, would we deny them basic rights because they are not members of our own species? At a minimum, we should recognize basic rights in all beings who show intelligence and awareness (including some level of self-awareness) and who have emotional and social needs.
    We are more sympathetic to the second criticism. The Great Ape Project does not reject the idea of basic rights for other animals. It merely asserts that the case for such rights is strongest in respect to great apes. The work of researchers like Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey, Birute Galdikas, Frans de Waal, and many others amply demonstrates that the great apes are intelligent beings with strong emotions that in many ways resemble our own.

    Despite close comparisons between ape DNA and human DNA, the larger brain size disparity between apes and other “intelligent” animals, anatomical similarities between ape features and human features, an ape remains as much an animal as a golden retriever. It’s silly and sentimental to confer special status on apes in the animal kingdom – except for enforcing compelling measures to protect a wild endangered species – on grounds that it anthropomorphic.



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  • @ Melvin 166

    By Jessica Chasmar – The Washington Times – Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    “I’m just another snarky politicker who wasn’t disciplined enough as a child. Registered GOP. Libertarian ideologue. MA in political communications, BS in journalism, AA in political science. I enjoy beer, lipstick, guns, tomfoolery and other shenanigans, dangling things in front of my cat, and making liberals cry (which isn’t difficult.) I’m politically incorrect, and I make no apologies. Let’s take America back. La Revolucion!

    “P.S. Libertarianism and conservatism are not the same thing. I am a Libertarian. Don’t get it twisted.”
    —Jessica Chalmer

    Very reliable source. Melvin, you’re out of control. (That’s not meant as a put-down. I am out of control much of the time too.) It saddens me that a man as intelligent as you is so recalcitrant, so stuck.



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  • Phil

    Writings on an Ethical Life and The Most Good You Can Do – That’s the book talk I attended. Big crowd in the UU church in H. Square for him, as you would expect.



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  • Dan

    You – a “brutish thug”? Sounds quite apt indeed.

    Hmmm. So if that shoe fits, are you really sure you want me to wear it?

    Think it through…think it through…. 😉



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  • Laurie, Phil,

    I looked Singer up. I will read Writings on an Ethical Life. I’ll let you know what I think. (Then I’ll move on to Pinker.) Anyone who feels as strongly as Singer does about animals and their rights is worth reading. That’s what got my attention.

    It’s about time I read someone contemporary.

    “Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.” —Schopenhauer



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  • Dan

    I will read Writings on an Ethical Life.

    Yay!

    So I was thinking that it might be fun if you tell us when you’re starting Writings… I will give my copy a breeze through and maybe Phil will do so too. (and anyone else lurking who would like to join in.) You know I can’t join in on discussions of S and W etc but I really might have a shot at lumping along on this one!!!

    Singer is definitely the go to guy on animal rights.



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  • Spoiler alert (not really -anyone can look this up on Amazon Books): Peter Singer: The Most Good You Can Do

    *From the Author
    In a nutshell, what is effective altruism and how does it differ from ordinary charitable giving?
    Effective altruism is both an emerging movement and the set of ideas behind that movement. The basic idea is that to live a fully ethical life, we should seek to do the most good we can. To discover what will do the most good, we need to use reason and evidence. In contrast, two-thirds of donors to charity do no research at all into the organizations to which they donate—they are moved by images that play on their emotions, but give no indication whether the organization is effective at what it claims to be doing.

    Aren’t we all, at the core, self-interested?
    The book introduces readers to many of the men and women who are practicing effective altruism. What they are doing will startle many readers—choosing their careers so that they can donate more, and donating half their incomes to effective charities. Yet typically they don’t think of themselves as making a sacrifice. They find their lives more rewarding than they were before they made these choices. So it may not be a question of denying self-interest, but of a different understanding of what really is in one’s own interests.

    Can effective altruism change the world?
    I find the stories I tell in this book immensely encouraging. There are not many effective altruists yet, but they are already changing the world, and their impact is growing.*

    Singer reveals the heart of a great humanitarian but he is clueless about how economies work. The Utopian fantasy of a “consensual” donation of half of one’s income at higher income levels to “effective” charities that would distribute financial resources on egalitarian criteria would be tantamount to creating a “consensual” command economy . After “skimming” by people who managed and distributed the donations, charity CEOs and upper and middle charity management, corrupt political leaders, contractors, etc., very little of the money would wind up in the pockets of the proliferating poor conditioned into believing that they will be receiving $ according to need. The equivalent of the dictatorship of the proletariat would emerge along with a champagne-and-steak hierarchy and bureaucracy looking out the window at masses cuing up outside stores with nothing on the shelves. (See Venezuela)

    We’ve drifted so far off topic, the moderators will probably have our hides.



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  • We’ve drifted so far off topic, the moderators will probably have our hides.

    Not at this stage in the thread, Melvin! The original topic has been well and truly discussed now.

    The mods



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  • If the shoe fits.

    Classic parapraxis (an error thought to reveal unconscious wishes or attitudes):

    You wrote “So if that shoe fits, are you really sure you want me to wear it?”

    I read “So if that shoe fits, are you really sure you want to wear it?”

    And they say Freud is passé.



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  • Dan: Very reliable source. Melvin, you’re out of control

    All I know is what I read in the newspapers (Will Rogers). You seem to take inordinate interest in background information on this reporter. Her brief article seems to report a factual account of a simple event devoid of editorial comment. Most of the ink is devoted to letting Dr. Singer speak in his own words. Where do you see bias?



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  • I googled her. She’s a fruitcake.
    I’d like to read what Singer reportedly wrote on his “faculty page” about killing infants in its entirety, and in context.
    The “faculty page” cannot be found online.
    Euthanasia is not murder, and neither is terminating a pregnancy.



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  • Laurie (Dan),

    just ordered singer “Writings”. I’ll let you know when it arrives.

    Still appreciating “Moral Tribes”. Some great new ideas in it. My three fave big hitters love it too…

    “A decade ago, the wunderkind Joshua Greene helped start the field of moral neuroscience, producing dazzling research findings. In this equally dazzling book, Greene shows that he is also one of the field’s premier synthesists. Considerable progress has been made in solving the classic problem of how to get individuals within a group to start cooperating. Greene takes on an even bigger problem–how to foster cooperation between groups, groups with deeply felt morals and values, but with different morals and values. There are few more important issues to solve in our increasingly pluralistic world, and this beautifully written book is a step in that direction.” –ROBERT SAPOLSKY

    “Over the past decade, Greene’s groundbreaking research has helped us understand how people judge right and wrong. Now, in this brilliant and enlightening book, he draws on his own research and that of many others to give a more complete picture of our differences over moral issues. But the significance of this book goes far beyond that. Greene suggests a common moral currency that can serve as a basis for cooperation between people who are otherwise deeply divided on matters of morality. If our planet is to have a peaceful and prosperous future such a common moral currency is urgently needed. This book should be widely read and discussed.” –PETER SINGER, professor of bioethics, Pr

    Over the past decade, Greene s groundbreaking research has helped us understand how people judge right and wrong. Now, in this brilliant and enlightening book, he draws on his own research and that of many others to give a more complete picture of our differences over moral issues. But the significance of this book goes far beyond that. Greene suggests a common moral currency that can serve as a basis for cooperation between people who are otherwise deeply divided on matters of morality. If our planet is to have a peaceful and prosperous future such a common moral currency is urgently needed. This book should be widely read and discussed.
    Steven Pinker,

    Sorry, I’m on a 10% with this one.



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  • Dan: Peter Singer’s views on justifying infanticide by non-voluntary euthanasia under certain conditions for seriously disabled infants have been widely known for decades by people who are familiar with his position. In 1993, he wrote: Taking Life: Humans (Peter Singer Excerpted from Practical Ethics, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 1993, pp. 175-217)
    https://www.utilitarianism.net/singer/by/1993—-.htm

    Scroll down about a quarter of the page and read the segment labelled:
    JUSTIFYING INFANTICIDE AND NON-VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA

    I [Dan] googled her. She’s a fruitcake.
    I’d like to read what Singer reportedly wrote on his “faculty page” about killing infants in its entirety, and in context. The “faculty page” cannot be found online.

    Surely you’re not suggesting Jessica Chasmar fabricated this story and concocted Singer’s exact quote????



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  • Moral Tribes

    Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of “How the Mind Works” and “The Better Angels of Our Nature”
    “After two and a half millennia, it’s rare to come across a genuinely new idea on the nature of morality, but in this book Joshua Greene advances not one but several. Greene combines neuroscience with philosophy not as a dilettante but as an expert in both fields, and his synthesis is interdisciplinary in the best sense of using all available conceptual tools to understand a deep phenomenon. Moral Tribes is a landmark in our understanding of morality and the moral sense.”

    I topped and tailed wrongly.

    The only “error” so far is the (American, political) naivety of favouring charity and neglecting the option of a more organised selflessness.



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  • Phil

    Moral Tribes is on my short list for upcoming books.

    (American, political) naivety of favouring charity and neglecting the option of a more organised selflessness.

    When you said this in the past I was struck by the truth of it. I think that for me and probably many Americans it had to come to us from someone outside the system. I couldn’t see it from the inside. This may be why many Americans will have a curious view of charity and Socialism as well.



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  • Laurie, Phil,

    I just ordered Singer’s book from Amazon. The reason I have an instinctive aversion to Moral Tribes (and I just read part of a positive and interesting review) is because I get the feeling that this author thinks that if people just read his book they will actually become more moral, or somehow learn how to be moral. Like getting a degree in morality. You can certainly learn about morality and how it evolved or got lost along the way; but you can’t come up with a system whereby one’s choices and decisions are fundamentally altered.—There is legal ethics (which is important, but is based on utility only, and coercion), there is civic morality (which is important, but is based on social codes and the social life of man) and there is, finally, authentic moral (ethical) feeling itself, which arises out of one’s own individual being, and is reflected in one’s choices and decisions. That is the only species of morality that has any real interest for me.

    A scan of the brain may inform a physician (in the dystopian future) where to apply the scalpel; but the new man (more moral, more refined) will be merely behaving as if he were more moral; but he has lost his freedom, and his actions have no real moral worth.

    The truth is that no matter how many books one reads, one will not be made any more or less moral. That cannot be altered.

    Greene – and there are others like him – are dealing with problems of morality from an evolutionary and neuroscientific perspective, and are thoroughly utilitarian in their approach, like their deluded and short-sighted predecessors. There seems to be something superficial, almost delusional, about these authors; why do people cling to the age-old assumption that morality can be taught, and adhere to the belief that collective pragmatism takes priority over the authentic goodness of the single individual? (The latter is a mystery; they cannot understand it – or dominate it, in an intellectual sense). Why is there such a pervasive unwillingness to even recognize the importance of this distinction? Plato knew that virtue itself cannot be taught, and the truth is that all the books and wisdom and education in the world will not affect the moral life of Man in a real sense one way or the other; we will merely be more informed, more knowledgeable, perhaps elevated and inspired – but not a whit better.

    (Unlearning indoctrination, however, is of inestimable, positive value, as I said in an earlier post.)

    Finally, it would not be honest if I didn’t admit to being a man who can, at times, be superficial himself, and judge prematurely. So maybe I’ll read Moral Tribes as well, and see if my feeling of aversion is justified, or not.



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  • P.S. An example of “unlearning indoctrination” would be, in my opinion, unlearning the aversion to the prospect of organizing society along social lines – which would be more humane and more moral. But people’s prejudices get in the way. They are afraid of socialism. They fear the very word itself. “The people of that age were phrase slaves.” Jack London, The Iron Heel

    What I was trying to say above, in my usual incoherent fashion, is that ethics must remain theoretical; I am deeply skeptical as to the value of practical ethics – in so far as it relates to the individual whose susceptibility to this motive rather than that one remains unassailable.



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  • Beware of public intellectuals who believe society can be transformed into Utopia by making people virtuous, “thinkers” who would appeal to the better angels of our nature. Gentle souls like Pinker who propose that the milk of human kindness could flow through our veins if we would only buy and read his “self-help” books disguised as evolutionary biology are full of bullshit. Humans are territorial animals who protect the resources within their territory from existential threats. Threaten our access to resources, crystallized within our hierarchy of values into “inalienable rights,” then the human hero becomes a ruthless killing machine and does what he must do however “regrettable.”

    Societies become more generous and “benevolent” as scarcity is reduced and conflict becomes less and less intense among individuals, interest groups, and nations competing for resources.



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  • Dan

    It’s about time I read someone contemporary.

    Ok, so the more I read that statement, the more I can’t figure out why you haven’t. This is now sticking in my craw. I want you to explain how and why a person who self-identifies as a philosophy specialist, (or whatever term you used lately) has obviously conquered the works of the old dude philosophers but has not touched, or actively avoided the work of the contemporary philosophers. Eh?!! Explain this to me please.

    If you can’t explain this to my satisfaction then at least admit that you are a philosophy specialist but not a well rounded one. If that’s the truth then so be it. It’s fine.

    why do people cling to the age-old assumption that morality can be taught,

    I don’t know why “people” cling to that but I can speak for myself – because I DID learn morality. First I learned crappy morality from my tea party republican methodist family, and then I read a bunch of books by pragmatic philosophers, ethicists like Singer and Grayling and I changed the way I behave and think about things!!! Yes, yes I know that’s an n of 1 but I can’t go along with your statement because of that. If morality can’t be taught then why aren’t we all stuck in the bad old dark ages? Because we are all always teaching each other morality and we are all seeing examples of better morality demonstrated in front of us.

    Our ethicists are actually making this learning so much easier for me. One of them and I think it was Dennett but don’t quote me on it, said that our philosophers spend hours every day thinking about the topics in their field. Most people don’t have that much time to spend on these things. That’s their value. They do the thinking for me.

    Now in my current book on bioethics, the author has set forth the cases for euthanasia and a number of other issues in such an organized, logical manner that he has now saved me many hours of thinking on my own and to tell the truth, there are many points in the book that I just don’t have the brain power to come up with on my own.

    The construction of an ethical case is really an inspirational thing. It proceeds forth like, as I said above, a beautiful, parsimonious equation. Beauty and parsimony are the two elements that are essential in any masterpiece, be it any of the arts and also it is the same for all of the grand theories of science. This is the prompt for that feeling of tear jerking wonder that we feel when in the presence of any masterpiece. I won’t say that these ethical arguments bring tears to my eyes but they are a more minor version of the same phenomenon.

    Laurie, Phil,

    I just ordered Singer’s book from Amazon

    Ok great! So I’m holding you to this one. After that let’s read some Grayling too! If I think you’re weaseling out of this then the (virtual) gloves are coming off. I’m very fond of you and you are obviously under a halo effect. 🙂

    And from your comment 177 which I didn’t have time to address:

    And they say Freud is passé.

    Freud was all about men. Just men. Women might as well have been automatons for all he knew. He was frightened to death of us ladies and our fancy genitals. That’s my problem with dusty old dude Freud. If I could go back in time I’d invite myself into his stuffy old office/clinic and confront him about this while wearing thigh-high vinyl boots with a bodice to match and brandishing a riding crop. I’m sure he’ stroke out. eye-roll. Whatever. Why does the guy have to be so goddamn boring? Ugh.

    In truth, if I could go back in time I wouldn’t waste my opportunity on dull as dust Freud. I’d go back to the time when Neanderthals were alive and rocking the paleolithic! I’d figure out what went so wrong for them and get to the bottom of several burning questions.



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  • Dan,

    There seems to be something superficial, almost delusional, about these authors; why do people cling to the age-old assumption that morality can be taught, and adhere to the belief that collective pragmatism takes priority over the authentic goodness of the single individual?

    Ethics is not morality. Ethics is an accumulating set of understandings about harms and a set of processes about how to weigh them in the balance so to speak. Like its cultural cousins, language and logic, ethics is an attempt to organise a good enough process to inform our morality and give us a degree of confidence in the positions we take. Further it gives a basis for tribes to understand each other and come together a little better.

    So often we think we have thought through a subject thouroughly. For the American tribe they will think about mostly themselves and their freedoms to act and a morality of maximally free agents. For others, thoughts of communal flourishing will prevail. Very often people have their ethical processes short circuited by others and by dogma. Ethics, taught to all, is a reminder of how bad a job we normally do, how quickly we stop once we have a personally agreeable answer and think that yet we have done a sufficient job.

    Not only do these unfairly dismissed professors remind us of the ways in which people can be harmed, how people actually flourish and neurologically why we are approximately wired this way and that, not only do they point up the simple facts of how our wild success as a species grew from this wiring for mutuality and a flexible adaptive cultural evolution, they urge us to hold all these facts in our minds when we come to use ethical processes for our betterment.

    Morality, for the enlightened, is an ever moving feast as we learn more and more. The the religious Christian, say, only Easter is.



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  • Melvin, Laurie (Phil),

    Not a bad comment, Melvin. I like “virtuous thinkers”, an oxymoron par excellence. I don’t agree, however, that all humans are equally immoral, or egoistic. Most are, perhaps; but there are exceptions, and there are vast, incalculable differences between human beings.—The exceptions almost seem to redeem the whole at times.

    The human character varies; that is for sure. The Ayn Rands of the world, who say that human nature is one thing and one thing only, are as bad, if not worse, that is, more deluded (about the value of short-term gain for oneself only, for example), simplistic, short-sighted, misguided, and worthy of suspicion, than those who wish to promote “virtuous thinking”.

    Ayn Rand was one of the most evil figures in modern intellectual history.

    I don’t read contemporary books, Laurie, because I have a prejudice against them. Indefensible, I know. I need to get over that. Okay, let me go to Amazon right now and order Tribes. Btw, I am watching the news. Race “tightening.” Help!! I think I will order a revolver too and take my own life (like Weininger) if Trump wins. (Kidding!!)

    Laurie, I have used many terms to describe myself. Specialist? I don’t recall that one, although of course I am. My late father was very critical of me for avoiding contemporary authors as well; it bugged the hell out of him. I don’t even like movies past 1979. I read for fortification, follow my instincts. Well-rounded? I guess I could be more well-rounded. But do you read anything prior to 1900? Nyaa nyaa. (Sorry. Hee-hee.)



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  • Melvin #178
    Nov 2, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    All I know is what I read in the newspapers (Will Rogers). You seem to take inordinate interest in background information on this reporter.

    Melvin #187
    Nov 3, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Beware of public intellectuals who believe society can be transformed into Utopia by making people virtuous, “thinkers” who would appeal to the better angels of our nature.

    This explains much negativity against intellectual “expertise”, which is beloved and heavily promoted, by some less-able journalists!

    The qualifications, backgrounds, reputations, and levels of expertise of authors, are highly relevant in evaluating the credibility of their works and integrity of their claims.
    Particularly when examining if their claims are backed by a deep understanding of the subject, or if they are just whimsical conjecture!



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  • Societies become more generous and “benevolent” as scarcity is reduced and conflict becomes less and less intense among individuals, interest groups, and nations competing for resources.

    This isn’t the end of it, Melvin, but its an important start.

    The threat and fear of scarcity coheres groups like nothing else into hateful defensive backsliders. Look how this capacity is used in parasitised societies like your own. It doesn’t take much to make the desperately poor feel rich, but it does require the rich to acknowledge the fact that the world’s moral character lies rather substantially in their hands.

    As Hans Rosling shows the feelings of wealth and well being are logarithmic. After making a million to match the frison in future it has to be ten million. At the other end a thousand extra dollars is wealth and happiness in Ethiopia.

    In effect increasing wealth until good enough food, healthcare and education are supplied (and secured!) you will achieve pretty much the most moral uplift there to be got at present.

    “The Spirit Level” (Wilkinson and Picket) and the Equality Trust provide the evidence for more equal societies.

    As ever, the most frustrating poisoners of change are those who excuse and passivate themslves with dogma.



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  • There is a basic problem when defining when a fertilized egg becomes a person. To obtain votes from the evangelicals, a candidate must say that a human being begins at conception. That is IT. End of discussion.

    I am sure that no one on this blog considers a zygote a person. That is an absurdity. However at the time of delivery, most of us would say the baby is a person. So where do we draw the line between tissue and a person??

    For the dualistic thinker it is easy. Human life begins at conception because that is God’s will !! Anyone familiar with embryonic development would know that it is not that simple. There is a GRADIENT from the zygote to a functional human being. Those who worship dualism as the only reality cannot think in terms of gradients or curve distributions. That would be much to complex for the simplistic thinker.



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  • Laurie,

    You’re just like me – closed off, as closed off to Freud (and others) as I am to Pinker (and others). (The only difference is that you’re missing out on much more.) Freud was a might discoverer of secrets. Boring at times. — Yes. Don’t read The Ego and the Id. (Boring.) Read his introductory lectures and some of his later books like Beyond the Pleasure Principle. What I do is just pick things off the shelf – I have them all – and start reading. Sometimes I luck out. Other times I don’t. There have been times when it felt like my hair had stood up! His penetrating insights and analyses are intense at times.

    177: a beautiful double entendre replete with symbolism. I’ll pull a Bonnie, and let you mull it over, if you care to.

    cBrown. What does “duality” mean to you? body and soul? I agree with you abort abortion, as most of the civilized world does.— Just asking.



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  • Alan4: The qualifications, backgrounds, reputations, and levels of expertise of authors, are highly relevant in evaluating the credibility of their works and integrity of their claims.
    Particularly when examining if their claims are backed by a deep understanding of the subject, or if they are just whimsical conjecture!

    I agree in general that such evaluations are an important but not a decisive factor especially when trusting “expertise” in the social sciences and humanities that advocate pragmatic agendas in the social, political and economic arenas or presumably provide reliable ways of talking about “human nature,” “moral progress,” or “ethical modes of being.” We should be skeptical of authorities who appeal to vague and abstract imperatives, essences, or historical forces. Remember the intellectual reputation enjoyed by Karl Marx, William Graham Sumner (19th century American Social Darwinist) B.F. Skinner, Margaret Mead and countless others. Who can predict if future generations will look back with veneration or ridicule on Steven Pinker? I’m as vulnerable as anyone else to being seduced by the popular acclaim of the moment for certain public intellectuals whose views I find compatible. The tribute that skepticism pays to intellectual honesty keeps me from the irrational exhuberance that sucks so many into ephemeral cults of personality.



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  • What I do is just pick things off the shelf –

    So, Dan, you are a dilletante?

    Does it ever occur to you to research and research… reject and reject and keep, like others, stitching the best together? Do you never see the collective endeavour, the single vast quilt we make even now? S is in there. F too especially for parapraxis and its significance. Is the whole so tiny it must reside only in a single magnificent mind?

    Or is it really the gnawing fear that the most magnificent thing in the universe is and is the product of the jelly?



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  • Melvin

    So there is no progress? None to be expected?

    Science is fucked if so.

    Hang on…The most important discoveries of Skinner still stand.

    Whats an anthropologist doing here?

    Marx transformed economics and started a process of broadening its scope that continues today.

    This is the Creationist style argument against science.

    Science’s greatest strength smeared.



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  • phil rimmer #198
    Nov 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm
    .
    So there is no progress? None to be expected?

    While this is patently false in regards to science, it unfortunately very much so in regard to the quality of journalism and reporting in some writings alleged to be newspapers!



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  • Laurie,

    One more thing . . . and sure; I’ll read Grayling; why not? Let me get through Singer first . . .

    One point. (Unfortunately, I can’t cover everything in these comments.) Let me just say something about this:

    “I changed the way I behave and think about things!!! Yes, yes I know that’s an n of 1 but I can’t go along with your statement because of that. If morality can’t be taught then why aren’t we all stuck in the bad old dark ages? Because we are all always teaching each other morality and we are all seeing examples of better morality demonstrated in front of us.”

    I don’t doubt that you have benefited greatly, that you have changed, as a result of reading these authors. I too have benefited from reading certain authors. My point was more along the lines of a general theory that we are what we are, to put it crudely yet concisely. My assumption is that you already were the person that you are now and will continue to become; but error, indoctrination (tea party parents, as you say), had impeded your natural moral and intellectual growth, prevented you from emerging as “the being that you are“, as Nietzsche said. This may sound like splitting hairs, but to me it isn’t…. What I really wish to say is that I am not negating or discounting what you say. I have no reason to doubt it.—But ask yourself if reading made you more aware of a different way of looking at things and presented motives and principles that would otherwise have been unknown to you – and thus freeing your mind to make the decisions that the real you is now inclined to make, or whether the experience of becoming acquainted with the moral concepts of Singer, Grayling, et al, actually made you more moral. (!) That question rests on my premise that there has been a pervasive failure throughout much of history to distinguish between what one does and what one is. (Not everyone is impressed with that distinction; many argue that we are defined by our acts. Although I am not a Christian, I like to employ the language of the Bible.— I am a strong ‘believer’ in the notion that “works” without “faith” is what is really dead.) You are more moral now. I would argue that you are not; you always were moral in potentia. You have simply freed your mind, have rid yourself of false motives and ideas, and replaced them with newer and better and truer ones, ones that that suit you better, and are in fact better (in all probability).

    As for the dark ages, they were not less moral then; they were guided by false motives, were slaves to superstition, fear, and the false motives of praise and punishment, etc. They were not mentally free.

    My opinions only. Take what you can and leave the rest.

    Mental freedom, the fruit of insight, is one of the greatest gifts that an educator can provide.

    “I’m very fond of you.”

    The feeling is quite mutual. (I won’t let you down. I’ll read these infernal authors. Perhaps you should give me a deadline for Singer, and then for Grayling.)

    Kind Regards,

    D



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  • Phil,

    I pick Freud off the shelf. How is that being a dilettante? I pick cds off the shelf too, and pick fruit from the fruit stand. You have your process; I have mine.

    Ethical acts versus moral acts. Yes, there is a difference – although I am not the first to be confused by this. The former without the latter, without real concern based on empathy, is of no interest to me, as a man, as a humanitarian, or as a philosopher (“specialist”).



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  • Dan

    But do you read anything prior to 1900? Nyaa nyaa. (Sorry. Hee-hee.)

    Errr the Bible, the Koran, (crap writing both of them), Shakespeare (beautiful). I love the Canterbury Tales and I can’t imagine not having read everything in the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Aaaaaaaaand…Dickens!

    All of the feminist lit that I read in the seventies that made up the first intellectual movement that I loved as a teen. Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein and all of the sci fi and speculative fiction authors who taught me how to think outside the box. Aaaaaaaand…Chomsky!

    How’s that for a start? 🙂



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  • Dan

    I pick Freud off the shelf. How is that being a dilettante?

    It depends if you put anything more than Freud on the shelves in the first place…

    It seems there is little choice from your accounts.

    You have your process; I have mine.

    My process involves picking books off Amazon’s shelves. About 60 a year at the moment. Most were unknown the week before… They’re cheap enough these days.



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  • Phil: There’s a lot here to be hashed over in discussion and I recognize value in what you are saying.

    So there is no progress? None to be expected?
    Science is fucked if so
    ….Undeniably Science will make advances in many areas that promote collective human education health and welfare but Science has no transcendent plan for the destiny of the human species. If “progress” means everything is getting better and better over time just contemplate where you and I will be in 20 years.

    Hang on…The most important discoveries of Skinner still stand. His operant conditioning experiments with pigeons are landmark but he got a little carried away when he tried to raise his kid in a Skinner box and seriously expected to raise a flawless pigeon..er…human being.

    Whats an anthropologist doing here? Anthropology is a social science. Margaret Meade’s Coming of age in Somoa was adored by the public who wanted to believe in the portrait of a purely innocent gentle people growing up in an exotic natural Eden, the idealized “state of nature.” Later investigators found Somoans to be among the most violent, brutal human societies on earth.

    Marx transformed economics and started a process of broadening its scope that continues today. Marx took the more benign forms of socialism promoted in his day and transformed them into “scientific imperatives of history” leading to a bloody revolutionary apocalypse. His hatred of the bourgeoisie and fanatical faith in the mystic destiny of the proletariat to expropriate the expropriators segued too easily into totalitarianism rationalized with mass murder.

    Steven Pinker also falls into the faith-in-progress crowd. It’s one thing to describe selective progress in hindsight and another to predict where we humans are headed in an uncertain future centuries and millennia from today.



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  • Melvin

    Not much time before sleep overtakes me, so a few comments only…

    Marx

    His hatred of the bourgeoisie and fanatical faith in the mystic destiny of the proletariat to expropriate the expropriators segued too easily into totalitarianism rationalized with mass murder.

    Marx was irredeemably bourgoise himself and keen for the finer things. Yours is an astonishing misconception of the man and his motivations. A recent documentary by Bettany Hughes shows the above to be utterly false. I’ll try and find a link for you.

    Margret Meade made shit up. I think people rather fancied the bonobo style sex she described rather than some pacific eden.

    I think if you want to take on Pinker, on the broad moral trajectory of the naked ape, you must be prepared to take on Professors Sapolsky, Singer, Turchin, Haidt, Greene etc. We’re talking most of the big name university departments here.



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  • Laurie! (Phil) #174

    I did it. It’s on the way. (Phil’s is too.) Here’s proof. (This is a reason and science site, so I’m providing proof.)

    Amazon
    Order Confirmation

    Details
    Order #002-1149658-6023405

    Hello Daniel,

    Thank you for shopping with us. You ordered “Writings on an Ethical Life”. We’ll send a confirmation when your item ships.



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  • Melvin #204
    Nov 3, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Marx transformed economics and started a process of broadening its scope that continues today. Marx took the more benign forms of socialism promoted in his day and transformed them into “scientific imperatives of history” leading to a bloody revolutionary apocalypse. His hatred of the bourgeoisie and fanatical faith in the mystic destiny of the proletariat to expropriate the expropriators segued too easily into totalitarianism rationalized with mass murder.

    We would need to remember that this revolution was in the context of arising from an imperial use of the exploited proletariat in the bloody apocalypse of the trenches of WW1, to settle the differences in ambitions of two emperors! – With other foreign monarchies contributing military forces to suppress the revolution, while using their own proletariats as cannon fodder in those trenches!

    The thing which really terrified the European elites, was the Marxist doctrine that the slaughter of war could be stopped by shooting bourgeois officers! – Officers on either side of the conflict who acted on imperial orders!



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  • Phil says to Dan (@197):

    … reject and reject and keep, like others, stitching the best
    together?

    Dan says to Laurie (@200):

    My opinions only. Take what you can and leave the rest.

    Sounds like a very accelerated case of cryptomnesia 😉



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  • Dan

    Ethical acts versus moral acts. Yes, there is a difference

    I am thinking about this statement and trying to figure it out. I’m a little fuzzy on the distinction.

    So can an immoral person engage in an ethical act? Would this be when, for example, a psychopath acts in an altruistic way (for whatever payoff they are getting out of it)? Or if I despise someone for past harms but in a moment of opportunity to serve them up a dose of their own medicine I stop and consider my ethical obligations and follow that equation to an ethical act? -Even though I would prefer to douse them with gasoline and toss a match…Disclaimer: I would never do that. It was for maximum effect only.

    Can we have a moral act that is unethical? Can’t think of any offhand.



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  • Laurie,

    Can we have a moral act that is unethical? Can’t think of any offhand.

    My point exactly – although I didn’t express it quite so well. I don’t see much of a difference either; but being the people-pleaser and timorous man that I am, I gave Phil the benefit of the doubt and conceded the point out of weakness and fear. 😉 I did say this, however(#201):

    The former [an ethical act] without the latter [morality], without real concern based on empathy, is of no interest to me, as a man, as a humanitarian, or as a philosopher (“specialist”).

    Did you notice that I ordered the book, and even provided proof (207)? Aren’t you happy?

    Perhaps we can have an ethical act that is immoral. Ha-ha. (That’s the kind of shit that gives philosophy a bad name.)



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  • Cont.

    Or if I despise someone for past harms but in a moment of opportunity to serve them up a dose of their own medicine I stop and consider my ethical obligations and follow that equation to an ethical act?

    This is the crux of the issue, Laurie! I have written about this at length on various threads dealing with ethics and “free will” on this site (and elsewhere). I also touched upon it in comment 200, where I responded to your touching comments about your own moral development. “Stopping to consider” and being able to refrain from dousing the SOB with gasoline is not something to take lightly. That speaks to the very essence of morality. The opposing motive presented to you as “consideration of ethical obligations” (independently of fear of punishment) might not be strong enough to act as an opposing motive were you in fact a “brutish thug” with no regard for the feelings of your enemy. And more importantly, consideration of an obligation would only prevent the opposing motive of egoistic violence if, and only if, the ethical feeling itself (which is something quite distinct from what one knows one is “obligated” to do on an intellectual level) is strong enough. As I said before, you cannot legislate or teach someone to feel moral, based on obligations (“Thou shalt.”) At a certain point all that one has learned breaks down in the heat of the moment. Or it doesn’t. —Depends on which motive one is more susceptible to: compassion or, say, hate-driven revenge.

    Behavior can be taught. One can refrain from doing certain things based on learned rules and maxims (obligations); but this, I am quite sure, has no real ethical value, and is not foolproof. It may, as I also said, be good for society, but fear of punishment must be added in. Pragmatic ethics is based on a system of rules, and is necessarily coercive. Perhaps that is one of the difference between ethics and morality. That is what I thought Phil might have meant.

    Confession: I said I had ordered the Singer book at 1:48 am, last night. That was true. I also said that I had ordered it at 11:42 am, last night. That was not true. My apologies for that white lie.



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  • Dan

    Did you notice that I ordered the book, and even provided proof (207)? Aren’t you happy?

    Well yes, I did notice that but I can’t be completely happy yet because I was immediately reminded of those wealthy bounders, new money gauche types who built mansions and purchased books by the yard to fill their new library shelves, all to project an air of old world wealth and intellectual prowess. Not a single book was ever opened of course.

    Not saying you are a new money bounder of course! Yes, yes, I know, I know, my Bostonian WASP roots are slipping out from the edges. So ridiculous.

    That was not proof by the way. You could’ve just typed that from nothing. Please send me your Amazon account information…(kidding)

    I think it’ll be fun to run through this book and hear what others think of it. I don’t know. It’s worth a try. I have the book next to me on the couch here ready to go.

    I am thinking about the ethical/moral comment and need to read it through a few more times. thanks



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  • Wiki Ethics,

    Rushworth Kidder states that “standard definitions of ethics have typically included such phrases as ‘the science of the ideal human character’ or ‘the science of moral duty'”.[3] Richard William Paul and Linda Elder define ethics as “a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps or harms sentient creatures”.[4] The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy states that the word ethics is “commonly used interchangeably with ‘morality’ … and sometimes it is used more narrowly to mean the moral principles of a particular tradition, group or individual.”[5] Paul and Elder state that most people confuse ethics with behaving in accordance with social conventions, religious beliefs and the law and don’t treat ethics as a stand-alone concept.[4]

    Many people conflate morality and ethics. Ethics courses at Universities don’t. My own view is that Roget has a lot to answer for….



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  • Laurie

    “I am thinking about the ethical/moral comment and need to read it through a few more times.”

    I wish I had stated it better. (I am such a lummox.) I reiterated a point I have expressed a number of times, about motives as causes, and about the powerlessness of reason (in the form of an obligation or an “imperative”) to affect a decision in the face of a stronger and opposing desire.

    Having an obligation is not a guarantee that you will fulfill it. You have to want to do what is moral.

    “Even though I would prefer to douse them…”

    My point is that if you had really preferred to do that you would have! (I hope that helps.)

    (Confession: I am living now in my late father’s apartment. Now I can’t live without reading, but… my sister wants to donate his books; I told her no f-ing way! I like the way they look!)



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  • Phil,

    A course on ethics would cover a hell of a lot of ground. A course on “how to be moral” would be a waste of time. But a person who is truly ethical in his or her dealings with other people (and animals) must, I believe, have a good moral character, a good heart – if I may use that expression. That is how I am using the word ethical (in this context). Must we quibble. You know what I mean, right?



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  • Dan,

    Here I fairly often talk of our (human) “day job” as being one of a moral “daily due diligence.

    The religious claim to be moral and achieve it thrugh adherence to dogma.

    I contrariwise claim to be ethical, because my morals are constantly refined by processes of discovering harms and having insights and developing sympathy for the new plight of new others.

    I hold a process of developing and refining morality as higher than any single moral in itself. By worrying about who and what we worry about as a matter of daily habit we are stopped from worrying about others, say, in a way that might itself become mere, empty habit.

    Yes I can understand what you mean. I think we could agree (as ever) a more precise set of meanings to how we use language in certain areas.

    FWIW I hold morals simply to be those transforming heuristics that couple our impulsive selves to our acting selves…. I hold ethics to be meta-morals.



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  • Phil,

    Religion truly gives morality a bad name.

    And…

    “One should never let one’s sense of morals prevent one from doing what is right.” —Asimov



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  • Nice Asimov quote.

    The moral issue is for me THE issue to lead the charge against religion….

    This

    By worrying about who and what we worry about as a matter of daily habit we are stopped from worrying about others, say, in a way that might itself become mere, empty habit.

    was a phrased in a paradoxical way. Its too important to be jokey.

    Let me clarify.

    Like facts of science and the scientific method, only the method (and not the facts) should become a habit.



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  • Phil, Laurie,

    My copy of Writings on an Ethical Life arrived today. Phil, did yours arrive yet? And I just voted . . . for Trump. (kidding).

    I look forward to reading it and discussing it (on an ethics thread).

    I started the preface and came across the word speciesism which rubbed me the wrong way. I hope this guy isn’t a fanatic.

    Take care.

    D



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  • Dan #220
    Nov 8, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    I started the preface and came across the word speciesism which rubbed me the wrong way. I hope this guy isn’t a fanatic.

    I’m not sure how you would reach that conclusion!

    Speciesism definition, discrimination in favor of one species, usually the human species, over another, especially in the exploitation or mistreatment of animals.



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  • No conclusion, Alan; I said “I hope…”

    Watching election coverage. Keeping my fingers crossed. (Wait! That’s superstitious woo! Sorry. Lost my head.)

    🙂



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  • Dan

    I’ve been out all day and haven’t turned on the election coverage yet. Are we gonna be ok?

    My copy of Moral Tribes arrived today in the mail. Yesterday I breezed through a book titled Hillbilly Elegy. The author had been on the talk show circuit and it sounded interesting. I got the book Lab Girl from my library (across the street from my house) and started that last night. But I think I will return it for a week or two so I can reread Writings and then Moral Tribes.

    Your apt sounds wonderful and I don’t blame you for keeping those books. A personal library is a great luxury in this life, although mine tried to kill me last week when I reached for a large book on the top shelf and as it leaned forward into my hand another large book, From Dawn to Decadence came off the shelf with it and came hurtling down and hit me in the head. Almost smashed my skull.

    I voted this morning. Voted for Hillary of course and yes for legalizing weed and yes for the animal rights ballot question and no for more charter schools in MA. Let’s watch the returns come in. I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. What will happen tomorrow?



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  • Hi, Laurie,

    I am confident that Hillary will win, Laurie. Don’t worry.

    Nate Silver is considered on of America’s foremost statisticians and pollsters, and he has her ahead in all the swing states. (And I think there’s a consensus now about this election.) Some battleground states are still very close, of course. I think she will win in Florida and North Carolina, although there has been voter suppression in NC. They’ve targeted key districts with “surgical precision”. The republicans have tampered with voting machines in order to make it harder for blacks to vote. Many people simply cannot wait for hours on line. Their jobs are on the line.

    Those scumbags never stop.

    I am sorry the book fell on you.

    I thought you voted early at Town Hall. Was that a white lie? 😉



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  • Dan

    I never made it out to the early voting. Too busy that day. But I voted today!

    We need a national voting day holiday. Early voting helped but not all states have it.

    What channel are you watching for results tonight?

    Indiana and Kentucky just projected over to Trump. MSNBC



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  • Laurie,

    I am watching MSNBC.

    Those projected wins mean nothing. Everyone knows he’s going to get most of the red states. She’s close in Georgia, which is a good sign. She’ll probably lose Georgia, but the fact that she’s close is…. good. (My razor-sharp analysis.)

    National voting day. The Republicans will do everything they can to prevent that.



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  • Laurie

    Not looking good, Laurie. I feel sick. If she loses Florida and Virginia that’s it. All the rural voters are voting for Trump.
    This is a nightmare. He might even win Michigan. Not looking good.
    Beyond horrible.
    God help us.



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  • Laurie! (others)

    Look at this article. I am sure you know about this, but in case you don’t…. Kasich has to veto this! This is clearly in violation of Roe V Wade. They’re going to start violating the law of the land now?

    “[The totalitarian state] ceaselessly peddles fear to keep a population traumatized and immobilized. It turns the courts, along with legislative bodies, into mechanisms to legalize the crimes of state.” —Arendt (I think)

    http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/12/john-kasich-ohio-anti-abortion-bill



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