Saturday, August 05, 2017

Atheism, gay rights, and human rights

Chad Handley: I've always thought it a bit scandalous that some atheist writers 1) have moral views of which they are quite certain 2) are adamant that certainty without evidence is abhorrent and yet 3) offer no evidence for the truth of their moral views.

VR: Yes, for example, they believe in gay rights. But the existence of gay rights entails the existence of human rights. But, as I showed here a few posts back, the existence of human rights a) does not fit in with an atheist world view and b) is open to the same kind of question atheists ask Christians, namely "Where's your evidence?" And, given new atheist methods for ascribing evidence, the answer has to be, "there is none."

I've heard people on both sides of the gay rights issue say that it is easier, if you are pro-gay, to be an atheist.  In the short run this is true, and demographically, atheists overwhelmingly support gay marriage. But logically, atheism undercuts the case for equal human rights, on which the case for gay marriage depends. They have no case against a homophobic secular state that just doesn't like gay people. 

34 comments:

Chad Handley said...

I think it's even worse than that. Atheists as a group don't seem to have a working theory of morality of their own. The most you ever get from them is that all morality requires is empathy, or some such platitude. Atheists are adamant about the importance of epistemology except when it comes to their own moral claims. They are completely silent as a group about what makes it the case that their moral beliefs are true.

This is especially damning with respect to New Atheists, as most of their case against religion depends less on religion being untrue than on religion being evil. People who are so strident about proportioning beliefs to evidence owe us some explanation as to how they're so sure, for example, that abortion is morally permissible. If there's an argument for this that is so strong that their certainty on this point is suitably proportionate to it, I've never heard it. I would go so far as to say that such an argument has never been printed.

Chad Handley said...

To be fair, I should say that Sam Harris has at least attempted to provide some sort of a theory of morality. But the consensus even among atheists is that his attempt was a failure. To my knowledge, no one else has stepped in to provide a better case. Lots of atheists have said that Harris was wrong, but no one has offered a positive theory for how we know objective morality exist, or how we can know our beliefs align with what objective morality requires of us.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Chad Handley said...

" They are completely silent as a group about what makes it the case that their moral beliefs are true."
--Moral beliefs simply are not "true", so what sense would it make to argue that they are?

Morality is an individual brain process, not an outside realized object or accessible reference source.

" This is especially damning with respect to New Atheists, as most of their case against religion depends less on religion being untrue than on religion being evil."
--False dichotomy. Both are the case.

" abortion is morally permissible."
--"Abortion" is a vague term.

" If there's an argument for this that is so strong that their certainty on this point is suitably proportionate to it, I've never heard it."
--Disposal of human tissue is not by itself wrong. Infanticide is wrong. A fertilized egg is just human tissue. A term baby is just that. In between requires a great deal of analysis.


August 05, 2017 11:04 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Chad Handley said...

"Lots of atheists have said that Harris was wrong, but no one has offered a positive theory for how we know objective morality exist, or how we can know our beliefs align with what objective morality requires of us."
August 05, 2017 1:03 PM

That's because objective morality does not exist so it makes no sense to seek what a non-existent thing requires of us.

Victor Reppert said...

SP: --Disposal of human tissue is not by itself wrong. Infanticide is wrong. A fertilized egg is just human tissue. A term baby is just that. In between requires a great deal of analysis.

VR: For every sentence you just wrote I have one question. Where's your evidence?

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "Both are the case."
Stardusty: ""Abortion" is a vague term."

If you think about it, it's hilarious that you consider abortion to be a vague term, but you happily declare "religion" to be both untrue and evil.

"Religion" is neither, to the same extent it is both. Thus "religion" is not a useful term.


Stardusty: " A fertilized egg is just human tissue."

So are you.

Hal said...

What counts as evidence for moral claims?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Victor Reppert said...

SP: --Disposal of human tissue is not by itself wrong. Infanticide is wrong. A fertilized egg is just human tissue. A term baby is just that. In between requires a great deal of analysis.

VR: For every sentence you just wrote I have one question. Where's your evidence?
August 06, 2017 12:37 AM
--Those were personal moral judgements. I did not take the time in that post to elaborate, given my immediately prior denial of moral realism.

Human beings are highly protective of their young, in general. If we weren't there wouldn't be any human beings. Natural selection has led each individual to experience a strong bond and sense of defensiveness toward a baby. For most of us the cry of a baby is piercing and impossible to ignore. Nearly all individuals feel very strongly that it is wrong to harm a baby. We can find endless evidence of this widespread sensibility, and it is written into our laws, be no evidence is available for a moral realism of this sensibility.

Human tissue is considered disposable, again as a widespread individual sensibility. Virtually all individuals have no compassion for a few blood cells lost, or any other tissue that one chooses for medical reasons to remove. We may have compassion for the plight of the individual if it is a debilitating loss, but the tissue itself is not considered to have been somehow wronged in its disposal. There is a great deal of evidence for the widespread fact of this individual sensibility, but no evidence it is a morally realistic fact.

Moral realism is an illusion I have no need of.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Legion of Logic said... August 06, 2017 6:38 AM

Stardusty: "Both are the case."
Stardusty: ""Abortion" is a vague term."

" If you think about it, it's hilarious that you consider abortion to be a vague term, but you happily declare "religion" to be both untrue and evil."
--That's not precisely what I said. Recall Chad referenced a specific set of analyses of the evil nature of religion. That's not the same thing as saying all religion is always evil in all respects.

For example, the Christian god is demonstrably evil by Christian standards of evil because of the attribution of omniscience, omnipotence, and source of universal creation to this imagination of god. Absent those further attributions such a demonstration would break down.


Stardusty: " A fertilized egg is just human tissue."

" So are you."
--No, the key word being "just". I am not "just" human tissue, rather, I am a particular organization of a great many sorts of human tissue.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "For example, the Christian god is demonstrably evil by Christian standards of evil because of the attribution of omniscience, omnipotence, and source of universal creation to this imagination of god."

We disagree, but that discussion would be a huge swerving off topic.


Stardusty: "No, the key word being "just". I am not "just" human tissue, rather, I am a particular organization of a great many sorts of human tissue."

Where is the breakover point from "just human tissue" to "particular organization", and why? For example, cell differentiation occurs within a week of fertilization, which would seem to qualify as a particular organization of many sorts of human tissue.

David Brightly said...

I think there is a misunderstanding here. When someone lacking a theistic grounding for the notion of 'right' says something like 'group X has the right to good Y' what they mean is 'group Z has a genuine right to good Y and it's unfair that group X lacks it'. By 'genuine' I mean backed up by law or social custom to the extent that somebody or some institution takes responsibility for meeting the demands of those asserting the right. The moral content of the claim lies ultimately in appeal to our sense of fairness, which we take for granted independent of any theory as to its divine or other origin. To ask for any more specific ground for the putative 'right' is to misunderstand how the word is used in contemporary political engagement.

Victor Reppert said...

Do we have a common sense of fairness? If the people with the biggest guns say I don't have a certain right, do I have that right even though those who think I lack this right have the guns (and the knives, and the whips) and the people who think I have this right do not. Think of the countless black Americans who died in slavery. They, I maintain, had a right to freedom which was denied them, and which they never could exercise, but how can this be true? Social custom and law wasn't there to back up their right, so on what basis can we say, if there are no metaphysically grounded moral facts, that they really had the right be free, but that right was denied them.

When we had slavery in this country, of course slaveowners appealed to religion, because people were religious. Had they not been, do you think they would have had any trouble appealing to evolution to justify enslaving black people? If you are looking for it, the case for slavery virtually jumps off the pages of the Origin of Species.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2017/08/05/atheism-undercut-case-equal-human-rights/

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said... August 06, 2017 9:23 AM

Stardusty: "For example, the Christian god is demonstrably evil by Christian standards of evil because of the attribution of omniscience, omnipotence, and source of universal creation to this imagination of god."

" We disagree, "
--Unlike with my series of 5 posts starting July 26, 2017 11:32 PM to which you have voiced no objections and I can therefore conclude you fully agree with :-)


Stardusty: "No, the key word being "just". I am not "just" human tissue, rather, I am a particular organization of a great many sorts of human tissue."

" Where is the breakover point from "just human tissue" to "particular organization""
--In my view, brain function.

", and why? "
--Because that is the traditional and legal means to determine death. A person who has ceased to have a functioning brain is ruled dead even if the rest of the body functions. A person who has a body nearly non-functional except the brain is ruled to be alive.

Those are fairly well established criteria at the end of life and I think it is reasonable to apply a brain function standard to the beginning of life.

There are technical barriers for determining a sharp dividing line with today's state of technology. But we can use this principle to at least bracket this determination.

Certainly, to have brain function there must be a brain.

bmiller said...

@Strawdusty,


--Because that is the traditional and legal means to determine death. A person who has ceased to have a functioning brain is ruled dead even if the rest of the body functions. A person who has a body nearly non-functional except the brain is ruled to be alive.

Those are fairly well established criteria at the end of life and I think it is reasonable to apply a brain function standard to the beginning of life.

There are technical barriers for determining a sharp dividing line with today's state of technology. But we can use this principle to at least bracket this determination.

Certainly, to have brain function there must be a brain.


There is another distinction between this and the consideration of abortion.
An unborn child is normally expected to have a functioning brain, while in the case of "brain death", the patient is not.

If you wait to administer the test a couple months, the unborn child will pass.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Blogger bmiller said...

" There is another distinction between this and the consideration of abortion.
An unborn child is normally expected to have a functioning brain, while in the case of "brain death", the patient is not.

If you wait to administer the test a couple months, the unborn child will pass."
--I realize that temporal considerations are very difficult for you, but try to focus.

Now is not the future.

Ok, maybe that was too abstract for you, so here are a few concrete examples:
Burning blueprints is not arson.
Not calling back after a date is not a divorce.
Abstaining from sex is not infanticide.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "Unlike with my series of 5 posts"

I did read them, but as I said however long ago, I'm not participating in the Aquinas thread any longer. 95 percent of my experience there was laughing at Cal as he failed to accurately psychoanalyze me, hurled childish insults about apologists, and preached to me the rules of good argumentation, despite not knowing what they are. Rest assured, though, when I want to have some self-described skeptic tell me I don't understand inertia, with the only piece of evidence being I didn't agree with him about the First Way (Prediction: apologists will continue to disagree with me, and thereby my insults are proven true!), then I will come rushing back to the thread.

Regarding my view on the breakover point, it occurs when a sperm and egg become one, and the DNA of the new human life is formed. The difference between me now, me as a teenager, me as a child, me as an infant, me as a so-called fetus, me as an embryo, and me as a zygote is nothing more than the point of development I am/was at - but it was still me. At no point did I magically transition from not a human to a human. Thus, per the development cycle of human organisms, I began existing at my first cell.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "Unlike with my series of 5 posts"

" I did read them, "
--Ok, thanks for at least looking at what I wrote. Did any obvious errors jump out at you?

" Rest assured, though, when I want to have some self-described skeptic tell me I don't understand inertia, with the only piece of evidence being I didn't agree with him about the First Way (Prediction: apologists will continue to disagree with me, and thereby my insults are proven true!), then I will come rushing back to the thread."
--Heh, heh, heh :-) Well, maybe you could throw a note over the transom here...

" Regarding my view on the breakover point, it occurs when a sperm and egg become one, and the DNA of the new human life is formed."
--What difference does the presence of DNA make in your humanity?

With modern technology you can be cloned from most any cell in your body. Must we protect every cell that contains DNA as though it is a baby human being?

" The difference between me now, me as a teenager, me as a child, me as an infant, me as a so-called fetus, me as an embryo, and me as a zygote is nothing more than the point of development I am/was at - but it was still me."
--Were you still you as an embryo? What makes you you? Did you have any thoughts as an zygote? Did you even have a brain as a zygote? What was the overall structure of your body and your mind at that time?

" At no point did I magically transition from not a human to a human."
--When a sperm cell is outside the egg cell there is complete DNA in close proximity and if we just leave the process alone there is a high likelihood a baby will eventually be born. So, is a spermicidal jelly a murder poison?

Is the "magic" point when the sperm cell penetrates the wall? How about when the sperm cell dissolves inside the egg cell? How about when the DNA begins to combine? How about the moment that DNA combination is complete? Is that the "magic" moment when zap, that last bonding occurred so now the fertilized egg is a human being?

These questions matter because technology allows us to parse the process down to this level of detail. If you were to answer "yes", then there would be a severe impact on IVF for patients and medical practitioners. You may fairly say that is a consequentialist objection, not one of rational argument on the merits of when life begins. My point is you deny a magic moment, yet you have asserted a magic moment, but only somewhat precisely. If you are going to set policy based on your particular magic moment it is critical to define precisely what and when it is.

So, at what point in the reproductive process, precisely, does one become a human being?

" Thus, per the development cycle of human organisms, I began existing at my first cell."
--So, I take that to mean that at sperm penetration, no. At sperm dissolution, no. At the beginning of DNA combination, no, but at the instant the last bonding occurred in the complete DNA set, yes, that was the magic moment when you feel you became you.


August 06, 2017 10:53 PM

bmiller said...

@Strawdusty,

It seems you missed my point. What a surprise.

Those who consider terminating a "brain dead" patient justify it on the grounds that the condition will not change. There will never be "brain function" moving forward and so the individual is considered dead.

That is not the case with an unborn child. Even abortionists consider the unborn child alive.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "Did any obvious errors jump out at you?"

There are things I would have gotten deeper into, for example the notion that an essential series consisting of X number of accidental series on some level, invalidates the essential series as a concept. I don't believe that is the case. (This is one I remembered because it's been touched on in other threads since then.) Those five posts did far exceed the level of discourse and analysis that had been present previously, I will certainly give you that.


Stardusty: "What difference does the presence of DNA make in your humanity?"

For the same reason a mother doesn't get arrested for a crime her child commits. The different DNA in utero identifies the zygote as not a part of her body. That is the farthest we can scientifically trace a human life, for once the zygote is separated into the two gametes, it is once again a mother's cell and a father's cell.


Stardusty: "With modern technology you can be cloned from most any cell in your body. Must we protect every cell that contains DNA as though it is a baby human being?"

One of the core, or at least most common, assertions made by the pro-choice crowd is that, prior to "viability", the mysterious object in the womb is only a "potential" life, and thus can't be considered a human life. Burning a blueprint is not arson, right?

I would counter that the scenario you brought up is in fact the potential life, and the ova and sperm cells would count as potential lives. None of those will naturally develop into a human unless something is manipulated or added. Once the zygote exists, though, that's the first stage of a human life. There is nothing potential about it, the life has already begun. I think it does a huge disservice to classify a developing human life in the same biological category as a sperm cell.


Stardusty: "Were you still you as an embryo?"

If we define a human as a natural biological organism, consisting of human genetic material, that is not a component of a host body (like a neuron), then yes that was me. Same creature.


Stardusty: "What was the overall structure of your body and your mind at that time?"

At the level of development that a human is undergoing at that stage of life.


Stardusty: "When a sperm cell is outside the egg cell there is complete DNA in close proximity and if we just leave the process alone there is a high likelihood a baby will eventually be born. So, is a spermicidal jelly a murder poison?"

Likelihood and potential are synonymous in that regard, so no. A high potential is not the same as already present.


Stardusty: "If you are going to set policy based on your particular magic moment it is critical to define precisely what and when it is."

Setting policy (good policy anyway) is rarely as convenient as aligning it to black and white designations. Life is too messy, with all the possible circumstances that can subtly or even completely change the situation. I do believe policy should err on the side of life whenever possible, based on the premise that a human's life cycle (and thus life) begins with the first cell of its biological existence.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "Did any obvious errors jump out at you?"

" There are things I would have gotten deeper into, for example the notion that an essential series consisting of X number of accidental series on some level, invalidates the essential series as a concept."
--I had been thinking something similar. I have actually addressed this issue but not as explicitly as I should have. This is linked to how we perceive the present, and how we tend to group entire sets of causes together with a single label of cause X. Similarly we tend to group a whole set of effects into a single label of effect Y. We also tend to assign or project our intentions onto objects all around us. These human perceptual tendencies lead to the sense of a concurrent cause and effect, or the notion that if the cause is stopped then the effect will be stopped. I experience this perception as well, and presumably we all do.

Since I am the one asserting the counter intuitive case I will have to work harder to find the words to explain in detail how our intuition leads us astray in this case.



" One of the core, or at least most common, assertions made by the pro-choice crowd is that, prior to "viability", the mysterious object in the womb is only a "potential" life, and thus can't be considered a human life. Burning a blueprint is not arson, right?"

" I would counter that the scenario you brought up is in fact the potential life, and the ova and sperm cells would count as potential lives. None of those will naturally develop into a human unless something is manipulated or added. Once the zygote exists, though, that's the first stage of a human life. There is nothing potential about it, the life has already begun. I think it does a huge disservice to classify a developing human life in the same biological category as a sperm cell."


Stardusty: "When a sperm cell is outside the egg cell there is complete DNA in close proximity and if we just leave the process alone there is a high likelihood a baby will eventually be born. So, is a spermicidal jelly a murder poison?"

" Likelihood and potential are synonymous in that regard, so no. A high potential is not the same as already present."


--I picked out those paragraphs to quote because together they express circular reasoning, or perhaps argument by definition.

You are presupposing the very thing you are setting out to argue for, that the zygote is a human life.


August 07, 2017 9:39 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...


You acknowledge that "Likelihood and potential are synonymous". A sperm cell in close proximity to an egg cell have together all the DNA needed to eventually develop into a term baby. There is some percentage likelihood that development will occur, and some percentage likelihood it will not. If we kill either the egg cell or the sperm cell that particular potential baby will never be born.

If we wait until after fertilization we have the same total DNA set, but now the percentage likelihood has increased. Again, killing the zygote will prevent that particular baby from ever developing.

This might sound somewhat fanciful and contrived, but apparently the Bishop of Rome considers such things in great detail. Thus, spermicides, diaphragms, and condoms are sinful to use, since they do as I have described. Apparently I am not alone in finding the thwarting of development prior to fertilization to be the moral equivalent to thwarting it after fertilization.

The difference, of course, is what sort of moral equivalence. The leader of that huge Christian sect finds both pre and post fertilization thwarting of development to be morally unacceptable, whereas I find them both to morally acceptable up to the development of a functioning brain.

" I would counter that the scenario you brought up is in fact the potential life, and the ova and sperm cells would count as potential lives. None of those will naturally develop into a human unless something is manipulated or added."
--By who or what? Once the sperm is swimming up the tube the cells are just doing what cells do without any manipulation and without adding anything.

"Once the zygote exists, though, that's the first stage of a human life. There is nothing potential about it, the life has already begun."
--It is a potential term baby with some percentage likelihood of ever being born. You are simply declaring it not a potential because life has begun.

You are arguing by synonym. It is like arguing that it's alive because it's not dead.

I meet human beings every day. Old ones, young ones, lots of different kinds. I have never met one made out of a single cell. Human beings are not single celled organisms. A single human cell is just that, a single cell of human tissue. You simply have not made the case that a single cell is somehow the same sort of thing as the human beings I meet every day.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "You are presupposing the very thing you are setting out to argue for, that the zygote is a human life."

That would be because my definition of human life includes both a zygote and an adult and everything in between, but excludes individual cells of an existing human since they are themselves not the stage of a human life cycle.

Why is my definition the one I go with? Because it is the only definition I've encountered that is not arbitrary and does not cause an existing living organism to be classified as "potential" even though it is already existing and alive. It is consistent from formation of the zygote all the way through the elderly years, because the only thing that differs at any two points anywhere along the continuum is the stage of development.

Brain activity and "viability" are arbitrary definitions of personhood for a developing human, and are a slippery slope toward those with mental handicaps who do not possess the same level of brain activity as a "normal" person or who need assistance to survive.

I suspect most arbitrary definitions of personhood aren't the result of philosophical or scientific reasoning, but rather are rationalizations on how to protect the leftist sacrament of abortion access for women without guilt. I truly see no inconsistency in the definition I present, which is why I go with it.


Stardusty: "A sperm cell in close proximity to an egg cell have together all the DNA needed to eventually develop into a term baby."

I would not recommend dumping sodium and chloride on your food. Might give you a tummy ache, to say the least. Salt is fine, despite having the same basic ingredients.

If they haven't combined, they haven't combined.


Stardusty: "Thus, spermicides, diaphragms, and condoms are sinful to use, since they do as I have described. Apparently I am not alone in finding the thwarting of development prior to fertilization to be the moral equivalent to thwarting it after fertilization."

I'd disagree with the good Bishop, as well.


Stardusty: "Once the sperm is swimming up the tube the cells are just doing what cells do without any manipulation and without adding anything."

Until the sperm combines with an egg, it is a gamete of another human, possessing only half the requisite chromosomes to make a human. A zygote is the first cell of the new human body.


Stardusty: "It is a potential term baby"

I'd call this an artifact of language. If instead of "child", "adult", "baby", etc, what if I called myself a humism (human organism). I'm currently a 35 year old humism. Thirty years ago, I was a five year old humism, lacking adult teeth and a fully developed reproductive system, along with secondary sexual traits like facial hair and a deeper voice.

Five years prior to that, I was a newborn humism, lacking focused eyesight, the ability to move around or reason or communicate (though newborns are highly effective at getting their point across!).

I can trace the existence of myself as a humism all the way back to the zygote, which is the earliest stage of a human organism. From zygote up until my death, I'm a humism.

Your position would entail that at some point, there is a moment in which an existing, living organism becomes a humism, so prior to that it is not a human organism. I would contend that nothing in the definition of human organism requires a stage of development including brain function.


Stardusty: "A single human cell is just that, a single cell of human tissue. You simply have not made the case that a single cell is somehow the same sort of thing as the human beings I meet every day."

A zygote is categorically different than any other type of cell, for no other cell is part of a continuum of a human life cycle. And an infant is not the same sort of human as you or I, either.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty,

Meant to add, you are one of the few I've had this discussion with who is contending with me on my definitions, rather than the political consequences of my definitions, so I give you credit for that. My statement about rationalizing to protect abortion "rights" does not necessarily apply to you, until I see you doing it. :)

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said... August 08, 2017 7:23 AM

" Why is my definition the one I go with? Because it is the only definition I've encountered that is not arbitrary and does not cause an existing living organism to be classified as "potential" even though it is already existing and alive."
--A single cell is alive, that does not make it a human being.


" It is consistent from formation of the zygote all the way through the elderly years,"
--Begging the question wrt the zygote.

" because the only thing that differs at any two points anywhere along the continuum is the stage of development."
--Development is necessary to be a human being.

" Brain activity and "viability" are arbitrary definitions of personhood for a developing human, and are a slippery slope toward those with mental handicaps who do not possess the same level of brain activity as a "normal" person or who need assistance to survive."
--Brain activity is in fact the legal determinant of life, hardly an arbitrary definition, rather, the broadly practiced legal and moral criteria for life.

Who and what and where are you? Say you were to lose a limb, would you still be you? Of course. The heart has long been considered to have many emotional and spiritual attributes. Can we replace it with a mechanical pump and would you still be you? How about your eyes, your ears, or any other part of your body?

What is the one part of your body that cannot be replaced and still have you be you? Your brain, or course. Everybody knows that.

Quite the opposite of and arbitrary criteria, the brain is where your are you. The brain is what distinguishes you from any other person. The brain is what makes you alive or dead.

Under the law if your brain stops working you have died. Any other part of your body can fail, but so long as your brain continues to function, under the law you are alive.


" I truly see no inconsistency in the definition I present, which is why I go with it."
--The inconsistency is with what makes a human being. A human being is a complex functioning system, not a single cell. If only one cell in your brain works you are dead.


" I can trace the existence of myself as a humism all the way back to the zygote, which is the earliest stage of a human organism. From zygote up until my death, I'm a humism."
--Ok, since you are you because of this cellular progression let's take one of your cells, clone it, kill that old useless tissue that is presently you, and grow a new branch of you. After all, this is all part of the same human organism. It is just a matter of development.


" Your position would entail that at some point, there is a moment in which an existing, living organism becomes a humism, so prior to that it is not a human organism. I would contend that nothing in the definition of human organism requires a stage of development including brain function."
--Fine, we'll keep the clone, get rid of the present collection of cells, and maintain the chain of cellular integrity, all with identical DNA, and since cells with DNA is what make you a humism, there will be no loss, because stage of development is irrelevant.


" A zygote is categorically different than any other type of cell, for no other cell is part of a continuum of a human life cycle."
--False. We can make a new human being from any one of your DNA bearing cells and still maintain the continuum of cellular DNA containment.


Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...
August 08, 2017 7:26 AM

" My statement about rationalizing to protect abortion "rights" does not necessarily apply to you, until I see you doing it. :)"
--Perhaps the worst situation is in New Mexico, USA. There the option of applying the viability standard has not been put into state law (as with a handful of other states and DC). So, purely elective abortions up to 28 weeks are being performed, whereas live births at even earlier stages are happening just down the street.

Most states have adopted some version of the viability standard or a proxy for it so this particular glaring travesty of inhumanity has been pushed back a month or two, depending on the specifics of each state law.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "A single cell is alive, that does not make it a human being."

A zygote is biologically a human organism, just like the rest of the human life cycle.


Stardusty: "Development is necessary to be a human being."

By "development", I take you to mean "a certain stage of development". This is based upon...?


Stardusty: "Brain activity is in fact the legal determinant of life, hardly an arbitrary definition, rather, the broadly practiced legal and moral criteria for life."

I find it curious that you equate "legal" with "not arbitrary". Laws are very often arbitrary, just on a large scale.


Stardusty: "Quite the opposite of and arbitrary criteria, the brain is where your are you. The brain is what distinguishes you from any other person. The brain is what makes you alive or dead."

Yet the exact same organism - a scientifically recognized biological unit - begins without a brain at the earliest stages. The notion that "I" emerge from this organism and transition it from "not me" to "me" is remarkably similar to the concept of a soul coming in to inhabit a body.

I find the difference here to be one of philosophy, and not science, with the focus now being the definition of "me" instead of "human organism". Indeed, even discounting the brain regulating all bodily functions, its activities come to be what we associate with who a person is, due to the memories and personality arising from the brain. And I would of course agree that if a brain transplant was possible, the identity of the person would follow the brain, not the body. (Would a brain kept alive in a vat be an organism? Hrm.)

But the question is when a human life begins. A tree never has a brain, yet it is an individual organism whose biological existence begins at an identifiable point. Animals have brains, yes, but in the development stage prior to the brain forming, it is still the exact same organism because the body does not require a brain at that point.

"When is a human organism valuable and why" is a very different question than "When does a human life begin". Biologically, a human organism is formed with a zygote. I've heard no science-based counter-argument, but plenty of legal and philosophical disputation.


Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "The inconsistency is with what makes a human being."

If it can be demonstrated that "human being" is objectively different than "human organism" or "human life" (which are synonymous in my usage, since living and being human are prerequisites to being a human organism), then I would agree that there is possible inconsistency.


Stardusty: "Ok, since you are you because of this cellular progression let's take one of your cells, clone it, kill that old useless tissue that is presently you, and grow a new branch of you. After all, this is all part of the same human organism. It is just a matter of development."

Cloning is possible because every cell contains the host organism's DNA, but they themselves are not part of the life cycle, at least in a human. And it has to be heavily manipulated to achieve, through turning the original cell into a zygote equivalent. This is unlike a zygote which develops naturally per the human life cycle.

A clone that arose from me would be a separate organism, beginning with its first cell. Basically unnatural identical twins, my clone and I.


Stardusty: "Fine, we'll keep the clone, get rid of the present collection of cells, and maintain the chain of cellular integrity, all with identical DNA, and since cells with DNA is what make you a humism, there will be no loss, because stage of development is irrelevant."

I'm already a fully functioning (perhaps somewhat mentally impaired) human organism. Cloning me would create multiple fully functioning organisms, and to destroy any copy or the original would be to destroy an organism. Legally, that's called murder, and is why one twin can't kill the other and dismiss it like a haircut. There is no rule that says only one human per zygote, after all.


Stardusty: "False. We can make a new human being from any one of your DNA bearing cells and still maintain the continuum of cellular DNA containment."

Given sufficient technology, we could in theory turn a cell from any known organism into a clone of me by manipulating the cell to be identical to mine. That doesn't mean a blade of grass is part of the human life cycle.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

" I find it curious that you equate "legal" with "not arbitrary". Laws are very often arbitrary, just on a large scale."
--You think laws regarding the definition of life are merely arbitrary? What, you think all the statutes and all the court arguments and court rulings and all the medical research performed in conjunction is just some sort of whim?

A very large number of people have put a very great deal of work into determining when to declare the end of life. By far the consensus not only of law but of our whole society is that a person is a living person by virtue to a functioning brain.


" Yet the exact same organism -"
--So an adult human being is the "exact same" organism as a single cell. How absurd.


" But the question is when a human life begins. A tree never has a brain, yet it is an individual organism whose biological existence begins at an identifiable point."
--A seed is not a tree.


" "When is a human organism valuable and why" is a very different question than "When does a human life begin". Biologically, a human organism is formed with a zygote. I've heard no science-based counter-argument, but plenty of legal and philosophical disputation."
--If you are not aware of the scientific difference between a functioning brain and a single cell I suggest you brush up on basic biology and anatomy.


August 09, 2017 1:39 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

" Cloning is possible because every cell contains the host organism's DNA, but they themselves are not part of the life cycle, "
--False, for the cell used for cloning.

" A clone that arose from me would be a separate organism, beginning with its first cell. Basically unnatural identical twins, my clone and I."
--Since you have trillions of cells with complete DNA all of which can grow to be a separate organism you are obligated to protect each from harm because each is already a human organism.


" Given sufficient technology, we could in theory turn a cell from any known organism into a clone of me by manipulating the cell to be identical to mine. That doesn't mean a blade of grass is part of the human life cycle."
--If a blade of grass is converted into a human being then that blade of grass is part of the life cycle of that human being. Don't step on the grass, you baby killer.


August 09, 2017 1:39 PM

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "You think laws regarding the definition of life are merely arbitrary?"

Some are, absolutely. Your example of New Mexico, for instance. Laws reflect the messiness of the real world, which is why the obvious truth that a human life begins with the zygote is not politically viable to apply in all circumstances. Other laws simply reflect ideological positions.


Stardusty: "So an adult human being is the "exact same" organism as a single cell. How absurd."

I take it you are not familiar with basic biology, for example why a zygote constitutes an organism, and why a zygote and an adult are the same organism at different stages in the same sense that an infant and adult are the same organism at different stages.

The zygote is the initial stage of a new organism. I'm unaware of any biology that contradicts this. Feel free to provide some (science, not legal standard or philosophical musing), and your assertion of absurdity will actually have some weight. Until then, it is easily ignored and the favor returned. How absurd, indeed.


Stardusty: "A seed is not a tree."

On the contrary, a seed is an embryonic plant. It is the exact same organism as the tree it grows into, just at a different stage of development. This is basic biology. Though I'm curious, if a tree has no brain, when does a non-tree magically turn into a tree? Hard to define if we start searching for arbitrary yet consistent starting points.


Stardusty: "If you are not aware of the scientific difference between a functioning brain and a single cell I suggest you brush up on basic biology and anatomy."

Strawman. I simply have not seen any scientific literature contradicting the premise that a zygote is the first stage of a new organism, or that latter stages do not transition that organism into a new organism. You are simply taking what is required to be a functioning human post-birth, and applying those standards to disqualify earlier stages of human life, rather than tracing each step of the organism's existence with the understanding of each developmental stage, some of which is pre-brain formation. It requires some basic biology to grasp, but this is easily found online.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said... August 11, 2017 1:29 PM

Stardusty: "So an adult human being is the "exact same" organism as a single cell. How absurd."

" I take it you are not familiar with basic biology,"
--I take it you do not know what the word "exact" means.

" for example why a zygote constitutes an organism, and why a zygote and an adult are the same organism at different stages"
--Thus not the "exact same". A blueprint is not the "exact same" as a building.


Stardusty: "A seed is not a tree."

" On the contrary, a seed is an embryonic plant. "
--Thus, not a tree.
*Tree
In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated stem, or trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondary growth, plants that are usable as lumber or plants above a specified height.

Seeds
Seeds are the primary way that trees reproduce and their seeds vary greatly in size and shape. Some of the largest seeds come from trees*

Seeds come from trees. They are not themselves trees. A seed may or may not grow into a tree with the addition of a great deal of external material and energy.

You are very confused between the present and the future.

Legion of Logic said...

A human is a mammalian organism that is incapable of locomotion despite having four limbs, is incapable of speech or intentional communication, is icapable of reproduction, is incapable of grooming, defending, or feeding itself, and is utterly dependent upon the intervention of others in order to meet even the most basic needs.

Do you agree with that definition of what a human is? Or is it illogical to single out a particular stage of development to define when an organism qualifies as a human, while ignoring the other stages?

If you disagree with the above logic, then we've pretty well reached an impasse. I have yet to see a valid scientific reason why a zygote does not meet the definition of a human organism. Terminology used to differentiate stages of development are hardly convincing, as I can simply say "the organism" and it encompasses the zygote, as well.

Anything else?

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "I take it you do not know what the word "exact" means."

Quibbling over precise language does not defeat my argument. I do not consist of the same cells as even last week, yet I am still the exact same organism as I have always been. I was never a different organism, and I was never someone else. I can trace myself all the way to the zygote, which is irrefutably the first stage in a human life cycle.

Before claiming I am confused, please being some contrary biological facts for me to muse over. Symbolic language, arbitrary lines of separation, and philosophical underpinnings aren't biology.