Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Legalizing murder: The argument from reasonable doubt

I have a strong inclination toward these two positions. 

1) Abortion is murder. 
2) Abortion should be legal. 

Which means I think murder should be legal in many cases, that although very wrong, the remedy for it should be moral rather than legal. That is because the personhood of the fetus is not provable beyond reasonable doubt, therefore the status of abortionists as murderers is not proved beyond reasonable doubt, and that is the standard for convicting someone of murder in America.

249 comments:

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Chad Handley said...

"I'd ask her not to sneeze on me or touch me (because flu is spread by contact). If the room is so small that we are forced into contact, I'd ask her to face away."

Even if you, personally, would not do it (because even you realize deep down that your argument is insane as well as morally repugnant) your argument for the moral permissibility of abortion is correct, then it establishes that it is morally permissible to shoot a person with the flu under that circumstance.

If all that is required is to justify taking possibly lethal action against a person is around TWO HUNDREDTHS OF A PERCENT CHANCE that the person poses a mortal threat, that would lead to morally absurd situations.

To wit:

.0175 % equates to about 20 people out of 100,000. The murder rate in Brazil is .03 percent, or about 30 people out of 100,000. Just being a Brazilian citizen carries with it a higher risk of death than being pregnant.

If your argument is correct, then any Brazilian can kill any other Brazilian, regardless of their particular circumstance, and argue that it was a reasonable use of lethal force on self defense grounds. Because the risk of death in that encounter was over .0175 percent, the threshold you give as a baseline for taking lethal action.

But obviously, that is incorrect, and therefore, so is your argument.

I am not the one engaged in special pleading. I do not think a .0175 percent chance of death justifies a lethal response in the case of the fetus, or in the case of a Brazilian citizen. You would think it justified in the case of the fetus, but not in the case of the Brazilian. Which is textbook special pleading.

Hugo Pelland said...

@Chad,
No problem, thanks!

Hugo Pelland said...

@ bmiller

Oh, the previous two links. Let me check...

1) Book called "The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism".
I am not interested in reading a book titled like that.
What does this have to do with abortions?

2) Blog post by the same author: "Act and potency"
Interesting topic, sure. But what specifically is relevant here? It's easy to find people we agree with and point to their work...
And again, what does this have to do with abortions?

To bring it back to the thread's topic, I really think the sticking point around it has to do with the soul, at least for most people who feel uncomfortable with an embryo being discarded on purpose. It's really the most straightforward answer to the riddle posed by Chad before:

Hugo Pelland said...

I said:
"Because grown adults were all once babies, and babies were all once unborn, and unborn babies came from embryos, it is possible that one cell, created during the fertilization process, should be considered as falling under that label of "person", as it could potentially one day grow and be born as a baby. We can't know."

And Chad agreed, saying:
"I couldn't have said it better myself. Now, follow that insight to its only logical, ethical conclusion."

Sure, the ethical conclusion needs to know when, looking back, we started to be people. That's what we've been trying to answer. Now, let's test 2 assumptions:

Assumption 1: Each person has an immaterial soul.
The soul is something that is not entirely related to the physical body. Each person has a soul that will survive the death of the material body, because the soul is immaterial, non-material.

Assumption 2: Each person has a material soul.
The soul is something that is entirely related to the physical body. Each person has a soul that will die with the death of the material body, because the soul is dependent on the material body to exist. It's what we call our conscious experience. It's the undeniable fact that we, as individual people, exist.

Now, both views agree that people have rights, even if we can disagree with the limits, origins, and extents of these rights. But now, let's take the steps backward:

Hugo Pelland said...

1) Grown adults were all once babies. Conscious people, alive today, were all once babies, without much self-awareness. We each have memories dating very far in the past, but it eventually becomes more and more blurry, until we don't remember anything at all. Both assumptions work.

2) Babies were all once unborn. Logical step, these not yet self-aware babies were once inside their mom's womb. They had been self-sufficient for a while already, at least over a few weeks already, if not more. But are any of these babies a conscious person? It's hard to tell. We all agree we should consider them people, I think, but it's not like they have an "I" they are self-aware of. In that sense, they are not conscious beings yet. Both assumptions work.

3) Unborn babies came from embryos. Another logical step; every unborn baby developed over time from an embryo. Are unborn babies people? Again, I think we all agree here. There are many reasons to want to call them people:
- They are extremely meaningful to the parents
- They can live without being attached to a woman's body
- They have a unique set of cells made from a new set of homo sapiens sapiens genes
- The baby grew, developed, for usually around 40 weeks

4) Embryos came from 2 reproductive cells, one from each parent. Now, where is the person in that? That's where the two assumptions differ:

Hugo Pelland said...

Assumption 1: Each person has an immaterial soul. We have no idea when that immaterial soul starts to exist. For all we know, it might be as early as when that new combination of human genes is completed enough that fertilization is considered complete. When looking at a pictured representation, like this one on Wikipedia, we cannot tell when the soul appears exactly. It might be much much later, but it makes it very risky, as it's possible that the soul is there already. This might be a person already.

Assumption 2: Each person has a material soul. We have no idea when the material soul starts to exist. It's some time around the age of 2 or 3, by some definition, and perhaps as old as age 4 or 5, when kids developed a theory of mind. Have you ever done that test with kids around that age? It's fascinating to see whether they understand that others have different minds. They finally understand that they are someone, a person, among other people.

Now, does it mean that basic human rights start only at that age? Should we have some sort of tests to determine whether a child is a person enough before we grant them any rights? Of course not, I don't see the point of debating that. We all agree children have rights, just like their parents and other adults.

The question is, where do these rights start? We can debate at length about the specifics, but something seems so obvious when you look at that same image of the fertilization process. There is nobody there; that is not a person yet.

Hugo Pelland said...

It is absurd to look at that diagram and claim that something happened at day 0 that made this thing into a new person.
- There is no way to define some clear barrier for it; it's just a continuous biological process
- Up to 25-50% of the time, the fertilized egg will not get to develop
- The unique combination of DNA is completely random and meaningless
- These genes are a mix of the parents' genes
- The process is happening inside a person's body

Now, here are the tougher ones:
- This embryo can, and often is, super meaningful to the parents
- Some women believe Assumption 1, and think there's a little soul inside them
- Some women believe Assumption 2, and think there's a new human lifeform inside them
- Some of these women, in both groups, are pro-choice, and some are not

So what do we do? Where do we draw the line for when the meaningless embryo turns into a person with rights? I still don't know, but I strongly believe it is not anywhere to be found during the stages illustrated on Wikipedia. It has to be later, when the woman is aware of the existence of that potential person, at the very least. But some women don't agree with me and that's fine (see my example from a few days ago if you want...), so I would never want to decide for them. I wouldn't want to decide for any of them.

Let the women decide when that line is exactly. When do they think that what is inside of them is a person that they must protect. Let them decide what the implications of a medical procedure are.

David Brightly said...

I think BM and I have a number of threads running that have got tangled up, so I propose to simply let them hang. Perhaps we could come back to them later. My interest in this is really in the concept of personhood and how we tell whether something falls under it---the metaphysics of personhood, if you like. For some of us this is pretty clear cut. A human being at whatever stage of development, be it zygote, embryo, foetus, baby, child, adult, is a person. For others of us personhood isn't present at the very beginning but grows over time. So it looks as if there are (at least) two conceptions of personhood in play. Is one right and the other wrong? Does one capture the world as it is and the other not? What would the world (and we) have to be like for it to be so? I'm not sure it's profitable to try to answer these questions. What we might do instead is to look at how we come to have these distinct conceptualisations. I offered a story about this at October 02, 2018 4:12 PM. What do people make of that?

One Brow said...

Chad Handley said...
Even if you, personally, would not do it (because even you realize deep down that your argument is insane as well as morally repugnant) your argument for the moral permissibility of abortion is correct, then it establishes that it is morally permissible to shoot a person with the flu under that circumstance.

One area where we have heretofore agreed is on the appropriateness, even necessity, of proportionate response. You try to take the minimum necessary measures to protect yourself from the harm. With the flu carrier, the the minimum response is to avoid contact.

I would be curious on your evidence that any random encounter with a Brazilian has more than a 1/10,000 chance of death. Brazil must have close to billion encounters with each other every day, I don't think they have 100,000 murders everyday. However, that's a side issue. The real issue is proportionate response to any encounter.

I believe I have mentioned this before: When there is a less drastic choice than abortion for the woman, you will have my endorsement for it. For example, should we develop substitute wombs, I would be in favor of a law that required transferal to a substitute womb over an abortion.

bmiller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bmiller said...

@Hugo,

Interesting topic, sure. But what specifically is relevant here? It's easy to find people we agree with and point to their work...
And again, what does this have to do with abortions?


The only thing you want to do is listen to yourself talk isn't it? Since the article specifically discusses abortion, it's clear you didn't read it. It's also clear (again) that you have no interest in hearing opposing views. How reasonable and open minded of you.

Enjoy your monologue.

Chad Handley said...

"One area where we have heretofore agreed is on the appropriateness, even necessity, of proportionate response. You try to take the minimum necessary measures to protect yourself from the harm. With the flu carrier, the the minimum response is to avoid contact."

Doesn't matter. Your argument that a 0.175 risk of death is sufficient to justify potentially lethal force still implies that one would be morally justified in shooting the flu carrier on self-defense grounds. It would not be the minimal response but, according to your self-defense argument for abortion, it would nonetheless be a reasonable, justifiable response.

"I would be curious on your evidence that any random encounter with a Brazilian has more than a 1/10,000 chance of death. Brazil must have close to billion encounters with each other every day, I don't think they have 100,000 murders everyday."

You're quite right, my math was off.

Still, it would be the case, according to your self-defense principle, that if there was a country with a murder rate so high that every encounter carried with it a .0175 chance of being murdered, that a citizen in that country would be morally justified in preemptively killing every person they encountered.

You might say "well, they can wait to assess the individual person's threat level, and only respond with lethal force if they get some indication that their life is actually in danger." But when I made the same suggestion about a pregnancy, that a woman could regularly see a doctor and only abort if major complications arise, you said that was insufficient since complications could arise at any time. Well, by the same token, a citizen of a country with a murder rate of .0175 per encounter could decide to kill you at any time. It seems like, if you apply your principles consistently, that there's no more minimal procedure to defending oneself in such a circumstance than in immediately killing every person one encounters. Regardless of their age, gender, or behavior. Regardless of whether they appeared armed or hostile.

So, even with your caveats, your self-defense argument leads to obviously absurd moral conclusions, and so is still obviously wrong.

"When there is a less drastic choice than abortion for the woman, you will have my endorsement for it."

And if no alternative to abortion were ever invented, however, medical technology advanced to the point that no woman ever died or suffered a major complication due to pregnancy again (thus eliminating the self-defense grounds) would you still support abortion rights?

And if so, then why do you pretend to support abortion on self-defense grounds, particularly when a case for self-defense in any average pregnancy would be so weak?

Chad Handley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad Handley said...

Hugo, I'll be painfully honest with you - I no longer have the stamina to endure an argument of that length and complexity.

Suffice to say, I do not base my argument on the existence of an immaterial soul, or on having a soul being necessary to personhood. So, your argument is irrelevant to my case.

However, you may want to look into bmiller's links and into the Thomistic account of the mind. I'm very far from an expert, but they believe that they do know exactly when an immaterial soul is created. According to them, every soul is specially created individually by God and instilled in every person at conception. And they have arguments to the effect that conception is the ONLY TIME at which the soul could be created. And they believe so for very exhaustive philosophical reasons having to do with the fact that they believe the mind to be necessarily immaterial, based on the mind's ability to process universals. IOW, their belief that a soul is specially created at conception is a position motivated by independent philosophical concerns, not an ad hoc invention concocted to oppose abortion. (Indeed, it was a position taken before effective abortificients were commonly available, and the much more common practice of dealing with unwanted children was infanticide.)

The argument is way too complicated to get into here even if I understood it well enough to represent it. But again, let it suffice to say that you're way too premature on insisting that it's unknown when the immaterial soul is infused into a person. You would have to deal with the Thomistic arguments to the contrary.

But to repeat, I think your entire line of conversation is irrelevant to my particular argument, which only requires that it is not publicly demonstrable whether or not the embryo is a person.

One Brow said...

Chad Handley said...
Doesn't matter. Your argument that a 0.175 risk of death is sufficient to justify potentially lethal force still implies that one would be morally justified in shooting the flu carrier on self-defense grounds. It would not be the minimal response but, according to your self-defense argument for abortion, it would nonetheless be a reasonable, justifiable response.

You seem very focused on the number, for someone that has refused to provide an number for the "reasonable person" standard. So, to be clear, my answer doesn't change if the person has a disease that is 0.0175% lethal, or 0.0000000000001% lethal, or 80% lethal. You are entitled to take proportionate steps to protect yourself against any of these diseases. You don't have to allow yourself to be infected with anything. Do you disagree?

Still, it would be the case, according to your self-defense principle, that if there was a country with a murder rate so high that every encounter carried with it a .0175 chance of being murdered, that a citizen in that country would be morally justified in preemptively killing every person they encountered.

Again, the percentage is not the key issue.

You might say "well, they can wait to assess the individual person's threat level, and only respond with lethal force if they get some indication that their life is actually in danger." But when I made the same suggestion about a pregnancy, that a woman could regularly see a doctor and only abort if major complications arise, you said that was insufficient since complications could arise at any time. Well, by the same token, a citizen of a country with a murder rate of .0175 per encounter could decide to kill you at any time. It seems like, if you apply your principles consistently, that there's no more minimal procedure to defending oneself in such a circumstance than in immediately killing every person one encounters. Regardless of their age, gender, or behavior. Regardless of whether they appeared armed or hostile.

The difference is the attachment to the woman's body, versus those that are not trying to attach themselves.

And if no alternative to abortion were ever invented, however, medical technology advanced to the point that no woman ever died or suffered a major complication due to pregnancy again (thus eliminating the self-defense grounds) would you still support abortion rights?

When there is technology to support the life of the embryo/early fetus outside the womb, I support the right of women to have the embryo/fetus removed to such a device. I suppose you could call that an abortion or a premature birth, but neither seems quite right.

I don't support anyone being forced to use their body for the benefit of another person.

And if so, then why do you pretend to support abortion on self-defense grounds, particularly when a case for self-defense in any average pregnancy would be so weak?

I apologize if my message got confused along the way. My support has always been based on bodily integrity. You have a right to choose who uses your body and for what purposes. The right to self defense is a part of that, but there are other parts. That's one of the reasons I keep going back to the notion of involuntary servitude.

Speaking of which, do you acknowledge that forcing a woman to carry an embryo/fetus against her will is involuntary servitude?

One Brow said...

Chad Handley said...
And they have arguments to the effect that conception is the ONLY TIME at which the soul could be created.

However, the RCC has not always believed such. At one point, the quickening (when movement could be detected by the woman) was considered the point of ensoulment.

I agree that discussion on soul/form in Thomistic arguments are very detailed and technical.

Chad Handley said...

" You are entitled to take proportionate steps to protect yourself against any of these diseases. You don't have to allow yourself to be infected with anything. Do you disagree?"

Sure. Where we disagree, is you think that taking lethal action against a person who poses a .0175 percentage chance of killing you could be a "proportionate" step. Which just blows up the meaning of the word "proportionate."

"Again, the percentage is not the key issue."

Of course it is! If there was an 90% mortality rate attached to abortion, everyone would say that all abortions are justified on self-defense grounds. The whole notion of the permissibility of taking potentially lethal action in self-defense has to do with how reasonable the perceived threat was. And that reasonableness is inextricably linked to the chances one would have given that one would have been killed or seriously harmed.

But given that the actual rate in the case of a pregnancy is less than two-hundredths of one percent, most people would say (in fact, most people DO say, even pro-choice advocates) that very few abortions are required on self-defense grounds. (Of course, the pro-choice advocates would say that self-defense grounds aren't necessary, but they would nevertheless admit that they obviously do not apply in every pregnancy.)

"The difference is the attachment to the woman's body, versus those that are not trying to attach themselves."

I don't understand how this weak response is supposed to defend against the completely fatal objection I provided to your self-defense case.

"I don't support anyone being forced to use their body for the benefit of another person."

As I suspected, then, self-defense has little to nothing to do with your actual objection to abortion. Which is just as well, since, as demonstrated, the claim that every abortion is justifiable on self-defense grounds leads to such moral absurdities that we can consider it to be decisively refuted.

So, in the absence of decisive proof that the fetus is not a person, we are back to the dilemma I originally proposed. Abortion pits the right to bodily integrity of one person against the right to life of an innocent person. (Innocent meaning the embryo had no say in being in the situation he/she is in, is not in that position as a result of a deliberate assault by a third party, and does not pose a serious health threat to the mother.)

The right to life of an innocent person is more fundamental than the right to bodily integrity. If you do not have a right to life, you do not have a right to bodily integrity, because it is by the nature of the case a violation of your bodily integrity to kill you. But if you have a right to life, you have a right to bodily integrity, at least to the point where a violation of that bodily integrity threatens your life. The right to bodily integrity therefore proceeds from the right to life, therefore the right to life is more fundamental.

All that being the case, in cases of a normal, healthy pregnancy that is not the result of rape, uncertainty about the personhood status of the embryo must yield, by the principle of caution, the result that abortion is morally impermissible.

QED

"Speaking of which, do you acknowledge that forcing a woman to carry an embryo/fetus against her will is involuntary servitude?"

I do not acknowledge that. The law already requires people to take care of their children even if they don't want to. If we cannot determine whether or not the embryo is a person, then the cautionary principle requires that we treat it like it is. That means we must regard the embryo as the child of the woman carrying it. Laws mandating that a parent must take care of her child are just and do not amount to involuntary servitude. (Again, assuming the act of which a foreseeable consequence was the creation of a child was consensual.)

bmiller said...

It's been pointed out that the subject the soul is out of place in this discussion and I agree. Additionally, making a muddle of the topic will not help anyone.

Some points of clarification however:
The Catholic Church has always condemned abortion. It is wrong to say that the Church had an older position on ensoulment that has changed. It is fair to say there were theological speculations on when that occurred.

It is also wrong to conflate the idea of a soul with only humans. All animate objects have souls. The Latin word for soul is anima the root of the word animal and animation. It is merely the animating principle of an animate object. So plants have souls as well as animals.

Chad Handley said...

"However, the RCC has not always believed such. At one point, the quickening (when movement could be detected by the woman) was considered the point of ensoulment."

I'm not a Catholic, but as I understand it, that was never official church dogma, or a supposedly infallible teaching of the Catholic Church.

However, I think the position that the soul is implanted at conception is now a dogma of the church. (Catholics present can correct me if I'm wrong.)

So, I've never understood the point of this objection. Before the Church officially took up consideration of the matter, most priests went along with the popular conviction of the time. But once the church decided to look closely on the matter, it decided, based on independent and well-motivated philosophical grounds, that the popular conviction was wrong and that ensoulment happens at conception.

Contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church does not say of itself that it has never erred, even accidentally, on any matter. Only that the Pope cannot err when he speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals. There was never an ex cathedra statement that ensoulment happens at quickening, so it's no problem for Catholics to say that the priests and bishops who used to say that this was the case were wrong.

Chad Handley said...

"The Catholic Church has always condemned abortion."

Am I correct in thinking that even when most people in the church thought ensoulment happened at quickening, the Church still regarded abortion before that point of ensoulment as a mortal sin?

bmiller said...

I hate to quote Wikipedia, but here is a quick reply:


Early Christian writings rejecting abortion are the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter,[21] and the works of early writers such as Tertullian, Athenagoras of Athens,[22] Clement of Alexandria and Basil of Caesarea.[23] The earliest Church legislation did not make a distinction between "formed" and "unformed" fetuses, as was done in the Greek Septuagint version of Exodus 21:22-23; this position can be found in the writing of early Church Fathers such as Basil of Caesarea and early Church council canons (Elvira, Ancyra).[24][25]

In the 4th and 5th centuries, some writers such as Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor held that human life already began at conception, others such as Lactantius – following Aristotle's view – spoke rather of the soul that was "infused" in the body after forty days or more, and those such as Jerome and Augustine of Hippo left the mystery of the timing of the infusion to God.[24]


The early Church had a mixture of philosophical schools of thought so there was no one accepted opinion on the topic.

Also, regarding infallibility, it's a little more nuanced than just the Pope being infallible under the conditions Chad cited.

Neither the Church nor the Pope can invent new doctrine, but act more like umpires when disputes break out.

One Brow said...

Chad Handley said...
Sure. Where we disagree, is you think that taking lethal action against a person who poses a .0175 percentage chance of killing you could be a "proportionate" step. Which just blows up the meaning of the word "proportionate."

Sometimes reality denies us proportionate actions. Unless you are saying that if a person is determined to infect you with the flu, you have to stand there and let them.

"Again, the percentage is not the key issue."

Of course it is!


Since you are supposedly discussing my views, it is not.

If there was an 90% mortality rate attached to abortion, everyone would say that all abortions are justified on self-defense grounds.

No, not everyone. There are many who would say otherwise.

I don't understand how this weak response is supposed to defend against the completely fatal objection I provided to your self-defense case.

I don't have a self-defense case. I get the impression you did not read my entire comment before responding.

The right to life of an innocent person is more fundamental than the right to bodily integrity.

Except, as you have argued, it is not. You have expressed your complete comfort with killing an innocent person who was attached to you. The fundamental rights of that innocent person did not disappear because of the actions of a third party. You just chose to downplay them.

If you do not have a right to life, you do not have a right to bodily integrity, because it is by the nature of the case a violation of your bodily integrity to kill you.

Your right to bodily integrity extends to limited degree after you die. Therefore, it ca not dependent on your being alive.

All that being the case, in cases of a normal, healthy pregnancy that is not the result of rape, uncertainty about the personhood status of the embryo must yield, by the principle of caution, the result that abortion is morally impermissible.

QED


Sorry, I missed the step in your proof where, even if the right to bodily integrity was a derived right, that made it a right of lesser significance and worthy of less respect. It can be a derived right and still be accorded equal respect. Have you been keeping that part in your back pocket?

"Speaking of which, do you acknowledge that forcing a woman to carry an embryo/fetus against her will is involuntary servitude?"

I do not acknowledge that.


Which part? The "involuntary" or the "servitude"? A forced pregnancy is not involuntary, or is not a service?

The law already requires people to take care of their children even if they don't want to.

First, saying that there may be longer periods of involuntary servitude does not support your proclamation that a forced pregnancy is not involuntary servitude. You do understand that, right?

As to your point, every state in the nation allows parents to make their children "wards of the state", and does not require them to bodily serve their children. If you give an infant up for adoption, and the adoption fails, the baby is not returned to the birth parent (absent some prior agreement). It's true you can be required to surrender property for the support of your child, but bodily service is not required.

Laws mandating that a parent must take care of her child are just and do not amount to involuntary servitude.

Yes. Laws requiring breast-feeding would be unjust.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
It is also wrong to conflate the idea of a soul with only humans. All animate objects have souls. The Latin word for soul is anima the root of the word animal and animation. It is merely the animating principle of an animate object. So plants have souls as well as animals.

Since according to Feser, a soul is basically a form, the only difference between the soul of a human and the form of a vase is the properties of that form.

bmiller said...

It's also correct for Chad to point out that his argument does not use Thomist philosophy or the idea of ensoulment at all. So it is a red herring to introduce the topic of *soul* in the first place.

One Brow said...

bmiller's comments on RCC history are in line with my understandings, although I would put the start of the RCC later than he might. Another topic for another thread.

There is disagreement among scholars on the level of disagreement in the early church, but it seems untrue that all abortions were considered homicide in early Christian history by all Christians.


Hugo Pelland said...

Hey, quick note... I am not sure why the idea of the soul is seen as to outlandish here. There was no argument presented to explain why we should consider a 1-day old embryo a person. It's always all about what we cannot know. Well, biologically speaking, we actually know a lot about the process and how not special it is. There is therefore no reason at all to think there is a person suddenly being created during the fertilization process. It is really just what I listed above: some random DNA arrangement. The only thing I can think of that makes a difference is whether there is an immaterial soul. Please feel free to explain what else it could be, why we should consider that it's possible that there is a person to speak of at that stage, but I saw none of that here in this 200+ comment-long thread.

bmiller said...

NPC

Hugo Pelland said...

lol, you're so good at trolling bmiller!

Sometimes you want more info, links, arguments; sometimes there's too much and you just write useless comments and insults... but you do contribute relevany things sometimes, so you're really trolling only on occasion. It's quite clever really.

But what you never do afaik is contribute with detailed original content. Probably above your pay grade. It's much easier to just link to others you agree with.

Hugo Pelland said...

@Chad

I had a bit more time to reread your response carefully. First, I won't blame you for being tired of the topic. I agree...

Regarding Thomists, or anybody else you may ot may not agree with, I personally don't care much about that here, as I can just go read myself. What's interesting in comment threads is to hear about real people's positions and why they hold them, in their own words. Again, it's easy to just point to someone we agree with!

Finally, regarding your own position:
"...my particular argument, which only requires that it is not publicly demonstrable whether or not the embryo is a person."
The problem is that you literally said nothing to justify that claim, except 1 thing: to keep going backward in time from adults with right and get to the ethical conclusion that you find obvious. But why do you find it obvious?

You won't tell... you said it isn't because of an immaterial soul, but what is it then? Maybe you're too tired of this thread to answer, fine, but hopefully you can understand my position as to why this does seem to be the only reason. That's what I expressed in details above, but that nobody will even attempt to correct.

In other words, you said I did express your position perfectly once, then I went on to give the logical conclusion you asked about, with 2 versions, but now, nope, it's too conplicated to address. Oh well, too bad, nothing more to learn, and that's always my goal so it's alright.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

Your discussion about abortion with Chad has gone the same way as it did with me. You merely repeat that your opponent is wrong because it is just so obvious you are right. Over and over again. No other reason given, no attempt to understand the opponent's position.

I got tired of that. Don't know if Chad is yet or not.

But this certainly looks like the behavior of a NPC.

Chad Handley said...

"Sometimes reality denies us proportionate actions. Unless you are saying that if a person is determined to infect you with the flu, you have to stand there and let them."

I do not think that if you are stuck in an elevator with a person determined to give you the flu, that you have the right to kill them.

I'm pretty sure a judge would agree. Do you have any idea how absurd you sound? You are saying it would be justified to kill someone to avoid getting the flu.

"Except, as you have argued, it is not. You have expressed your complete comfort with killing an innocent person who was attached to you. The fundamental rights of that innocent person did not disappear because of the actions of a third party. You just chose to downplay them."

This is the last time I'm going to explain this to you. And I'm saying it more for the benefit of other people reading, so they can see why your argument fails, even though you stubbornly refuse to.

Your hypothetical doesn't establish anything more than that a person is not required to passively yield to an assault.

An assault that triggers the right to use potentially lethal force in self-defense requires, according to the totality of the argument I've represented here, either intent to do great harm, or a reasonable belief on the part of the person being attacked that they are in grave and/or imminent danger.

Your attempt to use my response to that hypothetical and apply it to abortion requires regarding every pregnancy as an assault, when a healthy pregnancy clearly, by any reasonable standard, does not meet the definition of assault I've developed.

Being knocked out and having my body penetrated by sharp implements in my sleep, however, DOES meet my developed definition of assault. Such a situation is not analogous to a normal pregnancy. It's much more directly analogous to a pregnancy due to rape. And if this hasn't been made clear, I support abortion rights if the pregnancy is due to rape. There's no inconsistency or special pleading in my position. If an innocent person in the form of an embryo becomes attached to a woman in the same way that an innocent person becomes attached to me in the hypothetical, I support the woman's right to abort. But a woman becoming pregnant under normal circumstances just isn't in that position.

Now, if a pregnancy does reach the definition of assault I've developed, and the mother was raped or has a reasonable belief that the pregnancy represents grave and/or imminent danger to their health, I fully support her right to abort.

Chad Handley said...



"Sorry, I missed the step in your proof where, even if the right to bodily integrity was a derived right, that made it a right of lesser significance and worthy of less respect. It can be a derived right and still be accorded equal respect. Have you been keeping that part in your back pocket?"

If you only have the right to bodily integrity because you have the right to life, then how could you deny the right to life in order to uphold the right to bodily integrity? You would be sawing off the branch you're sitting on.

If you only have x because of y, you cannot deny y and keep x. Substitute "the right to bodily integrity" for x and "the right to life" for y.

"First, saying that there may be longer periods of involuntary servitude does not support your proclamation that a forced pregnancy is not involuntary servitude. You do understand that, right?"

You understand that a law requiring involuntary servitude isn't simply by virtue of that fact unjust, right?

There's this thing called "prison" you might want to look into.

It is just to require involuntary servitude for people under certain circumstances. One such circumstance would be when you have willingly engaged in an activity that has produced an innocent life. I do not think it would be unjust to require you to take care of that life during a period of its development when no one else can.

"As to your point, every state in the nation allows parents to make their children "wards of the state", and does not require them to bodily serve their children. If you give an infant up for adoption, and the adoption fails, the baby is not returned to the birth parent (absent some prior agreement). It's true you can be required to surrender property for the support of your child, but bodily service is not required."

You can be required to use your body to work to provide financial assistance for your children. If you fail to do so, you can be sentenced to literal involuntary servitude in the form of a jail sentence.

"Yes. Laws requiring breast-feeding would be unjust."

Nonsense. It would depend on why the law was required. If 100% of babies who weren't breastfed died, it would not be unjust to pass a law requiring women to breastfeed.

Hugo Pelland said...

@bmiller
So your complain is both that I reuse the same point and that I brought more points, while you provide no original thoughts at all. You're really just a sophisticated troll then. You're not interested in engaging nor learning; you're just whining, poking and insulting... Again, you do make some good points, usually short one-liners, but I suppose that's just to trigger more reactions.

I had a great time reading all this and still enjoy the approach Chad and One Brow are taking as it's a different one. It's also long and repetive but I don't see that as a problem, and I can skip what I am not interested in. But you bmiller, prefer to tap your champion on the back and say 'wow you're patient' instesd of clapping at the sight of a nice discussion...

Chad Handley said...

"Regarding Thomists, or anybody else you may ot may not agree with, I personally don't care much about that here, as I can just go read myself. What's interesting in comment threads is to hear about real people's positions and why they hold them, in their own words."

Okay, but no one in the comment thread is talking about souls other than you, and what you say about them is rather famously contradicted by people for whom souls do play a key part in their objection to abortion.

So, what's the point of bringing up souls in a discussion with people uninterested in them, while ignoring the (rather famous and rather obvious) key points of people who *are* interested in them?

"In other words, you said I did express your position perfectly once, then I went on to give the logical conclusion you asked about, with 2 versions, but now, nope, it's too conplicated to address. "

It's too complicated to address, except to say (as I did) that every bit of it was totally irrelevant to my argument.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

My first observation wrt this topic is that you merely repeat the same *opinion* without supporting reasons. My second observation is that you ignore opposing points of view.

Those are the reasons that, for the most part I have not engaged you on this thread.

while you provide no original thoughts at all.

The only time when I did engage you this thread, I provided you with the opportunity to learn a principled argument against your position. You ignored it. This confirms my second observation.

You're not interested in engaging nor learning;

Thanks for a final laugh.

Hugo Pelland said...

@Chad

The point of bringing up the concept of the soul is that it's the only logical explanation I can see for labelling an embryo as potentially a person. I would love to be proven wrong, should there be some other reason, but I have not heard any. You certainly have not provided one. That would be something to learn on my end, from someone I am talking to, not from some other writer/blogger, as we can find anything in that case...

And I must insist that it does matter whether one believes in an immaterial soul or not. We all know that there is a strong correlation between religiosity and opinions on abortion's legality. But what is never made clear, as it's not part of the surveys explicitly, is the following:

Around 80% of people who self-identify as not having any religious affiliation claim that abortion should be legal in all/most cases. But this group also includes a lot of people who hold supernatural beliefs, including belief in some immaterial soul. Therefore, when someone does not believe in a soul, the chances that they think there is a "person" to speak of at the beginning of a pregnancy must be getting closer to zero.

Moreover, the argument I presented and which included the soul was not only about the soul. The words 'material soul' and 'immaterial soul' were used as labels to convey a difference of opinion with the ethical position we hold when looking back at a person's development, and when their rights arise. But again, it could be something else, but you nor anyone else here have never said what it could be. If I simply missed it, please point it out...

But so far, here's once again the closest thing to it that I got from you:

I said:
"Because grown adults were all once babies, and babies were all once unborn, and unborn babies came from embryos, it is possible that one cell, created during the fertilization process, should be considered as falling under that label of "person", as it could potentially one day grow and be born as a baby. We can't know."

And Chad agreed, saying:
"I couldn't have said it better myself. Now, follow that insight to its only logical, ethical conclusion."

Ok, I did. Now, why don't you?


I not only expressed my position, which is consistent with a scientific understanding of human reproduction, but I also attempted to express a counter-position, a logical one. I think it does make sense for someone who beliefs in a soul to feel uneasy about the whole process. But nobody here has proposed anything at all, not even a rebuttal as to where I must be wrong.

So I'm still interested in learning 2 things: where do you think my argument breaks down, and whether you agree that we are using the same objective facts.

And I think we may disagree on the latter as it seems to me that you don't really understand the fact that human fertilization is just some chemical reactions driving a biological process, a continuous one. You claimed that there is some line somewhere in there and I never got to know what you meant by that.

Hugo Pelland said...

bmiller said...
"My first observation wrt this topic is that you merely repeat the same *opinion* without supporting reasons."
First of all, I am not sure you understand what my *opinion* is as I have been insisting a lot more about what the *facts* are and it's really hard to get people to even agree on that. Next, I provided so many different reasons for my argumentation that I am now accused of going off topic... I linked to diagrams and tried to get some feedback on that, I expressed clearly what I consider to be a grey area in determining personhood, I listed the facts that I am using and asked questions...
This was a cheap empty attack, more trolling.

"My second observation is that you ignore opposing points of view."
I am ignoring some of the opposing points of view, that is true. I don't care much about points of view that are not explicitly expressed here, in a comment box, because it's easy to find blogs/books with content we agree on. It's great to use these sources to form our own opinion, but if one is not able to express it themselves, it's not interesting to engage with that person. Might as well just go read the source and move on.
Plus, you see how I keep quoting Chad and how I was able to accurately describe a large part of his position, so I am definitely not ignoring opposing points of view from him.
This is thus just another empty attack, more trolling, no surprise.

"Those are the reasons that, for the most part I have not engaged you on this thread."
What a bizarre comment. You are engaging me right now! What I would agree with is that you have not tried hard to come up with your own reasoning, instead of posting links to people you agree with, being so lazy as to not even try to summarize in your own words, and you have posted insults and trolling comments such as " Good luck Chad. You've been very patient."

"The only time when I did engage you this thread, I provided you with the opportunity to learn a principled argument against your position. You ignored it. This confirms my second observation."
I would love to know what that means. Is that why you switched to trolling?
You did write a couple of comments on other thread that show how you're looking for attention after all... You felt hurt that I missed one of your point? Grow up and stop whining if you want to engage. Just repeat the point and show how it's relevant. I don't care if you repeat good arguments; just find a compelling way to do so. Be creative!

"You're not interested in engaging nor learning;
Thanks for a final laugh.
"
Well, trolling is just for laugh, right? So I guess you're still in this mode of flip-flopping between want to appear like you care and just trolling for laughter's sake. Did you learn anything from this thread? Do you understand the position of someone like me? Do you get why we disagree and on what we disagree on exactly? I know I did learn a few things, especially from the parts I did not contribute to, with One Brow's approach.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

Wow. What an outburst.

I'm not the only one who noticed you've merely repeated assertions without reasons and you admit you've ignored opposing points of view. Sorry if you confuse hearing others' honest observations with an attack.

and you have posted insults and trolling comments such as " Good luck Chad. You've been very patient."

You take a compliment I gave to Chad as an insult to you. OK. That's weird.

...Rant about how bmiller's feeling are hurt....

Sorry. My feelings aren't hurt. Don't worry.

Well, trolling is just for laugh, right?

No. I found it ironic that you claim you are interested in learning and when provided with materials from experts, you ignore it. I really don't care what some random internet dude has to say about anything (of course present company excepted) unless they know what they are talking about. Your goal of learning may be to conduct a survey of all the uninformed opinions of everyone on the internet but it's not mine.

Hugo Pelland said...

Yep, I do have more time these days for so-called 'outburst', and it is hilarious to reply to you... because as expected, you just comment on the stuff on the side of the topic. You could have focused on the "I would love to know what that means", it was even in bold, but no, you're just whining again. You're so lazy.

Hugo Pelland said...

Btw, I must clarify that this is completely false:
"I found it ironic that you claim you are interested in learning and when provided with materials from experts, you ignore it."
I do read it, and I appreciate it, but as I said many times, it's not relevant to the conversation and not why I am talking to people. I can find sources and divergent opinions easily on my own. That's why I am on a blog I disagree with after all...

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

and it is hilarious to reply to you

Glad you're having a good time. Me too.

I do read it, and I appreciate it, but as I said many times, it's not relevant to the conversation and not why I am talking to people.

Probably not a good idea to drunk-post. Just a rule to consider.
Now, I don't really care why you are "talking to people" other than when you talk to me. The topic is abortion, the reasons for and against. Maybe you're on the wrong thread.

I can find sources and divergent opinions easily on my own. That's why I am on a blog I disagree with after all...

Apparently not. You are flabbergasted at the mere thought anyone could think differently than you.

Try to respond to Chad's argument to show you are sincere.

Hugo Pelland said...

bmiller said...
"Probably not a good idea to drunk-post. Just a rule to consider."
Not the case today! But you were right on that once before.

"The topic is abortion, the reasons for and against. Maybe you're on the wrong thread."
Where are your thoughts on abortion exactly? You said I missed your 1 rebuttal; I am very worried to have missed what I assume are words of great wisdom, since you insist so much on how relevant your participation is. Yet, you wrote 1 more comment entirely about stuff that is off topic... why don't you insist on proving me wrong instead of insulting me?

"You are flabbergasted at the mere thought anyone could think differently than you."
That's what I meant by laziness. Even when writing an insult you cannot be logical or factually correct! I just said that I am on a blog where I know people disagree with me; literally the last words of my last comment. You are either trolling again and didn't bother to read, or are just plain stupid. I don't have much evidence for the latter, good for you.

"Try to respond to Chad's argument to show you are sincere."
I have been 100% sincere to Chad and, if I missed some of his argument, I would love to talk more about it. The problem is that I do repeat the same thing a lot, as it keeps being avoided, so I think we ran in circles a lot already. Just like One Brow and Chad on the topic of bodily autonomy, which I believe is the primary issue but, at the same time, closely related to the notion of personhood as it is a non-issue if there's no 'person' impacted.

You can try to if you actually want to still talk about the topic... there are reasons for abortion that include giving full autonomy to women over their body, which is what I believe trumps everything else. And then there are reasons to explain why we think women who choose an abortion are doing something wrong, or not, such as by trying to figure out when a human person started to have rights, and thus after how much time & development is it morally unacceptable to get rid of what is now a human with the right to life.

Did you mention anything about that now? Did you point out what I missed?
No, instead you:
- implied I am drunk
- insulted my ability to recognize different opinions exist
- implied I may not be sincere
Nothing on topic, just more insult and thus... just trolling.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

Where are your thoughts on abortion exactly? You said I missed your 1 rebuttal; I am very worried to have missed what I assume are words of great wisdom, since you insist so much on how relevant your participation is. Yet, you wrote 1 more comment entirely about stuff that is off topic... why don't you insist on proving me wrong instead of insulting me?

I am against abortion. You know this from our previous discussion. I have, *for the most part* restrained myself from engaging with you on this topic on this thread. I did link to an article on Edward Feser's blog that discussed a philosophical basis for rejecting abortion and a book of his that provided a more thorough background for that position. I personally think that you consider random people's ignorant opinions as a greater source of knowledge than those who are experts in the field is a bad decision, but go ahead, you put that on your resume.

But the thread topic is Chad's argument not mine. So I'd rather you engage his argument, which is in itself unassailable.

"You are flabbergasted at the mere thought anyone could think differently than you."
That's what I meant by laziness. Even when writing an insult you cannot be logical or factually correct!


You have shown no indication that you are in the least familiar with any of the various arguments against abortion. Least of all Chad's. Prove me wrong by listing the best pro-life arguments and why you think they are wrong. Start with Chad's. Then SLED. I'll give you the next arguments after you refute those.

bmiller said...

BTW. I believe you are trying to be honest. For what that is worth to you.

Hugo Pelland said...

@bmiller
I appreciate the effort to be relevant but you're confusing my interest with interacting with people in real-time for an apathy towards professional opinions. I assure you once again that this isn't the case. Au contraire, I usually don't have enough time to interact, so I mostly read professionals, including Feser as he's a favorite of many people here.

Regarding specific arguments, I already have pending questions for Chad, should he find the time and interest to reply back, but it's getting lengthy already. More generally, it is the same principle again, why would I list arguments from other sources and try to debunk them if nobody here cares? I have already been accused of bringing up the concept of the soul... that being said, I'll gladly look at Feser's post again tomorrow and list where I agree and disagree. Hopefully this leads to some useful clarifications.

One Brow said...

Chad Handley said...
I do not think that if you are stuck in an elevator with a person determined to give you the flu, that you have the right to kill them.

I'm pretty sure a judge would agree. Do you have any idea how absurd you sound? You are saying it would be justified to kill someone to avoid getting the flu.


What actions are they undertaking that lead you to the conclusion they are determined to give you the flu and to act upon that determination, and what are the alternatives you have at your disposal? Are you saying that if someone grabs your collar to sneeze in your face, you have no right to self-defense, because it's only the flu? I think not.

Your hypothetical doesn't establish anything more than that a person is not required to passively yield to an assault.

Yes, you are responding to an assault by killing an innocent person. Everyone who has read our discussion knows this. Their right to life is now lesser to your right to to self-defense.

By the way, just as the right to life is the foundation of the right to bodily integrity, the right to bodily integrity is the foundation of the right to self-defense. If the right to self defense can take supremacy over the right to life in certain situations, so can the right to bodily integrity.

Your attempt to use my response to that hypothetical and apply it to abortion ...

is not happening, expect that I am evaluating how you weigh rights in different situations. We both agree that the right to life to life does not always trump rights like bodily integrity and self defense. Why should the concept of "assault", however defined, be the only key?

... by any reasonable standard, does not meet the definition of assault I've developed.

You have yet to detail even one reasonable standard.

If you only have the right to bodily integrity because you have the right to life, then how could you deny the right to life in order to uphold the right to bodily integrity? You would be sawing off the branch you're sitting on.

If you only have x because of y, you cannot deny y and keep x. Substitute "the right to bodily integrity" for x and "the right to life" for y.


You only have the right to self defense (z) because you have x and y. Yet above, you assert z to deny x.

You understand that a law requiring involuntary servitude isn't simply by virtue of that fact unjust, right?

There's this thing called "prison" you might want to look into.


Interestingly, the 13th Amendment does allow for the involuntary servitude of those convicted of crimes. So, what is the metaphorical "crime" the woman commits that requires involuntary servitude?

It is just to require involuntary servitude for people under certain circumstances. One such circumstance would be when you have willingly engaged in an activity that has produced an innocent life.

So, you are making a commitment to a non-existent human when you have intercourse? What if you are using birth control? Does the acted-upon intent to not have a child mean that the child no longer has a right to attach itself your body?

You can be required to use your body to work to provide financial assistance for your children. If you fail to do so, you can be sentenced to literal involuntary servitude in the form of a jail sentence.

Last I checked, money doesn't come from a body, it's property. No, you can't be forced to work to pay for child support, although can be forced to look for work.

Nonsense. It would depend on why the law was required. If 100% of babies who weren't breastfed died, it would not be unjust to pass a law requiring women to breastfeed.

What the percentile difference where the law becomes unjust? If the mortality rate is 1% vs. 0.9%?

I find the contrast of these ignore-the-small-percentage arguments you make a curious contrast to the any-chance-an-embryo-is-a-person argument you make with other people interesting.

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Hugo Pelland said...

@One Brow and Chad

This was probably the most important exchange you had so far:

"(C) It is just to require involuntary servitude for people under certain circumstances. One such circumstance would be when you have willingly engaged in an activity that has produced an innocent life.

(OB) So, you are making a commitment to a non-existent human when you have intercourse? What if you are using birth control? Does the acted-upon intent to not have a child mean that the child no longer has a right to attach itself your body?
"


As it was mentioned before, the pro-life position often has not-so-hidden motives of wanting to punish people for having sex just for fun. This was made pretty clear here: the implication is that every single sexual intercourse should be seen as potentially creating a new person, with rights, and the mother will have to take care of that person. It doesn't matter what the woman wants. Her rights to bodily integrity are void the second fertilization is in progress, simply because the process has the potential to yield a fully grown human being.


Now, that word 'potential' is really important here, because that's what I was asked to comment on, as it related to the article on Ed Faser's blog, where he talks about act vs potentiality, a concept I see as being detached from modern understanding of physics, chemistry and biology, but an interesting one nonetheless. If we grant that there's a potential human at some point, the problem remains: where's the line, and why?



"Remember, women are born with all the eggs they are ever going to have, and they don’t make any new eggs during their lifetime. Women are born with approximately two million eggs in their ovaries, but about eleven thousand of them die every month prior to puberty. As a teenager, a woman has only three hundred thousand to four hundred thousand remaining eggs, and from that point on, approximately one thousand eggs are destined to die each month. This phenomenon is completely independent of any hormone production, birth control pills, pregnancies, nutritional supplements, or even health or lifestyle. Nothing stops this inexorable death of approximately one thousand eggs every month regardless of ovulation, ovarian inhibition, or stimulation."



So why not save more eggs? Each of them is a potential human. It contains random copies of the mother's genes already; just needs some from a man too. What makes fertilization so special then? It can in a lab, or through sex. In either case, we're just talking about 1 more step in a biological process that may or may not result in a new human person to become self aware. Most of the times, it doesn't. Let women decide when they can't to make it happen.

Hugo Pelland said...

Let women decide when they *want* to make it happen.

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