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Old 03-11-2006, 07:02 PM   #165
ShadowTemplar's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Denmark
Posts: 1,068
It's because of your failure to point out when they become a 'human' that it comes back too.
Firstly, there is no such point. Contrary to your implicit assumption, 'humanness' is not a binary operator. During foetal development, the foetus is partially human. I could provide you with a list of indicators of development which would - collectively - make the foetus 'human'. But that does not adress the fundamental problem with your fallacious assumption. To illustrate the point, I will make a truncated list:

To be considered 'fully human', an organism must 1) Belong to the species H.S. Sapiens 2) Be diploid 3) Possess myelinated nerves 4) Possess the brain centres for memory and cognitive action. This is a deliberately truncated list. In fact, the list can never be 'complete' in any meaningful sense of the word. But it will serve to make the point.

The point is that a 'full human' has all these things. But does that mean that a brain-dead person (which does not fulfill these criteria) is morally equivalent to a pig? I would say no. Clearly there are ethical considerations involved in harvesting the still-beating heart of someone in a respirator, that would simply not be worth considering if we were talking about a pig.

Does that mean that we should cut #4 out of the list? Well, that would make - say - heart transplants ethically impossible according to the anti-choice logic. That is certainly one political position. I for one find it immoral and inhumane.

But suppose we do so. That would move the barrier for when terminating the pregnancy would be acceptable - again according to fundie logic - back to the time around which the foetus develops myelinated nerves. Does that mean that a blastocyst is the moral equivalent of a cancer tumor? I would argue that it does not. Removing a blastocyst requires compelling reasons. Not removing a cancer tumor requires compelling reasons. So clearly the two are not equivalent.

Does that mean that we should cut #3 out of the list? Well, we could do so. But that would make a cancer tumor a living human being, ethically speaking. That is certainly one political position. I for one do not support it.

But suppose we accept it for the sake of the argument. Now we're down to the set that anti-choice fundies like to use. But why stop there? If we continue to employ the binary 'human' XOR 'non-human' logic, then this set of criteria would give the result that an unfertilised egg is the moral equivalent of a pig.

In fact, it could well be argued that the pig is actually more worthy of ethical protection than the unfertilised egg, since it is actually diploid, and - evolutionarily speaking - almost human.

Clearly, this is absurd. I doubt that anyone here would challenge the ethics of buying and selling pigs. I equally doubt that anyone here would argue that it is completely unproblematic to buy and sell unfertilised human eggs.

So, by the binary logic employed by the anti-choice fundies, unfertilised eggs should be considered full human beings, with all the protections and safeguards that apply to other humans. Already we have reached absurdity, but why stop there?

A chimpanzee is 99.6 % human. Clearly it is more human than not, so if we employ binary logic, it should be considered 'fully human', should it not? Or should it be considered 'fully ape'? Do a difference of .4 % make it ethical to do the same thing to laboratory apes that we do to laboratory rats?

I would say no. There are things that I would have no qualms subjecting rodents to (deliberately engineering their genes to cause them to develop cancer, for instance), that I would quarrel with doing to apes.

Clearly, there is a smooth progression from 'completely non-human' to 'fully human'. And the ethical complications associated with certain practices (such as using the specimens as test subjects in laboratory experiments) increases with the degree of 'humanness'.

So you very well may be killing a human being.
Yes. I accept that risk. You accept that risk. Society as a whole accepts that risk. Every day and on a multitude of issues. And if you claim otherwise, then you are either lying or criminally ignorant.

Every traffic accident could - hypothetically - have been avoided, had we been willing to pay enough for transportation security. Indeed, we could spend our entire GDP on transportation security, and there would never have to be another traffic accident. Or we could ban transportation altogether, in which case we would never need to risk killing a human being.

In fact, by contributing to the traffic volume on your local highway, you may very well be killing a human being. Such risks are judged 'acceptable' when considering infrastructure. Why should they be less acceptable when discussing medicine?

Every war could - hypothetically - be avoided, by rolling over and accepting the demands of your enemies. At times, it is advisible to bluff in diplomatic manouvers. Sometimes, your bluff is called. Sometimes, having your bluff called will lead you to war. Thus, with every diplomatic bluff, there is an associated risk of needless war and death. We could just accept every trade and policy concession that China demands and never need risk a war with China. By refusing to grant some of those concessions, we court the risk (however small) of a world wide war.

In fact, by supporting a government that demands that China obey basic human rights, I am risking human lives.

Suppose it was possible to eliminate terrorism at the cost of surrendering every single civil liberty we have, and accepting the all-encompassing police state. I would quarrel with that assumption, but let's consider it for the sake of the argument.

In such a world, not adopting GESTAPO methods translates directly into an increased risk of successful terrorist attacks. Successful terrorist attacks cost human lives. So, in such a world, refusing to arbitrarily empower the police would be to risk human lives.

Why is lowering the cost of building - say - a levee at the expense of risking the life of a human being more acceptable than lowering the discomfort of a human at the expense of risking the life of a human being?

Why is protecting the sovereignty of your country at the expense of risking the life of a human being more acceptable than lowering the discomfort of a human at the expense of risking the life of a human being? (I think I know the answer to that question: A war with China would take place mainly in far away countries, and most of the dead people wouldn't be white anglo-saxon protestants...)

Why is protecting - say - the privacy of the mail at the expense of risking the life of a human being more acceptable than lowering the discomfort of a human being at the expense of risking the life of a human being?

Since it is my opinion that we should try to protect all human life
You are either lying or deluding yourself. To paraphrase something Skin said in a similiar situation: When you scan and post your membership card for Amnesty International, Medecins Sans Frontieres, The International Red Cross/Red Cresent, and WaterPartners, then I might take that line seriously.

The point is that you cant slap a scientific principle on everything. Somethings you just must look at with logical perspective.
This is going off topic a little, but I feel that I have to comment on that line, since it is so breathtakingly stupid that I feel dumber just for reading it.

You base your entire argument on inconsistent a priori assumptions and pure appeals to emotion. And then you berate me for being illogical???

Further, you accuse me of using science instead of logic??? You will want to brush up on what logic is and what is manifestly is not.

Logic is the tool used to draw consistent and - well - logical conclusions from a set of premises. You seem to labor under the delusion that you can support your premises with logic. You can not.

You can support your premises with science (which you, for some reason that I can't quite fathom, seem to think is illogical and perverse). You can support your assumptions with an ethical code - something both you and I do. The two are not mutually exclusive, and indeed when making a genuine political decision, both are required.

One thing you manifestly can not use to support your assumptions, however, is logic. That's called either begging the question, or infinite regression.

As an aside, I do not anywhere quarrel with your logic, and I don't see you challenging mine, either. What I do quarrel with is your assumptions.

I would argue that the first assumption is stupid. In fact, there is no discontinuities during pregnancy that can justify such an assumption. Thus, if an ethical discontinuity is assumed where there is no biological counterpart, it will necessarily be an arbitrary distinction that can - in principle - be placed anywhere and everywhere. And no matter where it is placed, it will yield unacceptable conclusions.
I am sorry if I am misquoting you but I believe it is you who are assuming this.
I manifestly do not. You, however, do. You place the line at conception, but that is a purely arbitrary distinction. In fact there is no discontinuity there that is more fundamental than - say - the development of myelinated nerves, or the first breath taken with an independent respiratory system.

Or take the principle that society shall never condone arbitrary killing - the very principle invoked by the anti-choice Taliban. This principle is unsustainable.
I will pretend to know what you are talking about.
Fine. Next time I am in a bad mood I will just run out into the street and go postal. [/sarcastic]
It is evident to me that you are poor at pretending to understand what I'm talking about.

It is amusing to see how you have learned exactly nothing during this discussion. You are still reading everything into absolute terms. The negation of the statement 'never kill arbitrarily' is not 'always kill arbitrarily.'

You would do well to remember the negation relations:

Not(ForAll X) = Exists(Not X) =|= ForAll(Not X)
Not(Exists X) = ForAll(Not X) =|= Exists(Not X)

For someone who claims to
look at [things] with [a] logical perspective
you seem rather underequipped in the logic department.

For socitity to exist it must have a value system.
Ignoratio Elenchi.

In war - for instance - we must be willing to accept the killing of innocents.
That innocents will be killed. Not that we are just going to start killing them.

Is there a point here that I'm missing, or have you just said that risking the deaths of innocent people at the business end of a cruise missile is somehow less problematic than the death of foetuses at the termination of a pregnancy?

In medicine, we must be willing to accept the fact that some patients are going to die who could have been saved, had we spent sufficient resources on their treatment. But had we done that, those same resources could not have been spent on - say - providing clean drinking water to our citizens, or finding ways around antibiotics resistance in bacteria.
Incomparable analogy
How? As I believe Dravis said previously: 'You're wrong' is not a terribly enlightening reply.

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