Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:45 pm

Here is the question I want answered the most in all of this:

There is no question that we disagree on what defines a person versus a nonperson. Our disagreement is but a reflection of the larger that underlies this entire subject. There is no agreement, hence opposition and debate.

A fetus could be a person or a nonperson. Abortion could be murder or the same as removing a wart. Let's skip that for a moment.

Here is the question:

What makes you think that you should have any say whatsoever in what other people do with what is inside their bodies?


I need to know this. Where does your mandate for interference (changing laws, forcing ordinances, protesting outside clinics, ect.) come from? What gives you any say at all over someone else's womb?

In short, why do you think abortion is debatable at all?
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Monocheres » Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:09 pm

PERSON A: I have a large family room in my basement. It contains various pieces of furniture. Can I flood it with water and turn it into a giant aquarium for my exotic fish collection? I don't want to pay for removing the furniture, I'll just leave it there as humorous props. Can I do that?

PERSON B: Seems a little wierd, but it's your house, your castle. Sure, why not? I wouldn't do it myself, but I got no right to tell you what to do with your property.

--------

PERSON A: I have a large in-law apartment in my basement. My elderly mother-in-law lives there. She is bed-ridden and on a ventilator, so she can't be moved. Can I flood the place with water and turn it into a giant aquarium for my exotic fish collection? I'll just leave my mother-in-law there as a humorous prop. Can I do that?

PERSON B: NO!!!

PERSON A: Why not? I mean it's my house, my castle. Who are you to tell me what to do with my property?

PERSON B: But what about your mother-in-law?

PERSON A: Oh, that old wart? Why are you concerned about her?

PERSON B: But she's a person!

PERSON A: You don't know my mother-in-law.

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Jennifer, you cannot just put aside the question of whether a fetus is a person with rights or not. That is the core of the debate. Of course no one has the right to tell anyone what to do with their body -- unless the welfare of some other person is involved. Gestation is the one big exception that needs to be addressed. No matter how much we disagree, the one thing no one can deny is that the end-product of gestation is a new person. A new human being. The burning question is when does it become a person?

The religious have their beliefs about that. I'm not religious, but I don't think religion is necessary for morality. In fact, as an atheist, I believe that religion is superfluous for morality. Based on science and reasoned consideration, my conclusion is that personhood happens somewhere between conception and birth, in a gray area of time inside the womb. My morality is informed by that conclusion. As much as we might wish there were a magic moment of "ensoulment", it just doesn't exist. There is no blue fairy that sprinkles pixie dust on a baby and gives it a soul as it's squeezing out of the birth canal, any more than there's a blue fairy that sprinkles pixie dust on a zygote just after fertilization. We have to deal with the reality of the biology that we evolved with. It ain't pretty, it ain't neat and tidy. It's messy. It would be cleaner if we descended from dinosaurs and laid eggs. But we're viviparous mammals, and that's just the hand that Darwin dealt us. We have to deal with it.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Monocheres » Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:30 pm

Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote:Where does your mandate for interference (changing laws, forcing ordinances, protesting outside clinics, ect.) come from?


Do you imagine me as some rabid pro-lifer waving a sign? I find their tactics repugnant. They need to cut it out with forcing women to run gauntlets like that. If anything, that kind of behavior is what we need to pass ordinances against -- hopefully without running afoul of the First Amendment. And in case it actually needs to be said, regarding the very topic of this thread: There is absolutely no excuse or justification for murder or terrorism in the name of any cause, no matter how much you might object to somebody else's practices. To justify taking a life in the name of saving lives is just absolutely F.U.B.A.R.

I wonder if you've even been paying attention to my stated position. I think the pro-life crowd would find my stance just as difficult to swallow as you apparently do. The opposite of extremism is not extremism with the polarity reversed. The opposite of extremism is moderation, balance, compromise. A pox on both your houses. Mine is a compromise position, an intermediate view. Extremists always claim compromise is simply a concession to the enemy that will inevitably lead down a slippery slope to the enemy's triumph -- or at least that 's how they slant the propaganda so they can avoid compromising. Compromisers get exasperated by this because, while neither extreme gets everything they want, they might just get enough to establish peace.

Do I have to repeat yet again how supportive I am of first-trimester abortion? I've even come up with a rationale for why it could be seen as just an extension of a natural process. Such that I've managed to talk even a pro-lifer like Coda into grudgingly accepting it as reasonable and something he could support. I've also come up with a rationale for why later-term abortions are of a completely different character that makes them morally problematic, but I can't seem to budge you on that.

Instead, you've taken stances that frankly I find rather offensive, such as the notion that infanticide might somehow be acceptable within the first few months after birth since a newborn is just "sensation and imprinting". You congratulate yourself on finding this "consistent" with aborting late-term fetuses. That's sort of like a slave-holder congratulating himself on how consistent and equitable he was in whipping his Congolese slaves only as often as he whipped his Gold Coast slaves.

Have you ever been around a newborn? Have you raised one? I have video of my son at two months post-partum cooing in tune to Christmas music and jiggling his little limbs off 'cause he liked it so much. He was showing signs of his future personality even in the womb: Mellow most of the time although he'd get excited and playful when he heard my voice and start carrying on (kicking a lot), then settle down again once I told him to cool it and stop giving his mommy so much trouble. Sure enough, he repeated that exact same pattern outside the womb the day after he was born -- and years later.

How many laws do you think I really want to change? Take a look at some demographics I got from Wikipedia (these are figures from the US in 2004):

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This is pretty close to the pattern I called for, so I'm not sure very many legal remedies are needed at all. Maybe education and social encouragement would do to squeeze the peak more into the first trimester. Many states already have various bans or curbs on late-term and partial-birth abortions that seem reasonable to me. Despite the dire claims from pro-choicers of a slippery slope, many of these laws are surviving constitutional tests precisely because they aren't blanket bans on all abortions -- or even morphable into blanket bans. A lot of them seem to be based on using "preemie viability" as a threshold, which I could live with, since it's as good as anything for dealing with such gray areas.

Heck, half of my proposal are for things that, if you stop and think about them, you'd probably be heartily in favor of. Stuff like perinatal (and beyond) socioeconomic support for mothers and babies, and support for pregnancy education/detection/counseling. In the case of the former, I challenge you once again: If you really believe in protecting the weak and vulnerable, can't you concede that the nearly- and newly-born are the weakest and most vulnerable of all? How can you possibly entertain the idea of infanticide, and yet pretend to be a compassionate person of conscience?

To quote you: What. The. F*CK.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Thu Jun 18, 2009 5:06 am

So the notion all comes down to one thing then, if I hear correctly: whether or not an unborn fetus is a 'person' or not.

From this stems, if I understand correctly, the entire mandate to interfere in the wombs -and lives- of people the politically active Anti-Choice person does not know.

If a fetus is a person, then there is the compulsion to protect it almost whatever the consequence to the woman it is inside of.

Is this correct, so far?

I argue that a fetus cannot be a person, because it has no experience, no knowledge of self, no awareness of existence, no memories, no identity, and no comprehension of anything. All a fetus has, and only in late term, is the crudest neurological response - it can instinctively respond to simple sensations, it has simple autonomic reflexes, and, in the very last stage of development, basic sensory capability.

I assume the counter argument is... what? It could become a person if given a year or two of careful, loving care, therefore it already is a person...somehow?

Or that personhood is somehow ineffable, intrinsic without any definition, dare I say 'magical' - it is automatically given to a creature that has no awareness of identity or self?

I guess I just cannot grant 'personhood' to something that has no sense of being a person. It doesn't make sense to me. It is illogical and silly to me.

Especially when compared to the full and complete personhood of an adult woman.

An entire, rich, complete life, versus an unaware, identity-less fetus... to me there is no contest. Actual person with a life wins. Their merest whims trump all.

I would grant one concession, however.

In my view, if a fetus has been mistreated, it should be aborted no matter what; thus if a woman wants to bring a baby to term, she would be required to take due care of her fetus.

I would consider this a proper position relative to the future person the fetus could potentially represent.

Thus I think all babies should be carefully screened prior to birth; defective ones terminated before they can develop a sense of identity, self, and thus fear of loss of self.

This, in my mind, would eliminate the most suffering for all concerned, and thus serve the twin gods of compassion and freedom well.

Women would own their own bodies, but any baby actually born could be assured of having the healthiest possible corpus within which to exist once they become a person.

Does this not make rational sense?
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Coda » Thu Jun 18, 2009 8:26 am

It makes rational sense, but it's the very definition of eugenics. The pruning of the undesirables. The elimination of non-persons.

Eugenics was held in fairly good regard in the early 1900s -- and then someone put it into policy, producing the greatest atrocity to occur in modern history and significantly contributing to World War II.

After WWII, you'll be hard-pressed to find a politician anywhere in North America or Europe who would be willing to be associated with accepting a policy that could be associated with eugenics.

If you're going to abort every baby that suffers from a testable disorder, that leads to the forced sterilization of the carriers of the disorder. The same rationale leads to racism and discrimination -- don't let "people" with undesirable traits enter the breeding pool. The same rationale leads to mandatory elimination of the disabled and handicapped, the people who are fully cognizant and intelligent but suffer crippling, painful problems, who are already discriminated against.

The Wikipedia article on eugenics includes this statement:
[What is dangerous is] the desire to remake humanity by coercive means (eugenics or social engineering) and the belief that humanity advances through a struggle in which superior groups (race or classes) triumph over inferior ones.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Wic » Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:13 pm

Eugenics is still alive. It opened the doors for genetic research to which we now look as a savior for genetic diseases. Medical science took amazing leaps when the moral dilemmas were just wiped away. Industry boomed with slavery. You know Siemens? They used slaves to build switches and such and they weren't the only one company.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Coda » Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:39 pm

I'm aware it's alive (primarily hiding under other names, BECAUSE of WW2) but if the argument is that you shouldn't screw with people's freedom (sexual or otherwise), mandatory genetics testing (and worse, mandatory abortion/euthanasia for "defective" individuals) is anathema. The former is an invasion of privacy; the latter is the same kind of government interference in reproductive freedom that's being so staunchly argued against.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Thu Jun 18, 2009 3:28 pm

Hmmm...

Interesting problem isn't it?

We humans can't be trusted to take care of our own genetics.

In many animal species (Cats, Rabbits, and so on) parents will kill and often devour defective offspring, or reabsorb (a kind of abortion) fetuses before birth in times of starvation or stress, or otherwise police their gene pool for the benefit of the species.

I suppose this works because animals do not have political and religious and racial agendas and bigotries.

But we humans dare not protect the physiological integrity and functionality of our offspring by eliminating errors in reproduction, because we do have such agendas.

This means that, as a species, we must be doomed to an endless carnival of suffering and misery, of deformity, helplessness, and struggle, of individuals forced to live with horrific developmental errors, because to end that would inevitably result in a slippery slide into racial and ethnic purges.

Clearly, we are not capable of applying eugenics for ourselves - though of course we can apply it to other species at whim, as a natural part of domestication and use of such life forms.

It is a pity; the amount of suffering that could be eliminated by guaranteeing every human an optimal body within which to live out their lives would be so great as to beggar the imagination. Bodies could be optimized for longevity, health, ability - in literally every way, just as we do with domesticated animals, according to our needs.

But, our one large-scale flirtation with eugenics is associated with a terrible evil, so it is clear we cannot speak of it.

Damn.

Well, I suppose there's always advancements in after-the fact medicine, and the future hope for everything from gene therapy to replacement organs, even limbs and faces.

That perhaps is the only answer; bear all horrifically deformed and crippled babies, then surgically alter them, as best is possible, to permit them to live mobile, ambulatory lives. Such procedures are usually done during the childhood years, probably for the best. Graft on faces, eyes, arms, fingers, and other missing or deformed parts, and thus sidestep the slippery slope of prevention. One day, repair of the brain should even be possible. Eventually.

I think within the next 50 to 100 years, virtually all such deformity should be repairable, for those that can afford it, of course.

I think that's for the best.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Coda » Thu Jun 18, 2009 3:33 pm

Don't disregard the fact that mandatory eugenics means that every baby in every womb has to be genetically tested -- how invasive is that? How much does that deny freedom and privacy and individuality? How do you know that OTHER agendas won't influence the decisions of the testers?

The reason we can't do that is the same as the reason I said we can't make this world perfect. In order to improve the "human race" (is this even a noble goal? There are those who would disagree) you have to limit people, restrict rights, take away freedoms. The necessary steps to achieve this are anathema to the idea of liberty.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Monocheres » Thu Jun 18, 2009 7:37 pm

Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote:It is a pity; the amount of suffering that could be eliminated by guaranteeing every human an optimal body within which to live out their lives would be so great as to beggar the imagination. Bodies could be optimized for longevity, health, ability - in literally every way, just as we do with domesticated animals, according to our needs.


I think you're making some big assumptions about what would actually be feasible by applying selective breeding upon the human species, as well as how good our track record has actually been in applying it to domesticated species. In the latter case, it's true that we've been able to manipulate our pets and farm animals to satisfy certain whims or achieve certain commodity production goals, but often this has been at the expense of the overall health of the animal. Often in-breeding has been used as a quick way to amplify a desirable trait, but this leads to obvious problems as harmful recessive traits surface. Purebred lines are often riddled with genetic diseases that mutts and mongrels avoid.

According to some interesting but controversial research, central and northern Eurpoe during the Middle Ages may have been the setting for a major human eugenics experiment -- although it was a case of natural selection rather than deliberate selective breeding. Apparently, Ashkenazi Jews experienced selection pressure favoring increased intelligence, due to persecution that restricted them to occupations that demanded mental agility. The mechanism for adapting to this selection pressure appears to be mutations in genes affecting the growth and connection of of neurons in the brain. However, this has come at the cost of genetic disorders involving those same genes, such as Tay Sachs. [EDIT: The theory is that the prevalence and persistence of these disorders in the population can be explained by the beneficial effects of the genes when inherited from one parent but their deleterious effect when inherited from both parents.]
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Shackler » Thu Jun 18, 2009 9:09 pm

I believe that some of those alive today will live to see a world where it will be possible to have almost whatever form you wish.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Monocheres » Thu Jun 18, 2009 9:12 pm

Shackler wrote:I believe that some of those alive today will live to see a world where it will be possible to have almost whatever form you wish.


Possibly, but I doubt it will come from traditional selective breeding techniques. Perhaps nanotechnology or genetic engineering.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Wizard CaT » Thu Jun 18, 2009 11:08 pm

Monocheres wrote:
Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote:It is a pity; the amount of suffering that could be eliminated by guaranteeing every human an optimal body within which to live out their lives would be so great as to beggar the imagination. Bodies could be optimized for longevity, health, ability - in literally every way, just as we do with domesticated animals, according to our needs.


I think you're making some big assumptions about what would actually be feasible by applying selective breeding upon the human species, as well as how good our track record has actually been in applying it to domesticated species. In the latter case, it's true that we've been able to manipulate our pets and farm animals to satisfy certain whims or achieve certain commodity production goals, but often this has been at the expense of the overall health of the animal. Often in-breeding has been used as a quick way to amplify a desirable trait, but this leads to obvious problems as harmful recessive traits surface. Purebred lines are often riddled with genetic diseases that mutts and mongrels avoid.


Isn't selective breeding the argument some use as to why blacks are better at sports, being breed during slavery for physical traits?
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Monocheres » Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:33 am

Wizard CaT wrote:Isn't selective breeding the argument some use as to why blacks are better at sports, being breed during slavery for physical traits?


I suppose it's plausible but what is the evidence? With the Ashkenazi phenomenon they've isolated the specific genes and the brain compounds produced (sphingolipids), and figured out their effects. Has anybody done any genetic comparisons between African Americans and their ancestral populations in West Africa? You would also have to consider the effect of plain old natural selection within a harsh environment. The Atlantic passage was brutal. Only the strongest could survive being packed like cordwood in those ship holds. Anyway, whatever selective breeding might have happened ended a century and a half ago.

There's also the explanation that it's just socioeconomic deprivation. When you're poor and crowded in an inner city with a cruddy education system and few options, you might turn to sports as an outlet. Devote enough time to anything and you'll master it. Anyway, professional sports teams are tiny elite, they might not even reflect the general population. How do average blacks compare to average whites?
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Fri Jun 19, 2009 3:56 am

I tend to question statements about athletic ability and genetics, primarily because of the astounding way diet affects growth and ability.

Get enough protein and a short population will grow much taller and stronger.

I think epigenetics, changes brought on by environment that activate genes, is not considered enough.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Shackler » Fri Jun 19, 2009 4:39 am

Monocheres wrote:
Shackler wrote:I believe that some of those alive today will live to see a world where it will be possible to have almost whatever form you wish.


Possibly, but I doubt it will come from traditional selective breeding techniques. Perhaps nanotechnology or genetic engineering.


Oh, certainly.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Monocheres » Sat Jun 20, 2009 4:02 am

Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote:the entire mandate to interfere in the wombs -and lives- of people the politically active Anti-Choice person does not know.


Isn't it cute how both sides in this debate like to use political framing to make their side look good and the other side bad? If you're not 100% "pro-choice", then you must be "anti-choice", right? If you're not 100% "pro-life", then you must be "anti-life" (or "pro-death")? Fie! A pox on both your houses! If this were 1970 I might be arguing in favor of establishing Roe-v-Wade, instead of in favor of moderating it.

Why don't we put aside for a while the whole question of political action and legal coercion? Let's assume that all we are discussing is a fine point of morality, with the only prescriptive result being to attempt to educate and persuade people to do the right thing, but without forcing them to comply. Even if there were no hope of a legal remedy, a moral person who perceived a wrong would still feel obligated to make a case and try to sway people.

Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote:I argue that a fetus cannot be a person, because it has no experience, no knowledge of self, no awareness of existence, no memories, no identity, and no comprehension of anything. All a fetus has, and only in late term, is the crudest neurological response - it can instinctively respond to simple sensations, it has simple autonomic reflexes, and, in the very last stage of development, basic sensory capability.


How do you know all that? How do you know? It seems to me you are underestimating the degree of development of an end-stage fetus. Is there scientific evidence either way? If there is no solid evidence, then who gets to decide these things? If the decision-makers make life-and-death decisions affecting the innocent and vulnerable, based on faulty assumptions and biased or flawed information, or worse, based on their prejudices and their personal agendas, then who will stand up to defend the innocent and vulnerable, who cannot defend themselves?

Memory. Hmm. Let's look at that. It's true that kids' memories don't come on line for a while. At least, lasting memories. But does a being need to have memory in order to be counted as person? I have no memories of my life from before about 5 years old -- at a stretch, 4 years old. Maybe. It's all a bit hazy for me that far back. My wife swears she can distinctly remember things from when she was 3 years old, and my son appears to remember events from when he was 3. So ... we weren't really people until then? When my kid was 3, or 2, or even 1, it did seem to me that he could remember things that had happened or people he had met a few hours, or days, even weeks or months before. For that matter, on the day he was born, he immediately reacted to my voice, distinctly differently from the way he reacted to, say, one of the nurses. I was familiar to him. So he did have memories that came out of the womb with him. He just doesn't remember any of those things now. So ... you need to have long-term memory to really be a person?

But "memory" is not a simple, monolithic thing. There are different kinds of memory. Episodic memory vs. procedural memory, for instance. Remember those cases of people who lost their ability to form long-term memories? They live in an eternal "now" of just waking up after the accident. They can't remember any new events or episodes that happen to them. But it's been shown that they can, by repetition, learn new skills. Procedural memory. Does a human being have to be able to remember an unbroken narrative of his life, to be counted as a person?

I assume the counter argument is... what? It could become a person if given a year or two of careful, loving care, therefore it already is a person...somehow?


It seems that you are gravitating to a one or two year time-frame for personhood. That's interesting. That corresponds to about the time a child acquires language, the ability to speak, communicate. Very interesting. A person becomes a person when they can communicate to other people, is that it? So you have to be able to report aritculately on your experience in order to prove that you have any experiences? Or at least you have to be able to remember them long enough so you can articulate your experiences once language comes on line? Otherwise there was no real experience?

But why are we limiting the discussion to verbal communication? In fact, babies communicate all the time. Just not in words. Even a newborn comes with a repertoire of communication skills. Distinct cries for "I'm hungry". "I'm uncomfortable", "I'm scared", "I'm in pain" -- some even claim "I'm lonely" and "I'm frustrated". I wasn't as good as my wife in understanding my son's cries but that may have been due to the Y chromosome. Mothers have a built-in instinct for that. And within mere weeks, kids are smiling, and cooing with delight, and gurgling, and giggling, and laughing. They're constantly reporting their experiences, and communicating them very clearly. They're just not very sophisticated, nuanced experiences. Do you need to have sophisticated, nuanced experiences, to count as a person?

Can end-stage fetuses communicate or interact with their mothers or outsiders? It's kind of hard to make a sound when your mouth and lungs are filled with amniotic fluid. Kicks and wiggles don't convey much information. I have my experience of my son kicking excitedly in response to the sound of my voice. My wife claims that she could tell a lot about what was going on with him, in terms of mood, especially in the last two months. But she admits it was fairly vague, not enough to conclusively say what he was really experiencing. I'd like to know what the science is about that.

Or that personhood is somehow ineffable, intrinsic without any definition, dare I say 'magical' -


Actually, I would dispute that I am talking about any "ineffable" qualities when I'm talking about the personhood of newborns. What I am saying is that whatever it takes to be a person, it's not simple. There's no pat answer. It's complex.

it is automatically given to a creature that has no awareness of identity or self?

I guess I just cannot grant 'personhood' to something that has no sense of being a person. It doesn't make sense to me. It is illogical and silly to me.


Ah, here we come to the crux of it. You require awareness of identity, of self, before you would confer personhood. In short, you require consciousness. Only conscious beings are people, in your book.

One trouble with that definition is that consciousness is a very difficult and controversial subject. It is poorly understood. In the current state of scientific understanding, you may as well call it something "ineffable, intrinsic, without any definition." You yourself are throwing the concept around casually, without bothering to define it. To even attempt to define it would take reams and reams of debate.

Here's just one problem with consciousness:

Every night, when I go to bed, I cease to be conscious. My sense of self, my awareness of self, disappears. "I" disappear. "I" go ... I know not where. Eh, such a poetic turn of phrase. Let's get real: "I" don't "go" anywhere. "I" just cease to be, for a while. "I" go offline. My heart keeps beating, my lungs keep breathing, my autonomic responses keep my bodily functions going. My brain continues functioning, in an altered state. My brain does keep sensing things, after a fashion, because if my body rolls onto an uncomfortable object, it is likely to react. If I'm in pain from an injury or an illness, my body reacts to that too, and suffers. But "I" have no awareness of what my brain senses, and I usually have no memories of whatever it is my brain is doing during that time. When I do retain some memories, they tend to be vague, disjointed, nonsensical, evanescent. Dreams. They slip through my fingers and are gone. When I have no memories, can I even be certain I actually "experienced" anything at all? I just wake up, and either feel good or bad.

Am I a person when I'm asleep? Or have I reverted to my evolutionary heritage of being a non-sapient animal -- just a mass of sensation without awareness? If someone kills me in my sleep, I may never be aware of it. Is it only murder if I'm awake and fully aware that I'm being killed? If my killer manages to do it while I'm asleep, is he just slaughtering an animal, so that his only penalty is a lawsuit from PETA?

On the other hand, when I'm asleep, I do retain the ability to regain consciousness, eventually. In fact, my brain does maintain a certain minimal level of awareness, and with the right stimulus, I can be alerted back to consciousness. Is that level of awareness enough to explain why my killing would still be murder? Well, it might be "awareness," but it's definitely not self-awareness.

What if I were to pass out, due to illness or injury or drunkenness? In fact, I happen to suffer from vaso-vagal reflex, so I'm prone to pass out if I get any kind of GI trouble, like from a flu. Coming-to is very strange and frightening experience. At first, I don't know where I am, or even who I am. I feel like I'm coming from a million miles away. The world makes no sense, it keeps spinning. And then, bits of myself start coming back, until slam! I realize that I'm lying in the bathroom in a puddle of vomit with a 102-degree fever and a pounding headache and nausea and painful knots in my stomach and a lump on my head and I'm ME but I wish I wasn't!

The creepiest thing about that experience is that I know that a moment before, I wasn't ME. "I" just wasn't there. If someone killed me then, there wouldn't be anyone in my body to experience it.

If I get into a car-wreck and fall into a coma and am totally out for 9 months, am I still a person for that time? If I'm not really a person, then could somebody just euthanize me and not face murder charges? On a whim? If the doctors are confident that I'll recover but it'll take a few months, do I get a pass? Or can someone claim that, well, I'm not really a person, I just have the potential to become a person someday, so go ahead and pull the plug?

When exactly does a poor little kid get that get-out-of-infaticide-free card, in your world-view? How do we decide when a child becomes conscious? Is it a monolithic thing that just suddenly happens one day, or is it a gradual capability that comes in parts and stages? Are there levels and gradations of consciousness? For instance, babies start smiling at their own reflections within 3-6 months. Are they starting to gain a sense of self at that point? Or did they already have it all along, they just didn't have the ability to connect it with their visual processing yet? How do we know for sure, either way -- they can't tell us themselves, and once they are able to tell us, they won't remember what it had been like.

Especially when compared to the full and complete personhood of an adult woman.

An entire, rich, complete life, versus an unaware, identity-less fetus... to me there is no contest. Actual person with a life wins.


What troubles me is that this is discrimination on the basis of age. The longer you have lived, the "richer" you are in experience, the more valued you would be as a person. By this logic, if I had to make a choice between saving a 20-year-old person and a 70-year-old person, and I could only save one, I would have to go with the person with the "richer" experience. But it is also arguable that the 70-year-old has already had a long and full life and got their chance, so why take away the 20-year-old's chance?

Their merest whims trump all.


Now wait a minute. I could buy the idea of favoring the mother in an emergency situation where both lives are threatened and you can only save one, even in the third trimester. (Although I'd absolutely want to rule out the option of emergency Caesarean first.) I might even ponder carefully the dilemma of a mother who might want to spare her child a life of suffering if external circumstances become grievous, even at the last moment. (Although I'd want to try to change the circumstances first, if possible, before sentencing an innocent child to death for stuff beyond his control.) But, assuming a mother freely chose to carry a child all the way up to the brink of childbirth, assuming she was never coerced, assuming it was not an accident, assuming she used that three-month window at the beginning to carefully think about whether she really wanted to go through with it, and assuming that there's a loving and nurturing family environment waiting for her and the new child, how could it possibly be a moral or responsible choice for her to decide to violently and painfully end her child's life, just for the sake of a mere whim?
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Monocheres » Sat Jun 20, 2009 5:57 am

Monocheres wrote:I could buy the idea of favoring the mother in an emergency situation where both lives are threatened and you can only save one, even in the third trimester.


Why can I say that, after arguing against ageism? It wouldn't be because I somehow valued the woman's "richer" experience more, and the baby's "poorer" (?) experience less. If there's any calculation involved in such a tragic choice, it would be that the woman might have a mate and other children who needed her, or that bringing a child into a world without its mother would be crueler than letting the woman carry on without her child.
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Re: The Domestic Terrorists have won.

Postby Coda » Sat Jun 20, 2009 8:14 am

Mono, Mono, Mono. Thank you again. When I made some of those arguments I was just called "asinine" because I couldn't express them as eloquently.
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