Out With the Old and In With the New?

Well, the conclave has met and elected a new Pope in just a few short days. This was an opportunity for the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic Church to address the problems that have plagued it in recent times, and to find a new boss who is willing to help the Church to adapt in the face of its continuing slide into irrelevance. As the world painfully drags itself towards a point where homosexuals are considered fully human, where women are considered owners of their own bodies, and where the terminally ill have a right to choose how and when they die, and not be forced to wait for their ailment to cause their body so much trauma that it ceases function, a Pope was needed who was at least willing to enter the conversation on these vital social issues.

Enter Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal-Priest of S. Roberto Bellarmino. Ordinary for the Ordinariate for the Faithful of Eastern Rites in Argentina, and now Pope Francis. Pretty much the nicest thing I can say about this newly infallible chap is that he looks less like Emperor Palpatine than Ratzinger. An illustrative quote says all that really needs to be said:

“Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” – Bergoglio on same-sex marriage.

According to the new boss, same-sex marriage is no mere misstep of miserable humanity, but an essential cog in the workings of the Devil’s plan to undo God. This is offensive enough to an unbeliever, simply because of the massive failure of basic decency and compassion that it belies, but coming from someone who believes with utmost conviction that the Devil and the God are real entities, this is beyond despicable.

The grass is no greener when we turn to his views on abortion and euthanasia, describing the former as being part of a “culture of death”. I really ought not to be surprised, but as someone who actually gives a shit about my fellow humans, it only takes one story of a woman being denied an abortion on religious grounds, despite medical advice stating that this was the best possible avenue, and then dying along with her child to make me realise that those religious grounds have no place in an ethical discussion. And we have far more than just one story. Of course, we could eliminate the need for countless abortions if we put in place a comprehensive scheme of sex education about the wonderful benefits of contraception which, as well as helping in the fight against sexually-transmitted infections, greatly reduce the need for abortions. But, alas, Bergoglio is opposed to that too, all but guaranteeing that women will die carrying unwanted children, and children will be born into poverty, disease and suffering.

Your average Catholic is simply better than their Church. Even some elements of the Church itself realise how foolish and destructive this doctrine against contraception can be – one need only cite the Winnipeg Statement, wherein the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops state that is is, “extremely difficult or impossible to make their own all elements of this doctrine.” According to Catholics for Choice, 96% of Catholic women have used contraception at some point in their lives, and 72% of those polled think one can be a good Catholic without following this absurd teaching. But, when it comes to the men at the top, it is fervent faith and willingness to maintain the status quo, and not human compassion and rationality that holds sway. Sadly, I must report that I have no faith that this change of papacy really constitutes a change at all. Such is anathema to the Roman Catholic Church.

Sources

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2004036,00.html

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/papabile-day-men-who-could-be-pope-13

http://web.archive.org/web/20060829044505/http://www.catholic-legate.com/articles/winnipeg.html

http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/topics/prevention/documents/1998amatterofconsciece.pdf

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9 Comments

Filed under Abortion, Euthanasia, LGBTQ Rights, Religion

9 responses to “Out With the Old and In With the New?

  1. TerranceH

    It cannot be disputed that abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia are sins according to the Bible. Regardless of your personal view on these issues, you cannot expect an organization to openly contradict the book upon which it was founded. For the Church to forego its principles and appease leftwing emotionalism is to effectively destroy itself.

    Furthermore, if you cannot respect the principles by which Pope Francis’ has defined his life, then why should anyone respect anything you have to say?

    Biblical References

    Abortion: Job 10:9-11, Psalm 139:13, Psalm 51:5, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:41-44

    Homosexuality: Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27

    Euthanasia: 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

  2. First of all, thanks for being my very first comment.

    I’ve taken a look at your biblical references, and I confess that I don’t see the relevance to a good number of them. I’ll take them one by one:

    Abortion:

    Job 10:9-11 – As far as I can tell, this is referring to the development of the foetus/embryo/child in the womb. This is factual, so far as there is a process of development – but where is the relevance to abortion? The fact that, according to the passages, God “knits” people together in the womb says nothing about the right or wrong of abortion.

    Psalm 139:13 – Much the same point. This is a description, not a prescription.

    Psalm 51:5 – I question the logic of appealing to morality with a claim that someone who hasn’t even been born yet is a sinner. Yes, I understand the original sin idea, and I find it morally repugnant. This passage essentially says that whatever exists at conception is sinful. It says nothing about whether that sinful thing is a human, deserving of full human rights.

    Jeremiah 1:5 – In this passage, God knows Jeremiah before conception. That’s a neat trick. Does this mean that we are to consider even possible or conceptual people as fully human? Is my possible future son of equal moral consideration to an existent human? Are sperm and ova deserving of human rights too? That notion makes every ejaculation a holocaust – an utter absurdity.

    Luke 1:41-44 – A story of a child moving in the womb. This is a commonly experienced phenomenon, and of utterly no significance to all but late-term abortions – which are generally only legal when the life of the mother is in dire jeopardy. This is not evidence that abortion is immoral.

    As far as I understand it, there is at least one passage in the Bible that seems to state that abortion is not murder – Exodus 21:22-25. When a woman miscarries as the result of being hit, the culprit is fined, while the one who commits murder is himself put to death.Your thoughts?

    Homosexuality:

    Leviticus 18:22 – This is the favourite, and yes, I don’t dispute that this directly condemns homosexuality as “detestable”. I can only point out that it is mere verses away from the injunctions not to plant different seeds in the same field, and not to wear blended fabrics.Why is 18:22 binding while 19:19 is not?

    Leviticus 20:13 – Same point as above – definitely anti-homosexuality, but strangely stringent when compared to other rules in the same book.

    Romans 1:26-27 – Yup, the Bible really doesn’t like homosexuality.

    The problem with this argument is not biblical obscurity, the position of the book is very clear. The problem is with the fact that homosexuality is condemned… just because. Romans, which describes such relationships as “unnatural” is factually mistaken, as homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. To take a flippant example, would people really choose to be gay knowing the amount of bigotry they’ll be subjected to because of it?

    Euthanasia:

    1 Corinthians 3:16-17 – A clear opposition to euthanasia. I only wish that God kept a better upkeep of his temple so that such a drastic measure as euthanasia were not relevant. Rather cruel of him to supply some people with run-down and crumbling temples.

    1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – The best reason that the Bible can offer for forbidding euthanasia is because we are God’s property.

    As with abortion, the position of the BIble is clear, but the morality on display is obscene. This is very much like the analogy of a farmer being enraged if his cattle were to start taking their own lives. Human beings as God’s playthings, disallowed from self-determination because the are slaves.

    You say that the Catholic Church cannot turn its back on the Bible, and cannot “appease leftwing emotionalism”. Since Catholics no longer stone those who work on the Sabbath, those who claim to practice witchcraft and those who, as above mentioned, commit the atrocity of wearing a polyester blend, the Catholic Church has already abandoned vast tracts of scripture in favour of “leftwing emotionalism”. And a bloody good thing too.

    You’re making a common mistake concerning respect. I utterly respect the right of Bergoglio to hold these opinions, and to express them in any media he has access to. And that is the only respect that I demand for my own views as well. What is completely wrong is the idea that one must respect the ideas themselves. I have no respect for the view that homosexuality is demonic, that all abortion is murder, and that suicide is a mortal sin, because these views, in Bergoglio’s case, are based not upon reason, but upon a book riddled with contradictions, cruelty and comedy in almost equal measure.

  3. TerranceH

    Abortion:

    The mere talk about being formed in the wound by God’s hand is enough to settle the issue to most believers. I don’t think there is any doubt that, Biblically, human life begins at the moment of conception, and so God’s prohibition on murder would apply.

    Jeremiah 1:5 – In this passage, God knows Jeremiah before conception. That’s a neat trick. Does this mean that we are to consider even possible or conceptual people as fully human?

    Jeremiah 1:5 is a flowery expression of God’s love for us that began the moment He created us. It further amplifies the Biblical notion that life begins in the womb. And if life begins in the womb, then God’s prohibition on murder applies.

    Is my possible future son of equal moral consideration to an existent human? Are sperm and ova deserving of human rights too? That notion makes every ejaculation a holocaust – an utter absurdity.

    It occurs to me that if a human being never existed then God did not intend for them to exist. Once conception occurs, a human being forms and begins the lifelong process of development and transformation that does not end until death. Therefore, conception is regarded as the primoridum of a human being, all pseudo-philosophical definitions of “personhood” quite aside.

    Homosexuality:

    Whether the Catholic church is being selective is hardly the issue. Whether the Bible is contradicting nature is hardly the issue. I can pursue those little digressions if you wish, but I’d prefer to stay on point. Your objection to Pope Francis’ election seemed to be grounded in the reality that, surprise, he believes in the Bible.

    With respect to Levitical code, it is said that Jesus fulfilled the law in the New Testament but even then homosexual behavior was prohibited.

    Euthanasia:

    If you want to discuss why God does this or that, fine. But I thought this discussion was about the Catholic church adhering to Biblical teaching. You seem to be angry with God for some reason and are using Pope Francis’ election to vent that anger. If that is the case, then perhaps you might warn future commenters.

    I have no respect for the view that homosexuality is demonic, that all abortion is murder, and that suicide is a mortal sin, because these views, in Bergoglio’s case, are based not upon reason, but upon a book riddled with contradictions, cruelty and comedy in almost equal measure.

    Not based upon reason according to you…Regardless, my purpose was to explain why the Catholic church cannot abandon its teachings that are clearly grounded in Scripture…

    …but upon a book riddled with contradictions, cruelty and comedy in almost equal measure.

    And yet there is your opening paragraph where you deny the relevance of certain passages. So which is it? Are Catholics adhering to Scripture or not?

  4. Regarding abortion, the passages simply speak of being formed in the womb. If we need to be formed, then logically we begin as one thing and end as another. A cuboid slab of marble is not a sculpture (esoteric artistic preferences aside). I don’t think I know anyone who denies that life begins in the womb, but given the vagueness of what life actually constitutes, one can place the beginning at different points. Making it at the point of conception is entirely arbitrary, and, I think, biblically unsupported. Any attempt to show that the Bible means from conception regards a lot of stretching to make the passages fit.

    My surprise (dismay?) is not that Pope Francis follows the Bible, it is that he, along with his Church, has selectively decided to follow some parts of scripture and not others. It’d be less hypocritical to be a biblical literalist. My issue is with the fact that it seems to be fine to ignore certain parts of the Bible, while claiming others as inerrant and binding. Because of this, there is precedent for Pope Francis to relax the Church’s stance on homosexuality, without doing anything that has not already been done over and over by his Church.

    What about Matthew 5:18? Heaven and Earth, as far as I’m aware, have not passed away, and so surely the Law still applies in its entirety.

    You can’t be angry with someone you don’t believe exists – unless you count the odd, superficial sort of anger that someone might direct towards Darth Vader. But you are absolutely right, I do somewhat wander off topic at this point. The thrust of my point is really that Pope Francis’ views are terrible in themselves, and I lament the fact that his past record seems to show that nothing will change for the better during his papacy.

    My questioning of the relevance of biblical passages on Catholic beliefs is largely due to the sheer wooliness of the apparent references to conception as the starting point of life. But otherwise yes, Catholic teachings can find biblical support. But the idea that the Catholic Church cannot, and has not, abandoned teachings clearly grounded in scripture is just wrong.They no longer claim the culpability of the Jews for deicide (Matthew 27:25, John 5:16, John 7:1, John 19:7-15). Women may be lauded as saints and teachers, despite 1 Timothy 2:12. As far as I’m aware the Catholic Church no longer shaves women for appearing in church with their heads uncovered (1 Corinthians 11:5-6). Pope John Paul II reinterpreted the passage about women being subject to their husbands (Ephesians 5:24) to mean that women were not particularly subject, but that there was a mutual subordinate status before Christ.

    If all of these things can be changed, what is stopping Francis from leading the Church in a progressive direction, and abandoning cruel and outdated ideas about these issues? He could change Church teachings on these issues, but I don’t think that he will, and that is reason enough for criticism.

    • TerranceH

      Regarding abortion, the passages simply speak of being formed in the womb. If we need to be formed, then logically we begin as one thing and end as another. A cuboid slab of marble is not a sculpture (esoteric artistic preferences aside). I don’t think I know anyone who denies that life begins in the womb, but given the vagueness of what life actually constitutes, one can place the beginning at different points. Making it at the point of conception is entirely arbitrary, and, I think, biblically unsupported. Any attempt to show that the Bible means from conception regards a lot of stretching to make the passages fit.

      A rudimentary understanding of embryology shatters your argument entirely. First, let’s quote from some embryology textbooks.

      Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primoridum, of a human being.

      Moore, Keith L. Essentians of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p. 2

      This makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, conception marks the beginning of human development and transformation; this process does not end until death. Knowing that, it is perhaps scandalously asinine to say my view is “arbitrary.” Your belief is no doubt fashionable, but ridiculous nonetheless. It stands to reason that when development begins, life begins.

      Before I move on to the “personhood” argument, let me quote a few more embryology textbooks so that you can be sure of this scientific fact.

      The development of a human beings with fertilization,  a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.

      Sadler, T.W. Langman’s Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p.3 

      I will quote another as well.

      Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote). The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.

      Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New Yorkl McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3 

      And one more.

      Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed.

      O’Rahilly, Ronan and Muler, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, p. 8.

      I have many other scientific sources at my disposal, but I think those should suffice. So long as the remainder of this discussion takes place within this parameter, there is no need to delver further into the biological realities of human life. Like it or not, life begins at conception. This is clear. This is a fact of science that you are not allowed to dispute. There are some facts I don’t like either, but I have to accept them. It’s a part of life and of civilized, fruitful debate.

      The next logical step is to discuss the legal issue of personhood. When should a human being receive legal protection? Well, if we’re sticking to a strict definition of person, then all human beings, even those just beginning the lifelong process of human development, are eligible for protection. In legal documents, when the term “person” refers to an individual, the definition is always “a human being.” This is why Roe v. Wade is a monumental example of judicial activism. It completely ignored the legal definition of “person,” based on a scientific fact, in favor of a philosophical and arbitrary opinion. An opinion, I might add, that does not err on the side of caution, but rather, connivence.

      Yes. It is convenient to your political persuasion, and perhaps status as a woman, for the very existence of human life to be in question. But this is not prudent. How can human life be safeguarded when its existence is undefinable?

      You see, one person may believe an individual exists once he or she can feel, but another person may say its when he or she can think. And still another person may say it’s not until they’ve left the womb. Who is right? Who is wrong? They are all philosophical opinions that are unfalsifiable. And, believe it or not, have far greater significance than you might realize.
      
To ponder when life begins, and thus legal protection afforded, is to assign worth to different stages of human life. This is utterly asinine and totally inconsistent with the notion of a civilized society.

      Is an adult worth more than a teenager because he is further along in the process of development? No. Is a teenager worth more than a toddler because she is further along in the process of development? No. Is a toddler worth more than a newborn because he is further along in the process of development? No. So how then can we say that a newborn is worth more than an eight-month-old fetus? And so on.

      To withhold human rights on the basis of developmental ability and progression is macabre. It is also dangerous. In such a society, the worth of an individual would be transitory, existing in so much as that person is of some use. Perhaps this is why the existence of human life and worth is so often in dispute on the left, but rarely on the right. Surely, you’re aware of the ethicists who argued in favor of legalized infanticide.

      The only reasonable definition of “person” is “human being.” It is the only definition workable in a civilized society that doesn’t produce one massive legal and ethical contradiction.

      Now, what about the woman? Obviously, when discussing abortion we are discussing more than an unborn child. So, let’s briefly talk about the rights of women.

      First of all, bodily autonomy is not absolute. There is no absolute right to do with your body what you wish. We have laws against selling organs for profit, suicide, and prostitution (in most places), and other laws that limit bodily autonomy. This is why the typical argument pro-choice argument – “it’s a woman’s body” – is poor on its face.

      Furthermore, if the right-to-life doesn’t come first, then on what basis can we demand other rights? If our right to life is not first and foremost, then we have no other rights. This is why the child’s right-to-life trumps the desire to do with her body what she wishes.

      These are the reasons I am opposed to abortion.

      It’s not necessary to respond to the rest of your response because the philosophical disagreement between the two of us is simply to large to bridge.

      • I’ve never argued that fertilisation is (Edit: missing negative) not the point at which human development begins. I’m happy to agree with you that that is scientifically indisputable. What I described as arbitrary is deciding that this is the point at which full personhood is bestowed. The process of development does continue through until death, but the physical difference between a newborn and an adult is trivial compared to the difference between a zygote and a newborn. Both the newborn and the adult have a brain, lungs, a heart, a nervous system, eyes, etc. A zygote is a diploid cell, with none of those features. The most a zygote and a newborn have in common is DNA.Thus, it is false to draw an equivalence between early development in the womb, and later development through a lifetime. A zygote is alive, but that does not make its destruction murder, anymore than harvesting wheat is murder.

        To illustrate this point, imagine the scenario – You are in a burning building. In the room to your left is a newborn baby. In the room to your right is a container full of fifty viable, frozen embryos. You can save only one. Which do you save? I would hope that any moral person would save the newborn. However, on your view it seems that the moral choice would be to save the embryos, because if any more than one is implanted and allowed to develop, the net gain is better. I think that this shows that there is not a moral equivalence between embryos and newborns.

        Your definition of personhood allows that a single cell with human DNA is a human being, and therefore has a right to life, if I understand you properly. If this is the case, scratching my nose ought to be considered murder. I’m destroying countless single cells with human DNA, making me a mass murderer. One cannot argue that because the DNA of these cells is not unique that they do not qualify for such rights, otherwise we would deny the right to life to identical twins.

        Again, you are right, and I need to correct myself: my point ought not to have been the point at which life begins, but rather the point at which we consider the developing foetus/embryo/child to be fully human, and thereby in possession of full human rights.

        The reason that I draw a distinction between abortion and murder is due to two important reasons. Abortion, if performed before the embryo has a nervous system, cannot possibly cause any suffering to it – it is incapable of feeling pain. It is also incapable of experiencing its destruction on any level at all – physical, emotional or psychological. Certainly, it may cause emotional or psychological harm to those left alive, and that is regrettable, but in cases of elective abortion, this is due to a decision made by the mother, her family, etc. Compare this to murder – this is the destruction of a life, usually causing great suffering of all three types to both the victim, the victim’s family, and often the culprit’s family and wider society. When someone is murdered, you are destroying their experiences, their memories, their wishes and their knowledge. When an embryo is aborted, they have not yet developed anything like a mental life, being physically incapable of doing so. You may argue potentiality, but this is entirely speculative – every abortion might have lost us an Einstein, or it might have lost us a Hitler – and quickly devolves into dubious slippery slope arguments.

        This obviously doesn’t apply to late-term abortions. There’s a good reason that after a certain point, elective abortions are illegal – this is the point at which abortion will cause suffering to the embryo. They are, at this point, endowed with some measure of rights. In these cases, abortion is only carried out if the life of mother or child is in great danger, and I would certainly claim that it is better that this procedure be carried out than both mother and child die. Better to save one person, if at all possible, than neither.

        As a matter of fact, we do apply different legal protections to people at different stages of life, usually due to physical or mental development. Children, before a certain age, cannot be tried for their crimes, as they are understood to lack the capacity to be held fully responsible for their actions. Before a certain age, there are numerous legal restrictions: in the UK for example, you can’t have legally sex until, you can’t drive until you are 17, you cannot drink until you’re 18, and so on. This is analogous to the legal protection of life.

        Since I don’t agree with you on the point at which personhood applies, I suppose it’s somewhat futile to quibble about the merits of the right to life. I’d say that all people have a right to life, just as you would – the definition of “people” is the sticking point.

        You’re right that we limit bodily autonomy, although in the cases of suicide and prostitution, I’d say that those are immoral laws. I suppose for consistency, I should also endorse the freedom to sell your own organs, but since I’ve never thought about that before, I can’t say for certain. But let us say provisionally that I think all those things should be legally allowed. Thus, I also think that a woman has the right to control of her own body, and this includes the right to decide when, if and how she carries a child to term. Anything else is placing a woman in the position of having another, equal human’s rights placed above her own, if one accepts your definition of personhood. Indeed, it would seem to constitute bodily ownership and administration by another person – slavery? Well, no. This is another way in which to show that we do not consider an embryo before a certain point to be fully human. If this were an external presence forcing a woman to use her body in a certain way, that would be clearly immoral. But at the stage of development that a foetus, embryo or child is, we do not ascribe blame – it cannot be responsible for its actions.

        I think it is clear that our big point of divergence on this issue is at what point personhood becomes relevant. I think that your notion that it begins with conception leads to an incoherent morality, where the life of a fully aware adult woman is placed at equal value as the life of a single cell.

        Beyond that, I think you’re right. Bridge-building is not the best use of our time in that area.

  5. TerranceH

    I’ve never argued that fertilisation is (Edit: missing negative) not the point at which human development begins. I’m happy to agree with you that that is scientifically indisputable.

    

Excellent.

    What I described as arbitrary is deciding that this is the point at which full personhood is bestowed. The process of development does continue through until death, but the physical difference between a newborn and an adult is trivial compared to the difference between a zygote and a newborn. Both the newborn and the adult have a brain, lungs, a heart, a nervous system, eyes, etc. A zygote is a diploid cell, with none of those features. The most a zygote and a newborn have in common is DNA.Thus, it is false to draw an equivalence between early development in the womb, and later development through a lifetime. A zygote is alive, but that does not make its destruction murder, anymore than harvesting wheat is murder.

    The perception that personhood is somehow attained, and that those individuals who have attained “full personhood” are entitled to decide the fate of those who haven’t, is like a biological caste system. You’re telling me you see no problem with this? 

And if personhood is not something inherent – and it cannot be if it is attained – then it’s transitory, which means it can be taken away. For example, if your definition of person is one who is conscious of the world around him, then those in a coma would not qualify as a person until they woke back up.

    

At this point you’ll undoubtedly argue, “But the person in the coma has been born…”

    Well, which is it? Is full personhood attained at birth or at the development of consciousness? And if it is attained at birth, then surely you have no problem with an abortion performed even five-minutes before birth. How nice.

    But it is consciousness, then you have the same problem I describe in my previous reply. You are assigning worth to different stages of human development. Not only is it asinine and macabre, but totally, irrevocably, arbitrary, far more so than protecting human life from the moment it begins!

    If we’re going to allow sheer abstract notions of personhood to dictate the worth of an individual, then what is wrong with the ethicist arguing for legalized infanticide because of his opinion that personhood is attained once the individual becomes self-conscious? You have no legitimate basis to reject his arbitrary definition while demanding any sort of respect for your own.

    Furthermore, the development difference between a 50-year-old and a newborn is not merely trivial, particularly if we’re admitting, as you have, that abstract philosophy should be allowed into the discussion. The difference is Herculean. The 50-year-old can walk, talk, run, lift, catch, throw, and contribute to society. He can also form complex ideas, experience complex emotions, et cetera…The newborn can do none of these things…The newborn is much closer to the zygote with respect to ability, so why should he be considered a person but the zygote not? 

And if the possession of organs is how one attains full personhood, then, logically, people born with one lung, one kidney, or half a liver are not full persons.

    Aside from that, if that is your arbitrary definition of person, what makes it any better than the ethicists definition? You know, the one who wants legalized infanticide.

    It’s silly. It’s all arbitrary, philosophical, and contradictory. Personhood is not something that is attained; it is innate and inherent. One either is or isn’t a person. It’s that simple.

    To illustrate this point, imagine the scenario – You are in a burning building. In the room to your left is a newborn baby. In the room to your right is a container full of fifty viable, frozen embryos. You can save only one. Which do you save? I would hope that any moral person would save the newborn.

    I would save the newborn baby. The newborn baby is developed enough to feel pain, while the embryos, who are just as human, aren’t. It’s not a value judgement, but a practical matter. It would be no different than choosing to save the nurse over the six comatose people. You are making a practical decision, not a value judgement.

    You make value judgements. I do not. So, no, your scenario doesn’t accomplish what you think it does.

    Your definition of personhood allows that a single cell with human DNA is a human being, and therefore has a right to life, if I understand you properly. If this is the case, scratching my nose ought to be considered murder. I’m destroying countless single cells with human DNA, making me a mass murderer. One cannot argue that because the DNA of these cells is not unique that they do not qualify for such rights, otherwise we would deny the right to life to identical twins.

    You’re failing to consider that the zygote is a totally separate person. It is not part of person, like the cells on your nose. Furthermore, while identical twins have identical DNA, they, too, are separate persons.

    Abortion, if performed before the embryo has a nervous system, cannot possibly cause any suffering to it – it is incapable of feeling pain. It is also incapable of experiencing its destruction on any level at all – physical, emotional or psychological.

    So if the infamous ethicist killed newborn babies humanely, in such a way that no pain was felt, that would be okay, since there was no pain and since the newborn is not self-conscious and therefore couldn’t comprehend its own destruction? Nice.

    Certainly, it may cause emotional or psychological harm to those left alive, and that is regrettable, but in cases of elective abortion, this is due to a decision made by the mother, her family, etc. Compare this to murder – this is the destruction of a life, usually causing great suffering of all three types to both the victim, the victim’s family, and often the culprit’s family and wider society. When someone is murdered, you are destroying their experiences, their memories, their wishes and their knowledge.

    You run into the same problem. If the parents decided to allow the ethicist to kill their newborn baby humanely, then it should be okay. The parents made the decision. There is no other family to miss the newborn, so it’s okay that he or she be euthanized.

    This obviously doesn’t apply to late-term abortions. There’s a good reason that after a certain point, elective abortions are illegal – this is the point at which abortion will cause suffering to the embryo.

    Your previous arguments do not agree with this statement. Regardless, if the embryo is euthanized humanely, then what’s the problem? The embryo would not suffer and is not sentient to the point of being consciously aware of its own existence, let alone destruction.

    As a matter of fact, we do apply different legal protections to people at different stages of life, usually due to physical or mental development. Children, before a certain age, cannot be tried for their crimes, as they are understood to lack the capacity to be held fully responsible for their actions. Before a certain age, there are numerous legal restrictions: in the UK for example, you can’t have legally sex until, you can’t drive until you are 17, you cannot drink until you’re 18, and so on. This is analogous to the legal protection of life.

    And none of these laws or “legal protections,” as you call them, speak to the worth or value of the individual. Your notion of full personhood most assuredly does.

    You’re right that we limit bodily autonomy, although in the cases of suicide and prostitution, I’d say that those are immoral laws. I suppose for consistency, I should also endorse the freedom to sell your own organs, but since I’ve never thought about that before, I can’t say for certain. But let us say provisionally that I think all those things should be legally allowed. Thus, I also think that a woman has the right to control of her own body, and this includes the right to decide when, if and how she carries a child to term.

    Then you should be okay with removing those legal protections you talked about above. A 13-year-old should be allowed to sleep with 60-year-old if she wants. Or, isn’t she entitled to complete bodily autonomy either?

    As surely you must think that the use of cocaine, heroine, marijuana, LSD, and other drugs are perfectly okay. Why not? The person has a right to do with their body what they wish, do they not? The government shouldn’t have any right to tell people what to put into the bodies!

    Anything else is placing a woman in the position of having another, equal human’s rights placed above her own, if one accepts your definition of personhood. Indeed, it would seem to constitute bodily ownership and administration by another person – slavery?

    If one’s right to life is not guaranteed, then on what basis could they conceivably demand any other rights, including bodily autonomy?

    And slavery? In most cases, the woman actively engaged in an act that’s sole biological purpose is reproduction. She gave tacit consent, a perfectly valid legal concept. In other cases, such as the extremely rare circumstance of rape, I say, again, that one’s right to life must come first, otherwise there is no basis upon which to demand any other right, including bodily autonomy.

    

I should mention that I have no problem with the morning after pill. Conception can take up to three-days to occur, and in fact in most cases it takes longer than 24 hours. So I have no problem with he availability of the morning after pill. And I think it should be extremely cheap and available over-the-counter. Not only would this effectively prevent rape-related pregnancies, but it would give women too afraid to seek medical help some peace of mind.

    

Lastly on the subject of rape, does it make any sense to support 99% abortions for the sake of a circumstance that occurs less than 1% of the time?

    I think that your notion that it begins with conception leads to an incoherent morality, where the life of a fully aware adult woman is placed at equal value as the life of a single cell.

    I think it’s the other way around, my friend. Your position has been shown to be morally inconsistent, morally objectionable by any reasonable standard of ethics, and logically incoherent. You are arbitrarily assigning worth to human beings based on their developmental abilities. Such moral bankruptcy has no place in civilized society.

    Take Care.

    • We clearly differ too greatly on what counts as a reasonable standard of ethics, and what is logically incoherent. I think it is logically incoherent to value a single human cell equally to an adult woman, you think that there is no appreciable difference as far as personhood is concerned.

      I suppose I ought to finally state for the record that I do not favour infanticide – Singer’s notion of personhood is not one to which I subscribe. I actually do favour legalisation of drugs in such cases as they can be proven to not be any more dangerous than already legal substances – alcohol and tobacco. Even if they are, there is a strong argument that such drug use would benefit greatly from regulation. I do not think that a 13-year-old should be able to sleep with a 60-year-old if she wants, because we do make legal restrictions based upon physical and mental development, and I do not believe that a 13-year-old has the capacity to legally give consent. This is exactly the same as disallowing a 13-year-old from driving a car – they do not have the capacity yet. I do not agree that consent to sex is consent to bear a child. There are cases where contraception fails, and the use of such contraception implies a tacit lack of consent to become pregnant. Even in cases where contraception is not used, this is incredibly foolish, but is still not consent to become pregnant, although that is a likely outcome. Consent to become pregnant consists in, surprise, making a conscious decision to become pregnant.

      Let’s try to be positive and end on a note of agreement – the morning after pill is a very good thing, and vastly preferable to abortion. I’m glad we can concur on that at least.

      Thank you, and goodnight.

      • TerranceH

        I’ll let your remark be the last word on the topic. I want to thank you for a civil debate. Take care!

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