Take My Pancreas—Please!

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Here's a wacky notion: Moral status doesn't supervene on DNA. In other words, it's not something inscrutably wonderful about the order of human genes that makes us deserving of respect from our fellows, but our minds—the fact that we're thinking beings, capable of desiring and loving and hating and making plans and feeling pain. It isn't, I think, a terribly controversial position. All our common sense moral talk about why you shouldn't harm people implicitly makes reference to those features: We say things like "don't do that; imagine how you'd feel if someone did that to you." We use consent to distinguish between ranges of things it's permissible and impermissible to do to people, which would be hard to make sense of if it were our genes and bodies that were carriers of intrinsic worth. Boxing and assault can affect bodies identically; the mind makes the difference.

I'm tempted to say that this is such an elementary principle that it ought to be obvious to just about anyone. Yet for Wesley J. Smith, a veritable go-to guy for punching-bag punditry, this idea is apparently so horrific that he imagines it's sufficient simply to repeat it to raise his readers' goosebumps—no argument necessary. (Which, I suppose, is lucky for him, since he doesn't appear to have one.) The column's chock-full of question begging language, as when we're told: "Those who don't measure up [i.e. exhibit some minimal cognition] are denigrated as 'non-persons,'" or when Smith suggests that "Personhood theory would reduce some of us into killable and harvestable people." (On personhood theory, of course, that would be the case only once we were no longer "us".)

Now, if my higher brain centers are ever irreperably destroyed in some accident ("too late!" says the troll… well, even more so then) I'd like a slew of doctors to be reasonably close to certain that I'm not coming back. But if they are, I want my organs—don't hold out too much hope for the lungs and liver, but the rest—to go to someone who can use them. There's something perverse about a self-described advocate of a "culture of life" who'd keep the heart beating in my now-vacant shell of a body while someone in the next room, still full of plans and desires and thoughts, slipped away for want of an organ. What was it Tom Paine said about Burke? They mourn the plumage but forget the dying bird. Or, even more strangely for folks who make "materialism" an epithet, they mourn the empty flesh but forget the fading soul.

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  1. “Or, even more strangely for folks who make “materialism” an epithet, they mourn the empty flesh but forget the fading soul.”

    Of course, they’d have to prove two things, first:

    1) There is such a thing as a “soul.”
    2) That the “soul” of Terri Schiavo wants to stay couped up in a body that doesn’t work.

  2. On a related note, does anyone know which, if any, of Schiavo’s organs will be harvestable after she’s dead by starvation/dehydration? My guess is that the kidneys and probably the liver will be trashed, but that heart and lungs may be salvagable.

  3. I’ll cop to taking a little poetic license in using the word “soul” there, but I figure y’all know what I mean. The features of a brain that make it more interesting than a grapefruit.

  4. It’s a very simple struggle going on here.

    One side sees all life, birth, being and “personhood” as an organic shaded spectrum. With any dividing line being necessarily arbitrary to some degree.

    The other side, presumably for religious reasons, needs to have their life, birth, being and personhood to be like a lightbulb. It’s either on or off. Their worldview makes no sense otherwise. The people that want Terry Schaivo kept “alive” are from the same philosophical pedigree as those who want creationism in our public schools.

    God made man. Terri Schaivo is alive and conscious. There is no more gray area for these people than there is gray matter in their empty fucking skulls. Pardon my Saxon.

  5. I’ve always wondered about that materialist point, too. The faithful seem to be in a pickle. There is life, which is an assumed good to such an extent that it is a one word description of the moral society. There is the soul, and not the poetic kind, for these folks. Then, there is the body.

    The argument seems to be:

    1) Termination of meaningful life is a sin

    2) Meaningful life is that which has a soul attached.

    3) The soul is tied to the body in some inscrutable way that is not related to higher brain function, so as long as you can force blood to flow, you should.

    I confess to being a dirty materialist, so I get this. It seems awfully murky when you look at the requirements to make a moral choice and how that impacts one sin count. How can you disregard the capacity to choose granted by the frontal lobe?

  6. … so I don’t get this …

  7. Probably the greatest tragedy here is that Schiavo’s organs won’t be available for transplanting, once she’s declared dead. All this rotten discussion and no one comes out ahead. Except maybe Terry Schiavo, who probably ceased to exist years ago as a person.

  8. “The people that want Terry Schaivo kept “alive” are from the same philosophical pedigree as those who want creationism in our public schools.”

    That’s not really true. Plenty of folks are ambivalent about this whole deal because
    1. Unlike with Julian, there appears to be some uncertainity (whether real or manufactured by the pro-tube faction) regarding her stated desire from several years ago. And of course, any decision to euthanasia would be irrevocable.
    2. The parents and various parties are offering to take care of her.
    It’s not just the crazies on that side.

  9. It is interesting to consider where personhood resides. If it is in our genetic pattern, every cell might be a person since you could potentially clone from it. If it is in our brains, would any collection of brain cells in a petrie dish qualify for personhood? At some point, even the right-to-lifers have selected an arbitrary line on only one side of which is personhood.

    By the way, the soul is not distinct from the body as an overall pattern. The resurrection at Judgment Day is a physical resurrection, after all. Just so you all know.

  10. this idea is apparently so horrific that he imagines it’s sufficient simply to repeat it to raise his readers’ goosebumps?no argument necessary.

    Well it *is* the National Review, after all.

  11. I was making a similar argument some weeks ago and I got piled on by crimethink, etc.

    Jason Ligon,

    Well, throw in the fact that Christians (and most other religious faiths) view the body as a corrupted vessel…

    SM,

    Yes, there is uncertainty, but we have processes to deal with uncertainty (however flawed those processes are). To say that uncertainty precludes a choice is just silly, IMHO.

    As to the offer of care, that is beside the point if it is determined (by the processes mentioned above) that she wanted to die; indeed, its a perverse reason to keep the body going if her desire was otherwise.

  12. Just when it looked as though feeding tube references in the news might be dying down, round two starts to heat up:

    “Report: Pope may require feeding tube
    VATICAN CITY ? Pope John Paul II may have to return to the hospital to have a feeding tube inserted, an Italian news agency reported today. It stressed that no decision had been made.”
    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/rssstory.mpl/front/3106365

    Of course this is a much different situation, but I think there will be many comparisons made.

    Another question for those who may know. Was Schiavo’s feed tube inserted through her mouth/nose and down her esophogus, or was it surgically inserted through her abdomen. I had thought the latter since I didn’t see it in the photos of her, but found some one today claiming the opposite. Does anyone know for sure? Would one way be considered more of an extraordinary mean than the other?

  13. Vache Folle,

    Until you can show credible evidence of a soul, there is no reason to believe in one.

  14. chthus,

    Since the press reported that the a surgical procedure had to be undertaken to remove it, it is likely that it was surgically inserted.

  15. “Yes, there is uncertainty, but we have processes to deal with uncertainty”

    I agree. But my point was that the whole of the pro-tube faction != creationists.

  16. “Or, even more strangely for folks who make “materialism” an epithet, they mourn the empty flesh but forget the fading soul.”

    Yes, the people who talk about how life is “precious” and to be retained at all cost start to sound like Gollum.

    It starts sounding like greed, not love.

    Hoarding, not caretaking.

    It’s perhaps a seed of the impulse which drives those people who collect cats well beyond the point where their home turns into a urine-sodden litterbox, and the cats are neither healthy nor happy.

  17. Jason Ligon: “3) The soul is tied to the body in some inscrutable way that is not related to higher brain function, so as long as you can force blood to flow, you should.”

    Ah, but by doing so, you may be withholding the soul from entering heaven.

    Which is, allegedly, a good place for the soul to be.

    Which is where I’m confused. That eternal reward ought to make it a little easier to let go in situations like this.

    And, heck, if Jesus’ right-to-die hadn’t been honored by his friends and family, where would the Christians be today?

  18. SM,

    Its not a bad proxy. 🙂

  19. That’s not really true. Plenty of folks are ambivalent about this whole deal.

    I agree. Ambivalent meaning they mostly don’t give a crap or think this should have stayed in the lower courts. This is the majority of people. These aren’t the people I’m talking about.

    1. Unlike with Julian, there appears to be some uncertainity (whether real or manufactured by the pro-tube faction) regarding her stated desire from several years ago.

    Far as any reasonable person can tell, there wasn’t much of any uncertainty. Every court and its mother agreed as to “what Terri would have wanted.” Does someone have extra information that these people didn’t? I’d love to see it.

    Does any of that make it certain? No. Nothing is certain. The way the tubeheads would have it, any shred of uncertainty is grounds for keeping someone alive indefinitely.

    2. The parents and various parties are offering to take care of her.

    Well, our system has decided (by a heavy burden of proof I should add) that Terri wouldn’t WANT to be “taken care of” by her parents or anyone else. So your point is irrelevant.

    Short of the parents, the people who want to keep Terri alive would want to keep her alive whether she had wanted it or not. They reject the courts, science, godless materialism and see anyone with eyes open and heart beating as someone with “life” and “a soul.”

    So for the most part, once you see past the surface bullshit, the pro-tube faction and creationists are brothers in arms.

  20. Falwell’s heart couldn’t stand the excitement of watching Tinky-Winky do his erotic gay dance on the latest episode of Teletubbies.

  21. I blame Des Cartes for this whole damnable soul/body distinction. The pituitary gland? Please.

  22. Tim, it was the pineal gland where the soul was said to sit.

  23. chthus,

    You bastard. You beat me to the punch. 🙂

    Anyway, dualism has been with us since the dimmest memories of the classical world.

  24. Johnnie Cochran is apparently dead.

  25. Michael Schiavo is now requesting an autopsy.

  26. What a man.

  27. Whatever one thinks of the O.J. trial, Johnnie Cochran was a net plus for humanity.

  28. Foolish Julian Sanchez! The soul lies in the pineal gland. People today.

  29. And the former national leader of the Boy Scouts has been accused of looking at child pornography!

  30. So the Pope dies and goes to heaven just to find a large group of souls waiting outside the pearly gates. He’s escorted to the front only to find Johnnie Cochran and Jerry Falwell arguing with St. Peter. The Pope asks what’s going on…

    …they’re not waiting to get in says Peter, they’re demanding that Terri Schaivo’s feed tube gets put back in.

  31. Johnnie Cochran is apparently dead.

    If the cancer don’t remit, you must obit!

  32. Far as any reasonable person can tell, there wasn’t much of any uncertainty. Every court and its mother agreed as to “what Terri would have wanted.” Does someone have extra information that these people didn’t? I’d love to see it.

    Does any of that make it certain? No. Nothing is certain. The way the tubeheads would have it, any shred of uncertainty is grounds for keeping someone alive indefinitely.

    You’re placing the burden of uncertainty very high indeed. With this burden one can claim the innocence of OJ. One can look at the same facts as the judges and find uncertainty, without needing to look in the Bible or court system.

    Having said that, I believe she may well have not wished to live like this, and if so, her wishes should be upheld. I’m just not as sure as some others here.

    Won’t this be moot shortly?

  33. I bet Johnnie Cochran died just like Terri Schiavo is – dehydration.

    Nobody protested outside *his* hospital.

  34. I believe Smith has argued previously that taking organs out of incapacitated people without them being formal organ donors makes healthy people more reluctant to become organ donors – they’re worried, if there’s some doubt about their prospects, they’re dead for sure. So don’t go disparaging Smith for hypocrisy – at least he understands human nature. And what could be more fundamentally libertarian than retaining the rights to your own body unless you give consent?

  35. Wow, the pope on a feeding tube. Now what would really be interesting is if he slipped into a persistent vegatative state before he had a chance to retire from the papacy. Then we could have a non-sentient pope for seven years and see how the Catholics felt about keeping him alive–and head of the church–indefinitely.

  36. If the body’s too calm, you must embalm.

    Greg,

    The ability to sell your organs as you see fit. Of course it wouldn’t surprise me if Smith were opposed to that.

  37. Johnnie Cochran is apparently dead.

    If he’s a dead law-yer
    You must inter

    If he don’t fit
    Sit on the cask-it

    (Just spent two hour sitting in a bar thinking these up.)

  38. Stevo Drunkly,

    Remember, drunkeness is a sin. 🙂

  39. “Remember, drunkeness is a sin. :)”

    Just like sex, drugs, dancing, music, and anything else people enjoy.

  40. Akira McKenzie,

    Christians are eternall worried that somewhere someone might be having fun. 🙂

    _____________________________________________

    The attorney for the Schindlers has filed an emergency petition with the 11th Circuit. The guy seems to be trying to get a court-ordered sanction.

  41. “There’s something perverse about a self-described advocate of a “culture of life”…”

    Maybe, but I find equally perverse about self-described advocates of liberty enthusiastic about defining certain classes of human being as rightless objects, unto which anything might be done. Thought we had righted our thinking on that sort of thing about 140 years ago.

  42. Gary Gunnels

    The 11th Circuit has apparently granted the Schindlers a hearing. I don’t know where it will take them, the court has not set a time nor ordered replacement of the tube.

  43. “Maybe, but I find equally perverse about self-described advocates of liberty enthusiastic about defining certain classes of human being as rightless objects, unto which anything might be done. Thought we had righted our thinking on that sort of thing about 140 years ago.”

    Anyone who’s been paying the least bit of attention would know that defining a “human being”, deserving of the rights outlined in “The Bill of”, was not “righted” 140 years ago, and, in fact, the debate is still raging today. Show me a random sample of 100 libertarians who agree on when an embryo becomes a human being, and I’ll eat my hat.

    In order to form a governmental and/or moral structure which protects the rights of “X”, you must first define “X”. The nature of these structures necessitates a hard, bold line of distinction which defines “human being”; given the conflict between this necessity for clarity, and the inherent disagreements that arise in our culture, federalism seems to be the best solution.

    Subsequently, you complained about defining certain “classes” of human beings as “rightless objects”. This is a gross mischaracterization of the situation. This situation, instead, seeks to define what makes us a “human being” in the first place. As such, one could take your argument to the other extreme, and argue that by denying sperm cells the rights of “human beings”, we are attempting to define this “class” of human beings as “rightless objects”. Consequently, when some teenager masturbate into a wad of tissue, he is violating the “rights” of this “class” of human beings.

    This current situation which Julian talks about is not about varying “classes” of humans, this is about defining “person” and “non-person”. As Julian notes, what makes us a person is not some special genetic material, it is our minds. If the mind ceases to exist, then the person ceases to exist, and is therefore not a “class” of human being at all, but merely a mindless piece of matter.

    It is, therefore, not a contradiction for a proponent of liberty to attempt to define what makes an otherwise unspecial lump of matter deserving of “human rights”, any more than it is a contradiction for a libertarian to squish a fly. Libertarianism is based on structure, and attempting to define this structure is not against the interests of liberty.

  44. When are you libertarians going to leave the Taliban party and join the rest of your Englightenment friends in the Democrats?

  45. I read an essay many years ago, which examined the modern obsession with breaking the natural cycle of of birth, growth, decay, death, and reabsorption into the biosphere. Specifically, the author was bemoaning improved embalming procedures, sealed caskets, etc., as modern man’s pathetic attempt to thwart the maggots. At that time, organ transplantation and donation were in their relative infancy.

    Now, with organ harvesting having evolved into a fairly mature enterprise, we are in the strange position of denying the maggots their meal so that WE may consume it. Our technological capabilities, and our moral claims to other people’s “unused” organs by virtue of our own intact souls, make a good case for human beings usurping the place of maggots in the cycle of life.

    That sounds about right.

  46. Gary G: Remember, drunkeness is a sin. 🙂

    Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Mildly convoluted discussion of this can be found at this very Catholic source:

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/315001.htm

    Also, my bro St. Thomas Aquinas says maybe you should lay off my case!

    “[Pope] Gregory … says that ‘we must forbear with their ways, lest they become worse if they be compelled to give up the habit.’ Therefore [it might be argued by some that] drunkenness is not a sin.”

    And:

    “Sometimes the correction of a sinner is to be foregone, as stated above (33, 6). Hence Augustine says in a letter (Ad Aurel. Episc. Ep. xxii), ‘Meseems, such things are cured not by bitterness, severity, harshness, but by teaching rather than commanding, by advice rather than threats. Such is the course to be followed with the majority of sinners: few are they whose sins should be treated with severity.’ ”

    Good advice with regard to sins where no other party is harmed. Bad news for wannabe-theocrats like you, Gary — and all your ilk! 🙂

  47. James Anderson Merritt,

    One thing you do not want is a sealed casket; the gasses can build up in those things and blow the casket apart.

    Stevo Darkly,

    Well, as an atheist, I really don’t believe in sin, so drink to your heart’s desire. 🙂

  48. Joe S.,

    Yes, that’s one thing we need to do away with, the enlightenment. Not!

  49. Three things:

    1) Just to add to SM’s point from yesterday, that “pro-tube” does not necessarily equal creationist: I am an atheist, and I am deeply ambivalent about the Schiavo case. I do not oppose, in principal, either “right to die” or assisted suicide. There are certainly a lot of religious fanatics involved, however I think this is an issue on which people of conscience can reasonably disagree, regardless of their religious beliefs, or lack of same.

    2) Regarding “every court and its mother” having agreed about what Terri wanted: This is a question for Gary and/or any other attorney reading. Apologies (and corrections requested) if I have the legalese wrong.

    It was my understanding that typically, the initial judge (there was a hearing, right, is he still called the “trial judge”?) makes a “finding of fact.” After that, appeals courts are examining things like procedures, the interpretation of law made by the initial judge, attorney conduct, if some evidence was improperly allowed or not allowed, etc. As I understood it, appellate judges normally stick with whatever finding of fact was made by the initial judge, and look only at points of law, and are very reluctant to revisit, let alone overturn the initial judge’s finding of fact.

    My question is: Am I wrong about this? Is that not actually how the courts operate? Or was the Schiavo case different, with later judges actually re-examining the finding?

    The point being that as I understand it, only the initial judge made the “finding” that “Terri Schiavo’s wishes were X.” Appellate judges would only have looked at the initial judge’s application of the law, etc, and would NOT have been re-examining the finding as to Terri’s wishes. Therefore, it would not be accurate to say that multiple judges have found that Terri’s wishes would be to remove the tube, as actually only the initial judge would have made that finding. The appellate judges, in affirming that decision, are saying that given that finding of fact, the other actions taken by the initial judge were correct, and the hearing was conducted properly.

    I’m not trying to score points or anything. I’m honestly not sure. But if I AM right, it does seem important that people realize that it was only ONE judge that made that particular determination.

    3)I find myself a little puzzled by how deeply people, feel about not wanting to be maintained in a vegetative or brain dead state, WRT the idea of “dignity” in death.

    Leaving aside the issue of state provided care, and assuming for the moment that there isn’t any: I would prefer not to be maintained in such a state insofar as I do not want to be an emotional and financial drain on my family. But once the part of my mind that makes me “me” is gone, what the hell do *I* care whether my heart keeps beating? I want my family to feel free to pull the plug on me, but if they don’t want to, that’s their problem.

    I’m a veterinary technician, and I’ve seen a great deal of death, both natural and medically induced, sudden and slow. I find it frequently messy, always sad, and usually neccessary, but I’ve never found it dignified, regardless of the mechanism.

  50. Gary writes: “One thing you do not want is a sealed casket; the gasses can build up in those things and blow the casket apart.”

    Also, in a sealed casket, anaerobic bacteria will fairly quickly liquify your body.

  51. What a lovely image.

    Also: Gary G: Well, as an atheist, I really don’t believe in sin, so drink to your heart’s desire. 🙂

    Thanks, enabler!

  52. http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/nation/11268871.htm

    “PINELLAS PARK – A federal appeals court this afternoon extinguished a last remaining legal hope of Terri Schiavo’s parents, refusing to order her feeding tube reconnected.

    The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said it would not grant the parents’ request for a new hearing.”

  53. tsiroth,

    After that, appeals courts are examining things like procedures, the interpretation of law made by the initial judge, attorney conduct, if some evidence was improperly allowed or not allowed, etc. As I understood it, appellate judges normally stick with whatever finding of fact was made by the initial judge, and look only at points of law, and are very reluctant to revisit, let alone overturn the initial judge’s finding of fact.

    For a reviewing court to attack a finding of fact would require let’s say gross and visible idiocy, bias, etc. at the trial level (there is a specific legal test involved here, but I am not going to get involved in that unless you want me to); appellate courts do not like to read into a cold record their own finding of facts (or at least that is how it works in theory).

    Is that not actually how the courts operate?

    That’s a good question. Sometimes appellate courts will review the fact finding of a trial judge in the guise of a normal review. It is in a word an inexact system; where one draws the line can be difficult to discern in other words.

    Or was the Schiavo case different, with later judges actually re-examining the finding?

    Some of the appellate courts may have done so, but I doubt that it happened in the recent spate of appellate review.

    The point being that as I understand it, only the initial judge made the “finding” that “Terri Schiavo’s wishes were X.”

    He made that finding on two occassions; in 2000 and 2002.

    Therefore, it would not be accurate to say that multiple judges have found that Terri’s wishes would be to remove the tube, as actually only the initial judge would have made that finding.

    Well, I can’t say what all the appelate courts did, but that statement is likely correct.

    But if I AM right, it does seem important that people realize that it was only ONE judge that made that particular determination.

    Well that is partly my fault because I’ve done a poor job of telling people about the trial and appellate processes.

    Jon,

    What’s really gross is that when the casket bursts is sprays goo, body parts, etc., everywhere. Seals, expensive caskets, etc. are all such a scam. You really need to go shopping for this stuff before you die that way your family ins’t suckered into buying crap they don’t need.

    Stevo Darkly,

    That’s me! 🙂

  54. “The nature of these structures necessitates a hard, bold line of distinction which defines “human being”;…”- Evan Williams

    Fine, as far as that goes. Sanchez andd others around here wish to define “human being” very narrowly and for very utilitarian reasons: i.e. if they have rights and dignity that must be respected we cannot use them for our purposes, therefore they cannot have rights and dignity. I have seen no evidence that those who advocate the narrow definition wish to submit the question to federal solution. In fact, they move to impose their definition nationally and even internationally.

    “…one could take your argument to the other extreme, and argue that by denying sperm cells the rights of “human beings”, we are attempting to define this “class” of human beings as “rightless objects”.”

    No, one cannot. No one argues that a spermatazoa is a human being, no one. You have flown through the extreme of my argument and out the other side into rhetorical idiocy. For some reason, your side belives that absurdity is clever, but it merely shows the intellectual bankruptcy of your thinking.

    At exactly what point the mind can be said to exist, or not exist has no clear demarcation line. The advocates of the narrow definition of human will always be forced to define how much mind needs to exist for it to matter, and that precludes a “bold line of distinction” in their definition of human being (which was one of the points of the article Sanchez is so contemptuous of).

  55. MJ writes: “No one argues that a spermatazoa is a human being, no one. ”

    Well, if I’m not mistaken, cutting-edge science at one point (ie, early-modern period, presumably after the sperm was first seen through a microscope) held that sperm contained a fully-formed homunculus.

  56. Gary Gunnels writes: “What’s really gross is that when the casket bursts is sprays goo, body parts, etc., everywhere. Seals, expensive caskets, etc. are all such a scam. You really need to go shopping for this stuff before you die that way your family ins’t suckered into buying crap they don’t need.”

    I kinda liked the recent BBC story about a place in Africa where people are buried in elaborate, custom-made sculptural caskets.

    For example, a gynecologist was buried in a giant pink uterus-and-ovaries. A drinker was buried in a big beer bottle. A fisherman might be buried in a big fish.

  57. “No one argues…”

    “Well, if I’m not mistaken, cutting-edge science at one point … held that …”

    I think we have a tense-agreement problem here.

  58. Coming to this website (after reading many others as well) simply confirms my impressions of so-called libertarians as some of the most heartless, compassionless and tasteless people I have ever heard. You may think it’s hip or snarky or intelligent to paint all those opposing tube-withdrawal as religious zealots or Republican stooges, but you’d have a hard time selling that to the 45 Democrats, and all 20 major disability rights organizations who opposed it as well as numerous atheists and agnostics. Operating from a position of reason does not of necessity mean talking like a 12 year old boy who finds his own tasteless jokes about other people’s suffering funny.

    Other commenters above have made reasonable points in opposition to Mr. Sanchez’ post- I just can’t stand the libertarian superior, smarter-than-you tone. Perhaps life may look different if you actually ever ARE helpless, sick and at the mercy of health-care professionals or people you are not sure have your best interests at heart. It does indeed look different to those of us who have logged lots of time in hospitals and who have no intention of just getting out of your way to make your life easier by not having to notice that disablity exists and can come even to you.

    Les

  59. A decent post, Les.

  60. Les’s comments underscore one of the two main reasons I left the libertarian party for the republican two years ago. The second being parenthood. The idea that you yahoos agree with Singer et al. that my 1-month-old daughter amounted to “sentient property” is nauseating. For a set of wanna-be pragmatists, I’d have thought the 20th century’s agonizing experiments in definining humanity down would’ve shown where that philosophy leads. Man is, after all, a rationalizing animal.

    Fortunately, from my perspective, the odds of any of you breeding trend to zero.

  61. So, moral status doesn’t supervene on DNA, but supervenes on brain state. Sure, so long as I get to specify the brain state. And remember: your thoughts are material too–they make up a brain state.

    I’m not sure why, if we’re setting minimal standards for personhood, that we’d settle for some sort of minimal cognition. I’m smarter than 9_% of the people in this world, and I wouldn’t want to go on living if I weren’t. Further, I can’t help but think that those cognitive capacities are limited in comparison to my own are living lives that, frankly, aren’t worthwhile and aren’t morally meaningful. I mean, they’re content to living essentially animilistic lives, entertained by base pleasures and the drone of the television. They haven’t the capacity to live a life that most ethical theorists would even recognize, much less be willing to go on living.

    So, let’s off them. Or, let’s permit them to be offed. (And, if you disagree, well, that’s pluralism, in which case: let me off them, but you don’t have to (but the fact that you don’t off them is evidence that you are one of those with diminished capacity, so be careful out there!).)

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