Totally Psyched About Abortion!

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Over at Campus Progress, Julian Sanchez rejects the middle ground, slams the Third Way, and tells Dems to stop pandering to fetuses.

Headline explanation here.

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  1. Wait, Julian. You aren’t implying that the Dems are willing to sacrifice their purported principles if it wins them more votes? I am shocked.

    Given that both parties are willing to hold whatever position garners them the most votes and that both parties are able to discern which position would yeild them the most votes, the only steady state solution is for both parties to have the same position on every issue. The only thing unusual about abortion is that is has taken the parties this long to begin moving toward the center.

  2. Even very late in pregnancy, when a fetus may have some sort of rudimentary awareness, it lacks all the features traditionally advanced as moral distinctions between humans and other animals: a sense of self or identity, the capacity for abstract thought and reflection, and the capacity for moral choice.

    JonBenet probably qualifies then. Good for her. That crying girl on the Santorum thd would be a harder case.

  3. If the most popular basis for considering fetuses persons is some sort of theory about souls, giving credence to this view tacitly endorses the notion that public policy ought to be tailored to accommodate moral premises whose sole basis is theological.

    Bingo. Which is a perfectly valid point of view, especially if expressed honestly, and not disguised behind a “we care about women’s safety” smokescreen.

  4. ought to be tailored to accommodate moral premises whose sole basis is theological.

    Doesn’t this imply that atheists can’t value any human life? There is no physics or chemistry equation that says we have to value a human life any more than a lump of gold or a cricket. That ain’t physics, that is metaphysics. But if one makes a similar judgement about fetuses this valuation has to be theological, rather than non-theological metaphysics?

    C’mon, Julian. These are the kind of mistakes you never make.

  5. Even very late in pregnancy, when a fetus may have some sort of rudimentary awareness, it lacks all the features traditionally advanced as moral distinctions between humans and other animals: a sense of self or identity, the capacity for abstract thought and reflection, and the capacity for moral choice.

    Of course, this is also true for newborn infants, probably for a period of weeks if not months.

    I continue to look for a distinction between newborns and late-term fetuses that is robust enough to prohibit the killing of the former while allowing the abortion of the latter.

  6. “Even very late in pregnancy, when a fetus may have some sort of rudimentary awareness, it lacks all the features traditionally advanced as moral distinctions between humans and other animals: a sense of self or identity, the capacity for abstract thought and reflection, and the capacity for moral choice.”

    Apparently, I wasn’t human until I was 19.

  7. Someone smarter than me once said “I’d be willing to accept that abortion is homicide, provided pro-lifers accept that it is justifiable homicide.”

  8. RC-
    I agree that very young infants are not moral persons either; I don’t think there is going to be a “bright line” moment. But insofar as we need a legal line, there are a huge number of pragmantic reasons to choose birth rather than, say, two months.

    Sam-
    Yes, I understand that scientific facts don’t imply any particular value set; not all values need to be theologically moored. My point is that we can all understand things like “a capacity for suffering” or “a reflective sense of self” and debate their relative importance–we might not agree, but we can al at least speak the same language. The existencve of souls, on the other hand, is a controversial factual premise for which no evidence is offered.

  9. and, of course, we know who gets to make the call, on a case by case basis, about whether the homicide is truly justified . . . hint: it ain’t the alleged self-defender.

  10. Heads up for Julian:

    “Sam” is just Dave W. returned.

    Yeah. Dave W. or as I warmly think of him, Captain Batshit.

  11. I continue to look for a distinction between newborns and late-term fetuses that is robust enough to prohibit the killing of the former while allowing the abortion of the latter.

    Um… birth?

    You do realize that the late-term, partial-birth, brain-vaccuuming abortion boogeyman is just that, don’t you? That late-term abortions are actually just induced labor with delivery of a fetus too immature to survive indepedently?

  12. Of course, this is also true for newborn infants, probably for a period of weeks if not months.

    Perhaps killing infants isn’t that bad. Peter Singer, eat your heart out!

    Seriously though, doesn’t our gut-instinct prohibition against infanticide approach an unsatisfactory “it just doesn’t feel right” standard unless we allow for some sort of a religious or metaphysical justification? If we adopted a standard for abortion based on self-consciousness or some other logically satisfactory bright-line, we might also have to admit that killing the seriously mentally disabled wasn’t any different than crushing a bug. I think this is the problem that most of us are having with Julian’s argument. It just doesn’t feel right to equate an abortion with a root-canal — logic be damned.

  13. Julian is right about cognitive abilities to at least a certain extent. It’s quite silly, for example, to speak about the humanity of a bastula, or discuss the suffering of a 10-week fetus, that, while having neural precursors, has no neurons.

    Cognitively, a late term fetus is pretty much equivalent to an infant. What has changed, however, is that the infant is phsysically and metabolically independant of the mother. Abortion is as much about avoiding pregnancy as it is about avoiding motherhood, if not more so.

  14. People always trot out the seriously mentally disabled idea, but we need to really think about the level of incapacity we’d have to be talking about: Nothing resembling a sense of self or any linguistic capacity? For someone to literally be at the level of a newborn infant they’d have to be functionally a vegetable, at which point I guess it just doesn’t seem like an obvious wrong: Everything you ordinarily consider “the person” is gone. Remember the Terry Schiavo debate, the people opposed to pulling the plug were making claims (undermined by the autopsy) that she was recognizing family members and trying to communicate. If any of that had been true, she’d have been well in the range of recognizably human concsciousness, which I think suggests that even the hardcore “culture of life” folks recognize the relevance of this standard. If you really just thought an insensible body had moral standing, that would all be irrelevant.

  15. People always trot out the seriously mentally disabled idea, but we need to really think about the level of incapacity we’d have to be talking about: Nothing resembling a sense of self or any linguistic capacity? For someone to literally be at the level of a newborn infant they’d have to be functionally a vegetable, at which point I guess it just doesn’t seem like an obvious wrong: Everything you ordinarily consider “the person” is gone. Remember the Terry Schiavo debate, the people opposed to pulling the plug were making claims (undermined by the autopsy) that she was recognizing family members and trying to communicate. If any of that had been true, she’d have been well in the range of recognizably human concsciousness, which I think suggests that even the hardcore “culture of life” folks recognize the relevance of this standard. If you really just thought an insensible body had moral standing, that would all be irrelevant.

    Fine by me. Let’s return to the infant. Why not infanticide? And I don’t mind if you tell me that infanticide is OK. I don’t have any principled reason not to disagree with that position, nor do I have any principled reason to disagree with the uber-utilitarians, although most of us get squeamish when we imagine that killing a rather intelligent elephant (self-aware, woohoo!) is worse than killing an infant.

    To be clear, I’m 100% pro-choice, but I tend to think that we’re all operating on a “it feels right” standard, no matter how we gussy it up.

  16. Oops, ignore the unintentional double negative in my fifth sentence (take out the “not” in “I don’t have any principled reason not to disagree”).

  17. Julian,

    But Terri was watching the balloons! The balloons, man! Dr. Frist wouldn’t lie would he? He is a doctor. He had to buy and vivisect a whole bunch of kittens to get those mad medical skillz.

    On a different note, I actually see some merit in establishing the “bright line” to be at 18. Parents are legally responsible for their spawn until they are 18 and teenagers would probably be a lot less sassy if they knew that they could be retroactively aborted.

  18. “Nothing resembling a sense of self or any linguistic capacity? For someone to literally be at the level of a newborn infant they’d have to be functionally a vegetable,”

    Wow. This demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of neurocognitive development and disability. You might want to keep your arguments far away from this side of the topic to avoid people thinking you lack “the capacity for abstract thought and reflection.”

    Look at the work of Andrew Meltzoff on newborn cognitive abilities.

    http://ilabs.washington.edu/meltzoff/

  19. I continue to look for a distinction between newborns and late-term fetuses that is robust enough to prohibit the killing of the former while allowing the abortion of the latter.

    Um… birth?

    What counts as birth? Crowning? First breath? Severing the umbilical cord? I think you see where I’m going with this.

    Whatever birth event you choose as the magic moment, you are going to be saying its perfectly alright for the mother to kill the “fetus” the instant before that event occurs. And you know in your gut that’s wrong.

    Cognitively, a late term fetus is pretty much equivalent to an infant.

    That’s my understanding as well. And the reason why I am extremely uncomfortable with an unlimited right to abortion – it smears over into infanticide all too easily.

    Abortion before viability – sure. Abortion after viability – no.

  20. About the headline, a clueless G-list pro-life blogger actually quoted and blogged on the Onion article as if it were real. Someone (I forget who, but it was probably someone like Norbizness, The Poorman, Tbogg, or Sadly, No!) had great fun with it for several days, including e-mail exchanges with the dude who evntually claimed that he knew it was parody all the time and his response was a meta-fake or something.

  21. Chris-
    Yes, in a vacuum, as a pure moral position, I don’t think a one week old infant is a moral person, so I guess I’m with Singer that far. But we need a legal line, which since the relevant capcities develop gradually and unevenly over a period of months, is necessaily going to be somewhat arbitrary. And there are a ton of practical reasons to draw that line at birth. Most obviously, since the interests of the fetus and the mother’s right of control over her own body are no longer in conflict, there’s no moral downside to erring on the side of caution. You avoid problems about determining the precise age of an infant–was it just over or under the legal line? And, again, since there’s no dramatic or obvious external change along that continuum, and the infant from the moment of birth starts to be embedded in all sorts of social networks, cultivating a general sense of small humans as persons seems like a good thing even if it means consciously drawing the penumbra a little too broadly.

  22. Moral philosophy is silly.

  23. I’ve taken the view that the personhood or lack thereof of the fetus is irrelevant. The woman has the right to “evict” the interloping fetus from her uterus just as she might refuse to give shelter to a bum. It may not be a very nice thing to do, but it’s morally neutral.

    By that reasoning, viability necessarily becomes the line. If it can survive outside of the womb, that’s that.

    At some stage of pregnancy inducing premature labor would result in severe mental retardation, which is more repulsive than immediate death, because the consequences last longer… but it’s still a morally neutral action. You’d just better make sure you evict the little bastard before he’s viable, or you’ll have to explain to him why he’s blind and retarded.

    In practice, doctors have established with good certainty when this result would occur, and they will discourage or refuse to enduce labor if the fetus is marginally viable.

  24. I should make clear that my last post was not stating the way things are, but outlining a system I think is the bast solution; namely, that induced labor be used rather than chemical abortions.

    In cases where the point of the abortion is to avoid labor (the ‘health of the mother’ thing), or when we are sure the fetus cannot possibly be viable anyway, then chemical abortions should be an option because they’re less messy.

  25. On further reflection, the question arises: would I be comfortable with criminal penalties for people who procure late-term, post-viability abortions? Probably not, but perhaps for those who perform them.

  26. Although I suppose there’s some ambiguity in what viability means. Do I mean when the fetus can survive in a tank of goo? In an incubator? In the open environment? When they are able to procure their own food?

    I suppose by my reasoning, a mother is not morally obligated to feed her children either. It may not be a very nice thing to do, but it’s morally neutral… ummm…

    God damnit, stop picking on me!

  27. You know, the US abortion debate is pretty silly. Most countries, all really (except America Jr.), restrict abortion to some degree greater than the US. If only it hadn’t been for Roe, eventually laws would have been in place that allowed for abortion up until the last trimester.

    The problem with all these moral arguments is that they are repulsive to the average person. Most people’s moral sense will believe that a newborn is a newborn is a human, and a moral theory that cannot plausibly distinguish between a newborn and a late term fetus must find that that fetus is a human and has a right to life. Otherwise, people will find it to be a morally repugnant theory.

  28. Julian,

    There are moral standings in between those of a person and a rock, you know. Toruring a cat to death isn’t the moral equivalent of torturing a human to death, but it is still evil, and deserving of sanction.

    The status of a fetus as a potential person may not justify transgressing on the rights of the mother, but that doesn’t mean that there is no moral significance to the destruction of a being with that potential, which may justify personal and public policy choices short of intruding on women’s rights.

  29. Lord Duppy,

    Can a ship’s captian throw a stowaway into the sea, 1000 miles from shore?

  30. Greatest answer to abortion ever
    This is from memory so I might have a word or two off. From the album “first family rides again”.
    Reporter: Mr President, when do you think a fetus becomes a person?
    Reagan: When it votes Republican.

  31. MG,

    I doubt Julian will know what you are talking about. I never really posted in his threads because, to the extent I understand what he is saying, I pretty much always agree with him. If all Reasonwriters were Julian, then you probably never woulda heard of me.

  32. If all Reasonwriters were Julian, then you probably never woulda heard of me.

    Ron Bailey, since you’re the guy who follows cloning most closely, I strongly urge you to get your friends in the cloning field to clone Julian ASAP.

    Nick Gillespie, start hiring Julian clones!

    It takes a village of clones to chase away a troll.

  33. Yes, in a vacuum, as a pure moral position, I don’t think a one week old infant is a moral person, so I guess I’m with Singer that far. But we need a legal line, which since the relevant capcities develop gradually and unevenly over a period of months, is necessaily going to be somewhat arbitrary.

    OK, an arbitrary line is certainly the most practical from a legal efficiency standpoint. I agree that determining the proper legal age would be a mess, particularly if we made individual determinations about the developmental stage of a given infant, which — judicial efficiency aside — is probably the most morally satisfactory solution if consciousness is our standard.

    However, if our bright line revolves around judicial efficiency or efficiency in general, then we’re weighing efficiency against human life, and we’re still basically with Singer here — at least we’re still unabashed utilitarians, which isn’t a problem, per se, but I wonder if we would all be comfortable following that line to its logical conclusions.

    And there are a ton of practical reasons to draw that line at birth. Most obviously, since the interests of the fetus and the mother’s right of control over her own body are no longer in conflict, there’s no moral downside to erring on the side of caution.

    The autonomy argument is certainly a mainstay in these debates, but it seems a bit contrived to me. I’d wager that most new parents would agree with me: just keeping the child alive and healthy requires parents to surrender considerable bodily autonomy, more so perhaps than pregnancy. Of course, you could always just give it away, right? That’s true, but then we would have to move our autonomy-based line to the point at which you could give the baby/fetus away, which equals viability rather than birth. As technology progresses, that line should shift further and further towards conception. So much for the right to abortion! I suspect that many of us would be happy with such a solution, and this is basically where the Democrats are going with the late-term abortion stuff. However, as I understand it, this isn’t your position. Nor is it mine.

    And, again, since there’s no dramatic or obvious external change along that continuum, and the infant from the moment of birth starts to be embedded in all sorts of social networks, cultivating a general sense of small humans as persons seems like a good thing even if it means consciously drawing the penumbra a little too broadly.

    Ok, that’s basically where I am on this issue: it seems like a good thing to cultivate a general sense of small humans as persons. Why? In my mind, it’s because I have this inexplicable affinity towards humans, and babies feel like humans, which explains why they become embedded within our social networks in the first place. Surely we don’t love them for their self-awareness or social skills. Realistically, we also don’t love and protect them because we’re playing it safe with self-awareness (“drawing the penumbra a little too broadly”), as we all know that babies are rather stupid, and we don’t run any serious risk of killing moral beings if we set our arbitrary bar at 2 months or even later.

    All that fancy footwork, and here I am again: It just feels right? babies are too cute to kill (just like horses? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Fetuses, on the other hand, are kind of gross until late in the third trimester, which is why we don’t mind killing them as much as post-birth babies.

  34. Julian’s position on this totally creeps me out.

    Is there already a “Totally Creeps Me Out” moral theory? If not, I want to trademark the term.

    Actually, that is not my moral theory, which is much more complex, but suffice it to say that I do believe that most (greater than 99%) people are deeply morally opposed to infanticide for a reason. Just as most of our moral compasses have much more in common than we have as differences.

    The fact is, infanticide is morally wrong, so any justification of abortion that would also justify infanticide must be wrong.

  35. Julian, you seem to have left out any consideration, in your article, of a significant non-theological argument against abortion. Donald Marquis’ future-like-ours argument doesn’t rely on the notion that the fetus is a person, has a soul, or is even a fully fledged human being.

    http://geobay.com/6f8c16

    and discussed by him here:

    http://geobay.com/f49a3f

  36. I have no moral problems with abortion but I oppose infanticide, and for me the difference is that an infant is a biologically distinct human being whereas a fetus is not. I oppose anti-abortion laws in part because I oppose any law which requires me, against my will, to use my biological and bodily systems to keep another alive. (I would also oppose laws forcing people to become blood or bone-marrow donors, for the same reason).

    Once the infant is born and out of the body, the bodily-integrity principle no longer applies.

  37. I have no moral problems with abortion but I oppose infanticide, and for me the difference is that an infant is a biologically distinct human being whereas a fetus is not.

    Once sperm meets ova, the result is genetically and bioligcally distinct from the mother.

    Four obivious bright lines:

    Conception
    Implantation
    Viability
    Birth

    The question is when does the result of conception become a person with rights to equal protection of the law.

    Since many (upwards of 1/3rd) of conceptions fail to implant, that does not seem like a reasonable time to declare that this new biolical entity person.

    Birth is the traditional point of personhood. The catholic church does not conduct last rites on a stillborn infant.

    Viability looks like a good candidate, but it is not accepted yet. Declaring personhood at viability would require every stillbirth to be investigated as a possible homicide.

    Implantation does not seem like a good candidate. Few would argue that a spontaneous abortion prior to viability was the loss of person although it may be a personal tragedy for the parents.

    Anything between implantation and viability is too hard to figure out.

    I oppose anti-abortion laws in part because I oppose any law which requires me, against my will, to use my biological and bodily systems to keep another alive.

    If you consented to the act that lead to conception you have no right to whine about the result.

  38. “Yes, in a vacuum, as a pure moral position, I don’t think a one week old infant is a moral person, so I guess I’m with Singer that far. But we need a legal line, which since the relevant capcities develop gradually and unevenly over a period of months, is necessaily going to be somewhat arbitrary. And there are a ton of practical reasons to draw that line at birth. Most obviously, since the interests of the fetus and the mother’s right of control over her own body are no longer in conflict, there’s no moral downside to erring on the side of caution. You avoid problems about determining the precise age of an infant–was it just over or under the legal line? And, again, since there’s no dramatic or obvious external change along that continuum, and the infant from the moment of birth starts to be embedded in all sorts of social networks, cultivating a general sense of small humans as persons seems like a good thing even if it means consciously drawing the penumbra a little too broadly.”

    I can unerstand this “pragmatic” position: Hard to philosophically justify a specific bright line, but one is needed and here are the reasons for making it birth, etc.

    My question (one of my quesstions) is: Will libertarians and progressives who use this sort of “pragmatic” defense of newborns be able to defend it against a sustained political attack from pro-infanticide progressives like Singer?

    Imagine the scenario. A woman kills her newborn. She’s sympathetic: Post-partum depression, husband beats her, she has mental problems. The Singer types demand the woman not be prosecuted. Religious conservatives protest loudly and demand that the women be prosecuted.

    The debate, on the Singerite side, would start to focus on such issues as the evilness and hypocrisy of Republicans, the “extreme religious right,” that sort of thing. The media will give sympathetic portrayals of the poor woman and how the evil right-wingers are manipulating her case for their own political ends.

    Once the debate shapes up this way, the pragmatic progressives who want to defend newborn life will beging to develop a tone of defensiveness. “I’m not a fundamentlist, and I think they’re evil, but I still feel uncomfortable with killing newborns. . . .”

    The Singerites, full of righteous zeal, will denounce the weak-sister progressives who are siding with the “Religious Right Fundamentalists.” They will say that they can understand extremist rhetoric from Jerry Falwell, but they expected better from fellow-progressives, etc.

    Under these circumstances, which side will progressives instinctively take? The side of the Singerites, who are fighting the good fight against the hypocritical, etc. Religious Right. The ranks of the “pragmatic progressives” who take the “extremist” position of opposing infanticide in all circumstances will get more and more untenable.

  39. against my will, to use my biological and bodily systems to keep another alive.

    I would argue that failing to abort early effects an estoppel to any bodily integrity principle that might otherwise apply. If you are going to kill the thing, kill it b4 it gets a brain and feels pain. If you don’t do that, then you gave your permission for Junior to rely on you in the last couple months when his brain gets large and gooey and brainwavey.

  40. It takes a village of clones

    Same goes for Inactivist and u guys don’t have Julian 1 over there yet. The coolest guy is a fundie of all things!

  41. RC,

    Since no one gets three hours into their labor and then decides “Oh, I think I want an abortion…” defining birth so precisely is arguing about angels on the head of a pin. Partial birth abortions are misnomers. Late term abortions are actually induced deliveries, are performed almost exclusively for severe birth defects, and the fetus is simply permitted to pass without medical intervention.

    I think that women should be allowed to end their pregnancies when they would like to. Early in pregnancy, this means abortion. Late in pregnancy, it would simply mean elective delivery. Most of the non-viable elective deliveries would be of fetuses with severe and or malformations. The number of would-be healthy seven and a half month abortions is ridiculously small, and as you know, rare circumstances make for poor law.

  42. Jennifer, you are wrong. A fetus IS a distinct human being. This is simply scientific fact and not debatable (unless you want to re-write the textbooks and change all the definitions). Embryos are organisms themselves, and not part of another organism. I refer you to any good scientific dictionary for further information.

    You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. From fertilization onward, a fetus is a unique human being. Whether it has rights is another matter.

    It does tickle my fancy that so many here are admitting that the logical conclusion of the pro-choice argument is that smashing an infants’s head in is moral. If that doesn’t show you that something is flawed with your argument, nothing will.

  43. Late in pregnancy, it would simply mean elective delivery. Most of the non-viable elective deliveries would be of fetuses with severe and or malformations. The number of would-be healthy seven and a half month abortions is ridiculously small

    1. I don’t think this information is required to be tracked, or is tracked. Correct me if I am wrong, and especially if you have a link.

    2. Whatever studies have been done on this are probably politically compromised, as so much “factual” information on both sides of this debate so often is.

    3. Maybe a good first step would be for states to require tracking and publication these rare occurrences (protecting patient identity of course), just to, you know, be sure about your fervent belief about the way things are.

  44. Hmmmm, I thought that non-violence was one of libertarianism’s core principles. Now I discover that it’s OK to bash in the head of a newborn with no more pangs of conscience than stepping on a bug. Hey Sanchez, since it’s only “pragmatic” principles that require the recognition of humanity at birth, why don’t we simply punish infanticide with a fine? And why can’t the “pragmatic” line move a little later in life — to the date a person first speaks, or to when he can first understand algebra?

    Pretty horrifying and revealing comments here. It’s pretty sad what “libertarianism” has become…

  45. World estimations of the number of terminations carried out each year is somewhere between 20 and 88 million.

    3,500 per day / 1.3 million per year in America alone.

    50% of that 1.3 million claimed failed birth control was to blame.

    A further 48% had failed to use any birth control at all.

    And 2% had medical reasons.

    That means a stagering 98% may have been avoided had an effective birth control been used.

    I’d like to see effective birth control made available to all who can’t afford it.

    People have to stop using abortion as birth control…

  46. Four obivious bright lines:

    and a fifth: the onset of organized cerebral activity. there’s where i would draw the line.

  47. Brain waves appeaer in week 8 of pregnancy–just about the time a woman may discover she’s carrying.

    But the brain and the body aren’t fully wired up until about week 30 (pregnancy lasts 37 weeks).

  48. but at that point, it’s random firing, not organized.

  49. The most interesting thing about the “person = sapient and conscious being = human being at X development point = moral being” argument is that nobody really believes it. No one really believes the infant isn’t a person whether or not it has memories or can make promises or looks forward to the future. No one really believes that about an Alzheimer’s patient or, for that matter, about anyone in between. We spend roughly a third of our lives unconscious. Does anyone believe we’re not people when we are asleep? Is there a significant moral difference between waking up in seven hours and developing whatever cognitive capacities are deemed the bright line of personhood seven months after birth? What would they be?

    It’s one thing, probably a correct thing I think, to say that personhood entails the capacity for consciousness and certain cognitive capabilities. Quite another to say personhood depends on their present instantiation.

  50. The vast majority of abortions have nothing to do with health (mother or child), rape, or interest. Women claim that about 3% each are for their health or because the child would be severely ill, and less than 1% are claimed to be because of rape or incest. The other 93% are birth control, pure and simple. While there is definitely a skew towards younger women and teens (especially for late-term abortions), it is not as drastic as one would think. The typical women getting an abortion is not an 11-year-old raped by her uncle. It is a sorority chick whose partner “forgot” the condom – again. Also, a large number of women who get abortions have the procedure performed multiple times.

    There is precious little evidence that teens don’t know about pregnancy or how to prevent it. “Education” is not the solution, since the kids already know – and the adults do to.

  51. No one really believes that about an Alzheimer’s patient or, for that matter, about anyone in between. We spend roughly a third of our lives unconscious. Does anyone believe we’re not people when we are asleep?

    another argument in favor of the “organized cerebral activity” line. sleeping people, alzheimers victims, and 37 week feti all fall on one side, blastocysts and terri schiavo fall on the other. i’m unsure about young republicans, but maybe someone with more medical background than me can answer that one.

  52. edna:

    What makes organized cerebral activity morally significant when the activity in question isn’t conscious? Also, doesn’t it have to be, at the very least, the sort of organized cerebral activity that, as far as we are aware, only human beings have?

  53. it occurs in the context of a distinct and unique human genome, thus it is organized human cerebral activity. do we really know enough about consciousness to be able to assert that fetal cerebration doesn’t count?

  54. Without having read all the preceding comments (I’ll eventually get a round tuit), I’ll just lay out my position. It should be legal to kill anything at any time unless:

    1. the thing at the time in question desires not to be killed (which requires at least that it be smart enough and knowledgeable enough to have a concept of the future), or

    2. the thing previously to the time in question has desired that it not be killed at some future time (and has not changed its mind), or

    3. the thing in question is owned by someone else who desires it not be killed, or

    4. the killer would have to trespass to do so.

    That means it should not be illegal per se to kill plants, the vast majority of animals, and even animals of the smartest species (including humans) if their individual intelligence is low enough for whatever reason (severe mental retardation or extreme youth) except “acquired temporary unintelligence” (such as sleeping).

  55. Pretty horrifying and revealing comments here. It’s pretty sad what “libertarianism” has become…

    Matt, I’m with you. This thread has become totally repulsive.

  56. “Is there a significant moral difference between waking up in seven hours and developing whatever cognitive capacities are deemed the bright line of personhood seven months after birth?”

    There sure is. It’s the reasoning behind advance medical directives. At the time you prepare that directive, you want to live in a society wherein that directive will be honored in the future. OTOH, if you have never had the cognitive capacity to desire anything for the future, then you don’t care whether someone’s going to kill you in the future.

  57. This is disgusting.

    Are any of you women? And of those who are, have any of you had children?

    Coming from someone who IS pro-choice, this thread is almost enough to turn me in the other direction.

  58. not a woman but i’ve had children. so what? does that mean i’m incapable of understanding basic biology?

  59. So I take it, Mr. Goodman, you have a standing written directive by your bedside reading “Do Not Kill Me While I Sleep” and have had it there since you first decided you didn’t want to be killed while sleeping?

  60. No need for such a directive, because it’s already illegal to kill me in my sleep. What I hope you understood is that the logic behind such directives is the same as the logic that says people NOW don’t want to be killed LATER in their sleep — that by making the rule say you’re not allowed to kill them in their sleep, you’re satisfying the desire they have while they’re awake.

    That’s the only good reason for last wills too. You satisfy people’s desire NOW; once they’re dead you don’t know what their desire is! (I don’t know whether formerly living people still have desires, or if so whether they’re able to check up on them.)

    If there were a way to convince me that I would not be killed while asleep, and then I was killed while uncoscious anyway, it wouldn’t bother me (again, with the caveat about the knowledge & desires of the formerly living). Values being subjective, of course they depend on consciousness. No consciousness, no values. No values, no harm possible, because the only harm is loss of value. (I disagree with Michael Tooley on this point.)

    Ask people, given that they must die, when they would like to. Overwhelmingly they’ll respond, “In my sleep.” Because what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

  61. Values being subjective, of course they depend on consciousness.

    It is not necessary for something to be of value to a person that the person at any given moment value it. Hence, while you might not be actively valuing your life while you sleep it remains of value to you. The same point can be made about the infant or even the unborn and, for that matter, for objects of value other than life.

    Still, if you see ethical matters purely in terms of subjective preferences, pursuing the point may be to no avail.

  62. “It is not necessary for something to be of value to a person that the person at any given moment value it. Hence, while you might not be actively valuing your life while you sleep it remains of value to you.”

    That’s the fact about which we disagree. Another example: if you take something of mine while I’m not looking, and then you put it back before I ever find out it was missing, it’s no loss to me.

    “Still, if you see ethical matters purely in terms of subjective preferences, pursuing the point may be to no avail.”

    It may be. I’m not sure I look at all ethical matters only that way, but when it comes to deciding what actions should be illegal, I’m of the school that says that if it concerns only the affairs of someone who doesn’t object, it shouldn’t be illegal. No crime (or tort) without a victim, no victim without a reduction in value, and no reduction of value without awareness of loss.

  63. Okay, so let’s say I poison you in a manner that you never notice, its effect being that you end up not living as long as you otherwise would, say to be 84 instead of 85. Of course, you value your life and would like to continue living, all other factors being equal, to 85 or beyond, but in fact you never notice what I have done, you merely die a bit sooner but, by hypothesis, you are never in fact aware of the loss I have caused. That should not be a crime?

  64. It has come to my attention that D.A. Ridgely kicks ass.

  65. “Okay, so let’s say I poison you in a manner that you never notice, its effect being that you end up not living as long as you otherwise would, say to be 84 instead of 85. Of course, you value your life and would like to continue living, all other factors being equal, to 85 or beyond, but in fact you never notice what I have done, you merely die a bit sooner but, by hypothesis, you are never in fact aware of the loss I have caused. That should not be a crime?”

    No, it should be a crime, because the knowledge that you could do it legally would bother me. However, if you could manage to make it legal without my ever finding out it had become legal, then it wouldn’t bother me. (How could it?) Or, if you did it illegally without my ever finding out about it, that too would not bother me.

  66. Robert,

    If conception is NOT when life begins,and a clump of cells is just that and not a living human being.
    Then at least concider this-

    Soon after you were conceived you were no more than a clump of cells.
    This clump of cells was you at your earliest stage, you had plenty of growing to do but this clump of cells was you none the less. Think about it.
    Aren’t you glad you were left unhindered to develope further.
    Safe inside your mother until you were born.

    ausblog

  67. “If conception is NOT when life begins,and a clump of cells is just that and not a living human being.”

    Oh, it’s a living human being all right. Where did I say otherwise? But it’s a living human being who doesn’t mind dying.

    “Aren’t you glad you were left unhindered to develope further.”

    Sure, I’m glad now. But then I wouldn’t’ve minded being killed. I also wouldn’t’ve minded never having been conceived. I wouldn’t’ve minded it if the entire universe had never come to exist, either.

  68. That’s sad.

  69. You are all gay

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