Well, Yes, That's What We've Been Saying All Along

They're ready to admit that there's no real difference between babies and fetuses now because they think they can win the debate on killing babies.

The whole trick depends on the shift from "it is wrong to kill an innocent human being" to "it is wrong to kill an innocent person." We can say without any scientific doubt whatsoever that a baby is a human being, and by nearly any ethical standard it is an innocent one. But is it a person? Well, now we can play with words!

Beware, of course, who else gets defined out of "personhood." But more than that, we should just refuse to make the shift. We don't need the ambiguous category given that we have the obvious and clear one. Humanity is easy to establish. The whole appeal of "personhood" is that it isn't, and thus can allow for immoral acts to be slid in where convenient.

17 comments:

Tom said...

From the article: “We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

As Grim has already pointed out, once we start defining which innocent human being has a right to exist and which doesn't, it is merely a matter of redefining to authorize genocide.

However, I've found that every such definition I've seen already authorizes more killing than the author explicitly intends. For example, with the definition above, what about those who are severely mentally handicapped, or who have suffered brain injuries? What about those in long-term comas? What about those with certain forms of mental illness, or those with mentally debilitating drug abuse problems? If someone can make a good argument that a particular category of person cannot "really" attribute some basic value to her existence, then we can wipe out that category of people, "for the good of society."

I'd also like to ask how we can know whether an individual attaches some value to her existence. My experience with infants is that they all want to continue living, but they say it in actions rather than words. They do whatever they can to get nourishment when hungry, to avoid pain, and to enjoy human affection. These are all clear signs that they value their existence.

In the end, the definition they are arguing for seems to me to limit the right to live to those who can clearly articulate it in language. This introduces a whole new set of people society can do away with.

Tom said...

There is another problem with the artificial split between "potential people" and actual people.

If a "potential person" has no right to live, then what about a person in a coma who cannot, at the moment, attribute some value to her existence? Isn't that individual merely a potential person as well? She might wake up, or she might not, but until she does regain consciousness, how is she different from a fetus?

Even if doctors are sure she will wake up, that is no different from a healthy fetus or infant. We can be sure, absent an accident of some sort, that these "potential people" will become actual people, but that doesn't matter. These philosophers claim that as long as someone is a "potential person" it is okay to kill them.

It seems there would be no real difference between infanticide and euthanizing someone in a temporary, trauma-induced coma.

raven said...

No doubt the "bio-ethicists" could find a good paying position in Dr. Mengele's lab.



Grim said...

You're a good student, Tom.

Raven, yes, that's right. When we start asking who deserves to be a person, well -- why not exclude human beings who are inferior in some way? It's all too easy to draw up scientific reasons for those policies. Eugenics was based on the leading scientific understanding of its day.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, in Texas this weekend, a man was charted with two counts of intoxicated assault and two counts of intoxicated manslaughter. He and two pregnant women were driving, he crashed, and the women lost their pregnancies.

Will his defense attorney point to the SCOTUS ruling and articles like this and demand that the manslaughter charges be dropped? 'Twill be interesting to watch.

LittleRed1

Texan99 said...

I wouldn't venture to say whether a 2-hour-old embryo is a "person." I also wouldn't try to claim that the loss of an embryo at this stage is the same as the death of a child, or even of a relatively advanced fetus. All I really can say is that it is a very morally fraught issue whether we can intervene to terminate the life of even such a tiny embryo. I say "morally fraught" rather than "obviously wrong" to indicate that I think there are situations on the margin in which I have to stand back and let other people decide what's right to do. I have severe doubts, but I wouldn't try to intervene even if I had the power. If I thought I could get the parents to listen to me, I'd urge them against taking positive action to destroy even a very young embryo. And yet at some point very early in a pregnancy even I think it's easier to decide to terminate a pregnancy to save the life of the mother--even though I'd never say it was OK to euthanize a one-year-old child to save the life of the mother, so clearly I have some kind of sliding scale of "personhood" here.

I agree with you, Grim, that we ought to be on very great guard not to go with the "it's not a person" argument. That one has a rotten history. Even if it might sometimes be true, we don't do well with it. We're better off expanding our views of what's a person instead. I'm not convinced the line is that bright, anyway.

raven said...

That business of deciding who is a "person" and entitled to the right to live - now there is a doubled edged thought- they assume, as always "they" get to be the only ones voting.

Tom said...

On the plus side, if we adopt the proposed definition, we could quickly get rid of nihilists and absurdists ...

Ymar Sakar said...

The Left will determine whether you deserve to live, if you are born, and how much you get to pay them for the privilege.

An easy prophetic prediction. It's only in war that everyone gets a vote, however small in stature. Only in a democracy does the minority matter about close to zero.

Ymar Sakar said...

The Left uses old R/D methods to condition kill policies. But on the other hand, the same is true for the anti Leftists. If the Left makes it easy to kill based on the justification that X is not fully equal, then it's even more ridiculously easy to do the same thing concerning Leftist zombies, who are not only evil but also sub human in many levels and qualities.

If the question is what justification makes it easy to pull the trigger, war is what makes people equal in that sense. It's no longer a matter of debate.

Jason said...

As soon as I read the mis-applied pronoun, "her", where the author should've used "his", I knew that the article wasn't worth reading. Well, actually I knew that upon reading the title and your synopsis, but the attempts by the Politically Correct to defile the language by unilaterally changing the default pronoun always indicates that the opinion of the writer isn't worth the paper (or electrons) it's written on.

Ymar Sakar said...

It is hilarious watching computer programmers, tech industries people, and others write on blogs about their products, except they are using "her" as the pronoun. When in fact, most of the people who work in that industry are definitely male, counteracting the whole point of switching to "her" or "she".

douglas said...

Referring to the term "after-birth abortion", Dr Stammers added: "This is just verbal manipulation that is not philosophy. I might refer to abortion henceforth as antenatal infanticide."

Heh. Makes you wonder if the whole point of taking he position of the paper's authors isn't to force the question of whether or nor abortion is infanticide to those who so quickly determine it isn't. I doubt it, but that might be a good side effect.

Tex, I'll buy you a copy of "Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues" by Robert J. Spitzer. It's a pretty good comprehensive argument that life begins at conception and abortion is wrong in all but self-defense (life of the mother) cases. It might help settle some of the doubts you have.

Texan99 said...

For myself the answer is simple: don't mess with an embryo once it's conceived. I'm still not willing to step in with force to interfere in someone else's decision to destroy a brand-new embryo. I'm queasy about it, but it's not in the same category for me as the murder of an infant, where I'd certainly feel obligated to interfere. So the public policy approach is different for me from the personal choice. I don't so much analyze it in terms of whether an embryo is human or a person or on one side or the other of a line. It's more a question of believing that this is a sacred process I shouldn't disrupt, very like the conviction that leads many people to reject birth control.

Grim said...

"I'm still not willing to step in with force..."

It's an important distinction. I don't propose politics in this matter. I discuss these ideas philosophically in the hope that, whomever makes the decision, there is a chance they may have been exposed to the ideas.

Although, I think in time the matter will become clearer. So much depends on not being able to conceive of the mysteries of what is unseen. As we see more and more, thanks to better ultrasounds, the debate is shifting. Yet I wonder if there will prove to be an unphilosophical but visceral refusal to see the stages that don't look human yet as human beings, even though we know that they will certainly look like us if just given a few more days.

douglas said...

That's fine, Tex. It's pretty much in line with the Judaic position that while it is not a full blown person, it is nascent human life and the will of God, and as such, not to be derailed from it's natural course. So, like you, they don't see abortion as equivalent to murder, but still as a quite serious affront to God's plan.

My hope is that, since the court tied the drawing of the line between person and lump of cells at viability, that as that line moves further back (and it's moved quite a bit since Roe V. Wade) more people will see just how arbitrary and capricious the claim that there is a line anywhere but at conception and the creation of a new set of DNA is.

Ymar Sakar said...

Abortion complex in America is more like human livestock farming, the ultimate in renewable resource.

The smoke and mirrors is about choice and adults, but the bulk of the benefit and profit goes to funding evil's war against humanity.