Responding to Kmiec

posted at 11:38 am on March 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Dan Gilgoff at US News asks readers to contribute to a debate between Robby George and Douglas Kmiec, two Catholic legal scholars, on the nature of human life, abortion, cloning, and stem-cell research.  Gilgoff oddly refers to Kmiec as a conservative despite Kmiec’s support for Barack Obama and defense of Obama’s stem-cell policies and apologetics over Obama’s abortion stands.  Kmiec asked Gilgoff to solicit answers to a series of questions that the two will eventually debate in face-to-face meetings, and the first one is a dead giveaway to the spin Kmiec will provide:

Q. Assume we need a relatively clear answer to the question “When does life begin?” in order to avoid ethical arbitrariness and to show proper respect for the dignity of the human person. The Supreme Court, of course, has selected viability, but this is objectionable to many since it does not seem to be anything but an arbitrary point designed as a jurisprudential compromise. Since either fertilization or implantation is a bright line, is there a basis to decide between the two that is not dependent upon faith?

That issue has not been about faith for decades, if not a century or more, when biology began to be understood on a cellular level.  Life for multicellular organisms is absolutely and unequivocally demonstrated by the cellular multiplication process known as mitosis.  When a cell divides and multiplies, the organism is alive.  When the human zygote transforms into a blastomere as it travels down the Fallopian tube, it is alive — and since it has a unique DNA, it is a unique human life apart from its mother (or father) regardless of whether the blastomere implants successfully or not.

Kmiec is trying to make this question more complicated than it is, a quite obvious gambit from the rest of the questions he asks Gilgoff to publish.  The question of life is not one of faith, but science.  However, abortion advocates have been trying to distract people from the scientific certainty that abortion destroys human life.  They speak of “ensoulment” as if one could measure it, or implantation as if that has anything to do with the issue of abortion.  It does impact the issue of embryonic experimentation, though, because if Kmiec and others can argue that life somehow doesn’t exist until transplantation, then it gives hEsc researchers an ethics carte blanche to do whatever they want with IVF-produced embryos.

Faith does not speak to when the biological process of life begins or is present.  It speaks to what we do with human life once established.  Kmiec’s questions are designed to confuse the issues through overcomplication and sophistry.  Kmiec and other hEsc and abortion apologists want to avoid the obvious scientific conclusion that abortion and experimentation destroy human life and instead argue on the fringes about irrelevancies.  I’d have a lot more respect for Kmiec if he just argued that he sees human life as having only a practical value — but then he wouldn’t get described as a conservative any longer, and would have to get lumped in with more honest advocates like Peter Singer.


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Ed, will you be doing an article about the Howard Koh nomination as WH legal counsel?

amkun on March 30, 2009 at 11:40 AM

It does impact the issue of embryonic experimentation, though, because if Kmiec and others can argue that life somehow doesn’t exist until transplantation, then it gives hEsc researchers an ethics carte blanche to do whatever they want with IVF-produced embryos.

Yeah, but those embryos weren’t going to be fertilized anyway, so it’s all good.

/Clint

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 11:41 AM

sick

Jamson64 on March 30, 2009 at 11:43 AM

They sure like to toss the word “conservative” around…. why would this guy say he is one, when you know, conservatives are all racist and evil and full of hate? you’d think he’d take the easy road to 200,000 a year job at a kooshy university with his on qualification is Obama’s Privates in his mouth.

Donut on March 30, 2009 at 11:47 AM

Why do we espect to learn about “the nature of life” from lawyers?

I’d rather listen to a farmer or a nurse.

maladapted on March 30, 2009 at 11:48 AM

Kmiec is a pathetic tool in the David Frum/Kathleen Parker mold.

Norwegian on March 30, 2009 at 11:48 AM

Im starting to think the leftys never studied science,let alone pass the course.

I feel like I’m in he**.

becki51758 on March 30, 2009 at 11:48 AM

Is Bill clinton favored to be the new Biology Czar?

He discusses unfertilized embryos.

seven on March 30, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Kmiec’s questions are designed to confuse the issues through overcomplication and sophistry.

Ed Morrissey

Yep. This describes the left’s standard operating procedure.

Maxx on March 30, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Why do we espect to learn about “the nature of life” from lawyers?

I’d rather listen to a farmer or a nurse.

maladapted on March 30, 2009 at 11:48 AM

How about a biology book?

Jamson64 on March 30, 2009 at 11:49 AM

When does a soul become complete?

Greg Toombs on March 30, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Or asked another way, is a soul ever complete?

Greg Toombs on March 30, 2009 at 11:51 AM

Norwegian on March 30, 2009 at 11:48 AM

No, because occaisionally, Parker or Frum gets things right. I can’t remember the last time Kmiec made any sense.

Pro-Life/Pro-Obama? That’s almost Bidenesque in terms of fail.

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 11:52 AM

Greg Toombs on March 30, 2009 at 11:49 AM

When it completes me.

catmman on March 30, 2009 at 11:53 AM

Viability….

Viability like Charlie Manson or viability like this fella?
http://www.specialolympics.org/video_miyares.aspx

Limerick on March 30, 2009 at 11:54 AM

Yeah, but those embryos weren’t going to be fertilized anyway, so it’s all good.

/Clint

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 11:41 AM

They can’t be embryos if they weren’t fertilized — they are human beings.

johnsteele on March 30, 2009 at 11:54 AM

I have always found it odd that the lefties celebrate the extension of human rights to those who don’t own property, to people of color, to women, to children, and some even argue to household pets. Then, simultaneously stick their collective fingers in their ears when it comes to the right to life. It’s as if they want to a take an indignant stand for property rights during the abolition debate.

One of my favorite passtimes is making Lib’s heads explode. i.e. tell them if Bill Clinton had only resigned, George W. would never have been President because Al Gore’s incumbancy would have been worth 500 votes in Fla. Well, in regards to the abortion debate, the Left’s ideological progeny will view them with same disgust as they themselves view the antebellum South. Libs don’t seem to like it when I point that out.

trubble on March 30, 2009 at 11:55 AM

Why do we espect to learn about “the nature of life” from lawyers?

I’d rather listen to a farmer or a nurse.

maladapted on March 30, 2009 at 11:48 AM

Good point. Regrettably lawyers have become the be-all and end-all of American society. We have gone from a nation of laws to a nation about laws.

johnsteele on March 30, 2009 at 11:56 AM

I find it interesting that the Hippocratic Oath got it.

http://www.geocities.com/everwild7/noharm.html

Jamson64 on March 30, 2009 at 11:59 AM

The Supreme Court, of course, has selected viability, but this is objectionable to many since it does not seem to be anything but an arbitrary point designed as a jurisprudential compromise.

His question doesn’t confuse me. The answer is, “Define viability, doug. Is a two day old baby viable? Is it gonna crawl off and graze? How about grandma with alzheimers? Leave her in her apartment by herself and see if she shows up for Christmas dinner? How about a paraplegic? Point him to the kitchen and tell him to eat all he wants?” The answer is that we protect the weakest and most helpless among us.

peacenprosperity on March 30, 2009 at 12:02 PM

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 11:52 AM

Bidenfreude: Bi·den·freu·de (bīd’n-froi’də)
n. Pleasure derived from the inevitable misfortunes of certain Vice Presidents.

[Irish: Biden, gaffe (French, from Old French, hook; see gaff.) + German: Freude, joy (from Middle High German vreude, from Old High German frewida, from frō, happy).]

Yes, I’m a sufferer.

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 12:03 PM

johnsteele on March 30, 2009 at 11:54 AM

My sarc, let me show you it.

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Sorry, missed it

johnsteele on March 30, 2009 at 12:07 PM

Ed, will you be doing an article about the Howard Koh nomination as WH legal counsel?

amkun on March 30, 2009 at 11:40 AM

This is incredibly important. This guy is a big time globalist, wanting to international instead of Constitutional law.

It’s funny how we can recognize this guy as a threat to our Constitution yet deny the NWO attempt.

True_King on March 30, 2009 at 12:07 PM

stop throwing away that skin you scraped off your knee… it’s alive!

Kaptain Amerika on March 30, 2009 at 12:08 PM

wanting to use international law instead of Constitutional law.

Fixed. Oops.

True_King on March 30, 2009 at 12:08 PM

between Robby George and Douglas Kmiec, two Catholic legal scholars,

Man, I wonder what religion Ed is. Does this count as another Catholic post? It’s interesting that while Catholics can show preference, if someone dares question that BLATANT preference and bias toward Catholics, they are called ‘bigots’.

No other religion has an airline that discriminates based on faith. But Catholics are always only ‘victims’ of religious preference according to most of them.

ThackerAgency on March 30, 2009 at 12:09 PM

so what does implantation do, in terms of biological changes? is there any growth going on before that moment? is that an unacceptable definition for life beginning? if so, why?

ernesto on March 30, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Spot on Ed, thanks for bringing us this. The abortionists try to tell us that we should leave religion out of the issue only to turn around and bring the question of when the soul enters the body into the debate. As a Molecular Biologist and a man of faith I can tell you it does not matter, from the moment the sperm enters the egg and its enzymes trigger the cascade effect that results on the blastomere and eventually a human being, it is a live being totally separate from its progenitors but totally dependent on the mother at first and then both during its first years of life to make it in the real world. That dependance is what makes abortion such a abhorrent practice, the ultimete betrayal, unless 1) the mother’s life is in danger and 2) The pregnancy is a result of rape/incest. On the second case I would still try to present the option of adoption though.

TitleofLiberty on March 30, 2009 at 12:10 PM

When the human zygote transforms into a blastomere as it travels down the Fallopian tube, it is alive — and since it has a unique DNA, it is a unique human life apart from its mother (or father) regardless of whether the blastomere implants successfully or not.

Something the embryonic stem cell people are facing right now with their science. They have to battle two demons — getting the stem cells to create the correct structures and host rejection. Those using autologous methods only have to battle the first demon — because there is no rejection unless the person has an autoimmune disease.

When does a soul become complete?

Greg Toombs on March 30, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Red herring. Remember, the cited contest rules require us to use only science, and to discount faith. Implied, however, in the contest rules, is a morality — that when a human exists, they have a right to life.

unclesmrgol on March 30, 2009 at 12:11 PM

Kmiec was my property law professor back in the mid 90s and dang was he a different person back then. We’d have long conversations about all sorts of moral and ethical issues, and one of the things I admired about him was his certainty, which just isn’t apparent in anything he’s written or said over the past couple of years. I specifically remember him starting every question of abortion from the bedrock principle that a human being is infused with a spiritual soul at the moment of conception, and then working from there. Its very disheartening to see this devolution in thought.

Clownballoon on March 30, 2009 at 12:12 PM

No other religion has an airline that discriminates based on faith. But Catholics are always only ‘victims’ of religious preference according to most of them.

ThackerAgency on March 30, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Where can I get tickets?

unclesmrgol on March 30, 2009 at 12:13 PM

When the human zygote transforms into a blastomere as it travels down the Fallopian tube, it is alive — and since it has a unique DNA, it is a unique human life apart from its mother (or father) regardless of whether the blastomere implants successfully or not.

This is the part where much of the confusion, even for me sometimes, comes in. What differentiates it as a human as opposed to a human cell? Many human cells have DNA, many human cells can be kept alive in a petri dish for months, even years. You can freeze human cells and grow them again whenever you want. But at what point does it become a human life? That I think is really the question behind this entire debate, and even for me, as much as I am against abortion, it’s hard for me to answer that. For a long while, a fertilized egg is still just that, a fertilized egg, no matter if it’s alive and has DNA.

ballz2wallz on March 30, 2009 at 12:14 PM

Isn’t Kmiec missing a vowel between the ‘k’ and the ‘m’? Seriously, he is from the Kathleen Parker/Peggy Noonan/David Frum school of Republicanism.

Hilts on March 30, 2009 at 12:15 PM

When a cell divides and multiplies, the organism is alive. When the human zygote transforms into a blastomere as it travels down the Fallopian tube, it is alive — and since it has a unique DNA, it is a unique human life apart from its mother (or father) regardless of whether the blastomere implants successfully or not.

It is cellular life but it lacks attributes which ensure that it is a unique individual. The zygote has the capacity to produce multiple embryos.

dedalus on March 30, 2009 at 12:16 PM

ThackerAgency on March 30, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Don’t like what he posts? Go get your own fuggin blog.

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 12:16 PM

If you don’t know when life begins lefties – then you shouldn’t be killing it.

You need to answer the question.

Or how about this solution?

Use one of the alternatives to embryonic stem cell research. Get over your blind hatred and how good it feels for you take $$ from Conservatives who are opposed to it on moral grounds and do the right thing – go with the alternatives – which are equally, if not more promising.

And … with regards to birth control – how about holding people accountable for their actions? I would like to see a contest – who can have sex using the highest number of distinctly separate forms of birth control. In this day and age – you can use at three that my feeble mind knows of – simultaneously … for a virtual 100% safeguard against pregnancy.

Make the woman and the man responsible for their actions.

But what about Rape and Incest? Just how big a problem are those and why would we base our legal system for abortion around this minute number of cases? And in any case – who should be punished for rape or incest? The child? Give me a break. Rape and Incest are despicable acts but news flash people – all of us have a rape or an incest in our family trees – and probably several instances of them. We would not be here if the offspring that resulted from these acts had been aborted. This is a fact folks.

HondaV65 on March 30, 2009 at 12:17 PM

stop throwing away that skin you scraped off your knee… it’s alive!

Kaptain Amerika on March 30, 2009 at 12:08 PM

This is such an asinine comment. The moment you scrape it off it is dead; actually, your epidermis is by all accounts dead tissue since the very top layers consist of Keratinized cells that don’t go through mitosis anymore, they just get replaced by new ones being pushed “up” the layers of your skin while being keratinized themselves. So go ahead and shave and peel your skin off since it is no longer alive you pro choice buffoon.

TitleofLiberty on March 30, 2009 at 12:18 PM

so what does implantation do, in terms of biological changes? is there any growth going on before that moment? is that an unacceptable definition for life beginning? if so, why?

ernesto on March 30, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Implantation provides the conditions for continues growth and life. It’s a necessary process, but it does not determine whether the fertilized egg is alive or human.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 12:21 PM

It is cellular life but it lacks attributes which ensure that it is a unique individual. The zygote has the capacity to produce multiple embryos.

dedalus on March 30, 2009 at 12:16 PM

So you’re saying it could be MULTIPLE individuals? ;)

HondaV65 on March 30, 2009 at 12:21 PM

Hilts on March 30, 2009 at 12:15 PM

Not Republican. See also: Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 11:52 AM

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 12:22 PM

But what about Rape and Incest? Just how big a problem are those and why would we base our legal system for abortion around this minute number of cases? And in any case – who should be punished for rape or incest? The child? Give me a break. Rape and Incest are despicable acts but news flash people – all of us have a rape or an incest in our family trees – and probably several instances of them. We would not be here if the offspring that resulted from these acts had been aborted. This is a fact folks.

HondaV65 on March 30, 2009 at 12:17 PM

Good point.

DarkCurrent on March 30, 2009 at 12:22 PM

This is the part where much of the confusion, even for me sometimes, comes in. What differentiates it as a human as opposed to a human cell? Many human cells have DNA, many human cells can be kept alive in a petri dish for months, even years. You can freeze human cells and grow them again whenever you want. But at what point does it become a human life? That I think is really the question behind this entire debate, and even for me, as much as I am against abortion, it’s hard for me to answer that. For a long while, a fertilized egg is still just that, a fertilized egg, no matter if it’s alive and has DNA.

ballz2wallz on March 30, 2009 at 12:14 PM

The difference is that the cell is only a part of the entire human being whereas the fertilized egg and embryo contain the entire DNA needed. One skin cell is not enough to cause the growth of a complete human.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 12:23 PM

I specifically remember him starting every question of abortion from the bedrock principle that a human being is infused with a spiritual soul at the moment of conception, and then working from there. Its very disheartening to see this devolution in thought.

Clownballoon on March 30, 2009 at 12:12 PM

His stated position on ensoulment matches that of the Catechism.

Only if you’re a Scientologist do you believe in e-meters (ensoulment meters). The early Doctors spent an enormous number of brain cells attempting to determine when the soul enters the body — something which could not be measured using the technology of the day, and upon which the Bible is mute. The Bible is certainly not mute on when humanity itself exists — soul or no soul — as the debate one post over on Mary shows.

We Catholics also have Tradition in the form of the Didiache, which, while ignored at some points in our history, teaches that any abortion is a mortal sin.

The Doctors have never wavered on whether abortion was a sin — just on when it became a mortal sin.

Again, though, this is a red herring. Since the two have chosen to debate not using faith but using science, the rules are rather circumspect. Using science, determine when a human is human. When a human is human, the implied ethics framework of both debaters gives that human a right to life.

unclesmrgol on March 30, 2009 at 12:27 PM

It is cellular life but it lacks attributes which ensure that it is a unique individual. The zygote has the capacity to produce multiple embryos.

dedalus on March 30, 2009 at 12:16 PM

A natural process that results in identical twins and more rarely triplets. Though the DNA is identical, the personalities of these individuals are often vastly different.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 12:27 PM

I don’t believe in God but I know human life when I see it. I do believe in observation and science. Any scientist would be a liar who said that even a single celled organism isn’t “alive.” That would be one crackpot scientist. And to hear the politicians pervert science like this, concerning our OWN HUMAN KIND is extremely disturbing.

In every generation we face the evil status quo, the “necessary evils” we’re all told to play along with. But then things come to a head and we wonder how it was that we ever thought such a way…as we were “otherwise good people.” In 1860 it was Slavery. In 1910 it was Women’s Suffrage, in 1940 it was Fascism. In 1950 it was Communism. In 1960 it was Civil Rights. In 1970 it was Environmentalism (which we must admit has its virtues).

In 2050, Democrats will look back in HORROR at what they are advocating now out of selfishness, expediency, and pure cretinous ignorance of science.

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but we always have been near the forefront of ethical government. If anyone should and could get it right it needs to be us. Human life has a profound cosmic significance. The government should at the very least not sanction or fund the wanton destruction of it.

Dr. Manhattan on March 30, 2009 at 12:29 PM

Don’t like what he posts? Go get your own fuggin blog.

Abby Adams on March 30, 2009 at 12:16 PM

He appears to have one (got a color name indicating link to website) — which, from its name, sells short term health insurance.

If you are pro abortion, great business to be in — you can sell policies to fetuses, collect the payments, and welch after they are squelched.

Amusingly, his insurance line is called “Celtic”.

My guess is that either he doesn’t have a very large Catholic clientele, or they don’t know about his anti-Catholicism. Otherwise, he’d be more circumspect about mixing business with pleasure, so to speak.

unclesmrgol on March 30, 2009 at 12:33 PM

The idea that any human life is at all precious, that it is any more important than that of a monkey or a landshark is “a matter of faith.” The fact that any one human life has the same value as another even more so.

29Victor on March 30, 2009 at 12:38 PM

A natural process that results in identical twins and more rarely triplets. Though the DNA is identical, the personalities of these individuals are often vastly different.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 12:27 PM

You seem to be reinforcing dedalus’ point, that a zygote is not a unique human being. Was that your intention?

DarkCurrent on March 30, 2009 at 12:38 PM

Ed, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Yes, science establishes that a blastomere is alive in the sense that it performs mitosis. What makes you say that this sense of “alive” is the relevant one to this conversation? Yes, I know that Catholics and many others consider this to be the relevant one, but why should everyone else?

There have been big debates over the definition of “life” in the scientific literature. Why should the fact that the scientific community settled on this particular definition relate to the debate on abortion? Surely you acknowledge that there’s a difference between “life” at the blastomere stage, “life” at the fetus stage, “life” at the birthed baby stage, “life” at the post-pubescent age, etc. If the scientific community had chosen to distinguish between these concepts in their terminology, would that really affect your analysis?

Faith does not speak to when the biological process of life begins or is present. It speaks to what we do with human life once established.

This is a good point, but you treat “human life” as if it can mean only one thing, and as if it means “the biological process of life” even for the purposes of dealing with your latter statement.

So it seems as if you actually agree with Kmiec. When Kmiec refers to the beginning of human life, he’s referring to “human life” in the context of what we do with it.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 12:40 PM

Kmiec is a loser (and a disgrace), and if he were ever in the same room as Robert George for a debate, I’m pretty confident that George would mop the floor with the guy.

DPierre on March 30, 2009 at 12:40 PM

You seem to be reinforcing dedalus’ point, that a zygote is not a unique human being. Was that your intention?

DarkCurrent on March 30, 2009 at 12:38 PM

No, my intention was to say that a fertilized egg can and does naturally split and become separate individuals who share identical DNA. Though their’s is identical, each of them is a unique and separate individual.

Speaking from a purely biological standpoint, they are identical, however, those of us who acknowledge that human’s have a spirit that makes them as unique as their biological make up, they are in fact two or three unique individuals.

Not sure it is clear what I am trying to say, sometimes I get a brain drain and fail to make my point coherently.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Remember the royal bathers in Coming to America?

That’s what Doug Kmiec is for President Obama.

The man’s gone all-in for The One, and the first thing he had to cash in was his credibility. It’s shown ever since.

DRPrice on March 30, 2009 at 12:46 PM

The difference is that the cell is only a part of the entire human being whereas the fertilized egg and embryo contain the entire DNA needed. One skin cell is not enough to cause the growth of a complete human.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 12:23 PM

Why is this definition of life the appropriate one to use when talking about when we can destroy life?

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 12:50 PM

Not sure it is clear what I am trying to say, sometimes I get a brain drain and fail to make my point coherently.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Got it, thanks for the clarification.

DarkCurrent on March 30, 2009 at 12:51 PM

Another feckless acolyte wearing out a pair of Obama knee pads.

maladapted on March 30, 2009 at 12:51 PM

When a cell divides and multiplies, the organism is alive. When the human zygote transforms into a blastomere as it travels down the Fallopian tube, it is alive — and since it has a unique DNA, it is a unique human life apart from its mother (or father) regardless of whether the blastomere implants successfully or not.

So it’s OK to abort one of a pair of identical twins, since they have the same DNA? After all, my appendix has the same DNA as the rest of my body, and no one would say it’s “killing” to remove it, despite the fact that it would literally kill the cells that make up the appendix.

How about the reverse: chimeras, formed from two or more fertilized eggs, who may even have more than one biological father (one notable case is visibly of different racial makeup on each side of the body)? Is that one human life or two? Should such a person get two votes on election day?

The Monster on March 30, 2009 at 12:52 PM

Good post overall Ed. I only have a quible with this part.

Faith does not speak to when the biological process of life begins or is present. It speaks to what we do with human life once established.

As a protestant, I can say that my faith does speak to when life begins. Scripture clearly condemns murder and demonstrates that life within the womb is a creature made in the image of God.

You shall not murder. – Exodus 20:13
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
- Psalm 139:13-15

shick on March 30, 2009 at 12:53 PM

If left alone how many fertilized eggs will become giraffes or trout?

None?

Then where the hell do giraffes and trout come from?

Limerick on March 30, 2009 at 12:55 PM

Who appointed Kmiec as “THE Catholic” for abortion issues?

They could have, and should have, invited Denver’s Archbishop Chaput, who can speak with authority on the subject from the Catholic Church.

I disagree with the Archbishop on some things, but he always makes a factual, cordial and “Catechism” correct argument. He would be a far better representative than Kmeic, who has shown himself to be a sellout.

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 12:59 PM

Sorry I phrased the question wrong. This is an argument about life…let me try again…

How many fertilized eggs will become rocks or safety pins?

Limerick on March 30, 2009 at 1:01 PM

The Monster

Next time actually think before you pose some wanna-be gotcha. There is clearly a difference in scale between a full human organism (a zygote or grown man) and his component cells. By asking your silly questions about chimeras getting to vote twice (really?) and “wondering” about if you kill your appendix when it is going to kill you, I’ve lost my ability to take your objections seriously. We are talking about human @^#%^#! life…what both you and I know it to be. Not semantics.

Dr. Manhattan on March 30, 2009 at 1:05 PM

I’d say it is arguably “human” life when the brain begins showing EEG’s, because before that point there is only assembling living tissue with no bodily receptor for sensation or knowledge.

No brain, no humane.

profitsbeard on March 30, 2009 at 1:06 PM

Limerick

Try to be more direct. Is there something you want to say?

Dr. Manhattan on March 30, 2009 at 1:06 PM

profitsbeard

You are a simpleton. If sensation or knowledge were requirements for life, Democrats would be legally dead.

Dr. Manhattan on March 30, 2009 at 1:08 PM

“Monster” – you missed the point.

1) Is it life? Yes. The nature of existence says so
2) Is it human? Yes. DNA says so.
3) Does abortion destroy it? Yes.

Thus, abortion destroys human life.

You need to deny either 1, 2 or 3 in order to invalidate that conclusion. There is no dancing away from it. Abortion destroys human life.

Morality does not enter into it until you get to categorizing “defenseless” “innocent” human life and “intrinsically evil” acts — at that point the argument becomes one of what is evil, what is innocent.

It is at THIS point where the religious/Catholic part of things come in – there are well defined ethical and moral positions that condemn elective abortion/experimentation as intrinsically evil due to the destruction of innocent human life. The problem is showing any sort of moral/ethiucal system that does allow for such destruction – i.e. the unwilling sacrifice of the innocent for the betterment of others (Moloch was only the first example of this, followed mroe recently by Marx, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc).

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 1:08 PM

As a protestant, I can say that my faith does speak to when life begins. Scripture clearly condemns murder and demonstrates that life within the womb is a creature made in the image of God.

shick on March 30, 2009 at 12:53 PM

This is why I don’t like Ed’s post at all. Faith speaks to the beginning of life in the context of how to treat life. Science speaks to life in the context of a mostly semantic debate (because science needs concrete and consistent definitions in order to facilitate scientific discourse).

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:11 PM

The pro-life position isn’t a “Catholic viewpoint”, nor is it even a “Christian viewpoint.” There are plenty of non-Christians (including atheists)who hold the pro-life position. It’s illegitimate to dismiss the position simply because many Christians happen to agree with it.

Otherwise, I could dismiss the abortion rights position on the same grounds, since many Christians are in favor of abortion rights.

An argument stands or falls on its own merits, not on the religious affiliation of the arguer.

OhioCoastie on March 30, 2009 at 1:12 PM

And before someone Godwin’s this, Hitler is an apt and on topic subject. After all the experimentation on the Jews in the death camps was justified by the same logic:

They are going to be “disposed of” anyway, so why not discover things for the betterment of medical science?

That was Mengele’s argument.

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 1:12 PM

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 1:08 PM

I agree with how you broke things down, except that I think the first part (about defining human life) is completely irrelevant to the second part (about when you can destroy human life). There can (and should) be different definitions in each of those two contexts.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:13 PM

OhioCoastie – good example is Ron Paul for a non-religious anti-abortion person. Also, try Libertarians for Life (L4l.org) for a completely secular case. They’ve been around since 1976.

LFL argues that:

1. Human offspring are human beings, persons from conception, whether that takes place as natural or artificial fertilization, by cloning, or by any other means.

2. Abortion is homicide — the killing of one person by another.

3. One’s right to control one’s own body does not allow violating the obligation not to aggress. There is never a right to kill an innocent person. Prenatally, we are all innocent persons.

4. A prenatal child has the right to be in the mother’s body. Parents have no right to evict their children from the crib or from the womb and let them die. Instead both parents, the father as well as the mother, owe them support and protection from harm.

5. No government, nor any individual, has a just power to legally “de-person” any one of us, born or preborn.

6. The proper purpose of the law is to side with the innocent, not against them.

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 1:16 PM

tneloms – so you say that the “moral” should be separated from science and reality, and truths derived thereof? So the moral law has no basis in truth or fact, and is thus entirely arbitrary?

I don’t understand that.

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 1:18 PM

They are going to be “disposed of” anyway, so why not discover things for the betterment of medical science?

That was Mengele’s argument.

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 1:12 PM

Horrible analogy. Mengele tortured his “patients,” inflicting terrible pain and suffering on them. The same is certainly not true of early stage abortion. And you seem to be drawing an equivalence between Jews being “disposed of” — which everyone agrees is wrong — with embryos being disposed of — which not everyone agrees is wrong.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:18 PM

tneloms – so you say that the “moral” should be separated from science and reality, and truths derived thereof? So the moral law has no basis in truth or fact, and is thus entirely arbitrary?

I don’t understand that.

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 1:18 PM

No. I’m saying that you can define life is many ways. Scientists argued about how to define life, and settled on one definition for the purpose of scientific discourse. There is no obvious reason why the definition they settled on should impact a moral issue of what you can and cannot destroy.

That doesn’t mean that the moral debate shouldn’t relate to the scientific facts, such as when mitosis occurs, when nerves form, when consciousness may begin, etc. It means that it shouldn’t relate to scientific definitions themselves as if they have some intrinsic meaning.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:22 PM

Why is this definition of life the appropriate one to use when talking about when we can destroy life?

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 12:50 PM

Because the skin cell will not and cannot grow without outside prompting. The fertilized egg left to nature will continue until its natural end, the birth of a human. The skin cell, or any cell that is separated from the human host, left to nature will die or is already dead when the body sloughs it off.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 1:22 PM

The fertilized egg left to nature will continue until its natural end, the birth of a human.

This point cannot be stressed enough. Human from the moment of conception, human as it develops within the womb, human when it is birthed.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 1:25 PM

So let me get this straight. Knock out Mr Smith, so he can’t feel any pain, and that makes it OK to run him over with a lawnmower?

Mr Smith is screwed.

Limerick on March 30, 2009 at 1:31 PM

Faith speaks to the beginning of life in the context of how to treat life. Science speaks to life in the context of a mostly semantic debate (because science needs concrete and consistent definitions in order to facilitate scientific discourse).

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:11 PM

You conveyed my idea better than myself.

Thank you.

shick on March 30, 2009 at 1:37 PM

you seem to be drawing an equivalence between Jews being “disposed of” — which everyone agrees is wrong — with embryos being disposed of — which not everyone agrees is wrong.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:18 PM

tneloms, the argument isn’t decided by majority vote. In other words, the unborn either is or is not a human being, independent of popular opinion. The mere fact that some people think that the unborn isn’t a human being has no bearing whatsoever on the truthfulness of that opinion. Some people thought Jews weren’t human beings, and others thought blacks weren’t human beings. The mere existence of an opinion on the definition of “human being” doesn’t make the opinion valid, and neither does its popularity. Even if 100% of us held the opinion that all left-handers are subhuman, we’d all be incorrect.

We’re dealing with a truth claim here, not a personal preference claim. To claim “the unborn are human beings” is categorically different than a claim that “chocolate ice cream is better than strawberry ice cream.”

Do you understand the difference?

OhioCoastie on March 30, 2009 at 1:42 PM

There is clearly a difference in scale between a full human organism (a zygote or grown man) and his component cells.

Not according to Ed’s argument. He draws the bright line of distinction that calls an appendix a human life, and a chimera two human lives, not me. To most people, there is an equally clear difference between a zygote and an actual baby who can breathe, eat, and poop. Saying that it’s ridiculous to equate an appendix with a grown man while casually lumping a zygote and that grown man together is an act of mental gymnastics I cannot perform.

“Monster” – you missed the point.

1) Is it life? Yes. The nature of existence says so
2) Is it human? Yes. DNA says so.
3) Does abortion destroy it? Yes.

Thus, abortion destroys human life.

Then an appendectomy destroys human life. Clearly, you need additional criteria to avoid calling an appendix a human life. What do you suppose they may be?

The Monster on March 30, 2009 at 1:44 PM

OhioCoastie on March 30, 2009 at 1:42 PM

I was just commenting on how it was a bad analogy. The main point was the pain and suffering, which I can’t imagine you disagree with.

As to your point, you might think that the “disposed of” part is analogous, but merely stating that two things are analogous does not make it a good analogy. The point of an analogy is that it’s based on premises that everyone agrees with and it illustrates a point that not everyone agrees with. In this case, the premise is not something everyone agrees with, so it’s not a very good analogy.

But I was really just commenting on the analogy; I’m not claiming in any way that the issue of human life and abortion has anything to do with majority opinion.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:48 PM

Clearly, you need additional criteria to avoid calling an appendix a human life. What do you suppose they may be?

The Monster on March 30, 2009 at 1:44 PM

Try this: “an organism of the species Homo sapiens”

OhioCoastie on March 30, 2009 at 1:49 PM

Because the skin cell will not and cannot grow without outside prompting. The fertilized egg left to nature will continue until its natural end, the birth of a human. The skin cell, or any cell that is separated from the human host, left to nature will die or is already dead when the body sloughs it off.

No, that fertilized egg will need a uterus to nurture it to the point where a human birth can take place, just as my appendix requires my heart to pump blood to feed it, my kidneys to remove wastes from that blood, my stomach to provide nutrition to that blood…

The Monster on March 30, 2009 at 1:50 PM

Jews being “disposed of” — which everyone agrees is wrong

If everyone agrees it is wrong, it wouldn’t have happened.

CDeb on March 30, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Try this: “an organism of the species Homo sapiens”

Try this: Fertilize an egg in vitro. Now you have a fertilized egg. Watch it divide a few times, but don’t implant it in a uterus. Is it an “organism”? Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition for a biological organism:

an individual constitued to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent : a living being

Can that mass of cells carry on the activities of life? Does it have organs?

The Monster on March 30, 2009 at 1:53 PM

The point of an analogy is that it’s based on premises that everyone agrees with and it illustrates a point that not everyone agrees with. In this case, the premise is not something everyone agrees with, so it’s not a very good analogy. But I was really just commenting on the analogy; I’m not claiming in any way that the issue of human life and abortion has anything to do with majority opinion.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:48 PM

Wait. The premise is invalid? How so?

OhioCoastie on March 30, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Why is this definition of life the appropriate one to use when talking about when we can destroy life?

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 12:50 PM

Because the skin cell will not and cannot grow without outside prompting. The fertilized egg left to nature will continue until its natural end, the birth of a human. The skin cell, or any cell that is separated from the human host, left to nature will die or is already dead when the body sloughs it off.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 1:22 PM

I understand the distinction between the skin cell and a fertilized egg. My question is why that distinction determines what kind of life we can and cannot destroy. There are many other distinctions that could determine it, such as when nerves form, when it’s viable, when the brain forms, when it’s born, etc.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:57 PM

No, that fertilized egg will need a uterus to nurture it to the point where a human birth can take place, just as my appendix requires my heart to pump blood to feed it, my kidneys to remove wastes from that blood, my stomach to provide nutrition to that blood…

The Monster on March 30, 2009 at 1:50 PM

Silly comparison, not worthy of any kind of serious response.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 1:57 PM

An organism is an individual living thing composed of one or more cells. Organs are not required.

OhioCoastie on March 30, 2009 at 1:57 PM

Wait. The premise is invalid? How so?

OhioCoastie on March 30, 2009 at 1:53 PM

I didn’t say it’s invalid. I said not everyone agrees with it. It’s true: not everyone agrees that disposing of embryos is wrong. I myself am not making any judgment about the issue of disposing embryos.

I don’t understand why we’re arguing about this. My point was about the analogy. An analogy serves to convince people of a point. Those who don’t agree with the premises of the analogy will not be convinced by it. That’s all I’m saying. Shouldn’t be very controversial.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:59 PM

I understand the distinction between the skin cell and a fertilized egg. My question is why that distinction determines what kind of life we can and cannot destroy. There are many other distinctions that could determine it, such as when nerves form, when it’s viable, when the brain forms, when it’s born, etc.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 1:57 PM

I’m afraid I’m not sure what you are asking here. Are you wondering which life forms as in humans, animals, plants? Or are you asking if there should be or is there a distinction between the fertilized egg and a skin cell or other human organ?

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 1:59 PM

Monster, again you change context. The context is an embryo, knot a skin cell, you poor fool. You cannot try such lame fallacies and not expect to be called out on them.

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 2:01 PM

Silly comparison, not worthy of any kind of serious response.

I’m sorry that you feel yourself unworthy to provide a serious response. Get back to me when you can, OK?

An organism is an individual living thing composed of one or more cells. Organs are not required.

So my sperm cells are “organisms” now? Clearly they are of the species H. sapiens, so does that make them “human lives”?

The Monster on March 30, 2009 at 2:01 PM

Tneloms, the premise is “human beings ought not be ‘disposed of’ for medical advancement.”

OhioCoastie on March 30, 2009 at 2:03 PM

CDeb on March 30, 2009 at 1:53 PM

I meant everyone in the intended audience of the comment that was posted.

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 2:04 PM

The Monster on March 30, 2009 at 2:01 PM

Oh I am worthy, I choose not to waste my time.

Jvette on March 30, 2009 at 2:04 PM

So my sperm cells are “organisms” now? Clearly they are of the species H. sapiens, so does that make them “human lives”?

Your sperm have 46 chromosomes?

CDeb on March 30, 2009 at 2:07 PM

Monster, you are being disingenuous – and using multiple fallacious arguments, all while dodging the central question.

here, to nail your slippery little lying feet to the floor:

1. Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, electrolyte concentration or sweating to reduce temperature.
2. Organization: Being structurally composed of one or more cells, which are the basic units of life.
3. Metabolism: Consumption of energy by converting chemicals and energy into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
4. Growth: Maintenance of a higher rate of synthesis than catabolism. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter. The particular species begins to multiply and expand as the evolution continues to flourish.
5. Adaptation: The ability to change over a period of time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism’s heredity as well as the composition of metabolized substances, and external factors present.
6. Response to stimuli: A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism to external chemicals, to complex reactions involving all the senses of higher animals. A response is often expressed by motion, for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun (phototropism) and chemotaxis.
7. Reproduction: The ability to produce new organisms. Reproduction can be the division of one cell to form two new cells. Usually the term is applied to the production of a new individual (either asexually, from a single parent organism, or sexually, from at least two differing parent organisms), although strictly speaking it also describes the production of new cells in the process of growth.

OrdinaryColoradan on March 30, 2009 at 2:08 PM

Tneloms, the premise is “human beings ought not be ‘disposed of’ for medical advancement.”

OhioCoastie on March 30, 2009 at 2:03 PM

Well, no. The premise was that disposing of embryos and disposing of adult Jews are equivalent. I know that you consider embryos to be “human beings” but not everyone else does.

I have no idea why you’re arguing with me about this. The analogy will not convince anyone who doesn’t agree with the premise that I mentioned. You might not like it, but it won’t convince them. That’s all I’m saying. What’s the big deal here?

tneloms on March 30, 2009 at 2:08 PM

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