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Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in Morality, Politics, Religion and Society | 354 comments

Pro-life, anti- everything else

This meme is pretty powerful because it is so accurate. I can never understand how pro-lifers are very often pro-gun, anti-universal healthcare and so on. There is a disconnect there, for sure.

The Religion Hurts Humanity blog recently posted this on a survey about pro-life attitudes:

A newly released survey conducted between June 30th, and July 1st, claims that Americans who identify as pro-life are at an all time high. The poll by Rasmussen Reports says that 44 percent of voters are pro-life; previously American pro-life voters ranged between 35 and 43 percent of the population. The poll also claims that pro-choice Americans have decreased in number from 56 percent in March of 2013 to 48 percent currently. Others remain undecided on the issue.

According to Rasmussen Reports, many Americans call themselves pro-choice, but actually have pro-life opinions when asked about abortion in general terms. “Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters now consider abortion to be morally wrong most of the time, up slightly from 49% in March but also the highest finding since August 2012. Thirty-two percent (32%) believe abortion is morally acceptable in most cases, while 16% are undecided,” the Rasmussen report said.

Other statistics from the survey include the following:

  • 39 percent of voters believe abortions are too easily accessible in the United States.
  • 49 percent of Americans said there should be a waiting period to get an abortion.
  • 44 percent of respondents agreed with banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • 71 percent of respondents who identified as Evangelical Christians were pro-life.
  • 64 percent of voters said that abortion affects how they will vote in the next election.

 

Which isn’t the greatest news for liberal types like myself.

  • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

    Hi Jonathan,

    Whether someone is liberal or conservative (I don’t care about either) I think it’s good news that people are thinking about the abortion issue. Statistics are devastating but nobody talks about it. Media is too busy distracting us with stupid and made up issues.

    Numbers show that in UK, Canada and US every fifth human baby is killed. System that allows this disaster is shameful.

    http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/wrjp335pd.html

    • Void Walker

      Eugen,

      Why is the system that allows for such high numbers of abortions shameful? Are you aware that the number of “abortions” caused by faulty anatomy/genetic maladies is far higher than human-caused abortion rates? Think on that…

    • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      I was wondering what you thought about natural spontaneous abortions, which FAR outstrip human abortions, and over which GOd has control (and he actually designed the system or knew it would eventuate, depending on your exact belief).

      My piece here should explain: God Loves Abortions

      http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/09/29/god-loves-abortion/

      • Void Walker

        Exactly my point.

      • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

        Jonathan, Void Walker

        Nature (processes in female
        body during and after conception) rejects new life due to its improper
        development. This can happen for many reasons- search “miscarriages”.
        Chemical accidents can damage DNA at any time especially during the
        critical moments of the long process of fertilization. This process can
        last up to 24 hours.

        Anyway, does it give us a right to kill 20% of healthy, properly developing babies? Did you read statistics?

        Politically
        correct system legalized systematic killing of humans which happens swiftly and efficiently in sad silence. If
        abortion is legalized, it doesn’t mean it’s right.

        • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          Point being if GOd is the moral benchmark for you, and he is not pro-life, where does that leave you?

          Of course, if you give reasons, ie consequentialism, that there is some better good that comes out of allowing this, then this plays into exactly what pro-choicers argue.

          You know, your god and us, we’re on the same page!

        • Void Walker

          The numbers are there, Eugen. You’ve missed the point. More “abortions” are due to flaws in the female reproductive system (which you allege was designed by a loving god) than human choice. Pretty easy to swallow this, really.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Anyway, does it give us a right to kill 20% of healthy, properly developing babies?

          http://pigroll.com/img/abortion_not_a_difficult_concept.jpg

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Great image. Using that,

          • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

            “You know, your god and us, we’re on the same page!”

            For a thought exercise let’s say God is killing babies via miscarriages. Are you therefore entitled to kill babies as well?

            Following that logic we can then say God is slowly killing us, adults via accumulation of genetic mistakes. Are you entitled to kill adult humans, too?

            Malformed new life with for example brain not developing properly or leg growing in a wrong place is continuously communicating with the host’s life support machinery by chemical signaling.

            If during new life’s development host’s systems detect wrong chemical signals at a right time or right chemical signals at the wrong time they will initiate rejection process. To carry on, life support systems have to receive correct chemical signals at the correct time. Rejected new life is non-functioning due to a number of genetic accidents. These problems are usually detected and eliminated early without host’s knowledge.

            How do you justify eliminating viable life forms by looking at the systems setup to eliminate non-viable life forms?

            Genetic accidents, environmental accidents, work accidents, traffic accidents…. etc happen. That’s the setup we have to deal with regardless if we like it or not. We have no right to kill because accidents happen.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Just like your god, if the reasons are strong enough.

            And please do not use babies as a generic term for miscarried/aborted foetuses/embryos/blastocysts.

            Also, there are LOADS of reasons why foetuses spontaneously abort, not just the convenient “Malformed new life with for example brain not developing properly or leg growing in a wrong place is”.

            “Miscarriages, are so frequently brought about by assaulting the system with toxic foods… When a woman becomes toxic, one of the avenues of vicarious elimination is through the womb. Acrid irritating material is flushed out in the menstrual blood, causing very disagreeable periods. The inflamed womb is left in the boggy condition, which makes implanting of the fertilized egg difficult, with the contents of the pregnant uterus often disgorged in one of the menstrual cycles.” Bieler, H. Dr. Bieler’s Natural Way to Sexual Health.

            Malformed new life with for example brain not developing properly or leg growing in a wrong place is

            BTW We allow people to freely kill themselves slowly all of the time: alcohol, obesity etc, all allowed by freely taking these things.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            “We have no right to kill because accidents happen.”

            Do you believe in:
            Just war
            capital punishment
            euthanasia
            putting someone out of their misery (including pets)
            aborting a foetus if it will kill the mother?

            out of interest.

            You see, it is all forms of consequentialist ethics which, if you seem to accept that God uses, why cannot we?

          • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

            …do not use babies as a generic term for miscarried/aborted foetuses/embryos/blastocysts….

            Why is it important how somebody calls human at the beginning of his life? You want the freedom to eliminate it at will regardless of the name. Tell me please, why are you not eliminating adult humans? Why is early stage of human life the limit?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Why is it important how somebody calls human at the beginning of his life?

            Do you think that an unfertilized human egg should have the exact same rights as you have? If you do not, explain why.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Babies is simply the wrong term and is used by pro-lifers emotively. Foetuses are not human beings when such a term is 6nderstood as pertaining to personhood.

          • Tim Tian

            “god” should he exist, is the worst moral authority that I can think of right now.

      • Void Walker

        Jonathan, this is very unrelated, but I thought you’d find it groovy: http://neurogadget.com/2014/08/21/first-direct-brain-brain-communication-human-minds/10520

    • Neil Webber

      Statistics are interesting things, I took a look at your link, narrowed down to the UK and then followed on to the sources to take a deeper look. The following is drawn from the 2012 statistics as they were the most recent complete set available.

      I provide this data without prejudice or offering any case in either direction, I just feel that a single headline number rarely gives enough of the picture.

      Feel free to check my facts here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/307650/Abortion_statistics__England_and_Wales.pdf

      So, of the 190,972 abortions in the UK in 2012, 97% were performed under ground C, which is “that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman”. This is what we might call the ‘elective’ abortion category, where “I really don’t want this baby” is considered sufficient to present a risk to mental health. Other grounds are where there is a grave physical risk to the woman or it is known that the child has severe developmental issues.

      The vast majority of abortions (91%) were performed at under 13 weeks, with 77% at under 10 weeks.

      81% were performed on single women.
      17% were on women under 20, 99% of whom were single.
      68.5% on women 20-34, 85% single
      14.5% on women 35+, 59% single

      Women who had previously had one or more children or still births:
      Overall: 52%
      U20: 12%
      20-34: 55%
      35+: 86%

      Women who had previously had one or more miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies:
      Overall: 17%
      U20: 5%
      20-34: 18%
      35+: 30%

      Women who had previously had one or more abortions:
      Overall: 37%
      U20: 14%
      20-34: 40%
      35+: 46%

      • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

        At 10 and 13 weeks the embryo neither has consciousness or sentience.

        • Neil Webber

          And most miscarriages occur before 13 weeks, women under the age of 35 yrs old have about a 15% chance of miscarriage, women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage

      • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

        Neil

        Report you link says majority of reasons for abortion in the UK are “injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman”. Somehow I doubt most ladies there are physically unfit to have a child. Could it be the case that in UK ladies have a lot of mental issues?

        Numbers from US show a different picture. Great majority of reasons for abortion were some form of inconvenience of having a baby, much less were some health issues and less than 1% rape or incest.

        http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/abreasons.html

        • Neil Webber

          You clearly didn’t read my post, which doesn’t bode well for the future of this conversation… The mental health grounds are the ones that have legal precedent for elective abortion. 99.94% of the 97% of ground C abortions were for ‘mental health’ reasons, the specifics of which are not reported, but accepted to be ‘I do not want this baby’. In short, the picture is the same as in the US.

          Your prejudices are showing when you use words such as ‘inconvenience’. It characterises women as Sex in the City types who have risky sex, get pregnant and use abortion so they can carry on their careers. Sure, when a 17 year old has an abortion to hide the fact she’s had sex from her highly religious parents who don’t believe in sex before marriage, I suppose you could consider the hell she’d go through by being disowned by her family and forced to bring up a child as a single parent on welfare as an ‘inconvenience’, but I think that’s doing a disservice. Allowing her to have an abortion, finish her education, get a job, marry and bring a child into the world in a financially stable family unit seems to me to be objectively better for society as a whole.

          Would I like to see less abortions? Absolutely. I’d prefer that better sex education and proper use of contraception meant that abortion rates dropped. Studies show that women with unwanted pregnancies have 3 times the risk of mental health problems, so avoiding the pregnancy in the first instance is clearly a better situation. Interestingly many pro-life advocates are also anti-contraception (see the bafflingly wide Hobby Lobby ruling where all contraceptive medication was lumped under abortion drugs). I feel that this is a much greater contradiction than the ones in the OP meme. If you want to prevent abortion then the single most effective means (barring abstinence, and that’s no fun for anyone) is contraception.

          The shocking stat to me when I looked at the numbers was that 37% of women had had one or more previous abortions; that shows me that sex education is lacking. Digging in further, 2.5% had had 3 or more abortions, including 33 women (one under the age of 24!) who had had 8+ previous abortions. If you want to talk about systems failing I think that there is a case to answer here. What kind of life is someone having where they have had at least 9 unwanted pregnancies by the age of 24?!

          Morally where I came at this is more from a societal position. I don’t believe that society would have been better served by bringing close to 2 million additional children into the UK over the last 10 years, the bulk of which would be into single parent families. State welfare is already a significantly stretched burden, schools and the NHS are similarly pressured.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Some really interesting and great points there, Neil. Thanks. I think looking from the societal perspective is vital. Also worth noting is the lack of offering from pro-lifers to take on those babies and look after them after they are born to single mothers who cannot cope. There is a lot of “you must not have an abortion, it is murder” but not a lot of “OK, so if you keep it, and can’t cope, this is how I am going to help you since I argued you should keep it”!

            But society would be a nightmare if every aborted foetus was allowed to live, from a pragmatic stance.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            You can tell population is on the top of my agendas!

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    I can never understand how pro-lifers are very often pro-gun, anti-universal healthcare and so on. There is a disconnect there, for sure.

    You can’t understand them or you merely disagree with them? It seems pretty easy to understand how someone could consistently hold such positions. You might be pro-life because you are against the killing of innocent humans, be pro-gun because you support the right to self-defense, be pro-death penalty because the criminal is guilty as opposed to innocent, and be against government-run healthcare because you believe it will make things worse.

    Which isn’t the greatest news for liberal types like myself.

    It must be hell living alongside people who oppose the killing of innocent human beings.

    • Andy_Schueler

      You might be pro-life because you are against the killing of innocent humans, be pro-gun because you support the right to self-defense [1], be pro-death penalty because the criminal is guilty as opposed to innocent [2], and be against government-run healthcare because you believe it will make things worse [3].

      1. Usually, the disagreements in this contexts are not about whether no one (except for soldiers, police officers etc.) should be allowed to carry a gun, but rather about things like background checks, the legal status of assault rifles etc. And by “pro gun” we usually understand the position of the NRA, i.e. completely unrestricted access to pretty much every gun on the market – including those that are completely useless for self-defense but perfect for indiscriminate killing. Also, despite the wet dreams of the gun fondlers, successfully defending themselves against a criminal act with their guns is pretty much the least likely thing that they will use their guns for, far less likely than killing a family member by accident for example.
      2. Unfortunately, plenty of people on death row are actually completely innocent, and even if the criminal justice system in the USA would not be the travesty that it happens to be, death penalty is still irreversible and even an “error rate” of just 1% would mean that you willingly accept that innocents will be killed for no higher purpose at all (the only thing that capital punishment enables is a satisfaction of a desire for revenge, it is not effective as a deterrent).
      3. Well, people are entitled to their own opinion but they are not entitled to their own facts. In many respects, Obamacare is the worst of both worlds, but it is still better than no healthcare at all for millions of people.

      It must be hell living alongside people who oppose the killing of innocent human beings.

      For some, it certainly is:
      https://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/when-abortion-was-illegal-in-canada-and-why-we-must-never-forget/
      http://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/when-safe-abortion-isnt-a-choice/

      • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

        Dammit, Andy, beat me to it on w and 2. Good stuff. I was going to reel off some stats about accidental deaths vs proper defence of property etc.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        Andy:

        I’m not arguing for such a position (pro-life, pro-gun, pro-death penalty, and anti-government-run healthcare), I’m merely noting that it is easy to understand why someone holds such a position.

        In many respects, Obamacare is the worst of both worlds, but it is still better than no healthcare at all for millions of people.

        Not being killed in the womb would be better than no life at all for millions of people.

        For some, it certainly is:

        “Some” meaning women who choose to have an illegal abortion and suffer the obvious consequences. It is not the pro-life advocates who are making her life a living hell, she is making her life a living hell. And, of course, you don’t care about the hell the fetus goes through.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Not being killed in the womb would be better than no life at all for millions of people.

          Well, that is true for all potential people – it doesn´t stop at fertilized eggs, this would also include unfertilized ones, and only potential immature eggs that have never been produced in the first place because the woman died to soon (or never lived), the number of potential people is infinitely large. The only way to ensure that as many potential people become actual people as possible would be a complete redistribution of wealth (with the amount you will be given being a function of your fertility) and having unprotected sex at every opportunity – do you think that would be a good idea? If not, why? It would certainly still be true that all (or at least most) of the people that would be born in such a system would prefer existence over never having been born in the first place – so why would that only be an argument for restrciting access to abortion but not be an argument for a full redistribution of wealth + sexual promiscuity (only for fertile people of course)?

          “Some” meaning women who choose to have an illegal abortion and suffer the obvious consequences. It is not the pro-life advocates who are making her life a living hell, she is making her life a living hell. And, of course, you don’t care about the hell the fetus goes through.

          Ah, so one can go through hell without a developed brain? Interesting, so what about all those potential people in your scrotum that you doom to living hell because you are not having unprotected sex right now?

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Only an embryo is a human life. An embryo is an actual human whereas an unfertilized egg is a potential human. With that in mind, perhaps I should re-phrase my statement: a long life would be better than an incredibly short life for millions of aborted humans.

            What experience, if any, a fetus has depends on when it is aborted. The fact is that an actual human is killed in an abortion. A dead sperm cell is not an actual human.

          • Andy_Schueler

            But you are just asserting this, how do you know it to be true?
            You say that this:
            https://www.dropbox.com/s/mqy8srxvzhm8jxf/HumanOocyte.jpg
            is just a potential human while this:
            https://www.dropbox.com/s/1wbkrh2m725x7tu/HumanFertilizedOocyte.day1.png
            would be an actual human.

            What is your justification for this? Making it about genetics and epigenetics or about developmental potentials does not work as a demarcation criterion because then you´d acknowledge that there is a continuum of development going on – with conception being just as arbitrary a transition as any other moment in development (and this would be very dehumanizing to boot, because you´d draw the line on what is and what isn´t fully human / a human person / whatever you want to call it based on biochemical trivialities)

          • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

            “with conception being just as arbitrary a transition as any other moment in development”

            I don’t think so, Andy. There is clear discontinuity in function between unfertilized and fertilized egg. I wouldn’t even say an unfertilized egg is potential human. That’s meaningless without the sperm cell.

            Nice pics but never mind how something looks. The process inside is what counts. Unfertilized egg will just sit and wait for a month and then be discarded. Fertilized one is potential human.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I don’t think so, Andy. There is clear discontinuity in function between unfertilized and fertilized egg. I wouldn’t even say an unfertilized egg is potential human. That’s meaningless without the sperm cell.

            There are more or less “clear discontinuities” between all developmental steps, be it ovulation, conception, implantation or whatever, that´s why we recognize them as different “steps”. It is still one big continuum and the relevant question is why you´d pick any particular moment as the one that makes a moral(!) difference.

            Nice pics but never mind how something looks. The process inside is what counts. Unfertilized egg will just sit and wait for a month and then be discarded. Fertilized one is potential human.

            That is completely false. The differences between a) the unfertilized egg and b) the fertilized ones are differences in potential – the fertilized one will proceed to first divide itself a few times and them implant into the uterus (a highly error prone process which fails roughly as often as it does not, leading to a natural abortion) and then proceed with the other developmental steps. Almost the exact same is true for the unfertilized one, it is just one(!) step behind the fertilized egg in the continuum of development. And my question is why this step is supposed to have any moral(!) relevance whatsoever although nothing changes beyond some biochemistry – nothing changes wrt the attributes that we commonly associate with personhood, both are single cells that are far away from developing the capacity to have dreams, desires, memories, fears, hopes, or consciousness, or pain and pleasure, nothing even remotely relevant for what we usually understand when we talk about what it means to “be human”. So why do you think that this moment causes a morally relevant difference?

          • Luke Breuer

            Almost the exact same is true for the unfertilized one, it is just one(!) step behind the fertilized egg in the continuum of development.

            Just one choice, too. Actually, no choice is involved in any other step, unless an abortion is chosen.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Just one choice, too. Actually, no choice is involved in any other step, unless an abortion is chosen.

            Relevance?
            Also, this is more often not the case than it is the case – natural abortions vastly outnumber the abortions that are induced by humans.

          • Luke Breuer

            The relevance is that the difference between that one step, and all other steps, is human choice. That seems like a pretty big difference, worth isolating and treating specially. You’re making accusations of arbitrariness and it seems that this is very not-arbitrary.

          • Andy_Schueler

            The relevance is that the difference between that one step, and all other steps, is human choice.

            No, there are plenty of other “choices” involved:
            – do you beat your wife or yell at her when the two of you have a fight.
            – do you try to help her avoid stress while she is pregnant.
            – does she choose to avoid nicotin, alcohol and other substances that could be toxic for the developing baby.
            – does she choose to work until very late in her pregnancy.
            – does she choose to listen to classical music while she is pregnant.
            And so on and so forth – countless of “choices” that all influence what will happen to the developing human. Abortion is not the only “choice” here, it is the only choice that involves a planned termination of the pregnancy.
            And so what? How is that relevant?

            That seems like a pretty big difference, worth isolating and treating specially. You’re making accusations of arbitrariness and it seems that this is very not-arbitrary.

            If you think so, then go ahead and isolate and treat it specially – which would lead to…..?

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m just trying to differentiate between “accidental change” and “substantial change”. My attempt could be 100% wrong, or the distinction could not exist. I’m a noob at this Aristotelian/scholastic metaphysics.

            Again, the relevance is that you wanted to know how Jayman was avoiding the charge of being arbitrary, and I gave a possibility. As to your list of other questions, I don’t see how they are relevant, except as equivalents to abortion or maiming a person, physically and/or psychologically.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Luke, here’s my short primer.

            A substance is an entity that exists in itself as a unified whole. Atoms, molecules, plants, animals, and humans are all substances (an artifact, such as a computer, is not a substance but we’ll leave that alone). An accident is an entity that exists in another. For example, hair color is an accident that inheres in a human.

            A substantial change means that one substance goes out of existence and another comes into existence. When a human dies a substantial change occurs. The body becomes a corpse. A corpse is no longer a unified whole and so it rots. An accidental change is a change to a substance that does not change its nature. If I dye my hair I have made an accidental change but I’m still the same substance.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            As a nominalist, I simply disagree with this, and there are some pretty good arguments to support my case. But that is another massive argument about nominalism.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            I’m “just asserting” that an embryo is a human life because it is generally accepted as true and we need to start our discussion somewhere. By a combination of observation and reason we can determine that an embryo is the earliest stage of human life. We see that an embryo has a different nature (not restricted to genetics and epigenetics) than an unfertilized egg.

            To use Scholastic jargon, conception involves a substantial change whereas the growth of a human involves accidental change. This is why conception is not an arbitrary place to make a distinction.

            And it is rather strange to say my position is dehumanizing when I am the one defending innocent human life and you are the one saying it is permissible to exterminate it. Perhaps you would be kind enough to lay out your humanizing ethics?

          • Andy_Schueler

            I’m “just asserting” that an embryo is a human life because it is generally accepted as true and we need to start our discussion somewhere.

            There is no transition of “non-life” => “life” in human development, it is a continuous cycle, and the unfertilized egg is just as much a) “alive” as the fertilized one and also just as much b) a “human cell” as the fertilized one. Conception is the first moment in the developmental history of a genetically unique human (and even that is only approximately true), so unless you want to reduce “being human” to our genes, this gets you nowhere.

            By a combination of observation and reason we can determine that an embryo is the earliest stage of human life.

            And again, that would mean that the unfertilized egg is either a) not a “human cell” or b) not “alive” or c) both – all of which are trivially false. You are talking about the earliest moment of a genetically unique human which as mentioned above is a) only approximately true and b) doesn´t get you anywhere unless you presuppose genetic reductionism (which can also trivially shown to be false).

            We see that an embryo has a different nature (not restricted to genetics and epigenetics) than an unfertilized egg.

            Well, I am a biologist – so can you explain to me what you think this different nature is? A different nature that a) does not boil down to genetics, epigenetics and developmental potentials and b) has a moral(!) relevance?

            This is the key part, this is where the core disagreement is and this is where we need arguments and not mere assertions.

            And it is rather strange to say my position is dehumanizing when I am the one defending innocent human life and you are the one saying it is permissible to exterminate it.

            Well, from my vantage point, you are not doing that. From my vantage point, you choose the moment of conception as the morally relevant transition and thus wish to grant full human rights to a developing human after conception while not considering a developing human as an actual human at all that deserves just as much protection as you do before that. And I cannot imagine any reason for doing that which is not arbitrary and dehumanizing because you are picking a moment in development where nothing changes except for some trivial (and fully reversible btw) biochemistry – genetic reductionism at its finest. But I´m happy to be proven wrong, if there is a morally relevant change at this moment that doesn´t boil down to that, then by all means point it out.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            An embryo is a human not merely a human cell. I did not claim that an unfertilized egg is non-life while an embryo is life. Nor did I reduce humanity to genetics. Rather, I identified it with a nature which is broader than genetics. Your first two paragraphs and the last paragraph completely miss these points and replace them with your misrepresentations (genetic reductionism).

            The final cause of an unfertilized egg is to be fertilized by a sperm cell. The final cause of a fertilized egg is to grow into a flourishing human being. That a difference in nature. As I noted before, the first change involves a substantial change while the second change involves an accidental change. This is morally relevant because a new substance comes into existence at fertilization (two substances, the unfertilized egg and the sperm cell, go out of existence). From that point on the substance in question is a rational animal (a human). Only a rational animal can have rights and duties.

          • Andy_Schueler

            An embryo is a human not merely a human cell. I did not claim that an unfertilized egg is non-life while an embryo is life. Nor did I reduce humanity to genetics. Rather, I identified it with a nature which is broader than genetics. Your first two paragraphs and the last paragraph completely miss these points and replace them with your misrepresentations (genetic reductionism).

            I highlighted the relevant part. And you actually identified no such thing, you merely asserted that there is one but did not say a) what it is and b) how you know this. That´s why there is no point for me to miss – because you didn´t state one.

            The final cause of an unfertilized egg is to be fertilized by a sperm cell. The final cause of a fertilized egg is to grow into a flourishing human being.

            But you are again merely asserting that this is the case and also merely assert that there are any such things as final causes to begin with (I know that there are arguments for them but I reject the premises that they are based on).
            Further, even if I´d grant you that there are final causes, what you say here still would not follow. Let me sketch an alternative: the “final goal” of every entity in the human developmental cycle is to reach the next step of the cycle, which means that the “final goal” of an unfertilized egg is fertilization, while the final goal of a fertilized egg is cell division, and the final goal of the embryo after that cell division again, and the final goal of the embryo after that would be implantation, and the final goal after that cell division again, and so on and so forth for a few hundred pages until we have a baby. Why is this account of the final causes for the entities in the human developmental cycle false while yours is the correct one and how do you know this?

            As I noted before, the first change involves a substantial change while the second change involves an accidental change. This is morally relevant because a new substance comes into existence at fertilization (two substances, the unfertilized egg and the sperm cell, go out of existence). From that point on the substance in question is a rational animal (a human). Only a rational animal can have rights and duties.

            And this is again merely asserted and IMO transparently false. A fertilized or unfertilized egg or an embryo are certainly “animal” cells (the former) or a conglomerate of animal cells (the latter) but neither of those is “rational” in any sense of the word and while all of them (including the unfertilized one) have the potential to differentiate into a “rational animal”, all of them are also actually very far away from developing this capacity. If an embryo where obviously a “rational animal” then you would obviously be right and this discussion would be settled, but this will not obviously be the case no matter how often you merely assert it – what you lack is an argument. The only thing that demonstrably changes during conception is biochemistry and an embryo is also demonstrably incapable of rational thought (or any thought or emotion for that matter).

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            And you actually identified no such [nature], you merely asserted that there is one but did not say a) what it is and b) how you know this.

            I stated that human nature is rational animality. I know this because I observe that humans are both rational and animals.

            But you are again merely asserting that this is the case and also merely assert that there are any such things as final causes to begin with (I know that there are arguments for them but I reject the premises that they are based on).

            You already implied you believe in human development and thereby implicitly accept the existence of final causes. Final causes determine what changes a substance can or cannot undergo.

            Why is this account of the final causes for the entities in the human developmental cycle false while yours is the correct one and how do you know this?

            Your account appears complementary to my account. That an embryo is directed towards a flourishing human being is evident by observing how embryos develop if they are not killed or die.

            A fertilized or unfertilized egg or an embryo are certainly “animal” cells (the former) or a conglomerate of animal cells (the latter) but neither of those is “rational” in any sense of the word and while all of them (including the unfertilized one) have the potential to differentiate into a “rational animal”, all of them are also actually very far away from developing this capacity.

            The point is that an embryo has a rational animal nature. When you are asleep you are not actually being rational but you still have a rational animal nature. A substance’s nature defines its potentialities, it does not mean that the substance is fulfilling all those potentials at this moment.

            If an embryo where obviously a “rational animal” then you would obviously be right and this discussion would be settled, but this will not obviously be the case no matter how often you merely assert it – what you lack is an argument.

            It’s good to hear that you agree that if an embryo is a rational animal the debate is over. When do you believe a human becomes a rational animal?

            The only thing that demonstrably changes during conception is biochemistry and an embryo is also demonstrably incapable of rational thought.

            The only thing that demonstrably changes while you are sleeping is your biochemistry and you are also demonstrably incapable of rational thought. Why is it morally wrong to kill you in your sleep?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            This is nonsense, I am afraid.

            “The point is that an embryo has a rational animal nature. When you are asleep you are not actually being rational but you still have a rational animal nature. A substance’s nature defines its potentialities, it does not mean that the substance is fulfilling all those potentials at this moment.”

            A steering wheel is not a car, it has no ability to be a car at that stage, it has no car properties, or not the nature of a car. It might eventually contribute to being a car, but not in that state.

            Asleep, I am not BEING rational, actively, but I would presently BE a rational animal on account of my ability to do it as a conscious, sentient creature with those skillsets at that time. Andy Murray is a tennis player, even when asleep, he is just not playing tennis. Andy Murray was not a tennis player when he was a blastocyst.

            You are bastardising language for your own ends.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Your steering wheel analogy is off the mark. It would be better suited as an analogy to the sperm or egg cells. If an embryo is not a human then what is it?

            And your sleep counter-example is no better. I am noting than an embryo has a certain nature with certain potentialities. That’s it. I am not saying an embryo is actually rational at the moment.

            But you do make a revealing comment when you say: “Andy Murray was not a tennis player when he was a blastocyst.” You are admitting that the adult Andy Murray can be identified with the blastocyst. I agree with you because I believe both have/had the same nature. Just as it would be wrong to kill the adult Andy Murry so it would be wrong to kill the blastocyst Andy Murray for they are the same person.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            My analogy is spot on. In the same way a steering wheel can be developed, added to, to create something which actually is a car, and has the nature of a car, so too with an embryo. Does the embryo, in that present form, have the ability to be sentient To be conscious? No.

            Think of the number and type difference of extra cells form a 10-13 week embryo compared to a conscious, sentient baby.

            You show your incoherence when you neither see the analogy here nor with the tennis player.

            I am saying that they don’t have the same nature. In fact, I don’t believe in the continuous I anyway, as I have set out elsewhere.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Jonathan, I’ll combine my response to make this discussion somewhat maintainable.

            My analogy is spot on. In the same way a steering wheel can be developed, added to, to create something which actually is a car, and has the nature of a car, so too with an embryo. Does the embryo, in that present form, have the ability to be sentient To be conscious? No.

            A steering wheel is a part of a substance whereas an embryo is a unified substance. That’s the disconnect. My claim is that the embryo, by virtue of its nature, has the potential to be rational not that it is currently acting in a rational manner.

            Think of the number and type difference of extra cells form a 10-13 week embryo compared to a conscious, sentient baby.

            That’s irrelevant to my position. The development of an embryo into a baby is the development of one substance. It is the nature of that substance, not the number of type of cells it has, that determines its moral importance.

            In fact, I don’t believe in the continuous I anyway, as I have set out elsewhere.

            What does that mean? Can I kill you since you have no future anyway?

            The point here, Jayman, is that we arrive back at the Sorites Paradox, where applying any demarcation onto a continuum involving time is pretty difficult.

            It’s rather easy in this case. At conception two substances (sperm, egg) become one substance (human).

            In fact, ideas like personhood are conceptual, and I would suggest have no ontic reality. Which makes things even more difficult; hence why people disagree on what personhood is – it is a concept which is not objective as such.

            I’m working with the concept of humanity, not personhood. I believe humans have ontic reality. Here we see the stark contrast between our positions. I believe we are really, objectively human. You believe we are subjectively persons (apparently some humans are not person). Yet I am the “de-humanizer”.

            But that means a carbon molecule has the property of being potential to be anything more complex, yet involving, that carbon molecule.

            The key difference being that in order for a carbon molecule to become part of a living being a substantial change must take place.

            And Andy is right about the sperm having the same category of potentiality. The only thing differentiating it from a fertilised egg is a bio-chemical process, much the same in category as the biological processes involved in transforming the embryo into a rational human being.

            The difference is that a sperm has the potential to develop a new substance whereas an embryo has the potential to develop itself.

            You are smuggling in lots of assumptions here. You seem to think that an egg being fertilised pops the nature of Andy Murray into existence. All this implies, unless you are assuming some kind of soul attaching to the group of cells, that the genetic mix = Andy Murray(‘s nature).

            Yes, I am taking the “radical” route of believing conception is the beginning of a human life. No, I am not reducing an embryo to a genetic mix. Genes are merely a part of a human.

            You say this collection is a being, and being is usually associated with personhood. But all definitions of personhood that I have ever read cannot be ascribed to this group of cells. So you are nebulously using terms very controversially here.

            I’ve tried to avoid using the term “person” to describe my position. I am speaking of “humans”.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            A steering wheel is a part of a substance whereas an embryo is a unified substance. That’s the disconnect. My claim is that the embryo, by virtue of its nature, has the potential to be rational not that it is currently acting in a rational manner.

            You don’t get the nuance of the analogy. If I start building a car with the steering wheel first, it will eventually be a car with the nature of a car, it just does not have that yet. Just like a blastocyst is not a conscious, rational human, but will be with extra development, matter etc

            Yes, I am taking the “radical” route of believing conception is the beginning of a human life. No, I am not reducing an embryo to a genetic mix. Genes are merely a part of a human.

            You need to expand and explain this a lot. What else makes a human that is not dependent on the genes?

          • Andy_Schueler

            I stated that human nature is rational animality. I know this because I observe that humans are both rational and animals.

            Can you demonstrate that an embryo is capable of rational thought? If you cannot do so, then why do you think that pointing out that developed humans are capable of rational thought helps your case that a human embryo is our moral equivalent while an unfertilized human egg is not in any way?

            You already implied you believe in human development and thereby implicitly accept the existence of final causes. Final causes determine what changes a substance can or cannot undergo.

            Within scholastic metaphysics they do, but I don´t accept that – I´m a physicalist and while “change” is part of the metaphysics I subscribe to, stuff like an “essence” or a “final cause” is not.

            Your account appears complementary to my account. That an embryo is directed towards a flourishing human being is evident by observing how embryos develop if they are not killed or die.

            But my account is not complimentary with the idea that an embryo is our moral equivalent while an unfertilized egg is not. It would only be compatible with a) BOTH of them being our moral equivalent (because they are BOTH part of the human reproductive cycle, just like we as adult human beings are) or b) neither one of them being our moral equivalent (if being part of the human reproductive cycle is not the morally relevant issue). It doesn´t allow you to morally single out conception as the magic moment that makes all the moral difference while something earlier (e.g. ovulation) or something later (e.g. implantation) are morally irrelevant. So, if you accept my alternative account of the final causes for the different entities in the human reproductive cycle as a valid alternative to yours, you have a problem if you simultaneously want to maintain the special status of conception.

            The point is that an embryo has a rational animal nature. When you are asleep you are not actually being rational but you still have a rational animal nature. A substance’s nature defines its potentialities, it does not mean that the substance is fulfilling all those potentials at this moment.

            1. Me being asleep (even if it is a dreamless sleep or a coma) is disanalogous. It is disanalogous because I not only have consciousness but also memories, memories that allow me to experience consciousness in a continuous way – which means that I still experience “being me” when I wake up from a dreamless sleep instead of waking up as a completely different person (or “waking up” for the first time at all). And this is disanalogous to something that was never awake in the first place but rather only has the potential to develop into something that can become conscious.
            2. You are still merely asserting this but you are not giving an argument, you used to be a fertilized egg, but before that, “you” were an unfertilized one – both steps are part of your developmental history. So saying that one of those parts of your history has the potential to develop into you while the other has not is not just a mere assertion – it is demonstrably false.

            It’s good to hear that you agree that if an embryo is a rational animal the debate is over. When do you believe a human becomes a rational animal?

            I don´t think it is meaningful to pinpoint any discrete moment in time because rationality, like all other mental faculties, develops on a continuum, and singling out any moment can only be done more or less arbitrarily (see the sorites paradox). You are 100% a “rational animal”, a fertilized egg or an unfertilized egg is 0% a rational animal, and a developing human in the 30th week of pregnancy is something in between. That´s why I support a solution where access to abortion is almost completely unrestricted in the first two trimesters and restricted in the last trimester (although I´m torn on that a little because even in the last trimester it seems to me that a woman´s right to bodily autonomy trumps the right of the developing human to occupy her womb (if we do not legally force people to donate organs, for example, if someone else would certainly die otherwise, then it seems only consistent that we also should not force women to donate their bodies as an incubator for nine months if they don´t want to do that))

            The only thing that demonstrably changes while you are sleeping is your biochemistry and you are also demonstrably incapable of rational thought. Why is it morally wrong to kill you in your sleep?

            That is first of all disanalogous as pointed out above and second simply factually wrong – plenty of things that are part of our rational faculties happen while we sleep (even if we don´t dream, which we often do (and dreaming is one of the most demanding tasks that our minds can accomplish…)), sleep is very important for memory formation for example.

          • Void Walker

            You are a God among men, Andy.

          • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

            We’ll nail your god to piece of wood. This discussion is too fast for me. It’ll take time to read and understand…..

          • Void Walker

            Hey now…Andy doesn’t deserve that. Pretty sure he can’t magic himself back into being, after all.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Can you demonstrate that an embryo is capable of rational thought? If you cannot do so, then why do you think that pointing out that developed humans are capable of rational thought helps your case that a human embryo is our moral equivalent while an unfertilized human egg is not in any way?

            My claim is that an embryo has the potential for rational thought. The fact that (barring disability, injury, or death) adult humans are capable of rational thought is proof of this. As I’ve noted before, the fertilization of an egg brings about a substantial change whereas an embryo developing into an adult involves an accidental change. Embryo Andy Murray is the same substance as adult Andy Murray. The unfertilized egg that developed into embryo Andy Murray is not the same substance.

            Within scholastic metaphysics they do, but I don´t accept that – I´m a physicalist and while “change” is part of the metaphysics I subscribe to, stuff like an “essence” or a “final cause” is not.

            I realize you don’t explicitly subscribe to such things but you implicitly subscribe to such things. Every time you identify different kinds of items or describe different laws of behavior you are implicitly accepting the essences and final causes.

            But my account is not complimentary with the idea that an embryo is our moral equivalent while an unfertilized egg is not.

            Note where I identify the substantial and accidental changes in that cycle.

            1. Me being asleep (even if it is a dreamless sleep or a coma) is disanalogous. It is disanalogous because I not only have consciousness but also memories, memories that allow me to experience consciousness in a continuous way – which means that I still experience “being me” when I wake up from a dreamless sleep instead of waking up as a completely different person (or “waking up” for the first time at all). And this is disanalogous to something that was never awake in the first place but rather only has the potential to develop into something that can become conscious.

            People are often unconscious during sleep and are not re-playing memories during that time. You are correct that you have past memories while an embryo presumably does not. However, if we erased your memory before you went to sleep that would not make it permissible to murder you in your sleep. This thought experiment suggests it is your nature with its associated potentialities that is morally relevant. Amnesiac sleeping Andy Schueler is equivalent in the morally relevant ways to embryo Andy Schueler.

            So saying that one of those parts of your history has the potential to develop into you while the other has not is not just a mere assertion – it is demonstrably false.

            You once again ignore the difference between a substantial change and an accidental change.

          • Andy_Schueler

            My claim is that an embryo has the potential for rational thought. The fact that (barring disability, injury, or death) adult humans are capable of rational thought is proof of this. As I’ve noted before, the fertilization of an egg brings about a substantial change whereas an embryo developing into an adult involves an accidental change. Embryo Andy Murray is the same substance as adult Andy Murray. The unfertilized egg that developed into embryo Andy Murray is not the same substance.

            Andy Murray used to be an embryo, and before that, Andy Murray used to be an unfertilized egg – both are part of Andy Murray´s history, so your claim that only one has the potential to develop into Andy Murray while the other has not is false. It is a difference in degree (in potential) not a difference in kind.

            I realize you don’t explicitly subscribe to such things but you implicitly subscribe to such things. Every time you identify different kinds of items or describe different laws of behavior you are implicitly accepting the essences and final causes.

            No. I do not accept essences because I am a nominalist and thus deny the existence of essences and I do only accept intrinsic teleology (e.g. goal directed thoughts of humans and non-human animals capable of teleological thought) but deny all teleology beyond that. It seems that you are either asserting that all metaphysics actually collapses to scholastic metaphysics (that would be a rather bold claim, to put it at its mildest) or you are not even aware that scholastic metaphysics is not the only game in town.

            Note where I identify the substantial and accidental changes in that cycle.

            Note a) that I identify no such changes (so again, how do you know that my account is false while your is true?) and that I b) maintain that your identification of such a change is baseless because both are part of your developmental history and both thus demonstrably had the potential to develop into you.

            People are often unconscious during sleep and are not re-playing memories during that time. You are correct that you have past memories while an embryo presumably does not. However, if we erased your memory before you went to sleep that would not make it permissible to murder you in your sleep. This thought experiment suggests it is your nature with its associated potentialities that is morally relevant. Amnesiac sleeping Andy Schueler is equivalent in the morally relevant ways to embryo Andy Schueler.

            1. If you erased my memory, you have in a very relevant sense already murdered me – and I certainly wouldn´t care if you killed my body as well while I lie in that coma because whatever could wake up from it, it could not be me, I would be gone (whatever would wake up from this coma would have the equivalent moral status to a newborn baby if anything, and I certainly couldn´t care about what would happen to it because I would be gone and thus no longer be able to care about anything).
            2. Even if your consciousness is suspended, your subconsciousness is active (unless you are braindead and if you are braindead, then you are dead in every morally relevant sense for me) – the two scenarios are not analogous.

            You once again ignore the difference between a substantial change and an accidental change.

            And how can there even be a substantial change if both demonstrably were part of your developmental history and thus both demonstrably had the potential to eventually develop into you?

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Andy Murray was not an unfertilized egg or a sperm cell. Andy Murray is one substance whereas an unfertilized egg and a sperm cell are two separate substances. This is why it is correct to say that the one, unified being, Andy Murray, came into existence at conception and no earlier.

            Conception is a substantial change because two substances cease to exist (unfertilized egg and sperm) and a new substance comes into existence (human). As the human develops he undergoes accidental change but does not cease to exist. Another substantial change does not occur until the body turns into a corpse. We are concerned with the right substance having the right potential.

            And for all your chiding of me for “de-humanizing” people you now admit that it would be permissible to kill someone who lost his memory and went into a coma.

            Off-topic: can you provide references for materialist metaphysics that (1) provide an account of change and (2) provide an answer to the problem of the one and the many? Thanks.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            You are smuggling in lots of assumptions here. You seem to think that an egg being fertilised pops the nature of Andy Murray into existence. All this implies, unless you are assuming some kind of soul attaching to the group of cells, that the genetic mix = Andy Murray(‘s nature).

            You say this collection is a being, and being is usually associated with personhood. But all definitions of personhood that I have ever read cannot be ascribed to this group of cells. So you are nebulously using terms very controversially here.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Why are not the properties to be conscious and rational not substantial? I would say they are more substantial, though develop incrementally, arguably.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Andy Murray was not an unfertilized egg or a sperm cell. Andy Murray is one substance whereas an unfertilized egg and a sperm cell are two separate substances. This is why it is correct to say that the one, unified being, Andy Murray, came into existence at conception and no earlier.

            Still all assertion but no argument. Why only two “separate substances”? Why not trillions? While “you” developed into an adult human being, “you” absorbed trillions of entities other than some DNA from your father – so why do you only count sperm and egg as “separate substances”?

            Conception is a substantial change because two substances cease to exist (unfertilized egg and sperm) and a new substance comes into existence (human).

            What happens is, that a few big polymers composed largely out of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and phosphorus change location – from inside the sperm cell to a new location within the plasma membrane of the egg, and this is followed by some chemical reactions. In principle, stuff like this happens trillions of times during pregnancy – “you” absorbed quite a bit of outside molecules while you were developing. Only counting conception as a “substantial change” is completely and utterly arbitrary unless you say that a change in the location of DNA molecules must mean that there is some “substantial change” – but you cannot do this because then you would concede that you actually are engaging in genetic reductionism. And without genetic reductionism, I can easily count trillions of “substantial changes” during human development – stuff changes location / is absorbed, stuff is dissolved, stuff is combined etc. pp. and the “stuff” I´m talking about here is not qualitatively different from the stuff that a sperm cell is made of. You have no argument to single out conception as a special moment, you decide a priori that it needs to be special and then you fabricate a scholastic sounding scenario that fits that preconceived notion. But since you are just making this up, this means that I could sketch an alternative account of “substantial changes” in human development (one that involves trillions of substantial changes and not just two) and you couldn´t demonstrate it to be any less valid than yours, just like you cannot demonstrate that my account of final causes for the entities in the human developmental cycle is any less valid than yours.

            And for all your chiding of me for “de-humanizing” people you now admit that it would be permissible to kill someone who lost his memory and went into a coma.

            No, what I said is that I wouldn´t care if you killed me after erasing my memory because I wouldn´t care about anything / no longer exist after that.

            Off-topic: can you provide references for materialist metaphysics that (1) provide an account of change and (2) provide an answer to the problem of the one and the many? Thanks.

            1. See for example Mario Bunge´s “Treatise on Basic Philosophy, vol 3: Ontology” (1977). A condensed but much more readable account of Bunge´s metaphysics is in Mahner & Bunge´s “Foundations of Biophilosophy” (1997).
            2. Afaict, this is a linguistic problem for the materialist and not a metaphysical one, see: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/problem-of-many/

          • Luke Breuer

            genetic reductionism

            By this term, what precisely are you excluding that you think ought not be excluded? Do you perhaps refer to the “nurture” part of “nature vs. nurture”?

          • Andy_Schueler

            By this term, what precisely are you excluding that you think ought not be excluded? Do you perhaps refer to the “nurture” part of “nature vs. nurture”?

            What I mean is that genes, by themselves(!), are spectacularly irrelevant when it comes to what it means to “be human” – I could create and destroy billions of DNA molecules that are copies of my DNA and it still wouldn´t mean that I´ve killed a human being and it wouldn´t even be morally objectionable any more than creating and destroying a chair or a table. Genes only become an interesting issue for an organism that has already developed to some degree – by themselves, they are morally completely uninteresting. Which is why I don´t see any reason at all to assume that conception involves a morally relevant transition.

          • Luke Breuer

            That seems like an odd argument. Consider Star Trek’s transporter, and suppose that it could store duplicate copies of the person-in-(energy/information)-form. What is immoral is not deleting copies, but deleting all copies before the person has been rematerialized. Similarly, destroying some copies of your DNA is not a problem as long as you can keep existing; it’s when all your DNA is destroyed that becomes problematic.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You seem to believe that your DNA is a blueprint for you, it isn´t. Monozygotic twins are very similar but not the same person / interchangeable. And having your DNA would allow us to clone you, but that clone would be like a monozygotic twin that had been separated at birth from you and grew up in a different home – it wouldn´t be a second instance of / a duplicated Luke Breuer at all.
            You seeem to be arguing from a perspective of genetic reductionism / genetic determinism (else the analogy to a “person in information form” makes no sense), and genetic reductionism is an untenable view to hold, see for example here.

          • Luke Breuer

            You seem to believe that your DNA is a blueprint for you, it isn´t.

            No, I do not believe that. Genes seem to be a necessarily condition, but not a sufficient one. Furthermore, people can overcome their own genes (e.g. predilections to various things), although one might say that the very overcoming is personality-defining.

          • Andy_Schueler

            But if you do not accept genetic reductionism, how does your star trek “person in information form” analogy make any sense? Your genes or copies of them then clearly are not “Luke Breuer in information form” and my point is that destroying them, even destroying ALL of them, is morally neutral as long as “Luke Breuer” doesn´t exist yet as a person – and you didn´t exist as one immediatly after conception.

          • Luke Breuer

            I was responding to:

            AS: I could create and destroy billions of DNA molecules that are copies of my DNA and it still wouldn´t mean that I´ve killed a human being and it wouldn´t even be morally objectionable any more than creating and destroying a chair or a table.

            Nobody cares because they are copies.

            As to when “Luke Breuer” began to exist, I don’t really see how you can pick any point in time other than conception, as I have continually assimilated various bits into what I would call my identity—I’m not talking about atoms that pass into and out of my body. Suppose a mother chose to do stupid things while her now-adult-child was a blastocyst, such that the adult now suffers as a result. I would say the mother harmed a person in doing what she did, not ‘just’ a lump of cells.

            I just don’t see how you can slice up between actuality and potentiality like seem to be wont to do. We care all of the time about potentiality when not a single iota of actuality exists. We want to prepare for a child’s adulthood well before that adulthood is actual. To arbitrarily say that sometimes potentiality doesn’t matter seems (i) arbitrary and thus (ii) dangerous. Perhaps I am wrong on this; I have yet to explore all the ins and outs of the potentiality/actuality distinction.

          • Andy_Schueler

            As to when “Luke Breuer” began to exist, I don’t really see how you can pick any point in time other than conception, as I have continually assimilated various bits into what I would call my identity—I’m not talking about atoms that pass into and out of my body.

            If you trace back your history to the earliest moments in your development, and identify yourself with the fertilized egg you came from but not the unfertilized one, then you are either equating your “identity” with your genes (and not even that properly because your genes are not cast in stone at conception) or you have no reason to pick this moment at all.

            Suppose a mother chose to do stupid things while her now-adult-child was a blastocyst, such that the adult now suffers as a result. I would say the mother harmed a person in doing what she did, not ‘just’ a lump of cells.

            Certainly, however, the exact same is true for many actions that she could have done before she was even pregnant and many actions that others could have done before she even existed. Example: if you are an investment banker and engage in some transactions and speculations that cause sustained damage to the infrastructure of a certain region and dooms many families to miserable poverty, then your actions will in the future also harm people that were not even born when you comitted those actions and maybe even their children and their childrens children and so on and so forth. That still doesn´t mean that all those potential future people were actual people when you did it.

            I just don’t see how you can slice up between actuality and potentiality like seem to be wont to do. We care all of the time about potentiality when not a single iota of actuality exists. We want to prepare for a child’s adulthood well before that adulthood is actual. To arbitrarily say that sometimes potentiality doesn’t matter seems (i) arbitrary and thus (ii) dangerous. Perhaps I am wrong on this; I have yet to explore all the ins and outs of the potentiality/actuality distinction.

            I don´t disagree with that at all, but an abortion is not an action that harms a future person, it removes the possibility of a future person existing in the first place – but the same is true for every single time where you could have unprotected sex with a fertile woman but didn´t have sex with her. Actions that foreseeably cause harm to those that are not born yet are morally wrong, no disagreement there at all, not in the slightest – but actions that remove the possibility of some potential person eventually becoming an actual person are first of all unavoidable (you do it literally tens of thousands of times in your life) and second, they have no obvious reason for why they are supposed to be morally wrong.

          • Luke Breuer

            If you trace back your history to the earliest moments in your development, and identify yourself with the fertilized egg you came from but not the unfertilized one, then you are either equating your “identity” with your genes (and not even that properly because your genes are not cast in stone at conception) or you have no reason to pick this moment at all.

            When do you think Andy Schueler began to exist?

            Certainly, however, the exact same is true for many actions that she could have done before she was even pregnant and many actions that others could have done before she even existed.

            And then she could choose not to get pregnant, excepting rape of course. We could establish that a woman has a right to have good conditions for childbearing, such that the only legal damage which could be done to a woman’s chances of having a healthy child would be her own choices. Do you see how it is choices which are critical junction points for reasoning morally? I didn’t go into this discussion with that conclusion, but it seems to make a lot of sense.

            That still doesn´t mean that all those potential future people were actual people when you did it.

            No, because the choice that has some probability of bringing a new person into existence hasn’t yet been made. In the case of your investment banker, it is the rights of existing people which are being violated—on some conceptions of rights, of course.

            I don´t disagree with that at all, but an abortion is not an action that harms a future person, it removes the possibility of a future person existing in the first place – but the same is true for every single time where you could have unprotected sex with a fertile woman but didn´t have sex with her.

            I see the choice to partake in an action which might produce a fertilized egg as a very reasonable separation point when it comes to moral matters. You do not. I think people ought to take responsibility for their choices, and include this choice in that category. You do not. I would be utterly fascinated as to whether your stance, when acted out by real people, will result in as much justice in all other areas, when compared to someone who takes my stance. Human psychology tends to have a lot of rationality to it, even if a person’s self-stated reasons aren’t all that rational. Generally, I predict that this rationality adheres to natural kinds. I would love to know whether you have actually established a true natural kind in your assertion of when a human organism gains full rights (and if/when it loses them).

          • Andy_Schueler

            When do you think Andy Schueler began to exist?

            You already know the answer to that, I´m a nominalist like Jonathan is and you can make a mental substitution with my name for his in your discussion with him here:
            http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2014/06/27/the-i-personhood-and-abstract-objects/

            And then she could choose not to get pregnant,

            Nope, you can only choose to not have sex and you can try to minimize the odds of pregnancy while having sex. Also not relevant in any way.

            Do you see how it is choices which are critical junction points for reasoning morally?

            ….
            No, because the choice that has some probability of bringing a new person into existence hasn’t yet been made. In the case of your investment banker, it is the rights of existing people which are being violated—on some conceptions of rights, of course.

            That seems to be completely arbitrary, so potential people matter, but only if someone has already made a choice that makes the transition of potential person => actual person more likely. Not only is this arbitrary but it is also impossible to know when you have actually made such a choice. When you made the choice to ask your future wife out for a date, you might have made the transition of some potential people (children you might have with her) into actual people more likely, but you cannot possible know that at this point, you could only know it with hindsight.

            I see the choice to partake in an action which might produce a fertilized egg as a very reasonable separation point when it comes to moral matters. You do not. I think people ought to take responsibility for their choices, and include this choice in that category. You do not.

            Wrong, you just smugly declare that your way of handling your responsibilities is the only acceptable way and all others are simply completely avoiding to take responsibility.

          • Luke Breuer

            You already know the answer to that, I´m a nominalist like Jonathan is and you can make a mental substitution with my name for his in your discussion with him here

            It sounds like at some point it would be interesting to return to our moral responsibility discussion. Nominalism of this sort seems like it could royally screw with the idea of moral responsibility.

            Nope, you can only choose to not have sex and you can try to minimize the odds of pregnancy while having sex. Also not relevant in any way.

            We disagree: as an owner I don’t choose to have a catastrophic fire in a nightclub, but I can negligently choose to not take proper precautions to make the chance of such a disaster approximately zero. We don’t get to pick and choose what consequences our actions will have, we can only be responsible or irresponsible; we can only promote life on average, or damage life on average.

            That seems to be completely arbitrary, so potential people matter, but only if someone has already made a choice that makes the transition of potential person => actual person more likely.

            I disagree that an unfertilized egg is a potential person. An egg needs something extra to become a person, something not in itself that isn’t just a form of energy/raw material. I fail to see you as having a less arbitrary demarcation and indeed, any and all demarcations you’ve provided seem more arbitrary, less likely to be natural kinds.

            Not only is this arbitrary but it is also impossible to know when you have actually made such a choice. When you made the choice to ask your future wife out for a date, you might have made the transition of some potential people (children you might have with her) into actual people more likely, but you cannot possible know that at this point, you could only know it with hindsight.

            What is important is not that you know precisely, but that you act properly if there’s even the slightest chance that you will want to have children. If you want to destroy your ability to have healthy children, go ahead, but then don’t do what would result in having terribly malformed children. If you want to not care about the fire safety of your nightclub, then don’t actually have more than a few people in a at time, so that there can be no clogging rampage out of too few doors.

            Wrong, you just smugly declare that your way of handling your responsibilities is the only acceptable way and all others are simply completely avoiding to take responsibility.

            This is a gross misrepresentation of what I’ve said. I’ve repeatedly asked you for less arbitrary demarcations, and you’ve yet to provide any. And so, I conclude—tentatively—that you’re demanding of me a standard that even you cannot meet. And so, I rest at the best current option as I see it, non-smugly. If you think that mere reason will force convergence, I suggest a hearty dose of Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality?

          • Andy_Schueler

            An egg needs something extra to become a person, something not in itself that isn’t just a form of energy/raw material.

            Yes. DNA. You are engaging in genetic reductionism even if you don´t want to or don´t realize that.

            If you want to destroy your ability to have healthy children, go ahead, but then don’t do what would result in having terribly malformed children…

            Not relevant, we are not talking about harming future children we are talking about removing the possibility of a potential person becoming an actual person.

            I fail to see you as having a less arbitrary demarcation and indeed, any and all demarcations you’ve provided seem more arbitrary, less likely to be natural kinds.

            I´m not interested in natural kinds and if you followed the discussion from the beginning, I said from the get go that it seems obvious to me that there cannot be one objective demarcation due to the sorites paradox – it is a continuum of development and the most meaningful way to deal with that continuum is to acknowledge it and don´t come up with binary solutions like “after this arbitrarily decided moment t, the developing human has full human rights while before he had none whatsoever” but rather with solutions that grant intrinsic worth to humans in their early developmental stages (but not the earliest), but less intrinsic worth than their mothers have (that is actually what many countries already started doing by treating late term abortions as special cases).

            This is a gross misrepresentation of what I’ve said. I’ve repeatedly asked you for less arbitrary demarcations, and you’ve yet to provide any. And so, I conclude—tentatively—that you’re demanding of me a standard that even you cannot meet.

            No, you didn´t even understand my position because you are asking me for my binary solution while I said from the get go that there cannot be a binary solution that isn´t arbitrary.

            And so, I rest at the best current option as I see it, non-smugly.

            And smugly pride yourself in taking responsibility for the egg (screw what the woman incubator wants, you are responsible for the egg, not the incubator) while those that think that the egg has no intrinsic worth, while the woman however does, are clearly just trying to avoid responsibility.

          • Luke Breuer

            Yes. DNA. You are engaging in genetic reductionism even if you don´t want to or don´t realize that.

            If you want to continue this discussion, please tell me when Andy Schueler began to exist, without referring me to stuff someone else said. Surely it can be done in 1–3 paragraphs? If you won’t do this, then I’ll consider your accusation of “genetic reductionism” to be baseless, on the basis that you have nothing better.

            Not relevant, we are not talking about harming future children we are talking about removing the possibility of a potential person becoming an actual person.

            Actually, I’m talking about how to form a system of justice with examples you insist on providing that go beyond fertilized eggs. If you’d rather not expand the scope of the conversation, then please do not do so. If you do want to expand the scope of the conversation, please don’t throw out “not relevant”/”irrelevant” so much. Pick one.

            I´m not interested in natural kinds and if you followed the discussion from the beginning, I said from the get go that it seems obvious to me that there cannot be one objective demarcation due to the sorites paradox – it is a continuum of development and the most meaningful way to deal with that continuum is to acknowledge it and don´t come up with binary solutions like […]

            Fine, tell me when a human organism first gets rights, and why, and tell me when a human organism finally gets the right to not be painlessly terminated, and why you chose that point, instead of another. Your continuum approach still needs to address both of these issues.

            And smugly pride yourself in taking responsibility for the egg (screw what the woman incubator wants, you are responsible for the egg, not the incubator) while those that think that the egg has no intrinsic worth, while the woman however does, are clearly just trying to avoid responsibility.

            And here starts the rhetoric. Nope, I never said the woman doesn’t have rights related to what she can do with her body, I just implied that they don’t automagically trump the rights of the human organism growing within her. In the same way, a parent doesn’t have the right to shun his/her responsibility by exposing his/her infant—at least, that’s what I would argue, contra e.g. Peter Singer.

            Never did I say that the woman is “just trying to avoid responsibility”; that is slanderous and worse than any level of smugness. I am aware of many arguments for abortion, just like there were many arguments for slavery. Only careful, non-rhetorical analysis will work toward a rational solution, due to the inherent nature of moral intuitions which start deviating from what is morally correct. If you want to switch to rhetoric and ad hominems, suit yourself, but I will duck out.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            You could say some interesting stuff about identity with regards to coming about in what other people think about you. ie Andy Schuler coming into being when people think about him and know about him as such etc.

            ‘He’ would have, at that stage, no sense of self-identity.

          • Luke Breuer

            That seems to make rights out to be socially constructed instead of inherent. Ultimately, you have rights if the State says you have rights.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Well, er, yeah!

            Do Human Rights Exist?

            http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2010/oct/20/human-rights-exist

            They are conceptual constructions born out of legal and moral frameworks created by man.

            If humans didn’t exist, nor would they! Morality is the ultimate abstract framework.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why does level of abstraction have anything to do with whether or not minds decide or discover the truth of those abstractions? The most abstract mathematics would be true whether or not humans were thinking about them.

            How can you even argue against slavery on this conception of rights? The very appeal to end slavery, or end racism, was an appeal to a higher law, a non-man-made law (was it not?). This means that attempts to establish justice are human approximations of something independent of their subjective opinions, just like attempts to model reality are human approximations of something independent of their subjective opinions.

            The instant you make the standard of comparison what is currently in one or more minds, you create a pragmatic “philosophical dome” which cannot be detected in any way except metaphysically. Add in some hatred of metaphysics (through e.g. some resurrected form of logical positivism) and you have a form of slavery which may be very close to what the Apostle Paul was talking about.

          • Andy_Schueler

            The most abstract mathematics would be true whether or not humans were thinking about them.

            Yes, and that is still true if mathematical objects have no existence other than being mental constructs.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m not sure I understand your point. I am claiming that my subjective opinion of you does not change (a) the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, or (b) what your rights are.

          • Andy_Schueler

            And I don´t disagree at all. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether “rights” are mental constructs or have an independent existence outside of minds that conceive them.

          • Luke Breuer

            Actually, I think you do disagree. If my conception of a proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem is wrong, then I’m not actually thinking of a true proof of his Last Theorem. The truthmaker exists outside of my consciousness. I am saying that the same holds for moral truths. They are true regardless of whether I happen to think they are true. We can say that what is a moral way to treat a human being depends on e.g. psychology, but that is only weakly connected to what is going on in any given human’s consciousness, or subconscious.

          • Andy_Schueler

            a) The truthmaker exists outside of my consciousness.
            b) They are true regardless of whether I happen to think they are true.

            The truth of b) doesn´t require a) to be true in any way, shape or form. If you disagree, provide a syllogism for why Fermat´s last theorem would no longer be true if numbers had no existence outside of a mind that conceives them.

          • Luke Breuer

            If I’m going to do that, I would like to know what you think of Fitch’s Paradox of Knowability. It may be that your premise (“if numbers had no existence outside of a mind that conceives them”) dissolves some or all knowledge. Your response to Fitch’s Paradox will help me in responding to your requested syllogism. If you’d rather not dive into Fitch (it’s taken me several times months apart to get anywhere close to grokking it), that’s fine.

          • Andy_Schueler

            If I’m going to do that, I would like to know what you think of Fitch’s Paradox of Knowability.

            You have to be more specific, I fail to see an obvious relevance.

            I´ll give you a different specific example: read the checkmate section on the chess rules page of wikipedia and look at the situation of the game:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rules_of_chess#Checkmate
            Now, answer those questions:
            1. Do you agree that the white player saying that he is not in checkmate would be false, white is in checkmate independent of whether the white player realizes and affirms this or not. Yes or no?
            2. Do you agree that the rules of chess are human inventions? Yes or no?
            3a. If you answered “yes” to question 2, do you agree that chess rules being mental constructs / human inventions doesn´t mean that the white player can just “decide” that he is not in checkmate – he objectively is in checkmate according to the rules of chess whether he believes that or not. Yes or no?
            3b. If you If you answered “no” to question 2, do you honestly claim that there is a platonic realm of ideas (or something comparable) that contains the rules of chess together with the rules of world of warcraft and the rules of the ten dumbest drinking games and any game that anyone will ever invent, and that our minds interact in some magic ways with this realm of ideas if we think about how to play these games? Yes or no?

          • Luke Breuer

            You have to be more specific, I fail to see an obvious relevance.

            You seem to be saying that Fermat’s last theorem wouldn’t be true “if numbers had no existence outside of a mind that conceives them”; Fitch’s Paradox of Knowability says that if a truth is not known, it is unknowable. And so, how would Fermat’s last theorem go from being unknown, to being known to be true, through human thought?

            1. Yes.
            2. Yes.
            3a. Yes.

            Now, how do you plan to avoid the statement “slavery is wrong” being merely a social fact, which simply would have been false under Aristotle’s natural slavery? Or will you allow morality to be defined by true facts about human psychology and true facts about the interactions of rational/emotional beings? Neither of these depends on actuality in any sense; they merely depend on potentiality.

            In case it’s not already blindingly obvious, I am fairly well-versed on The Social Construction of Reality by now, in contrast to a year ago when I had read no sociology and was only vaguely aware of the full concept of taken-for-grantedness.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Fitch’s Paradox of Knowability says that if a truth is not known, it is unknowable. And so, how would Fermat’s last theorem go from being unknown, to being known to be true, through human thought?

            So this means that I am either omniscient or I don´t know anything at all? Well excuse me but that seems to be a rather stupid paradox then because both alternatives are demonstrably and obviously false.

            Now, how do you plan to avoid the statement “slavery is wrong” being merely a social fact, which simply would have been false under Aristotle’s natural slavery? Or will you allow morality to be defined by true facts about human psychology and true facts about the interactions of rational/emotional beings?

            A “true fact” is not the same as a mind-independent fact. If morality is ultimately grounded in the nature of sentient beings – then there is no morality if there is no sentient being (in other words, morality ceases to exist when every sentient being dies). And if that would be how morality is ultimately grounded, then valid logical reasoning based on these premises must lead to objectively true moral propositions, but those would still be mental constructs – just like some claims about a game of chess can be objectively true despite being mental constructs. And this being the nature of morality seems to be infinitely more plausible than an alternative that involves something like platonic forms (if that would be the case, do false moral propositions have corresponding platonic forms as well? If so, how does your mind distinguish between a true and a false one? And how does your mind interact with such forms at all?)

          • Luke Breuer

            So this means that I am either omniscient or I don´t know anything at all? Well excuse me but that seems to be a rather stupid paradox then because both alternatives are demonstrably and obviously false.

            That isn’t the paradox, and for you to condemn the actual paradox would be the height of hypocrisy, given how much grief you gave me for even questioning the law of non-contradiction in a specific context (when one treated a statement X as if it were monolithic, instead of being made up of multiple sub-statements, some true and some false).

            If morality is ultimately grounded in the nature of sentient beings – then there is no morality if there is no sentient being (in other words, morality ceases to exist when every sentient being dies).

            What is this “nature” of which you speak? I understand how nature can be derived from formal causes, thanks to Feser’s The Last Superstition. But a nominalist and/or someone who denies essentialism? Well, your fellow nominalist just cited Andrew Brown’s Do human rights exist?, and apparently in a non-satirical manner. I still do have a lot to learn about nominalism, though. I think I was raised to be at least a moderate realist with respect to universals (as defined by D.M Armstrong in Universals: An Opinionated Introduction, which I just re-requested from my library).

            And if that would be how morality is ultimately grounded, then valid logical reasoning based on these premises must lead to objectively true moral propositions, but those would still be mental constructs – just like some claims about a game of chess can be objectively true despite being mental constructs.

            I’m a bit confused. Given that you believe the mental supervenes on the physical (unless you don’t?), what precisely are you picking out by focusing on “mental constructs” instead of e.g. psychological properties? For example, it seems like F = ma is true [in some, still-extant domains] regardless of whether we are pre- or post-Newton. So why would morality depend on active cogitation-without which your use of “mental constructs” and your chess illustration would seem to be irrelevant?

            And this being the nature of morality seems to be infinitely more plausible than an alternative that involves something like platonic forms (if that would be the case, do false moral propositions have corresponding platonic forms as well? If so, how does your mind distinguish between a true and a false one? And how does your mind interact with such forms at all?)

            I don’t know enough about platonic forms to answer your question about “false moral propositions”, although from my recent reading of German theologian Emil Brunner’s Man in Revolt (the German title is better: Der Mensch im Widerspruch), ‘sin’ is described as lawlessness, in more detail than 1 John 3:4. If this is the case, then there may indeed be no platonic form for sin, and thus perhaps no platonic forms for at least some false propositions. Perhaps the only forms which exist have no self-contradictions, for example.

            One argument I know in favor of platonic forms is that one can complain that a given approximation of the form of Justice is shown to be particularly far from the form, requiring a change in the approximation (law). The mere presence of rational disagreement does not immediately show that this is a wrong way to look at things, as demonstrated by Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, and Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Justice: Rights and Wrongs.

            I suspect that the mind interacts with forms via something like mathematics, both the logic part and the intuition part, where “intuition” is kind of a stand-in for stuff like In Search of Beauty, except math-intuition-form instead of physics-intuition-form. Perhaps lawful thought only has one of a finite possible set of configurations to “settle into” at any given “energy level”, kind of like how one doesn’t get an infinite number of crystal structures at any given energy level, for given building blocks.

            You happen to have grazed a topic which absolutely fascinates me: how do we learn things and how rapid can the learning process be made to become? Say I want to learn QFT (which I do); what are better and better ways to rapidly understand it—what are the theoretical limits? Well, this begs the question of how a rational mind adapts itself to rational systems, and especially what “steps” it takes, from ‘wrong’ → ‘less wrong’. Is there some force which causes us to “snap to” certain systems of thought? For example, if you put various molecules in certain configurations, they are very likely to react and form certain results. Perhaps the mind works in this way as well. In that case, one may well be able to model this as platonic forms exerting forces on thoughts.

          • Andy_Schueler

            That isn’t the paradox

            ? Then your explanation of what the paradox entails was flawed. Try again.

            What is this “nature” of which you speak? I understand how nature can be derived from formal causes, thanks to Feser’s The Last Superstition. But a nominalist and/or someone who denies essentialism?

            The difference is that you say x, y and z are “green” and that there is some universal platonic form – “greenness” – which is instantiated in x, y, and z, I don´t believe that such a universal “greenness” exists and that “green” is rather just a name that we came up with according to the way we mentally pigeonholed light-absorption and reflection properties of stuff.

            For example, it seems like F = ma is true [in some, still-extant domains] regardless of whether we are pre- or post-Newton. So why would morality depend on active cogitation-without which your use of “mental constructs” and your chess illustration would seem to be irrelevant?

            The equation “F = ma” doesn´t have an existence outside of minds, there is no such thing as a “F = ma” particle, or some “world of ideas” where every conceivable equation floats around as a platonic form or whatever. Its an idea about what reality is like (or more precisely a mathematical expression to communicate an idea), an idea that reflects what reality is like amazingly well, which makes it a good idea from a scientific point of view. But it doesn´t exist outside of minds any more then chess rules exist outside of minds that conceive them.

            One argument I know in favor of platonic forms is that one can complain that a given approximation of the form of Justice is shown to be particularly far from the form, requiring a change in the approximation (law).

            That is not an argument, you are just presupposing that such a form exists instead of arguing for it.

            Perhaps the mind works in this way as well. In that case, one may well be able to model this as platonic forms exerting forces on thoughts.

            What kind of force? Strong force, weak, electromagnetic or gravitational? Are those forms local in spacetime? Do they have an associated hamiltonian? Do the interactions between forms and minds obey all known physical conservation laws and symmetries?
            And, most importantly, why have we never detected a particle according to those forms in a particle accelerator? (this leaves only three possible conclusions – either such forms do not exist, or they do but cannot interact with minds, or you don´t have to bother learning QFT because it´s complete and utter BS).

          • Luke Breuer

            ? Then your explanation of what the paradox entails was flawed. Try again.

            If it was flawed, that is because it was incomplete and what you added to make it complete was flawed; here is what I said:

            LB: You seem to be saying that Fermat’s last theorem wouldn’t be true “if numbers had no existence outside of a mind that conceives them”; Fitch’s Paradox of Knowability says that if a truth is not known, it is unknowable. And so, how would Fermat’s last theorem go from being unknown, to being known to be true, through human thought?

            In particular, “is not known” does not need to be known by any particular mind. For more than that, my explanation will start falling short of SEP’s explanation, to which I have linked you multiple times by now.

            The difference is that you say x, y and z are “green” and that there is some universal platonic form – “greenness” – which is instantiated in x, y, and z, I don´t believe that such a universal “greenness” exists and that “green” is rather just a name that we came up with according to the way we mentally pigeonholed light-absorption and reflection properties of stuff.

            Yep, and so at one time blacks were mentally pigeonholed as ¬persons—perhaps 3/5 of a person. This isn’t even that hard to believe, because if you don’t educate people, they can seem really dumb. Randal Rauser posted Do you dare place God on trial? a few months ago, in which a group of Jews in a concentration camp decide to put YHWH on trial. Aside from being a remarkable film and making me think Jews are awesome, it contained a tidbit of how the Nazis intentionally did not provide enough plumbing or other necessities, such that the Jews would appear to be animals—e.g. pigs. The line was great; it went something like: “Do you really think a German wouldn’t engineer the latrines properly by mistake?” This wonderfully illustrates how fictions can be turned into social facts.

            So really, it seems like you just want to convince others to pigeonhole fertilized eggs as ¬persons, with personhood slowly accumulating at some specified point, until the process is complete at some other specified point. There is no inherent nature which determines when this happens; it is merely a psychologically pigeonholed point. Those who don’t see what you see are perhaps colorblind, and merely need to accept what you claim is true. The rest can have their reactions conditioned by society, BF Skinner-style, just like C.S. Lewis feared in The Abolition of Man, a process Jacques Ellul describes in Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes.

            But it doesn´t exist outside of minds any more then chess rules exist outside of minds that conceive them.

            There are multiple reasons that you could say this. Your answer to the following question will help clarify: is there a mind-independent reality, and if so, what mind-independent properties does it have, which you can verbalize?

            That is not an argument, you are just presupposing that such a form exists instead of arguing for it.

            The fact that the argument works indicates that it is an idea that disparate minds find compelling. It remains to be asked whether it works solely based on an appeal to commonly-held social facts, or whether those can be “broken through” and that perhaps this is such a process. It’s actually problematic to say that they cannot be “broken through”, because that truth-claim is probably not knowable, in principle. I can quote you some articulations of this last claim if you’d like, from The Closing of the American Mind.

            What kind of force? Strong force, weak, electromagnetic or gravitational?

            Do you reject all use of the word ‘force’ in psychology, sociology, economics, etc.? Failure to completely reduce to the four fundamental forces—if e.g. intentionality can even be so-reduced—does not preclude all useful-for-science usage of the concept of ‘force’. Now, consider NP-complete problems, which have fast solution spaces with few actual solutions and no known way to efficiently find those solutions. If somehow an agent could still find solutions inexplicably efficiently, one could model this as there being some sort of ‘force’ which directs them to these solutions, and away from the vast majority of options.

            And, most importantly, why have we never detected a particle according to those forms in a particle accelerator?

            Find me a unit of currency in a particle accelerator, kthx.

          • Andy_Schueler

            If it was flawed, that is because it was incomplete and what you added to make it complete was flawed; here is what I said:

            LB: You seem to be saying that Fermat’s last theorem wouldn’t be true “if numbers had no existence outside of a mind that conceives them”; Fitch’s Paradox of Knowability says that if a truth is not known, it is unknowable. And so, how would Fermat’s last theorem go from being unknown, to being known to be true, through human thought?

            In particular, “is not known” does not need to be known by any particular mind. For more than that, my explanation will start falling short of SEP’s explanation, to which I have linked you multiple times by now.

            Sorry, it really doesn´t seem as if you either understand yourself what this paradox entails or spend any effort in trying to explain what it means – your one-sentence explanation certainly is completely useless.
            This is getting too long and way too unproductive for me, so I´ll drop out.

          • Luke Breuer

            Let’s be clear: you mean a non-satirical reading of that article by Andrew Brown, right? It would seem that ‘truth’ as a concept is also “created by man”. I’m not sure what the philosophical acid you doesn’t dissolve.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Ultimately, you have rights if the State says you have rights.

            Whether “rights” have an existence independent of minds that conceive them (e.g. as some platonic form or stuff like that) is pragmatically irrelevant – if the “state” (or whatever else the ultimate authority in the given collective is) doesn´t recognize them, then they might be real but still pragmatically non-existent.

          • Luke Breuer

            Whether you are discovering what is true or deciding what is true is 100% relevant.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Yes, but that has nothing to do with rights being mind-dependent or mind-independent facts.

          • Luke Breuer

            mind-dependent ≠ socially constructed

          • Andy_Schueler

            Whether mathematical objects have a mind-independent existence or not, a claim like “Fermat´s last theorem” wouldn´t be something that people just “decide” to be true, it is true and it would be true no matter what the nature of mathematical objects is, even if their nature is simply that of a mental construct.
            The same is true for moral propositions, rights etc.pp.

          • Andy_Schueler

            If you want to continue this discussion, please tell me when Andy Schueler began to exist, without referring me to stuff someone else said. Surely it can be done in 1–3 paragraphs?

            This is a waste of my time, if the earlier post I referred you to doesn´t answer your question, then explain in what sense it doesn´t suffice as an answer for you. If not, I´m not willing to give you a more detailed answer than: “this is a loaded question that relies on presuppositions which I reject”.

            ….then I’ll consider your accusation of “genetic reductionism” to be baseless, on the basis that you have nothing better.

            No answer at all would still be better than an answer that is simply false. Especially if the question has no meaningful answer because it relies on false presuppositions.

            Actually, I’m talking about how to form a system of justice with examples you insist on providing that go beyond fertilized eggs. If you’d rather not expand the scope of the conversation, then please do not do so. If you do want to expand the scope of the conversation, please don’t throw out “not relevant”/”irrelevant” so much.

            Expanding the scope in a way that is still relevant to the issue at hand is something I´m fine with and I´ve explained why I consider some things to be relevant and others not, if you disagree with my assessment, explain why.

            Fine, tell me when a human organism first gets rights [1], and why, and tell me when a human organism finally gets the right to not be painlessly terminated [2], and why you chose that point, instead of another[3].

            1. When it exhibits at least one morally relevant property (the ability to feel pain would be a good candidate)
            2. When it does not rely on another human´s body as a necessary life support measure.
            3. Based on the presupposition that a human person doesn´t lose the right to bodily integrity due to his or her body being needed in order to save someone else, a presupposition that is pretty much universally agreed upon and that if consistently applied can only mean that a woman cannot be forced to stay pregnant if she does not wish to.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            surely you are using some genes to overcome others?

          • Luke Breuer

            Surely part of my resources for “overcoming” is other genes. But I may also be relying on the genes of others, culture, and whatever else there is. The Christian would add the spirit being victorious over the flesh. (I’ve only begun to unravel that one, but switching from a finite → infinite perspective seems to be an important part.)

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Still all assertion but no argument. Why only two “separate substances”? Why not trillions? While “you” developed into an adult human being, “you” absorbed trillions of entities other than some DNA from your father – so why do you only count sperm and egg as “separate substances”?

            Which is because I think he is smuggling in a soul. It is the only explanation, afaict.

          • Luke Breuer

            By ‘soul’, do you mean an Aristotelian one (formal cause of a person), or a Christian one (immaterial thing that survives death)? I was introduced to the Aristotelian version by Edward Feser in The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism; it seems like it ought to be much less contentious than the Christian version. Now, it may still be contentious—with formal and final causes having been given the boot—but it does seem much less so.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            I am not such what the Aristotelian soul of an embryo would be defined as or by. Potential? But then the soul of a carbon molecule is entirely multitudinous.

          • Luke Breuer

            Well, given your rejection of the “continuous I”, you would reject formal causes as what give things essences (= substances, I think), and since the soul is the formal cause of a person, you would reject it on the same ground. This would, however, still seem very different from what Christians typically mean by ‘soul’—do you agree with me? I’m just trying to clarify precisely which ‘soul’ you think Jayman is smuggling in.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Oh, sorry, I get you. Yes I think he must be trying to smuggle in the Christian version.

          • Luke Breuer

            Now I’m confused. What need has Jayman for the Christian-soul instead of the Aristotelian-soul? He seems to be arguing scholastically, here. If you really want to impute ulterior motives, he could easily impute the motive to have sex without responsibility; I would vote to stay away from all such imputation.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            I think the Christian soul does what he wants it to here, better than the A soul, but it is precarious and rendered only by dubious theological assertion.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m sorry, but I’m just not seeing this. What precisely is it that the C-soul does (which Jayman needs) that the A-soul does not?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            He struggles to show how a blastocyst can have the nature of a rational being. A C-soul can be nebulously asserted to attach to a conceived blastocyst (no need to supply mechanism!). But the A-soul is problematic with this changing, developing being, which seems to fail at the steering wheel analogy, when properly understood.

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you disagree with Jayman’s distinction between accidental change and substantial change? If not, perhaps you disagree that there is no substantial change between conception and death?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            There is change. Everything is change. WE are in constant flux in one way or another.

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you, or do you not, accept the distinction between accidental change and substantial change? You sound like Heraclitus, btw. I would argue that underneath the change are invariants. The invariants are abstractions on constantly moving matter and energy. The senses only detect flux; the intellect grasps eternal things.

          • Void Walker

            “The senses only detect flux; the intellect grasps eternal things.”

            What “eternal” things does the intellect “grasp”, exactly? When I was a Christian, as an example, I found it impossible to grasp living eternally. It seems beyond our minds to do so.

            Thoughts?

          • Luke Breuer

            I would start with mathematics being eternal. Moving in the direction of morality, you could examine what realities different moral systems create. Are those realities ultimately static, do they ultimately implode (or otherwise transform to a different moral system), or do they allow for boundless creativity? Put briefly: do they ultimately contribute to life, or death? A rock (“ultimately static”), by the way, is dead. Exploring these ideas is fascinating, and I do think there is a possibility of discovering eternal truths in the process.

            Now, grasping eternal things is very different from living eternally. It is as if the Bible intentionally tells us very little about what eternal life will be like. Then again, C.S. Lewis had the following to say in Mere Christianity:

            If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. (134)

            I have not read Randal Rauser’s What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven?, but from what I’ve read/heard about it, one of his contentions is that these days C.S. Lewis’ quote would be less true, because these days, if you ask a person about what he imagines heaven to be like, you’ll get much less content out than from those described by Lewis.

            In driving school, you are taught to look well ahead, if not at the point at infinity, in order to avoid swerving to the right and left. I believe thinking about heaven performs the same function, among other things. It provides a telos which guides actions and unifies people. One doesn’t have to look all the way to the point at infinity; instead, one can think a ways off from here, plotting a route from here to there.

          • Void Walker

            Fascinating. You’re WRONG (kidding).

            Since we’ve opened this box, I have a few questions for you regarding eternal *life*, in particular.

            1). Do you hold to the idea, popular in certain Christian circles, that much of our “time” in eternity would be devoted to worshiping God? If so, in what ways would we worship him/express our gratitude/love?

            2). Assuming the answer to one is “no”, what sorts of activities would one engage in for eternity?

            3). Do you believe that, as Jesus said, we will have bodies like his (bodies capable of defying the known laws of physics; flying being but one example)?

          • Luke Breuer

            1) You and I likely have vastly different conception of what ‘worshiping God’ means. I cannot conceive of him caring that puny little beings think he’s great, to massage his ego. On the other hand, if he cares about beings, I claim he will want them to be grounded in what is true. If God is the source of truth and goodness, having beings know this and acknowledge this is best for them. Think about it this way. Newton [hopefully] didn’t want to be worshiped, but I’ll bet he wanted his discoveries acknowledged as important discoveries. Can you see the difference?

            2) Activities that result in continual growth of beings. I’ve shared multiple meals with the author of Meaning is an Illusion, and offered to him that what he calls “squirts” of happiness are actually just a derivative function on some landscape. They can be used to find ever higher locations on the landscape. If the landscape is infinite (as C.S. Lewis seems to make it out to be the case in Aslan’s Country, in The Last Battle of the Narnia series), then we can continue on climbing “higher and further”, exploring ever new and wonderful territory, and becoming more in the process. Note that worshiping God can happen all throughout this process.

            3) I see no problem with that. Even the Star Trek warp drive was thought to defy the laws of physics, although what actually happened was that deeper laws of physics were used (see the Alcubierre drive, which requires exotic matter instead of Star Trek’s antimatter). Maybe what will happen is that there are always “deeper laws” which can be violated if we figure out the even-deeper laws. It would be rational turtles all the way down.

          • Void Walker

            1) Actually, when I was a Christian I believed that any acts that declared gods goodness (inquiring into his creation to better understand it, assisting alien worlds, etc) were basically the same as “worshiping” him. In other words, anything that exemplified his nature/goodness would have been the same as worship. That’s how I saw it, in any case.

            2) In my vision of the afterlife, I imagined that exploring the cosmos would be a favored activity. I had dreams of soaring to the Andromeda galaxy with a group of friends, then ascending to a higher “realm” (some dimension that our current limitations preclude us from perceiving, as an example), then going back to heaven to mingle with loved ones.

            3) Point taken. But I would urge you to consider the difference between technological advancement as portrayed by a pop scifi series and tangible, fleshy human bodies that abide by the laws of physics. How, in your mind, could a human body *ever* be capable of such feats as Christs was in the gospels?

          • Luke Breuer

            1) I think this is quite good. I would add to it demonstrating what proper relationships between humans look like, because otherwise worshiping God = science, instead of merely including science, but also more than science. John 17:6 has Jesus saying that he “manifested your [God’s] name to the people whom you gave me”; Jesus made it clear what God was like, by acting how God would have acted. This is how you love God. Consider how you can bless a billionaire: it is not by giving him/her things, but by taking care of what he/she cares about, and doing it well, if not ever-better, ad infinitum.

            2) Yep, but I think it’ll be much more than just exploring the cosmos. I think we’ll explore the nano, and perhaps we’ll find out that an electron itself is an entire world. I also think we’ll find out that a person’s personality can become infinitely complex and awesome, which involves something much more glorious than is ever meant by “know thyself”. Now all you need to do is make reality infinitely complex, so that there is always an unexpected turn, add to that ever-deepening relationships as you go exploring and creating, and I can see infinite life being full of ever deeper and grander meaning.

            3) Dude, even the technological singularity folks think that fantastic things will happen with human minds and bodies. Some think it’s through cybernetics, some maybe through something like the movie Pandora‘s consciousness-transference thing, some other ways. After all, if consciousness is merely an information pattern, why can it not be transferred to a better substrate? I’m inclined to say that some kind of substrate is required, and I’m drawn to the specific one we have by considerations echoed in “A New Theory of Free Will” and the Peer-to-Peer Simulation Hypothesis.

          • Void Walker

            2) Interesting….could you elaborate a bit more? In particular, delve into the idea that we could potentially explore the immensely small realms mentioned. What, do you think, we would find?

            3) I see what you’re saying, dude, but what I’m saying is that I see no way that our physical, restricted, natural bodies could be compelled to defy the very laws of physics that were instrumental in forming them. Are you claiming that there are tenable reasons to think the opposite is true? If so (and I’m talking about our *bodies*, dude), can you give me some examples?

            (I neglected to reply to 1 because I feel we’re largely on the same page)

          • Luke Breuer

            2) See Richard Feynman’s There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom for starters.

            3) Who says we’re staying in precisely the same bodies? Christians certainly don’t hold to that idea. Ever read 1 Cor 15?

          • Void Walker

            2) Gonna give that a shot a bit later, I’m a big fan of Richard.

            3) So it would instead be a reorganization of our current bodies? Did Jesus, in his resurrected form, not have hands, feet, eyes, even indications of what had transpired *prior* to his resurrection (indications of the crucifixion)? Did he not have a cock and balls? From what was described in the synoptic gospels (wherever they weren’t contradicting each other), it sure sounds like a physical body to me, albeit one that can conveniently defy the laws of physics.

          • Luke Breuer

            3) Well, Jesus’ post-resurrection body was able to pass through walls, disappear and reappear at will, make it so people couldn’t recognize him and then could recognize him, etc. It is as if his body were quite malleable after, instead of being fixed in permanent solidity. My best conception is that there will be less ‘commanding’ and more ‘cooperating’ of parts of the body afterward. With more ‘cooperating’ comes more ability to do really cool shit; the same is true at the level of people. I find reality to be very fractal—indeed, I’ll bet this is the only way consciousness can work.

            It’s curious how hard you find it to imagine that things could be quite different. Have you ever been present for a huge leap forward in ability of any kind? I have: software my father’s company made which was probably 20 years ahead of its time. The story is fascinating: most people simply did not see why it was so neat. They were simply so used to How Things Are that they couldn’t conceive that things might be better, and that they either (a) did not know it, or (b) had convinced themselves that ‘better’ was not possible.

            The important thing to do, while conceiving of things being quite different, is also to understand how they are now, so that one can maintain a proper tension between idealism and realism. Mature adulthood is all about maintaining tensions between poles. It is in this domain that choice seems to even matter. If you cannot imagine a reality radically better (and different) from the one you live in, how will you be able to have much of any impact on the reality, now? If you do not understand how reality really operates now, how can you change it in any way?

          • Void Walker

            I can certainly conceive of things that are, as you say, “quite different”. Look at QM. Hell, look at our growing understanding of the universe as a whole. We’re often dead wrong about a lot of things, and our imaginations are very shitty sometimes. So yes, I can certainly conceive of your “quite different” things. The issue is that you’re positing that the human body, natural and fairly well understood, can somehow defy every imaginable law of physics after it has begun to decompose. You’re asserting that we essentially gain super powers after we’re brain dead, which is very strange. This begs more questions than it answers. For instance: Will we still eat and digest food, considering that we will (most likely) have mouths and ass holes? Will we still have sex, considering that gender apparently still exists (Jesus, even if he was not recognized –btw, your claim that he could “make it so” wrt not being recognized is unfounded–, was clearly appearing as a *male*)? Will we still have brains, reward centers, physically rooted senses? I could go on and on and on, but I find a proposition such as the “glorified body” untenable at best when it creates more questions than it answers.

          • Luke Breuer

            The issue is that you’re positing that the human body, natural and fairly well understood, can somehow defy every imaginable law of physics after it has begun to decompose.

            No, I am not, and neither does the NT. See 1 Cor 15:35–49.

            You’re asserting that we essentially gain super powers after we’re brain dead, which is very strange.

            Current science says all time-evolution of quantum state is unitary, which means that not a single bit of information is lost. Stephen Hawking lost the bet when he supposed that black holes destroy information. This means that the worst that can happen is that the bits of information that describe you get mixed with other bits, into entropy. They are, however, not in principle lost; otherwise some time-evolution of quantum state would not be unitary. To see how reverse the spread of information into entropy bits, see this wonderful Physics.SE anwer.

            Current science also talks about thermodynamically irreversible processes. That is, they talk about closed causal systems, and how entropy cannot spontaneously reduce [much] in those; Sean Carroll’s Everett MW interpretation says that at the quantum level, you get no downward fluctuations in entropy. So you need a cause outside of the system. Is it so hard to imagine that such a cause could exist, as a mind, who would interact with us? I don’t think so. The Simulation Argument makes this trivially easy to imagine.

            I’m actually not sure whether resurrection and highly advanced abilities is more or less plausible now, than in centuries past! None of the above is even close to pseudoscience; at most it violates the metaphysics of physicalism, but that ain’t science. I can claim all of the successes of science as possible and likely under something other than physicalism.

            This begs more questions than it answers. For instance: Will we still eat and digest food, considering that we will (most likely) have mouths and ass holes?

            I must answer all of these questions for what I have presented to be plausible?

          • Void Walker

            Actually, no, you needn’t answer all of them. You do, however, need to justify how god would recollect all the bits of what make us who we are and re-cohere them with magic thrown in the mix. Care to attempt?

          • Luke Breuer

            There is no magic in reducing the entropy of an open system.

          • Void Walker

            There is if something allegedly “supernatural” and “beyond nature” such as Yahweh can intervene with nature, and reconstruct our bodies. I’m asking you why A: you think this is tenable, and B: to provide me with a potential mechanism that a supernatural entity could use to directly interact with nature in such a way.

            Give it a go.

          • Luke Breuer

            A potential mechanism is easily given by the Simulation Argument. If we are actually in a computer simulation, the programmer could easily reconstruct any now-dead entities, if that simulation properly simulates the unitary time-evolution of quantum state. The programmer could do this thing with the QFT field equations. From our perspective, God is the programmer. And he can easily tolerate us being in a nested simulation, with us creating our own simulations, turtles all the way down. Christian orthodoxy has held that God is absolutely transcendent: outside of any box you can draw. He is the programmer of the top-level simulation, as it were.

          • Void Walker

            That’s interesting (seriously), but unless some form of evidence is on offer how am I to take it seriously? Moreover, labeling God as “the programmer” reeks of determinism.

          • Luke Breuer

            If you want to get to evidence, then we absolutely must talk about how a deity would provide maximum freedom to created beings. Not all deities would do this of course, but I claim that some would, and that this is relevant for our discussion. Furthermore, we must talk about how a deity would provide for maximum comprehensibility of the created world. What kinds of discontinuities or inexplicable phenomena are allowed? What would constitute evidence that isn’t the terrible god-of-the-gaps scenario?

            As to reeking of determinism, take a look at randomized algorithms. It is quite possible for God to set some of the conditions, and let contingent agents play a crucial role in determining the precise outcome. Indeed, the precise role God would have to play is to ensure that there are no gratuitous evils. Beyond that, he could let absolutely any combination of events unfold. This easily provides God some real things to do, and people some real things to do, without the two necessarily clashing.

          • Void Walker

            Let’s dig into it, then.

            Why would any God grant freedom to his creations (in this case, humans)? What are some of the reasons you believe this to be? We’ve touched on this subject before, but I’d like to dig just a bit deeper, because it seems to me that freedom of the will has some nasty side effects, namely the bringing about of hell, suffering, etc. You’ve made the claim that God cannot know *precisely* what humans will do, since we’re first cause agents like him. This brings about yet another problem, which would be the limitation of what God, a supposedly limitless being, can know. Should’t such an entity be capable of knowing everything? I realize, further, that you’ve countered this by asserting that God knows only what is currently knowable, but this in itself really just seems like an easy way out wrt the contentions I’ve raised.

            Yep, I went a little off topic there.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why would any God grant freedom to his creations (in this case, humans)?

            Because being a god, being able to really truly create, is absolutely awesome. Being able to take responsibility for what you’ve done, to own the results of your actions, means you can actually do truly meaningful, lasting things. If you cannot really own what you’ve done, then you don’t ever actually do anything.

            This brings about yet another problem, which would be the limitation of what God, a supposedly limitless being, can know.

            I’ve never seen a successful rational argument for why God cannot voluntarily limit his powers in order to provide space for action by another. Indeed, this is precisely what a humble deity would do, and this is what humble humans do. They hand over the reins to someone who might make a mistake, after duly warning them of the worst possible errors so that uninformed failure isn’t catastrophic.

            Should’t such an entity be capable of knowing everything? I realize, further, that you’ve countered this by asserting that God knows only what is currently knowable, but this in itself really just seems like an easy way out wrt the contentions I’ve raised.

            For all your accusations of me being the irrational one, it seems awfully ironic for you to be insisting on irrationality. Under your premises, God ought to be able to make a promise and then break it. It just doesn’t make sense. It turns God into a completely unpredictable madman. I mean, surely he oughtn’t even be a slave to his own personality, his own character? Why cannot he go ballistic and just destroy everything, through the maximum possible amount of pain for all because hey, it’s something he could do? There’s no way to call such an unrestrained (but omnipotent!) being ‘good'; such a use of ‘good’ would be entirely equivocal with how we use the word, not univocal or analogical.

            Nothing in the Bible requires God to be all-knowing in the sense that you mean it. Maybe the God of the philosophers need God to be all-knowing in the sense you mean. Too bad the God of the Bible ain’t the God of the philosophers. Even Andy is on-board with that one: he agrees that the Scholastics’ God ain’t the one in the Bible.

          • Void Walker

            “Because being a god, being able to really truly create, is absolutely awesome. Being able to take responsibility for what you’ve done, to ownthe results of your actions, means you can actually do truly meaningful, lasting things. If you cannot really own what you’ve done, then you don’t ever actually do anything.”

            Seriously? So the reason that God opened the flood gates for hell, suffering and death is because he wanted to feel “awesome” about it? And what, exactly, is meaningful and lasting about eternal damnation?

            “I’ve never seen a successful rational argument for why God cannot voluntarily limit his powers in order to provide space for action by another. Indeed, this is precisely what a humble deity would do, and this is what humble humans do. They hand over the reins to someone who might make a mistake, after duly warning them of the worst possible errors so that uninformed failure isn’t catastrophic.”

            So let me get this straight.

            It really all boils down to free will. Correct? God granting us powers of first causation because he wouldn’t want to create mindless drones, etc. And apparently, he didn’t know that people would suffer *because* of free will, in any way? Answer the previous 2 and we’ll continue.

            “Why cannot he go ballistic and just destroy everything, through the maximum possible amount of pain for all because hey, it’s something he could do?”

            Um…he kinda did….(cough) the flood (hack). Also….there’s hell. God created hell (I know you don’t 100% subscribe to this view, but you’re the *only* Christian I know have who does as much). Infinite, unrelenting torment and depression/separation from all that is good….for eternity.

            So what you’re essentially saying here is that God really isn’t all knowing? This doesn’t damage the whole “all powerful” notion? If God cannot even know what a bunch of hairless, bipedal apes are going to do at any given time….well, that just doesn’t seem very “God-like”, at all.

          • Luke Breuer

            Seriously? So the reason that God opened the flood gates for hell, suffering and death is because he wanted to feel “awesome” about it? And what, exactly, is meaningful and lasting about eternal damnation?

            I was talking about us becoming gods. See Jn 10:34.

            It really all boils down to free will. Correct? God granting us powers of first causation because he wouldn’t want to create mindless drones, etc. And apparently, he didn’t know that people would suffer *because* of free will, in any way? Answer the previous 2 and we’ll continue.

            I’m not sure it all boils down thusly. I claim that God knows every possible evolution of quantum state even though he doesn’t know which precise evolution will happen. He can always restrict what options can be taken—to e.g. prevent gratuitous evils. So I’m not sure you’ve properly grasped what knowledge I say God has.

            Um…he kinda did….(cough) the flood (hack). Also….there’s hell. God created hell (I know you don’t 100% subscribe to this view, but you’re the *only* Christian I know have who does as much). Infinite, unrelenting torment and depression/separation from all that is good….for eternity.

            If you think the flood was the maximal possible amount of pain, you need to learn a bit about pain. As to hell, I’m actually not the only Christian who thinks we make hell; indeed, I got the idea from another Christian! C.S. Lewis himself held that the doors to hell are locked from the inside.

            So what you’re essentially saying here is that God really isn’t all knowing? This doesn’t damage the whole “all powerful” notion? If God cannot even know what a bunch of hairless, bipedal apes are going to do at any given time….well, that just doesn’t seem very “God-like”, at all.

            Maybe your conception of “God-like” is 100% terrible. Maybe your conception of God is an extremely controlling God, a God who cannot possibly be well-described by passages such as Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20. I suggest a read of Creating God in one’s own image—it’s science.

          • Void Walker

            “I’m not sure it all boils down thusly. I claim that God knows every possible evolution of quantum state even though he doesn’t know which precise evolution will happen. He can always restrict what options can be taken—to e.g. prevent gratuitous evils. So I’m not sure you’ve properly grasped what knowledge I say God has.”

            What is your basis for the above? And please, don’t tell me it’s merely a collection of bible verses interpreted through the “Breuer” lens. A few lines of justification would be nice, not just your own perception of a hand full of bible verses.

            “If you think the flood was the maximal possible amount of pain, you need to learn a bit about pain. As to hell, I’m actually not the only Christian who thinks we make hell; indeed, I got the idea from another Christian! C.S. Lewis himself held that the doors to hell are locked from the inside.”

            Trust me, I’m well acquainted with pain. The point I was stressing is that the flood (even though it clearly didn’t transpire) is a fine example of death and pain, not the *maximum* amount, necessarily, but a fitting example. Pregnant women gasping for air, flailing about as their bodies are overcome by tons of water. Seems a decent example, actually.

            As for your claim that humans make hell, how about providing several bible verses to substantiate it? Outside of that, some soundly reasoned arguments independent of bible verses would be great. Otherwise, I see no good reason for you to believe such things.

            “Maybe your conception of “God-like” is 100% terrible. Maybe your conception of God is an extremely controlling God, a God who cannot possibly be well-described by passages such as Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20. I suggest a read of Creating God in one’s own image—it’s science.”

            I could say the same for you. I’m certain that a number of Christians you’ve engaged have found your conception of God lacking. If you’re on the right track wrt to conceptualizing God accurately, give me some evidence that this is indeed the case. And yeah….I don’t just mean bible verses.

          • Luke Breuer

            What is your basis for the above? And please, don’t tell me it’s merely a collection of bible verses interpreted through the “Breuer” lens. A few lines of justification would be nice, not just your own perception of a hand full of bible verses.

            My basis is logic: true free will appears to preclude divine foreknowledge of free will actions, godhood requires true free will, and God has created us after his own image with godhood in our future (but not via the serpent’s quick & easy path). As I’ve looked through the promises and assurances given in the Bible, and just thought about what would be required to train us up for godhood, I’ve seen no reason for the kind of omniscience you advance, and incidentally the omniscience Calvinists have advanced. Given my interest in Calvinist–Arminian debates, I have thought quite a lot about the issue.

            The point I was stressing is that the flood (even though it clearly didn’t transpire) is a fine example of death and pain, not the *maximum* amount, necessarily, but a fitting example.

            Yep, and if the flood hadn’t happened, you would be just as home pointing to something else in the Bible you don’t like. If you wish we could get to the core disagreement you have—perhaps the existence of any pain/suffering whatsoever—but I don’t wish to play Whac-A-Mole.

            As for your claim that humans make hell, how about providing several bible verses to substantiate it? Outside of that, some soundly reasoned arguments independent of bible verses would be great. Otherwise, I see no good reason for you to believe such things.

            A good non-biblical argument is what I already linked you to. For some Bible verses, see here, noting that it is a response to Randal Rauser saying “God sends people to hell. There’s no doubt about that.”

            I could say the same for you. I’m certain that a number of Christians you’ve engaged have found your conception of God lacking. If you’re on the right track wrt to conceptualizing God accurately, give me some evidence that this is indeed the case. And yeah….I don’t just mean bible verses.

            I don’t recall the last time a Christian really found my conception of God lacking, except to the extent that he/she held to the stupid idea that “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.” My father vastly prefers to run his company by not micromanaging, by letting others take responsibility, plan, and fail sufficiently infrequently (but not zero!). He hates micromanaging. And yet, folks think God has to perfectly micromanage everything in order for excellence to occur? What nonsense. But besides this technical point, I cannot recall another Christian thinking that my God is too small, etc.

            I’m not sure how relevant this is, given how few have really had a good chance to critique my view of God. I was a leader in my college’s Christian fellowship, but (a) I encouraged discussions instead of lecturing—mine or otherwise—and (b) Christians are awfully reticent to challenge the status quo these days, it seems. Spinelessness really is prevalent in society, everywhere. So yeah, maybe a lot of Christians do find my “conception of God lacking”, but I do not recall any such encounters other than what I’ve mentioned, which probably means no significant, memorable ones have occurred.

            Some evidence, perhaps weak, is that an atheist Caltech professor and an atheist who designed one of Caltech’s supercomputing clusters, who has also sent spacecraft into space, loves reading MLK Jr., etc., both find that I’m one of the few Christians with whom they can have engaging, enlightening conversations. Caltech is very similar to MIT, FYI—they’re actually ‘rivals’, although in the nerdy sense and not the serious, sporty sense.

            What kind of evidence could you imagine me providing you on this matter? I can say that my model of God seems to make good sense of scholarly treatments such as Evan Fales’ Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles; I’m not sure if you care about that. I can say that it makes entirely unproblematic true indeterminacies in physics, which QM makes entirely plausible, over and against the very deterministic classical mechanics. I’m not sure what you’re asking for.

          • Void Walker

            “My basis is logic”

            So in other words, you’ve nothing but your own intuitions and “logic” to support your claims, and no concrete evidence that they are valid? Interesting.

            Nothing says “logic” quite like a singular God being comprised of three sub gods (triune god), after all. It seems, to me, that logic has little to do with your assertions, but rather a desire for them to be true, and no desire to provide actual, verifiable evidence in their favor.

            “Yep, and if the flood hadn’t happened, you would be just as home pointing to something else in the Bible you don’t like. If you wish we could get to the core disagreement you have—perhaps the existence of any pain/suffering whatsoever—but I don’t wish to play Whac-A-Mole.”

            When the bible is so rife with gods vengeful little attitude, dehumanization, and remarkably human (read: fallible, limited) emotions/behavior, it’s difficult to *not* find points of contention. So in a sense, you’re correct: but I don’t just skim the bible for awful shit, it jumps right out at me.

            “A good non-biblical argument is what I already linked you to. For some Bible verses, see here, noting that it is a response to Randal Rauser saying “God sends people to hell. There’s no doubt about that.”

            Ah, so your “non biblical” evidence is a few links to a biblical apologists blog? Really? I’m asking for evidence that, say, doesn’t arise from the mind of a bible-defender. You can try to provide, or admit that you’ve none to speak of. In any case, either do so or admit that you’ve got nothing and cease wasting my time. You’re probably wondering what sort of evidence I speak of? Simple: something that is demonstrably true, not peddled by a bible defender attempting to reconcile the world as it is with his beliefs. Maybe something a little more convincing would suffice?

            “What kind of evidence could you imagine me providing you on this matter?”

            Firstly, logically demonstrating that your god (one of over 1,000) is the “one true” god, and secondly, flowing from that, that you understand him better than the millions of rather vapid, destructive christians world over do.

          • Luke Breuer

            So in other words, you’ve nothing but your own intuitions and “logic” to support your claims, and no concrete evidence that they are valid? Interesting.

            My concrete evidence is that interacting with people as I claim God interacts with us provides the most excellent results of all possible ways of interacting. Those with the most power and most knowledge, instead of dominating the weaker, instead serve them. This is precisely the witness of Jesus.

            Nothing says “logic” quite like a singular God being comprised of three sub gods (triune god), after all. It seems, to me, that logic has little to do with your assertions, but rather a desire for them to be true, and no desire to provide actual, verifiable evidence in their favor.

            Please do find the contradiction in God being (a) three hypostases and (b) one ousia. It strikes me that if you want to deny the ability to separate between hypostasis and ousia, then true friendship is radically impossible. I could never share a deep sameness with another person; instead, our interests or whatever would just happen to line up, for a time, and then maybe we’ll go our own ways, and that is that. We’re all really just billiard balls which might travel next to each other for a while, but then might bounce in radically different directions at the next moment.

            This is an instance where I see metaphysics as directly relevant to real, lived reality. Nominalism, which I think is key to claiming incoherence of the Trinity, ultimately trivializes everything. Relationships? They’re ephemeral. Purposes? They’ll ultimately get erased. Unity? It’s a facade: we’re all “just atoms”. Or you could go Buddhist, and say that all will be absorbed into the undifferentiated Brahman. So either there are only hypostases, or there is only ousia. The Christian offers a radical No!, saying that there can be unity and diversity, coexisting, with neither consuming the other. The Trinity exemplifies this.

            When the bible is so rife with gods vengeful little attitude, dehumanization, and remarkably human (read: fallible, limited) emotions/behavior, it’s difficult to *not* find points of contention. So in a sense, you’re correct: but I don’t just skim the bible for awful shit, it jumps right out at me.

            Given enough time, I’ll bet you can I can poke many holes with anything but the most mature science. Bleeding edge research? It’s so easy to focus on all the bits that seem wrong/incomplete, instead of focusing on the kernel that shows promise. Go ahead and choose to be only a deathbringer to ideas, but I really don’t want much part in that, thank you very much. Life is much more interesting than death. Creation is much more fascinating than destruction.

            Ah, so your “non biblical” evidence is a few links to a biblical apologists blog?

            They were links to my comments. Did you not see this?

            Firstly, logically demonstrating that your god (one of over 1,000) is the “one true” god, and secondly, flowing from that, that you understand him better than the millions of rather vapid, destructive christians world over do.

            Have you detected… scope creep, in this conversation?

          • Void Walker

            “My concrete evidence is that interacting with people as I claim God interacts with us provides the most excellent results of all possible ways of interacting. Those with the most power and most knowledge, instead of dominatingthe weaker, instead serve them. This is precisely the witness of Jesus.”

            And, as I’ve said before (in a comment you’ve yet to reply to), there are plenty of examples in *other religious texts/religiously inspired works* which can accomplish similar results. Read The Wandering Sage. Some of the most insightful means for how to deal with a variety of situations are disclosed therein. Also, novel ideas wrt morality are hardly indications of God. As stated earlier (in that comment I just referenced), people can conceive of some truly amazing things. You’re basically arguing that, since the NT contains some good bits which can be enacted for impressive results, therefore God. This is absurd, as I stated, considering just how many bits one could take from dozens of other religions which would equally well unify and strengthen humanity.

            “Please do find the contradiction in God being (a) three hypostases and (b) one ousia.”

            *sigh*

            The very concept of the truine god posits three *separate* entities that are all, supposedly, the same *singular* entity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qxvmP-NzN4 Do me a favor and don’t “skim” the video. Watch all of it.

            “Given enough time, I’ll bet you can I can poke many holes with anything but the most mature science. Bleeding edge research? It’s so easy to focus on all the bits that seem wrong/incomplete, instead of focusing on the kernel that shows promise. Go ahead and choose to be only a deathbringer to ideas, but I really don’t want much part in that, thank you very much. Life is much more interesting than death. Creation is much more fascinating than destruction.”

            Certainly. One can poke holes in anything. The trouble is, the bible is supposed to be the word of an infallible, perfect being, or at least *communicate* some of his/her/it’s thoughts and teachings. When such a book is so thoroughly riddled with contradictions http://infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html and truly abhorrent garbage, one should think that maybe, just maybe, it’s the work of fallible, savage, flawed human beings….not the work of a superior being.

            Dude, I saw the links…I clicked on them….all of which match up with my assertions. I asked for evidence that wasn’t slanted with a pro-Christian bias. You failed to provide.

            “Have you detected… scope creep, in this conversation?”

            I’ve detected you not trying hard enough, actually.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’ve detected you not trying hard enough, actually.

            This is a wonderful indicator that it would be good to take a break, and perhaps return to this comment and the other one at some later time. When I get a comment like this, it is clear that I have lost your respect, and that the only possible way to regain it is to wait for a while. I don’t want to waste my time on someone who won’t respect what I’ve said.

          • Void Walker

            Actually, that’s a dandy idea. I’m swimming in complete and utter shit at this moment in time, so my attitude towards you is not going to be fair or kind.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            As to hell, I’m actually not the only Christian who thinks we make hell; indeed, I got the idea from another Christian!

            For the record, I’m a universalist. I believe all will eventually be saved. Hell is a place of finite punishment and correction. One can also mention the annihilationists, those who believe hell involves finite punishment and then annihilation.

          • Luke Breuer

            Yeah, there really are a lot of views out there, and it’s terribly hard to know about them if one doesn’t look significantly beyond one’s own environment. The tendency to merely take for granted the local social facts is very strong.

            Slightly relatedly, you might like Roger Olson’s What’s New in Theology? (Some Musings about Novelty–Or Not) and So What’s Left for Theology to Do? Some Musings about Theology’s Future. I think that theology is constipated because theory has been so divorced from practice that the two have had to yell at each other to even be heard; were this to happen in physics, it too would grind to a halt. Olson didn’t really seem to want to agree with me. :-|

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Good! That’s one less argument we can have, then! ;)

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            What about a person who simply doesn’t want to exist anymore? Does the god you believe in afford that person the luxury of actually dying, or is everyone forced to exist consciously for an eternity?

          • Luke Breuer

            Why would any God grant freedom to his creations (in this case, humans)?

            Taking this also in a different direction, does the following make any sense to you? I bring this up because I think it possibly explains your aversion to freedom, in a sympathetic manner.

                People no longer have a sense of a higher purpose, of something worth dying for. Alexis de Tocqueville sometimes talked like this in the last century, referring to the “petits et vulgaires plaisirs” that people tend to seek in the democratic age.[1] In another articulation, we suffer from a lack of passion. Kierkegaard saw “the present age” in these terms. And Nietzsche’s “last men” are at the final nadir of this decline; they have no aspiration left in life but to a “pitiable comfort.”[2]
                This loss of purpose was linked to a narrowing. People lost the broader vision because they focussed on their individual lives. Democratic equality, says Tocqueville, draws the individual towards himself, “et menace de la renfermer enfin tout entier dans la solitude de son propre coeur.”[3] In other words, the dark side of individualism is a centring on the self, which both flattens and narrows our lives, makes them poorer in meaning, and less concerned with others or society. (4)

                But there is another kind of loss of freedom, which has also been widely discussed, most memorably by Alexis de Tocqueville. A society in which people end up as the kind of individuals who are “enclosed in their own hearts” is one where few will want to participate actively in self-government. They will prefer to stay at home and enjoy the satisfactions of private life, as long as the government of the day produces the means to these satisfactions and distributes them widely.
                This opens the danger of a new, specifically modern form of despotism, which Tocqueville calls “soft” despotism. It will not be a tyranny of terror and oppression as in the old days. The government will be mild and paternalistic. It may even keep democratic forms, with periodic elections. But in fact, everything will be run by an “immense tutelary power,”[9] over which people will have little control. The only defence against this, Tocqueville thinks, is a vigorous political culture in which participation is valued, at several levels of government and in voluntary associations as well. But the atomism of the self-absorbed individual militates against this. (9)

            Both of these come from Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity; the first chapter is freely available. Charles Taylor also wrote Sources of the Self, which I actually found because of Jonathan’s focus on the “discontinuous ‘I'”, which he later blogged about: The “I”, personhood and abstract objects. Anyhow, Alasdair MacIntyre, a highly respected moral philosopher (author of highly respected After Virtue) allegedly said that reading through Sources of the Self would give one a better education than many liberal institutions out there. So Taylor is apparently a pretty smart guy.

            What I’m getting at is the infantilization of humanity, such that humans become permanent wards of the State. Some of your dislike of freedom could plausibly come from not being given the right tools to wield freedom well and responsibly, such that you can do awesome things without too many devastating failures. Teach a little boy to use a pocket knife safely and he’ll have a better life than no pocket knife. Don’t teach him how to use it and you might have done him a disservice. Next, a bit from sociologist Jacques Ellul’s The Subversion of Christianity:

                There is also another element that is intolerable for different reasons, namely, freedom. It is true that people claim to want freedom. In good faith attempts are made to set up political freedom. People also proclaim metaphysical freedom. They struggle to free slaves. They make liberty a supreme value. The loss of freedom by imprisonment is a punishment that is hard to bear. Liberty is cherished. How many crimes, too, are committed in its name? Impressive Greek myths tell the story of human freedom triumphing over the gods. In one interpretation of Genesis 3 Adam is praised as one who made a bold stroke for freedom, asserting his independence in face of a malignant, authoritarian, tormenting God who imposed prohibitions so as to prevent his child from doing wrong.
                Adam was bold enough to act as a free man before God, disobeying him and transgressing. In so doing he inaugurated human history, which is in truth, the history of freedom. How beautiful all this is! But this fervor, passion, desire, and teaching are all false. It is not true that people want to be free. They want the advantages of independence without the duties or difficulties of freedom.[5] Freedom is hard to live with. It is terrible. It is a venture. It devours and demands. It is a constant battle, for around us there are always traps to rob us of it. But in particular freedom itself allows us no rest. It requires incessant emulation and questioning. it presupposes alert attention, ruling out habit or institution. It demands that I be always fresh, always ready, never hiding behind precedents or past defeats. It brings breaks and conflicts. It yields to no constraint and exercises no constraint. For there is freedom only in permanent self-control and in love of neighbor. (166–167)

            Would you agree with this, that frequently the alleged desire for freedom is actually only a desire for the illusion of freedom? Even The Matrix played with this idea, in parts II and III.

          • Void Walker

            I’ll stop you at the beginning. I’ve no “aversion” to freedom. I crave it. I lust over it, daily. I’d give just about anything to find FW logically consistent and DW the opposite, but my inquiries into the matter have precluded the possibility that FW, esp the variety you subscribe to (first causation) is even remotely tenable. I keep searching for evidence that I do, in fact, posses FW, only to find that the likelihood of it existing is more slim with each day that passes. One of the reasons I’ve engaged you on FW to begin with is that I honestly thought you could maybe change my mind….instead, you’ve merely cemented my rather unfortunate beliefs.

          • Luke Breuer

            What would you do if you had small delta-v type freedom of the will? How would you act differently?

          • Void Walker

            Doubtful I’d act much differently, tbh. Esp considering that your small delta-v type seems destined to clash with the concept of a first cause agent.

          • Luke Breuer

            C’mon, you have seen me appeal to small ∆v free will as being like spacecraft navigating the Interplanetary Transport Network over a matter of years by strategically executing rocket burns at Lagrangian points where little to infinitesimal fuel is required to radically change where the satellite will be, months to years in the future. This is radically opposed to doxastic voluntarism, which appears to be the only model of libertarian free will which you will accept. I have no idea why, because you’ve never poked a single hole in the ITN analogy I’ve drawn. That analogy is 100% scientific, and I know you love scientific. Please don’t tell me you only love ‘scientific’ when it supports your points. I do not wish to believe this of you.

            Can you even rationally make sense of anything other than a small ∆v model of free will? Life would be full of radical jump discontinuities; don’t you understand how science would be impossible in such an environment? Rational comprehension just couldn’t work. I don’t think you’ve thought through your own model of free will very rigorously, Void. I would be happy for you to show how I’m wrong, but I don’t recall you ever getting near to doing so. You just sort of assert the only model of free will you would accept, and that is that. At least, this is my recollection.

          • Void Walker

            Yes, I’ve seen you appeal to it a number of times with your little spaceship analogy, and as before, my primary contention is that you’re giving a hypothetical “scifi” analogy for human behavior. You’re not presenting me with good evidence that the small model of FW you’re granting=first causation. God is not caused, Luke, according to you. We, however, *are* caused. Can’t see the difference yet?

            Was god formed by the union of a sperm and an egg, then undergoing 9 months of slow, gradual development? Was god sculpted by language, peer experiences, cultural influences, sexual experiences, religious influences, etc. etc? No, but we were. God is not caused, we are caused. The demarcation is, once more, clear as fresh fuck tap water. I’m being harsh because you apparently cannot make this very clear distinction.

          • Luke Breuer

            Until you take the ITN analogy more seriously, any and all future discussion of LFW with you is “axed”, to use your terminology.

          • Void Walker

            So, yeah. That you would assert I’ve any disdain for something as liberating and amazing as a belief in free will is rather odd.

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you really want the responsibility that comes with true free will? On the one hand, you could truly be responsible for making another person’s life better than it could have been without your influence. On the other hand, the opposite could also happen. You could even be a crucial cause in someone’s death, culpably so, with no excuse that you had no other option. True responsibility is very scary; the *science* is that few want this responsibility. Are you telling me that you are one of the few?

            My best demonstration of true free will is that humans can game *any* system of which they can become aware. I’ve never, ever come across a system that could not be gamed. Hell, I linked you earlier to *science* which indicates that we might have warp drive, if we can find enough exotic matter—matter with negative vacuum energy IIRC. So, it seems that the very effort to find deterministic rules which humans must obey is precisely the thing that allows them to overcome those rules. Knowledge is truly power. Knowledge, I claim, is demonstrably freedom. Can you prove me wrong, by finding a system which humans cannot game? Entropy is the only sound answer of which I can conceive, and it depends on the assumption of causal closure.

          • Void Walker

            Firstly, define what it is, in your mind, to “game a system”. Be thorough, lucid and rant if need be. By the common definition I’ve heard, chimps and dolphins can game many systems they encounter in the natural world. Your definition is *very* important here, esp considering that, if you do not properly explain it, it could be applied to non human animals that you consider to lack FW.

          • Luke Breuer

            I have no ideas whether animals have free will. One of my zanier ideas is that of a job humans have totally flubbed, with the exception of folks like the author of King Solomon’s Ring: teaching animals to be rational. The Bible portrays mankind as meant to be “priests and rulers”; priests make known who God is (which includes moral and natural truth), while rulers (of the Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20 type) take care of developing beings until they’re ready to stand on their own. So yeah, animals probably don’t present the problem to me that you meant them to. :-p

            As to gaming a system, have you read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series? It is predicated upon the disintegration of a galactic commonwealth modeled after the fall of the Roman empire, and a “mathematical sociologist” who has learned to predict the aggregate behavior of quadrillions of humans with remarkable precision. He calls this discipline psychohistory, and has figured out how to greatly reduce the shitty time between the disintegration of the empire and the recovery from anarchy/feudalism. So he sets up a secretive foundation which will help guide humanity toward recovery, a foundation which will subtly influence humanity as well as continue to refine the science of psychohistory. They have a rule: never let the public know the predictions of psychohistory. Why? Because they might then act differently.

            The same goes for all the various predictions of human behavior Jonathan finds and posts on his blog here: if people can realize that they’re acting deterministically, they can decide that hey, this isn’t actually so great, and I could act differently. Knowledge is indeed power. But guess what: this means that the deterministic behaviors identified case to be true! Instead, they are merely the default, low-energy, low-information state of humans. Merely knowing this default would allow humans to act differently.

            And so, any attempt to deterministically model human behavior, if it is revealed to said humans, will result in them no longer actually behaving that way. People can game any system of ‘rules’ of which they are conscious. The only way to keep them from breaking the rules is to keep them ignorant of the rules. This shows up in conspiracy theorists (of the kind who say there is a global cabal ruling the world), but also in sociology, such as Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society and The Political Illusion. Ellul is very careful to say that by default humans operate in the way he describes, but they could act differently, if instead of flailing against the system, they understand how it operates, so that then they can change it.

            Therefore, I predict a total failure to completely model human behavior if the results of successive attempts to model are made known to said humans. What this would mean is that the claim that human behavior is deterministic would be continually falsified. I wouldn’t have provided a model for how free will works, but who cares? Deterministic behavior would be falsified, and so the denier of [libertarian] free will would have no direct evidence of his/her claims, but only indirect inference: if we could know things more precisely, then we could model humans perfectly. I say bullshit, unless you hide the results of the science from those humans. But then you’re treating them as lab rats, and I never said lab rats have libertarian free will.

          • Void Walker

            “I have no ideas whether animals have free will. One of my zanier ideas is that of a job humans have totally flubbed, with the exception of folks like the author of King Solomon’s Ring: teaching animals to be rational”

            And how, precisely, would one go about “teaching” something such as rationality to non human animals? How, further, would this entail free will, or rather, “teach” them to be free in the sense you believe we are?

            “As to gaming a system, have you read Isaac Asimov’s Foundationseries?”

            Yup, loved it.

            However, you cannot argue against our ability to game the system itself being determined (maybe you can, actually. If so, go for it). Also, you seem to be equating our intelligence with free will. Sure, we can become aware of the myriad moving parts of just about any situation, and then act upon what we’ve gathered to create some interesting opportunities for change/adaptation, but how this = free will is beyond me. Who’s to say it isn’t merely an expression of both our level of awareness and intelligence working in tandem? This could be, when you think of it, a fantastic adaptation that would allow us (well, *has* allowed us) to adapt to changing conditions, a fine example being the last ice age that nearly wiped us off the face of the earth. Moreover, when you say that, upon realizing we are “determined” in some way that we can go against it, how is *that* “choice” itself not determined? Again, this ties into what Jonathan has gotten into before: chains of causation, including genes, native language, formative experiences with peers, cultural influences, etc.

            “And so, any attempt to deterministically model human behavior, if it is revealed to said humans, will result in them no longer actually behaving that way.”

            Awareness is not equal to free will. Formulate an argument that the “choice” to act differently is, in fact, free from prior causes such that it would get you your first cause variant of LFW. If you cannot do that, much of what you’ve said appears utterly meaningless.

          • Luke Breuer

            And how, precisely, would one go about “teaching” something such as rationality to non human animals? How, further, would this entail free will, or rather, “teach” them to be free in the sense you believe we are?

            I don’t know how; this is why I called it “one of my zanier ideas”. Do tell me if I should never tell you another one of my zanier ideas; it would sadden me, but if you’re going to jump all over me because I haven’t well-thought-out everything I say to you, then we can radically change the nature of our conversations so that I merely become a fraction of who I have been to you so far. I can probably mold myself to your requested specifications. Do you desire that?

            However, you cannot argue against our ability to game the system itself being determined (maybe you can, actually. If so, go for it).

            Then your conception of determinism is either (a) unfalsifiable, or (b) trivial, in the sense that the only alternative to determinism is pure randomness, with no pattern whatsoever. The fact that you wrote and posted the above sentence smells strongly of conclusion-first thinking.

            Also, you seem to be equating our intelligence with free will.

            No.

            Again, this ties into what Jonathan has gotten into before: chains of causation, including genes, native language, formative experiences with peers, cultural influences, etc.

            Largely determined ≠ completely determined. Without “largely determined”, rationality would likely be impossible.

            Awareness is not equal to free will. Formulate an argument that the “choice” to act differently is, in fact, free from prior causes such that it would get you your first cause variant of LFW. If you cannot do that, much of what you’ve said appears utterly meaningless.

            I refuse. You’re turning this into an obnoxious game such that instead of needing to falsify DFW, I have to prove some particular conception of LFW. I cannot do that. If you’re going to default to DFW unless I prove some particular conception of LFW, then have fun with unfalsifiable DFW.

          • Void Walker

            What you call “zany idea” I call unsubstantiated dribble coated in wishful thinking. So yes, refrain from doing so in the future unless you want to be ridiculed for tossing out vapid nonsense.

            “Then your conception of determinism is either (a) unfalsifiable, or (b) trivial, in the sense that the only alternative to determinism is pure randomness, with no pattern whatsoever. The fact that you wrote and posted the above sentence smells strongly of conclusion-first thinking.”

            I never said the only alternative to determinism is pure randomness. Rather, I’m assuming that the only cogent alternative to it is in fact your (rather ill defined) variant of LFW. Why don’t we drop the formalities for a second and try this out? Try to give me a decent example of our gaming the system being fully determined, and I’ll attempt the opposite: giving you an example of how it could indicate free will. Deal?

            “Largely determined ≠ completely determined. Without “largely determined”, rationality would likely be impossible”

            How ironic! I knew you’d reply in such a way. How free do you feel now? ;-)

            I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: how can a fully caused organism be considered of initiating a genuine first cause, when, as noted, we’re the sum of priori? God isn’t caused, we are. It is reasonable to claim that an un-caused entity could enact novel first causes, but we aren’t exactly in the same bracket. How, then, can we be considered on (or even near) the same playing field?

            “I refuse. You’re turning this into an obnoxious game such that instead of needing to falsify DFW, I have to prove some particular conception of LFW. I cannot do that. If you’re going to default to DFW unless I prove some particular conception of LFW, then have fun with unfalsifiable DFW.”

            *sigh*

          • Luke Breuer

            What you call “zany idea” I call unsubstantiated dribble coated in wishful thinking. So yes, refrain from doing so in the future unless you want to be ridiculed for tossing out vapid nonsense.

            I will do this. I doubt you would want this required of you. If it has been, I bet you would much prefer a world where it was not required, if you had experienced such a world. I have. It was fostered by some of the smartest people in the world.

            Why don’t we drop the formalities for a second and try this out? Try to give me a decent example of our gaming the system being fully determined, and I’ll attempt the opposite: giving you an example of how it could indicate free will. Deal?

            An example is that people are selfish pricks no matter what rules you impose on them, no matter what system you attempt to use to reform them. They will be selfish pricks regardless, and will figure out how to expose that prickishness in ever-new ways.

            How ironic! I knew you’d reply in such a way. How free do you feel now? ;-)

            Like you’ve actually started modeling me well, in at least a small respect, and thus that actual communication has happened. :-)

            I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: how can a fully caused organism be considered of initiating a genuine first cause, when, as noted, we’re the sum of priori?

            I claim it is very hard to discern between “fully caused” and “mostly caused”. Whether you fill in that crack or allow it to develop is the important thing. It determines whether you stay locked in a philosophical dome that cannot be detected with sense perception (it can only be detected via metaphysical discussion), or whether you are always free to pierce the current dome and go somewhere more fantastic. All without even leaving the solar system.

            It is reasonable to claim that an un-caused entity could enact novel first causes, but we aren’t exactly in the same bracket.

            Imago dei says to the contrary, that we are actually somehow representations or projections of precisely that bracket. Your determinism may be what Paul was talking about when he used the word stoicheion, from which we get the word Stoichiometry: the precisely balanced chemical equation, with no outside cause, but instead conservation of all things. Paul talks about being enslaved to the “basic principles” of the world. He also claims that one can be freed from this slavery. How? By the Word, which allows you to game the system, breaking out of it, and constantly moving toward a better system; from glory to glory, such that one does not fall short of the glory of God, but is instead moving ever-closer to it—voluntarily.

            In The Humiliation of the Word, Jacques Ellul talks about how natural language allows for maximum freedom, by not determining what the other person then does. The vagueness in speech, both in the speaker’s words and the listener’s understanding, is precisely what gives freedom. Contrast this to computer language code, which a computer must execute precisely. So actually, the way for God to both interact with us but give us maximum freedom is to speak—not to do! The spoken word can be that infinitesimal push, at a Lagrangian point, which allows us to escape Poincaré recurrence. The spoken word can be that outside perspective—like the scientist characterizing how people operate—so that the people can be made aware of this and then break free.

            It is that moment of decision, upon hearing the spoken word, that provides freedom. There is absolutely no requirement that a person be a priori determined to respond in some way to the spoken word. The belief to the contrary would be mental shackles. Beliefs create reality.

          • Void Walker

            “An example is that people are selfish pricks no matter what rules you impose on them, no matter what system you attempt to use to reform them. They will be selfish pricks regardless, and will figure out how to expose that prickishness in ever-new ways.”

            Wait. Are you arguing in favor of determinism here or FW? It seems a mixture of the two, instead of a clear-cut example in favor of one, as I specified. Ever new ways reeks of novelty, which makes one think of your so loved first causation.

            “Like you’ve actually started modeling me well, in at least a small respect, and thus that actual communication has happened. :-)”

            That smiley is….creepy. Like you’re secretly a serial killer or something…

            “I claim it is very hard to discern between “fully caused” and “mostly caused”. Whether you fill in that crack or allow it to develop is the important thing. It determines whether you stay locked in a philosophical dome that cannot be detected with sense perception (it can only be detected via metaphysical discussion), or whether you are always free to pierce the current dome and go somewhere more fantastic. All without even leaving the solar system.”

            Really? Have you not studied developmental psychology, genetics, linguistics, etc? The evidence is more in favor of us being fully (or at least, mostly) caused than your alternative.

            Instead of quoting the rest, I’ll just jump into it directly.

            Firstly, you’ve certainly heard of linguistic determinism, correct? If you have, and haven’t examined it closely, I’d urge you to do so. It’s quite alarming just how much our language(s) shapes reality.

            Secondly, kerfluff. Simply kerfluff. If we’re caused (mostly, fully, etc) then *how could we enact a first, novel cause*? So much of what we say and do is dependent upon prior experiences, genes (I could go on, but this is becoming a chore). How reasonable is it, in light of this, to conclude that something truly novel could arise from the brain of an animal who’s prior experiences and development have eventuated them?

          • Void Walker

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaming_the_system I’m having difficulty finding anything here that indicates LFW.

          • Luke Breuer

            It would demonstrate ¬DFW more than LFW. But that’s fine, I’ve routinely stated that I care about more something LFWish, specifically because it is a foil to DFW/CFW.

          • Void Walker

            Yet you’ve failed to give me one good, solid reason that LFW is even allowed considering how much of what we are is determined by prior causes; much, much less that would grant us “first causation”.

          • Luke Breuer

            And you have failed to show me meaningful falsifiable instances of DFW which cannot be falsified. Any model of DFW can be defeated by humans knowing about it and then gaming that system. And hence, DFW would be falsified every single time it is established, unless you treat humans like lab rats and don’t tell them the results of the research.

          • Void Walker

            Again, how would our ability to game the system itself not be determined by prior causes? The whole DW vs. FW argument is, at this point, merely two parties firing about blindly in the dark; I do think that there’s more evidence in favor of our wills being determined, however, simply because we’re fully caused. We din’t choose our genes, language, formative, early social experiences, etc. Take all that up against your claim that we can “freely” game any system, and you not being able to demonstrate whether or not this capacity is itself free, and we still seem to be at an impasse. On the one hand, I can demonstrate how both of us our the product of many factors, on the other, you can forward examples of people becoming cognizant of a system and thereafter “gaming” it. The stopping point, for me, is that you cannot demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that our ability to game a system is itself not determined.

          • Luke Breuer

            I claim that your pro-DW stance is precisely as metaphysical as my anti-DW stance. I have evidence on my side: I claim that every attempt to falsify DW will succeed, because humans will game the system when it is made known to them. So what you have to do, is show me some behavior of humans which is always true, despite them knowing about it. It is not deterministic to say that humans can game any system, because to say that is to make the word “deterministic” absolutely meaningless: you end up splitting the world into “that which obeys any describable law” and “that which is purely random”. It is insane to say that the only form of ¬DW is utter randomness.

            You keep setting up a dichotomy:

                 (1) influenced by any prior causes
                 (2) completely un-influenced in any way

            This is a terrible dichotomy. A spacecraft traveling through the solar system is hugely subject to the gravity of planets and the sun. And yet, despite all those intense forces, it can put out the tiniest thrust and radically change its trajectory—if this is done intelligently, to “game the system” as it were.

          • Void Walker

            Again (this is becoming tiresome), I see a great difference between modification of behavior after having gained awareness of it, and “freely” choosing to alter ones behavior. You’re asserting that the choice we make when confronted with awareness of a given thing is free from prior causes, without backing that claim up. This relates to the “could have done A rather than B” scenario so oft used. When a person gains awareness of something, you’re saying that their choice to “modify” or “correct” their behavior/predilections is itself freely done, but you’re not substantiating that claim in any way.

          • Luke Breuer

            How, precisely, would I prove that a choice included first-cause elements? How would that possibly not involve god-of-the-gaps reasoning? “You cannot figure out the determinism completely, thus some was first cause!” Yeah, right. No, determinism is built into your metaphysic. If it weren’t, there would be a way for me to demonstrate ¬DFW of the ¬pure randomness variety. And yet, I see zero options for doing so that don’t fall into the god-of-the-gaps fallacy category.

          • Void Walker

            Do me a favor and email me at some point. Maybe we can continue this, at least partially, from a more private, less “Void is being a massive, throbbing donkey dick to Luke everybody. SEE?” realm.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            These are merely human constructed conceptual labels which hold no meaning for me. It relies on this idea of a unifying substance. To me it is the very nub oro Platonic realism, no?

            Again, by destroying a steering wheel which is the first building bricks in building a car, I am not destroying ‘a car’.

          • Luke Breuer

            These are merely human constructed conceptual labels which hold no meaning for me. It relies on this idea of a unifying substance. To me it is the very nub oro Platonic realism, no?

            I don’t know enough about essentialism to really say with confidence, but it seems wrong to apply the Sorities paradox to absolutely everything; if it does not apply to absolutely everything, then isn’t there a kernel of truth to essentialism?

            Can you really say that electrons don’t have a “substance”, a distinct character? I don’t even understand how science works if it cannot heavily depend on the concept of a natural kind—the kind of thing that can show up in a lawlike generalization. It almost seems like a full-out attack on essentialism acts as a universal acid on even the ability to communicate. Then again, I am a noob with respect to essentialism.

            Again, by destroying a steering wheel which is the first building bricks in building a car, I am not destroying ‘a car’.

            If ‘a car’ is defined as a device with 3+ wheels capable of transporting people and a limited number of goods by means of non-organic propulsion, then you stop making an entity ‘a car’ when you remove the steering wheel. It’d be like removing a person’s brainstem. The only difference is that you can reattach a steering wheel, whereas you cannot [currently] reattach a person’s brainstem. So you do not ‘kill’ a car in the same way you ‘kill’ a person.

            Note that I have defined ‘a car’ teleologically. Science is also defined teleologically; any student of the history of philosophy of science knows that it cannot merely be defined as following some method (e.g. the hypothetico-deductive model). You can prohibit a car from fulfilling its telos, just as you can prohibit an embryo from fulfilling its telos.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            It’s usually applied to, or best applied to, things on temporal developmental continua.

            I say things have properties.

            he problem is, humans organise those properties into essentially (no pun intended) abstract categories which don’t have ontic reality.

            The car is a limited analogy – I could think of a better one in time no doubt, which is more continual and developmental.

          • Luke Breuer

            So are there no distinct things, given that the only way to establish things is to carve out lumps with the artificial operation of assigning abstract properties? I’m not sure where you’re going with this. Would you say that electrons are not actually real, but merely abstract entities?

            As to the “more continual and developmental”, the crux of the discussion seems to be whether it is important for merely the potential (for rationality, consciousness, pain, etc.) to exist, or whether actuality must have existed in the past, as well as have the potential to exist in the future. The problem is, I claim that a child has the right for his/her potential to have a thriving adult life be protected, even though it has never happened before, but is only in the future. So it’s not clear that the additional restriction is actually used in any other moral reasoning. That would beg the question of whether it’s special pleading in the one instance it is being used.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Andy:

            Still all assertion but no argument. Why only two “separate substances”? Why not trillions? While “you” developed into an adult human being, “you” absorbed trillions of entities other than some DNA from your father – so why do you only count sperm and egg as “separate substances”?

            A substance has a unity to it. An unfertilized egg is a unified being. A sperm is a unified being. This is why I hold that they are two separate substances. Their trillions of parts are just that, parts of a unified whole. This is why they are not separate substances in their own right. When I “absorb” different entities they become integrated into me, a unified substance.

          • Andy_Schueler

            A substance has a unity to it. An unfertilized egg is a unified being. A sperm is a unified being. This is why I hold that they are two separate substances. Their trillions of parts are just that, parts of a unified whole. This is why they are not separate substances in their own right. When I “absorb” different entities they become integrated into me, a unified substance.

            1. This doesn´t seem to be an objective assessment. Example: there are trillions of microorganisms living on and in your body, they outnumber your “own” (human) cells and your body is adapted to live with them (and removing them leads to a great variety of health problems) – are they part of one “unified substance” (i.e. “you”) or aren´t they? And how do you know that?
            2. Granting you that a sperm and an egg are two “separate substances”, you still have no argument for why the fertilized egg is supposed to be the moral equivalent of you and me while the unfertilized egg isn´t. You say that it makes a differences that the sperm ceases to be in its current form and that the egg changes – but so what? The developing human after fertilization will continue to “change” and continue to absorb stuff.
            So again, why is conception supposed to make any moral difference? If you say that it makes a moral difference because the fertilized egg has a “human substance” while the unfertilized one has not, you are begging the question – I´ll simply say that the unfertilized egg has a “human substance” as well, how do you intend to argue that this is wrong while your account is correct?

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            This doesn´t seem to be an objective assessment.

            I appear to be the only one offering an objective account of humanity. You’ve given us nothing and Jonathan resorts to subjective concepts like person-hood.

            Example: there are trillions of microorganisms living on and in your body, they outnumber your “own” (human) cells and your body is adapted to live with them (and removing them leads to a great variety of health problems) – are they part of one “unified substance” (i.e. “you”) or aren´t they? And how do you know that?

            You do realize this is a weak dilemma, do you not? If the micro-organisms are part of me then I’m still a substance. If the micro-organisms are not part of me then I’m still a substance and each micro-organism is its own substance too. Either way a human substance exists. Anyway, an organism (micro or macro) is a substance, for to be an organism is to be a unified whole.

            Granting you that a sperm and an egg are two “separate substances”, you still have no argument for why the fertilized egg is supposed to be the moral equivalent of you and me while the unfertilized egg isn´t.

            I’ve noted that the embryo is the same organism as the adult. The alternative appears to be Jonathan’s absurd belief that identity does not persist over time.

            You say that it makes a differences that the sperm ceases to be in its current form and that the egg changes – but so what? The developing human after fertilization will continue to “change” and continue to absorb stuff.

            You’re still failing to make the necessary distinctions. A sperm does not cease to exist in its current form at fertilization. The sperm ceases to exist, period. After fertilization the human continues to change and continues to exist until death.

            So again, why is conception supposed to make any moral difference? If you say that it makes a moral difference because the fertilized egg has a “human substance” while the unfertilized one has not, you are begging the question – I´ll simply say that the unfertilized egg has a “human substance” as well, how do you intend to argue that this is wrong while your account is correct?

            I’m not saying an embryo has a human substance, I’m saying an embryo is a human substance. You’ve granted that a sperm and egg are two separate substances so they cannot be identified with an adult. You’ve also granted that an adult is a human substance. I merely ask you to determine when that substance began to exist. It could not have been before conception for then you would be trying to identify one with two.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’ve noted that the embryo is the same organism as the adult. The alternative appears to be Jonathan’s absurd belief that identity does not persist over time.

            Have you seen his The “I”, personhood and abstract objects? I got into how to ground moral responsibility with Andy a month or three ago, but didn’t continue it. That might be the most promising for investigating this alleged “discontinuous “I””, for whether or not a serial murderer is enough of the same old person determines whether we want to let him free from prison or keep him locked up there.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            “for whether or not a serial murderer is enough of the same old person determines whether we want to let him free from prison or keep him locked up there.”

            I like the way you have phrased that.

          • Luke Breuer

            Thanks! It is a place where the rubber meets the road. While I sometime seem to be very abstract and theoretical, I am almost always grounding what I say in reality—I actually tried three times to graduate from a very theoretical university (EE, then CS) and simply could not: it was not practical enough.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I appear to be the only one offering an objective account of humanity.

            Well, this might be what you want to do, but what you are actually doing is saying that a fertilized egg has a “human substance” while the unfertilized egg has not because you say so – no argument whatsoever, just the same mere assertion over and over again.

            I’ve noted that the embryo is the same organism as the adult. The alternative appears to be Jonathan’s absurd belief that identity does not persist over time.

            If I grant you that identity does persist (which I don´t have to), the question still remains on what grounds you can say that embryo is the same organism as the adult while the unfertilized egg is not. Merely asserting that this is the case is all you have done so far.

            You’re still failing to make the necessary distinctions. A sperm does not cease to exist in its current form at fertilization. The sperm ceases to exist, period. After fertilization the human continues to change and continues to exist until death.

            Stuff changes, stuff combines, stuff gets absorbed – so what? This happens before conception, this happens during conception and this happens after conception and you still have nothing even remotely resembling an argument for why the change that happens during conception is the only one that counts / the only one that makes a moral difference. I maintain that it actually makes no moral difference whatsoever because nothing changes except for some trivial biochemistry – that is the only stuff that demonstrably happens, period.

            I’m not saying an embryo has a human substance, I’m saying an embryo is a human substance. You’ve granted that a sperm and egg are two separate substances so they cannot be identified with an adult. You’ve also granted that an adult is a human substance. I merely ask you to determine when that substance began to exist. It could not have been before conception for then you would be trying to identify one with two.

            The embryo needs trillions of water molecules to grow, for example, but you wouldn´t say that I am identifying one with trillions because of that, so, how is the absorption of paternal DNA from the sperm cell any different from absorbing H2O molecules? There doesn´t seem to be any morally relevant difference – stuff changes, stuff gets absorbed, stuff gets combined and all of that happens before, during and after conception, you have no argument at all to single it out as a special moment.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Andy, you seem to have a difficult time noting the distinctions I am making and keeping them all in mind when you raise the same questions again and again. I don’t have the time to write out a complete metaphysical and meta-ethical treatise. Nonetheless, I am providing arguments from common sense starting points.

            I’m starting with a couple common sense notions. First, that an adult is a human substance, a unified whole. Second, that a human maintains his identity over time. My basic moral principle is that, generally speaking, an innocent human should not be killed. If you reject any of these three points then the discussion is over.

            I argue that we can trace the identity of of the adult back to conception. We can’t trace it back any earlier because then we would be trying to identify one with two. Again, common sense suggests that nutrients, for example, are absorbed by humans and not vice versa. This is why such absorption is not a substantial change to the human.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Andy, you seem to have a difficult time noting the distinctions I am making and keeping them all in mind when you raise the same questions again and again.

            Jayman, please look up this:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument
            and compare it to this:
            http://www.thefreedictionary.com/assertion
            I understand the distinctions you make perfectly well what I keep pointing out is that your distinctions are baseless, you don´t support them with arguments and instead merely assert them.

            I’m starting with a couple common sense notions. First, that an adult is a human substance, a unified whole. Second, that a human maintains his identity over time.

            It might be common sense to say that everything before a certain point in time is “day” while everything after it is “night”, that doesn´t change the fact that the day-night cycle is a continuum and that singling out any moment in time and saying that what comes before it is 100% day and everything after it is 100% night is completely subjective and arbitrary. You did nothing to dismantle our position that human development corresponds to a continuum instead of a binary switch. But even if I grant you this binary switch, you still have no case (see below).

            I argue that we can trace the identity of of the adult back to conception. We can’t trace it back any earlier because then we would be trying to identify one with two. Again, common sense suggests that nutrients, for example, are absorbed by humans and not vice versa. This is why such absorption is not a substantial change to the human.

            And if I substitute “nutrients” by “parental DNA” but keep everything else as it is, what you say here would no longer be true because [insert your argument here]. If you don´t have such an argument, then your developmental history can easily be traced back to earlier moments than conception (e.g. ovulation) and you still have no reason whatsoever to single out conception.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            And if I substitute “nutrients” by “parental DNA” but keep everything else as it is, what you say here would no longer be true because [insert your argument here].

            Because I don’t absorb parental DNA.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Because I don’t absorb parental DNA.

            You also don´t absorb antibodies from your mother (at least not anymore, you did while you were in her womb), so this counter of yours here works exactly as well against an embryo as it does against an unfertilized egg.
            Checkmate.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            I thought you were referring to conception. I meant that I was not absorbing parental DNA because I was being created. If I absorbed parental DNA then no substantial change would take place in me.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Your point was that one cannot trace back “you” to an earlier moment than conception because that would be “identifying one with two”, so I just identify you with the unfertilized egg but not the sperm (i.e. a one to one correspondence). Now you will probably repeat the “substantial change” thingy that allegedly happens during conception but you have no argument for that, you are just asserting it – provide an argument for why all the change before and after conception is morally irrelevant while the change during conception is the only change that matters.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            There is no deductive argument to identify when a substantial change occurs. We have to make our decision through a combination of observation, reason, and common sense. A substantial change occurs when the intrinsic nature of a thing changes.

            The unfertilized egg does not have the intrinsic nature to develop into an adult. If we could sustain an unfertilized egg in existence indefinitely it would never develop into an adult. But an embryo does have an intrinsic nature to develop into an adult. If we sustain an embryo in existence it will develop into an adult.

            This is different than when I eat food. The food does not change my intrinsic nature. Rather its energy is directed to uses determined by my intrinsic nature.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            It is difficult to see your point if you claim it as intuitive and don’t define that substance, or how it has ontic reality (the abstract labels of such), or what properties define it as substance A rather than not A.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Jonathan:

            You don’t get the nuance of the analogy. If I start building a car with the steering wheel first, it will eventually be a car with the nature of a car, it just does not have that yet. Just like a blastocyst is not a conscious, rational human, but will be with extra development, matter etc

            Frankly, an analogy between an artifact (car) and a substance (human) is getting off on the wrong foot to begin with. Cars do not have substantial forms while embryos do. A car cannot develop based on an intrinsic nature because it has no intrinsic nature.

            You need to expand and explain this a lot. What else makes a human that is not dependent on the genes?

            You’re conflating things in your question. My claim is that human nature cannot be reduced to genes. Andy seems to agree with this so I won’t bother pursuing it further.

            From Bernard Wuellner’s Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy: substance, n.. a being whose essence naturally requires it to exist in itself; ens per se; ens in se; a being that has existence in itself and by virtue of itself as an ultimate distinct subject of being.

            From W. Norris Clarke’s The One and the Many, p. 159: the same essence considered as that which renders a being apt to exist in itself and not in another — i.e., not as a part of any other being — and which therefore functions as the principle of unity holding together all its various accidental attributes and the abiding principle of its self-identity down through all its accidental changes across time.

            So is it me who defines a substance?

            No, reality defines a substance. A human is a substance. A hero is just a kind of human, not a substance in its own right. A table is an artifact, not a substance.

            He struggles to show how a blastocyst can have the nature of a rational being.

            The struggle is entirely on your end. You are confusing a substance’s nature with what it is in act with respect to at the moment.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            This is precisely why you keep on with the incoherent notion of the nature/essence of humanity, because you don’t see the analogy for what it is.

            A wheel is a developmental stage of a car. It is the starting block from which everything else is developed. The wheel cannot drive, and it has not got most of the properties of car-ness.

            In the same way, the blastocyst is the early developmental stage of a human being, defined as:

            “A man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.”

            That blastocyst has none of those properties, and just because it has potential to BECOME that does not mean it is that or has that nature. The blastocyst does not contain the essential properties of human – well at least, you have singularly failed to define what the nature of essence of being human is.

            I would think that this might be the next thing for you to do.

            However, I think much of this is similar to the Species Problem:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species_problem

          • Andy_Schueler

            The unfertilized egg does not have the intrinsic nature to develop into an adult.

            It is in the nature of every element in the human developmental cycle to change into the next element in the cycle, else it would not work, and this is true for an unfertilized egg just as it is for a fertilized one.

            If we could sustain an unfertilized egg in existence indefinitely it would never develop into an adult. But an embryo does have an intrinsic nature to develop into an adult. If we sustain an embryo in existence it will develop into an adult.

            That is completely and utterly wrong. If an embryo could do that, then we could abort it and it would stell develop into an adult human being, but that doesn´t work because an embryo can only develop into a fetus and then into a newborn if certain conditions are met. Conditions like “successful implantation into the uterus” for example. And the exact same is true for the unfertilized egg, the list of conditions is just one element longer.

            So you have still no argument for why the changes during conception are the only morally relevant ones while the changes before and after conception are morally irrelevant.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            It is in the nature of every element in the human developmental cycle to change into the next element in the cycle, else it would not work, and this is true for an unfertilized egg just as it is for a fertilized one.

            To develop implies identity through accidental changes. You just entirely ignored that I said identity is tied to intrinsic nature.

            That is completely and utterly wrong. If an embryo could do that, then we could abort it and it would stell develop into an adult human being, but that doesn´t work because an embryo can only develop into a fetus and then into a newborn if certain conditions are met.

            You missed the point entirely again. I explicitly said if we sustain the embryo in existence. I left out what would be necessary for such sustenance because I’m focusing on intrinsic nature.

          • Andy_Schueler

            To develop implies identity through accidental changes. You just entirely ignored that I said identity is tied to intrinsic nature.

            You tried to find a difference between a fertilized egg and an unfertilized one, and you have failed again – they are both part of the human developmental cycle and it is in both of their natures to develop into the next element of the cycle, one is just one step ahead of the other.

            You missed the point entirely again. I explicitly said if we sustain the embryo in existence. I left out what would be necessary for such sustenance because I’m focusing on intrinsic nature.

            No, you missed the point entirely. Merely “sustaining” it most emphatically does not mean to provide it with a functioning uterus, the right growth factors, the right antibodies and so on and so forth – “sustaining” means we keep the thing fed in a cell culture, and guess what, its not going to develop into an adult human then. So, “sustaining” is not enough, you have to provide it with something, for it to have a certain chance (which is about 60% btw, the implantation into the uterus fails very often, leading to a natural abortion) to develop, but the same is true for the unfertilized egg – the list of conditions is just one element longer..
            Again, you have tried to find a relevant difference between the fertilized and the unfertilized egg and you have failed, you still lack an argument to single out conception.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Also, you say:
            “There is no deductive argument to identify when a substantial change occurs. We have to make our decision through a combination of observation, reason, and common sense.”
            – there are several problems with that:
            1. If you are not trying to use deductive reasoning, then what kind of reasoning do you try to use? It certainly looks as if you are trying to use deductive reasoning, you listed some non-negotiable premises (the three you listed earlier) and try to derive conclusions from that.
            2. Common sense? Seriously? It is everything but common sense that a fertilized egg is the moral equal of a baby, and that is completely independent of religious views or lack thereof – Aristotle didn´t consider a developing human to be “fully human” from the moment of conception and neither does the OT. This can actually be settled with a very simple thought experiment: imagine that you are in a burning fertility clinic and you could either save a box with 1000 embryos ready for implantation or one nurse – which one do you save? I´ve asked many people this question and you would be the first one who´d say that he would save the box instead of the nurse – there is your common sense.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            If you are not trying to use deductive reasoning, then what kind of reasoning do you try to use? It certainly looks as if you are trying to use deductive reasoning, you listed some non-negotiable premises (the three you listed earlier) and try to derive conclusions from that.

            Determining the nature of something is more of an inductive matter.

            Common sense? Seriously? It is everyt hing but common sense that a fertilized egg is the moral equal of a baby, and that is completely independent of religious views or lack thereof – Aristotle didn´t consider a developing human to be “fully human” from the moment of conception and neither does the OT.

            That human life begins at conception seems uncontroversial when abortion is not being discussed. Aristotle didn’t have our knowledge of embryology and I already dealt with Jonathan’s bungling of the Bible earlier.

            This can actually be settled with a very simple thought experiment: imagine that you are in a burning fertility clinic and you could either save a box with 1000 embryos ready for implantation or one nurse – which one do you save? I´ve asked many people this question and you would be the first one who´d say that he would save the box instead of the nurse – there is your common sense.

            But I never said a fertilized egg is the “moral equivalent” of a baby. I said a fertilized egg is a human and, generally, we should not kill innocent humans.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Determining the nature of something is more of an inductive matter.

            Erm, nope – you are not engaging in inductive reasoning here, “inductive reasoning” would be something like “I observed one thousand white swans and zero swans that are not white, ergo, swans are most likely always white”.

            That human life begins at conception seems uncontroversial when abortion is not being discussed. Aristotle didn’t have our knowledge of embryology and I already dealt with Jonathan’s bungling of the Bible earlier.

            Embryology isn´t “common sense”, it´s science. Common sense is that cells are not people.
            And equivocating between “human life” and “genetically unique human life” is completely dishonest when you know that this distinction is a relevant one – and you should know that an unfertilized egg is neither a) “dead” nor b) “not human” because I told you already – trying to score a point with this stupid mantra “life begins at conception” is thus simply dishonest.

            But I never said a fertilized egg is the “moral equivalent” of a baby. I said a fertilized egg is a human and, generally, we should not kill innocent humans.

            So you think abortion is ok when the life of the mother is at risk (you must if you acknowledge that a fertilized egg is not the moral equivalent of the mother) – how big of a risk then?

          • Void Walker

            I doubt he’ll formulate a cogent response to that. You nailed it.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            “Aristotle didn’t have our knowledge of embryology and I already dealt with Jonathan’s bungling of the Bible earlier.”

            You did?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            It sounds like a pragmatic approach in line with traditional interpretations and baggage, rather than being necessarily philosophically true.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Well said, I meant to write something similar to that earlier. Together with the micro-organism argument, the whole substance thing seems doomed.

          • Neil Webber

            I would contend that an embryo is not a unique organism until it could be viably removed from the woman and survive on it’s own. Until such a time it is part of the woman. The embryo is not the same organism as the adult, it is the same organism as the host.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            I would contend that an embryo is not a unique organism until it could be viably removed from the woman and survive on it’s own.

            Your ontology seems to vary based on technological advances. Suppose, hypothetically, that today a 10 week old fetus is not viable but in 100 years a 10 week old fetus is viable. This would apparently lead you to conclude that a 10 week old fetus is not an organism today but is an organism 100 years in the future. I find this suggestion absurd because the inherent nature of the fetus does not change due to technological advances.

            Until such a time it is part of the woman. The embryo is not the same organism as the adult, it is the same organism as the host.

            This also sounds strange. If the embryo is the same organism as its mother then you make it sound like human reproduction is a splitting of cells. If you are implying that a fetus is something like a parasite then I would counter that a human and its parasite are two separate organisms.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            That’s a fascinating point.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            A human being couldn’t exist without them, like other animals – ruminants, whose digestive system depend, like us, on such micro-organisms. You assert substance-hood without defining such terms.

            This really is the nominalist argument.

            Let’s take a hero:

            To me that is a hero, to someone else not. So is that person a hero? Can a hero also be something else? Can substances have multiple labels and realities? But if we all disagree?

            Let’s take a table:

            I remove 3 molecules, 1,000, million, a leg, half of it – is it still a table? Is it a table to a cat? An alien? Someone form the Amazon?

            So is it me who defines a substance?

            and so on.

            Or are you espousing some kind of functionalism – functional to whom?

            These are nebulous conceptual ideas.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Andy is absolutely right here, @TubalCain42:disqus. THE sperm which developed into Andy Murray had the potentiality of being Andy Murry in its spermatazoic (is that a word?) state.

            WE could also apply that to those carbon based cells, and atoms.

          • Luke Breuer

            What made the sperm which developed into Andy Murray after joining an egg, necessarily be Andy Murray before his parents had intercourse?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Luke, can you rephrase that as it does not make sense?

          • Luke Breuer

            It is my understanding of Aristotelian ‘potentiality’ that a sperm cannot simultaneously have the potential of being Andy Murray and Andy Schueler, at the same time. So your remark, “THE sperm which developed into Andy Murray had the potentiality of being Andy Murry in its spermatazoic (is that a word?) state.”, seems invalid.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Well, under a deterministic framework, it make sense, but more importantly, rewinding backwards in time, we can isolate that particular sperm.

          • Luke Breuer

            It seems that “under a deterministic framework”, there is no difference between “accidental change” and “substantial change”. Is that correct, and do you agree that there is no such distinction?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Your comment assume that Aristotelian potentiality is coherent and ontic, or real in some way.

          • Luke Breuer

            I don’t know about the most up-to-date versions of Aristotelian potentiality in anything close to the level required to know whether or not it is coherent. Therefore, I give it the benefit of the doubt, given what I have read of Feser and Jayman. Do you have a quick criticism of its coherence?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Also, your comment does not contradict my comment. It seems to agree with it, even.

          • Luke Breuer

            You’ll have to flesh that out, because outside of a deterministic framework, where [it seems] there is no distinction between “accidental change” and “substantial change”, your comment seems invalid. Rejecting some distinctions, others disappear as well; this ought not be at all surprising.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            I am not sure I really adhere to such Aristotelian//Thomist philosophy, unsurprisingly.

            Here is an interesting problem for substantial vs accidental change:

            http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2014/06/is-dying-an-accidental-or-a-substantial-change.html

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            But that means a carbon molecule has the property of being potential to be anything more complex, yet involving, that carbon molecule.

            And Andy is right about the sperm having the same category of potentiality. The only thing differentiating it from a fertilised egg is a bio-chemical process, much the same in category as the biological processes involved in transforming the embryo into a rational human being.

            As for the rest, I think you are fallaciously begging the question with your term substance.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            This is really well put. The point here, @TubalCain42:disqus, is that we arrive back at the Sorites Paradox, where applying any demarcation onto a continuum involving time is pretty difficult. In fact, ideas like personhood are conceptual, and I would suggest have no ontic reality. Which makes things even more difficult; hence why people disagree on what personhood is – it is a concept which is not objective as such.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Whoah!

            “From that point on the substance in question is a rational animal (a human).”

            Are you serious? A fertilised egg is rational? Not on any definition of the word rational.The relevant definition in the Oxford English Dictionary is:

            Able to think sensibly or logically:

            Which a fertilised egg cannot do.

            You are empirically wrong, unless you are equivocating on the word rational.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Let’s take your own bible. Exodus 21 and associated Jewish texts:

            The Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 69b states that: “the embryo is considered to be mere water until the fortieth day.”Afterwards, it is considered subhuman until it is born.

            “Rashi, the great 12th century commentator on the Bible and Talmud, states clearly of the fetus ‘lav nefesh hu–it is not a person.’ The Talmud contains the expression ‘ubar yerech imo–the fetus is as the thigh of its mother,’ i.e., the fetus is deemed to be part and parcel of the pregnant woman’s body.” 1This is grounded in Exodus 21:22. That biblical passage outlines the Mosaic law in a case where a man is responsible for causing a woman’s miscarriage, which kills the fetus If the woman survives, then the perpetrator has to pay a fine to the woman’s husband. If the woman dies, then the perpetrator is also killed. This indicates that the fetus has value, but does not have the status of a person

            http://www.religioustolerance.org/jud_abor.htm

            Jews also believed that personhood only came at birth:

            A passage from the Mishna quotes a Jewish legal text from the second century CE. It describes the situation in which a woman’s life is endangered during childbirth. A D&X procedure (often called Partial Birth Abortion in recent years) might be used under these conditions today. However, this technique was unknown in ancient times. The legal text states that the fetus must be dismembered and removed limb by limb. However, if “the greater part” of the fetus had already been delivered, then the fetus could not be killed. This is based on the belief that the fetus only becomes a person after most of its body emerges from the birth canal. Before personhood has been reached, it may be necessary to “sacrifice a potential life in order to save a fully existent human life, i.e. the pregnant woman in labor.” 1After the forehead emerges from the birth canal, the fetus is regarded as a person. Neither the baby nor the mother can be killed to save the life of the other.

            Are you only cherry picking parts of the Bible and Jewish foundation to your faith?

          • Andy_Schueler

            If I´m not mistaken, Catholics used to accept the aristotelian view of embryology which involves preformation (i.e. incompatible with a scientific understanding of how embryology works) and ensoulment after 40 days (male embryos) or 90 days (female embryos) and only adopted the stance that personhood starts at the moment of conception very late (mid 19th century) and out of convenience – because it made more sense out of the then proclaimed dogma of the immaculate conception. The RCC was always opposed to abortion but the view that a fertilized egg is the moral equivalent to a human person seems to be a rather recent one.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Thanks, Andy, wasn’t aware of those details.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I always wanted to check the original sources (what Aristotle actually wrote) on this – the man was obviously a brilliant thinker but the 40 / 90 days thingy sounds like a good candidate for the most gratuitous and arbitrary instance of misogyny in the history of mankind, doesn´t it? ;-)

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Aristotle, in Politics, book VII, ch. 16, reflected the acceptance of abortion in ancient Greek society: “…[W]hen couples have children in excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun.” In On the Soul, he distinguished between a) the nutritive/vegetative soul, characteristic of plants, b) the sensitive soul, which many animals have, and c) the intellectual/rational soul, which human beings have (alone among the animals, in his view). He believed that the human embryo/fetus first develops a), then b), then c). In Natural History, book VII, ch. 3, Aristotle claimed that male fetuses took on recognizably human form around 40 days gestation, females around 80-90 days. (This is empirically bogus, of course, but conveniently supported his belief that men are more rational than women.) Aristotle’s views were later cited by many Christian writers, notably Thomas Aquinas. http://home.earthlink.net/~davidlperry/abortion.htm

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            The meaning of the phrase translated “her children come out” (Ex. 21:22) may refer to either a successful premature birth or a miscarriage. If there is no harm (it is unclear whether the law is interested in harm to the woman, to the fetus, or to either) then the man who hit the woman is subject to a fine agreed upon by the husband and the judges. If there is harm then the man who hit the woman is subject to the law of retribution (vv 23-25). It is foolish to build one’s case on a verse of unclear meaning.

            If there is a direct threat to the mother’s life then an abortion may be permissible. But I’m defending the position that it is generally wrong to kill an innocent human. My case does not depend on Biblical exegesis.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            “But I’m defending the position that it is generally wrong to kill an innocent human.”

            I agree, given a very careful definition of human, and with a very tight ceteris paribus. Aborting a baby is not intrinsically ‘right’ or ‘good’ – this is a false dichotomy.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            I agree, given a very careful definition of human, and with a very tight ceteris paribus.

            How do you make sure “careful” is not merely “self-serving”?

  • SmilodonsRetreat

    Couple of questions after reading many of these comments, these are both for Jayman and Andy (though I suspect I know Andy’s answers).

    1) A human fertilized egg actually doesn’t become a human, I would hope that everyone knows that. The cell that actually develops into the human doesn’t even exist until about the 4th or 5th day and compaction occurs. Many of the cells formed by the first dozen cell divisions after conception form the placenta.

    So, why is it OK to dispense with the placenta. If conception is the moment when the human is formed, the placenta is obviously derived from that cell as well… and therefore just as human as the rest of the organism.

    2) If the eggs have a potential to be humans, why isn’t a total hysterectomy considered abortion?

    3) What about all the fertilized eggs that never get implanted, even after forming a blastocyte? The woman never even realizes that conception has occurred, but for whatever reason implantation never occurs and therefore the fetus is naturally aborted. If these are humans, then why aren’t we all trying to save them? IIRC at least one estimate suggests that there are more of these kinds of abortions than successful pregnancies.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

      So, why is it OK to dispense with the placenta.

      The nature of a placenta is different from the nature of a human.

      If the eggs have a potential to be humans, why isn’t a total hysterectomy considered abortion?

      An unfertilized egg has the potential to undergo substantial change and become a human, but it is not a human itself.

      What about all the fertilized eggs that never get implanted, even after forming a blastocyte?

      They’re humans that die very young.

      If these are humans, then why aren’t we all trying to save them?

      If the woman doesn’t know she’s pregnant and the embryo is not viable then we simply are unable to save them. But we might suggest ways to make implantation more likely.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        OK, then your argument about conception is flawed. It’s not the moment of conception that results in a human. It’s a long series of processes that have just begun at that stage. How is the nature of a placenta different from the nature of a human? Define “nature” in this case. Because the placenta won’t eventually become a part of the final human? Yet, the final human cannot exist without the placenta.

        If the embryo isn’t even viable until it’s implanted in the uterus, then perhaps you should shift your argument from conception to implantation. But that causes as many problems as it solves.

        Face it, the moment of conception is an arbitrary point… that can almost never be identified.

        It’s no different from anything else in life. It’s a continuum. Personally, before the embryo has a nervous system is fine with me. And if there are major genetic problems (yes, Down’s counts), then I would suggest that my wife abort the pregnancy.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          OK, then your argument about conception is flawed. It’s not the moment of conception that results in a human. It’s a long series of processes that have just begun at that stage.

          I’m not denying that there is a process of development. I’m saying a human is the one developing.

          How is the nature of a placenta different from the nature of a human? Define “nature” in this case. Because the placenta won’t eventually become a part of the final human? Yet, the final human cannot exist without the placenta.

          By nature I mean the formal cause, the essence, the substantial form, the quiddity, the what-ness, the kind of the entity in question. The fact that you distinguish between humans and placentas suggests you know they are are different kinds of things so I won’t bother defining them.

          That I can’t exist without air does not make me air. That I can’t exist without water does not make me water. That a fetus can’t exist without a placenta does not make it a placenta.

          If the embryo isn’t even viable until it’s implanted in the uterus, then perhaps you should shift your argument from conception to implantation. But that causes as many problems as it solves.

          The human-ness of the embryo is not determined by its viability outside the womb. If you weren’t viable without, say, a kidney dialysis machine that does not make you less human. It would not be permissible to kill you just because you weren’t “viable”.

          Face it, the moment of conception is an arbitrary point… that can almost never be identified.

          By that logic birth, adolescence, and adulthood are arbitrary points. Killing shall be permissible whenever you feel like it.

          It’s no different from anything else in life. It’s a continuum. Personally, before the embryo has a nervous system is fine with me. And if there are major genetic problems (yes, Down’s counts), then I would suggest that my wife abort the pregnancy.

          This is the predictable result of considering humanity irrelevant to moral consideration and identifying humans in an arbitrary manner. In no time it is permissible to kill innocent humans. What does it say about you as a person that you believe it is permissible to kill an innocent human being because he has Down’s syndrome? Which defects (and we all have them) make it okay to kill a person?

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            So you think that there is a difference between the placenta and the embryo in the placenta… even though the cells in them are exactly the same. Interesting.

            Don’t think about what it will become. I know that part will become human and part will become placenta. Other than the future state (which may not happen at all), what’s the difference?

          • Void Walker

            He hasn’t replied, yet? Shocking.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce
  • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

    ..trying to score a point with this stupid mantra “life begins at conception” is thus simply dishonest….

    Wow, we are going around in circles like protons in LHC. It looks to me the big issue is when human life begins. Andy Schueler , you are a biologist. Why don’t you tell us when human life begins. There is lot of info available online but it could be that I’m misunderstanding something.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      “Wow, we are going around in circles like protons in LHC”

      I like it. Though it scares me as to what might happen when Jayman and Andy crash.

    • Andy_Schueler

      Wow, we are going around in circles like protons in LHC. It looks to me the big issue is when human life begins. Andy Schueler , you are a biologist. Why don’t you tell us when human life begins.

      Think about it, if you trace back your history to your earliest moments, and then back to your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on and so forth – when was there ever something dead that begat something alive? Reproduction is a cycle and there was only one single transition of “non-life” to “life” on this planet, and ever since then, only living things have reproduced.
      Conception is the first moment where your unique set of genes comes into existence (well, this is only approximately true but close enough) and it certainly is a meaningful demarcation between one life (your mothers) and the other (yours) – but it doesn´t mean that life exists where there was none before because the unfertilized egg before conception was just as human and just as alive as the fertilized egg afterwards. I don´t think that the big issue is “where life begins” because everything in the human reproductive cycle is “human life”, and a liver cell is also “human life”, I think the big issues are rather things like sentience and personhood (think about why laws against animal cruelty protect dolphins or cows but not lobsters or flies, it is not because the former are alive while the latter aren´t, and it is also not arbitrary, it is because it is pretty much universally agreed upon that sentient life has an intrinsic moral worth).

      • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

        ” first moment where your unique set of genes comes into existence …….”

        OK, I think everyone can agree with that and probably the rest of your comment. Life is controlled chemical process that runs continuously. Like you said there is a special moment in the process which is the beginning of something new and unique. There are philosophical questions here but I don’t fully understand nuances. Technically, I think it’s not hard to distinguish when new human life starts.

        “the first cell of a new organism with an individual genome (2n4C) is created by the alignment of the maternal chromosomes together with the paternal ones on a common spindle apparatus.”

        http://www.embryology.ch/anglais/dbefruchtung/zygote03.html

        I had enough of ice bucket and cat videos on Facebook. It’s refreshing to come to a place where we can use brain for good purpose.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Like you said there is a special moment in the process which is the beginning of something new and unique. There are philosophical questions here but I don’t fully understand nuances. Technically, I think it’s not hard to distinguish when new human life starts.

          “the first cell of a new organism with an individual genome (2n4C) is created by the alignment of the maternal chromosomes together with the paternal ones on a common spindle apparatus.”

          Yup. And the key point here is, there is nothing special about this moment of conception beyond what is happening to genes – it´s all about genes, nothing less, nothing more. So, if you think that we essentially are our genes (a view that is basically impossible to defend), then conception is indeed a morally relevant moment. But if you think that you can not be reduced to your genes, then what happens during conception is not morally relevant.

        • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          “I had enough of ice bucket and cat videos on Facebook. It’s refreshing to come to a place where we can use brain for good purpose.”

          Brilliant, @disqus_sCvDuqqc0H:disqus!

          • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

            I read that with your British accent. You can read my comments with a Borat accent :)

            Reading about embryology (as a layman) makes life even more special to me. Prospects for the first human cell are not good. Failures and attacks wait at every corner. I think we should be protective and treat it with respect at every stage of it’s difficult journey. We should also respect all other life (my vegan niece would love this) and minimize destruction of it, whether it’s plant or animal life.

            Bureaucrats made it too easy to end this already fragile process of life; like flicking a light switch. Activists turned the issue of actual life or living being termination to an issue of personal choice infringement.

            This distraction works well and clueless masses just swallow what propaganda machine tells them. Think about it, what percentage of population reads blog like this? Here,the depth of an abortion issue is exposed regardless of if we agree on solution or not.

          • Void Walker

            I believe I misjudged you, eugen. You now seem to be quite open minded and willing to adopt new views. Bravo, good sir.

      • Void Walker

        Dude, I have to ask. How do you have any patience for conclusion first thinkers like Jayman? I don’t understand how you can even handle it without breaking your computer in half. You toasted him like the Layman he is, but still…..such ignorance. A “rational” being arising before the development of the fucking brain? Really? My head still hurts.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          How do you have any patience for conclusion first thinkers like Jayman?

          Conclusion first? My entire argument is based on metaphysical positions determined independently of the abortion debate.

          A “rational” being arising before the development of the fucking brain? Really? My head still hurts.

          That’s because you fail to make the act/potency distinction. I did not say an embryo is actually rational. I said he has a rational nature which gives him the potential to be rational.

          • Void Walker

            You took the bait, just like a good little fish.

            “Conclusion first? My entire argument is based on metaphysical positions determined independently of the abortion debate.”

            Yes, conclusion first. You’ve already determined, with no evidence or sound argumentation, when a cluster of cells is considered “human”. Andy pressed you for substantiation, and you merely restated your assertions. Instead of critically examining, through a scientific lens, the nature of said cellular cluster, you asserted that it is “rational” (without even attempting to justify this) and that it is considered fully human. I’d call that conclusion first thinking.

            “That’s because you fail to make the act/potency distinction. I did not say an embryo is actually rational. I said he has a rational nature which gives him the potential to be rational.”

            Uh….no, you didn’t. You’re restating what you actually said, now. You made the claim that it is rational, from the get go, not that it possessed a rational nature. Now you’re changing what you said to suit your “argument” (which, so far as I can tell, is non-existent). “Rational nature?” Clarify this. Rationality is a cognitive faculty which, even at birth, is far from fully developed. Rationality requires a brain, Jayman. Andy, as you can see, tends to agree:

            ****** “Well, this might be what you want to do, but what you are actually doing is saying that a fertilized egg has a “human substance” while the unfertilized egg has not because you say so – no argument whatsoever, just the same mere assertion over and over again.”*****

            Lots of assertions, no real arguments to back them up. I’ve noticed this trend with you, time and time again. It’s rather tiring.

          • Luke Breuer

            Instead of critically examining, through a scientific lens, […]

            Instead of uncritically accepting my scientistic metaphysic, …

            You have expressed an extreme disdain for metaphysics. You can only do this if either (a) you are a fundamentalist in the sense of endorsing unquestioning taken-for-grantedness—see the definition below—or (b) you simply wish to be ignorant of the underpinnings of how you understand reality.

            From sociologist Peter Berger’s The New Sociology of Knowledge:

            Resistances to pluralism have been conventionally subsumed under the category of “fundamentalism.” I am uneasy about this term; it comes from a particular episode in the history of American Protestantism and is awkward when applied to other religious traditions (such as Islam). I will use it, because it has attained such wide currency, but I will define it more sharply: fundamentalism is any project to restore taken-for-grantedness in the individual’s consciousness and therefore, necessarily, in his or her social and/or political environment. Such a project can have both religious and secular forms; the former concerns us here. (41)

          • Void Walker

            “You have expressed an extreme disdain for metaphysics. You can only do this if either (a) you are a fundamentalist in the sense of endorsing unquestioning taken-for-grantedness—see the definition below—or (b) you simply wish to be ignorant of the underpinnings of how you understand reality.”

            Lets add C: I don’t find metaphysics entirely useful or interesting. You should know by now that I’m *very* interested in the underpinnings of reality, I simply don’t find deep metaphysics to be useful in this cause.

          • Luke Breuer

            Must something be judged ‘useful’ for it to have to do with truth? That would seem to enslave us to current conceptions of usefulness. I don’t want to be locked in a philosophical prison—that’s the worst kind, because you cannot detect it with sense perception.

          • Void Walker

            I’m not saying that some bits of metaphysics are not entirely viable, I just don’t see them having a particularly powerful function wrt truth seeking. I think that science takes the cake in that regard. Go ahead and declare that I’m worshiping science, as you love to do.

          • Luke Breuer

            Of course “some bits of metaphysics are not entirely viable”; some are utterly trash, just like some bits of science are utterly trash. Metaphysics is likely the thing that takes the longest to flow into practical life. For something shorter-term, look at political theory. It doesn’t seem to matter, until you realize which political theory from a few decades ago is entirely alive and kicking in some political body. Then you realize that large organizations do force a kind of rationality on the people in them, and that the smallest of little tweaks can cause better or worse configurations of those organizations.

            I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Enlightenment and it’s utterly fascinating that many of the consequences are only really starting to be visible in the last fifty years. An example I love to point to is Donald E. Polkinghorne’s Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (Google books preface). Another would be F.A. Hayek’s Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason. A hilarious article is Philip Pilkington: Falling for Behaviourism – The Neoclassicals Join a New Cult. You can see how people have this model of human nature which can be entirely wrong, and yet undergird all their thought and deeply inform their actions.

            Are you aware of how much of a philosopher Albert Einstein was? Evidence.

          • Void Walker

            Yep, I’ve read E=Einstein thrice.

            I think we’re in agreement, here. I do concur that some bits of *everything* are shite, science clearly included.

            I suppose what I’ve been speaking of is those types who apply metaphysics in virtually *every* corner of existence, often when it simply shouldn’t be applied. Some people do the same with science, reducing human beings to the sum of their genes, etc. or making outlandish claims regarding “race”, attempting to use genetics or bits of anthropology to vindicate said claims.

            We should all try to be a bit more careful with how we model reality, and instead of thinking there is a one-shot solution to all the questions we could ever ask, attempt to be a bit more circumspect. I suppose there are some questions that only mp could answer, so maybe I’ve been a tad unfair. All I’ve meant to claim is that science, for *me*, provides the most in depth, satisfactory answers for most of the questions I’ve ever asked. Certainly not all, though.

          • Luke Breuer

            Meh, there is someone out there who takes pretty much every idea that exists, too far. The thing to respect in my book is those who are willing to be painfully consistent, because they’re the ones who really teach us something about where ideas go. I model our understanding of reality as something like a Taylor Series fit of an infinite-degree polynomial, except that it’s more than just a one-dimensional thing that we’re fitting. What happens is that the fit is really good in some regions, and increasingly bad as you travel away from those regions. The paradigm example is F = ma working outside of high-gravity and/or high-velocity situations.

            Now, you have two kinds of people: those who notice when they’ve started to enter the territory of “oh crap my model doesn’t fit reality”, and those who rationalize away not-fitting. An example of the former is Douglas Osheroff, who got a Nobel Prize because he realized that his He-3 wasn’t doing what the model said it ought to do. He is mocked by Stanford undergrads for haphazardly finding out about superfluidity, but such people are shortsighted: many wonderful things about reality have been discovered by serendipity. Others have not, like the Calvin cycle, which also won Calvin et al a Nobel Prize, but only because they worked so hard to figure it out.

            Returning to this actual post, I wonder whether the requirement that an organism not only have potential for rational thought, but have had actual rational thought, may well be a major inconsistency. For we highly value the potential of a child for adulthood, without requiring the child to have first experienced adulthood. It is a moral wrong to hinder a child’s chances for an excellent adulthood, even though the child will not feel any pain or suffering due to such hindrance, if and until the child lives to be an adult. I am interested to explore this issue further, but it may be a giant-ass inconsistency to require actual experience instead of just potential experience. We know where moral inconsistencies go: places like slavery.

            All I’ve meant to claim is that science, for *me*, provides the most in depth, satisfactory answers for most of the questions I’ve ever asked.

            Has it really answered your questions about motion? :-p

          • Void Walker

            “Has it really answered your questions about motion? :-p”

            Oh hardy-haaaaaar! No….no it hasn’t….

            But it has answered so many other questions, such as where we “come from”, why sex is fun, how old the cosmos is, what constitutes matter, how addiction works in the brain, why child birth is such a bitch for female homo sapiens sapiens, how retarded a literal reading of the flood story is in light of modern geology, etc. etc.

            That motion comment was a low blow. Meet me in the field of onion, at NOON, with your weapon of choice…..

          • Luke Breuer

            I suppose you could say that so far, nothing has worked better than science. That is, perhaps Christianity or some religion could find good answers, but they haven’t delivered to your satisfaction. This is actually the most correct thing I think you could say, and it’s entirely consistent with the bit I quoted above. Personally, I’ve seen enough good things be correlated with Christianity to think they might be caused by Christianity. For example, I and others have experientially verified the truth of the NT’s relational sin passages. When the NT gets enough stuff right, it makes one think that maybe other stuff is right, as well.

            As to the low blow, you’ve actually given me some interesting things to think about re: motion. Of all places, I was reading Eleonore Stump’s Wandering in Darkness (Rauser’s review), where she mentioned the incipit/desinit medieval logic problem; for example, how does an object go from being at rest to being in motion? What is that intermediate state? It seems like it is a discontinuous ‘jump’, which is very ugly, physics-wise. Physicists hate such discontinuities; the MWI is actually an attempt to avoid a discontinuity at time of quantum measurement!

            My current answer to the above is that there has to be an infinitely high-order derivative which flips positive or negative, and flows from the you-cannot-detect-it realm to the now-you-can-see-it realm. The way this avoids the problem is that said derivative would be infinitesimal, like an undetectable ‘push’ at a Lagrangian point which is all that is [sometimes] required to determine whether the particle goes on one trajectory or a different trajectory.

            Note that the above doesn’t require particles to start out being at rest, it just requires that they change direction. But for my solution to work, there needs to be a way to amplify the smallest of changes, the smallest of motions, into bigger ones. Butterfly effect stuff, which we know is very real (see chaos theory). And so you see, I’ve been able to take your idea, mix it with some physics, some math, and some metaphysics, and perhaps go somewhere possibly interesting. :-p

            There, have I redeemed myself or do I still need to meet you in the field of onion? And please tell me you aren’t going Happy Gilmore on me and the sprinklers don’t turn on at noon.

          • Void Walker

            Well damn….glad I got your brain a’ buzzing at least.

            Your claim that “some” parts of Christianity being valid, in your experience, therefore much (if not all) of it is valid, seems incredibly illogical. I can find passages in the Upanishads that are demonstrably true. Does this, then, lead me to conclude that Shiva exists, or that cows are sacred? Certainly not. Human beings dealing with human problems/circumstances wrote the bible. That’s fantastic that it speaks to you so deeply, but hardly lends credence to the bible as a whole. That’s just not rational thinking, Luke.

            As for motion, this brings up an interesting question that I’ve been meaning to ask you. Does God “move”? That is, does he interact with the world in any meaningful, tangible ways? Is he active? If so, how?

          • Luke Breuer

            Your claim that “some” parts of Christianity being valid, in your experience, therefore much (if not all) of it is valid, seems incredibly illogical.

            But this was not my claim. Here’s precisely what I said:

            LB: When the NT gets enough stuff right, it makes one think that maybe other stuff is right, as well.

            I did not say it necessarily gets other stuff right; I very specifically said “maybe”. That is: more testing required. If you know your OT, you know that God wanted to be struggled with. See Abraham and asking how many righteous would save Sodom, see Moses and arguing with God to not eliminate Israel and restart with him, see Jacob wrestling with God, see how the very name ‘Israel’ means “God wrestles”. Nothing in the Bible supports the idea that God wants spineless fawning children to keep their umbilical cords securely attached to him. Instead, when he talks to Job, Job says “I am small account” and yet God tells him to stand up like a man (v6 says “gird up your loins”, which is only required if you’re going to stand, vs. groveling). Indeed, God has a challenge for Job: if he can put the proud and haughty in their place, he will “acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you”—that is tantamount to godhood (see Jn 10:34).

            Human beings dealing with human problems/circumstances wrote the bible. That’s fantastic that it speaks to you so deeply, but hardly lends credence to the bible as a whole. That’s just not rational thinking, Luke.

            By this logic, the fact that science has worked so well just doesn’t mean you should have the trust in it that you do. That’s just not rational thinking, Void.

            Now, I might be tempted to agree with you, if humans weren’t so compelled to be so retarded. I love bringing up Milgram experiment § Results, because the magnitude of the failure to predict is so fricken hilarious. It reveals an absolutely hilariously wrong conception of human nature, one that was obviously constructed by humans to make themselves feel good about themselves. Given this strong tendency, for the Bible to get so much correct makes me suspect that maybe humans alone couldn’t have figured all that out. And really it almost doesn’t matter; I want to copy their means regardless, because they were much smarter than the folks who made the predictions before running Milgram. Much smarter about human nature, for sure.

            Want another example? I had the privilege of serendipitously driving three hours with a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist who was a VP or somehow in leadership of an organization that helps out troubled youths by providing boarding schools for them. He told me about a reconciliation program he just introduced and before he said too much, I explained some things I had learned from the Bible and a mentor of mine, which seem at odds with the wisdom that you generally find in the world. As it turns out, this was almost precisely the foundation that he built on for the program, and the results were fantastic: violence was down by something like 50%. You would think that if a program were this effective, more people would know it and have implemented it. But no, they did not.

            What seems utterly irrational to me, is the idea that we are so smart, if the Bible can contain such profound wisdom that we generally refuse to acknowledge in our modern, scientific, Enlightened age. I’m honestly not sure if we really believe Milgram or Stanford or The Third wave, even today. I’m not sure we’ve truly processed that this is what humans are like. Or maybe the advertisers have, and are intentionally doing all they can to keep people in adolescent states so that the effectiveness of advertisement is maximized. This serves the politicians as well, because they don’t have to work as hard and aren’t kept solidly accountable.

            Here’s another way the rubber meets the road: why the fuck didn’t we see that Hitler was doing with Germany? I claim it is because we utterly refused to believe that humans could possibly be as Milgram, Stanford, and Third Wave made clear. We refused to believe the following, from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, quoted by Ralph C. Wood:

            It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains . . . an unuprooted small corner of evil.

            Who’s being irrational, Void?

            As for motion, this brings up an interesting question that I’ve been meaning to ask you. Does God “move”? That is, does he interact with the world in any meaningful, tangible ways? Is he active? If so, how?

            And we’re back at Evan Fales’ Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles, or possibly my “infinitely highest-order derivative”. I can’t say a whole lot more than that at this point; I would need someone with whom to give life to the idea, not to just cross-examine it. You don’t have to be that person, but I do need such a person.

          • Void Walker

            “By this logic, the fact that science has worked so well just doesn’t mean you should have the trust in it that you do. That’s just not rational thinking, Void.”

            Perhaps I should have chosen my words more carefully. I should have said that “…hardly lends credence to the bible being *divinely inspired*”. Anything can be useful, sure. But making a claim that a particular book is inspired by God…that’s what I was getting at. Were you claiming that the validity of certain bits in the NT is indicative of it’s divine origin?

            “Given this strong tendency, for the Bible to get so much correct makes me suspect that maybe humans alone couldn’t have figured all that out.”

            Seriously? Read the Upanishads. Study Buddhism in depth. The same *exact* thing can be said of a wide variety of other religious texts. Also it’s important to note that, while humans are ludicrously flawed, we can do some pretty amazing shit, too. No God needed. I’m sorry, but this just really seems weak to me dude.

            “…violence was down by something like 50%. You would think that if a program were this effective, more people would know it and have implemented it. But no, they did not.”

            Again, if you dig around a bit you could most certainly find examples of people drawing wonderful things from *any* major religion. This isn’t an argument for it’s divine nature, it’s more an argument that some people think long and hard about important social issues (Buddha was one such person), arrive at conclusions, and implement them to great results. You’re confusing intelligent, compassionate people with God. Tisk, tisk Luke. There are exceptions to *every* rule, and human nature is no different. There are plenty of wise, compassionate people doing great things in the world today. Is this evidence that your particular God exists, or that people can sometimes do amazing things?

            “What seems utterly irrational to me, is the idea that we are so smart, if the Bible can contain such profound wisdom that we generally refuse to acknowledge in our modern, scientific, Enlightened age.”

            Wisdom doesn’t = divine origin. Around and around we go….

            We’ve been here before, but the way you, Luke Breuer, interpret certain passages from the NT is, in many cases, at odds with the way(s) others do. Think on how many denominations of Christianity there are. Yeah….kinda boggles the mind. Many of those are born merely from how individual perception/interpretation of the bible, especially the NT, varies. You of course counter this by saying that you’ve gotten “results” via your own interpretation. Well guess what? I’ve known christians with dramatically different interpretations of your “triads” that have claimed equal results. What of them, then?

            “Who’s being irrational, Void?”

            The guy who thinks that, because a bunch of ancient people had some good ideas wrt morality, therefore GOD (hint: I’m not talking about me, here).

            “You don’t have to be that person, but I do need such a person.”

            Fair enough. Shoot me an email and we can begin.

          • Void Walker

            Jayman, fuck away my recent comment. Clearly I misunderstood what you were saying, and treating you like an idiot was incredibly immature. My apologies.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Well, he´s not exactly saying that an embryo actually has rational faculties – he´s saying that the embryo has the “essence” of a rational animal while the unfertilized egg doesn´t have it. I don´t believe that such a thing as an “essence” exists (it is a central concept for many popular metaphysical views though) and I also doubt that one could come up with a valid argument for why, even if one would grant that such essences exist, conception is supposed to be the moment where it comes into existence.
          But Jayman was polite so far so lets be nice as well ;-)

          • Void Walker

            Eh….you’re right.

            I have a big douche problem.

        • Luke Breuer

          I suggest reading up on potentiality and actuality, and if you don’t like it because it’s metaphysics, then stay out of conversations when the rest of the people are happy to talk metaphysics. At no point did Jayman say that an embryo is a rational animal; instead he has said that an embryo is a potential rational animal. Similarly, we do our best to protect and enhance a child’s potential adulthood, well before the onset of that adulthood. Indeed, it is considered morally bad to harm a child’s potential adulthood, even if the harm only materializes years in the future.

          • Void Walker

            Yep, I fucked up. I assumed that Jayman was proclaiming that a fertilized egg is inherently rational, instead of claiming that it has the “potential” for rationality. My bad.

            Yeah….I shoulda just stayed out of this. I detest metaphysics. There’s one big FUCK UP for VOID.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why do you detest metaphysics so much? I mean, it’s easy to talk nonsense, but it’s easy to talk nonsense in any theoretical field, where it takes a while to trace the consequences to practical reality. How precisely the US Constitution was set up had implications hundreds of years in the future, but it was very theoretical at the time it was constructed.

            Our metaphysics impact how we see the world. We cannot avoid this. How can you even argue against slavery except for talking metaphysics? Aristotle had his natural slavery; how are you going to argue it except to argue that his metaphysics are wrong? Now, perhaps your cup of tea is not metaphysics. But it seems philistine and naive to dismiss it out-of-hand, instead of say something like, “I prefer more practical things”. After all, some people have proclivities toward theoretical physics and others toward practical physics. Neither group is better than the other.

          • Void Walker

            I suppose it depends upon *application*. We all subscribe to mp in some way, but allowing it to be one’s primary means of investigating any question, that’s where I draw the line.

          • Luke Breuer

            Surely you understand that if everyone did things like you think they ought to be done, the world would suck? I consider that a critical requirement of maturity: if I think the world would be better if everyone were like me, I better not be given much power because I will create hell on earth.

            I would say that metaphysics is a way to force people to be consistent in ways they would rather not consider. (Or at least force them to admit to inconsistencies.) It’s painful to be shown you’re inconsistent, and thus humans have constructed elaborate systems of rationalization. If we don’t have some experts inspecting such messes as their primary jobs, then we’re like the people who don’t care if the foundations rot away because hopefully we’ll be dead by then.

          • Void Walker

            “Surely you understand that if everyone did things like you think they ought to be done, the world would suck?”

            Ah, and it doesn’t presently suck? Are you being serious, or joking? I honestly can’t tell. Moreover, I never claimed that the world would be a better place if everyone thought like me. Now you’re putting words in my mouth (or in my comment, whatever). I said that not subscribing to much in mp works for *me*. Be careful when reading my comments in the future. “That’s where *I* draw the line.” Note the *I*.

            “I would say that metaphysics is a way to force people to be consistent in ways they would rather not consider. (Or at least force them to admit to inconsistencies.) It’s painful to be shown you’re inconsistent, and thus humans have constructed elaborate systems of rationalization. If we don’t have some experts inspecting such messes as their primary jobs, then we’re like the people who don’t care if the foundations rot away because hopefully we’ll be dead by then.”

            Fair enough. As I said, it has it’s uses and applications. But do me a favor and justify: “I would say that mp is a way to force people to be consistent…”, would you?

          • Luke Breuer

            Ah, and it doesn’t presently suck?

            It can always suck harder.

            Now you’re putting words in my mouth (or in my comment, whatever). I said that not subscribing to much in mp works for *me*.

            Nope, I said “Surely you understand …” Whether or not you meant “allowing it to be one’s primary means of investigating any question, that’s where I draw the line.” to be universal or personal was left deliciously unclear. That is, some people use that to mean “… and also where you ought to draw the line.” But I did assume the best of you in what I said.

            But do me a favor and justify: “I would say that mp is a way to force people to be consistent…”, would you?

            A wonderful example is the self-implosion of logical positivism with its meaningfulness criterion. It was an attempt to say that metaphysics is bunk, but it could only do this by uttering a master-level metaphysical statement which was immune from self-consistency. Special pleading is no more acceptable at the metaphysical level than any other level.

            Generally, the theme as of late has been to erode knowledge and certainty and even the ability to communicate, all using metaphysical arguments. See “postmodernism”, or “deconstructionism”, or “constructionism”. See The Social Construction of Reality, and the social construction of the self. However, the instant you say to stop all this nonsense and “just do science”, you’ve become a fundamentalist by refusing to let your way of knowing be criticized. The instant you become a Berger-fundamentalist, you have founded a new church with a new dogma which can only be questioned on pain of death, or irrelevance, which is a very real kind of death.

            Here’s an example of forcing consistency: a demand that all claims be supported by evidence is itself special-pleading. Why does that claim get excepted? And yet, people try to use such claims to dismiss entire realms of thought. It is irrational, and yet people utter it in the name of rationalism. Hello, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

            Oh, and if you don’t think all of this matters, please tell me how you like the consumerist West, as if that were the epitome of human achievement. Do you really think that had nothing to do with people’s metaphysics? (I hope not, which means that instead you must rule out only certain kinds of metaphysics; I would be curious as to which ones you rule out.)

          • Void Walker

            “It can always suck harder.”

            Perhaps you should choose your words a bit more carefully, next time. Instead of saying the world would suck, you could have perhaps stated the above to begin with?

            “Nope, I said “Surely you understand …” Whether or not you meant “allowing it to be one’s primary means of investigating any question, that’s where I draw the line.” to be universal or personal was left deliciously unclear. That is, some people use that to mean “… and also where you ought to draw the line.” But I did assume the best of you in what I said.”

            Again, your wording….seriously. Mine, too. Jesus fuck we can’t communicate. I must be addicted to debating you or something.

            Perhaps I should delve back into mp again. It’s been years since last I did, and I feel that there is still much to learn. You’ve given me a few branches of mp, but I’ve explored them. Can you provide a good source for comprehensively understanding every branch of mp? My internet is fucky lately, so search engines aren’t obeying my commands very much.

          • Luke Breuer

            Perhaps you should choose your words a bit more carefully, next time. Instead of saying the world would suck, you could have perhaps stated the above to begin with?

            I could do this, but it would be a result of you extending less charity to me than I would like, which would drive up the effort of posting on my part, which would make me less likely to want to engage in casual discussions if I must be so careful that a clarification is required with much lower frequency than it is now. In sum: I would see it as less fun to interact. But perhaps you see the current mode of interaction as un-fun?

            Again, your wording….seriously. Mine, too. Jesus fuck we can’t communicate. I must be addicted to debating you or something.

            Actually, I think you have something deep inside you that sees everything I say as potentially fucked up, and are quite trigger-happy on claiming that what I say is fucked up. After all, from your point of view I’ll say sensible things and then immediately something that no rational person would ever utter. I’m pretty sure you’ve said things which my previous sentence well-models.

            Can you provide a good source for comprehensively understanding every branch of mp?

            Unfortunately, not really. I found Evan Fales’ Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles quite interesting, and emailed back and forth with him a bit. The neat thing with that book is that he tried to be scientifically accurate and philosophically accurate. One very interesting tidbit was that causality is quite poorly understood by philosophers. If you really want to understand the question of how God could possibly interact with the world in a rigorous way, this seems like a pretty good book. I was able to get it through my interlibrary loan system.

            The other book I would suggest is Bernard d’Espagnat’s On Physics and Philosophy; it is an explicit attempt to integrate what we have learned from quantum physics into philosophy. For example, what precisely does Heisenberg’s unsharpness relation mean for our conception of what an ‘object’ is? What does nonlocality do to reductionism? And so forth.

          • Void Walker

            ” I would see it as less fun to interact. But perhaps you see the current mode of interaction as un-fun?”

            Honestly I’m just bitching. You’re always fun. Don’t take that the wrong way, mind you…

            “Actually, I think you have something deep inside you that sees everything I say as potentially fucked up, and are quite trigger-happy on claiming that what I say is fucked up. After all, from your point of view I’ll say sensible things and then immediately something that no rational person would ever utter. I’m pretty sure you’ve said things which my previous sentence well-models”

            Nope, it’s just hard to not notice when you’re rational in one sentence, and then harry potter style in the very next.

            Naturally I’ve said some pretty dumb things, but I’ve never made outlandish supernatural claims that have no backbone to support them. The demarcation is as clear as tap water.

            I find it interesting that you claim interactions with me are “fun”. What about them entertains you? What ways could it be more entertaining (let me guess: me being less of a douche)? On my end, you needn’t change much. You’re already super fun, and a hell of a lot more open minded and engaging than any other Christian I’ve debated.

            Thanks for the mp links, I’m gonna give them a read a bit later.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        Conception is the first moment where your unique set of genes comes into existence (well, this is only approximately true but close enough) and it certainly is a meaningful demarcation between one life (your mothers) and the other (yours)

        If this is your position, why did you bother arguing so vigorously against me?

        I don´t think that the big issue is “where life begins” because everything in the human reproductive cycle is “human life”, and a liver cell is also “human life”,

        Do you not see a difference between a part of a human, such as a liver cell, and a human organism? When does a human organism begin to exist?

        • Andy_Schueler

          If this is your position, why did you bother arguing so vigorously against me?

          That implies that what I said there would contradict anything I said elsewhere in this thread. And if I would subscribe to genetic reductionism, it would indeed contradict other comments of mine. However, I do not believe that you can be reduced to your genes. Quite the opposite, I believe that you have intrinsic moral worth (and quite a lot of that) while a cell containing your genes has none whatsoever.

          Do you not see a difference between a part of a human, such as a liver cell, and a human organism?

          Wrt the question “is it “human life”?”, nope, the answer is an unambiguous “yes” in either case.

          When does a human organism begin to exist?

          So you´ve realized that “when does human life begin?” doesn´t get you anywhere and now you try it with “where does a human organism begin”? Dude, what you want to argue for is that conception is equivalent to morally relevant change, so that a fertilized egg has a “human nature” while the unfertilized one has not – and you simply have not managed to come up with a logically valid argument for that so far. Every property of the fertilized egg that you tried to come up with so far as a demarcation criterion, is either also a property of the unfertilized egg or it only corresponds to a quantitative difference but not a qualitative one. Conception is the first moment where your unique genetic complement comes into existence, it is not a moment where there is a transition from non-human to human, or a transition from non-life to life or a transition from no (human) developmental potential to human developmental potential, it´s the beginning of your particular genetic complement, nothing less, nothing more.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            So you´ve realized that “when does human life begin?” doesn´t get you anywhere and now you try it with “where does a human organism begin”?

            This entire discussion I have been equating a human life with a human organism. That’s why I continually said you were missing the point.

            And you didn’t answer the question: when does a human organism begin to exist?

          • Andy_Schueler

            This entire discussion I have been equating a human life with a human organism.

            No, you did not do that, you just started doing that right now. Also, using the terms interchangeably is not a wise move because “life” has a rather uncontroversial definition while defining “organism” is much more problematic (for many reasons, not the least of which being the lack of an objective definition of what “continguity” means).
            If you choose to use genetics to decide the continguity issue (that would certainly not be the only reasonable choice), then conception is the beginning of a new organism. If you think that gets you anywhere, be my guest – why is that supposed to be morally relevant?

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            If you choose to use genetics to decide the continguity issue (that would certainly not be the only reasonable choice), then conception is the beginning of a new organism. If you think that gets you anywhere, be my guest – why is that supposed to be morally relevant?

            Because it is my position that it is generally wrong to kill an innocent a human (organism). Once it is admitted that an embryo is a human (organism) the following argument falls into place:

            (1) It is generally wrong to kill an innocent human (organism).

            (2) An embryo is an innocent human (organism).

            (3) Therefore it is generally wrong to kill an embryo.

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. So is it only generally wrong to kill a human organism or also generally wrong to kill human life? If only the former – why?
            2. “Generally wrong” is sufficiently vague, it could for example mean “for no good reason”. Is not wanting to have a child at this moment in time a sufficiently good reason? If not, why?

          • Luke Breuer

            Pretty sure he’s allowing for self-defense, ectopic pregnancies, and the like. I don’t get to kill human organisms because I don’t want them around. We look upon this as barbarism if the human organisms have been born. We didn’t always think this way, FYI.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Pretty sure he’s allowing for self-defense, ectopic pregnancies, and the like. I don’t get to kill human organisms because I don’t want them around. We look upon this as barbarism if the human organisms have been born.

            Yup. We´d also be horrified if someone runs out of a burning fertility clinic alone although he could have easily saved a small child who collapsed in the building, however, we wouldn´t be horrified at all if someone runs out of the building but doesn´t “save” a box full of embryos ready for implantation.
            Because cells aren´t people.

          • Luke Breuer

            I reject the appeal to human moral feelings, on the basis that plenty of people were not morally horrified by slavery. An important aspect of moral theorizing is that you extend ideas to their logical conclusions, instead of staying comfortably short of them, and thus accepting incoherence which favors oneself over and above others. “Sin is lawlessness.”

          • Andy_Schueler

            I reject the appeal to human moral feelings…

            Then stop saying stuff like “I don’t get to kill human organisms because I don’t want them around. We look upon this as barbarism if the human organisms have been born.”

          • Luke Breuer

            This time, it’s you cutting my sentence off (ellipsis or no) which destroys the meaning of what I said. At edge conditions, we cannot always trust human moral intuitions. If we could, then how did slavery ever arise? How could it be defended? Answer: irrationality. This is precisely the argument at play for abortion: it is irrational to hold onto all the various rights we do, and yet deny them to embryos. If we were consistent, then both slavery and abortion would be outlawed, except for abortion when it is self-defense. Just like most people seemed to find slavery alright, most people now probably would see it as alright to not rescue the embryos from the fertility clinic. This doesn’t mean we should automatically trust those moral intuitions.

          • Andy_Schueler

            This time, it’s you cutting my sentence off (ellipsis or no) which destroys the meaning of what I said.

            No, it doesn´t. If I use the complete sentence: “I reject the appeal to human moral feelings, on the basis that plenty of people were not morally horrified by slavery.” it doesn´t change the meaning of the first half that I quoted “I reject the appeal to human moral feelings” at all. So again:
            Then stop saying stuff like “I don’t get to kill human organisms because I don’t want them around. We look upon this as barbarism if the human organisms have been born.”

            This is precisely the argument at play for abortion: it is irrational to hold onto all the various rights we do, and yet deny them to embryos.

            Cool, so if I could either save you and your wife or two unfertilized eggs (you have no argument whatsoever to single out conception as a moment that is special in any way so this applies to unfertilized eggs just as much as it does to embryos), it doesn´t really matter which one I choose, it would even be irrational to consider that one option might be morally better than the other – because there is no difference between the potential and the actual, no difference at all. Similarly, if I destroy your house, there clearly is only one correct amount of damages I have to pay – the material cost of the raw materials that your house was constructed from, because the potential and the actual cannot possibly have a different worth, that would be totally irrational.

          • Luke Breuer

            No, it doesn´t.

            Then we simply disagree. I would be fascinated to know whom allegedly rational people would side with. Moral intuitions are trustworthy, but less so “at the edges”. This seems very obvious to me. You provided an example very much at the edge, and then spoke as if moral intuitions ought to be trusted as normal, in that situation.

            (you have no argument whatsoever to single out conception as a moment that is special in any way so this applies to unfertilized eggs just as much as it does to embryos)

            Actually, I’ve provided one: valuing potentiality only after actuality has been achieved at least once is possibly special pleading. And so, we should value potentiality regardless of whether actuality has been achieved. A rational deciding point is where human choice comes into play, which happens (a) before sex; (b) when a developing human organism can be taken care of, maimed, or destroyed. Without (a), there will never, ever be an embryo, except for rape.

            Similarly, if I destroy your house, there clearly is only one correct amount of damages I have to pay – the material cost of the raw materials that your house was constructed from, because the potential and the actual cannot possibly have a different worth, that would be totally irrational.

            Once again, I would be curious to know how many rational people would side with you on this odd-to-me analysis. It is too far removed from what I have said to you before. I would prefer something much closer to the right that a child has to have his/her potential adulthood be protected and that potential thriving be fostered. I don’t see why this ought to be valued more than actuality; it is merely future actuality. Valuing potentiality in this sense means caring about more than just the here and now, knowing that the here and now isn’t more real than the future. Neither is it less real than the future.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Actually, I’ve provided one: valuing potentiality only after actuality has been achieved at least once is possibly special pleading. And so, we should value potentiality regardless of whether actuality has been achieved.

            Cool, then you don´t mind if I forcibly take your house and give you the raw materials to build a new equivalent house. You clearly cannot object to that without engaging in special pleading.

            Once again, I would be curious to know how many rational people would side with you on this odd-to-me analysis. It is too far removed from what I have said to you before. I would prefer something much closer to the right that a child has to have his/her potential adulthood be protected and that potential thriving be fostered.

            Ah, so we should value what could be just as much as what is but only in situations of your choice, e.g., when it comes to abortion, while the exact same principle clearly doesn´t apply to other situations because…. because…. reasons.

            I don’t see why this ought to be valued more than actuality; it is merely future actuality. Valuing potentiality in this sense means caring about more than just the here and now, knowing that the here and now isn’t more real than the future. Neither is it less real than the future.

            Cool, so as soon as your daughter is of fertile age (probably 11 or 12), you would strongly encourage her to have as much unprotected sex as often as possible – if she doesn´t start at this age but rather waits until she´s 20 or even 25 or (gosh) 30, she will have on average at least 4 children less. And only a monster would not value those 4+ potential children exactly as much as actual children, so telling your twelve year old daughter to have as much unprotected sex as possible is clearly the moral thing to do.

          • Luke Breuer

            Cool, then you don´t mind if I forcibly take your house and give you the raw materials to build a new equivalent house. You clearly cannot object to that without engaging in special pleading.

            I’m sorry, I cannot see how this connects to what we’ve been discussing. Please pick an example closer to what we were discussing, make the connections more clear, or axe this tangent.

            Ah, so we should value what could be just as much as what is but only in situations of your choice, e.g., when it comes to abortion, while the exact same principle clearly doesn´t apply to other situations because…. because…. reasons.

            I do not follow this logic.

            Cool, so as soon as your daughter is of fertile age (probably 11 or 12), you would strongly encourage her to have as much unprotected sex as often as possible – if she doesn´t start at this age but rather waits until she´s 20 or even 25 or (gosh) 30, she will have on average at least 4 children less. And only a monster would not value those 4+ potential children exactly as much as actual children, so telling your twelve year old daughter to have as much unprotected sex as possible is clearly the moral thing to do.

            $1mil to the one with the most babies per unit time.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I’m sorry, I cannot see how this connects to what we’ve been discussing. Please pick an example closer to what we were discussing, make the connections more clear, or axe this tangent.

            I do not follow this logic.
            ….
            $1mil to the one with the most babies per unit time.

            You don´t seem to be trying very hard anymore (to put it at its mildest) so I won´t waste my time writing additional responses until there is a serious response from you to reply to.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            1. So is it only generally wrong to kill a human organism or also generally wrong to kill human life? If only the former – why?

            It is only generally wrong to kill a human organism. This is because only the organism as a whole has a rational animal essence.

            2. “Generally wrong” is sufficiently vague, it could for example mean “for no good reason”. Is not wanting to have a child at this moment in time a sufficiently good reason? If not, why?

            No, that is not a good reason. The killing of an innocent human (organism) could only be performed to prevent an evil comparable to the loss of life. In the abortion debate, this might occur if the mother’s (physical) life was in danger.

          • Andy_Schueler

            It is only generally wrong to kill a human organism. This is because only the organism as a whole has a rational animal essence.

            Why?

            No, that is not a good reason. The killing of an innocent human (organism) could only be performed to prevent an evil comparable to the loss of life. In the abortion debate, this might occur if the mother’s (physical) life was in danger.

            First of all, the mother´s life is in danger by definition of being pregnant – even if the risk is low, it is still there and non-negligible (not to mention the non-lethal risks to health and the costs in time and ressources being involved).
            Second, this presupposes that the embryo or fetus has exactly as much moral weight as the mother, but you conceded earlier that this is not the case – it cannot be both, if the embryo has less moral worth than its mother, then the loss of the mothers life cannot logically be a “comparable evil”, it can only be a greater evil, the question is how much greater?
            So I go back to my earlier moral dilemma, you are in a burning fertility clinic and you can save only a) a nurse or b) a box full of x embryos ready for implantation. How big of a number do I have to substitute for x to make you choose b) ?

          • Luke Breuer

            First of all, the mother´s life is in danger by definition of being pregnant – even if the risk is low, it is still there and non-negligible (not to mention the non-lethal risks to health and the costs in time and ressources being involved).

            A person’s life is also in danger by releasing a confessed murderer from prison, and yet we do it. Should we never release confessed murderers from prison? Of course not. You can only say what you’re saying because you are implicitly assigning zero rights to pre-X human organisms, by some definition of X that comes well after fertilization.

            Second, this presupposes that the embryo or fetus has exactly as much moral weight as the mother, but you conceded earlier that this is not the case

            Where did Jayman concede this?

            So I go back to my earlier moral dilemma, you are in a burning fertility clinic and you can save only a) a nurse or b) a box full of x embryos ready for implantation. How big of a number do I have to substitute for x to make you choose b) ?

            The proper answer is probably to not do IVF in this fashion, given that the vast majority of embryos will never be given the chance to mature. I don’t see a difference between destroying a fertilized embryo and freezing it forever.

          • Andy_Schueler

            A person’s life is also in danger by releasing a confessed murderer from prison, and yet we do it. Should we never release confessed murderers from prison?

            Context…..

            You can only say what you’re saying because you are implicitly assigning zero rights to pre-X human organisms, by some definition of X that comes well after fertilization.

            Lets say there is some guy who for some reason (screw biology for a moment) needs your kidney, he´s fine except for that but he needs your kidney or he will certainly die. I don´t think that we should force you to undergo surgery to remove one of your kidneys and give it to that guy, and I wouldn´t think that if a) this guy has no rights at all, b) some rights but less than you and c) exactly the same rights that you have.
            So what you say here is completely false.

            The proper answer is probably to not do IVF in this fashion, given that the vast majority of embryos will never be given the chance to mature. I don’t see a difference between destroying a fertilized embryo and freezing it forever.

            Cool. Then I´ll adapt the scenario accordingly: you are in a burning fertility clinic and you can save only a) a nurse or b) a box full of x embryos ready for implantation, which will certainly not be frozen forever, you rather know that they could be immediatly transferred to the christian “save the embryos” foundation where christian women choose to get implanted with such embryos in order to save them. How big of a number do I have to substitute for x to make you choose b) ?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            This is a good point.

            In IVF you get say a dozen/fifteen fertilised eggs, hopefully, and then implant the best ones. They can grade them on the quality of fertilisation and ones which will more likely survive.

            And then they might implant multiple eggs, depending on the rules of the country.

            And then one or more babies might be born.

            Forward wind some years, and you have a/some lovely humans who otherwise would not have existed.

            Is not the perishing of those other f-eggs not worth it on account of the production of some lovely human(s)?

          • Luke Breuer

            Current IVF + at-conception pro-life just doesn’t make sense. It is a delusion to pretend that as long as those fertilized eggs stay frozen and don’t get destroyed, all is fine.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Freezing those cells has no moral dimension. Al is fine. You have not shown how those cells have any moral properties, and how freezing them indefinitely impinges on them.

          • Luke Breuer

            I merely meant to establish a valid conclusion, one that at-conception pro-lifers would find sound.

          • Luke Breuer

            Unfertilized eggs belong to females, sperm belong to males, and fertilized eggs belong to themselves, since we have decided that owning another human organism is wrong. Or was that just owning the certain human organisms we are comfortable with giving rights? I sense a desire to stop logical conclusions from arriving.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            You certainly hear horror stories of how third-party reproduction and adoption look like a modern form of slavery. Once you stop respecting the rights of humans qua humans you open the box to many other forms of evil.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Unfertilized eggs belong to females, sperm belong to males, and fertilized eggs belong to themselves, since we have decided that owning another human organism is wrong.

            Great! Women belong to themselves and eggs belong to themselves, and if a woman wants to keep her body instead of donating it, we liberate the egg and give it the freedom to make it on its own outside of her body.

          • Luke Breuer

            This sounds awfully like exposing infants, except that until a certain developmental stage, we cannot imagine how a human organism would suffer or feel pain. So ostensibly, if we could first eliminate the ability to suffer/feel pain (but do no more than this), it would be ok to expose an infant?

          • Andy_Schueler

            No, and that doesn´t follow from what I said. Your comment entailed that women belong to themselves and eggs belong to themselves – which is as a great argument for the right to choose an abortion if you wish one.

          • Luke Breuer

            All you said was remove the embryo from the woman’s body, you didn’t say kill it. I fail to see how a child needing the support of its parents is different from an embryo or fetus needing the support of its mother. Suppose that we could incubate embryos and provide artificial wombs, and remove embryos safely from mothers. Then we have a very good match to the alternative to exposing infants: adoption by other parents who are willing to accept the responsibility of caring for “the least of theses”.

            Rights do not extend to “I can shun my responsibilities if I want to”; the logical conclusion of this is the complete disintegration of society. If you have sex, you sign up for possibly having a kid; it’s that simple. If you’re born into a family, you have responsibility to that family, as it has responsibility to you. Rights do not make any sense if they do not involve making positive as well as negative claims on people. Otherwise, how on earth does a child have a right for his/her parents not to be alcoholics during his/her childhood?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Red herring, my comment was a response to your claim that women belong to themselves and eggs belong to themselves because we cannot own people. And now you have apparently realized that this actually supports the right to choose abortion so you go back to eggs belonging to themselves and women belonging to their eggs – the eggs own their mothers and completely destroy their rights to bodily autonomy (clearly only eggs and men have a right to that) until they no longer rely on her body.

          • Luke Breuer

            Do parents have the right to disown their children if they feel like it?

          • Andy_Schueler

            That is irrelevant unless you finally manage to demonstrate that there is no moral difference between a person and a cell that has the potential to develop into a person.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            This is precisely the point. @TubalCain42:disqus and @LukeBreuer:disqus seem to equate, morally, a potential human with an actual (rational) human. As you have shown, this is patently false. What might be more accurate is the moral worth developing as the organism develops and ACTUALLY gets such and such properties. These properties don’t pong into existence unders potentiality, otherwise I am still with you as the unf-egg having potentiality. But the concept of potentiality is flawed anyway.

            Otherwise, Andy, you are a cowboy.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            We are saying that an actual human (from conception onwards) has, by its nature, various potentials (rational animality). The unfertilized egg/sperm is not an actual human (organism).

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Again, from Reiman:

            “This talk of the fetus’s genetic blueprint will suggest to some a different tack, namely, that what is valuable in the zygote is a potential human child or adult. The fetus, even at this early stage, is a potential person, a potential bearer of moral rights. Thus, for example, Burleigh Wilkins holds that the fetus has a right to life “from the very early moment of conception because it is a potential person.” 23 Such claims appear to commit what Joel Feinberg has called the “logical error” of thinking that one can “deduce actual rights from merely potential (but not yet actual) qualification for those rights. What follows form potential qualification …are potential, not actual, rights; what entails actual rights is actual, not potential, qualification. As the Australian philosopher Stanley Benn puts it, ‘A potential President of the United States is not on that account Commander-in-Chief (of the US Army and Navy).'”24″ p.60

          • Andy_Schueler

            As the Australian philosopher Stanley Benn puts it, ‘A potential President of the United States is not on that account Commander-in-Chief (of the US Army and Navy)

            I love that analogy.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            As Lynn Morgan states in her article in Current Anthopology:

            “It is fair to say that most contemporary secular philosophers reject the argument from potential. Critics “observe how obviously weak it seems” (Burgess 2010:140); one philosopher told me that it is “just bad philosophy.” The idea that “a creature’s potential properties” could determine its present rights, they say, is “absurd” (Stone 1987:815). An egg is not a chick, a seed is not a fruit. They argue that it is “incorrect to derive actual rights” from the potential to have those rights at a later time (Gordon 2008; see also Benn 1984; Berkich 2007; Burgess2010; Jokić 1993, 2001; Kaposy 2010b; Little 2008; Persson 2003). Burgess (2010) nevertheless attempts to take the potentiality principle seriously by setting several conditions that it must meet in order to pass philosophical muster. These include “nonvacuity”: “the argument from potential must not collapse into the view that a foetus already is a person with full moral rights. The argument must not assume what it is meant to prove.” Another condition is “parsimony,” by which he means that the argument must include embryos and yet “deny gametes a right to life” (Burgess 2010:146; emphasis in original). In other words, it must pass what Gosselin (2000) calls the “contraception reductio,” which is the idea that because contraception prevents gametes from uniting, thus preventing them from achieving a “future like ours,” it is therefore immoral.2Furthermore, Burgess says, the potentiality principle must have “explanatory power: the ‘boosting argument’ must not be a mere list of everything that is distinctive about the human embryo—the argument must explain the unusual attribution of a right to life”; that is, it must be an argument rather than an exhortation. It must also meet the test of continuity: “the attempt to exclude gametes and other unwanted entities must not go too far; the argument has to explain why they are deemed valuable even though they do not have a right to life” (Burgess2010:146; emphasis in original). These high standards are not unreasonable, but many secular philosophers seem to feel they have not yet been reached.”

            The Potentiality Principle from Aristotle to Abortion

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            The evolution of species is merely a kind of substantial change. I don’t have the quote on hand, but Thomas Aquinas even noted the possibility of a new kind of animal arising from an old kind of animal.

            In other words, if all X became Y then you would argue that X had the nature of Y through its potentiality.

            Not necessarily. This is only true if X and Y apply to the same substance. If X and Y are different substances then X and Y have different essences.

            So it turns out that most fertilised eggs do not survive. So one could actually argue that fertilised eggs have the essential nature, then, of not surviving, of non-existence, rather than of ‘human’.

            If non-existence is the essence of X then X would never exist. When a fertilized egg dies a substantial change occurs. When a fertilized egg grows into an infant an accidental change occurs.

            He then goes on to take Aristotle’s ideas to task, concluding, “talk of newly conceived zygotes as potential persons reflects a subtle anthropomorphism read into what are simply mechanical processes. If this is correct, the potentiality argument should finally be laid to rest as a relic of ancient biology.”

            I’m not speaking of “persons”, I’m speaking of “humans” (organisms). Zygotes are actual human organisms. Your quotes from Reiman are too short to get a sense of what he’s really saying, but this quote seems to prove too much. How does the existence of “mechanical processes” mean the zygote is not a human? An adult’s body undergoes “mechanical processes” too. Does that mean no one is a human?

            It is fair to say that most contemporary secular philosophers reject the argument from potential.

            Assuming consciousness is required for moral personhood, why is it wrong to kill an unconscious person? Do you have a better answer than Andy’s that does not turn into an appeal to potentiality?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Every instantiation of a new organism is technically different to the last, such that, given its slow and gradual process, there is no one species. This is the species problem and it is fully reflective of the nominalism debate.

            Again:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species_problem

            As for the unconscious person: they are actually, a person. They presently have the faculties and the abilities and the structures, and the past evidence, of being a person.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Every instantiation of a new organism is technically different to the last, such that, given its slow and gradual process, there is no one species. This is the species problem and it is fully reflective of the nominalism debate.

            That doesn’t change what I said about substantial change occurring. And note that “rational animal” is broad enough to, hypothetically, cover multiple biological species.

            As for the unconscious person: they are actually, a person. They presently have the faculties and the abilities and the structures, and the past evidence, of being a person.

            If you must be conscious to be a person then an unconscious human is not a person. Appeals to faculties, abilities, and structures are appeals to potency. What you appear to really be saying is that a human is a person if they are currently conscious or have been conscious in the past.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Where did I say being unconscious (temporarily) invalidates personhood?

          • Luke Breuer

            I’ll do that, just as soon as you can convince me as to why it is wrong to painlessly eliminate human beings as long as it’s before they can fear death. After all, wouldn’t that just increase the net amount of enjoyment of life in the world? Indeed, fear of death is a terrible thing, as Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer-prize winning The Denial of Death makes quite clear.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You seem to conflate a) a scenario where something is not yet able to fear death but might so in the future with b) a scenario where I (or someone else) finds a way to “cure” this fear / remove this fear from people that actually have it.

          • Luke Breuer

            How does/ought my argument depend on curing/removing fear of death?

          • Andy_Schueler

            What is your argument and what relevance does Becker´s book have and what has any of this to do with increasing the “net amount of enjoyment” if curing / removing fear of death has nothing to do with any of this?

          • Luke Breuer

            Well, the threat of death, to someone who can fear death, incurs a tremendous amount of suffering. That seems clearly morally wrong. But what about before that fear happens? What is your sound, moral argument for painlessly eliminating human life before it can fear death? Surely you can provide one that is not arbitrary, like you criticize me for being arbitrary. If you cannot do what you want me to do, then I will suspect that you are asking me to adhere to a standard to which yourself cannot adhere. That, of course, will beg the question as to whether your standard is simply too high.

          • Void Walker

            “That seems clearly morally wrong. ”

            But, but free will! There, problem solved.

          • Luke Breuer

            You know this is a good way to get me to simply not talk to you about anything that you or I think is connected to free will, right? It might even get me to not talk to anyone about free will if there is sufficient probability that you will comment. I’m just not interested in talking about topics with people who hold no respect for them; it is a waste of my time because I am more interested in truth than fun.

          • Void Walker

            You appear to be more interested in upholding an absurd notion such as LFW than examining the truth, Luke. In fact, without the brand of free will you subscribe to, your faith would crumble.

          • Andy_Schueler

            My argument isn´t that it is ok to kill an embryo because an embryo cannot fear death, my argument is that an embryo exhibits no property at all that has unanimously agreed upon moral relevance. An example for an unanimously agreed upon morally relevant property is indeed fear of death, but there are many others as well – and an embryo doesn´t have any single one of those, not even primitive forms of those properties.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Unanimous? I’m pretty sure Nazis leading Jews to the gas chambers did not believe the fear of death was morally relevant. You’ve set an impossible standard.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I’m pretty sure Nazis leading Jews to the gas chambers did not believe the fear of death was morally relevant

            Of course they believed that fear of death was morally relevant, but what they also believed is that Jews are intrinsically evil and that killing them is an act of self-defense (i.e., pretty much exactly what the ancient hebrews used to believe about their enemies).

          • Luke Breuer

            I know that this isn’t your argument; what I’m asking is why you think your argument is better than the claim that one ought not kill actual beings who can fear death. I’m trying to get a sense of the robustness of the kinds of arguments you can provide, to see if you’re demanding more robustness from me than you can possibly provide, yourself.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            I think Jayman has need of defining where properties = nature. Ie what properties define the nature of a human?

            We have been calling for clarity and argument, but it comes down to what properties signify a human (in embryonic form) entity? It is about existent properties. I guess Jayman may not want to admit this because then he has to start getting biological, or admit to nebulous supernatural claims.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            To add to that, @TubalCain42:disqus:

            I think that the reason I have tried to add personhood into the conversation is that because I need you to define the existence properties of the essence or nature of a human, and this is normally where one goes for such, albeit it adult. But we are talking about a blastocyst. The existence properties of such, then, need to be defined. But you do not want to reduce it to biology, which seems unfortunate, since this seems pretty sensible at that stage. So you then move sideways to talk of a potentiality. I then say a steering wheel is developmentally potentially soon to be a car.

            You then counter-claim that it does not have intrinsic self-organisation.

            What I think we have perhaps missed out on is calling you on this.

            This property of self-organisation is a biological property, so again, we are actually back to a biological property which defines human. And, in fact, it seems to be just this key of self-organisation.

            It really would be useful for myself and @Andy_Schueler:disqus, I guess, if you defined carefully the nature or essence of human, since this is what we are all arguing about,

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            I think that the reason I have tried to add personhood into the conversation is that because I need you to define the existence properties of the essence or nature of a human, and this is normally where one goes for such, albeit it adult.

            Persons, as distinct from human (organisms), are not real substances. They don’t exist outside the mind. Human (organisms) do exist outside the mind.

            But you do not want to reduce it to biology, which seems unfortunate, since this seems pretty sensible at that stage. So you then move sideways to talk of a potentiality.

            A thing’s nature and its potencies are intricately linked. A bird, by its nature, has the potential to fly. A human, by its nature, does not have the potential to fly.

            This property of self-organisation is a biological property, so again, we are actually back to a biological property which defines human. And, in fact, it seems to be just this key of self-organisation.

            A unity in being is not restricted to biology. A hydrogen atom has its own nature, for example.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Persons, as distinct from human (organisms), are not real substances. They don’t exist outside the mind. Human (organisms) do exist outside the mind.

            We don´t say that human personhood can be something that is distinct of a human life, what we say is that not all human life has personhood. And while “personhood” has no unanimously accepted definition, the attributes associated with it (like consciousness and sentience) are real and not mental constructs. And they are also dependent on a brain, that´s why we say that human life cannot have personhood without a brain.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            And while “personhood” has no unanimously accepted definition, the attributes associated with it (like consciousness and sentience) are real and not mental constructs.

            Do I lose my personhood when I’m knocked unconscious? If not, why not?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Nope, because knocking you out usually doesn´t render you braindead – if it does, then you are no longer a person and I would have killed you.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            But you said consciousness is a requirement to be a person. You said nothing about brain death. How can I be unconscious and a person if being conscious is a requirement for personhood?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Because consciousness is not lost, only suspended, when you are knocked out.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            And how is that different from saying consciousness is now only potential instead of actual?

          • Andy_Schueler

            If I would be a professor, but I´m not working now because it is weekend and I´m currently enjoying my free time – I´m still a professor, despite the interruption of the weekend, I would still be an actual professor. And this is very different from me being a six year old with an interest in science and the potential to become a professor at some point in time.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            I don’t think the analogy works. You are a professor now because, despite it being the weekend, you are still employed at a school. But, if you were fired, you would no longer be a professor. You would only be a potential professor.

            You are either conscious now or not. You are never “unconsciously conscious” or what have you. If you are not conscious now you have the potential to be conscious at some point in time.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            No, he would not be a professor. Otherwise he is a potential stripper, murderer, cowboy etc etc and he would really have to have those natures objectively under your logic, even though he isn’t actually one.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            One’s profession is an accident, not a substance. When I speak of nature I speak of the substantial form or essence. You are correct that Andy has the potential to adopt the accidental form of being a stripper. We can only hope he does not choose to do so.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Your whole notion of essentialism is surely deeply flawed given the evolution of species, which kind of represents the development of the human organism.

            As Jeffrey Reiman says:

            “The seeming plausibility of the idea that he same continuous essence arises from conflating two different definitions of same continuous entity . On one definition, a thing is the same continuous entity if it has the same continuous essence; on the other definition, a thing is the same continuous entity if it is a physically continuous entity. If we stick to the first definition, the same physically continuous entity can undergo essential change and become a different entity as a result. If we stick to the second, the same physically continuous entity can undergo essential change.

            …On the first alternative, though a fetus is physically continuous with an adult person, the fetus is not ipso facto the same entity as the adult person and thus not ipso facto a person. Onn the second alternative, though the fetus is the same entity as an adult person, it does not thereby have the same continuous essence and thus, again, is not ipso facto a person. Notice, too, that either of these alternatives removes the mysterious claim that fetuses can be (substantive) persons though they lack the traits of (substantive) personhood.

            Now, if an entity’s moral status depends on its essential nature, then since physical identity does not entail essential identity, physical identity does not entail moral identity either. If, on the other hand, an entity’s moral status depends on its nonessential properties, then since physical identity is compatible with changes in nonesorsential properties, it follows as well that physical identity does not entail moral identity. Since an entity’s moral status must depend on either its essential nature or its nonessential properties (or both) , it follows generally that physical identity does not imply moral identity.

            Moreover, there are good reasons to believe that human beings’ moral status can change profoundly with changes in their nonessential properties.” Abortion and the Way we Value Human Life p. 81-2.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Also, and I would be interested to see what @Andy_Schueler:disqus thinks here, but potentiality is often talked about in probability.

            In other words, if all X became Y then you would argue that X had the nature of Y through its potentiality.

            So it turns out that most fertilised eggs do not survive. So one could actually argue that fertilised eggs have the essential nature, then, of not surviving, of non-existence, rather than of ‘human’. With nature left to run its course, fewer than 1/3 of conceptions result in live births. The essential nature of f-eggs is, arguably, the properties of a dead zygote.

            As REiman again says of these stats, ” This undermines the claim that the newly conceived zygote is even a potential human being.” p. 66

            He then goes on to take Aristotle’s ides to task, concluding, “talk of newly conceived zygotes as potential persons reflects a subtle anthropomorphism read into what are simply mechanical processes. If this is correct, the potentiality argument should finally be laid to rest as a relic of ancient biology.”

          • Andy_Schueler

            He then goes on to take Aristotle’s ides to task, concluding, “talk of newly conceived zygotes as potential persons reflects a subtle anthropomorphism read into what are simply mechanical processes. If this is correct, the potentiality argument should finally be laid to rest as a relic of ancient biology.”

            I think he is on to something there. For an aristotelian understanding of human development, the earliest moment in development are essentially really tiny humans that just grow bigger (hence “preformationism”), and in some sense, this view is still alive today esp. among the “pro-life” crowd.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            I think Jayman has need of defining where properties = nature. Ie what properties define the nature of a human?

            A human is a rational animal. The essence or nature of humans is rational animality. Having a given nature is not about presently acting out every aspect of the nature. Rather it is the potential to actualize aspects of the nature. Given its nature, an embryo has the potential to act rationally in the future even if it is not doing so now.

            It is about existent properties.

            If it is about presently existent properties then it would be permissible to murder you in your sleep because you aren’t acting rationally while you sleep. To avoid this objection you need to fall back to your potentialities, the very thing you want to avoid if you are pro-choice.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            There was a very interesting discussion on this some time ago. I’ll try to remember how it went.

            Let’s say an alien comes to Earth. They are collecting organisms for their zoo, but they have a strict policy that they cannot collect sentient beings.

            Describe to the alien how to tell the difference between any human such that they do not collect a human accidentally.

          • Luke Breuer

            Wrt the question “is it “human life”?”, nope, the answer is an unambiguous “yes” in either case.

            This leads to the absurd conclusion that cultured human cells living in a petri dish are “human life”. You could go this route, but then I would simply say that we are talking about different natural kinds, and that what I (and Jayman) are talking about is indeed a natural kind.

          • Andy_Schueler

            This leads to the absurd conclusion that cultured human cells living in a petri dish are “human life”

            That isn´t an absurd conclusion. It´s not even controversial, not in the slightest – it is obviously and unambiguously true, human cells in a cell culture are “human life”. It becomes absurd if and only if you use “human life” and “human person” synonymously.

            You could go this route, but then I would simply say that we are talking about different natural kinds, and that what I (and Jayman) are talking about is indeed a natural kind.

            If we are talking about non-artificial groupings, there is not just one, I can assign a fertilized human egg and a human baby to a non-artificial grouping based on genetic similarity (and I would have to include the unfertilized egg there as well, because it is only haploid but still has human genes). I can also come up with a different non-artificial grouping by clustering all sentient life, that would include chimps, dolphins, humans etc. but not in their earliest developmental stages, and IMO, this non-artificial grouping has moral relevance while the other one has no moral relevance.

          • Luke Breuer

            That isn´t an absurd conclusion. It´s not even controversial, not in the slightest – it is obviously and unambiguously true, human cells in a cell culture are “human life”. It becomes absurd if and only if you use “human life” and “human person” synonymously.

            It is absurd when you and Jayman and Jonathan and I all know that what is being talked about is morality, and that nobody thinks it is wrong to kill/discard some cultured liver cells. I doubt you have ever run into someone who thinks that it is wrong to kill cultured liver cells qua liver cells.

            If we are talking about non-artificial groupings, […]

            What are the criteria for figuring out whether a grouping is or is not (a) non-artificial, and (b) non-artificial in the moral sense?

          • Andy_Schueler

            It is absurd when you and Jayman and Jonathan and I all know that what is being talked about is morality, and that nobody thinks it is wrong to kill/discard some cultured liver cells. I doubt you have ever run into someone who thinks that it is wrong to kill cultured liver cells qua liver cells.

            That´s kind of the point, try to find something that a) distinguishes a liver cell or an unfertilized egg from a fertilized egg that is also b) in any way morally relevant. That is what I keep asking for which Jayman was so far unable to produce.

            What are the criteria for figuring out whether a grouping is or is not (a) non-artificial, and (b) non-artificial in the moral sense?

            Re a) very good question, it is debated whether there even are such things as “natural kinds”. The key problem here afaict is that there is no objective way to determine “similarity”. Good pragmatic candidates for “natural kinds” include things that can be assigned to the same groupings based on evaluating similarities of a) ALL their characters and b) without arbitrarily weighing any character (and by that criteria, higher taxonomic groups or the main groups of the periodic table of elements are good candidates for such natural kinds)
            Re b) there is a moral sense if the grouping involves morally relevant attributes, IMO sentience and personhood are morally relevant attributes while genes are not.

          • Luke Breuer

            That´s kind of the point, try to find something that a) distinguishes a liver cell or an unfertilized egg from a fertilized egg that is also b) in any way morally relevant. That is what I keep asking for which Jayman was so far unable to produce.

            Is it not the case that a liver cell has no potential to become a rational animal, while a fertilized egg does? I think your case is better made with unfertilized eggs and sperm than with liver cells, which puts an important restriction on “human life”. Then we can ask what is different about the potentiality of unfertilized eggs vs. fertilized eggs. The sense I get (@TubalCain42:disqus, correct me if I’m wrong) is that it requires human choice to transform a sperm/u-egg into having potential for rational animal life, while it requires no human choice for an f-egg to have potential for rational animal life. Morality has to deal with choices. Before the f-egg, the choice is to make the f-egg. After the f-egg, the choice is whether to damage/destroy the potential for rational animal life, or enhance it. The same exists for born human beings: you can choose to damage/destroy their potential for rational animal life (intellect + senses + emotions), leave alone, or enhance.

            The key problem here afaict is that there is no objective way to determine “similarity”.

            Doesn’t this destroy any semblance of objective morality, any semblance of being able to approach objective morality? Actually, I don’t even understand how we can have any semblance of approaching objective scientific knowledge on this basis. Am I missing something?

            Re b) there is a moral sense if the grouping involves morally relevant attributes, IMO sentience and personhood are morally relevant attributes while genes are not.

            Would you agree that you require personhood to have been actualized at least once in the person’s past, in addition to the entity having the potential for personhood in the future? This seems to be a fundamental difference between you and Jayman.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Doesn’t this destroy any semblance of objective morality, any semblance of being able to approach objective morality? Actually, I don’t even understand how we can have any semblance of approaching objective scientific knowledge on this basis. Am I missing something?

            I think you’re right on the mark. A total rejection of essentialism would destroy science and morality. Induction works, I believe, because different things share the same essence. I can study this hydrogen atom and know what other hydrogen atoms will do because I know all hydrogen atoms share the same essence. Human rights apply to all humans because they all have the same human essence. Take away a shared human essence and human rights are useful fictions at best.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m actually not convinced that Andy and Jonathan are really rejecting essence, here. After all, don’t they think that animal rationality is an essence to which we can attach moral properties? From what I can tell (and I’ve recently requested verification), they simply want it to be somehow actualized first as well as have future potentiality. I don’t think this restriction makes sense; we generally don’t ask people to “prove themselves” first in the moral domain (indeed, this seems precisely the domain where we cannot do that). At least, this is my take without doing too much dialectical work on the issue.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I think you’re right on the mark. A total rejection of essentialism would destroy science and morality.

            Then you´d have to show why science and morality cannot work with nominalism, it seems to work just fine – and neither science nor moral philosophy requires a precommitment to either nominalism, platonism or some other alternative.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            I did provide an example. Why does induction work? How can studying one set of things tell me how another set of things of the same kind will work? They must share something in common, right?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Yup, and that is not a problem given nominalism. I´d invite you to read this:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominalism

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            I have another 75 emails to wade through here, so this might have been covered…

            But you are wrong here because for one, the H atom, you are talking about actualised properties, and for another you are talking about possibilities and potentials in the future.

            Lots of things could potentially happen: the human embryo could become a non-rational human of one sort or another, a mass murderer, and so on.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Is it not the case that a liver cell has no potential to become a rational animal, while a fertilized egg does? I think your case is better made with unfertilized eggs and sperm than with liver cells, which puts an important restriction on “human life”. Then we can ask what is different about the potentiality of unfertilized eggs vs. fertilized eggs. The sense I get (, correct me if I’m wrong) is that it requires human choice to transform a sperm/u-egg into having potential for rational animal life, while it requires no human choice for an f-egg to have potential for rational animal life.

            That is not the case, because you can only choose to have sex or not, your wife cannot choose to ovulate, and you cannot will your sperm to fertilize one of her eggs.

            Morality has to deal with choices. Before the f-egg, the choice is to make the f-egg. After the f-egg, the choice is whether to damage/destroy the potential for rational animal life, or enhance it. The same exists for born human beings: you can choose to damage/destroy their potential for rational animal life (intellect + senses + emotions), leave alone, or enhance.

            And why is it wrong to destroy that potential when you don´t want to have a child right now? I say that it can be morally neutral, it could even be morall good. Example: I come from a working class family and was the first one that had a chance to get higher education. And when I was 20, my girlfriend and me were worried that she might be pregnant, she wasn´t, but we considered an abortion because while we both would like to have children (I´d love to have many actually) this would be a terrible time for many reasons, both of us would have to quit Uni, and I would have had to try to land a job that pays much less than I can make now – meaning that I could not afford to provide for a big family (i.e. more than at most 2 children) and even to provide for a small one, we would have to struggle – and with financial security I can conveniently provide for a big family which means that there now is a potential for more children, more security and better opportunities for said children. Is that not a good thing? Would the potential for those children NOT have been destroyed if I had become a father with 20 and quit Uni?

            Doesn’t this destroy any semblance of objective morality, any semblance of being able to approach objective morality? Actually, I don’t even understand how we can have any semblance of approaching objective scientific knowledge on this basis. Am I missing something?

            Didn´t you deal with that subject in CS? There is no such thing as an objective similarity function of things, because you have to make decisions about which attributes you consider and how you evaluate “similarity” – that problem raises its head in a great many different situations. Have you never had to deal with that?
            And I don´t see the connection to objective morality for example – this is about “similarity”.

            Would you agree that you require personhood to have been actualized at least once in the person’s past, in addition to the entity having the potential for personhood in the future?

            No, not necessarily, we dealt with the thought experiment where my memories would be erased – which would mean that I cease to exist as the person that I am now and the status of “me” would be very similar to that of a newborn, in some sense, this “me” would be a new person that comes into existence and I don´t think that that makes a significant moral difference.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            It is absurd when you and Jayman and Jonathan and I all know that what is being talked about is morality, and that nobody thinks it is wrong to kill/discard some cultured liver cells. I doubt you have ever run into someone who thinks that it is wrong to kill cultured liver cells qua liver cells.

            Exactly. Perhaps Andy’s training as a biologist caused him to over-think the matter but it’s disingenuous to say I wasn’t speaking of human organism’s from the beginning.

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