Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
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16-04-2013, 12:28 AM (This post was last modified: 16-04-2013 12:36 AM by Heywood Jahblome.)
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
(14-04-2013 09:06 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  
(14-04-2013 02:20 AM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  Some states are considering passing bills in which if an abortion is botched and the baby is born live, the abortionist must take steps to preserve the life of the baby. It would seem that from what you said above you would be in support of such legislation. If true, doesn't that put you in a position of being okay with the killing of human being within the womb, but not okay with killing it(or letting it die) ten minutes later when it is outside the womb?

The problem with arbitrary points where abortion is legal or not is that they are just that...arbitrary points. Instead of setting the cut off at viability, why not set it at when the fetus pain(about 20 weeks)? Or how about setting it at when the fetus has brain activity(about 6 weeks). Or how about making it so only poor people without the means to care for a child be allowed to have abortions?

Establishing laws on arbitrary points like this is unreasonable. Abortion isn't about science, or politics, or economics. Abortion is about morality.....when is it to kill another human being?....only as a last resort. Abortion is seldom the last resort.

So why the arbitrary point of fertilization?

There is a second moral ill to consider here: societal restraint of what a woman may or may not do with her own body. It can be argued that this is a lesser evil than killing a child would be, but in light of the general grayness of the personhood question, it is far more certain. (And no, it's not just me regarding it as gray, it is a significant portion of society at large.) I quite explicitly chose viability outside of the womb if labor were to be induced without increased burden to the pregnant woman as the last tolerable point of time for an abortion because that is exactly the point where this second moral ill ceases to be a competing factor, not because this is a point where I begin to ascribe personhood to the fetus. This point where the second moral ill ceases to be a countervailing factor is NOT an arbitrary point, save in that medical advances might alter the age of viability or reduce the burden of induced labor as an alternative. It is the only non-arbitrary point under discussion, save perhaps for birth itself. At this point, the caution principle becomes unambiguously applicable, and doing what can be done to ensure the life of the birth (even if we might be uncertain about whether to consider it a person) becomes a strong argument. Before then, the caution principle cuts both ways. Your questions indicate that you did not understand this motivation.

For that matter, you have not once, not in three pages of debating, acknowledged even the possibility that a moral harm is being done in alienating from a pregnant woman from control over her own person. Not even as part of an argument that this is a lesser of evils. Not once. Coupled with your apparent lack of understanding of my clearly-stated motives for selecting viability outside of the womb, I'm beginning to wonder if you even comprehend that there's a second moral ill to be considered here. I'd certainly question your capacity to balance these ills, or judge one as overriding, without your even pretending to consider both of them.

Regarding laws requiring efforts to keep it alive after an abortion, I have little objection to them in principle. Like most laws, there'd be pragmatics to work out beyond the principle. In particular, who would pay for it? The pro-choice mother or provider who might not see it as a person? The same laws covering the uninsured in emergency rooms, meaning the taxpayer? The pro-life community that actually gives a damn? (But let's see how much of a damn they'd give if called on to foot the bill.) If this is requiring providers to obtain and operate expensive natal intensive care equipment, who would pay for that? Is saving a baby's life (assuming we DO treat it as a baby, which I see few reasons not to at this point) in this manner less expensive, or more expensive, than, say, saving the lives of 20 babies with vaccines? (And if more expensive, why not pay for those vaccines first?) Again, I'm not against it in principle, even a bit in favor in principle, but I have questions about the pragmatics.

(Also, a correction. In earlier posts I referred to something I called the pianist argument. I was misremembering the name. It's actually the violinist argument.)

Protecting the lives of all human beings is not arbitrary.

As far as a woman's right to her own body, suppose a woman's baby died because she refused to breast feed it. Would that woman be guilty of a crime? Lets say that all the baby formula in a city was recalled because it was found to be poisoned by terrorists, would you consider the newborns right to life to supercede the woman's right to not have her boobs get saggy by breast feeding?

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16-04-2013, 11:01 AM
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
(16-04-2013 12:24 AM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  I said the goal of banning would be to save 1.2 million human beings, not that it would save 1.2 million human beings.

Can we then rephrase that to be "saving as many as possible", rather than 1.2 million specifically?

(16-04-2013 12:28 AM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  Protecting the lives of all human beings is not arbitrary.

You deciding that it is a human being worthy of being considered a person, EXACTLY at fertilization, and not at implantation or development of the brain or connection of the spinal cord or viability or even pre-fertilization, with no justification beyond a simplistic diagram in a high school textbook that was never meant to be used in such a manner, THAT is what I was calling arbitrary. Don't mischaracterize it as saving lives is arbitrary.

(16-04-2013 12:28 AM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  As far as a woman's right to her own body, suppose a woman's baby died because she refused to breast feed it. Would that woman be guilty of a crime? Lets say that all the baby formula in a city was recalled because it was found to be poisoned by terrorists, would you consider the newborns right to life to supercede the woman's right to not have her boobs get saggy by breast feeding?

There'd be alternatives in your scenario, and I can deconstruct it some, but really it's also a red herring. I was NOT, there, asking you to admit that the right to her body supersedes that of a newborn's right to live, which is what you're arguing against. NOR was I asking you there to say it supersedes a fetus's right to live (whatever level of right that might be). ALL I wanted from you, was the least acknowledgement that the woman had some right to self-control over her own person. Go on, if you will, to say that it is the lesser of rights in play, and the fetus's rights supersede it. Go on to say that infringing on that right is the lesser of evils. I'll argue, of course, but that's fine, because you'll have done what I was asking you to do there: Admitting that the moral right exists AT ALL. Which you haven't done, yet.

(16-04-2013 12:24 AM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  I still don't see the point of considering alternatives to an abortion ban. What alteratives could possibly justify the continued practice by a society to allow the killing of some human beings simply on the basis that it is the choice of another human being?

In the interests of civility, I am going to try, very, very hard not to give a frank analysis of the intellectual merits of this. Instead, I'll focus on the "what alternatives could justify" question. (I'll also ignore the "on the basis" clause, because that mischaracterizes my motivations for asking, as you'll see in a bit. This clause suggests that MAYBE your mischaracterization represents a misunderstanding of why I asked, which in turn will help me restrain myself from that frank analysis.)

The answer to why you should consider alternatives is, the same justification for ANY brainstorming and cost-benefit analysis: Effectiveness. (This will fairly quickly segue into the answer to your actual question, so bear with me.) Society at large, and segments within the society in particular such as the pro-life movement, have limited resources. They can't pursue all possible strategies with unlimited vigor, so they have to pursue particular strategies or dilute their efforts among multiple strategies.

Let's say, pulling numbers out of some unmentionable place for the purpose of constructing a hypothetical, than an abortion ban would prevent 500k yearly abortions. (Would you prefer that we dismiss as irrelevant the cases of entopic pregnancy or similar problems where the mother's life is lost with no chance of a live birth? I'll leave them aside, for now.) Now suppose that we take the pro-life movement's resources, or society's at large, that would be directed towards establishing, defending, and enforcing that ban. And say that we instead roll them into the more progressive policy that I described a few posts back, which focuses less on punishing abortion and more on removing the motivations for it in a manner that leaves choice intact, which a cursory analysis suggests should also prevent abortions. And let's say, for the purposes of this hypothetical, that those resources expended in that manner would prevent 600k yearly abortions.

Cost-benefit analysis reveals opportunity costs and optimal stratagems. In this hypothetical, you now have a choice. Pursue a strategy that prevents 500k abortions (benefit, at least from your perspective), while ruining large numbers of people with jail terms (cost, because high incarceration rates are bad for society, though you seem to have expressed no concern for this) and alienating women from self determination (cost, from my perspective, though you have yet to express the slightest concern over it), and using the pulpit of governmental fiat to express your indignity by disallowing abortion (benefit, from your perspective). Or pursue a strategy that prevents 600k abortions (benefit, from your perspective), aids the disadvantaged (benefit, from my perspective, though again you've expressed no interest), and does so without any of the costs of a ban, save for the cost in resources, which as I indicated are identical.

This reveals that the opportunity costs of society expressing disapproval of abortion through a ban rather than relative to my more progressive approach are: 100k abortions happening which wouldn't happen under the alternative, a large number of people ruined and imprisoned, infringing on the persons of ten dozen myriads of women a year, and choosing not to provide significant aid the disadvantaged. Which gives rise to the question of whether all those abortions, all that ruin and imprisonment, all that governmental restraint of individual liberty, and all that failure to assist those we can (for exactly the same resources we'd be expending anyway), is worth it just to stick the "hey, we got government to say abortion's wrong!" feather into your cap.

Of course, you don't actually know whether it'd be 500k prevented under your policy, because you've not spelled out methodology, or resources you're willing to allocate, or where they come from, and because even if you did you've provided no data on abortion bans in modern society from which we can extrapolate. Nor do you know whether my policy would prevent 600k, nor did you have any notion of it as a possible strategy prior to me mentioning it. Nor would you have the slightest clue if there's another policy out there that would prevent 700k.

And unless you're holding out on me, that ignorance is because YOU HAVEN'T LOOKED FOR AND COMPARED ALTERNATIVES! AT ALL! Not even one! And because this brainstorm-and-compare step is central to almost any rational (technical use of the term there) decision-making or problem-solving strategy out there, I have to question the logical process by which you became fixated on a ban. Specifically, I'd have to question what it might be, because, wrack my brain though I might, I can't discern ANY logical process that would embrace such a wide-sweeping, resource-intensive, personally-invasive strategy WITHOUT at least the pretense of weighing alternatives.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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16-04-2013, 11:57 AM
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
Of course a woman has a right to her own body, but not all rights are equal. A woman's right to her own body is trumped by the child's right to life. In the thought experiment where there was simply no food whatsoever for the new born except the mother's milk, the mother has a moral obligation to provide it. The child's right to life supercedes the woman's right to have absolute destiny over her own body. I was not presenting a red herring but addressing and acknowledging the fact a woman does have a right to her own body, but that right is not absolute.

Also I provided more than sceintific text book diagrams, which depict embryos as human beings. Laws exist that protect unborn children from violence perpetrated by persons other than the mother or her agents. So not only is there a well established scientific basis for calling the unborn human beings, there is a well established legal basis as well.

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16-04-2013, 01:35 PM
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
What makes you think that if abortion were criminalized a high percentage of women would engage in that activity? Late term abortions are criminalized and to my knowledge there are very few, if any prosecutions. Also I am a bit flabbergasted that you find my position that someone be punished for killing another human being as ignorant.

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17-04-2013, 12:55 PM (This post was last modified: 17-04-2013 01:20 PM by Reltzik.)
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
First off, I apologize. I let my exasperation get the better of me in my last two posts. Though I don't think the content of those posts was in error, the tone in which I made them was inappropriate for a civil discussion. I'll begin by addressing the fallout of my exasperation, and then switch to responding to your points. (This is why the following quotes are out of order.)

(16-04-2013 11:57 AM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  I was not presenting a red herring but addressing and acknowledging the fact a woman does have a right to her own body, but that right is not absolute.

That may have been your intent, but you hadn't actually made clear whether you were acknowledging it or not. That's why I saw the post as a dodge and a red herring in reply to my specific question. The metaphor is, I will agree, relevant to the larger discussion, and did clearly illustrate that you view a fetal right to life as an overriding value once you made that acknowledgement. As you have since acknowledged the point, I'm happy to move on from it.

(16-04-2013 01:35 PM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  Also I am a bit flabbergasted that you find my position that someone be punished for killing another human being as ignorant.

It was not your position which I was characterizing as ignorant. Rather, if you review that post, you'll see I was using the word "ignorance" specifically to the lack of knowledge, consideration, or awareness of alternatives to a ban, or of the merits of such alternatives relative to the ban. (At least, if you had considered alternatives, you twice declined to reveal this when I asked you about alternatives which you'd considered.) I am comfortable describing a lack of knowledge or awareness as ignorance, as that's exactly what the word means. It was not my intent to characterize your entire position as ignorant, but rather respond to your apparent refusal to consider alternatives, by saying that not considering them had left you in ignorance on specific points and that such ignorance impacted your ability to pursue your goals. I'll stand by this statement, even if I should have worded it more gently.

Now, moving on to responses. Why wouldn't I naturally seek to punish someone I thought was doing something wrong? Assuming for the moment that a fertilized egg is a human being, why should the instant response be punishment? Is this a goal in its own right? You didn't list it as such. I interpreted it as a means to an end. Why shouldn't we ask if there are other means to the same end, and if others might work more effectively? My view of the penal system is that it is justifiable when performing in any of the following three functions, and at its best when performing all of them: Removal of dangerous individuals from society, reform of those individuals so that they cease to be dangerous, and deterrence. I consider all of these positive goods, which when they are the most effective strategy to achieving the ends of a safe society, and when they are properly performed, they can offset the convicted criminal's right to liberty. (A lot of people argue that society's retribution is a fourth justification, but I disagree.) However, I don't see it as the best tool to reach for in all cases, and if there is a tool that better performs the particular task of producing a safe society, I would rather reach for that one instead. It is this question of whether there are better tools out there that I have invited you to explore with me, and I am further suggesting that it is a reasonable question to explore before settling on a ban as the best alternative.

In particular, might there exist some alternative which would reduce the number of abortions in a manner comparable to the ban, WITHOUT infringing on a woman's right to self-determination? For example, a strategy of reducing unwanted pregnancies could have a hugely reduce the number of abortions, without violating a single woman's self-determination. If that number were more than a ban would prevent, and if it could be done WITHOUT overriding a woman's right to choose, wouldn't you find that preferable? Shouldn't these possibilities at least be explored before deciding on a ban?

(16-04-2013 01:35 PM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  What makes you think that if abortion were criminalized a high percentage of women would engage in that activity? Late term abortions are criminalized and to my knowledge there are very few, if any prosecutions.

This is primarily because, for a woman desiring an abortion, early-term abortions are far preferable. Most women who chose not to bring the pregnancy to term would seek to terminate it promptly. Also, late term abortions are more dangerous and more uncomfortable. Even if it were legal (and it is, in certain cases), the circumstances in which a woman would keep a pregnancy through the 2nd trimester, only then to seek an abortion, are rare. Usually they arise from changing circumstances that they did not anticipate earlier (such as losing the means to support herself and a future child), or learning of a significant defect or risk in the pregnancy which was previously unknown. I maintain that few women would seek late-term abortions even without criminalization, and thus the comparison is a matter of apples and oranges.

As for why I think it likely that a significant percentage of women currently getting abortions would still seek abortions if they're criminalized? All the existing motivations would still apply, the right air of desperation is there, a great many who would seek abortions (or support those seeking abortions) would view the law as unjust, and there'd be a whole lot of loopholes to exploit. (Simply taking a trip to Canada, for starters.)

(16-04-2013 11:57 AM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  Also I provided more than sceintific text book diagrams, which depict embryos as human beings. Laws exist that protect unborn children from violence perpetrated by persons other than the mother or her agents. So not only is there a well established scientific basis for calling the unborn human beings, there is a well established legal basis as well.

First of all, I have no objections to such laws, so long as they don't cover harm done with the mother's consent, and aren't used in and of themselves as precedent to establish rights for a fetus. You might mentally classify them as laws about murder. But even if I wouldn't, I WOULD classify them as a case of aggravated assault. Even if it's just a part of the mother, it's worth protecting in the same manner that, say, the mother's leg is. This is not in and of itself calling a fetus a person, though I understand some of those laws are worded this way.

But even if a law were in place giving a fertilized egg all the rights of a person, it would be irrelevant to this discussion, because we are in part asking what the law should be. The law doesn't make something a person or not, save in its own eyes and, sometimes, in the eyes of a society willing to believe in its laws as absolute truth rather than social constructs. If I were to present the argument that some states have laws that DON'T regard a fertilized egg as a human being, would you be swayed from your position by that? If a law was passed specifically saying that no individual rights exist until birth, would you believe it? And if not, why should you expect that I'd be swayed in my position by the fact that some states have this or that law?

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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18-04-2013, 02:33 PM
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
On what basis do you claim a zygote is not an individual human being? I ask this question because you clearly feel that a zygote is just a part of a woman's body like a leg. Suppose a zygote comes into existence in a petri dish....whose human body is the zygote just a part?

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22-04-2013, 12:07 AM (This post was last modified: 22-04-2013 12:15 AM by Reltzik.)
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
(18-04-2013 02:33 PM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  On what basis do you claim a zygote is not an individual human being? I ask this question because you clearly feel that a zygote is just a part of a woman's body like a leg. Suppose a zygote comes into existence in a petri dish....whose human body is the zygote just a part?

With the zygote grown in a petri dish, it could be argued that it's part of the same person's body as, I dunno, liver cells grown in a petri dish. Which isn't to say it's anyone's in particular (you could make an argument for whoever's DNA those liver cells are based on, but I wouldn't care to), but also isn't to ascribe any particular personhood to the contents of the dish.

That said, I don't advance the claim that a zygote is not an individual human being. I'm strongly of this impression, and would subject any claim to the contrary to a high standard of review, but I do not (outside of adopting a position for the sake of argument) to go so far as to make a claim of it. If you go back, you'll notice that I've expressed those clauses (and a great many others) as conditionals. "Even if" I wouldn't call it murder. "Even if" it's just a part of the woman's body.

I'm fairly ambivalent on the subject of personhood. I think a decisive proof, one way or the other, would clinch the morality of abortion, but I also think such a proof does not and cannot exist. I'm a strong agnostic on the subject, if you will. I'd be happy to be shown wrong, that it is somehow knowable, but until this has been shown to me I have to operate in ignorance. Usually, I do this using an argument by dilemma.

On the off chance that you (or any audience members) are unfamiliar with an argument by dilemma, it goes like this.

Premise: A V B.
Premise: A -> C.
Premise: B -> C.
Conclusion: C.

I've always admired this type of logic. It's a very elegant way of extracting knowledge in the face of ignorance. Rather than getting entangled in the barbed wire of A V B, one just daintily skips over it.

Because propositional logic can be a bit difficult to read for some, I'll illustrate with a previous exchange as an example.

A V B: That little wedge is not the letter V (well, I typed it as the letter V, but only because of the limitations of this keyboard), but instead a symbol meaning and/or. We start off knowing that A is true, or B is true, or possibly both. (Note that one or the other might actually be impossible, so long as it is a certainty that at least one is true.) In our little debate, we can say A is the statement "A fetus is a person", and B is the statement, "A fetus is not a person". We might argue over which of these is true, but neither of us has advanced the position that BOTH statements are simultaneously false. (Though that'd be an interesting position to explore. We'd need to delve into weird stuff like quantum superpositioning.) I think we can both agree, "A fetus is a person or it isn't." In this particular example, we have an "or" of a statement and its logical negation, which is typically axiomatically true.

A -> C: C is an implication of A. C might be some conclusion we could reach from knowing that A is true, or a course of action we should follow, or something like that. In our example, we could say C is "An assault on a woman which permanently damages or destroys her fetus is especially egregious, and should be punished beyond the normal for an assault." A -> C would then read, "IF A fetus is a person, THEN An assault on a woman which harms or damages her fetus is especially egregious, and should be punished beyond the normal for an assault." (Note that this does not imply that C must be false if A is false. Rather, it makes no claim about C whatsoever in the event that A is false.)

B -> C: C is (also) an implication of B. In our example, B -> C would read, "IF A fetus is NOT a person, THEN An assault on a woman which permanently damages or destroys her fetus is especially egregious, and should (still) be punished beyond the normal for an assault." I supported this by comparing a fetus to another body part, a leg, and saying that C would apply even if it was talking about a leg.

Therefore C. Because C is true in either case, it doesn't MATTER (for the question of whether C is true) whether A is true and B is false, or A is false and B is true, or both are true. C is true regardless, and we can conclude C without knowing the first thing about A or B, save that at least one must be true. It could even be said that the "A or B" question is irrelevant, and can be bypassed.

A V B is often called a "dilemma" in formal logic (and it doesn't mean exactly the same thing as the word "dilemma" does in everyday English). We can imagine two trails branching off from this decision point, one labeled A, and one labeled B. We call these the horns of the dilemma. Yet if both trails curve together, and intersect at a new point labeled C, then we know we reach C regardless of whether we took A or B.

You may notice that I've attempted the same thing in the broader argument. A: Abortion is abhorrently wrong. B: Abortion is morally okay, but unpleasant, inconvenient, and considered the lesser of evils (rather than a positive good) by those who go through with it. C: We should make efforts to minimize the number of women in a situation where an abortion is seen as their best option, and should furthermore do so by providing new, preferable options, or improving existing alternatives until those are preferable.

Either A is true or B is true. (Other positions can be advanced, true, like the "merits" of forcible abortions backing a one-child policy like China's, but neither of us are advancing them.) I claim B implies C, which you have neither affirmed nor contested. You claim that A implies D: "We should ban abortion by adopting a policy of legally equating abortion with murder." I have disputed that, suggesting that A could imply C instead. Consider what would happen if this were true. We can quibble about whether it's A or B all we want. But if both point to C, the entire argument of A versus B becomes totally academic.

This is why I was eager to move the discussion into the realm of practical action by third parties, when I regarded the firsthand moral question as being still at large.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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27-04-2013, 04:34 PM
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
.... hello? You still there?

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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06-05-2013, 11:18 AM
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
Okay, it's been a couple of weeks, so Ima figuring that Heywood's left the thread. I'm going to call this thing closed.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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06-05-2013, 04:34 PM
RE: Open "challenge" to any believers/converters
(06-05-2013 11:18 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  Okay, it's been a couple of weeks, so Ima figuring that Heywood's left the thread. I'm going to call this thing closed.


He hasn't been on TTA for 12 days. Can we hope he's gone? Yes

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