Thursday, October 20, 2011

Zygotes have Rights Too?

It really pisses me off when a certain faction of society tries to limit the rights of everybody else by trying to force their own limited view of morality onto society as a whole. There are lots of examples but the abortion issue is one of the most contentious. And with few exceptions, it's the right-wing, evangelical Christian crowd that is the fondest of making everyone else toe the line of morality, or at least their morality. But I am very confused as to how they think the whole thing works when a woman terminates a pregnancy, or even if it terminates spontaneously. According to most fundamentalists, life begins at conception. They believe the soul is attached to the body at the moment the sperm attaches to the egg.

But that creates quite a quandary once the aborted fetus gets to heaven. Will heaven be populated by the souls of a bunch of wandering fetuses? Most evangelicals believe that at the end of time, our bodies will be resurrected. But what about fetuses that were aborted early? What about embryos? Embryos come before fetuses. They are smaller than a peanut and about the same shape. After the resurrection will heaven be flooded with peanut-shaped embryos with wings fluttering about like little butterflies? None of them will be old enough to have experienced anything at all in life. There were no memories formed, no bonds with family, most likely no sensations of any kind, and yet according to fundamentalists their souls will be in heaven with the rest of them.

And what about a zygote? A zygote is a fertilized egg before it has had a chance to divide even once. After cell division starts it becomes an embryo. Later, it becomes a fetus. But what if the egg gets fertilized and then it dies? Or what if the morning after pill kills the fertilized egg before it has a chance to divide? Do zygotes have rights, too? Will heaven also be filled with winged zygotes flying around, completely equal with all the executed murderers who got "saved" while on death row?

Those who believe life begins at conception just haven't thought it through. It's a serious subject, otherwise it would be outright comical to imagine what happens to aborted embryos and fetuses in heaven. And it's just as comical to think that people actually believe this crap. Except that they do, and they have a loud voice in society that tries to force everyone into compliance with their delusions. Embryos are not little humans. They are connected to a living, breathing woman who has been granted societal rights. Embryos have no such rights, and for good reason.

The abortion debate is silly. It makes no sense to a rational mind. It would make more sense to have a debate about what the cut-off point is of where an abortion should be allowed, as long as everyone agreed that the abortion itself was the woman's decision. Some people might lobby for the cut-off point to be the moment the baby, after it is born, takes its first breath. That is the position supported by Scripture.(Gen 2:7) Or is it? According to Numbers 3:15-16 a baby isn't really a human until it is one month old. So according to this view, killing your baby before it is a month old should be perfectly fine. Of course, I do not advocate for either one of these biblical views. Some may advocate for the point where the umbilical cord is severed. Some would lobby for the actual birth itself, when the baby's body is completely out of the birth canal. I side with those who claim abortion is fine only prior to the point of viability, when the baby could survive on its own even if premature. That would be right around the six-month mark of pregnancy. It's a decent compromise. But to draw the line at conception makes no sense either from a practical point of view or from a biblical one.

Now, there are those who can point to other verses of the bible that tend to contradict the two I mentioned above. But that just go to show you can't really use the bible to prove a point, because on every single topic you're debating, the bible takes up multiple positions and is basically useless as a tool to prove a point. So taking the bible completely out of the debate, there is no reason whatsoever to oppose the right of a woman to choose an abortion other than just trying to stick one's nose into somebody else's business. And that's really what it's all about for the conservatives. They just can't be happy campers unless they're messing with someone else's personal freedoms.

10 comments:

Erin Jewett said...

I'm not going to hit every point here because I'm at work and just waiting for an analysis program to load and writing on short breaks, but I fail to see how a verse citing a census proves your point that it's Biblical to say that you're not a person before you're a month old. I mean boys were circumcised on the eight day after birth. This was a symbol that they were considered part of Israel, part of Gods covenant. No one who was not human could be counted as part of Israel. Maybe there's some other reason for only listing from a month old and up. Maybe there was high mortality rate before a month old. Or maybe there's some other reason I can't think of right now. The argument that you're putting forward for abortion being supported by this verse seems shallow.

Also with Genesis 2:7. This is talking about the creation and Adam and God breathing into him. So really what this supports is that we become alive when God breaths into us and NOT that we are alive when we first breathe. All in all I really don't get how you're getting your argument from these passages. I'm not meaning to sound ostentatious and if I do, I'm sorry I'm just writing fast, but your argument from the Bible makes no sense to me.

I do also plan to respond on the thread we have going previously too, but I've been super busy. I just saw this and wanted to draft a quick response to a point that stuck out. Have to get back to work now.

Unknown said...

Pro-lifers always pick out partial bible quotes to prove their point and they're always taken out of context. For example, in Jer. 1:4-10 it says the lord "...formed thee in the womb." Most Christians cite that as meaning he formed and knew everyone while they were in the womb. But the Lord is speaking specifically to Jeremiah whom he created to be a prophet and leader. If we assume any of that applies to everybody we must also assume that the Lord made us all to be leaders of nations and prophets.

There is nothing specifically in the bible that condemns abortion per se, and no support of it directly either. But I dare say there is just as much support for it as their is condemnation of it and most likely more that support it if you also consider the genocide that was promulgated by God and his armies.

In modern America, though, the majority opinion is to support a woman's right to choose. Public opinion polls (by Gallup) on abortion laws consistently show that about 28% of people in the U.S. say abortion should be legal in all circumstances. Another 17% say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. A majority, 54%, favor legal abortion in some circumstances. This is even including Catholics. So a vast majority 17 + 54 = 71% support abortion at least in some circumstances. And yet by their loud droning one would think the pro-lifers are a majority.

The bottom line is, with the bible being quite unclear about the issue, no one should be claiming that abortion is murder or sinful. They just don't have anything to back it up. Even Thomas Aquinas would support abortion before 40 days or 80 days (depending on if its male or female).

Therefore, it is the height of hubris to try to force someone's personal opinion about abortion on anyone else through legislation. In the bible and in church history, both sides can claim support equally well. So the best thing to do would simply be to allow each woman to decide for herself without government interference in the decision.

Adrian said...

I know this is a bit late, but I just discovered this blog.

I take issue with a lot of what you say here, so maybe I can provide some food for thought.

"It really pisses me off when a certain faction of society tries to limit the rights of everybody else by trying to force their own limited view of morality onto society as a whole." (you repeated a similar claim in your comments section) And what is wrong with this exactly ? Isn't this how the law works? And wouldn't you be doing t he exact same thing by implying we should do no such thing?

"None of them will be old enough to have experienced anything at all in life." These off the cuff comments are troubling because they assume that the fetus is not alive. I will expand on this later.

"Will heaven also be filled with winged zygotes flying around...it would be outright comical to imagine what happens to aborted embryos and fetuses in heaven." And how is this comical? Do I know te details of the resurrected body according to Christian theology? No, I don't. But what does that show? Not that I haven't looked into it, but that I simply haven't come to a conclusion about it. And does it follow from that there is something incoherent about the view itself? No, I don't think so. So it's not easily written off.

"Embryos are not little humans" I think this is just factually incorrect. First, why do you believe that human embryos are not humans? If they aren't human, then what are they? And I'm sure if you look into any textbook about this subject, they will say it is a human. I can provide such examples upon request.

"Embryos have no such rights, and for good reason." And what would those reasons be?

"The abortion debate is silly. It makes no sense to a rational mind." It makes sense to many rational minds. Michael Tooley and Peter Singer are big name atheists who engage in this debate. I'm not sure you're willing to say they are irrational. They may differ on the conclusion from right-wingers, but I don't think you're justified in saying it makes no sense to them or that they're irrational.

"It would make more sense to have a debate about what the cut-off point is of where an abortion should be allowed, as long as everyone agreed that the abortion itself was the woman's decision." Firstly, why is it up to the woman? Secondly, aren't you assuming that the fetus has no right to life, and thus beg the question?

Adrian said...

Of course I dispute your uses of scripture to support your position. You expect this and say, "But that just go to show you can't really use the bible to prove a point, because on every single topic you're debating, the bible takes up multiple positions and is basically useless as a tool to prove a point." That seems to assume that multiple interpretations of scripture are legitimate, which you have given no reason for. As a person who values human thought, I don't see why you don't want to come to a conclusion on what the Bible has to say about the issue, especially if you believe they were written by cognitive men.

But let me actually address your cited verses. Concerning Genesis, Adam and Eve were the first created people, so it probably isn't a good precedent. Further, the text seems to imply that they were created with the appearence of age, so it can't say anything about the fetus. Concerning the passage in Numbers, it doesn't seem likely that the passage is talking about the status of the unborn because it limits the count to only males, but surely the Bible doesn't think females are human! Therefore, you have no criptual ground for abortion. With no scriptual grounding for abortion, then we can engage in secular reasons for or against abortion, which I am convinced is in favor of the pro-life side. We could leave it at that, but the passage in Exodus 21:22 is good biblical grounds fo being against abortion, and I will just assume you know the passage to save space.

" So taking the bible completely out of the debate, there is no reason whatsoever to oppose the right of a woman to choose an abortion other than just trying to stick one's nose into somebody else's business." My ethics professor is a committed atheist and I have learned much of the pro-life philosophy from him. He is pro-life. This is a hasty generalization.

Thank you for your time.

Unknown said...

“Isn't this how the law works?”
Absolutely not. If I forced the law to comply with my wishes, nobody’s rights would be infringed. Nobody would have fewer rights than they do now. I would not be forcing abortions on those who didn’t want one. The only right that would be infringed (according to some) would be that of the fetus itself. But I contend the fetus has no rights other than what its mother chooses to grant it. And even if it did have rights, the rights of the mother would outweigh it. (I’ll explain below.)

“And how is this comical? Do I know the details of the resurrected body according to Christian theology? No, I don't.”
And neither does anyone else. It’s about as comical as a Saturday Night Live sketch. Do rational adults actually believe that there are little fetuses flittering about in an eternal happy place called heaven? It’s really amazing that some do.

First, why do you believe that human embryos are not humans? If they aren't human, then what are they?”
They have human DNA in their cells. They are human tissue. But they are not humans. They are connected physically to a human and therefore become the property of that person to whom they are connected. They have no human values yet. They are alive but virtually lifeless. All they have is potential, the potential that the mother grants them

“"Embryos have no such rights, and for good reason." And what would those reasons be?””
Suppose you were one of a set of conjoined twins. Suppose your twin is alive, but not developing. It has a blood flow and brain waves but no consciousness. Suppose you are growing normally but your twin is little more than a tumor that you have to carry around and you don’t want it there any longer. Would you have the right to have it removed? Or would you say you are obligated to carry it around like a piece of luggage all your life? The analogy holds for a pregnant woman. If she has something growing inside her that she does not want, for whatever reason, and that something is not sentient, then she has a right to have it removed. And even if you would decide to keep your connected twin, what right would you have to tell me I must keep mine? It’s the same with a fetus. If you are “pro-life” then keep all the fetuses that grow in you whether you really want them or not, but stop trying to pass laws that would force all other women to comply with your own moral code.

“It makes sense to many rational minds.”
Perhaps, but that is what doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t wrap my brain around why the abortion debate should be happening. Are there picketers and protesters outside hospital rooms where people have had their appendix removed? To me, a fetus is an appendix. Neither of them have sentience, memories, human feelings, or anything else that makes them human. And if you cloned an appendix cell, it would become a human, too, so in that sense they both have potential.

“Firstly, why is it up to the woman? Secondly, aren't you assuming that the fetus has no right to life, and thus beg the question?”
As I explained, it’s up to the woman because she is attached to it. It is part of her body. Secondly, I think it’s a very fair assumption to make that a fetus has no rights. Everyone agrees that the younger you are the fewer rights you have. You can’t drive until 16; you can’t vote until 18; you can’t drink until 21; you can’t run for president until 35. Even in the bible it says babies less than one month old don’t count as citizens and should not be counted in a census. So even the bible acknowledges that young children have no rights (especially when it urges the bashing of their heads against the wall). So I don’t think it is going too far to say a fetus has no more rights than what is granted to it by the woman it’s attached to. You may (and obviously do) disagree with my opinion on this, but my argument isn’t about whether anyone agrees with me or not, it’s more about whether your disagreement gives you the right to make my choices for me.

Adrian said...

"“Isn't this how the law works?”
Absolutely not. If I forced the law to comply with my wishes, nobody’s rights would be infringed."
So when you vote, are you not forcing the law to comply to your wishes? Even if what you vote for doesn't get through, what the other party wishes get the law to comply.

" I would not be forcing abortions on those who didn’t want one." Begs question once again. You merely assume the unborn aren't valuable, yet this is the point of contention. It's like saying, if you don't like spousal abuse, you shouldn't beat your wife. It has nothing to do with whether we WANT one or not. It's a moral question, not a preferential one where we can say if you dont want one, you dont need to get one. It's wrong or not independently if we want one.

"But they are not humans. They are connected physically to a human and therefore become the property of that person to whom they are connected." I see no logical connnection between those two statements. I don't see how the first sentence follows from the first. If maybe you could put in a syllogism so I could understand better, that would be good. But for arguments sake, lets say that I grant you that. It seems like the sword cuts both ways. If the baby is attatched to the mother and thus becomes its property (the negation of this proposition is that the mother is not attatched to the baby, which I believe will be an indefensible proposition), then it should be the same for the mother. It is also true that mother is attatched to the baby, and thus becomes the baby's property. So who belongs to who here?

As for the analogy (which I wont copy to save space) I find these things wrong with it. Conjoined twins are not supposed to happen. It is abnormal. However, there is nothing abnormal about a pregnancy. A fetus belongs in a womb. That is its proper place. However, two people are supposed to be conjoined. Therefore, not analogous. Also, a fetus is always developing, and if it doesn't it ceases to be alive. From the earliest stages of development, an embryo is a distincting, living, whole human being. There is no morally relevant difference between then and now. In short, we do not come from zygotes. We once were zygotes. Thats another disanalogy. Also, what a mother carries around her is not luggage. That again begs the question. if its just luggage, then its not a valuable human being. Yet that is the question, what is the unborn? And if it is a valuable human being, then I have every right to tell you to keep your child. If.

"Are there picketers...people have had their appendix removed?" Again, begs tehe question. This assumes that the unborn have no more rights than an apendix. I argue that is not the case. If the unborn are not valuable human beings, then yes, i dont see why not. But that's question, and we need to focus on that question, what is the unborn?

Cont.

Adrian said...

" Neither of them have sentience, memories, human feelings, or anything else that makes them human." This the crux of your argument because this is your criteria for human vlaue. This shows that you do understand the abortion debate btw. If the unborn don't qualify by this standard youve put up, then it isn't valuable and therefore is not much different than having an appendix removed. However, if they do meet criteria, then they are valuable, and is much more important than a mere appendix, which is what prolifers contend. So, now that we have your criteria, I ask, why think that this is what gives humans value? You've given no reason for it. You've just asserted it.

Concerning your comment on potential, beware the strawman. My argument is not an argument from potential. I argue that there is no morally relevant difference between us and the embryo. Therefore, abortion is impermissible.

"Everyone agrees that the younger you are the fewer rights you have." Sure, but those aren't fundamental rights, like the right to life. The right to life doesn't come in degrees. You either have it or you don't. Does my right to life increase as I get older? That seems counter intuitive.

Now you made comment about biblical grounds for abortion. I responded to those in a previous post, but I guess that didn't go through for some resean, so I'll go through it again here.

First, using Adam and Eve as a precedent is not sound. It seems as though they were made with the appearance of age, and therefore do not and connot address the status of the unborn. Your second passage is that of census. However, this probably not a good passage to determine human value because it says to count only the males. Obviously the Bible does not count women as not valuable. Therefore, it's not talking about when a human gains value. So because of these reasons, you have no biblical ground. Now what I could do is just leave it at that and say because the Bible remains silent about the issue, we should let secular reason guide us, which I am very confident with. But a further case can be made that the Bible does say something about the abortion issue. It seems like Exodus 21:22-25 give value to the unborn. it reads, 22 “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[a] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Look forward to your response.

Unknown said...

A seed has no value aside from its ability to produce another whole plant. The plant has intrinsic value because it can be consumed or admired. In the same way, a fetus has no value other than its potential to grow into a human being. If you have, say, a pea seed and you really love peas, then it will have value because you can plant it. If you hate peas (or hate gardening) then you would probably throw it out because it has no value. The same is true of a fetus. If a woman is pregnant and if she does not want a child, then she should be able to throw it out (abortion).

I contend that you begin with an ad hominem assertion that a fetus does have intrinsic value. You also beg the question by automatically assuming its intrinsic value. If an adult human lost all 5 of his senses, he would be totally unable to perceive anything. He couldn't see, taste, smell, hear, or feel. The only thing he would have would be his thoughts and memories. A fetus doesn't even have that. So, outside the potential to become an adult, there is no value in a fetus. A pregnant woman who wants a child gives it value and that's the only value it has.

I pointed out the questionable biblical support from the bible as an aside. I give the bible no weight whatsoever in determining anything I do and I would hope that others would grant me the respect to not pass laws that would force my compliance with their belief system, based on the bible. That's all I'm asking. I don't really care that someone might view abortion differently from me. I just want them to respect everyone else's rights to disagree with them and not force compliance with their morals on everyone else.

Adrian said...

A fetus is not a seed. It is a distinct, whole, living human being. Therefore, not analogous. And I thought we agreed that a fetus was already human?

Ad hom? Whoa, that's a bit out of left field for me lol. Could you pinpoint exactly where I've committed an ad hom? And where am I begging the question exactly?

Ok, so thoughts and memories are necessary conditions for human value? I believed I've asked you this before, but how did you come to that conclusion?

Also, and I know this isn't a big point, but it's a bit sloppy, but to say that outside the ability to grow up into an adult, it has no value, seems wrong. All persons under 18 have no value? Or a baby with taysachs has no value? Just keeping you on your toes on this one. :-)

And by saying you don't want others to force their morality on you, please recognize that when you allow for abortion to be legal, you are forcing your morality on everyone else. That sword cuts both ways.

To wrap things up, my next post will be my last.

Unknown said...

Your arguments are ad hominem because they are based solely on your own moral convictions and not on the actual topic at hand - women's rights and the value of a fetus. You are begging the question because you start with the assumption that a supernatural entity not only exists but that it created all of us with intrinsic value and also has plans for our immortal soul. That is quite an assumption.

And it is only obvious that human thoughts and memories are what determine the conditions for human value. Who decides value? Humans! So if humans are unable to relate in any way, if they have no senses, if they have no memories, if they are unable to think, then they are little more than a vegetable - literally. They have no value per se.

And no, it certainly does not cut both ways. By allowing abortion to be legal have I trampled on your right to choose to not have one? Of course not. Pro-Choice means just that - you have a personal choice and only you can make it. The so-called pro-life movement is actually an anti-choice movement. I'm totally for choice, but that doesn't mean I'm anti-life. The label is a euphemism, as most conservative labels are, to hide the fact that they want to take away personal liberty.

Thanks for the debate, but it has reached its terminus. You are free to respond, but unless something new and different is added, there is no need for further give and take as we are starting to repeat ourselves.