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July 09, 2004

Comments

Michael Brazier

"To those who regard abortion as an evil that modern law ought to outlaw, I have no argument. Indeed, I don't see that it's possible to mount an argument against a position that is not so much moral as metaphysical, concerning the point at which life begins."

The proposition that abortion is murder of an innocent human being cannot be argued against; therefore it is false? This is not a method of reasoning with which I can claim familiarity ...

hello

I think Oliver has a point. It is as likely that we, mere mortals, will ever be able to ascertain that life (and by the way, what is the definition of that nebulous word?) begins on this or that date as we will be able to prove absolutely and beyond reasonable doubt that there is/is not a God and that only 10 (and no more or less) Angels can stand on the head of a pin.

Oliver Kamm

Michael - No, that's not the argument I'm making. That the absolutist objection to abortion can't be argued against doesn't make it false (though I do in fact believe it to be false): it makes the issue ultimately irresolvable by political means. For example, someone who holds that homosexuality is immoral (also a position I consider to be false) could in principle nonetheless accept the desirability of liberal legislation on the subject, and thus there is the possibility that the issue could disappear from politics altogether. By contrast, someone who genuinely considers abortion to be murder can't possibly acquiesce politically in permissive abortion legislation.

Luniversal

"...someone who genuinely considers abortion to be murder can't possibly acquiesce politically in permissive abortion legislation."

Unless he thinks that fewer murders are better than more murders.

I love the ex cathedra tone of Kamm's musings. It takes one back to the heyday of Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

Derek

hello said:

I think Oliver has a point. It is as likely that we, mere mortals, will ever be able to ascertain that life (and by the way, what is the definition of that nebulous word?) begins on this or that date as we will be able to prove absolutely and beyond reasonable doubt that there is/is not a God and that only 10 (and no more or less) Angels can stand on the head of a pin.

And thus its fine to kill your own children at age 23 (Remember, we can't really tell when life begins). We may not know, but we still have to decided based on the best evidence avaible to us. When does life begin? At conception. I don't think you can argure that cells are not alive. When does a human recives it's right to live? Probally when it can leave to womb and survive (that includes with our help). Is this a debatible point? Yes. We have to decided either way.

Derek

tom beta 2
It is as likely that we, mere mortals, will ever be able to ascertain that life (and by the way, what is the definition of that nebulous word?) begins on this or that date as we will be able to prove absolutely and beyond reasonable doubt that there is/is not a God and that only 10 (and no more or less) Angels can stand on the head of a pin.

In any other conversation, this would be recognized as an absurd argument. In a legal murder case, for example, the word "life" is not in the least nebulous. ("Your honor, since we cannot in fact know what this . . . this nebulous concept called 'life' is, I suggest that it is impossible to convict the defendent of taking Mr. Smith's alleged 'life,' whatever that may be, and hereby request that all charges against my client be dropped.")

Or, if we are talking about a biological weapons program, it is easy (for an appropriately equipped lab) to check and see if a particular sample of anthrax is alive or not. (GENERAL: Is the anthrax ready for deployment? SCIENTIST: Well, sir, we need a live batch for that. GENERAL: And is the batch you've been working on "live"? SCIENTIST: Well, sir, that depends on what your definition of "life" is, right? I mean, I'm not the Pope, for Pete's sake. How should I know if it's "live" or not? I suggest you call your bishop if you want answers to questions like that!)

In similar ways, we can easily, physically see when life begins for any type of organism, including humans.

I don't believe this is a metaphysical question at all. It has nothing to do with some supernatural agency, nor with philosophy, ethics, or religion. The beginning of life is an entirely observable, biological phenomenon, and we "mere mortals" are entirely capable of ascertaining when life begins, and when it ends. Stating "we cannot know" is simply pulling the blanket over our heads and avoiding the arguments.

The real question is not when life begins. It is, as Derek stated, at what point do we recognize the right of a human organism to live?

Ben

The real question is not when life begins. It is, as Derek stated, at what point do we recognize the right of a human organism to live?

Actualy I think the question is better phrased as: when does an organism become recognisable as a human being rather than a cell or collection of cells. A single cell is clearly not a human being . For example, surely no one would suggest that health service resources should be diverted to saving the life of a single cell with the potential to be a human being over (say) a 10 year old child.

What I find interesting is the argument that:
What is more, as the ability to keep very premature babies alive grows, the law has to keep up. It can’t be right to allow babies to be killed who are old enough to survive.

Why is it okay to abort babies at age n weeks in 1970 but not in 2004? If the argument for abortion (and it is one that I agree with) is that at age n the organism is not yet a human being and so can be aborted, then why does it become a human being simply because of the progression of science? It's fairly safe to say that medicine will one day be able to take a sperm cell and an ovum and incubate a baby for 9 months - does this mean that abortion will be totally wrong then?

John Doe

The liberation of women desiring abortions led the aborting of millions. The liberation of homosexuals led to the AIDs epidemic. You are entitled to your opinions, but you need to recognize that the freedoms you praise were bought at a high price.

Lawrence Krubner

"You are entitled to your opinions, but you need to recognize that the freedoms you praise were bought at a high price."

But, clearly, it is not a high price unless you believe that abortion is murder or AIDS is a homosexual disease. For those who don't view abortion as murder it's a non-issue. And since world wide the vast majority of AIDS cases are heterosexual, people might reasonably reject any connection between it and homosexuality.

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