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Hi, this is my blog for all sorts of pro-life news, statistics, stories, and personal ventings. I am a wife and mother, as well as a nursing student. I I truly believe that abortion has failed women, and will continue to do so as long as it is legal.


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Sunday, November 26, 2006

To my anon. commenter: On Koko and Capacity

Sorry, for some reason the new blogger wont let me post in my comment section. I moved the discussion on personhood and capacity to this post. I'm just going to post my rebuttal to the Koko argument here.

Koko had to the capacity to communicate at a low level, she did not have the capacity to communicate at a level anywhere near that of a human.
The five year old is simply at a stage of development working towards the fulfilment of its capacity. Unlike Koko, the five year old is nowhere near "maxed out".

My point was that the "maxed out" expression of capacity of Koko was on the same level as a child in early development. The difference is, the child has much more inherent capacity than the monkey.

Perhaps I should define capacity just so there isn't any confusion on what I mean.
The definition I am using is "Innate potential for growth, development, or accomplishment; faculty. "

Of course lower animals have an innate potential for growth, but they do not possesses the innate characteristics which enable them as species to affect change at a rate anywhere near our own.

Of course, personhood is an arbitrary distinction even when looked at in levels of capacity.
However, capacity is more inclusive than function and includes all memebers of our species.
The most direct way of assigning personhood is to assign it to all that are a member of the species homo sapien. However, this begs the question "what's so special about humans?". I believe that addressing capacity answers the question on a basic level.

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29 Comments:

  • Lauren

    You seem to be confusing “capacity” with “human capacity.” This confusion is apparent in your statements like: “The difference is, the child has much more inherent capacity than the monkey.” All organisms have their own innate capacities. And to expect another creature, even one as closely related as primates, to have human capacities is completely misguided.

    Your comment about lower animals having less capacities than homo sapiens is meaningless. Certainly homo sapiens have a greater degree of world-openness than most primates. However, primates can “affect change” (your words) to a greater degree than most reptiles – reptiles can “affect change” more than most invertebrates – etc. The point is that capacities are relational. They are species specific (although what is really interesting are creatures like Koko that can span species boundaries), and to expect members of one species to possess capacities of another is incorrect. Therefore, “capacities” in a strict sense cannot serve as a basis for adjudicating what is special about humans.

    Since the capacities argument doesn’t work, try a different route. Why don’t you start by defining what you mean by “personhood.”

    BTW, my name is Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:24 PM  

  • Thom, Ithought it was you who made the last comment but I didn't want to jump to conclusions and call some random person your name.

    Capacity isn't meaningless at all. You are correct that different animals have different capacity, and tat we are talking about human capacity. I don't think that putting human before the word changes the inearent argument.

    Though Koko can go beyond the function of oters in her speicies, it is pobvious she hasn't gone beyond her capacity. Koko's achievemts serve only to set te bar higer for other primates, but does not put htem on the level of humans.


    As far as personhood: The only fair way to define personhood is to extend it to all members of our species at all levels of development nad function. Anything less than this results in some group being dehumanized by another.

    Now this isn't to say that all people have the same extended rigts. For example a child as te rigt to invade a parents privacy and drain him financially because the child as the right not to be neglected. Only children and te disabled can claim such a right. Likewise adults have property rigts and voting rights not extended to children. However, both a newborn and a 73 year old have the inhearant right to life. Througout history, denying personhood denied someone this right.

    I have theories on why this has become women twoards their children, but that's another debate intirely.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 6:56 AM  

  • Lauren

    Thanks for your reply.

    “The only fair way to define personhood is to extend it to all members of our species at all levels of development nad function.”

    This does not constitute a definition of personhood. Plus, now you have introduced the concept of “fair.” How do you propose we define and measure “fairness?” I’m not sure why personhood (whatever you think that is) must be extended to all members of our species on the grounds of an unexplicated notion of fairness. Also you use of the word “rights” is very murky. For example, you state:

    “For example a child as te rigt to invade a parents privacy and drain him financially because the child as the right not to be neglected.”

    It’s unclear what you mean. In what sense is this scenario a right?

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:03 PM  

  • Your right that fairness shouldn't come into play. I was using the term more coloquially, but that has little value in terms of definition.

    Fairness in this sense was meant in the most basic sense of not allowing crimes against humanity. However, again, it should have been omitted because I can see it caused confusion over my meaning.

    I suppose I should define Rights as well. The rights extended as a result of personhood I believe are the most basic.

    This includes primarally the right to life. The childhood example of not being neglected is an extention of the right to life. A child is then able to receive care from his parents for sustinance regardless of the peripheral rights that may be saccrificed for this to occur.

    Peripheral righs I am defining as the increadibly broad catagory of rights that are not directly related to survival.

    For example, a child has a right to invade his parents privacy by living in their home because he needs shelter to survive. A parent could not simply turn their child out to the snowy night because they needed privacy. The child's right to not be neglected as extended by his right to life superceeds the parents right to privacy.

    This is the same reason a fetus' can occupy the space in a woman's womb(invading her Bodily Domain). Though her right to bodily domain is important, it is a peripheral right. The fetus' right to life is a primary right.

    That said, I define personhood as simply "being a living human". This definition comes from the definition of "person" being "a living human".


    As I've said elsewhere, this generally begs the question of "what's so darn special about humans" which my capacity argument attempts to answer.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 5:24 PM  

  • Lauren

    Thanks for your reply. So if the concept of personhood is identical with the concept of human being why does the concept of person exist? Why do you think some people see a distinction between these two concepts?

    “The rights extended as a result of personhood I believe are the most basic.” This is not a definition. What rights are extended as a result of personhood? Where do these rights come from?

    Your analogy of denying a child entry to a home on a cold night that will result in the child’s demise with abortion is faulty. First of all, the embryo is physically connected to the mother, and depends on the mother for sustenance. This is not without costs for the mother - the embryo’s very existence depends on the maternal environment. The same is not the case for the child in the cold night. A stranger could come by and rescue the child. However, there is no counterfactual that will save the embryo. Therefore the two cases are not equivalent.

    Here’s another way to think about it. A pregnant mom is told she will die if she has the baby, even though the baby may survive the mom’s demise during birth. By your logic, the mother choosing to terminate the baby in order to save her life is committing murder, and therefore should not be allowed to terminate the pregnancy.

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:49 PM  

  • People see a distinction between personhood and human being because they wish to deny rights to some group. Historically, this has always been the case. I know tbat people in the pro-choice movement refuse to look back on history whent it comes to other groups who were dehumanized, but I belive it shows glaringly the biogotry of denying personhood to any group of humans.


    I explained where the rights came from, they are innate. If your speaking legally than all of our rights come down from government, but because abortion is obviously legal, and the rights of the unborn are obviously nonexistant in our nation, I am speaking philosophically when I saw that human rights are innat to human beings. I do not believe I am too far off the mark with this when our founding fathers found the right to life to be an unalienable, self-evident right.

    Ss for the analogy, your scenerio is easily diproved if we simply move the house to the woods were no passerby come. Entirely plausable and relavent. Having no one to bail you out of a sitiation doesn't make neglecting your child magically okay.

    As for the mother aborting her child to protect her health. She is indeed still killikng the child. The issue then becomes one of self defense. We are not charged with murder if an intruder comes into our home to kill us and we get the first shot, likewise a mother who tragically must end her pregnancy to maintain her own life should be held to equal standards.

    The pro-choice side argues that all pregnancy is a threat to life, but realistically, the scenerio is similar to seeing someone walk accross your property. If you shot him "just in case" he happened to be a criminal, you would most likely be charged with his murder.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 6:54 AM  

  • Lauren

    There are several problems here. First you state: “People see a distinction between personhood and human being because they wish to deny rights to some group.” The concept of personhood was not created in order to deny rights to other groups of people. It’s genesis is not as a negative concept, but a positive one. It has a complicated philosophical history. Second, you state: “I explained where the rights came from, they are innate.” You did not explain anything – you merely asserted that rights are innate. So if they are innate, where in the body do rights reside? Third, you argue: “She is indeed still killikng the child. The issue then becomes one of self defense.” This is a very bad argument, since it assumes that the embryo is maliciously attacking the mother, unless you believe that to be the case.

    You state: “Ss for the analogy, your scenerio is easily diproved if we simply move the house to the woods were no passerby come.” That’s exactly right! And the parents would be charged with murder. However, as you have just argued, in the abortion scenario, the mother is not charged with murder (in fact you argued she was acting in “self-defense”), therefore the analogy you raised about a child being prevented entry into a home on a cold night is an invalid comparison.

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:38 PM  

  • I didn't mean self defense in legal terms. Self preservation is probably a better word.

    In the case of the abortive mother, and the ethics of abortion in general, we are talking about the vast majority of cases where a woman is not acting out of self-preservation but rather preservation of a lifestyle.

    There are certain situations where detatching yourself from someone to perserve your own life becomes morally debateable. If you fell overboard and became entangled with another and the situation was so that either you both died, or he died, you would be arguablly justified in saving yourself. The other man ad no ill will twoard you, yet your own self preservation could arguably be justified.

    Of course, if you we entangled but there was a solution that would enable you both to live, choosing the solution that caused your comrads death would be ethically problematic.

    As for the abortive mother not being charged with murder for neglecting her child:

    Of course she isn't charged with anything, she hasn't committed a crime according to our legal system. I'm not arguing that she has. I am arguing the moral equivalency between the neglectful mother of the winter child and the neglectful abortive mother. The fact that the laws seperate the act doesn't mean that they are ethically unique.

    On personhood, the very act of defining our species as superior is exclusive. Not necessarally negative, but definitely excluive. This exclusive nature has been carried out throughout history. As a whole we have become far more incluive in our labling of humanity. Even so, it can not be denied that the lable inhearantly seperates.

    On the physical location of personhood:

    I don't belive we could pinpoint most of our innate qualities. They are, by their nature, so imbedded in our being that there is no way to assertain their geographical standing.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 1:00 AM  

  • Lauren

    Thanks for your reply. So you do support abortion under certain conditions. But you are opposed to abortion under other circumstances. What do you mean by “preservation of a lifestyle?” Who gets to decide what are appropriate lifestyles?

    As far as the analogies go, they are completely different. You state: “The fact that the laws seperate the act doesn't mean that they are ethically unique.” Of course they are ethically unique (see above). In some cases you approve of abortion, in others you do not. Those are ethically different cases, are they not?

    Again you seem to be misunderstanding the concept. You state: “Even so, it can not be denied that the lable inhearantly seperates.” Any label separates – gender, race, profession, etc. That’s an irrelevant point. The point isn’t how labels are used, it is their status and meaning. Certainly race has been used to oppress people for centuries – do you imply we should get rid of the concept of race? How about gender? What concepts should we keep at all?

    Finally, you state: “I don't belive we could pinpoint most of our innate qualities. They are, by their nature, so imbedded in our being that there is no way to assertain their geographical standing.” This does not make any sense at all. It is definitely not a scientific claim, nor is it logical. The simple question is: if you can’t identify innate qualities, then on what grounds do you stand to claim that they exist?

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:05 AM  

  • I wasn't claiming that there are no ethical differences between an abortion for the life of the mother and a general abortion, I was claiming that there is no ethical difference between abandoning your child pre or post birth.

    The lifestyle preservation that I'm talking about is abortion for reasons unrealted to the mothers life.

    As far as the definition of innate. Could you really pinpoint where someone's innate talent for piano comes from? There are some things that are not so easily traced, yet are clearly part of our inner being.

    Sorry this is a bit brief, but I'm on my way out the door.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 12:03 PM  

  • Lauren

    It feels like you are descending into some weird universe where nothing has a firm definition. For example, you write: “I wasn't claiming that there are no ethical differences between an abortion for the life of the mother and a general abortion, I was claiming that there is no ethical difference between abandoning your child pre or post birth.” First of all, what is a “general abortion?” I don’t think any such thing exists. Unless you are referring to aborting Generals.

    Second, you want to avoid strawman arguments. Using terms like “abandoning” in your argument undermine any claims you might want to make. Most people are opposed to abandoning children. However, abortion is not identical to abandonment. For example, you’ve already agreed that abortion is OK when the mother’s life is at stake. What about when a woman is forced to have intercourse and gets pregnant? Should she be forced to carry the embryo to term? What about a woman who is mentally incompetent to be a mother who gets pregnant? Should she be forced to carry the embryo to term?

    All of your arguments so far exist in some kind of social vacuum. For example, you write: “The lifestyle preservation that I'm talking about is abortion for reasons unrealted to the mothers life.” But all of the examples I gave above are unrelated to the mother’s health. More importantly, who should decide these matters? The woman? The government? The market? The church?

    “Could you really pinpoint where someone's innate talent for piano comes from?” Well not when you phrase the question in a tautology like that. Why is “piano playing” considered innate? Here’s an easy answer – countless hours of practice.

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:55 PM  

  • Thom, I hadn't forgotten you, I've just not been feeling objective about abortion for the past few days.

    It's obvious that I'm distinguishing between therapeutic and induced abortion. Of course, thera are some physicians that blur this line, but that is the stoic definition you seek.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 7:28 AM  

  • First of all, what is a “general abortion?” I don’t think any such thing exists. Unless you are referring to aborting Generals.

    Abortions in general (99+ percent of them according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute) are not performed to save the mother's life.

    Some people make a distinction between losing a baby while trying to save the mother and child to 99% of abortions where the goal is to kill the child to end the pregnancy. There is a distinction.

    By Blogger JacqueFromTexas, at 6:08 PM  

  • Lauren

    I was getting lonely! Although I’m not sure that your reply answers my questions. Sure, abortions are performed for all kinds of reasons, and it’s clear you are opposed to abortions that are done for what you consider convenience or “lifestyle.” As I’ve demonstrated, you are not opposed to abortion in itself. So the big question remains – who decides? Who gets to decide whether an abortion is a necessity or a “lifestyle” choice?

    If you prefer, we don’t have to talk about abortion. Our initial topic was the concept of personhood. You seem to be arguing that personhood involves rights that are unique to homo sapiens at their earliest moment (which I assume for you is conception). But you still haven’t given me an argument. Why does an entity that fits into the category homo sapiens have innate rights?

    Jacque – as I’ve shown there is not only one distinction, but there are several. Lauren (and other reasonable pro-lifers) admits that abortion is necessary under certain conditions. Therefore there is nothing inherently immoral about abortion. Your quarrel has to do with what you perceive as an overuse of this procedure, which is a completely different ethical problem. So I ask the same question – who decides?

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:40 PM  

  • Thom,

    Who decides? No one. No one has the right to decide to kill someone else at any stage of development for any other reason than to minimize killing.

    No- there absolutely IS something inherently immoral about abortion. To say that overuse is my issue with abortion couldn't be further from the truth. I take issue with intentionally killing human life for the purpose of killing human life. What is evil when done to one baby is evil when done to 2, 3, or 47 million.

    You mistake a doctor's attempt to save as many lives as possible with abortion. Abortion is killing for the sake of killing rather than trying to preserve life. If a child dies in the act of trying to save both mother and child, that does not qualify as an abortion. It's the equivilent of a doctor trying to do CPR on two individuals at once. Since he can't save them both, he chooses to save one rather than losing them both. He didn't "abort" one, he simply couldn't save one. This is not the doctor implying that one human was worth more than another human, it was merely the doctor trying to do the most good in a bad situation. When bad situations arise (odds remain slim) and the mother's put at substantial risk, killing the baby is rarely necessary. Premature labor or a c-section is often the correct course. For those ultra rare situations where it's lose them both or chose one, you can't portray that as meaningless death, but a terrible and unavoidable tragedy.

    By Blogger JacqueFromTexas, at 1:04 PM  

  • Exactly Jacque! You put that much better than I did.

    Thom, I moved the debate regarding induced vs. therapeutic abortions to a new post. We can rebegin the debate on personhood here if you'd like.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 1:34 PM  

  • Lauren

    I will continue on the new post.
    Jacque – while I can appreciate the obvious emotional resonance opposition to abortion has upon you, your reply simply does not make any logical sense. First of all, someone obviously decides to abort an embryo, whether it is a doctor (medical emergency) or mother (elective abortion) or the state. To say “no one decides” is utterly meaningless since it is patently obvious that abortions occur.

    Second of all, your statement, “No one has the right to decide to kill someone else at any stage of development for any other reason than to minimize killing” is completely devoid of any significance. I’m sure you’ve heard of capital punishment – that’s certainly killing someone at a stage of development. While we’re at it, what do you think happens during war? What do you think soldiers are trained to do? Yell nasty words at people? They are trained to kill other people at different stages of development.

    Again, I appreciate your committed opposition to abortion. All I ask is that you don’t sacrifice reason to polemics. Human beings kill other human beings, sometimes with really good reasons, sometimes with really bad reasons. To think of abortion as somehow qualitatively different is to be so deeply enthralled in an ideology that you can no longer recognize consistency or logic.

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:48 PM  

  • I know this was directed at Jacque but I couldn't help but comment .

    As far as capital punishment(which I'm opposed to btw), the idea behind it is to minimize the criminals ability to kill. I know that this doesn't always work in practice, but it doesn't change the reasoning behind the act.

    War's primary goal is also to minimize threats to the safety of one's home nation, as such, it also fits the paradigm of "killing only to limit death".

    By Blogger Lauren, at 7:02 AM  

  • Lauren,

    You know I'm with you as far as capital punishment and war, but I always find it infuriating with choicers bring up capital punishment and war as examples of pro-life hipocrisy. We don't qualify, as we oppose killing people for the sake of killing people and only accept it when the goal is to limit killing, nonetheless:

    So how does killing a not convicted criminal some how justify killing unborn childred?

    How does going to war in response to attacks of civilians on our own soil justify killing unborn children?

    Essentially, they're saying that killing the innocent unborn is acceptable and killing the born in self-defense is not.

    Innocent people should die. Guilty people should live on to kill innocent people. Some logic.

    -Jac

    By Blogger JacqueFromTexas, at 7:29 AM  

  • I know, it is increadibly frustrating to have the death penalty and war paraded out in ah AHA! way.

    Complete with chair spinning and dangling light bulb.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 7:36 AM  

  • Lauren & Jacque

    I didn’t mean to imply you’re hypocritical, since I have no idea your stands on these other issues. I know in the shrill worlds of abortion politics that people on both sides often misconstrue what is being said, and I apologize if you feel personally attacked. That was not my goal.

    That being said, you are both missing the point. Ethical arguments must be buttressed by some kind of coherent theory. In comparing capital punishment, war casualties, and abortion, I’m merely asking why you argue from principle in one case (abortion) and from utilitarian bases in another (capital punishment and war)? You cannot deny that innocent people die in all three cases. Yet for you, abortion is significantly different, and I’m trying to understand why. Earlier, Lauren argued that certain cases of abortion can be thought of “self-preservation” for the mom. So how is that different than capital punishment as a way to weed out murders?

    Jacque writes: “Essentially, they're saying that killing the innocent unborn is acceptable and killing the born in self-defense is not.” That is a complete misrepresentation of my argument. Just relax for a moment; I’m not attacking your belief system. You don’t have to resort to ridiculous characterizations of my position in order to make your point.

    Lauren writes: “I know, it is increadibly frustrating to have the death penalty and war paraded out in ah AHA! way.” LOL, I wish I could take credit for making this comparison! It has been around for a long time, my friend.

    “Complete with chair spinning and dangling light bulb.” I have no idea what this refers to.

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:28 AM  

  • Thom, I was making a joke refering to the hollywood interegration situation where they have the suspect on one side of a table(under a dangling light) and the detective facing away.

    When the detective pulls out his "closer" he spins his chair around to face the suspect and says "AHA!"

    As far as capital punishment. I'm against it because it amounts to state sanctioned killing and that concept frightens me. The idea of killing someone to prevent them from killing anyone else is a bit disturbing, but overall can be justified. Especially because it amounts to "doing the least harm".

    By Blogger Lauren, at 8:50 AM  

  • Lauren

    Oh, I see. I think I need to watch more Law & Order. As for your claim: “The idea of killing someone to prevent them from killing anyone else is a bit disturbing, but overall can be justified. Especially because it amounts to "doing the least harm".” So how is this different in any way from an abortion that is deemed necessary? In that case an abortion is “doing the least harm.”

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:18 AM  

  • That's what I've always been claiming. That an abortion in a case such an ectopic pregnancy falls into the realm of trying to perserve the most possible life.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 11:05 AM  

  • Right, therefore abortion is not inherently evil.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:28 AM  

  • "Abortion" refers to spontaneous, therapeutic, and induced pregnancy loss.

    The former two have no culpable party. Something goes terribly wrong pysically, and the child can not be carried to term.

    Induced abortions, however, do have culpable parties. The mother who chooses to abort her child for a reason other than preservation of life, the doctor who does the same, society who says that this is laudable and perhaps even the only respectable and responsible choice ect.

    So yes, you are correct that there is nothing inhearenty evil about pregnancy loss(other than the fact that death rose from Sin)in general, but there is something inhearenty evil about induced abortion.

    Medical texts and practice deferentiate between these forms of abortion, thus it is prudent for us to do the same.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 11:41 AM  

  • Lauren

    You’re splitting hairs with some pretty dubious distinctions. Lets look at your three types of abortions:
    1. Spontaneous – this involves no conscious act by any person involved, so it is not really our concern.
    2. Therapeutic – this clearly involves some kind of conscious decision by somebody.
    3. Induced – see #2.

    So #’s 2 and 3 clearly have a culpable party. That is, neither type of abortion will occur without somebody doing something. Remember culpable means responsible for the outcome. You’re confusing volition (somebody made a decision) with blame (somebody made a bad decision).

    Also we’re not talking about “pregnancy loss.” That is too general of a category and covers both unforeseen physiological problems (with embryo, mother, or both) as well as planned outcomes. Playing semantic games won’t help your argument.

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:29 PM  

  • No Thom, I mean culpable. In a therapeutic abortion no party was culpable in creating the situation that led to the pregnancy loss. And yes, I am saying "pregnancy loss" to cover spontaneous, therapeuic, and induced abortions.

    The doctor is not responsible for the outcome of an ectopic pregnancy. He did not implant the embryo outside the uterus. All the doctor is responsible for is insuring that the mother does not die from this complication. It is ludicris to say that he in any way contributed to the overall outcome of the embryo(remember the embryo would die regardless of intervention).

    Further more, it is hardly splitting hairs to recognize an intentionally caused death is different than a naturally occuring situation in which a doctor must perserve the most life.

    We don't prosecute a doctor for sepreating morbidly conjoined twins to save the life of one, but we would prosecute a doctor for injecting a patient with a fatal dose of morphine.

    Unless you think that legal qualifiers for death are "splitting hairs" in which case we are hopelessly deadlocked.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 3:57 PM  

  • Lauren

    I posted my reply on your top most entry.

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:09 AM  

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