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Liberals always deny science when it's necessary for liberalism

The celerity with which Western liberals besmirch the name of their own gods is extraordinary. Right now they are busy blackening the good name of empirical science. No philosophical conservative ever had any problem with empirical facts, but it has always been useful to liberal agitprop to imply otherwise and write polemics about the conservative War on Science. So liberal sanctimony on this matter has long been tiresome, but these poor fools have only more recently crowned sanctimony with blatant hypocrisy and obscurantism.

To review, here are three immediately grave matters of public import, upon which many liberals fulminate with manifest, almost inarguable, anti-science derangement.

Human carbon emissions. If your desire is to reduce carbon emissions, an obvious opportunity present itself: the economies of scale, innovation, geology and law combine to insure that almost any possible unit of Arab, Venezuelan, or Russian fossil fuel that is replaced by American, Mexican, Canadian, in a word, North American fossil fuel, will result in a reduction of human carbon emissions. That liberals oppose policies to take these opportunities means that either they (a) don’t care about reducing carbon emissions, or (b) don’t care about what empirical fact tells us about reducing carbon emissions.

Human biodiversity. When a good Yale liberal like Amy Chua is denounced by an ignoramus in Time magazine as a filthy racist, merely for assembling evidence about certain fascinating details of human biodiversity, we can rest assured that liberal officialdom has no desire to wrestle with the empirical details that cluster around family, inheritance, gene expression, culture, flourishing and prosperity.

Human embryology. If a man of veterinary science disgorged himself of the opinion that at six weeks, we don’t really know if this horse embryo is really a horse, he would be instantly recognized as a quack and not a veterinary scientist at all. If a primate biologist were to express doubt as to what exactly healthy male-female procreative copulation produces at six weeks, he would be an immediate object of amusement and parody. Nevertheless, innumerable liberals who adopt just such a manifestly erroneous opinion about human embryos, carry on quite as if they haven’t pronounced a flat rejection of the facts of science. Personhood theory is the very opposite of science. The lineaments of Human Development are well known enough to put to rest the question of when a new member of the species appears.

These points established (and many more could be added), I see no reason at all to credit for even a moment the standard liberal narrative concerning science. I am well aware, of course, that this liberal narrative is superficially regnant in our culture, but I am quite unmoved by it. The comical sanctimony of liberals upon this subject is precisely the bluster of a buffoon whose fraud has reduced him to bullying. No one who stands athwart human embryology is going to lecture me on the place of science in American politics.

Comments (125)

I think I got into an argument once here about the embryology thing. The question of whether a human embryo is a really a human is not a scientific question at all. It's a metaphysical question. Nobody disputes any of the biological facts.

I read that response to Chua and Rubenfeld (remember, the co-author who never gets mentioned?) when it came out. It was actually a substantive and surprisingly moderate response. The author agreed with Chua and Rubenfeld that cultural differences, as opposed to historical or structural factors, do explain some of the group differences in "success." But the substantive part didn't start until maybe two pages in, after all the silly accusations of racism, so a lot of people might have already been turned off to the substantive criticism.

The question of whether a human embryo is a really a human is not a scientific question at all. It's a metaphysical question. Nobody disputes any of the biological facts.

A human embryo is a human from the point of conception. What you're referring to is the personhood argument, i.e., whether or not it's a person. That's what's up for metaphysical debate.

Its identity as a unique member of the human species is not a matter of biological debate. An embryonic puppy is a dog; an embryonic kitten is a cat; a tadpole is a frog; a human fetus is a human.

The question of whether a human embryo is a really a human is not a scientific question at all. It's a metaphysical question.

You just made yourself a good example of Paul's point. There is nothing intellectual about this position. It's just chicanery.

The only reason for distinguishing humanity and personhood is in order to exclude certain classes of human beings from the protection of law. Personhood theorizing is inherently disreputable, to say the least, in addition to being contrary to empirical science.

Personhood theorizing is inherently disreputable, to say the least, in addition to being contrary to empirical science.

It hasn't the least basis in empirical science. It is pure (indefensible) metaphysics of the worst sort. And as one can see by Aaron Gross's wording, and by the wording of others I have interacted with and read, the desire to make a metaphysical denial of personhood has a tendency to slip over into questioning the purely scientific fact--that the human being is a human being from the moment of conception. The phrase "human being" or "a human" itself, because it causes people to wince when they think of destroying the unborn, must now be treated in a decidedly anti-scientific fashion.

I tried to ask young woman (who claimed to be a student of "science") what she thought a mother pig at a comparable stage of pregnancy was carrying. (She didn't want to use the same exact time period because a pig's pregnancy is half as long as a woman's.) She actually bit the bullet and said it wasn't a piglet. It was a clump of cells.

I think we need to form a new natural kind: Clump of Cells.

It must be acknowledged that personhood theory constitutes an explicit rejection of the truly enlightened notion that all men are created equal. It is one of the wonders of the age that it is modern liberals who insist that human rights and human dignity are rooted in a sort of relative biological excellence, which is itself more or less reducible to physiological complexity.

The lingering aroma of Marxist materialism that hangs in the air about contemporary liberal and academic theorizing leads adherents of liberalism to claim, nonsensically, that manifestly unequal persons should receive equal consideration under the law--even where relevant distinctions between them would seem to compel us otherwise--while also claiming that certain people enjoy no rights whatsoever due to the complexity of their brain states, or of certain observable mental capacities. There is a hopeless confusion at work here that gives rise one at the same time to desolate materialism, and an extreme sense of abstract moral indignation at the cosmos, which cannot philosophically be reconciled.

The liberal's pick-and-choose rejection of obvious empirical truths is a byproduct of a much deeper incoherence. I'm reminded here also of the screaming incoherence of radical environmentalism, which claims that 1) man is merely an ephemeral manifestation of Nature, indistinguishable from Nature itself, like a rock or a star or a squid, (this is the basic sentiment expressed by that bit of foolishness one often sees quoted on bumper stickers, "Man belongs to the Earth, the Earth does not belong to man;" and that 2) man is morally culpable for what he does to and within Nature, as though he still in some way transcends it, as suggested by Genesis. Clearly the two sentiments are not compatible, any more than it is possible to reconcile what is called personhood theory with the notion that we are each of us endowed with equal rights by virtue of our membership in the One Universal Human Race.

The only reason for distinguishing humanity and personhood is in order to exclude certain classes of human beings from the protection of law.

I will liberally (heh) qoute this whenever it is applicable.

I read that response to Chua and Rubenfeld (remember, the co-author who never gets mentioned?) when it came out. It was actually a substantive and surprisingly moderate response.

Confusticate that nonsense. You admit that the moderation finally appeared after many long tedious paragraphs of insinuation and ill-will. The Time magazine review was disgraceful. The man's critique was on the level of a 14-year-old girl, when suggested that she investigate what Tiger Mom parenting is and if it should adopted for her: emotional, interested, and dishonest.

No, Paul, I didn't "admit" that the article made silly accusations of racism. I asserted it.

Actually, Pellegri, I do mean "human being," not "person." It's a metaphysical question in the same way that the question of whether a black or a woman is really a human - not a person, but a human - is a metaphysical question. There's no scientific dispute, by which I mean there's no dispute over DNA or neural activity or whatever. The dispute is about certain words and their meanings.

The reasoning given here about the pig fetus actually illustrates my point. That was a philosophical argument, not a scientific one.

By the way, I've got no sympathy for "personhood" reasoning. Reading some of the comments, I seem to have been somehow identified with it.

1. No philosophical conservatives had ever problems with empirical facts? Are you kidding me?
" (Before Obama) America had the best health care system in the world."
"The theory of gradual natural selection doesn't explain much. What can 1% of an eye be good for?"
"There is no anthropogenic global warming."
"Iran is a danger for our national security."
"(Even moderate) additional gun control laws would make us less safe"
(This is a short list only)

You may think that all this statements are based on empirical facts, which would sum up nicely the problem with conservatives and science.

2. What you are saying about liberals and carbon emission reduction is a simple non sequitur. You can without contradiction care about carbon emission reduction, acknowledge empirical facts about carbon emission and still think that it is not a good idea to increase fossil fuel production in North America, e.g. because you also care about wildlife in Alaska, or about the health of people nearby fracking sites, or because you think that the abundance of fuel in the U.S. would obstruct attempts to reduce energy wastage.

3. Most of the criticisms of Chua's book focused on its simplistic ahistorical explanations of group differences and its flawed methodology. Very few of her academic peers, whether liberal and conservative, take the book serious. To suggest that the problem was with "assembling evidence about certain fascinating details of human biodiversity" is grossly misleading.

4. To my knowledge - I am not an expert - very few, if any, present liberal ethicists deny that an embryo qualifies as a human being (i.e. homo sapiens). It would be an extremely silly thing to do so, indeed. But the sientific fact that an embryo is a member of the human species AS SUCH doesn't entail anything about the moral issues (conservative shouting notwithstanding). Otherwise there would be no ethical discussion on abortion, IVF etc. in the first place.

[I cannot join a debate, I am on my way to the airport. Sorry]

Aaron, why in the world would anyone want to take biological classifications like "pig" and "human being" and call them "metaphysical" rather than "biological"? And if biological, then scientific? I mean, by _that_ standard, it would seem that _every_ scientific term application is "metaphysical." "Gee, I don't know whether this is a proton or an electron." "Yeah, Joe, that's a real metaphysical question. We should refer it to the philosophy department." Never mind straightforward empirical facts that distinguish a proton from an electron!

Whether commentator Aaron Gross on this thread counts as a "liberal ethicist," I don't know. But if not exactly _denying_ that the embryo is a human being, he is obscuring the matter by calling it a "metaphysical question," making it sound less cut-and-dried.

Christian (!) philosopher Robert Audi, in a footnote to his discussion of the abortion debate in a book on religion and public policy, makes a similar move. He declares that the question of whether the unborn child is a human being (not merely a person) is a "religious or philosophical" question, thus implying that its answer is dubious.

I recently had a Facebook argument, long and dragged-out, with a bright young philosophy student who, similarly, was uncomfortable with the phrase "human being" for the early embryo and refused to use it once he realized that by that phrase I meant a _natural kind_. He denied that human beings form a natural kind in any significant sense.

I have chronicled here on W4 scientific obscurantism surrounding this issue by a science writer named Hampikian who, apparently writing feminist biology, strongly implied that "you" are just an egg, that the moment of conception contributed nothing significant, that women procreate more or less parthenogenically, and that "you" existed in your grandmother's womb because your grandmother's eggs were in your grandmother's womb. This is scientific malpractice, obviously intended to generate confusion regarding when a *human being* comes into existence.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2012/08/scientific_illiteracy_in_the_n.html

Again and again and again in both the popular press and in philosophical articles (I just read one the other day, a doozy, by respected philosopher Earl Conee), the term "fertilized egg" is used for the newly conceived embryo. This is an unscientific phrase, because the egg itself ceases to exist when fertilization is completed. But it serves nicely to imply that the unborn child at this stage is not an organism, a member of the species homo sapiens, without quite coming out and saying so.

So, Grobi's statements notwithstanding, scientific obscurantism certainly plays an important rhetorical role in the pro-abortion debate, even at high philosophical levels.

I have to say that your examples were disappointing Paul. You could have at least used actual examples like vaccines or the liberal belief in phony baloney organic food benefits.

1. This is a speculative argument based on your understanding of economics. You may be right, but there is a reason economics is called the dismal science. It's possible to argue back and forth about most economics questions.

2. Paul, what do you mean by human biodiversity? Are you saying that the cultural differences noted by Chua are created by biological factors, like some sort of genetic IQ gap? Without taking a position one way or the other, I don't think that most conservative intellectuals would accept that idea either.

3. This is just equivocation. The word "human" can refer to biological life with human DNA, but it is also used to refer to an ethical category of creatures that should be granted a certain amount of respect. I prefer to use the term persons primarily because of specious arguments like this one.

Since I'm not a philosopher and have never seriously studied philosophy, and since as you say there are philosophers arguing the same thing I am, they could probably give you a much better answer.

The reason classifying a fetus as a human being or not is different from classifying a particle as a proton or an electron is obvious. The latter question can be answered to the satisfaction of all parties by empirical observation: say, by observing the particle's path in a bubble chamber. But there's no empirical observation of a human embryo that can answer the question whether it's a human being.

Or to put it a different way: the physicists who disagree on whether a particle is a proton or an electron disagree on empirical facts. The people who disagree on whether an embryo is a human being do not disagree on empirical facts. At least, no one's pointed to an empirical fact on which there's disagreement.

One last example. Suppose someone argues that a necessary condition for something to be a human being is that it have a soul. And suppose he also argues that embryos have no soul; that fetuses are only ensouled after several weeks. Therefore, he argues, a one day old embryo is not a human being. You insist that this is all a biological question, not a metaphysical question. Fine. But tell me, what empirical, biological fact is this person denying? The biological fact that a human being need not have a soul? The biological fact that an embryo does have a soul?

But there's no empirical observation of a human embryo that can answer the question whether it's a human being.

Baloney. And the fact that it is baloney is presumably why Grobi thinks nobody does it. Grobi thinks nobody does it because "human being" means "complete, living organism that is a member of the species homo sapiens," and because there certainly are empirical observations that show that a human embryo is a human being. In fact, "human embryo" just _means_ a human being at the embryonic stage of development. The empirical observations in question distinguish, e.g., a human being at the embryonic stage from an organism of some other species, a human being from a human cell that is a part of another human being (e.g., a differentiated skin cell), a human being from a cancerous mass (such as a teratoma). Even some investigation into embryology would tell you that there definitely are such empirical observations, just as there are empirical observations that will tell you when the entity in front of you is an embryonic frog, a pig, and so forth.

Aaron, bringing souls into it is obviously irrelevant, because for some bizarre reason you also implied that whether something is or isn't a pig is a "metaphysical" question, and I don't know of anyone who thinks that a pig has a soul.

Abortion is all about who has what rights and which rights take precedence. The embryology stuff is just rhetoric meant to make abortion more palatable. People would get confused and uncomfortable if they thought abortion were killing another person, even justifiably so.

This is just equivocation. The word "human" can refer to biological life with human DNA, but it is also used to refer to an ethical category of creatures that should be granted a certain amount of respect. I prefer to use the term persons primarily because of specious arguments like this one.

Dunsany, that's a cop-out. Many people, including almost everyone even in the liberal camp, circa 1965, would have had no problem saying that "to be a human being biologically just is to be a human person." Certainly liberals were using notions like that in the racial civil rights debate. Liberals have widely and deliberately chosen to obscure the first part of that because they don't want to have to tackle the whole thesis itself - they don't want to be forced into the position of arguing whether the whole statement is right or wrong. (Not all liberals, but many.) They don't want a real discussion on the merits regarding the pro-life position that being human biologically is sufficient basis for being treated as a human person - to be proven to be human is sufficient evidence for the presence of a soul and to be a person.


The same goes for Aaron's comment:

One last example. Suppose someone argues that a necessary condition for something to be a human being is that it have a soul. And suppose he also argues that embryos have no soul; that fetuses are only ensouled after several weeks. Therefore, he argues, a one day old embryo is not a human being. You insist that this is all a biological question, not a metaphysical question. Fine. But tell me, what empirical, biological fact is this person denying? The biological fact that a human being need not have a soul? The biological fact that an embryo does have a soul?

Aaron, nobody argues EMPIRICALLY about the presence or absence of a soul, since the soul cannot be observed empirically. All one could argue empirically about are the effects and signs of having a soul. And it is a sufficient condition that a living thing be biologically a human kind of being in order to provide the evidence that it has a soul. Embryology knows empirically that a conceived embryo will successfully grow into a mature, complete human being (independent of either parent) as long as nutrients and environment are suitable, and that's the very same standard that applies to show that a baby is a person, that an sleeping human is a person, that a person under anesthesia is a person, etc. It is more true to say that they don't want an embryo subject to the same standards as others, because they already know what the answer would be, so they cook up more stringent and more ambiguous standards for personhood that would have been laughed at for 5000 years of history as nonsense.

Right now we are in the middle of one of the worst mass Holocausts in human history. Historically pseudoscience has always been used to justify these sorts of atrocities - from American slavery to Nazi Germany.

So what pseudoscience is used to justify abortion?

Most people justify it simply because they perceive having a child is inconvenient, and it is not commonly accepted that, qualitatively, a fetus is a person.

Also, I am a disciple of Laudan, so I do not believe there is any philosophically rigorous and consistent way to separate borderline cases of science and pseudoscience.

And yes, I am also a scientific antirealist too.

Even some investigation into embryology would tell you that there definitely are such empirical observations, just as there are empirical observations that will tell you when the entity in front of you is an embryonic frog, a pig, and so forth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWX9hFo746k

(play at 16:20)

And by the way, what does subtle differences embryo morphology have to do with the personhood status of an embryo? This just seems to be a pro-life tactic that attempts to evoke a sense of disgust by associating a fetus with a human by emphasizing certain incipient morphological traits on an embryo that are present in post-natal humans, but, of course, those traits are also present in the embryos of other animals and do not have any moral significance themselves.

Dunsany, that's a cop-out. Many people, including almost everyone even in the liberal camp, circa 1965, would have had no problem saying that "to be a human being biologically just is to be a human person." Certainly liberals were using notions like that in the racial civil rights debate. Liberals have widely and deliberately chosen to obscure the first part of that because they don't want to have to tackle the whole thesis itself - they don't want to be forced into the position of arguing whether the whole statement is right or wrong. (Not all liberals, but many.) They don't want a real discussion on the merits regarding the pro-life position that being human biologically is sufficient basis for being treated as a human person - to be proven to be human is sufficient evidence for the presence of a soul and to be a person.

Ok, fine, liberals do not not possess the fortitude or intellectual ability to address the moral implications of the pro-choice position. As you admitted, the "liberal" position is a strawman, and should be ignored, not attacked. Contemporary utilitarian bioethicists are frank to admit that being a human does not suffice to be considered a person.

Contemporary utilitarian bioethicists are frank to admit that being a human does not suffice to be considered a person.

Which is why morally sane people do not pay any attention to utilitarian bioethicists, except when it becomes convenient to illustrate, for the benefit of watching liberals, what the more rigorous thinking requires.

The point here is to show people that the pro-choice position is wrong; a pretty effective method of doing this is to induce someone clever to disclose what Latias has just disclosed.

Utilitarian bioethics is premised on the unfettered right to slaughter the unborn; the whole philosophy must fit into that principle.

This comment thread has been instructive. A couple dim liberals embraced the denialism. Several of the sharper but more ambiguous sort of liberal evidenced some reluctance and attempted various equivocations. And then a bioethicist gave up the game.

Now, to restate:

Consider what we'd think of a veterinary doctor who said,

"After all there's no empirical observation of a horse embryo that can answer the question whether it's a horse. By George, it might be a goat or it might be a praying mantis! We don't really know. Only bioethcisists can tell us, from the mysteries of their Sacred Learning."

To be deny the humanity of the unborn, in addition to being moral wrong, is also to make oneself a quack about biological science.

Consider a perfectly reasonable article on the empirical requirement for water in farming in a liberal news outlet

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/opinion/meat-makes-the-planet-thirsty.html

and see it turned into a pro-vegetarian diatribe.

But in the case of agriculture and drought, there’s a clear and accessible action most citizens can take: reducing or, ideally, eliminating the consumption of animal products. Changing one’s diet to replace 50 percent of animal products with edible plants like legumes, nuts and tubers results in a 30 percent reduction in an individual’s food-related water footprint. Going vegetarian, a better option in many respects, reduces that water footprint by almost 60 percent.

It’s seductive to think that we can continue along our carnivorous route, even in this era of climate instability. The environmental impact of cattle in California, however, reminds us how mistaken this idea is coming to seem.

associating a fetus with a human

That. That pseudoscience. You asked what pseudoscience is used to justify abortion. Phrases like "associating a fetus with a human." I mean, that's just plain silly. A fetus is a human being, a member of the species homo sapiens, at a particular point in development. Weasel phrases are used to wince away from this fact.


does subtle differences embryo morphology have to do with the personhood status of an embryo?

Subtle differences between what and what? I don't know of any subtle differences between a human embryo and a non-human embryo. Actually, biologically, they are very significant differences. Ditto for differences between a human embryo and a non-embryonic cell (such as a skin cell) and for the differences between a human embryo and a teratoma.

By the way, the word "pseudoscience" is being used in this discussion not in any highly technical philosophy of science sense but merely to mean something like, "Pretending to speak like a scientifically educated person while actually using weasel phrases and doublespeak to create confusion on scientifically clear points." So the Laudan reference is not to the point.

by emphasizing certain incipient morphological traits on an embryo that are present in post-natal humans, but, of course, those traits are also present in the embryos of other animals and do not have any moral significance themselves.

That too.

You mean the incipient traits of, say, having a spine, or having 4 limbs, and so on? Sure, other animals have spines and 4 limbs.

What about the traits of having 23 pairs of human chromosomes? What about the trait of having been generated from a human ovum and a human sperm? These, too, are traits of the embryo, and they are not traits exhibited by embryos of other animals.

Try having a doctor specializing in IVF say (with a straight face, mind you) "well, we are going to implant in your uterus this fertilized ovum of a something or other, we are not sure yet, but eventually we will be able to tell whether what is inside you is a human being or some other sort of animal." Nonsense. The totality of the evidence, including that wherewith the embryo was conceived, is clear and conclusive evidence that the embryo is a human entity, self-contained and not a "part" of another being, holding within itself all the information and life-capacity to develop into a mature adult human being - and is therefore a human being right now.

As you admitted, the "liberal" position is a strawman, and should be ignored, not attacked. Contemporary utilitarian bioethicists are frank to admit that being a human does not suffice to be considered a person.

Yes, and as a logical result these bioethicists now accept, and state boldly, that being a human baby is not sufficient to be considered a person, and being a human child is not sufficient to be considered a human person. So, instead of taking this situation as a reductio proving that such bioethicists are simply (and grotesquely) wrong and should be silenced in shame, the average liberal welds himself to the errors in order to be able to continue to claim that killing an embryo isn't killing a person. I suppose that saying "I know A is absurd but I still hold to it" is slightly more heinous than saying "I know that A logically implies B and that B is absurd, but I still hold to A", but not so much so as to make a difference to anyone who considers the matter. Both are instances of intellectual dishonesty leading to (or springing from) moral abomination.

I'm happy to admit that the unborn are human in a biological sense, but the "utilitarian bioethicists" are right to question the importance of human DNA. I do not believe in the soul so why should I care that a non-sapient creature has DNA that is slightly similar to mine? Potentiality? Puhleash. That's not convincing at all. A fetus cannot think, it cannot feel, it has no consciousness. I can't see why should treat such a being with the level of ethical respect that traditionalists require, it just does not make sense to me. I'd sacrifice 10,000 fetuses to save the life of one ordinary human adult.

You can save the life of a 3 month old fetus or a 33 year old man. Which one do you save? It honestly thinking that wanting to save the fetus seems nuts.

"Dunsany, that's a cop-out. Many people, including almost everyone even in the liberal camp, circa 1965, would have had no problem saying that "to be a human being biologically just is to be a human person." Certainly liberals were using notions like that in the racial civil rights debate. Liberals have widely and deliberately chosen to obscure the first part of that because they don't want to have to tackle the whole thesis itself - they don't want to be forced into the position of arguing whether the whole statement is right or wrong. (Not all liberals, but many.) They don't want a real discussion on the merits regarding the pro-life position that being human biologically is sufficient basis for being treated as a human person - to be proven to be human is sufficient evidence for the presence of a soul and to be a person."

People often misrepresent issues in politics, but there are plenty of liberal intellectuals that are willing to discuss this issue openly. I'm not really an "intellectual" but it doesn't bother me to question the personhood of fetuses and newborns.

Conditioning humanity or personhood on a certain stage of development will always be, philosophically speaking, purely arbitrary. It also entails an open abandonment of the "created equal" principle.

But again, a human fetus just is a human being, at an early stage of development. As a matter of biological science, this fact cannot be disputed.

Now Dunsany is compounding the pseudoscience by stamping his feet and violently downplaying the importance of mere human DNA. First rule of holes, man.

You can save the life of a 3 month old fetus or a 33 year old man. Which one do you save? It honestly thinking that wanting to save the fetus seems nuts [sic].

A 3-month-old fetus, left to normal development, will grow naturally into a full-term infant, and be born into the world. The fetus is exactly where it belongs, under no outside threat, developing normally -- just like any other human being. The tendentious choice of the verb "to save," as if an unborn child needed rescue from anything -- other than the cruel abortionist's knife -- gives away the deceit inherent in most of these usual hypotheticals.

Subtle differences between what and what? I don't know of any subtle differences between a human embryo and a non-human embryo. Actually, biologically, they are very significant differences.

Look at the YouTube video. My point is that it is difficult for one to distinguish between a human and non-human embryo through casual observation by an untrained observer (i.e. people who have little knowledge about interspecies developmental biology). Through a visual inspection of a group of unknown embryos of different animals, one of which is a human embryo, most people cannot reliably assign a "personhood status" for the embryos, even if one uses the "conservative" criterion that the human embryo is the only one that can be considered a person.

That. That pseudoscience.

No, no it isn't. It is just sloppy wording on my part, since I meant to say: associating a [human] fetus with a [mature] human by emphasizing certain incipient morphological traits on an embryo that are present in post-natal humans.

By the way, the word "pseudoscience" is being used in this discussion not in any highly technical philosophy of science sense but merely to mean something like, "Pretending to speak like a scientifically educated person while actually using weasel phrases and doublespeak to create confusion on scientifically clear points." So the Laudan reference is not to the point.

Precisely, often "pseudoscience" is used as a term of denigration without any underlying philosophical substance.

My point is that it is difficult for one to distinguish between a human and non-human embryo through casual observation by an untrained observer (i.e. people who have little knowledge about interspecies developmental biology). Through a visual inspection of a group of unknown embryos of different animals, one of which is a human embryo, most people cannot reliably assign a "personhood status" for the embryos, even if one uses the "conservative" criterion that the human embryo is the only one that can be considered a person

More mind-numbing pseudoscience. Latias, likewise, appears quite unaware of the first rule of holes.

Yes, laymen lack the training and experience to make immediate application of the science; which means that the science itself isn't real? That's your argument?

This stuff is comical. "When healthy humans copulate, who knows what might come out of that union! It could be a horse or a monkey. We just don't know. Science is silent on these questions."

This isn't just sloppy wording. It's sloppy thinking.

"Conditioning humanity or personhood on a certain stage of development will always be, philosophically speaking, purely arbitrary."

I strongly disagree. You might not agree with using something like consciousnesses as a criterion, but that does not mean that wanting to use something other than humanity is arbitrary. You're so convinced you're right that you lack the ability to see how anyone else might have different values. Unfortunately the world doesn't work that way.

"A 3-month-old fetus, left to normal development, will grow naturally into a full-term infant, and be born into the world. The fetus is exactly where it belongs, under no outside threat, developing normally -- just like any other human being. "

That's right, but I'm not sure why it matters. Why does potentiality confer the sort of ethical respect you think we should grant fetuses? I don't think it does.

You've missed the point of my question though. You claim to think that a fetus should be treated just like other "human beings." Who would you save if you absolutely had to make the choice to save either a 3 month old fetus or a regular adult? If they really are the same it seems like you cannot choose between them very easily, but to my mind there is no question that the adult should be saved. It seems like most people agree given the widespread support for allowing abortion to protect the health of the mother. Whether or not the health of the mother exception can be logically reconciled with the pro-life claim that fetuses and adults should be accorded the same respect is another matter. When you answer that question you can also clarify what you meant by human biodiversity.

Why does potentiality confer the sort of ethical respect you think we should grant fetuses?

I didn't say anything about potentiality. What I said is that to deny the humanity of the unborn is to deny the facts of science. Biological science is quite sufficiently advanced to answer the question "when does human life begin?" The answer is "at conception."

You claim to think that a fetus should be treated just like other "human beings."

Not my claim. I don't believe in treating people "just like" other people. For instance, children and adults should not be treated the same. Three-year-olds should not be treated just like eight-year-olds. Anti-science liberals should be not treated just like honest friends of science.

The claim here is that a fetus is a human being. It is not a matter of similitude or potentiality or approximation; it is a matter of absolute identity.

The implication here is that, therefore, unborn human beings should be afforded the security of, among other things, the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The further implication here is that abortion is a class of homicide, the unjustified taking of human life, which should be severely punished by law.

Yes, laymen lack the training and experience to make immediate application of the science; which means that the science itself isn't real? That's your argument?

I didn't make an argument... instead it was commentary on a popular "argument" or "propaganda" used by many pro-lifers.

I pointed out:

I. Pro-life advocates often point of "salient" features present in the fetus that resemble features in post-natal humans in order to reinforce the notion that the fetus is a human, and therefore a "person" deserving of protection.

II. These features are not obvious at all or unambiguously "human" from untrained visual inspection, at least in the embryonic form. One, therefore, cannot cite developmental milestones in order to establish or highlight the unique humanity of a developing human since other animals follow a similar developmental trajectory and can be hard to directly compare and distinguish due to shared morphological features.

III. These features are not indicative of personhood nor do they have any moral significance.

Lydia originally said this:

Even some investigation into embryology would tell you that there definitely are such empirical observations, just as there are empirical observations that will tell you when the entity in front of you is an embryonic frog, a pig, and so forth.

Anyone want to take the test?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWX9hFo746k (16:20)

I am certainly not saying it is an impossible challenge, but even if one does get the answer correct, what specific features that allow one to discern the human embryo from other embryos? Furthermore, do these features have some inherent moral significance that confers personhood?

Certainly, it is possible to empirically verify the identity of a developing human, and that is not contestable. It would be so much easier just to assert that the mere human identity of the unborn, regardless of its anatomical and molecular traits, are enough to establish its personhood. Of course, many would dispute that.

My point is that it is difficult for one to distinguish between a human and non-human embryo through casual observation by an untrained observer (i.e. people who have little knowledge about interspecies developmental biology). Through a visual inspection of a group of unknown embryos of different animals, one of which is a human embryo, most people cannot reliably

I cannot begin to say how incredibly anti-scientific that is. Seriously? We live in the nano-age. We know, better than any generation that has gone before, that what is visible to casual observation by an untrained visual observer is not one millionth of what makes things work, what causes things at the macro-level to be what they are and to do what they do. It is laughably anti-intellectual and childish to place _any_ weight whatsoever on such a criterion. From a biological perspective--note, I said "biological," not "spiritual" or "religious" or even "metaphysical"--the differences between human and other animal embryos are _profound_. Who the dickens should care a single hoot how reliably a casual visual inspection by an untrained observer distinguishes a human from another embryo? This is just a beautiful illustration of Paul's point in the main post. You might as well come out and say "science, shmience."

what specific features that allow one to discern the human embryo from other embryos?

Um...DNA. For just one. Oops, wait, sorry. I can't read the DNA code with the naked eye. Therefore, checking it doesn't count as an empirical observation. Right? So sorry.

This is...absurdity.

"I didn't say anything about potentiality. What I said is that to deny the humanity of the unborn is to deny the facts of science. Biological science is quite sufficiently advanced to answer the question "when does human life begin?" The answer is "at conception."


We're coming at this from different directions. I don't care about humanity per se, and was asking why I should care about a fetus. You seemed to be arguing that a fetus should get the same right to life as an adult due to its potential for development, but I suppose you were actually arguing that everything within the "human" category should get those rights. I don't accept that because I don't see a reason to care about human DNA.

"The claim here is that a fetus is a human being. It is not a matter of similitude or potentiality or approximation; it is a matter of absolute identity.

The implication here is that, therefore, unborn human beings should be afforded the security of, among other things, the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The further implication here is that abortion is a class of homicide, the unjustified taking of human life, which should be severely punished by law."

I'm not interested in getting into a legal debate, but I do reject the idea that all human beings have a right to life. There's no reason to accept that. I personally think abortion is justified whenever the woman getting the abortion wants it done. To me the life of a fetus has almost no value, regardless of how human it is.

I still want an answer to my biodiversity question btw.

You've missed the point of my question though. You claim to think that a fetus should be treated just like other "human beings." Who would you save if you absolutely had to make the choice to save either a 3 month old fetus or a regular adult? If they really are the same it seems like you cannot choose between them very easily, but to my mind there is no question that the adult should be saved.

Another example of thoughtlessness. For instance, throughout history people have regularly, nay even normatively, stated that grown men should give up their lives in favor of women and children, and more still for pregnant women and their not-yet-born children. On the same line, women have regularly insisted, when doctors were caught between a rock and a hard place "save my baby" even at the expense of the mother bearing the baby. And usually these sentiments are considered to represent the best in humanity. Dunsany, the fact that your sentiments run exactly opposite of the best that humanity has to offer doesn't make them appealing in the least, and your appeal to us to consider the issue falls flat on its face.

We're coming at this from different directions. I don't care about humanity per se, and was asking why I should care about a fetus. You seemed to be arguing that a fetus should get the same right to life as an adult due to its potential for development, but I suppose you were actually arguing that everything within the "human" category should get those rights. I don't accept that because I don't see a reason to care about human DNA.

Why, exactly, do you think it matters to care about ANY human? What does it matter if some human "feels", or has pain, or is conscious of themselves and others? Big deal! That's just behavior programmed in their DNA, it's no more than chemicals and nerve impulses operating in a very complex way, no better or worse than that of an amoeba or a virus or a maple tree or a cow. DNA doesn't matter, and neither does consciousness springing out of that DNA. The whole of right behavior is "more for me, and as a far distant second, more for those I happen to care about by whim".

Or so the argument goes. There is no non-arbitrary way of assigning basic rights (such as the right to life) to some humans and not to other humans without making a mockery of either rights or of humanity. Both of which you have been doing above.

Dunsany is probably our clearest example in this thread of someone who really does admit the scientific facts while denying any moral implications to them.

However, I notice that even Dunsany cannot quite resist one vague phrase, when he says, "I don't see a reason to care about human DNA." Now, maybe it's just me, and maybe it's just the pro-choicers I have previously read, but many and many-a time when someone says that, the _next_ move is to point out, as a grand discovery, that all the cells in your skin that you wash off when you take a shower also have "human DNA." In other words, the phrase "human DNA" can readily be taken in a sense that distracts attention away from the fact that the unborn child is not just a clump of cells with human DNA (like a tumor) but is, biologically, a _human being_. Most of the time Dunsany really seems to be biting the bullet on his denial of human value to all human beings. But to my ear the phrase "human DNA," full stop, has a weaselly sound. He could have said there, as he more or less said later in the same comment, "I don't see a reason to care about being a human being." I can't help wondering if saying, "I don't care about human DNA" is still sometimes allowing a small amount of psychological distance from the full humanity of the unborn child.

Dunsany, do you support infanticide for born children?

"Another example of thoughtlessness. For instance, throughout history people have regularly, nay even normatively, stated that grown men should give up their lives in favor of women and children, and more still for pregnant women and their not-yet-born children. On the same line, women have regularly insisted, when doctors were caught between a rock and a hard place "save my baby" even at the expense of the mother bearing the baby. And usually these sentiments are considered to represent the best in humanity. Dunsany, the fact that your sentiments run exactly opposite of the best that humanity has to offer doesn't make them appealing in the least, and your appeal to us to consider the issue falls flat on its face. "

So you would save the fetus? You didn't actually answer the question.

" Big deal! That's just behavior programmed in their DNA, it's no more than chemicals and nerve impulses operating in a very complex way, no better or worse than that of an amoeba or a virus or a maple tree or a cow. DNA doesn't matter, and neither does consciousness springing out of that DNA. The whole of right behavior is "more for me, and as a far distant second, more for those I happen to care about by whim".


I don't agree that the consciousness that emerges from that DNA doesn't matter and I don't think my moral system is arbitrary. It's subjective, but I think the idea of objective morality is incoherent so that doesn't really concern me. I would continue to believe morality is subjective even I began believing in the Christian god.

"Dunsany, do you support infanticide for born children?

In general, no. I am pro-choice because I think women should have the right to control their own bodies, but once an infant has been born it no longer needs to use the body of a non-consenting individual to sustain its existence. That doesn't mean I think a newborn infant is in the same ethical category as an adult or an older child though.

You said the "life of a fetus has no value." Some born children are younger than some unborn children. Do you think that "value added" is somehow inherent in the passage down the birth canal or outward through C-section? "No value" is a pretty strong statement and evidently concerns the *unborn child himself*. It is pretty obviously arbitrary for an 8-month preemie to have more value *in himself* than an 8.5-month unborn child simply because the one was born sooner. And if the 8-month born child has "no value," like his unborn counterpart, then why not support infanticide? After all, he might cause a lot of trouble to the people around him who might wish to be free of him. Maybe nobody wants him, or at least nobody easy to find. (That is the Minerva and Giubilini argument for "after-birth abortion," by the way, for reasons of family "burden" or convenience.)

but once an infant has been born it no longer needs to use the body of a non-consenting individual to sustain its existence.

You mean my wife didn't need to do all those midnight feedings because the baby could have just walked to the fridge and made himself a sandwich? Man, what a waste of time that was!

Well I was being slightly hyperbolic, but the main reason I think infanticide should be legal is that it bothers people so badly. It's not necessarily related to whether or not fetuses are valuable.

"You mean my wife didn't need to do all those midnight feedings because the baby could have just walked to the fridge and made himself a sandwich? Man, what a waste of time that was!"

This is such a terrible argument. If your wife hadn't wanted to feed the child someone else would have done it. As pro-lifers are so fond of noting, adoption is always an option.

This is such a terrible argument. If your wife hadn't wanted to feed the child someone else would have done it. As pro-lifers are so fond of noting, adoption is always an option.

No it's not. The point is babies aren't self-sufficient and that this whole "It's ok to kill babies in the womb, but not outside of it" is arbitrary malarkey.

the main reason I think infanticide should be legal is that it bothers people so badly. It's not necessarily related to whether or not fetuses are valuable.

a) For what it's worth, the term "fetus" does in fact only apply to an unborn child. Perhaps you meant "neonate" or "newborn infant."

b)I think you just slipped and left out a "not," because this seems to express the reason why you think infanticide should not be legal.

c) This is pretty revealing (if we assume the intended "not"). It would seem to mean that if people just got over it and weren't bothered by infanticide, maybe Dunsany would think it should be legal.

d) Adoption isn't always an option, even without making up far-fetched hypotheticals. Lots of abandoned babies die all over the world. It's only in the developed world that it's always fairly easy to find somebody or other to whom to give your baby. And not even always there if you count China as part of the "developed world." Infant girls get abandoned pretty frequently in China. If somebody happens to find them before they die and takes them to an orphanage (where they may very well die of neglect anyway), they are given as a last name the province in which they were abandoned.

It would seem to mean that if people just got over it and weren't bothered by infanticide, maybe Dunsany would think it should be legal.

It reminds me of Lawrence Auster's quip that people who are in favor of same-sex unions, but not same-sex marriage are in favor of same-sex marriage but just not ready to say so yet.

To me the life of a fetus has almost no value, regardless of how human it is.

To many sociopaths, the life of an adult has "almost no value, regardless of how human it is." In other words, they're just like you, only more egalitarian and less ageist.

"No it's not. The point is babies aren't self-sufficient and that this whole "It's ok to kill babies in the womb, but not outside of it" is arbitrary malarkey."

You aren't entitled to your own facts. Banning abortion requires us to force women to be pregnant against their will. In our society it's possible to have someone care for an infant willingly even if the parents do not want to be involved. If you can't understand the difference between the two situations you need to have your head examined. As for your claim that my position is arbitrary, there are definitely cases in which I consider infanticide to be justified.


"c) This is pretty revealing (if we assume the intended "not"). It would seem to mean that if people just got over it and weren't bothered by infanticide, maybe Dunsany would think it should be legal."


In some cases yes. Eugenics is generally considered disreputable because of its unfortunate association with the Nazis, but a great deal of suffering could be prevented by euthanizing individuals born with horrible birth defects or serious genetic diseases. In my view euthanizing someone born without limbs is more "humane" than pretending their life will be fine if all just love them enough gosh darn it. That sort of Christian human exceptionalism rhetoric has always struck me as nonsensical.

"d) Adoption isn't always an option, even without making up far-fetched hypotheticals. Lots of abandoned babies die all over the world. It's only in the developed world that it's always fairly easy to find somebody or other to whom to give your baby. And not even always there if you count China as part of the "developed world." Infant girls get abandoned pretty frequently in China. If somebody happens to find them before they die and takes them to an orphanage (where they may very well die of neglect anyway), they are given as a last name the province in which they were abandoned.


That's true, but I was naturally talking about the United States.

If you can't understand the difference between the two situations you need to have your head examined.

Of course understand the difference, but you are being obtuse and dodging my point.

When I read Dunsany's sentence beginning, "Eugenics is generally considered disreputable..." I heard the "but" coming a mile away.

No, Dunsany, eugenics is not considered disreputable (merely or chiefly) because of its association with the Nazis but because it is inherently disreputable. But keep talking. You are confirming the point made above that it is amazing to see leftists, who are generally all about "equality," blatantly telling us that some are "life unworthy of life."

By the way, Dunsany, apropos of your example, Nick Vujicic says thanks so much for your solicitude and humaneness, but he's very glad you weren't in charge when he was born.

Is Barack Obama black? That's a purely biological question, and the answer is obviously no. "Black," or "Negroid," is a biological term. It means someone whose distant ancestry is sub-Saharan. To suggest that "black" could have some other meaning is ridiculous at best, dishonest at worst. Even more so to suggest that Barack Obama may actually in some meaningful sense be black.

This is pure biology, nothing else. It has nothing to do with arguments over the word "black" or metaphysical arguments over the meanings of words. That's just a denial of biology.

Aaron, I love it. Someone whose ancestry consisted of people living in South Africa from 1660 to 1980 qualify as "black". In spite of the fact that they might have paper white skin and pure Dutch blood.

Guys, you have to cut Dunsany some slack here. He is laboring under a handicap: he already indicated that he thinks morality is incoherent:

It's subjective, but I think the idea of objective morality is incoherent so that doesn't really concern me.

But of course, it's not arbitrary:

I don't agree that the consciousness that emerges from that DNA doesn't matter and I don't think my moral system is arbitrary.

See, the problem, Dunsany, is that your morality may be subjective, but then by definition your moral notions cannot speak to the morality of a guy who says his morality is "right behavior is defined as 'more for me', and as a distant second, 'more for those whom I choose to care about by whim.' " Or, to put it more plainly: "morality" that is wholly subjective isn't actually morality, what that really is would be "sentiment". You are using the wrong word.

Maybe what you really mean is "there is no such thing as "morality" properly speaking, there is only personal sentiment about right behavior." That would be less incoherent than "subjective morality", because morality means norms of right behavior. By definition norms are not subjective.

Is Barack Obama black? That's a purely biological question, and the answer is obviously no. "Black," or "Negroid," is a biological term. It means someone whose distant ancestry is sub-Saharan.

"Being black" in the biological sense means that you have a similar or the same genetic composition and expression as that of someone typically from Sub-Saharan Africa. It's entirely possible biologically to "be black" and have ancestry from other races by virtue of the fact that those genes didn't get expressed.

I see that I was sloppily using the terms "human" and "human being" interchangeably above. Actually, I always meant "human being." The two terms are commonly used interchangeably, as I did, and that's important: I'm arguing that common statements should be understood according to common English usage. But it's also important to distinguish the terms here. For example, a corpse can be human but (I'd say) it can't be a human being. Many believe the same about an embryo.

I doubt that this makes a difference to the objections, because many of the objections were to things I said where I correctly used the term human beings. For instance: Lydia's claim that an argument I gave implies that pigs have souls (huh?). An embryo can't be a "pig being" because there's no such thing as a "pig being."

But if you all do agree with what I've been saying now, given this clarification - not very likely, but just checking - well, thanks, and sorry to have bothered you.

Two people responded to my "Obama is not black" parody, but I don't think either really addressed it. Tony took my biological definition in terms of "distant ancestry" and gave a counter-example using ancestry from 1660-1980. I can't believe I have to spell this out, but OK: by "distant ancestry" in terms of race, I meant thousands of years, not hundreds.

Mike T objected to the biological definition by giving a different one, but that's also beside the point. There are many people called "black" who don't fit Mike's biological criterion either. Is calling such a person black "a flat rejection of the facts of science"? Is it a purely biological question whether someone is classified as black?

For example, a corpse can be human but (I'd say) it can't be a human being. Many believe the same about an embryo.

What a lousy analogy. Do I really have to point this out? The embryos we're talking about are not dead embryos.

By the way, an embryo is a _human being_ in a sense that is both in common usage and scientific and which we have defined again and again in this thread. It's highly artificial, and not all that common, and certainly not at all consonant with science, to try to make a distinction between "a human" (who isn't a human being because...because I don't value him, or something) and "a human being."

Mike T objected to the biological definition by giving a different one, but that's also beside the point. There are many people called "black" who don't fit Mike's biological criterion either. Is calling such a person black "a flat rejection of the facts of science"? Is it a purely biological question whether someone is classified as black?

It sounds like you're trying to defend a sloppy definition of "black" if it is intended to accurately include people whose ancestry is not primarily from a Sub-Saharan (ie primarily Bantu peoples) group. I'm not. The biological definition of "black African" is pretty simple and straight-forward and doesn't need a lot of metaphysical nonsense to be understood. Even in the case of Obama with his mixed ancestry, it's pretty clear that he can rightly call himself "black African" if he chooses because that his genetic makeup and gene expression in particular weigh heavily toward that group.

To the main point of the post, Laura Wood pointed out in a recent post a neuroscientist so in the grips of liberal ideology that she flatly denies the known scientific fact that men and women's brains are significantly different, on the grounds that you can't tell the difference just by looking at them sitting on the table. This is hardly an isolated case. It could be multiplied millions of times over.

This hearkens back to a really good debate in which Jonah Goldberg positively wiped the floor with Jonathan Chait after the latter declared, against all reason and experience, that it was actually conservatives who would deny the facts even if declared to them by God Himself, because of the grip that ideology has on the conservative mind (as against liberals, who will always follow the facts where they lead them). This was within months of the famous fainting spell that overcame one entirely typical professor at Harvard when she heard Larry Summers suggest that if the facts show us that men and women are actually different, then we should expect to see ineradicable differences in occupational choice, academic performance, and so forth.

The bottom line is that liberal ideology as we have come to know it in our daily lives is radically at odds with, and entirely disconnected from, observable facts about human beings. Liberals know this and do not care--or, as the occasion requires, deny the observable facts of the matter--because they believe what the ideology requires them to believe. It is easy--very, very easy--to bring up any random liberal very short when asking him at what time and place science established that men and women are basically the same, for example, or that homosexuality is genetic (like being left handed!), or any of a hundred other claims that are passionately, viscerally believed, but have no basis other than that they comport with abstract liberal principles.

Liberals believe these things to be true because they must if they are to remain committed to liberalism, not because they have examined the empirical or scientific fact of the matter and can cite you the canonical proof for it, as with Copernicus. And it is liberal academics, not conservative ones, who have not infrequently stated that research into race differences simply should never be conducted. Again, the anti-scientific mush of post-modernism is an entirely liberal intellectual fashion; people with science on their sides do not undertake to craft whole categories of philosophy that deny the validity of empirical reasoning.

Remind us again--who was it who fell for the Sokal Hoax, and were those people liberals or conservatives?

Lydia, I thought I just showed that it's not artificial or inconsistent with science to distinguish between "human" and "human being." I say that a human corpse is not a human being. I don't see anything artificial or contrary to science about that statement. My only point was to show that "humans" and "human beings" - in this sense of the words - are not two terms for the same category.

But the last phrase in your post is more interesting. You're joking with "because I don't value him, or something," but that probably points to something in the meaning of the word. Just to be clear: Of course it's never literally true that "it's not a human being because I don't value it." Nobody gets to decide what words mean. But I do think that the meaning of "human being" in common usage - what gets denoted by "human being" and what doesn't - is strongly influenced by valuation. And that means that arguments over whether or not an embryo is a human being are partly moral arguments (as opposed to just arguments with moral implications), as well as metaphysical arguments.

Mike, the question is whether you object to any description of a person as "black" that doesn't fit your biological definition. For instance, if Barack Obama had been lighter-skinned. My question: Is it "a flat rejection of the facts of science" to describe as black someone who's not biologically black by your definition? If so, then you're saying that my reductio ad absurdum is not absurd; you're endorsing it. If so, then I feel like I'm in the position of arguing that the earth is round. You probably feel the same from your side.

Aaron,

I endorse Mike T's definition and can't imagine someone who is black that wouldn't fit that definition. Incidentally, for my money, the best philosopher of science who has written coherently on this topic is Nevan Sesardic. You can find his work explicating a biological notion of race here:

http://www.uni-potsdam.de/philologie+rassismus/download/SesardicRasse.pdf

and here:

http://www.ln.edu.hk/philoso/staff/sesardic/Race2.pdf


Dunsany,

Usually when we have to invoke Godwin's Law, the debate is over -- but when our opponent embraces the analogy wholeheartedly; well, I think maybe the internet needs to coin a new term for this phenomenon ;-)

This hearkens back to a really good debate in which Jonah Goldberg positively wiped the floor with Jonathan Chait after the latter declared, against all reason and experience, that it was actually conservatives who would deny the facts even if declared to them by God Himself, because of the grip that ideology has on the conservative mind (as against liberals, who will always follow the facts where they lead them).

Or as the saying goes, if you want to know what liberals are up to, listen to their accusations against you.

A corpse, Aaron, is also not "a human," because the phrase "a human" just means the same thing as "a living human." You are obfuscating good and hard. The adjective "human" can apply to things such as parts of humans (e.g., "a human kidney" or "a human hair") that are not complete, living, human organisms. Hence, "a human corpse." The noun "human" as in "a human" or "a human being" is used only for living members of the species homo sapiens. Which a corpse is not but an unborn child at any stage is. You are going to make yourself dizzy if you keep spinning so hard.

And let's also not forget that Aaron, who doesn't want to be thought anti-scientific, thinks it's a "metaphysical" question rather than a scientific question whether a very young pig is a pig. I guess that was an attempt to be consistently obfuscatory, maybe?

Aaron, I don't object to people coming up with a different definition unless they claim it is biological. For example, I don't have any problem with someone who calls black Africans and aborigenes from Australia "black" provided that they don't claim that biologically they're the same race (unless it's determined that they mostly are the same). It's possible to have two expressions, one strictly scientific and one social. On some level, it's probably even necessary as a way to identify groups that are too visually similar to say "they're a X, not a Y."

In the case of Obama, yes he's black in all meaningful senses both biologically and colloquially. He has every right to assert that fact, even given his mixed ancestry. He bears most of the critical gene expressions of a black African, and his skin pigmentation is not even the most important part of that. Even if he were albino, he'd not really look "white" in the sense of looking European.

It's common to find white Americans who are part American Indian, but don't look even slightly to that effect. That's just how the gene expression worked in them. Whether it's half or 1/32, if enough of the gene expression is on their white side they are for all intents and purposes white biologically because dormant genes that aren't expressed are just not sufficient to affect the nature of that organism.

As Paul points out, anything with totally human DNA is human. At no point in its development does the embryo change its DNA. It has only one trajectory: human. Although there are morphogenetic changes in developing embryo, these are all done within a singular DNA matrix. Some people who argue for ensoulment as being the defining nature of the human being try to delay the establishment of human nature in the embryo for some time after conception, but these ideas are based on faulty Aristotelian notions of biology and were Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas in possession of modern knowledge, they would have abandoned the notion of delayed ensoulment in, well, in a heartbeat. There is no reason, chemically speaking, that the embryo from the moment of conception is anything less than a human (the reason that Aquinas argued for delayed ensoulment was because no one knew what the initial matter of conception was. We do, now). Although the Vatican has not set conception as the beginning of the soul, it very well could as time goes on. For them, simple knowledge of the nature of the embryo as a totally DNA human organism is enough to accord the embyro the respect of the name of human.

What is more problematic and it will come, are the moments when we are not 100% human DNA. There is a whole movement in avant-garde biology towards the creation of trans-humans: humans with composite DNA. Can such beings be produced? Personally, I hope not, but Spider-man is a classic example of a trans-human. Is he human? Is he entitled to rights? Does he have the ability to mate with members of the human race, the general test for speciation? If Mary Jane were also bitten by a radioactive spider, would she be able to mate with Peter Parker? Would the children be human? The push to introduce even microscopically small amounts of non-human DNA into embryos is frightening, but we are up against that leap in science.

For that matter, if you have the flu, your DNA is no longer 100% human. What does that do to your human rights? At what point do you lose the right to be called human? At what point do you lose a human soul? Was the poor scientist in, The Fly, really human at the end?

Unfortunately, DNA, by itself, is not always a reliable marker of humanity. The soul is the only true marker, but we cannot see it or test for it. In that case, DNA is the only thing close to being able to see the soul that we have. Even there, the possibility exists in the future to take a pill and change your DNA. Suppose you change your sex. At the General Resurrection, what sex would your glorified body have. These are all interesting questions that no one, conservative or liberal, are prepared to answer.

Science has done some pretty amazing things and has provided some very interesting answers about important properties of biological matter, but be very wary, because science has a dark side and I am not sure that science will always be done by humans, if you catch my drift.

The Chicken

should read:

These are all interesting questions that no one, conservative or liberal, is prepared to answer.

The Chicken

At the General Resurrection, what sex would your glorified body have.

I think it would be more useful to use realistic examples, rather than reference stuff from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's imagination.

I really do not want to ask the question of what sex someone who is an XX male, a 5-alpha reductase deficient XY person who was assigned a female gender and lives as a female as an adult, or an XX/XXY mosaic living as a female.

Does it really theologically matter, except, of course, for the people with the aforementioned intersex persons?

I think the Masked Chicken demonstrates that utilitarian philosophy is better equipped using some functional criterion of person than conservative bioethics relying on more essentialist distinction, as utilitarianism does not concern itself with the definition of human.

But as Lydia pointed out, at least currently without considering bizarre hypothetical transhumanist inventions, it is fairly straightforward to identify a human, and thus those who deserve the full protection of "persons".

I have been very interested in reading the comments on this post. While I agree with Paul about embryology, I have to, respectfully, disagree about Amy Chua. Biodiversity studies are one thing and when done properly, they can be illuminating, but anyone can make up any set of categories, label them, in toto, "success," and claim something interesting. There is a reason that neither biologists nor anthropolgists are lawyers. This is just another book/thesis by a non-expert who has not paid her dues to the topic about which she writes. Ho-hum. If she has any training or experience in physical anthropology or even cultural anthropology, I have not seen it in her biography. Writing about diversity issues in law is NOT the same thing and does not entitle one to theorize outside of the law.

Beyond that, the woman seems to be more interested in calling, "success," (whatever that is) her God than in calling the Supreme Creator, God. What a numbskull idea. Where did Christ promise the Kingdom of Heaven to the successful?? Indeed, He said, "What does it profit a man to win the world, but lose his soul?" Amy Chua does not talk much about God or faith in her, "Tiger Parenting," does she (I have not read the book, but a longish Google search turns up nothing about the place of faith in her life)? Her mother is a Catholic and Chua was raised Catholic, but, like St. John the Baptist, I have to ask her to give evidence. She, in the end, would not know a successful person if he begged her forgiveness for some offense. To her, he is a loser. Has she never read that, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit?" Does she even know what that means? I find it telling that no Christian groups were on her list of successful groups. I find it telling that her children were raised Jewish (something no Catholic mother would do unless they were very secularized or ignorant about their faith).

Maybe I am being too hard on her, since I am just learning about her by this post, although I am very familiar with her father's work on non-linear dynamics. On the other hand, I have known many gifted and creative individuals and freedom from coercion is a very highly valued trait, not Tiger Parenting. She will not let her kids play anything but the violin or piano, but I, as an expert in music, say she is nuts to think that way and my opinion rests on empirical evidence. Hers, does not. Exactly what respect am I to have for such one-dimensional thinking? Does she know anything about acoustics or anatomical development? A hint, Amy: China doesn't have any brass instruments and very few, very simple woodwind instruments. Maybe that's why Chinese students overwhelmingly play the violin and piano, hmmmm? Never thought of that, did you?

Oh, dear, I am sure that her children will be very successful doctors and lawyers, but will they ever learn to dream? Her Triple schema of Superiority Complex, Inferiority (arrggh, does she even know what that means in a Jewish context??), and self-restraint is a very good way to produce monolithic high performing people, but when I toured Japan in a musical group that recorded for Columbia records, I got to listen to the product of this type of training. The kids were technically very proficient, but their music lacked heart. I am ranting, I know, so feel free to ignore me, but an arbitrary definition of success, combined with superficial methodology is hardly science. Her book, so far in my opinion, deserves the scorn it has received. I have made no claims of racism. Just bad science. I am a scientist and a musician and hardly a liberal, but her work is not a result of science that is being falsely denied, but, rather, the denial is, correctly, that it is either properly defines its subject or is, in fact, science.

I probably shouldn't comment when I'm overwrought, but her work makes me overwrought and it has nothing to do with racism or liberalism or anything other than science and Christian sentiment.

The Chicken

But as Lydia pointed out, at least currently without considering bizarre hypothetical transhumanist inventions, it is fairly straightforward to identify a human,

While that is certainly true, it is not by the purity of DNA. The trans-human phenomenon is not yet real. That was a hypothetical on my part, but viruses certainly change DNA, if only for a short time, so, purity of DNA, in itself, is not a proper marker for the definition of human. I do not know if embryos can get virally infected and survive, but, certainly children can. This is a situation that might deserve some sort of addendum to the proposition that purely human DNA is the only criteria for being a human. Somewhere, there must be room for the soul.

As my rant about Amy Chua, above, shows, I should probably quit while I can.

The Chicken

And that means that arguments over whether or not an embryo is a human being are partly moral arguments (as opposed to just arguments with moral implications), as well as metaphysical arguments.

I think such arguments are highly immoral and not metaphysical at all. What's metaphysical about trying to turn a concrete physical reality into an abstraction?

On the other subject, I like to think of Obama as our first blackish president.

MT writes:

Beyond that, the [Amy Chua] seems to be more interested in calling, "success," (whatever that is) her God than in calling the Supreme Creator, God."

Well, that was basically one of the main criticisms of the "ignoramus in Time magazine" who reviewed Chua and Rubenfeld's book. (R-u-b-e-n-f-e-l-d. Co-author.)

Not the part of God, but the part about the authors' idea of success being pretty messed up.

I continue in the view that the primary point from the Time magazine review (and others like it) was to establish that Chua* was wrong to even ask the questions, whatever answers she may have given, on this explosive subject.

The only care most liberals have for human biodiversity studies is to anathematize them, so they can go on prattling about an abstraction of diversity that is more amenable to their politics.

The Chicken's criticisms, being rooted in Christian doctrine, are well-taken. I do not much admire Tiger Parenting, but I do admire discipline in parenting, which is no common or base thing, and for which we foolish moderns rarely have the patience. Tiger Parenting hit a chord in America because far too many Americans are complacent leaders and instructors of their children; a want of wise discipline accuses them, pricks their conscience with guilt, for it is grounded in truth. Americans should not, however, adopt the methods of Tiger Parenting. They should rather repent of their sins against their children, and renew themselves to henceforth raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

On this particular matter of DNA, we should exercise care in how we conjecture. The science is changing as we speak. Chimerism and mosiacism demonstrate that it is possible for living and perfectly functional men and women to have multiple genetic lines. Newer breakthroughs suggest a level of flexibility in the chemistry of gene expression that the old DNA "master code" models never predicted. Early-stage organisms in particular show a remarkable control over their own genetic code.

None of which, of course, undermines the observable biological continuity and integrity of the organism from conception to death. An early-stage human, in embryo, may well be undertaking an extraordinary effort at manipulating and preparing its own DNA structure, but that embryonic human is no less itself, no less its own unique and integral organism, for this discovery on our part of the great complexity of genetics.

___________________
* Her earlier works, going back to the market-dominant minorities study, were in her own name only; so I reserve the privilege of maintaining the singular.

I continue in the view that the primary point from the Time magazine review (and others like it) was to establish that Chua* was wrong to even ask the questions, whatever answers she may have given, on this explosive subject.

The only care most liberals have for human biodiversity studies is to anathematize them, so they can go on prattling about an abstraction of diversity that is more amenable to their politics.

Why even talk about "human biodiversity" here; I can go to Lion of the Blogosphere if I want to here commenters mention it. Fine, I'll admit it: Blacks and Hispanics (NAMs) are genetically stupid and that is why they are "f____d" [no profanity, thank you -- Ed.] in the meritocratic capitalistic City of Man. Could we just forget about it!

Latias, knock it off with the profanity.

Sorry, normally I limit and control it, and I did not need an admonition when it is my first time... it is just that HBD is such a divisive topic, and thinking about the fate of those less endowed in general intelligence would make one quite despondent. I am only acclimated to it being discussed about in Lion's blog, where proles are also mentioned.

I really do not the purpose of HBD, especially for Christians. Its focal point is to highlight the putative genetic shortcomings of NAMs to provide an explain for their collective socioeconomic failure without implicating any pervasive systemic racism in American institutions.

*"hear" not here in last post.

Tiger Parenting hit a chord in America because far too many Americans are complacent leaders and instructors of their children; a want of wise discipline accuses them, pricks their conscience with guilt, for it is grounded in truth. Americans should not, however, adopt the methods of Tiger Parenting. They should rather repent of their sins against their children, and renew themselves to henceforth raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Paul,

Well said.

This topic has gotten me thinking that there might be really two types of child abuse: negative abuse, which results from physically abusing the child, calling them inferior, and demanding that they fail - it is an abuse of passion, leading to overly emotional children with no impulse control - and positive abuse which results from psychologically abusing the child in an attempt to reduce the range of play in exchange for hyperfocus on an external goal, not of the child's choice - it is an abuse of the intellect leading to suppressed emotional expression and heightened emotional control.

Somehow, Tiger Parenting and Stockholm Syndrome cross my mind.

The Chicken

Tony took my biological definition in terms of "distant ancestry" and gave a counter-example using ancestry from 1660-1980. I can't believe I have to spell this out, but OK: by "distant ancestry" in terms of race, I meant thousands of years, not hundreds.

Aaron, sorry, but your definition simply doesn't work. (1) Australian natives are dark skinned and are CALLED blacks. Some of them call themselves black. (2) Outside of using DNA testing, (yes, that forbidden criterion) not one person who claims ancestry thousands of years back in Africa can actually establish the fact. The only thing they can actually establish in point of fact is superficial looks and ancestry of the last few generations, for a few people maybe up to the last 350 years. So my counterexample was right in the usable ballpark. (3) Your definition cannot help with people with mixed ancestry: there is a woman all of whose grandparents are visibly white and have lived in America who had a child with blond but kinky hair - as in black-sort of kinky hair. There is a black somewhere further back in the family tree, maybe a great-great. Now, are all of this kid's parents and grandparents and great-grandparents now to be considered "black" because they have an ancestor from Africa? (4) If you want to go enough thousands of years in the past, ALL humans have African ancestors, since humans spread from Africa. Are you going to use some arbitrary cut-off date and say "only those whose African ancestry is more recent than 30,000 years ago? That's arbitrary, and based not on actual history, but on at-best-probable dating techniques that are really imprecise and - you guessed it - subject to all the same fundamental ambiguities about "how black is really black", and "is this enough of a difference" insoluble questions only with WAAAAY less data to work with.

In reality, of course, what you mean to say is that being "black" as that term is most often used in America means being more or less a part of the subset of the population that has one or more of the following distinguishing features: dark skin, kinky curly black hair, large lips, wider nose, southern speech patterns, descended in significant degree from American slaves, any number of culturally emphasized behaviors, and during emotionally formative years a somewhat higher likelihood of being treated poorly on account of perceived membership therein. That's really what it means to be a black in America. Since the term is inherently capable of variation in degree - of more and less - and variation across several criteria, there is no definitive solution to "are you black" for people on the edges of the long list of characteristics. It's not really that there is an answer but we just don't know what the answer is, it is that there really is no definite answer.

Why even talk about "human biodiversity" here; I can go to Lion of the Blogosphere if I want to here commenters mention it.
it is just that HBD is such a divisive topic, and thinking about the fate of those less endowed in general intelligence would make one quite despondent. I am only acclimated to it being discussed about in Lion's blog, where proles are also mentioned.

I really do not the purpose of HBD, especially for Christians. Its focal point is to highlight the putative genetic shortcomings of NAMs to provide an explain for their collective socioeconomic failure without implicating any pervasive systemic racism in American institutions.

Latias, you have fallen prey to obfuscation and equivocation (generally promoted by the left-media, which does not really want people to be able to think for themselves). On the first level, the expression "human biodiversity" merely refers to the ACTUAL and the POTENTIAL variation range in which humanity finds expression biologically. (Level one is just a brute fact of chemicals and cells and organic reality.) On the second level, the term refers to efforts by people to STUDY and to IDENTIFY the details of level one. Level three is the effort by some people to promote findings of level two. Level 4 refers to a subset of level three that focuses primarily on findings that explain, or "explain" why certain groups do poorly in X, Y, or Z context, especially certain minority groups. Clue: the expression "HBD" is more generally (though not exclusively) in use within level 4. In Paul's OP, he uses the full term human biodiversity.)

I will just point out that in other arenas, level 2 would be called "science", and level 3 would be called "science popularizers". As a fun example: there is climate variation, there are people who study climate variation, there are people who convey some of the findings of group 2 into wider media, and there are people who for political reasons have latched onto only the "Global Warming" portions of the findings of group 2 and nothing else and promote them. It would be unfair to tar the entire body of climate variation reality and all the study of climate variation with the "Kooky Global Warming" brush (GW) merely because there is a subset of kooks who use select slices of reality to push their political agenda. Likewise it is unreasonable to paint all who discuss human variation with the same brush as those who are kooks and bent on a political agenda independent of reality.

Human biodiversity is not "a divisive topic" when it is looked on as simply an effort to understand nature, any more than considering and discussing bees or quasars is a "divisive topic". If someone is attempting to do science but failing, the answer to it is to point out their errors with better science, not to say that the attempt to do science was out of bounds. Or do you want to put Galileo back under house arrest?

Tony,

I most certainly have not fell for leftist "obfuscation and equivocation"; I am actually quite a contrarian woman, less susceptible to popular and contemporary intellectual fads. At one point, I avidly read books such as The Bell Curve, Race Differences in Intelligence, Eugenics: A Reassessment, IQ and Global Inequality, and The Global Bell Curve and excerpts of Kevin MacDonald's books along with many other HBD blogs and peer-reviewed papers on various topics concerning g while I was in college. I know about the racial difference, the overwhelming force of the evidence impels one to believe that genetic difference play a major role in racial differences on standardized tests and in their commensurately atrocious socioeconomic outcomes. As a young adult, I did not fulminate against HBDers and ignore them, but instead delved into their scientific literature in order arrive at a through understanding of that complex topic. I never ignored HBD research, but I watched hours of Pokémon episodes, ironically a lot more than I did as an adolescent when the franchise was at the pinnacle of its popularity, as an emollient to the acerbic nature of HBD. How could one investigating HBD believe that the economic prospects for an average Hispanic person in the United States is auspicious, especially when it is suggested they lack to capacity to flourish in their educational endeavors? I used profanity tactically in order to vehemently illustrate the inherent despair of HBD.

Today, I volunteered at a local parish's food bank for 2 1/2 hours, and most its clients are Hispanics and Blacks. I certainly do not want to think of them as "NAMs" or have thoughts about HBD, and rather think of them as the beloved children of God.

Don't try to distend the definition of HBD, when it is clearly (and nearly universally) used in the narrow context about the genetic origin and societal consequences of disparities in socially valued traits, particularly Spearman's g. Clearly, g is a coveted trait due to amount of passion this topic arouses. Also, I never explicitly expressed any desire to stymie HBD research; I am just surprised that a Christian blog would speak favorably of that research primarily using it as a means to disparage liberals.

(generally promoted by the left-media, which does not really want people to be able to think for themselves).

I could also say that for right-wing media too. Tu quoque... I am just vexed by conservatives asymmetrically implicating "the left" in every act of malfeasance and deleterious social and economic trend.

Oh. Er, umm, yeah. What was that, again? HBD research is valid but it's wrong to use it to beat liberals over the head with it? No, no, that's not it. HBD is wrong unless moderated by thousands of hours of Pokémon, so that an average Hispanic person could get a meal at a food bank and not be a NAM. Wait... Oh, never mind.

I could also say that for right-wing media too. Tu quoque... I am just vexed by conservatives asymmetrically implicating "the left" in every act of malfeasance and deleterious social and economic trend.

How odd. You mean, all those comments we have made here critical of conservatives don't count for our being critical of the right? Maybe we should stop bothering. Tell you what, though: you get the left (including RINOs and other right-pretenders) to give up control of mainstream media (newspapers, TV, movies, music, etc) and education, and take a permanent minority status in government, and I will flat out GUARANTEE you that we will critique the right more. See, it is perfectly valid to criticize party A for what A putatively would attempt if A could manage to get their way, (assuming what A would attempt to do is a bad idea), but there is a lot more traction in criticizing B for what B is actually doing wrong right now. And there is a lot more wrong in the left's program, and they are implementing their intended program a lot more than conservatives are, so asymmetric critique seems to be the order of the day.

Please remember that I am a woman, an autistic woman, who has a childlike demeanor (and appearance).

Most people who are interested in HBD are men who do not share my personality traits. They would unlikely to timidly withdraw and watch Pokémon, and instead embrace HBD and bumptiously promulgate it to liberals.

I am just saying that unlike most people here, I actually am quite familiar with both the popular and technical HBD literature. Please do not belittle the notion that HBD can exert an insidious influence on one's mind and soul, especially on how it can affect how we regard our unfortunate neighbors. I just sequester the knowledge of HBD in my hippocampus in most cases; it has no (and most likely negative) practical utility to me, either in my social, spiritual, or intellectual life.

I really don't care if someone called Amy Chua an "ignoramus", even if the "scientific" foundation behind World on Fire is sound. She supported an incendiary and unpopular thesis, and therefore implicitly assumed the liability of strident criticism. Certainly, she hasn't been persecuted for advocating HBD, since she has maintained her position as a professor at Yale Law School.

Well, Chua never gave the obvious reason: low intelligence (as you be eagerly argued by people such as Richard Lynn). She attributed the economic influence of market-dominant minorities to more political correct causes, such as corruption and nepotism. Also, just as important, she notes that the minority threatens and encroaches upon the (ethnic) interests of the majority (collectively) not just individually.

Oh... she was called a "filthy racist"...

I never explicitly expressed any desire to stymie HBD research; I am just surprised that a Christian blog would speak favorably of that research primarily using it as a means to disparage liberals.

Strictly speaking, I did not speak favorably about that research. I spoke very unfavorably about a certain class of inquisitorial criticism of it; and I used that class of criticism as an example of the sort of empirical science that liberals want nothing to do with.

The OP, you'll recall, had a clear purpose: to show by means of several examples that liberalism, despite the common propaganda, is quite prepared to wage war on science when circumstances demand it. As I put it originally, "we can rest assured that liberal officialdom has no desire to wrestle with the empirical details that cluster around family, inheritance, gene expression, culture, flourishing and prosperity." I hope the choice of objective nouns is sufficient to indicate a very broad notion of human biodiversity, rather than the narrow racialism that it can so often to reduced to.

Latias, I'd just like to hug you.

I've been wrestling with a lot of the same despair inherent in the HBD blogosphere. It's really hard to read much of anything that even touches on it without feeling deeply despondent.

I don't have anything else of real value to add to this comment, sadly. Just that I understand that.

Latias and Pellegri, the best explanation I've seen of why NAMs are the way they are was that they are going through the same "growing pains" as peoples that most white nations went through from the late Roman Republic's empire-building stage to the end of the Carolingian dynasty. It took the descendants of the Celtic and Germanic tribes almost 1000 years of exposure to the superior Greco-Roman civilization to finally incorporate it enough to begin building their own. Statistical mental deficits are a modest handicap, but not enough to stop NAMs from eventually getting their #$%^ together. A good example is Mexico which is now really getting it together as a nation state economically.

Being mostly Scottish, English and Danish with some Dutch and French thrown in for flavor, I can look at my own ancestry and say that 2000 years ago my ancestors were prancing around the sacred oak groves with their naked asses painted blue or performing all sorts of twisted, barbaric $%^& in Denmark. If you maintain perspective, you can see that even if they tend to have the handicaps, at some point we were in the same position and thus there is excellent historic evidence that civilized conduct can make a difference.

Mike, that's an important point. The fact that 8000 years ago certain tribes / clans / racial lines had a better, more "made-to-order" physique for hunting meant that they had a leg up on other tribes doesn't mean that ultimately the other tribes could not possibly "catch up" in terms of providing for themselves. Agriculture kind of takes the premium out of running fast: plants don't grow fast and they are terrible at dodging. The fact that some family lines ran to large-boned and heavily muscled and were good at agriculture and hand-to-hand fighting didn't mean that they had a permanent advantage over all others: machinery and projectile warfare evened out the playing field on those scores. Even if it is determinable that some racial lines have greater intelligence (assuming that we have suitably identified what that means) doesn't mean that others therefore are somehow permanently second class citizens or something like that. I could imagine a world (say, in 200 years) where robots perform almost all unpleasant labor, and where there is an enormous premium on empathetic capacity and the arts associated - storytelling, singing, etc. Polynesians might rise to the top of the new status charts.

My point is that showing that one group has built in advantages for certain purposes, even if those purposes are currently very valuable, doesn't imply that those purposes will remain very valuable comparatively. Nor does it mean that people who don't have those advantages must simply accept being permanently relegated to a lower status in society FOR ALL PURPOSES. One of the marks of democratic social systems is to reduce the premium on being one of "the better classes" and make everyone socially more equal: equality before the law is NOT a given throughout history, in many cultures those with high status were not equal before the law, so the social change out of aristocracy to democracy is another modification that altered the effects of certain kinds of advantages of birth.

At the same time, it is ridiculous to propose that there are no such things as certain skills and aptitudes that are very valuable at this time to society, and that some people have those skills and aptitudes more in abundance than others. And it is equally foolish to imagine that fallen, sinful humananity would not be subject to the temptation to treat those who have such more valuable skills as being, simply, BETTER human beings. The world's most valuable quality is to love God perfectly, and that's an inherently supernatural quality to which nobody has any natural propensity for more than anyone else: merely having human nature is sufficient basis for the gift of grace, and nobody has "more of" human nature than any other human being.

Some of us are not political science wonks. Could you guys define your abbreviations, at least once :)

What is a NAM:

Native American Man?
Not Always Mexican?
Nearly Always Mental?
Nearly Average Marmoset?
Not a Muskrat?
New Age Minister?
N-Amide?
Noddles and Meat?

The Chicken

Another consideration is that Europe's constant fighting probably killed off a lot of short-term preference, testosterone-laden men. We probably owe a good chunk of our greater propensity for longer time preference to the simple fact that most of the real white thugs and barbarians slaughtered each other out of existence.

That said, the down side is that if we take this seriously it has implications for dealing with uncivilized behavior today. It wouldn't justify slaughter, but I think it would be wise policy to really bring the iron fist of the state down on those groups that just don't want to learn, don't want to participate and think the law is just a white/asian thing. (Of course, that applies to whites and asians as well that see fit to emulate that behavior).

What is a NAM:

Non-Asian Minority.

really bring the iron fist of the state down on those groups

Specifically, what I'm referring to is a zero tolerance police toward anti-social behavior and even going so far as to take a very liberal view on the use of force when such groups engage in racial violence. For example, everyone is caught in a group that engages in racial violence should have the maximum statutory damages thrown at them and the state should by and large turn a blind eye toward how their victims defend themselves.

Another consideration is that Europe's constant fighting probably killed off a lot of short-term preference, testosterone-laden men. We probably owe a good chunk of our greater propensity for longer time preference to the simple fact that most of the real white thugs and barbarians slaughtered each other out of existence.

Mike, I don't know evolutionary science at any level of detail, but I seriously doubt that evolutionary biologists think that a mere 2000 years of the fighting in Europe is enough to cast up a biologically significant difference in social adaptability, compared to the fighting in Africa or North America over the same time period. For example, it is difficult to project overly testosterone-laden men having a success disadvantage over non-violent men if the cultural environment is for the violent men to establish their status by seeing who can kill the most non-violent men. If a violent type builds his status by knocking off 10 weak men before coming up against a status challenge by another violent guy, the non-violent don't have a success advantage.

Tony, I was addressing men with short time preferences, not violent natures. Time preference has little to do with a violent versus non-violent nature. Plenty of men with long time preferences can be violent when they want or need to be.

and the state should by and large turn a blind eye toward how their victims defend themselves.

For the record, that seems borderline anarchic to me, and, while I strongly endorse self-defense, I don't endorse either the spirit or the letter of this suggestion.

Also for the record, that comment counts as disagreement, demurral, and distancing, not as an expression of outrage.

Tony, I was addressing men with short time preferences, not violent natures. Time preference has little to do with a violent versus non-violent nature. Plenty of men with long time preferences can be violent when they want or need to be.

OK. I focused more on the "testosterone laden" part of it.

But the problem still stands: if the short time preference men carry out their preferences by killing guys who are slower on the draw, it is hard to see how that leaves long time preferences with a success advantage in passing on their genes to more children.

It is also possible that some of these preferences are personal and not rooted in heritable differences (personality?) so that is is unlikely that a specific behavior regarding those preferences is likely to correlate well with a success advantage that is also heritable.

For example, everyone is caught in a group that engages in racial violence should have the maximum statutory damages thrown at them and the state should by and large turn a blind eye toward how their victims defend themselves.

I don't see that racially violent group behavior should get special treatment as compared to, say, monetarily motivated violent group behavior. In each case it should certainly get very stiff legal penalties. And self-defense is always rooted in a reasonable evaluation of the risk - and it is always the case that being attacked by a group is more dangerous than being attacked by individuals that happen to be in the same location at the same time. Self-defense is just that, defense, but if the defender exceeds the bounds of reason taking into account such things as incomplete information, adrenaline, emergency needs, etc, then he has exceeded defense.

But the problem still stands:

It doesn't still stand. Having a longer time preference is really not relevant to how fast a man will defend himself if faced with an immediate threat to his life other than maybe a split second concern of what the government might do in some cases. Short term time preferences mean that a man with a violent disposition and that time preference will likely act impulsively violently--the typical street criminal. But a man's long time preference does not mean he'll just lay there and die when faced with a thug.

Self-defense is just that, defense, but if the defender exceeds the bounds of reason taking into account such things as incomplete information, adrenaline, emergency needs, etc, then he has exceeded defense.

Let's suppose as happens in a place like Chicago that 30 thugs attack a small group all at once. What I'm saying is that the state should basically shrug its shoulders if one of the attacked pulls out a full sized 9mm, .40 or .45 and empties a high capacity magazine (~17 rounds) in the crowd attacking them. I'm saying mere membership in the mob in that situation should guarantee that the victims have carte blanche to retaliate until the threat is completely removed. (FWIW, if Klan were still as powerful, I would whole-heartedly endorse the right of a black man to empty an entire 30 round magazine into a crowd of night riders assembled on his lawn)

FWIW, that's not that radical. Generally, states recognize that when there are multiple assailants that the level of force authorized should go up irrespective of whether they're armed; 3 unarmed men attacking an unarmed man usually results in lethal force against the 3 assailants being considered reasonable. What I would like to see is the states merely extend that to a general policy that can be summarized as "if you are in a mob attacking an innocent person, you are fair game by simple fact of being part of the mob irrespective of your role."

Mike, alright buddy. Self-defense is legit. But the NRA vet who taught me firearms safety always made the point that you don't chamber a round useless you mean to use it, and you don't take aim unless you're gonna shoot; it's possible to bring bloodshed when none was necessary, if you draw too early. So a pack of knuckleheads comes at you: that means you have to empty a clip into them?

Each true crisis of crime and self-defense is it's own particular story. Let's set aside the provocative hypotheticals, shall we?

Paul, the violence I was referencing is a real phenomenon. I do think we should change the subject for many reasons, but let's not kid ourselves. It's not "provocative hypothetical."

Actually, to be fair, I have to admit Mike's hypothetical wasn't as bad as I feared it would be. I suppose if the pack of knuckleheads were charging with what appeared to a reasonable man to be intent to rend you limb from limb, beat you to death, or stomp you to death (yes, that sort of thing does happen, far too often), it would be _morally_ justifiable to shoot in self defense. However, why would this be a case of the state's having to turn a blind eye? Is shooting under those circs. not prima facie legally permitted, assuming you have the concealed carry permit, under self defense statutes?

Mike, thank you for that. When you put it that way, my problem right now is one of seeing an awful contrast and not having any reason to believe it will resolve itself on its own--but that's only because I'm not looking at the history of my own group.

I just had a long exchange with somebody who claimed to be a biologist about this on a separate blog. His position was that fertilization is not a particularly useful indicator for denoting personhood - it's just a later stage in the developmental process, and he claimed he saw no reason why it should be granted special status.

I pointed out that this was the point where it naturally develops into a mature, adult human being, which is what separated it. He didn't see how this was relevant, somehow. But really, what other indicators have we ever used to denote a human except "naturally, one day, it will mature into an adult"?

The impression I got was that he genuinely believed he was saying, but in the end his position still seemed to amount to "zygotes and infants have different rules for denoting personhood", which I always found ridiculous.

It was an interesting exchange.

I'm genuinely curious about something, Lydia, Paul and Tony. Are y'all aware of the incidents to which I'm referring? There have been real cases of black-on-everyone-else mob violence all over the place for the last few years where a mob of as many as a few hundred blacks will storm an area and start randomly attacking and robbing people. They've happened all over the place from Chicago, to Hampton Roads and more. To answer Lydia's question, if you just opened fire and wiped out the mob indiscriminately, you would probably be charged with murder because you didn't take the time to figure out which part of the mob was seriously trying to kill you and which was just providing encouragement to violence but not striking. (Let's ignore the fact that making someone figure out which part of the mob is a legitimate, legal target is not fair to them in that scenario).

To answer Lydia's question, if you just opened fire and wiped out the mob indiscriminately, you would probably be charged with murder because you didn't take the time to figure out which part of the mob was seriously trying to kill you and which was just providing encouragement to violence but not striking.

Mike, I guess my reticence to expand a license to violence by having the police just ignore your act, without saying your act is explicitly legal, is that it undermines the rule of law.

I am sort of aware of the kinds of events you are talking about, but not in detail because I don't watch ANY news on TV or read much news either. But my thought is three-fold: self-defense theory proposes that violence you do to an unjust attacker is to be laid at your attacker's responsibility, not yours. Secondly, a civilian is not a policeman, and he should not be held to a standard that would apply to a trained cop. He should be allowed to use ALL of the violence suitable to his actual situation, which includes his non-professional status, and if that implies a certain kind of shoot first and ask questions later because of the way circumstances develop, then that's what is reasonable. Like shooting an intruder in your home even if you don't know whether he is armed. And if you are an old woman, shooting him even if you know for certain that he is unarmed. Thirdly, I tend to think that there have been times in the 70's and 80's and 90's where police were also held to too high a standard of caution in directing their violence in defense of self and the public, standards that were unreasonable given that they have only partial seconds to act, adrenaline crashing into their system, and lots of ambiguous data to process.

So, my feeling is that the application of the law by police and courts should be more reasonable than they have been: those who offer the violence first (and threats count) are ultimately responsible for getting their damnfool heads blown off if that's what happens. And the justified trigger point necessarily sits at a lower hurdle the more severe the threat - the more credible that the threat will be carried out, the more severe the injury threatened, etc. I think that this ought to be the explicitly recognized and applied standard, which does NOT mean having a theoretical standard more restrictive but a wink-and-nod attitude toward enforcing it.

And, by the way, a true mob - say more than 20 people - running riot and attacking MANY people or properties without any specific targeting or purpose other than mayhem and violence is the very definition of lawlessness, and constitutes one of those reasonable bases for ratcheting up your level of violence in response. The fact that you can kill 5 of them and still not be safe, and the mob still won't react reasonably and come to their senses (may just get even more insane), means that you have reason to be more broadcast in your dealing with them. We shouldn't need a special rule that says here you can use indiscriminate violence - the standard should remain that your act should be reasonable, and in this case reasonable implies a very strong (and consequently not very precisely applied) doses of violence. If you have a riot shotgun with 10 round magazine and use it to blast out a 360 degree circle of mayhem that takes out 20 murderers and one innocent trying to flee, the death of the innocent is NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, it is that of the rioting mob, who put you into the situation where broadcast violence was called for.

Mike, yes I am well aware of these incidents. Milwaukee and Philadelphia are the two that stick in my mind. Usually, there is a social media component. To my knowledge, there have been no murders (yet) from these mobs.

Mike, it's _because_ I'm aware of those incidents that I spoke up in my previous comment! C'mon, man, know your friends. And speaking for myself, I couldn't care less if the victim is merely beaten and stomped horribly or actually murdered, the intent was to do sufficient grievous bodily harm that I'd be surprised if no one has been killed, and the mob obviously is trying to do as much harm as possible. (In an individual attack, a man _was_ killed. The murderer literally stood up from a chess board in New York, said he was going to hit a white person, and killed the next innocent white person walking by with a single blow.) Certainly the victim does reasonably fear life-threatening violence and should be able to use lethal force.

I don't know the exact wording of the law regarding attacks by mobs. I would be surprised if there is some worded law that says you have to figure out a specific person who, more than the rest of the mob, is attacking you, in order to be justified in using force. Prima facie, they are all attacking you. If that is the actual wording of some law, I would say it is bad law, and in a given case where your options are, "Figure out some specific member of this howling mob attacking me, and shoot him, and just be willing to be beaten to a pulp if you can't" or "Shoot someone in this howling mob in self-defense," I would say you're morally justified in doing the latter.

*How many* rounds you shoot is going to depend on the circumstances. One would always like to think it will be like a movie scene, and they are going to turn and flee the moment you get off a shot or two. I myself can imagine circumstances where you would be justified in firing multiple rounds.

Again, Mike, when you spoke of the law "turning a blind eye to the methods used in self-defense," I guessed you meant a different set of actions, though my guesses were vague.

MarcAnthony, I don't know what that person who said he was a biologist thought he was talking about. Sperm and egg existing separately are not part of a developmental process of an organism! They are separate gametes. So either he's ignorant (despite claiming to be a biologist) or he's in denial.

There is a sort of philosophical side note here, though: One philosopher (whose name escapes me at a moment) has a rather famous argument for at least taking abortion seriously and for banning many abortions. It's called the "future like ours" argument. His argument is that abortion is usually wrong because the unborn child has a "future like ours" and because abortion causes that future not to happen. Now, _that_ (to my mind rather weak) objection to abortion _has_ given rise to some discussions about "preventing egg and sperm from meeting" and whether one could argue that in doing so one is also preventing "a future like ours" in individual cases, whether a sperm-egg pair can be regarded as "having a future like ours" even though they do not form a single organism. I myself believe the "future like ours" objection to abortion is, pun intended, poorly conceived. One should go straight for "abortion is wrong because it is killing an innocent human being."

It looks like there have been multiple deaths from the "knockout king" game.

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

Since that type of attack depends on a great element of surprise, I'm not sure whether armed self-defense would be possible (that is, whether the prospective victim would have time to shoot), but he certainly would be justified.

Mike, as Tony also points out quite sensibly, there is a difference between the police investigating, deciding a prospective victim acted in self-defense, and therefore _legally_ not prosecuting the one who shot and the police _ignoring_ the shooting and literally "turning a blind eye." Now, perhaps all you meant was the former--not charging the person acting in self-defense with anything. But it sounded like you meant something more anarchic, like the police simply shrugging their shoulders about everybody shooting each other.

I'm not saying that the police should just stand down and let anarchy reign. In these situations you seem to find two types of people: those committing the violence and those providing "violent ambiance." By violent ambiance I mean the incitement as well as the perception to the victim that the mob is bigger and stronger than it may really be.

What I would like to see is a general approach that mere participation in the mob, once the violence begins, makes you a fully guilty party. Therefore, if you are in the latter category and are injured or killed you have no legal protection nor recourse against the victim.

I don't know how far the law already permits that, and if it doesn't that's where my comments about the police turning a blind eye would come in. I think all participants should be treated as more or less guilty unless they are leaving when attacked.

Well, I don't know the law either. Seems to me the justice system has accessory and conspiracy and incitement and other doctrines that make every co-participant liable for the acts of any of the illegal parties. I don't know how far they extend, but I would be surprised if they don't give a defender protection from "false self-defence" charges. However, I think that even if a totally innocent person, someone who REALLY WAS in no way a participant of the mob, is killed by your reasonable violence, you shouldn't be charged with anything, but the mob members should be charged with the death of that innocent.

Well, here's a sample of his views, directly quoted. I only post it because it seems rather directly relevant to the thread, so if you want me to, I'll stop.

I'll also note, by the way, that the conversation has ended, so I'm not just taking the debate over here to try and score points.

The “once we know that it´s a member of the human species” part is [I pointed out that we now have a clear line denoting this] misguided, it´s a category mistake because species definitions are not made for this – science can tell you whether a given cell is a human cell or not and it can tell you what the developmental potential of a given cell is, if you think that this knowledge has any moral relevance, be my guest, I don´t.

MarcAnthony, it sounds like your interlocutor doesn't know the difference between a cell that is not an organism and an organism that happens to be at the single-cell developmental stage. Oh, btw, the zygote immediately divides into two cells after fertilization is completed.

I find that in such discussions the concept of an organism is conspicuous by its absence. The obscurantists prefer to refer to the new embryo as "a cell" as if it is not an organism. That is a profoundly unscientific approach.

So, what is an "organism"?

BTW, the most commonly used species definition "biological species concept" are not used to determine whether an embryo is a "human"/"person" or not, but whether two organisms from different population are able to interbreed and able to produce viable offspring or are from "reproductively isolated" populations incompatible for breeding. But I do not regard the "biological species concept" as the sole criterion for the definition of species although it is my preferred criterion: instead, I am a species nominalist, and regard the biological species concept as a useful heuristic for classification.

And more importantly, why is this morally relevant to personhood anyway? It is the classic Humean is-ought problem.

From Wikipedia:

In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system (such as animal, fungus, micro-organism, or plant). In at least some form, all types of organisms are capable of responding to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homeostasis as a stable whole.

---

the word organism may broadly be defined as an assembly of molecules functioning as a more or less stable whole that exhibits the properties of life. However, many sources propose definitions that exclude viruses and theoretically possible man-made non-organic life forms.[18] Viruses are dependent on the biochemical machinery of a host cell for reproduction.

Chambers Online Reference provides a broad definition: "any living structure, such as a plant, animal, fungus or bacterium, capable of growth and reproduction".[19]

I really do not see how that would exclude a teratoma.

It is the classic Humean is-ought problem.

Actually, it differs from the classic Humean is-ought "problem." That classic "problem", insofar as it is a valid issue, is whether what is so can lead to a definitive what you ought to do. What the personhood issue represents, rather, is the classic problem whether "what is biologically true" can lead to and determine "what is spiritually true". And, while the two problems certainly are *related* ultimately, they are distinct problems. One can decide, for example, that human beings are spiritual beings without that clearly specifying "what we ought to do".

In any case, it is not inherently necessary to have a clearly defined species, or even to have a vaguely defined species, in order to identify and distinguish THIS individual organism from THAT individual organism. Biologists do it all the time. Most of the time, knowing that two things are not contiguous to each other (not in contact, don't share a common boundary), but function well in ongoing life processes, is sufficient to prove that they are distinct organisms. But even when two organisms are in contact with each other, it is often possible to distinguish them as distinct organisms even without knowing for certain which species they belong to. Outside of human biology, most biologists don't make heavy weather of trying to decide whether a zygote that has divided into 2, then 4, then 8 cells represents 1 organism or 8.

A teratoma does not develop. It has no developmental trajectory or body plan. It's a conglomeration of cells.

Seriously, this pretense that there is no such thing as a meaningful biological category of organism is very poor, scientifically.

An organism is defined as “(1) a complex structure of interdependent and subordinate elements whose relations and properties are largely determined by their function in the whole and (2) an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent: a living being.”22 This definition stresses the interaction of parts in the context of a coordinated whole as the distinguishing feature of an organism.

Based on this definition, it has been proposed that human beings (including embryonic human beings) can be reliably distinguished from human cells using the same kinds of criteria scientists employ to distinguish different cell types: by examining their composition and their pattern of behavior.23 A human being (i.e., a human organism)
is composed of characteristic human parts (cells, proteins, RNA, DNA), yet
it is different from a mere collection of cells because it has the characteristic behavior of an organism: it acts in an interdependent and coordinated manner to “carry on the activities of life.” In contrast, collections of human cells are alive and carry on the activities of cellular life, yet fail to exhibit coordinated interactions directed towards any higher level of organization. Collections of cells do not establish the complex, interrelated cellular structures (tissues, organs, and organ systems) that exist in a whole, living human being. Similarly, a human corpse is not a living human organism, despite the presence of living human cells within the corpse, precisely because this collection of human cells no longer functions as an integrated unit.24

From Maureen Condic, "When Does Human Life Begin: A Scientific Perspective."

Clearly, a living human is certainly a macrocosm of a human cell, which also is contains "interdependent and coordinated" parts and "functions as an integrated unit" and “carry on the activities of life". But might be correct to dismiss this as caviling over definitions.

Actually, it differs from the classic Humean is-ought "problem." That classic "problem", insofar as it is a valid issue, is whether what is so can lead to a definitive what you ought to do. What the personhood issue represents, rather, is the classic problem whether "what is biologically true" can lead to and determine "what is spiritually true". And, while the two problems certainly are *related* ultimately, they are distinct problems. One can decide, for example, that human beings are spiritual beings without that clearly specifying "what we ought to do".

That is an interesting concession that the pro-life conception of "personhood" inevitably relies on the possession of a unique "spirit" or soul, since formulating personhood using entirely functional criteria (that also include entities possess severe deficits in cognition) would lead to array to insurmountable problems. The determination of personhood in a utilitarian system is ultimately based on the possession of morally relevant traits -- particularly the capacity to suffer, possess interests, and to see oneself as an entity with a unique past, present, and future and personal identity -- not its identity as a member of the human species or being a human organism. These capacities have a physical basis based in neuroanatomy and neurochemistry, and this is why utilitarian ethicists often refer to these physical traits when trying to determine whether something is a "person" as they are associated with the relevant functional properties but they do not carry any ethical significance themselves. Utilitarians often use the is-ought problem to demonstrate that the unique anatomical and molecular properties exclusively associated with Homo sapiens carry no moral significance and thus do not confer human beings any ethical protection.

The only way for the pro-life conception of personhood to maintain its independence from biology functionality is to posit the existence of a soul or soul in all living human beings.

That is an interesting concession that the pro-life conception of "personhood" inevitably relies on the possession of a unique "spirit" or soul, since formulating personhood using entirely functional criteria (that also include entities possess severe deficits in cognition) would lead to array to insurmountable problems.

I don't think that was what Tony meant by the phrase "spiritually true."

Yes, you are definitely caviling over definitions. A single cell that is _not_ an organism carries on the "activities of life" only either a) as part of a larger organism, which defines its function top-down and keeps it alive as part of the organism or b) as part of an uncoordinated mass (such as a tumor). The single cell that is not an organism is not biologically complete in itself in the way that an organism is. There are, of course, single-celled organisms. We recognize them as such because of their organismal completeness rather than their being part of some other organism or part of a cell mass.

The determination of personhood in a utilitarian system is ultimately based on the possession of morally relevant traits -- particularly the capacity to suffer, possess interests, and to see oneself as an entity with a unique past, present, and future and personal identity -- not its identity as a member of the human species or being a human organism.

So, you bring out an interesting concession that what you want the word "person" to mean is different from what it has meant for the last 2600 years or so.

early 13c., from Old French persone "human being, anyone, person" (12c., Modern French personne) and directly from Latin persona "human being, person

Look, I know that utilitarianism would like to redefine certain words to make their arguments come out more plausibly, but that's just too bad. If you don't like what the word person means, then you can come up with your own word, and leave it to those of us who use the English language the way it was handed down to us from 1000 years of development intact. You could say that you don't think being a person is the important thing for deciding about how we ought to act toward each other, but instead what is important is a set of set of traits - like the ability to suffer, to possess interests, to see oneself as a distinct identity - and not misuse the language. That's an argument that can be made. What you cannot do is pretend that WHAT THE WORD MEANS in its first, most basic sense is "things with that collection of traits." Read the Meno, for goodness sake.

All human beings are persons even when they don't happen to exhibit all of the traits that are normal to humans, just as a dog missing a leg is a dog even though "dog" means "a four legged mammal". We know what is normal to dogs, but the failure of one aspect of that in a particular dog doesn't imply that it isn't a dog, nor does it imply that "to be a dog means to have approximately the 3.998 legs that is the average for dogs".

I am trying to understand Latias's position. Is she arguing that one does not need a soul to define human and that biochemistry, etc. is enough or that biochemistry is not sufficient, in itself and one needs to include a soul? Clearly, I think you need a reference to soul to define a living human.

The Chicken

I think Latias is saying that you can define "person" by utility: a being who exhibits X, Y, and Z behavior. That doesn't require resorting to chemistry or cellular biology at all.

I know that the "a future like mine" argument has been talked about by Dr. Glenn Peoples, though I do not believe that it originates with him. And no, he doesn't consider it to be the best argument out there, which he makes clear in the podcast episode in which he talks about it. But he considers it to be *a* valid argument, and one that holds true irrespective of the answer to certain metaphysical questions. That is, it is as valid from an average atheist perspective as it is from a theistic one. And within theism, it is valid whether you are a dualist or a physicalist. And this likely applies to other areas where there is disagreement as well. Would that we could only have to interact with Christians and select other theists on these matters, but as far as I'm concerned it's only a good thing to have arguments in your repertoire that hold true both for you(so that you do not have to lie or spout nonsense) and for people you are up against who have often wildly different views on certain matters.

One area that I was surprised wasn't mentioned in the article was that of transgenderism. I can scarcely conceive of an area of liberal politics that is more anti-science than that of wanting to affirm transgenderism to the point of enshrining it in law. In the vast majority of cases[1], you have a clear case -- physiologically and genetically -- of an individual being, beyond a shadow of a doubt if you actually believe the empirical science, one sex while claiming that no, contrary to empirical evidence, they are actually the other sex(or in the case of the newer fad -- genderqueer -- that they are neither sex at all!). The more religiously-minded might reference having a "soul" in the "wrong body," but I'm not sure how those without religion can justify such huge dissonance in their own mind.

[1] Note that I am aware of the cases in which the physiology and/or genetics are not normal. Cases such as hermaphrodites, certain chimaeras, and those whose physical expression is opposite of what their genetics say should be the case(the XX male, for example). These cases are exceedingly rare, and any policies adopted for dealing with such rare cases should only apply to these cases in which ambiguity is present. Cases where no such ambiguity exists are not the same, and should not be treated as such.

Geek is quite right: the push for transgender normalization is profoundly anti-science. Last year Chris Christie signed a law banning even very mild psychiatric treatments for homosexuals who desire not to be homosexual any more. Would he likewise ban "treatments" for the transgendered that include the physical disfigurement of genitals along with massive infusions of hormones? To ask that question is to answer it, and also to demonstrate how hostile this new derangement is toward empirical science.

Consider how liberals always resort to the "social construct" argument. Gender is a social construct as are gender roles. It never seems to occur to them that if TENS is true that it is likely that "gender roles" are actually a very hardened product of human evolution since even the earliest signs of human society show signs of social hierarchy and treatment by gender. Some at least try to claim that there one existed a plethora of matriarchies that mysteriously vanished but again, if TENS be true that's unlikely to even matter because our nearest ape relatives are about as matriarchal as spartans (bossing around an alpha male chimp makes the short list of stupid things to do with animals).

I think the "future like ours" argument is just weak, though. For one thing, even a newborn doesn't have a "future like ours" if not taken care of. And a severely disabled unborn child doesn't have a "future like ours" in some respects no matter what. The argument is from Don Marquis. I just didn't have time to google the name before.

I completely agree that our arguments should not all presuppose Christianity. But by no means is the "future like ours" the best of the arguments that do not presuppose Christianity. To be blunt: If secularists want to pretend that the principle that it is wrong deliberately to kill innocent human beings is a distinctively _Christian_ principle, then they have just undermined the possibility of a sane and humane _non-Christian_ society, which of course is not something they want to admit.

I once knew a secular Jew, a philosophy professor, who became convinced that abortion is wrong merely by contemplating the garden variety pro-life argument that there is no non-arbitrary place after conception at which to designate the unborn child a person and hence worthy of protection, that the rightness of allowing abortion would logically mean that we should allow infanticide, and that infanticide is *obviously morally wrong*. Apparently he wasn't impressed by the infanticidal sophistry of Peter Singer and Michael Tooley, nor did he believe he needed "Christian" premises to reject it.

Not that I want to just tear into Marquis. At least he's trying to make an argument for the wrongness of abortion. I just think it's possible to do better.

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