Personhood is an either-or proposition. You either are one or you aren't. You can't be partially a person. There aren't some people that are more of a person than others. There are only persons and non-persons.
Because of this fact, it is necessary for persons to form from non-persons instantaneously. It has to go from "non-person" to "person" all in one step.
A long slow process like development cannot be the method by which a person comes to be a person. If "person" were synonymous with "consciousness" or "self-awareness" or having certain physical features like eyes or nose, then born humans who don't have these things are not persons and can be killed at will. And if a slow development process of growing ability makes a person then there would have to be degrees of personhood to match the varying abilities of different humans. Maybe I'm more of a person than you are because I'm smarter or taller or more awake at the moment. Maybe I should have more legal protections than you because of that. That is the kind of logical problem that this kind of thinking introduces. But of course, there are no degrees of personhood. There are only people and non-people.
Since there must be a point at which a non-person becomes a person, it is imperative that we find it. If we cannot find that point - specifically and definitively - we must give all humans the benefit of the doubt so as not to kill actual persons and thus violate their rights.
It's actually pretty easy to find the point at which a person is formed. A person can't be formed through a slow, gradual process like development. There is no transition point in the process of developing self-awareness, for example. There are many shades of awareness, both before and after birth, but they do not affect personhood. So if development can't produce personhood because it is too slow and gradual, we must look for a radical event that produces a sudden change in the nature of the organism in question. We must look for something that precedes development because development still happens to what we know is a person and development can't produce personhood, so the event that produces a person must occur before development begins. The only event that qualifies as a sudden, radical event that precedes development is fertilization.
Only fertilization produces the radical change necessary to provide a turning point from non-person to person. Fertilization produces a new human individual who didn't exist before. Fertilization changes two mere cells - parts of a larger body - into a brand new organism that develops and grows itself and works to further it's own bodily integrity. This new entity has all the instructions present to form an adult human body. This entity is already either male or female. This entity, like any other child, is merely less-than-fully developed.
You see, personhood isn't something we attain through gaining abilities. Nor do we lose personhood if we lose those abilities. Personhood isn't something we do. It's something we are.
Of course, if you disagree, you either have to claim that there are degrees of personhood (to correspond with degrees of ability) or you have to come up with a specific and definitive point at which a non-person suddenly becomes a person and a way to justify that point. It can't be something nebulous like "a few weeks after conception" or "in the second trimester" or "when consciousness is developed." It has to be something specific and defensible as a transformation point. If you cannot objectively identify a point at which a person becomes a person, then you must, ethically, treat all human individuals as persons since you do not know if they are or not.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Friday, October 10, 2014
Take a look at this letter, presumably written by a pregnant woman who is planning an abortion to her unborn child. It's entitled "I am getting an abortion next Friday. An open letter to the little life I won't get to meet."
I'm not sure if the story is true. I don't know the circumstances. I don't know if this is somehow an attempt to justify her actions and absolve herself of guilt. What I do know is that it is deeply disturbing.
In this letter, we have a woman who apparently realizes that the child she is carrying is, in fact, a baby. She also realizes that this baby is going to die. She says:
I am sorry that this is goodbye. I'm sad that I'll never get to meet you. You could have your father's eyes and my nose and we could make our own traditions, be a family. But, Little Thing, we will meet again.
She knows this is a baby. Yet she is going to kill him anyway. She says she is "both sorry and not sorry." She wishes the circumstances were different and she's sorry that they aren't in the same reality (whatever that means), but she can't be a mother right now. She realizes the wrong in killing her child, but has determined to do it anyway.
She also makes some strange comments about wanting her baby to be happy, and that it "wouldn't be fair to bring a new life into [the] world..." Perhaps someone should tell her that her baby is ALREADY in the world. She isn't preventing someone from entering the world by having an abortion. She's taking them out of it. And maybe someone should explain to her that killing someone isn't a way to make them happy.
Perhaps most confusing about this letter are a couple comments she makes about seeing her baby again later. She seems to have some very mixed up ideas about how this whole pregnancy and birth thing works.
She says "[W]e will meet again. I promise that the next time I see that little blue plus, the next time you are in the same reality as me, I will be ready for you." And again, "I promise I will see you again, and next time, you can call me Mom."
The problem is, there won't be a next time. She seems to think that this baby will come back to her womb someday, when everything is all better for her and she's ready to have a child. But it doesn't work that way. This is that child's only chance at life. Once he's dead, he'll stay dead. Once the mother aborts, that child will never have another chance to live. Sure, this mother may get pregnant at some point in the future and give birth, but it won't be the same baby. It will be a different child. The baby now in her womb is a unique, irreplaceable human being. This is that child's only time on earth. That baby won't ever get to meet her mother or see the blue sky or laugh or sing or dance if she kills her now. This is it. This is only time that child will ever be on this earth.
That's the tragedy of abortion. The murdered children don't come back. They don't get another life on earth at some point in the future. Just like all the rest of us humans, one life is all we get.
So whether this mother is deluded or ignorant or simply trying desperately to justify her actions, we all need to realize the gravity of the situation. Abortion kills a human being and ends the one life they have to live. Children in the womb are irreplaceable, one-time miracles, just like all humans are. Ending an unborn life is every bit as serious as ending any other human life and every bit as tragic.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Valid logical arguments show that one does not have the right to commit abortion
Let me begin by discussing what it takes to make a valid logical argument, and what it takes to make a valid argument which has a conclusion that must logically be true. You see, not all valid arguments yield conclusions which are true (as I will show below). OK, here is an example of a valid argument:
P1: All humans are mammals.
P2: George Washington was a human.
C: Therefore, George Washington was a mammal.
Clearly, this argument is not only a valid argument, but it has a conclusion that is true. How do we know that the conclusion is true? We have confidence that the conclusion is true, because BOTH of the following conditions are met:
- The argument is a valid argument. In other words, the conclusion follows logically from the stated premises – that is precisely what we mean when we say that it is a valid argument.
- The two premises are true.
If an argument is valid, and the premises upon which the argument is based are true, then the conclusion must also be true.
Now let’s take a look at an argument that is not valid – one in which the conclusion does not follow from the premises:
P1: All humans are mammals.
P2: George Washington was a human.
C: Therefore, George Washington was the first President of the United States.
While both premises are true, and the conclusion happens to be true also, the argument is not valid. You cannot come to the conclusion that George Washington was the first President based on the premises. The premises do not lead to the conclusion, so the argument is invalid – even though all three elements are true statements.
Here’s another invalid argument that’s a little more subtle:
P1: Some mammals are humans.
P2: George Washington was a mammal.
C: Therefore, George Washington was a human.
While the premises and conclusions are all true, the argument is not valid. For an argument to be valid, the conclusion must follow inescapably from the premises. That is not the case for this argument. If we knew nothing about George Washington except what the premises tell us, we could not be sure that George Washington is a human because not all mammals are humans. Only some of them are. For all we know, “George Washington” might be a dog and be a mammal, but not a human. Thus, the argument is invalid because the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises.
Now, let’s show a valid argument that is false:
P1: All humans are amphibians.
P2: George Washington was a human.
C: Therefore, George Washington was an amphibian.
Clearly, this conclusion is false. However, you should note that the argument IS a valid argument. IF both premises were true, then the conclusion would also be true. Unfortunately, the first premise (P1) is not true, and so the conclusion is false.
In general, one can only say that since the premise is false, the argument does not show that the conclusion is true. It is possible that the conclusion may be true coincidentally. Here is a hypothetical example:
P1: All humans are male.
P2: George Washington was a human.
C: Therefore, George Washington was male.
Clearly, the conclusion IS true, but the first premise (P1) is obviously false. So the fact that the conclusion of this argument is true is merely coincidence.
Let’s review. If the conclusion of a logical argument follows directly from its premises, we consider the argument to be a valid logical argument, and in that case, the truth of its conclusion rests upon the truth of the stated premises. If the stated premises of a valid argument are objectively supported by observation (or science) or by the conclusions of other valid logical arguments which are objectively supported, then we consider the conclusion to be true.
The truth of these conclusions do not rest merely on opinion, doctrine, or religious texts. Instead, these conclusions rest directly upon logic and science.
Now that we have reviewed logical arguments, let’s apply this knowledge to the abortion debate. Here is what I consider to be the most basic argument, and I will refer to it as Argument 1:
P1.1: One does not have the right to kill an innocent human being.
P1.2: A child not yet born is an innocent human being.
C1: Therefore, one does not have the right to kill a child who has not yet been born.
Stated this way, it is difficult to imagine how any sane person would object to the truth of this conclusion. Clearly, the conclusion (C1) follows directly from the two stated premises (P1.1 & P1.2), and so this IS a valid logical argument. In addition to this, the premises of this argument are true. This means that we can have confidence that the conclusion is in fact true.
Of course, P1.1 cannot be proven to be true using science because such things as human rights do not fall within the purview of science. However, this principle – that one does not have the right to kill an innocent human being – is widely accepted as true among civilized societies and was specifically addressed by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence when they pointed out that it is “self-evident” that all humans possess certain unalienable rights, including the right to live.
Of course, the second premise (P1.2) is objectively shown to be true. In defense of that statement, let me address three important elements of this premise. First, one cannot object to my use of the term “child” here because “child” universally means “son or daughter,” and a child who has not yet been born is a son or daughter. That fact is simply undeniable, and it is this meaning that is used here. Second, that this child is indeed innocent is evident because he or she has not had the opportunity to commit any crime worthy of death. And third, the fact that this child is a human being (defined as a member of the human species) is abundantly clear since there is no possible way that two human beings can produce an offspring that is not also a human being.
Now, let me turn to the second most fundamental argument, which I will call Argument 2:
P2.1: All innocent human beings possess the exact same right to live as any other human
P2.2: A child not yet born is an innocent human being.
C2: Therefore, a child who has not yet been born possesses the exact same right to live
as any other human being.
As before, the first premise (P2.1) is not one that can be supported with science because (again) the subject of human rights does not fall within the purview of scientific investigation. However, in order to argue that this premise is false, the critic must take the bigoted position that some human beings (like themselves) possess human rights that other human beings (those they wish to be allowed to kill) do not have. Furthermore, one can see that the second premise (P2.2) is identical to P1.2, and so has the same justification.
Therefore, since the conclusion (C2) follows directly from the premises, Argument 2 IS a valid logical argument, and so, like Argument 1, we have confidence that the conclusion is in fact true. Thus far in this article, we have shown that the following two statements are true:
C1: One does not have the right to kill a child who has not yet been born.
C2: A child who has not yet been born possesses the exact same right to live as any other
As you can see, these two well-proven truths alone are sufficient to show that abortion is a violation of the right to life of the child being aborted. Surely, any rational person will agree that if these two statements are true, then it should not be legal to commit abortion.
Notice that these two conclusions are not based in any way upon consent to sex. This means that they are true in general and are not subject to consensual sex. Whether or not the mother has consented to sex is not even addressed at all in these two arguments. These two arguments demonstrate logically that, regardless of the circumstances, children who have not yet been born have the same right to life as those of us who have been born. Thus, birth does not convey the right to live, and neither does any other event in an individual’s life. This right must come into existence when the human individual comes into existence, and that happens at fertilization (as we have shown earlier).
In Part 2, I will apply this logical method to the subject of consensual sex and show that consent to sex is indeed consent to pregnancy.