Last Update: 05 Feb 00
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REPLY #26 TO
Slavery was never "right" no matter what its legal status has ever been and no thinking person will ever argue to the contrary.
(R) When you say this, what is the foundation upon which you make that assumption? WHO or WHAT says that slavery was never right? Do you have some kind of fact to back up that assertion?
(MB) Sure! Ask any slave or anyone who doesn't own slaves what they think about the matter. Also, it is not in Man's inherent nature to be a slave to another Man.
Slavery and abortion are not directly comparable questions. Trying to argue otherwise introduces a red herring argument that evades a direct answer to abortion questions and attempts to obfuscate the issue.
(R) Slavery was predicated on the supposed fact that the slaves were somehow less human. Legalized abortion is predicated on a similar supossed fact that an unborn child is less human. The two issues are indeed very comparable.
(MB) Nope. Slavery was based on an argument that certain races or ethnic groups were meant to be subjugated by "advanced" or "superior" people. All slaves are undeniably living human beings with all the same parts as any other human being. The rhetoric that they are "less human" is nothing but rationalization. No Man has the right to enslave another.
This is different from the pro-choice argument. It doesn't say that the unborn are "less human". It says that they have not yet become human and don't do so until they at least reach the point of viability. Until that point, the mother should have the unquestioned right to make her own decisions about whether or not to go through with her complete pregnancy.
It is easy to make arguments to support why slavery, stealing, and murder are wrong. Such things are wrong according to all cultures and societies.
(R) Says WHO? Or WHAT?
(MB) Says the entirety of human history. Can you find an example of any historical culture in which stealing and murder were considered to be "right" and proper behavior or which considered slavery to be "right" to the point where they themselves would willingly be subjugated?
Abortion, however, is a different question since it is entirely an issue of the individual freedom of the woman vs. a particular version of religious morality.
(R) You say that it is entirely an issue of individual freedom of the woman. Saying that does not make it so.
(MB) Don't forget the second half of my statement! I said that is an issue of freedom vs. a particular version of religious morality. If you dispute that, you will have to show how religion is not a factor in the debate.
(R) I say that it is entirely an issue of the individual freedom of the child in the womb not to be killed. I will also agree that saying such does not make it so.
(MB) To support that, you will have to demonstrate how an unborn child at any stage of development has any "rights" or "freedoms" and from where they derive.
(R) Where does that leave us?
(MB) The same place we've always been. You have an argument based almost entirely on arbitrary religious beliefs. You still need to show that those beliefs are better than any other system of religious belief and then will need to show how they are better than the known facts of the development of the unborn.
I don't reject that moral precepts exist. Clearly, they do. Just as clearly, however, they are all arbitrary and non-universal in nature.
(R) This is such a contradiction. What is the point of acknowledging the existence of moral precepts if they are non-universal? You can't have your cake and eat it too.
(MB) When I say that "moral precepts exist", I don't mean that they have an independent existence that does not depend on the existence of Man. Morality is totally an invention of Man and his societies. The fact that different societies have different sets of moral precepts is proof that such precepts are non-universal. How have I presented any contradictory arguments?
Such precepts are poor foundations upon which to support arguments about what should or should not be done.
(R) No, they ARE the foundation for such arguments.
(MB) How can they be the foundation of such arguments when there is no universal agreement on what those precepts are?
(R) We both begin with the premise that murder is wrong. (I hope I am correct in that assumption) You say that it is not a child (therefore no murder), I say that it is. We're not aguing about the propriety of murder itself, we're arguing about whether abortion is a case of murder or not.
(MB) Exactly. Given the current and historical definitions of "murder", abortion is not something which falls into that category. To change that, you still have to show how the unborn are no different from you or I or anybody else who can be "murdered".
You are also going to have to be careful about carelessly tossing around the word "murder". That is a specific definition for a specific act under a specific set of circumstances. Consider a scenario where I was to kill you with a pistol. Is that "murder"? Depends on the circumstances. If we were arguing, and I shot you, that would be "murder". If we were soldiers on opposite sides during a war, it would *not* be "murder". If you were trying to rob or assault me and I shot you in self-defense, that would not be "murder", either. But, in all cases, you are just as dead from exactly the same act.
That being the case, I base my position upon what the facts and evidence will or will not support. What could possibly be wrong with that?
(R) What is wrong is that you are only paying attention to half the evidence - that's a lousy way to judge a murder case.
(MB) In reality, you are forcing abortion into the category of "murder" with no justification for doing so other than emotion and religious belief. *That* is the truly lousy way to judge a murder case.
(R) It is a fact that a sperm and an egg unite to create an embryo.
(MB) Well-l-l-l, that's not technically true. Prior to the embryonic stage, you have fertilized egg, gamete, and zygote. But, not to quibble. What you're alluding to here is the "moment of conception".
(R) It is my contention that human life begins at that point.
(MB) Why is that your "contention"? On what basis would you call a fertilized egg a "human life"?
(R) Can you please tell me why your assertion to the contrary is a fact?
(MB) Because a fertilized egg is just that -- a fertilized egg. It is not a "human life" or a "human being" under any definition that has any meaning in reality.
In any case, why do you object to being precise about the meanings behind your generalities?
(R) I do not. It is my assertion that the phrase "human life" is not a generality.
(MB) Why not? If you can't define what either the phrase itself means or define precisely what makes it "human" or "life", then the phrase is a generality that is only meant to appeal to emotion.
(R) I will go further and say that the phrase "human life is special" is also not a generality.
(MB) OK, then I'll go further and say that you now much supply a precise meaning for "special". What does that mean? From where does "special" derive? What quality is "special" that is only possessed by Man? If there's no answer for this, then all you have done is added two more words to the existing generality.
(R) Anyone with the ability to read this should be able to understand that, and if they can't, then they should go look in the dictionary.
(MB) OK, let's go see what Webster's Illustrated Contemporary Dictionary has to say...
"Human -- Characterized by or exemplifying the strengths, weaknesses, emotions, struggles, etc. typical of man and mankind." Please explain to me what strengths, weaknesses, emotions, struggles, etc. are found in a fertilized egg that compel us to describe it as being "human".
"Life -- The period of animate existence from birth until death, or a part or specific aspect of it." Please explain to me how a fetus is "life" according to this definition.
"Special -- Out of the ordinary; uncommon; unique; different. Designed for or assigned to a specific purpose, occasion, etc." Please explain to me how humans qualify as being "special". Remember to delineate the purpose or occasion to which humans are assigned and who did the designing. Remember to do this without begging the question of the existence of your God.
If you don't buy these definitions, you will need to supply your own.
(R) I'm using words in the sense that will be perfectly understandable.
(MB) Oh, really? It would seem as if you are using them in the sense that they will be emotionally appealing.
(R) To ask for definitions of perfectly acceptible words is to invite tangential discussions that have nothing to do with the issue.
(MB) To refuse to define the critical terms upon which rests the bulk of one's argument is to invite doubt upon the veracity of that argument.
(R) It is my assertion that this is what you are doing.
(MB) As you said before, just saying that does not make it so.
After all, I'm sure that you don't consider the life of a human being to be equal to that of a dung beetle, a turnip or a bacterium.
(R) No, and I'm sure you don't either. I really doubt that anyone reading this thinks this for that matter. So why go into it?
(MB) Don't be so hasty in jumping to conclusions here. I truly can't think of any reason why the life of a human being is *not* equal to that of a dung beetle, a turnip or a bacterium. Any argument to the contrary can't be made through strict biology. Each has its own niche in the ecosystem of Earth. In fact, a good argument could be made that Man is the least important of the four.
For something to be "special" implies that it possesses a particular quality that is not possessed by something that is not "special". Why do you complain when I ask what that quality is and from where it derives?
(R) Because that question is tantamount to asking me to define for you the meaning of life in a philosophical sense. Again, it is a direct invitation to go off on a huge tangent.
(MB) No, it's a direct invitation to explain what you're talking about. It is a special pleading fallacy to demand that these catchphrases be accepted without question merely because they sound good. If you can't explain the meaning of "special", but insist upon advancing it as an argument, how much force can it carry?
(R) I think pretty much everyone with the ability to read this understands what I mean when I say that "Human Life is Special." For the .0001% that don't, I guess this argument isn't for them.
(MB) Logic is not defined by what the majority does or does not understand. Again, it is a special pleading fallacy to demand that I accept any argument you make just because you state it. If "human life is special" is such an obvious fact, why do you have so much trouble explaining it? When someone asks "Why?", an answer of "Because I said so" just doesn't cut it.
This has nothing at all to do with the English language or any philosophy associated with it. It has everything to do with whether or not you have anything more than catchphrases to support your arguments.
(R) Could you please tell me exactly which of my arguments are "catchphrases?"
(MB) Any argument that is stated simply for emotional appeal without being explained or defined -- such as "human life is special".
(R) While you're at it, could you also explain why "It is entirely an issue of the individual freedom of the woman" is not a "catchphrase?"
(MB) Because I have defined and supported the reasons for it at great length. I don't expect the statement to stand on its own.
"Generally understandable" in so much as they correctly express the dogmatic generality of the anti-abortion position. However, this discussion is based on facts rather than generalities. If you wish to claim that your position is justifiable from a scientific viewpoint, you are going to have to accept the normal rigor of scientific explanation and evidence --which includes precise definitions of critical terms.
(R) I do.
(MB) Since when? You still haven't defined "human life is special" in terms of anything other than itself. If you can do that, you'll make a giant stride towards justifying your position.
(R) At some point your scientific explanations also rest on generalities - generally accepted scientific principles.
(MB) Those are hardly generalities. All of science rests on the precise definition of facts and terminology.
(R) When they get to a certain point, they can't prove that cement is hard - after all it's mostly empty space.
(MB) Science doesn't declare simply that some given substance is "hard". Substances are precisely defined in terms of tensile strength, density, etc.
(R) They don't know exactly how it all works, just that it does. Get some scientist to explain to you why gravity works. C'mon, I dare you. The fact is that they don't know.
(MB) I guess you're not familiar with Einstein. You remember him, don't you? "Man of the Century". His theories explain precisely how and why gravity works.
(R) They know that stuff falls, and at a precisely measurable rate, etc, but they don't know why. Does that invalidate science? Of course not.
(MB) What it invalidates is bad arguments and ignorant claims. Objects fall at precise rates because they follow a geodesic through space that is defined by the relative masses of the objects which occupy that space.
(R) That I base my argument on phrases like "Human life is special" no more negatively affects my argument than this lack of specific understanding affects most of science.
(MB) Since I've just shown otherwise, you may wish to revise that argument. But, please do it *after* you've defined "human life is special" for me.
Without introducing God to the argument, how can you possibly give a coherent explanation of why you consider human life to be "special"?
(R) It is my contention that most human beings value their life and consider it far more important than that of a bug or a turnip.
(MB) So, a biased opinion is proof of your point? Why don't we ask the bug or the turnip for another opinion on that? Also, to say that "humans value their lives" is not the same thing as claiming that "human life has value".
(R) I will bet $100 that if we poll a group of atheists, they will agree.
(MB) If you were to conduct that poll among a group of Zen Buddhists (technically, an atheistic belief system), you would lose your $100. In Zen, all things are one and we are one with all things. Therefore, a Zen master would consider his life to be no more important or valuable than any other life -- whether that life was possessed by a human, an insect, or a turnip.
(R) Again, I can't believe that you are taking issue with such a basic and fundamental assumption - that human life is special, or for that matter, important, of value, whatever . . . Take your pick or come up with some positive adjective of your own, I think it is safe to say that everyone knows what I'm talking about.
(MB) Again, I have just proven otherwise. Therefore, you are leaping to an unwarranted and hasty conclusion that suffers from the blinders imposed by the Christian worldview. Since Christianity accounts for less than 1/3 of the world's population, there is no basis for your claim that "everyone" knows what you're talking about.
(R) On the contrary, if human life isn't special then why are you even remotely concerned about the "individual freedom of the woman" and not also that of turnips, bugs, bacteria, etc?
(MB) Because the support for a woman's right to make her own decision about abortion as opposed to whether or not a particular religious morality must be forced upon her has nothing to do with any other form of life on this planet. But, claims of the "special" nature of human life inevitably lead in many such directions. Again, this is where precise definitions would help.
If God exists, you have a solid fact upon which to base such an argument. If God does not exist, the argument is purely one of emotion. Therefore, if you wish to advance your position, the existence of God is crucial to any chance it will have to succeed. If you consider the defense of his existence to be futile, then you are conceding that your entire argument is futile.
(R) I take from this that you have some sort of scientific proof that God doesn't exist? For without such scientific facts, it would appear that you were arguing against His existence from a rather emotional standpoint . . .
(MB) Not at all. There is no evidence whatsoever of the existence of the Christian version of God. For that matter, there is no evidence whatsoever of the existence of *any* version of God or any other deity (omnimax or otherwise). However, if any given argument presupposes or requires the existence of God, that argument bears the burden of proving that God actually does exist. *All* positive existential claims bear the burden of proof whether they posit the existence of God, Bigfoot, leprechauns, or little green men from Mars. The skeptical position is the default position and is logically superior until the positive existential claim bears the burden of proof successfully. This understanding is completely devoid of emotion.
Without presupposing the existence of your God, none of your arguments have any force. Without that necessary force, they can't hope to succeed. Either you will need to demonstrate the existence of God or you will need to define your arguments in such a way that God's existence is not required in any way, shape or form. If neither can be done, the debate will have to be conceded.
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