Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) Fundamentalism aside (very far), Science says nothing about the soul or God and should not attempt to, otherwise it is in the untestable area of meta physics. This doesn't make untestable ideas irrational.
(MB) Science doesn't say anything about those ideas since they have no qualities which could be examined under the standard methodology of scientific inquiry. You're also right when you say that untestable ideas are not irrational. Linde's multiverse theory may well be untestable outside of the realm of pure mathematics, but it is certainly not irrational. That is because the theory is based upon a solid foundation of other theories which *are* testable. This can't be said for notions like the existence of God or of souls. They have no qualities, components or factual foundations which are present or testable in our reality and their common descriptions contain proposals or implications which fly in the face of what we do know. Such notions can rightly be described as irrational.

(R) Likewise Religion should not attempt to contradict well-established scientific fact, even if Galileo was, in the end, wrong! God gave us brains and senses for a reason. Two different animals (specie:) .
(MB) No matter the circumstances under which our brains came to be, we are better off if we make use of their power. Religion's major difficulty is in trying to contradict established fact with nothing more than emotion or dogma. If God exists, I have a difficult time understanding why he would want us to believe falsehoods about his creation. It would seem that increased knowledge and understanding would lead to increased and totally honest praise for what he had done.

(R) So when you say In Reply #22 to Abortion "What quality is it that we call "life", from where does it derive, and why must it be protected at all costs? That question must be answered successfully without any theological implications if a pro-life argument can hope to succeed."
    I say your assertion that theology is irrelevant is not the case. We cannot argue this on scientific grounds. Metaphysical or theological beliefs are the only thing that is relevant here and that ultimately justifies any morality.

(MB) Morality is imposed by fiat -- not "justified" by it. Morality is a "majority rules" proposition and not something based purely upon facts and reasoning. Therefore, morality is an unsound tool for analyzing a factual question such as "When does life begin?" or "What quality is it that makes human life special?". We need not (and, indeed, should not) surrender ourselves to metaphysics or theology in order to answer such questions. If such questions have no realistic answer, then they can't be used as conclusive arguments in the debate. If they do have answers, then those answers become evidence with which to build a case.

(R) Despite definitions biologists use for convenience, "What we call life" is out-of-bounds for science.
(MB) Not at all. "Life" is a specific thing. "Life is special" is a philosophy. Science can define "life", but it can't define "special".

(R) We must rely on metaphysical/theological beliefs. If one has none, the answer to your questions are irrelevant.
(MB) If the answers are out-of-bounds for science, then no justifiable case can be built to support the anti-abortion argument. If we must rely on metaphysics and theology, then the question becomes one of which version of metaphysics and/or theology should we use? The answer to that question will become the focus of an entirely new debate.

(R) If one doesn't assert, through some belief, the value of life (I prefer through the existence of the soul), then you are at a solipsistic dead end. No argument against murder, let alone abortion, can hope to succeed. Not much explanatory power in that.
(MB) On the contrary, it would clinch the pro-choice case that only the woman has the right to choose what she will do. There would be no valid argument to support any other opinion. If one bases his case on the existence of the soul, once again he will have to support which theology's version of "soul" he wants to advance.

(R) So, really the only valid question is: When does it become life? Most wise, learned and even scientific people believe(d) in God and the soul (I risk not giving two references here :>)
(MB) At one time, that was true. That is not the case today. In all studies, there is an inverse correllation between the level of a population's education (especially scientific literacy) and the level of its belief in God. Even the most spin-doctored numbers don't claim that more than 40% of scientifically-literate people are believers.

(R) These are not testable, falsifyable (scientific) ideas. Yet, they are not irrational. And based on these beliefs, we outlaw murder.
(MB) Belief in God and/or souls is not a necessary component in any legal or societal system which outlaws murder. There are no examples of non-theistic societies or belief systems which condone murder.

(R) An assertion: "At conception" based on theology is valid, to put it meekly (and very compelling for anyone seeing modern photography of an embryo/fetus, understanding the shrinkage of minimum gestation and other considerations). The conception (pro-life) argument should not be made scientifically, nor should the pro-abortion argument. Theological or metaphysical beliefs are valid here and ultimately the only things that matter.
(MB) That's not true even if one accepts the underlying propositions of metaphysics or theology. Even those beliefs treat their ideas as being factual. If they didn't, what force could they possibly have?

(R) And as far as the right-to-privacy, does one guilty of man-slaughter have this right? Now there's some stercus tauri.
(MB) Agreed. Our legal system strips a person of that right since he has improperly stripped another living person of *his* privacy. Rights under the law are only given to those who obey those laws.

(R) Well that's enough for me. May your nose be keen, your eyes alert, and your feet nimble in the cow pasture of life.
(MB) If one walks through the cow pasture of life with his head bowed in humility, he will be better able to see and avoid the stercus tauri. If one walks with his nose upturned, he will most likely step in it.

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