What If Arguments For Abortion Were Applied to Infants?

7 Arguments for Infanticide. Taken to its logical conclusion, pro-abortion easily becomes pro-infanticide.

After all, what’s the difference between this:

And this:

Answer: there isn’t one. If you disagree please leave a comment explaining what makes these two infants so integrally different – while I’m confident in my pro-life beliefs I’m always open to the possibility that maybe I’ve missed something.

However, it seems obvious to me that, whether you compare the two from a scientific or a philosophical perspective, both infants have the same fundamental qualities and therefore both are human beings with inalienable rights, including a right to life, that must be protected under the law. Whether its in the womb or outside of it we must defend life and the weak wherever they are threatened.

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18 thoughts on “What If Arguments For Abortion Were Applied to Infants?

  1. Pingback: 3 1/2 Time-Outs Tuesday (Vol. 3) « Democrazy

  2. Pingback: Oklahoma Senate Recognizes Conception as Moment Life Begins « Democrazy

  3. I think it is pretty easy.

    The first image (A) doesn’t respirate. For many centuries the mirror test — hold glass in front of a person’s nose if it doesn’t cloud they are dead — was the definition of death. The move towards a more advanced cardiopulmonary definition and later the “whole brain” definition (which I think is what you are using) came after during the last 2 centuries when both contraception and abortion became more common.

    If you want to use the brain definition at birth only the only the lower portions of the nervous system (the spinal cord and brain stem) are very well developed, whereas the higher regions (the limbic system and cerebral cortex) are still rather primitive. Most of the behaviors, like locating faces are actually using animalistic mechanism in the brain stem which will be disabled later. In other words, if you want to use the whole brain definition both are fully alive and if you use higher brain then neither is meaningfully alive.

    • Your comment betrays a crude understanding of human anatomy and physiology. To address your first objection, the mirror to a person’s nose of course is an outdated tool meant to assess breathing which is necessary for continued metabolic functioning. Even the unborn child at its earliest stage in development (the zygote) possesses metabolic capacities, feeding off its own energy stores until it can implant – at which point it relies on its mother for the provision of energy (not so different from our own dependence on the grocery in order to fuel our own metabolisms). As far as the whole cardiopulmonary definition goes, the fetus has its own fully functional cardiovascular system and beating heart at a mere 3 weeks of age, sharing the pulmonary system of the mother for the provision of oxygen.

      As for brain death (which did not have a legal precedence until Finland, 1971 and would not be used in the United States until later – not 2 centuries as you assert). What matters here (and this applies to the cardiopulmonary definition as well) is potentiality. Both brain death and cardiopulmonary death are assessment tools meant to determine when life ends and not when it begins. Otherwise, the underdeveloped brain of the preterm newborn would be just as “dead” as the 27 week old fetus. However, both possess the potential, as well as rapid growth and development, to become just as functional as you or I. A similar case could be made of a sleeping person, or one in a medically-induced coma; they cannot engage in higher levels of thinking while in deep levels of sleep or comatose but they are obviously not dead because both possess the very real potential for full human interaction upon awakening. The developing embryo is just as sure to achieve and implement those higher cognitive functions as is the sleeping person.

      Don’t be so quick to write off another person’s life as without meaning. Instead, try to take a more holistic approach when dealing with human beings. They’re far more complex than we can even comprehend and you will inevitably lose the forest for the trees otherwise.

  4. I didn’t argue that the zygote didn’t engage in metabolic activity I argued it didn’t breathe. Traditionally breath was associated with life, and in fact was the definition of life. Your definition which says that breath was a way of detecting life is later…. and that’s what I was saying was 2 centuries old.

    Every sperm egg combination has the potential for rapid growth and development. Potential development isn’t the question the question is actualized development. You were obviously making an reductio ad absurdum with your 27 week point, but if that is when there is no higher brain function at all, I can see someone saying that thing simply isn’t remotely human.

    Someone sleeping from what I understand is engaging in higher brain function. I’d agree that a person in a persistent permanent coma is dead.

    • unless someone has experienced whole-brain death it is impossible to diagnose their coma as permanent or declare them dead with 100% certainty. Higher-brain death has lead to an alarming number of misdiagnoses and is largely unethical and unfounded in its application. Therefore, it should neither be applied to adults, children nor the unborn in its current state. Secondly, the zygote does not have potential development, it is rapidly developing in real-time and will continue to develop up to the moment of birth and beyond – if that’s not actualized development then I don’t know what is. As long as death is defined as a permanent state neither the zygote nor the comatose patient can be defined as dead as long as real potentiality exists.

      • I think there are 3 separate arguments here.

        1) What does it mean to be dead or alive
        2) What is the proper means of determining death
        3) Why is development important.

        I would say that higher brain function is what it means to be a living human. So someone growing higher brain function is not yet, but becoming human. On the other hand, that’s a personal definition. There is also a traditional definition having to do breath. Which was the response to the original post. One is breathing one is not.

        Looking quickly at the information it appears that coma for 4 months sets the possibility of full recovery at close to 0. Ultimately it comes down to a best guess with coma, that’s not 100% certainty but many important choices are not made at 100% certainty.

        As far as development, the point is a developing intelligence is not an intelligence. The intelligence definition of course doesn’t differentiate between the almost born and the born, and thus doesn’t address your original point. The breath definition does. The intelligence one is my actual opinion on the matter but is irrelevant to the original question.

        So if you want my actual opinion I see human life as being a sliding scale with increasing levels of rights as we move from fertilized egg to implantation to months of development to birth to toddler where in the case of a healthy toddler full rights on present. And conversely on the other end at old age I like the idea of going out on my own terms, I strongly support hospice.

      • So to backtrack to the original post, you’d be okay with infanticide – seeing as there is no difference between a newborn and a 9-month old fetus regarding intelligence, which you cede is your actual opinion on what matters?

        Regardless, I’d like to stray away from personal preferences since that’s subjective and we plainly disagree. Instead, lets focus on scientific consensus – which I alluded to in my first response but should have focused primarily on since it provides a more fundamental premise.

        As I’ve already stated, whole-brain death, higher-brain death, and cardiopulmonary death are all assessment tools meant to define when life ends. Therefore, it is a grossly inappropriate tool for determining when life begins. Anyone involved in scientific research would tell you that using an assessment tool for something other than what it was designed for compromises the integrity of the entire study and invalidates the data. Same goes for the breath test.

        Likewise, using the biological definition of life based on the following criteria: ability to undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations is also inappropriate because this definition is meant to determine the vitality of a species and its classification within the biological kingdoms, not the individual organisms that make up the species. (For example, a naturally sterile adult human being would be considered not alive according to this definition)

        Instead, the scientific understanding of life as it relates to an individual organism and its place in its species is determined by two primary factors: first, it must be distinguishable as a separate entity from other members of the species and secondly it must engage in growth (as opposed to entropy). Also, membership in a species is determined by DNA, meaning a zygote is not only fully alive, but fully human as well.

        This isn’t my personal belief or assertion of my religion – this is the scientific consensus. Engage in all the subjectivity of your preferences that you want but the science disagrees with you.

        Also, I apologize for taking so long to approve you comments and reply to them but I went to bed early last night and then worded a 12 hour shift today.

  5. What I would say here is that you are asking a non scientific question. You are asking either:

    a) What is the moral status of abortion at various stages of development
    b) What should be the legal status of abortion at various stages of development

    You are trying to argue that “alive” and “biologically distinct” are the meaningful separators. I could choose any other separators, like “over two feet tall” and “able to lift more than 10 lbs”. Science can make determinations of arbitrary criteria but it can’t answer questions of meaning.

    As for the scientific consensus, I’m not sure the scientific consensus is so clear. Many scientific notions are defined at birth, like life expectancy. Organism definitions frequently require a separation of contiguity. So I wouldn’t say there is that clear a consensus.

    I don’t think science in and of itself is that meaningful when it comes to questions of values. Science is amoral.

    • Do you believe in the soul, and if so then at what time does a human being get a soul? Is it at the moment of creation when you first have your own set of DNA and are distinguishable from any other member of the species? Or is it dependent on some arbitrary factor? (intelligence, breathing, being over two feet tall) Science may be amoral but it is integral to answering questions like these.

      Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth- in a word, to know himself- so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”
      ― John Paul II, Fides Et Ratio: On the Relationship Between Faith and Reason: Encyclical Letter of John Paul II

      • I don’t personally believe in a soul. I don’t see how science can answer a question about when a non-materially detectable event occurs.

        However I think traditional Catholic doctrine of ensoulment is similar enough that I can discuss this as if. That is I’ll stand with liberal Catholics in their argument that the human life begins at conception is essentially the church embracing the heresy of traducianism (the belief souls are created via. fertilization), rather than the traditional Catholic position that the soul is created by God and exists apart from the body. To quote Aquinas, “I answer that, It is impossible for an active power existing in matter to extend its action to the production of an immaterial effect. Now it is manifest that the intellectual principle in man transcends matter; for it has an operation in which the body takes no part whatever. It is therefore impossible for the seminal power to produce the intellectual principle.” To me I think the classical argument makes sens, to assert that ensoulment occurs at fertilization is to deny that identical twins have unique souls.

        I think Aquinas position that ensoulment occurs in 3 stages: vegetable soul, animal soul and the intellectual soul is consistent with what we observe scientifically and is more consistent with the bible and theology. For an intellectual soul to exist there must be a brain capable of thought. For an animal soul to exist their must be a brain capable of instinct. Under that earlier definition what we call ensoulment would be transformation from the animal to the intellectual soul.

        Taking a more scientific view we can tie the animal ensoulment to the start of the the cerebellum (approx 20 weeks). Proliferation which corresponds to Aquinas 2-4 month is when massive amounts of brain tissue is being created.

        In terms of something distinct for intellectual soul, you could pick the end of migration. When nervous system cells no longer move and are now typed, so that static structures exist which is about 8 mo into gestation. That gets it before birth and is something meaningful and substantial.

      • 1. The Catholic Church does not believe that the soul is created by fertilization but nice try.
        2. Aquinas’ position of ensoulment is in no way rooted in scientific fact. The science did not become available until centuries after his time. Science, however, does tell us that a unique, distinguishable member of the human species exists beginning at conception. To base ensoulment on a brain capable of thought is both scientifically and theologically unsound. Does the soul of the comatose patient cease to exist? If a soul cannot exist before thought how can it exist after? As you said yourself, the Catholic position is that the soul is created by God and exists apart from the body. Yet, you claim that the soul is dependent on the physical brain allowing for physical, electrical neural pathways resulting in thought. So which is it? Are they separate or does a soul need a body to exist?

        Of course, you don’t believe in a soul so I don’t expect a sincere answer. You are merely picking and choosing which talking points support your view. (Otherwise, why would you consider any discussion of the soul [which you don’t believe in] relevant enough to defend, anyway?)

  6. Aquinas’ position of ensoulment is in no way rooted in scientific fact. The science did not become available until centuries after his time.

    There is no science that tells us anything about a soul. That is not a scientific question.

    Science, however, does tell us that a unique, distinguishable member of the human species exists beginning at conception.

    It depends how you define “member of a species”. But even if I were to grant that, that has absolutely nothing to do with ensoulment.

    To base ensoulment on a brain capable of thought is both scientifically and theologically unsound. Does the soul of the comatose patient cease to exist? If a soul cannot exist before thought how can it exist after?

    I think you are confusing what is happening in the material world and what is happening in the spiritual world, with a theory of ensoulment. Time is a property of matter souls are non material.

    From a material perspective:
    body reaches a point capable of holding an intellectual soul
    intellectual soul enters
    body ceases to be able to hold an intellectual soul (generally death)
    soul leaves

    from a spiritual perspective:
    soul is eternal without beginning
    soul enters body
    soul separates from the body at death
    soul reunites with body in resurrection

    You can’t talk about before with regard to the soul.

    As you said yourself, the Catholic position is that the soul is created by God and exists apart from the body. Yet, you claim that the soul is dependent on the physical brain allowing for physical, electrical neural pathways resulting in thought. So which is it? Are they separate or does a soul need a body to exist?

    The soul doesn’t need the body to exist. The soul needs the body for ensoulment, without the body the soul exists but doesn’t do anything. The body provides the mechanism for the spiritual / material interaction.

    • So whether ensoulment occurs is based on the scientific criteria of intellectual thought as evidence by brain development but science tells us nothing about the soul? So which is it?

      You don’t believe the soul exists yet you’re still trying to argue its nature, the nature/timing of ensoulment etc. – of something you don’t even believe is real. We might as well be arguing how Santa Claus visits 7 billion people in one night considering your total lack of credence. There’s a phrase in the English language for employing data you believe to be false simply so as to win an argument – its called intellectual dishonesty.

  7. I’m not being intellectually dishonest I’m being a subtle on multiple threads.

    1) You had originally asserted there were no criteria between the almost born and the born. I mentioned the breathe criteria which was associated with life including in key Christian doctrine like Gen 1:30. That was the argument. You wanted to move beyond that to a discussion about abortion rather than a discussion about the belief that breathe and life were integrated. Which of course brings in other things.

    2) You had then made an argument for a scientific criteria which I’ve been willing to challenge you on. You had argued that science supports your argument regarding souls, while I asserted that science could not possibly offer any information about what is essentially magick.

    3) I happen to agree that Aquinas position is the traditional Catholic position and the new position is the heresy of traducianism. In other words I’m arguing a historical position about what were the beliefs of the church, I’m not saying those beliefs are correct or not.

    I’m not being dishonest and using data I don’t believe. There are multiple thesis here. I can have have historical opinions about the development of Christian theology without believing that the God of Christian theology exists. In the same way I have historical opinions about the historical development of the continuous theory of matter, while still believing that actual matter is atomic not continuous.

    I’m meeting you 1/2 way in arguing Christian theology. If you want to have a more serious conversation with no Santa Claus, no souls, no God, no divine mandates and make a case that out society should endure the enormous harms of unwanted children over abortion from a utilitarian ethic, that’s fine. But it is not the argument I was aiming for on a Catholic blog. I’d have that discussion with a pro-life atheist.

    • 1. I argued that there is no fundamental difference. If you must resort to medieval discredited science that’s hardly evidence. I on the other hand would prefer something a little more up-to-date.

      2. Maybe I was unclear but my argument is not that science determines the nature of a soul. Theology dictates that a human being is comprised of a soul and body. Therefore, the question becomes when does a new being exist? Science can inform us by telling us when a new physical entity comes into being and we now know that that occurs at conception.

      3. First, Aquinas’ argument was based on a physical reality he knew little about. We are now far better informed. Second, Aquinas’ esteemed position in the church does mean that his views necessarily constitute traditional Catholicism. Third, as I’ve already stated, stating that ensoulment occurs at conception and stating that the soul is created by fertilization are two completely different viewpoints. I’ve already made it clear that I, and the Catholic church, adhere to the first statement.

      I wasn’t approaching this argument from the point of view of historical development of Christian theology – you initiated that. You’re not meeting me half way, you’re patronizing me. Even if I “win” this argument you can just simply say you don’t believe in any of this anyway so what’s it matter? So, why are you engaging in a conversation in which you have so little to gain? Instead, it would seem wiser for you to test your true beliefs in this discussion and actually get something meaningful out of it – maybe actually learn something about reality instead of watching two supposed fantasies collide?

      • 2) Science doesn’t indicate when a new physical entity comes into being. If anything science would argue that nothing like that ever happens. That is entirely your definition based on importance you are granting to a new genetic combination being created. What science does is lists a series of transitions that occur over time. You seem to put importance on a genetic combination that occurs in a particular cell, while not attaching importance to first heart beat or learning to walk. Those aren’t scientific positions, those are philosophical.

        For example the same science you talk about would also say that the vast majority of these genetically distinct human beings will in fact never be born most dying within a few days, their material collection in a menstrual tissue and flushed down the toilet, due to implementation failures or implementation rejection. Thus turning most women’s uterus’ into slaughter houses.

        What science would indicate by looking at that behavior is that the human species seems to attach no importance at all to the creation of genetically distinct human beings. It is one of the later processes they seem to attach importance to. For example uterine kicking is a matter of social celebration and something that their mother’s and those around them attribute a great deal of importance to.

        And even moreso with birth. Which gets back to your original theme. If we are going to use a scientific definition then science would observe what the culture considers important and draw information from the culture.

        3) Aquinas position is based on a rejection of your theory that genetics determines humanity. He attributes humanity to the ability to engage in reason. As far as I can tell for Aquinas a severely brain damaged genetic human would have an animal soul but not a human soul. There is nothing that has happened in the last 1000 years to scientifically prove or disprove his theory.

        Over the last thousand years we have a much better understanding of what happens biologically and that biological understanding has essentially confirmed Aquinas’ view the movement from vegetable (by which he means alive with no thought capacity) to animal (alive and capable of stimulus response, instinct… but not capable of higher brain function) to human (capable of higher brain function). We now know how to locate these higher brain functions in the cerebellum and we know how the cerebellum develops. That’s progress, but your focus on genetics over thought isn’t a product of scientific progress. Rather it is a product of you simply fundamentally rejecting the whole idea that what makes humans different from animals and thus entitled to special protection is thought, you seem to attribute this protection to genes. Which while granting full human rights to fertilized eggs would also seem to me to grant full human rights to dead bodies. So I don’t see that genetic criteria as being particularly useful.

        Now if we were to treat Aquinas respectfully the big turning points are:
        20 weeks (fetus) — cerebellum starts developing
        3 years (after birth) — cerebellum reaches adult sized and connection reductions start to occur.

        Which actually I think is rather defensible even scientifically. At 20 weeks some level of protection should exist and by 3 years full protection should be in place. That comports well with our actual culture that treats a period a few days late as being of no moral importance, a late miscarriage different than an infant dying in the hospital in the days right after birth and both of those very different from a toddler being run over by a car.

        Your position about the comatose would also fit this paradigm. A person permanently comatose is reduced again to the vegetative soul, and in a sense is dead.

        And then frankly the only difference between my opinion and Aquinas’ would be a little discomfort on my part of using the term “soul” to describe activities of the brain. He wants to attribute things like reason to God, while I wouldn’t do that. But that comes down to a question of me rejecting his theory of creation than me rejecting his theory of ensoulment.

      • You keep making appeals to the objectivity of science but then use that appeal to cite subjective authorities like culture. Also, you claim that thought separates man from animal but genetics do not – a claim completely unfounded in science. Take the DNA of a human – even a zygote – to a lab and compare it the DNA of any other living thing and the geneticist will be able to tell you immediately which one is human.

        The scientific term for “fertilized eggs” is zygote and its fundamental property that distinguishes it from a dead body is its potentiality. Barring disease and misfortunate it will develop every capacity that you or I possess. Again, the same can be said of many higher-brain dead patients who, upon examination, have no higher-brain functioning whatsoever. However, many of these same people (it varies case by case) have potential for recovery and regaining their “human” qualities. Therefore, they should indeed be afforded full protection under the law if their prognosis reflects any chance of recovery. Even medically “dead” people possess some potential for a short amount of time – that’s why we always attempt resuscitation unless specified otherwise by the patient’s express wishes. Note that even when this potential ceases to exist dead bodies still have some protection under the law (desecrating a dead body is a crime, for example) reflecting the recognition of the human being as sacred and inherently valuable by society (few actually share your utilitarian views concerning human life so your appeal to culture is pretty farfetched). If we protect dead bodies because they were once living human beings – even though they never will be again – why should we not protect the unborn who are recognized as alive, as human, and as having full potential to develop every human capacity on their own, dependent only on a conducive environment to meet their needs?

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