Home » Intelligent Design » Newborn babies: not persons, and not fully human – P. Z. Myers

Newborn babies: not persons, and not fully human – P. Z. Myers

Please respond by 12:01 a.m. on Friday, 21 January 2011 (GMT)

P. Z. Myers is one of the 25 most influential living atheists. He is also on record as saying that he doesn’t believe that newborn babies are fully human, and he makes it clear that he doesn’t regard them as persons, either. Almost no-one noticed when P. Z. Myers made these utterances, because they were made in a comment on one of his recent posts. (See here for P.Z. Myers’ post, here for one reader’s comment and here for P. Z. Myers’ reply, in which he makes his own views plain.) So, what exactly did P. Z. say? In response to a reader who claimed that there is one very easily defined line between personhood and non-personhood – namely, birth – P. Z. Myers replied:

Nope, birth is also arbitrary, and it has not been even a cultural universal that newborns are regarded as fully human.

I’ve had a few. They weren’t.

Let me state at the outset that I have no doubt that P. Z. Myers is a good father; but that is not the issue here. His views on newborn babies are the issue.

For the benefit of readers, here is a list of the 25 most influential living atheists:

Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Michael Shermer, Peter Singer, Steven Weinberg, Paul Kurtz, Lawrence Krauss, Edward O. Wilson, P. Z. Myers, James Randi, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Peter Atkins, John Brockman, Philip Pullman, Barbara Forrest, David Sloan Wilson, Ray Kurzweil, William B. (“Will”) Provine, Kai Nielsen, Susan Blackmore and Richard Carrier.

The purpose of my post today is to ask each of the 25 most influential living atheists five simple questions:

(a) Do you believe that a newborn baby is fully human? Yes/No (please see Question 1 below if you find it difficult to give a clear answer to this question).

(b) Do you believe that a newborn baby is a person? Yes/No (please see Questions 1 and 2 below if you find it difficult to give a clear answer to this question).

(c) Do you believe that a newborn baby has a right to life? Yes/No (please see Questions 1 and 3 below if you find it difficult to give a clear answer to this question).

(d) Do you believe that every human person has a duty towards newborn babies, to refrain from killing them? Yes/No (please see Questions 1, 4, 5 and 6 below if you find it difficult to give a clear answer to this question).

(e) Do you believe that killing a newborn baby is just as wrong as killing an adult? Yes/No (please see Questions 1 and 7 below if you find it difficult to give a clear answer to this question).

I’m asking these questions, because I think the world has a right to know how the 25 most influential living atheists view newborn babies. The moral status of newborn babies is an ethical issue of vital importance, and I’d like to know what the world’s leading atheists think about this subject. Because I’m a generous person, I’m giving them four days to answer my five simple questions. The countdown ends at 12:01 a.m. (one minute past midnight) on Friday, 21 January, 2011, Greenwich Mean Time (UTC). I think that’s quite enough time for the word to get around, and for people to respond.

And in case some of these atheists object that they’re too busy to respond, let me state that I will happily accept, in good faith, responses written on their behalf by friends, acquaintances, personal assistants or people who have read their books and can quote relevant passages, complete with publication details and page numbers. If someone responding on behalf of an influential atheist wishes to preserve his/her anonymity, he/she is free to use a pseudonym. Please note, however, that I will not be imputing views to influential atheists on the basis of anonymous responses. That would be irresponsible.

To respond to my five questions, all you need to do is write a brief comment at the end of this post – for example:
(a) Yes. (b) No. (c) No. (d) No. (e) No.
Note: If you are replying on behalf of an influential atheist, please list his/her name, your name (if you are willing to give it) and your connection with the atheist in question.

Here are my answers to some questions which I anticipate that people will ask about my quiz:

Question 1. How do you define “fully human,” “person,” “right to life” and “wrong”? I don’t. We’re all grown-ups here. I’m quite happy to let you use your own definitions.

Question 2. What if I believe that a newborn baby is neither clearly a person nor clearly a non-person, but somewhere in between? In that case, please answer “Gray” to question (b) above.

Question 3. What if I believe that talk of “rights” is meaningless nonsense, for babies and adults alike? In that case, please answer “No, and I don’t believe adults do either” to question (c) above.

Question 4. What if I believe that our duties towards babies and adults alike are defined by the society we happen to live in? In that case, please answer “No” to question (d) above. Obviously if you believe that, then you believe that people living in a society which tolerates infanticide don’t have a duty towards newborn babies, to refrain from killing them.

Question 5. What if I believe that we have a duty to refrain from killing newborn babies, not because we have a duty towards the babies as such, but because it would cause great anguish to their parents if they were killed? In that case, please answer “No” to question (d) above. I’m asking you whether you believe we have a duty towards the babies, to refrain from killing them. I’m not asking about duties towards their parents.

Question 6. What if I believe that we normally have a duty towards newborn babies, to refrain from killing them, but that it may be OK in exceptional circumstances – e.g. if the baby is suffering excruciating pain, or is very severely deformed? In that case, please answer “Yes (qualified)” to question (d) above.

Question 7. What if I believe that killing a newborn baby is a terrible, terrible thing, but that killing an adult is even worse? In that case, please answer “No” to question (e) above.

Question 8. Don’t you know that there is very little myelin in a newborn baby’s brain? Don’t you know that a newborn baby lacks an autobiographical memory, a concept of self and a theory of mind? Sure I do. You’re not telling me anything new; I didn’t come down in the last shower. All I want is an answer to the five questions I listed above, from the 25 most influential living atheists.

Question 9. What is the relevance of all this to Intelligent Design? Simple. Many of these influential atheists are on the record as saying that we can go on behaving ethically, even if there is no Designer of life and the cosmos. Fine. Here’s a splendid test case: the moral status of newborn babies, and our obligations towards them. I’d like to see how they answer my questionnaire, and I can assure these atheists that a lot of people will be watching.

Question 10. What if I refuse to answer your questionnaire? Fine. If you do not respond, and if no-one responds on your behalf, I shall assume by default that your responses are: (a) Yes. (b) No. (c) No. (d) No. (e) No. Why? Because that’s about the most consistent set of responses that I can conceive of an atheist making, if he/she were also a materialist. Please note that I said “assume.” I did not say that I would impute those views to influential atheists who choose not to respond. There’s a very big difference.

Question 11. Are you seriously suggesting that a newborn baby has the same rights as an adult? What about the right to drive or vote? Reply: in this questionnaire, you are being asked about one right only: the right to life. The question I’m asking is: do you believe that a newborn human baby has a right to life or not? It is perfectly obvious that newborn babies don’t have the right to drive, which isn’t a natural human right in any case.

Question 12. Are you implying that people who don’t believe newborn babies are persons support infanticide? No. Let me be quite clear about that. I simply want to know what the world’s most influential atheists think about the moral status of newborn babies.

Finally, let me remind readers that this post is about newborn babies. It is not about the morality of abortion, or about the moral status of an embryo or fetus. I would like to ask readers to keep their comments to the point.

UPDATE: THREE of the 25 most influential living atheists (Professor Peter Atkins, Dr. Richard Carrier and Dr. Michael Shermer) have already responded to my quiz (see comments 27, 29 and 33 below, respectively). I would like to thank them all for their prompt and courteous responses. ONE atheist (James Randi) has refused to respond (see comment 28 below). At least he answered my email, so I’ll give him credit for that.

I have also added the responses that I believe Professor Peter Singer and Professor Steven Pinker would give, on the basis of their published writings, from which I quote (see comments 64 and 65 below).

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86 Responses to Newborn babies: not persons, and not fully human – P. Z. Myers

  1. I submit the same questions ought to be put to PZ’s children. They have standing not as atheists but as:

    1) the object of PZ’s assertion that their specific births were arbitrary and they specifically weren’t fully human, and also because
    2) PZ opened the door to this line of questioning when he specifically cited them as evidence of his assertions.

  2. (a) Yes, unless you are talking about PZ Myers, then I would make an exception :cool:

    (b) Yes, unless you are talking about PZ Myers, then I would make an exception :cool:

    (c) Yes, unless you are talking about PZ Myers, then I would make an exception :cool:

    (d) No, some humans are not capable and cannot refrain. But the others have a duty to protect newborns from them.

    (e) Yes, although I would say it isn’t always wrong to kill an adult

  3. You think PZ Myers just has a strange view of babies?

    With emphasis added.

    Extract a fertilized egg and set it in a beaker by your nightstand, and wait for a baby to crawl out. Won’t happen. A uterus and attendant physiological and behavioral meat construct, i.e., woman, is also an amazing piece of biotechnology that is a necessary component of the developmental process.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyn.....fies_w.php

    He’s a sweet-talker, that one.

  4. a.yes
    b.yes
    c.yes
    d.yes
    e.yes

    Of related interest

    What is a Human Embryo? (Is It Human?) – Michael Egnor
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....42411.html

    NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau on Abortion and Murder – Michael Egnor
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....42101.html

    Isaiah 49:15-16
    Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

    Lamentations 2:11
    My eyes fail because of tears, My spirit is greatly troubled; My heart is poured out on the earth Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, When little ones and infants faint In the streets of the city.

  5. null,

    Hahahaha!

    To paraphase the late, great Fred G. Sanford, Pee Zee makes me wish birth control was retroactive.

  6. This video gets to the point fairly dramatically:

    Born Alive – Abortion Survivor Gianna Jessen
    http://www.faithandfacts.com/a.....na-jessen/

  7. I don’t get it. Where is the link between what PZ is claiming – which seems to relate to definitions of fully formed human and ideas of what constituted personhood – and the idea that it is OK to kill or harm babies?

    I agree that the moral status of babies is a vital issue but I don’t see why that hinges on them being included in a definition of personhood or fully human.

    I guess I could put my question this way, why can’t we believe that babies are sacred if we don’t also include them in the definition of fully human person?

    Why can’t we just have a demabe about that? I’m sorry but it just struck me as a rather uncharitable approach given rescent comments that included quotes like this:

    “As a consequence, critics of intelligent design engage in all forms of character assassination, ad hominem attacks, guilt by association, and demonization.”

    The whole linking comments about pershonhood to killing babies is distasteful and the kind of thing we should avoid (lest we become more like our critics) – unless the person making those comments has made the link explicit themself.

  8. vj

    Do you think any of those 25 read UD? Or have you posted the questions somewhere else?

  9. I never wanted or had children. So can not judge anyone else’s decisions.

  10. markf at 7, I’m always surprised who reads what. Maybe you can suggest an additional place to post q’s of interest.

    critter at 8, I take it you were never a child yourself? I’ve always thought that child needs are something any about which any adult human can speak (whether wisely or otherwise).

    We’ve all been there.

  11. So babies are not human and women are meat factories.

    The vulgarity and inanity of this man has no bounds!

    I always greet his comments with a smile because I know that there is an underlying stupidity in them waiting to make me laugh.

  12. To vjt: You have (deliberately?) focused exclusively on the newborn, complete with a cute, emotive picture. Your questions are motherhood stuff, no-one (heathens or otherwise) are suggesting newborn babies should be carelessly put to death. Of course they have rights (to protection etc), but even then they dont have the rights of an adult: would you allow a 5 yo to drive a car? vote? sign a contract?. We all acquire more rights as we mature.

    The issue is the slow acquisition of status before birth. Are you suggesting a zygote has the same rights as a newborn ? Nature (god?) is apparantly exceedingly careless with humans at this stage.

  13. F/N: If I may quietly comment:

    1 –> From conception, a baby is of the species Homo sapiens, and is plainly a distinct individual from its mother. Indeed, half the time, it is not even of the same sex as its mother.

    2 –> So, a newly born baby is a human, and it is a being, as in: a human being.

    3 –> Now, personhood is actually in its most relevant sense, a legal concept, as in a corporation is a legal person. A baby, at birth can inherit, and has been recognised as a legal person, at least in sane jurisdictions.

    4 –> When living human beings are denied the status of being persons, they are being in effect outlawed — again, in the strict legal sense — so that they may be preyed upon or killed at will.

    5 –> Sorry to have to say so, but that was the first step to what was done to Jews under Herr Schcklegruber’s infamous regime.

    6 –> We see here, precisely the sort of indefensible, prey upon the weak amorality that naturally flows from ideological evolutionary materialism, and which I remarked on here, from point 22 on, citing Plato’s analysis and warning from 2,300 years ago, in 360 BC.

    ___________________

    Sad to say, what we just saw from PZM, is the outworking of the corrosive nihilistic amorality that is inherent to evolutionary materialism. Hopefully, sufficient of us still have enough moral sensitivity to see the absurdity and the danger if this agenda is allowed to triumph in our civilisation.

    VJT, this is an important service, and I would like to see the responses and rationales of those 25 leading atheists.

    GEM of TKI

  14. Well, one thing you have to give PZ credit for: he’s willing to follow his premise to the bitter, horrible end. So many atheistic materialists refuse to actually say what their philosophy necessarily dictates.

  15. The last line from this article from the New York Times is interesting, especially coming from the NYT:

    ‘This is the paradox of America’s unborn. No life is so desperately sought after, so hungrily desired, so carefully nurtured. And yet no life is so legally unprotected, and so frequently destroyed.’

    The Unborn Paradox
    By ROSS DOUTHAT
    Published: January 2, 2011
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01.....emc=tha212

  16. Meleager:

    Greetings!

    I saw your efforts in some phil forum threads recently, and would like to communicate with you.

    Do, please use the link through my handle LH column, and the contact link.

    GEM of TKI

  17. Pardon: Meleagar

  18. @10

    I don’t believe he said babies weren’t human. He said they weren’t persons. Who knows what that really means. I would say babies are persons but it is obviously a very subjectively understood and poorly defined word.

    Are we upset about the newborn babies in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been killed by US forces? Is that what this is about?

  19. Denyse #10

    markf at 7, I’m always surprised who reads what. Maybe you can suggest an additional place to post q’s of interest.

    To ensure that all these people read the challenge? Very tricky – I would think the only way would be to mail them individually. Even then who is going to take time out to answer such a challenge from someone they have never heard of?

    There might be the odd person who could answer on behalf of one or two of them – but they have mostly been banned from UD!

  20. As a completely unknown atheist I have posted my answers here. This at least means that the large number of atheists who are banned from UD can post their response if they wish to.

  21. 21

    Graham #12
    Driving a car, voting, and entering into contracts are privileges, not rights. We acquire more privileges as we mature, the number of rights we have is constant.

  22. Graham,

    PZ was the one who brought this up. VJ was just showing the rest of us, who don’t normally read his tripe, his spewage.

  23. Graham (#12)

    Thank you for your comments. You write:

    To vjt: You have (deliberately?) focused exclusively on the newborn, complete with a cute, emotive picture.

    Funny. I would not have described the picture as “cute.” “Realistic” would have been my word. In fact, one reason why I chose that picture was because of its depiction of the reality of birth. I didn’t want a smiling baby, and I didn’t want to tug at heart-strings; a crying baby, straight out of its mother’s womb, was what I wanted.

    You continue:

    Your questions are motherhood stuff, no-one (heathens or otherwise) are suggesting newborn babies should be carelessly put to death.

    1. Did I say they were suggesting that? Didn’t I make it quite clear that I regarded P. Z. Myers as a good father? Did I at any stage impute to him the view that infanticide was OK?

    2. By the way, why did you add the word “carelessly”? Methinks you do support infanticide in some cases. Which ones, Graham?

    You then add:

    Of course they have rights (to protection etc), but even then they don’t have the rights of an adult: would you allow a 5 yo to drive a car? vote? sign a contract?. We all acquire more rights as we mature.

    This is irrelevant to my point. I’m not arguing that a newborn baby has the right to vote or drive – and besides, those are not natural human rights. I’m only interested in one right: do newborn babies have the right to life? Yes or no? It’s a perfectly legitimate question, and I will ask it with bulldog-like tenacity until I get an answer.

    You conclude:

    The issue is the slow acquisition of status before birth. Are you suggesting a zygote has the same rights as a newborn ? Nature (god?) is apparently exceedingly careless with humans at this stage.

    This post is not about abortion, much as you’d like it to be. You talk about “Nature” or “god” – interesting that you spell God with a small “g” and His creation with a big “N”! – being careless. I suggest that you go back 200 years. In the 18th century, Buffon, the French naturalist, observed that “One third of the human race perishes before reaching the age of 28 months. Half the human race perishes before the age of eight years.” What does that tell you about infant mortality back in those days? Fetal mortality may be high now, but in 200 years’ time, it may not be.

  24. 24

    markf @20,

    Your hyperlink didn’t come through quite right (it’s only highlighted).

  25. #24 Housestreetroom

    Sorry – here is the link:

    http://mfinmoderation.wordpres.....challenge/

  26. Hi everyone,

    I took markf’s advice to heart and emailed the 25 most influential living atheists directly – well, most of them anyway. I couldn’t figure out how to get through to Sam Harris in Facebook, and I’m not sure if my message reached Paul Kurtz or not. My email to David Sloan Wilson got a failure notice – something wrong with the address. I couldn’t find an email for Kai Nielsen, so I forwarded a request to a colleague of his. I’d be very grateful if someone could get in touch with these individuals.

    As for P. Z. Myers, I’m sure someone has told him about this post by now, and in any case, his own views are clear enough.

    I’ve also extended the deadline by one day.

    And, so far, I’ve had one reply! Stay tuned…

  27. Here’s my first reply, from Professor Peter Atkins. (Let me add that I very much enjoyed reading his chemistry textbooks in my university days.) I’d like to thank Professor Atkins for his prompt response. Here it is:

    (a) y
    (b) y
    (c) y (qualified)
    (d) y (q)
    (e) y (q)

    qualified, indicates a modification if the baby is irrevocably damaged in some way

    PWA

    ******************************

    Professor Peter Atkins

    Lincoln College, University of Oxford

    Oxford OX1 3DR

  28. Response from James Randi:

    I will not respond to such a heavily biased set of questions, and I could not do so without providing extensive explanations for my answers. The “quiz” is short, but the answers would be far too involved and lengthy.

    James Randi.

  29. Response from Dr. Richard Carrier (unedited):

    On Jan 17, 2011, at 8:46 AM, Vincent Torley wrote:

    > Dear Dr. Carrier,
    >
    > My name is Vincent Torley (Web page: http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/index.html) and I am inviting you, as one of the 25 most influential living atheists, to take part in a very short ethics quiz. Details may be found on this Web page:
    >
    > http://www.uncommondescent.com.....p-z-myers/
    >
    > I would be very grateful if you would respond to the quiz, either directly or indirectly. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to read this email.

    No problem. You may publish my replies, in whole (please do not edit anything out), and with attribution (and when you do, please send me the URL and I’ll blog a link to it):


    (a) Do you believe that a newborn baby is fully human? Answer: Yes.

    In my philosophy, language and how we use it is of paramount importance (Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 27-48). Hence here, as anywhere, the answer would depend on the linguistic context, i.e. what you contextually mean by “human.” If by “fully human” you mean “member of the species Homo sapiens sapiens with a full corresponding complement of chromosomal DNA” then the answer is obviously “yes.” But then you are limited only to the inferences you can draw from that definition. For instance, even a skill cell or a corpse is fully human by that definition, so if now you want to exclude corpses and dandruff, you have to alter the definition, perhaps by specifying “a living organism” instead of just “a member.”

    Thus it all depends on what you are talking about. I think the intent of your question is to identify where the line is drawn between “yes” and “no.” In what sense is a newborn baby not fully human? There is only one general sense I can think of: not developed to full and normal human potential. So if by “fully human” you just mean “fully developed human” then the answer to question (a) is obviously, and uncontroversially, “no.” Within that general sense is the more specific aspect of such development: mental development. And again babies are not fully developed in that sense, either, but that is relevant only if you limit “fully human” to mean only “fully developed human,” which seems to me an odd way to speak. Why not just say “fully developed human” and avoid the ambiguity?

    Since I abhor needless ambiguities, I would never say “babies are not fully human” because that sentence is too obscure to be understood. I would instead say “babies are not fully developed humans.” I thus in practice define “fully human” as “a living organism of the species Homo sapiens sapiens with a full corresponding complement of chromosomal DNA.” So by that definition my answer to question (a) is “Yes.”

    (b) Do you believe that a newborn baby is a person? Answer: Yes.

    I do not believe babies are fully developed persons. But I do believe they are persons. In fact, they become persons before birth, specifically at the formation and activation of their cerebral cortex (around the start of the third trimester, although the exact timing will differ in each case). I therefore oppose elective third trimester abortion as being identical to infanticide (see the Carrier-Roth Debate: http://www.infidels.org/librar.....t/abortion). But specifically in respect to defining a baby as a person, babies have all the attributes of personhood. They only possess them in lesser degree than older children, who in turn possess them in lesser degree than adults (Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 329-30). Therefore my answer to question (b) is “yes.”

    (c) Do you believe that a newborn baby has a right to life? Answer: Yes.

    In fact I believe even an unborn baby in the third trimester has a right to life (and this fact was even recognized by the Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, as anyone who actually reads that decision will learn). Rights are creations of human law, and thus only exist insofar as we choose to create and enforce them. But inalienable human rights consist of those rights necessary for persons to have the opportunity to pursue their own happiness, and are therefore inalienable insofar as you believe government should exist for the purpose of securing human happiness (Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 389-93). Babies (like all children) have debilitating limitations on their capacity to pursue their own happiness which places necessary limits on their rights (which is why we don’t give babies the right to vote or join the army or leave home and rent an apartment). But for all those limitations, not among them is any total inability to experience happiness, to think and learn, and to develop their existing personality. Therefore their liberty to experience happiness, to think and learn, and to develop their existing personality is an inalienable right. Unless, of course, you do not believe human happiness is the paramount aim of individuals and their societies, but then if you believe that, you aren’t a humanist. I am (Sense and Goodness without God, p. 293). Therefore my answer to question (c) is “yes.”

    (d) Do you believe that every human person has a duty towards newborn babies, to refrain from killing them? Answer: Yes.

    This is not always the case. If killing a baby is actually necessary to save the life of an adult, then we have exactly the opposite duty: to kill the baby. But assuming the question is intended for normal circumstances, then the answer to question (d) is “yes.” I am also assuming this question is intended with respect to moral duty and not legal duty. Obviously, as a matter of current law, we have a duty to refrain from the unnecessary killing babies, as otherwise we’d be tried as criminals. But I assume you mean to ask what the law should be (and not merely what it is), or how we should behave regardless of what laws are in place. I do not normally frame morality in terms of duties, however, but virtues. Those virtues then entail duties (Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 313-24, 331-35). But even though the motive for submitting to a duty not to kill is the desire to be the sort of person who would not so kill, because being that sort of person is quantitatively and qualitatively necessary to maximize your own personal opportunities for happiness, that just explains why the duty obtains. Therefore my answer to question (d) is still “yes.”

    (e) Do you believe that killing a newborn baby is just as wrong as killing an adult? Answer: No.

    All human beings (and in fact all things, living and nonliving) reside on a scale of worth. For example, a serial killer’s life is worth less than a virtuous doctor’s life, such that if we were compelled to choose to save only one of them, the choice obviously resolves in favor of the doctor and not the killer (Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 328-31). Just as different adults have different value, killing different adults does different degrees of harm. Which is why we feel more sympathy for a vigilante who kills a serial killer than for a serial killer who kills a vigilante. The one murder is rightly perceived as less wrong than the other, yet we still do regard both as wrong. Which is why we outlaw vigilanteism and jail vigilantes when we catch them, and why we normally don’t aid and abet them regardless of whatever laws. Accordingly, the value of a given baby (e.g. one that is soon to die anyway) may be less than a given adult (e.g. a doctor who will go on to save many more lives), and therefore less harm is done by killing the one than by killing the other. And thus although it’s still wrong in either case, it is less wrong in the one case than in the other. And in most cases this will be so: an adult of known potential and fully developed personhood will normally be of greater value than a baby, whose potential is wholly unknown and whose personhood is not fully developed. Therefore killing a baby will usually be less wrong than killing an adult. But still wrong. And sometimes the reverse will be the case, e.g. if faced with a choice to save a baby or a serial killer, killing the baby would in that case would be far more wrong. But that is not usually the case. And even when it isn’t the case, killing babies can still be wrong, regardless of whether it is less so than killing an adult. Therefore my answer to question (e) is “no.”


    Richard C. Carrier, Ph.D.
    http://www.richardcarrier.info

  30. Dr. Carriers response is certainly interesting.

    Just to play devils advocate a moment – his elucidation on the final question raises another interesting (and classic) philosophical dilema relating to choice and context – Anyone care to answer this question:

    If you faced an unavoidable choice between allowing a baby to die or allowing a worthy human to die (with failing to choose resulting in the death of both) which would you choose and why.

    For me, if the baby was mine I would (like any parent) choose the baby. Under other circumstances I might choose the human – but I couldn’t possibly know until I was forced to make the choice.

    What I do know is that I would find it hard to live with myself in either case.

  31. DrBot:

    Here’s my answer to the ethical dilemma you posed:

    If you faced an unavoidable choice between allowing a baby to die or allowing a worthy human to die (with failing to choose resulting in the death of both) which would you choose and why.

    I would allow the worthy human to die, unless he/she were a member of my family, in which case I’d put my family first. A baby has its whole life in front of it.

    When I was in Grade 7 (I think), in 1972, my English teacher posed a similar dilemma, relating to a sinking lifeboat. On the lifeboat there’s a five-year-old child and a very talented artist. Whom would you save? I was shocked when she suggested that it might be moral to save the artist, because he had a deeper appreciation of life. That kind of reasoning smelt bad to me, and it still does.

    Curiously, there’s one response that I haven’t received yet to question (e) in my short quiz, but it would have been a very common response forty years ago. Most people would have said back then that they believed that killing a baby is worse than killing an adult. How far we’ve fallen…

  32. If a six-week old male fetus is declared to be not fully human on the grounds that he is not a “fully developed human,” then a new-born baby, or, for that matter, a twelve-year-old boy who has not yet reached puberty must be placed in the same category. Obviously, if full development is the standard for full humanity, then all those who have not reached maturity are not fully human. Thus, such a standard cannot suffice as a meaningful or logical moral benchmark. A more meaningful definition of fully human would be simply anyone who is now part of the human family by virtue of having been conceived as human. One does not develop into a human being; one develops as a human being.

    The aforementioned point is not unrelated to the infamous life boat “dilemma,” which, to me, is little more than a utilitarian trick calculated to blur the distinction between a moral action and one which appears to serve the greatest number. Once the utilitarian forces his listener “to choose” who gets to live and who gets to die, he has also forced the listener to admit, tacitly, that one human being can be “worth more” than another human being and, therefore, to admit that there is no such thing as “inherent” dignity.

    In my judgment, there can only be one moral answer to this so-called dilemma. Simply refuse to grant the premise that one human being can be worth more than another and refuse to make the choice. If the group does, indeed, choose to throw any one person overboard for any reason, I claim they have committed a collective act of murder. The only person who can morally make such a choice is the individual who volunteers to give his life freely for the sake of the others. Otherwise, they hang together and accept their fate together.

  33. 33

    1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. Yes
    4. Yes
    5. Yes

    Justification for all answers may be found in my book The Science of Good and Evil (Henry Holt/Times Books, 2003)

  34. Response from Dr. Michael Shermer (first paragraph):

    I sent Bill [Dembski] my answers last night. They are Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes! The justification for all the answers is my book, The Science of Good and Evil.

  35. Hi StephenB,

    I totally agree with you that it would be immoral to forcibly throw someone off a lifeboat. The direct killing of an innocent human being is wrong.

    On the other hand, if a ship (such as the Titanic) had just capsized, and if I were in a lifeboat picking up survivors, and I could only take one more, then I would choose to save a baby over a talented artist, even if that artist were Leonardo da Vinci. I would therefore save the baby and allow the artist to die. And my judgment would not change if the artist were also a great humanitarian, like Mohandas K. Gandhi.

  36. vj

    I apologise. I never thought you would get such a high response rate. Although I think the e-mail was essential.

    Having gathered this data (the usual pattern seems to be yes, yes, yes, yes and then some havering over the last one) what do you plan to do with it?

  37. When I was in Grade 7 (I think), in 1972, my English teacher posed a similar dilemma, relating to a sinking lifeboat. On the lifeboat there’s a five-year-old child and a very talented artist. Whom would you save? I was shocked when she suggested that it might be moral to save the artist, because he had a deeper appreciation of life. That kind of reasoning smelt bad to me, and it still does.

    Facinating – Context and family bonds can have deep effects on how we reason about priorities but so do cultural perceptions.

    Let me pose another provocative question if I may!
    If the choice (which individual to kill/allow to die) was between a christian, muslim, jew, hindu, Sikh, agnostic or atheist (all of equal age and gender) – and apart from their belief (or lack thereof!) you knew no other details about their character – whom would you select?

    Is the best option just to pick a name from a hat?

  38. DrBot (#36):

    In answer to your question: if I were out in the seas, in a boat, and I had the opportunity to save just ONE person out of a group of seven drowning people of identical age and gender, about whom I knew nothing except their respective religions (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, agnostic and atheist), then I’d be inclined to simply save the drowning person who happened to be nearest to my rescue boat.

    I certainly wouldn’t save the Christian first. He/She should be able to face death with serenity, if he/she really believes what his/her faith teaches.

    I don’t think it would be right in a situation like this to discriminate between people on the basis of their creed.

  39. markf (#35):

    Thank you for giving me the idea of contacting the 25 most influential living atheists individually. I’ll probably write a short follow-up post, discussing the results.

  40. answers from the far side…

    (a) Do you believe that a newborn baby is fully human?

    A newborn baby human is fully human but a newborn baby dog is not fully human. :)

    (b) Do you believe that a newborn baby is a person?

    A newborn baby human is fully human but a newborn baby dog is not a person. :)

    (c) Do you believe that a newborn baby has a right to life?

    A newborn baby human has a right to life but a newborn baby calf can be veal so it has a right to be a meal. :)

    (d) Do you believe that every human person has a duty towards newborn babies, to refrain from killing them?

    Some babies are very tender and tasty. For example chimps love to eat monkey babies.

    (e) Do you believe that killing a newborn baby is just as wrong as killing an adult?

    It depends on the animal.

  41. As you’re probably aware, PZ has posted a response on his blog. The tl-dr version is “gray”.

    @vjtorley #31: as food for thought, here’s another dilemma.

    There are two people, and you get to choose which one will be saved and which one will die (not choosing means both die). You have the following information:

    - You don’t know any of them personally.

    - One is a twenty-year old Japanese.

    - The other is a newborn from Swaziland.

    - You will not get to meet the survivor.

    According to #31, you’d rather save a baby than an adult because “a baby has its whole life in front of it”. But in this case, as you may know, the odds are very high that the Japanese has much more life in front of him than the Swazi.

    Do you stand by your previous reasoning and save the Japanese? Or is there in fact some other reason that makes you prefer babies?

  42. vj – there are a couple of responses on my blog from people who are not permitted to comment on UD. I would particularly draw your attention to m’s response (I don’t know if he/she is an atheist).

  43. –VJ: “On the other hand, if a ship (such as the Titanic) had just capsized, and if I were in a lifeboat picking up survivors, and I could only take one more, then I would choose to save a baby over a talented artist, even if that artist were Leonardo da Vinci. I would therefore save the baby and allow the artist to die. And my judgment would not change if the artist were also a great humanitarian, like Mohandas K. Gandhi.”

    VJ, I take your point about the difference between picking up someone in the boat versus choosing to throw someone overboard. Given that assumption, I think I would make the same choice.

  44. As to this,

    “On the other hand, if a ship (such as the Titanic) had just capsized, and if I were in a lifeboat picking up survivors, and I could only take one more, then I would choose to save a baby over a talented artist, even if that artist were Leonardo da Vinci.”

    But how many would be willing to get out of the lifeboat so that another might live?

  45. markf,

    vj – there are a couple of responses on my blog from people who are not permitted to comment on UD. I would particularly draw your attention to m’s response (I don’t know if he/she is an atheist).

    I read it, and I don’t know if he/she is even a person.

  46. Roxolan,

    Here’s another few dilemmas.

    There are two footballs, you get to choose which one will be thrown and which one will be kicked towards the tire hanging on a rope from a tree in the backyard, how do you choose? Or here’s another one, there are two ways to sit on the floor, legs crossed or not crossed, how do you sit? Or how about this one, there are two dishes in the sink, do you wash them both before you put them in the dishwasher, or not? If your question, directed towards vjtorley about the Japanese and the Swazi, is trying to illustrate that there is no ultimate morality, then your question won’t even be a moral dilemma, you may as well replace it with one of my questions above.

  47. F/N: I should note in respect of the typical situation ethics dilemmas above and in m’s remarks elsewhere, that the [argued] lesser of evils is still an evil.

    It may arguably be the least worst possible option, or an excusable or defensible option — such as killing an attacker in defence of his intended victims, but that does not transmute it into a good; nor does it undermine the humanity of a newborn, or the rights that person should have.

    This ESPECIALLY is vital in dealing with the weak, of which a newborn infant is a capital example.

    The erosion of the sacred value of any person’s life, is historically — yes, m, historically — the prelude to devaluation of all human life. In particular, there is blood-drenched all too recent history to make us very wary of the slippery slope:

    abortion –> infanticide –> euthanasia and genocide

    And, there is long and bloody history to warn civilisations off allowing worldviews that have in them no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT from becoming dominant in elite circles or the general population.

    GEM of TKI

  48. PS: of course, I am not talking about censorship or persecution, but of the duty of leadership to stand up and refuse assent to evil and amorality, warning the community of the consequences, with such historical precedents as are relevant. I am, however, saying that those who act on amorality and carry out evil deeds in violation of law should face exemplary punishment after fair and prompt trial; e.g. what should have been done in the infamous Loeb-Leopold nihilist murder case defended by Mr Darrow. This, in defense of the civil peace of justice.

  49. Being an educator I’ve similarly, in the past, exposed students of mine to a variant of the ‘lifeboat dilemma’. Fascinating replies and discussions I’ve had with students (of all ages), but on one occasion a reply to who you would choose was given immediately before even the ‘contestants’ were revealed:

    “The good-looking one!”

    Hmm!

  50. vjtorley -

    I would allow the worthy human to die, unless he/she were a member of my family, in which case I’d put my family first. A baby has its whole life in front of it.

    Out of interest, what do you believe gives value to human life? Your preference here suggests that you don’t think it’s contingent on our experiences (some who won’t live beyond a handful of summers, for example, might enjoy more pleasure than a loveless man who stumbles to 100). But if all human life is inherently of equal value what is it that makes the measure of one’s lifespan relevant?

  51. markf

    I’ve just had a look at your response. Thank you for putting my questionnaire on your blog.

    Just a few quick comments for now. When I said that I would assume that a logically consistent atheist would answer yes, no, no, no, no, I added the qualification: if he/she were also a materialist. That makes a difference.

    The vital question, as I shall make clear in a subsequent blog, is: what is it about human beings that makes them valuable? There are a few atheists who can correctly answer this question. But being a materialist hinders your capacity to grasp the answer. Professor Peter Singer is an example of someone I would regard as a consistent materialist. I am pleasantly surprised to find that none of the respondents to date has given the answers that he would give.

    As regards m’s response: I found it rather shallow. Interestingly, m questions whether newborn babies are sentient. Personally, it wouldn’t worry me one iota if they weren’t. Their moral status remains unaffected, as I’ll explain in a subsequent post.

    I note that m denies that anyone has an intrinsic right to life, but also seems to despise politicians who deny healthcare to children. Go figure.

    In my quiz, I asked about killing, not about withholding money. M evidently fails to grasp the distinction between positive and negative duties. For instance, how much of a duty do I have to assist people in need, in distant countries? That’s a difficult question, and I don’t know the answer. I do however know this: I do have a duty not to kill people with my bare hands.

    As for my last question: it is obvious that m has no conception of human history. For most of human history, people haven’t had the luxury of owning houses with attics. Nor have they had the time to postulate totally contrived ethical dilemmas about noisy infants hiding in attics.

    As for the prevalence of infanticide
    in other cultures: what about the Jews, 3,000 years ago? They weren’t affluent, but they managed to put a stop to the barbarous practice of infanticide. Later on, Christians accomplished the same thing in the Roman world and Muslims in the Arab world. The only cultures which tolerate infanticide today on a wide scale – India and China – are precisely those which don’t value women.

    So much for me having “no concept of human history.”

    If you’re in a war or a famine, you feed your children the best you can. Some might starve, but you try to keep them alive to the best of your ability. That’s altogether different from killing them.

  52. @Clive Hayden #46: I think I was very explicit in what I was trying to illustrate (or rather, to figure out about vjtorley), and you’re speaking complete nonsense.

  53. Roxolan (#41)

    Thank you for your question. I would save the baby, in the case you propose. The twenty-year-old (nationality is not relevant here) has already lived a quarter of his/her life. During that time, he/she has had time to exercise his/her reason on abstract issues (e.g. right and wrong), acquire the moral virtues, reflect on the meaning of his/her existence, and mentally prepare for death – an event which everyone should be mentally ready to face at short notice. The baby, by contrast, has only just begun to live, having spent only nine months living in the womb. In such a case, I think the choice about whom to save should be obvious.

  54. @vjtorley 52: thank you for answering. That does make your position clearer, and more reasonable than “save the one who’s got the longer life expectancy”. (I still disagree with it, but I’m an atheist and a materialist so no surprise there.)

  55. Sadly your argument doesn’t make any sense. What you are setting up is called a “false dichotomy”.

    The fact is that value of various organisms could be rated on so many different scales as to fully illustrate the meaning of “it depends” and “my opinion”. But one thing is outstandingly clear and that is in terms of human scope a cell < fetus < baby < child < adult in terms of full scope of what it means to be human.

    I imagine you'll just interpret that as "SOMG BABY KILLA"

  56. Roxolan, if you don’t mind me asking, how do you justify being a materialist when materialism has been falsified by the fact that all material (time-space matter-energy) was brought into being at the Big Bang. Surely having no ‘material’ to work with to explain the origin of everything we see around us should present more than a minor problem for you?!?

    “The Big Bang represents an immensely powerful, yet carefully planned and controlled release of matter, energy, space and time. All this is accomplished within the strict confines of very carefully fine-tuned physical constants and laws. The power and care this explosion reveals exceeds human mental capacity by multiple orders of magnitude.”
    Prof. Henry F. Schaefer -

    The Creation Of The Universe (Kalam Cosmological Argument)- Lee Strobel – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3993987/

    Hugh Ross PhD. – Evidence For The Transcendent Origin Of The Universe – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347185

    What Contemporary Physics and Philosophy Tell Us About Nature and God – Fr. Spitzer & Dr. Bruce Gordon (Dr. Gordon speaks for the last 25 minutes) – video
    http://www.mefeedia.com/watch/32512834

    Formal Proof For The Transcendent Origin Of the Universe – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4170233

    “The prediction of the standard model that the universe began to exist remains today as secure as ever—indeed, more secure, in light of the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem and that prediction’s corroboration by the repeated and often imaginative attempts to falsify it. The person who believes that the universe began to exist remains solidly and comfortably within mainstream science.” – William Lane Craig
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....38;id=6115

    Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete – Borde-Guth-Vilenkin – 2003
    Excerpt: inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.
    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0110012

    “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can long longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” Alexander Vilenkin – Many Worlds In One – Pg. 176

    “The conclusion is that past-eternal inflation is impossible without a beginning.”
    Alexander Vilenkin – from pg. 35 ‘New Proofs for the Existence of God’ by Robert J. Spitzer (of note: A elegant thought experiment of a space traveler traveling to another galaxy, that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin, used to illustrate the validity of the proof, is on pg. 35 of the book as well.)

    Genesis 1:1-3
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

    On a bit more technical side, materialism is also falsified by the failure of local realism to explain quantum entanglement:

    The Failure Of Local Realism – Materialism – Alain Aspect – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4744145

    The falsification for local realism (materialism) was recently greatly strengthened:

    Physicists close two loopholes while violating local realism – November 2010
    Excerpt: The latest test in quantum mechanics provides even stronger support than before for the view that nature violates local realism and is thus in contradiction with a classical worldview.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....alism.html

    This following study adds to Alain Aspect’s work in Quantum Mechanics and solidly refutes the ‘hidden variable’ argument that has been used by materialists to try to get around the Theistic implications of the instantaneous ‘spooky action at a distance’ found in quantum mechanics.

    Quantum Measurements: Common Sense Is Not Enough, Physicists Show – July 2009
    Excerpt: scientists have now proven comprehensively in an experiment for the first time that the experimentally observed phenomena cannot be described by non-contextual models with hidden variables.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142824.htm

  57. If that was not enough to falsify materialism Roxolan, Quantum teleportation blew it to smithereens by ‘reducing/destroying’ a atom to pure transcendent information:

    Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups
    Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original (that was destroyed),,,
    http://www.rsc.org/chemistrywo.....ammeup.asp

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....1769/posts

    So Roxolan, since you have no scientific justification to believe in ‘reductive’ materialism, what is your justification? Perhaps you want to put your chips on ‘non-reductive materialism’ as Stephen Hawking has??? Well that is also a futile path to take as well! Materialism simply dissolves into absurdity when pushed to extremes and certainly offers no guarantee to us for believing our perceptions and reasoning within science are trustworthy in the first place:

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism in General – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy. This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world. Neither is it the case that “nothing” is unstable, as Mr. Hawking and others maintain. Absolute nothing cannot have mathematical relationships predicated on it, not even quantum gravitational ones. Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.,,, the evidence for string theory and its extension, M-theory, is nonexistent; and the idea that conjoining them demonstrates that we live in a multiverse of bubble universes with different laws and constants is a mathematical fantasy. What is worse, multiplying without limit the opportunities for any event to happen in the context of a multiverse – where it is alleged that anything can spontaneously jump into existence without cause – produces a situation in which no absurdity is beyond the pale.
    For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    further note:

    Roger Penrose Debunks Stephen Hawking’s New Book ‘The Grand Design’ – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5278793/

    Even the ‘exotic’ virtual particles are found to be necessary for life in the universe:

    Virtual Particles, Anthropic Principle & Special Relativity – Michael Strauss PhD. Particle Physics – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4554674

  58. What interests me about this exercise is the various answers to (e) and their justifications. They differ between atheists and theists but also among atheists and among theists. No one is able to present a conclusive proof that their view is the correct one. In the end they can only refer to their own values and feelings.

  59. yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. That was the easiest quiz I’ve taken in all my life. Do I get a sticker?

    markf @56, I hardly think that referring to “my own” values is a problem. I happen believe that my values as exemplified here in answeres 1-4 build a strong arugment for why the answer in 5 is “yes”. I am unsure of what you mean by “conclusive proof”, but here we go anyway.

    In general, based only on my affirmative answers to questions 1 and 2, it should be obvious that I make no distinctions between little babies (infants) and big babies (red sox fans); therefore the point of question 5 is muted based on my answers to 1-4.

    As for lifeboats and being forced to “decide,” frankly, I wouldn’t worry about it one way or the other. From degree to nth degree where I am made to take a life, I become less human. Look, I’ve got enough sin to let go of, temptation to resist, and evil to flee, as do we all, without tossing people out of, or gaffing and drawing them into, the nearest lifeboat at a moment’s notice. I have enough trouble being kind to my colleague who just sent me yet another stupid email.

  60. in roe vs Wade the supreme court said that until the fetus was fully out of the mother it was not a human being. So a crying baby in the room that was stuck for 30 seconds would not be a human being with rights thereof in the eyes of roe!
    Sinece right to life is inalienable then a crying baby is not a human being if stuck.
    So myers idea is not far from Roe.
    The need to decide when a human being has arrived on earth is a great present and future decision.

  61. #57

    Tim – I also believe that referring to one’s own values is not a problem. However, many on this forum believe that morality is essentially a search for some objective truth. This little debate illustrates some of the problems with this. In some contexts, not only do we disagree on moral judgements, we disagree about counts as a reason for something being good or bad.

  62. Onlookers:

    Re, MF: many on this forum believe that morality is essentially a search for some objective truth. This little debate illustrates some of the problems with this. In some contexts, not only do we disagree on moral judgements, we disagree about counts as a reason for something being good or bad.

    First, let us follow Josiah Royce and remind ourselves of warranted credible truth, no 1: E: error exists.

    While this is a rather uncontroversial empirical fact, it is more. This can be seen by trying to deny it, NOT-E. But, this implies a possible statement, E. Howbeit E and NOT-E cannot both be true, so one is in error. E is thus undeniably true.

    So, once we see E as warranted to certainty, as being true and trustworthy, it follows that Knowledge — warranted, credible truth, also exists. It is objective, beyond our mere perception or wishes.

    The real issue, then is not whether people may be confused or puzzled or in disagreement on certain matters of objective truth, but whether they are in fact warranted and credible as truth. If that is so, your or my agreement or disagreement may be an interesting or even significant fact, but that has little or nothing to do with whether or not the matter is true and warranted as such.

    It is an observable fact that we find ourselves morally goverend, enconscienced creatures in our world. Even the most ardent subjectivist will agree that s/he finds that certain acts or words are an offence against his or her person and rights, e.g. slander, rape or murder. By reciprocity, the same would hold for other similarly situated creatures. More broadly, we are in consensus that we — especially when we or those we care about are in contention — have a right to fair treatment, but a right is precisely a binding moral obligation rooted in our dignity and status as persons, that we expect others to meet. Consequently, we ask: what grounds this?

    In short, we face the worldview challenge of the grounding IS that can adequately found OUGHT. On this, as Arthur Holmes observes, Ms Anscombe’s remark still cuts to the heart of the matter:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments.

    [ . . . ]

  63. In short, we see here (yet again) the amoral implications of that evolutionary materialism that has been established upon our civilisation in the name of science. MF’s remark, further to this, is inadvertently quite revealing on the radically relativistic, amoral implications of such evolutionary materialist views, as long since highlighted by Plato in The Laws, Bk X:

    ________________

    >> Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

    [[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them . . . >>
    _________________

    In short, the test case of the newborn infant and its rights to its life, points to many of the key problems of our modern world, and of the evolutionary materialism that so often dominates halls of influence and power.

    We would do well to heed the warning. At least, if we do not want to repeat — yet again — some awful chapters of history.

    GEM of TKI

  64. F/N: The remarks above about the Titanic remind me of how many men on that ill-fated ship, including men of great wealth and power, being shaped by their sense of honour, held themselves back, so that women and children might have the first chance at the life boats. I believe a Vanderbilt was one of these; he perished in the cold seas and his body was recovered. I believe this, too was so for many of the musicians, who then played music to the last, even as but a few years later, on many a lethal morning, the “ladies from hell” — so named by the German troops opposing, for their kilts (yes, kilts were worn in the trenches) and their bravery — would be piped by brave pipers in their steady march across the machine-gun swept fields of Flanders.

  65. Roxolan:

    I think I was very explicit in what I was trying to illustrate (or rather, to figure out about vjtorley), and you’re speaking complete nonsense.

    Actually you didn’t give any context, meaning you were speaking nonsense.

    You didn’t even provide a realistic scenario.

  66. Professor Peter Singer’s views

    On the basis of the quotes that follow, I believe that Professor Peter Singer’s answers to my quiz would be:

    (a) Yes. (b) No. (c) No, and I don’t believe adults do either. [Singer is a utilitarian.] (d) No. (e) No.

    I refer readers to Singer’s chapter, Taking Life: Humans in Practical Ethics, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 1993, pp. 175-217. A few excerpts:

    In Chapter 4 we saw that the fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings. This conclusion is not limited to infants who, because of irreversible intellectual disabilities, will never be rational, self-conscious beings… No infant – disabled or not – has as strong a claim to life as beings capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time.

    The difference between killing disabled and normal infants lies not in any supposed right to life that the latter has and the former lacks, but in other considerations about killing. Most obviously there is the difference that often exists in the attitudes of the parents. The birth of a child is usually a happy event for the parents. They have, nowadays, often planned for the child. The mother has carried it for nine months. From birth, a natural affection begins to bind the parents to it. So one important reason why it is normally a terrible thing to kill an infant is the effect the killing will have on its parents.

    It is different when the infant is born with a serious disability…

    Infants are sentient beings who are neither rational nor self- conscious. So if we turn to consider the infants in themselves, independently of the attitudes of their parents, since their species is not relevant to their moral status, the principles that govern the wrongness of killing non-human animals who are sentient but not rational or self-conscious must apply here too. As we saw, the most plausible arguments for attributing a right to life to a being apply only if there is some awareness of oneself as a being existing over time, or as a continuing mental self. Nor can respect for autonomy apply where there is no capacity for autonomy…

    When death occurs before birth, replaceability does not conflict with generally accepted moral convictions. That a fetus is known to be disabled is widely accepted as a ground for abortion. Yet in discussing abortion, we saw that birth does not mark a morally significant dividing line. I cannot see how one could defend the view that fetuses may be ‘replaced’ before birth, but newborn infants may not be. Nor is there any other point, such as viability, that does a better job of dividing the fetus from the infant. Self-consciousness, which could provide a basis for holding that it is wrong to kill one being and replace it with another, is not to be found in either the fetus or the newborn infant. Neither the fetus nor the newborn infant is an individual capable of regarding itself as a distinct entity with a life of its own to lead, and it is only for newborn infants, or for still earlier stages of human life, that replaceability should be considered to be an ethically acceptable option. (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

  67. Professor Steven Pinker’s views

    On the basis of the quotes that follow, I believe that Steve Pinker’s answer to the quiz would be:

    (a) Yes. (b) No. (c) No. (d) No. (e) No.

    (I think Pinker would probably answer “No” for (d), because he denies that a newborn baby (or neonate) is “a person with a right not to be killed.”)

    The following quotes are taken from the article, Why they kill their newborns by Steven Pinker (<The New York Times, Sunday, November 2, 1997). (For a thoroughgoing critique of Pinker’s views, please see Steven Pinker’s Evolutionary “Explanation” of Infanticide by Robert L. Morrison.)

    Killing your baby. what could be more depraved? For a woman to destroy the fruit of her womb would seem like an ultimate violation of the natural order. But every year, hundreds of women commit neonaticide: they kill their newborns or let them die…

    Barbara Kirwin, a forensic psychologist, reports that in nearly 300 cases of women charged with neonaticide in the United States and Britain, no woman spent more than a night in jail…

    The leniency shown to neonaticidal mothers forces us to think the unthinkable and ask if we, like many societies and like the mothers themselves, are not completely sure whether a neonate is a full person.

    It seems obvious that we need a clear boundary to confer personhood on a human being and grant it a right to life. Otherwise, we approach a slippery slope that ends in the disposal of inconvenient people or in grotesque deliberations on the value of individual lives. But the endless abortion debate shows how hard it is to locate the boundary. Anti-abortionists draw the line at conception, but that implies we should shed tears every time an invisible conceptus fails to implant in the uterus — and, to carry the argument to its logical conclusion, that we should prosecute for murder anyone who uses an IUD. Those in favor of abortion draw the line at viability, but viability is a fuzzy gradient that depends on how great a risk of an impaired child the parents are willing to tolerate. The only thing both sides agree on is that the line must be drawn at some point before birth.

    Neonaticide forces us to examine even that boundary. To a biologist, birth is as arbitrary a milestone as any other. Many mammals bear offspring that see and walk as soon as they hit the ground. But the incomplete 9-month-old human fetus must be evicted from the womb before its outsize head gets too big to fit through its mother’s pelvis. The usual primate assembly process spills into the first years in the world. And that complicates our definition of personhood.

    What makes a living being a person with a right not to be killed? Animal-rights extremists would seem to have the easiest argument to make: that all sentient beings have a right to life. But champions of that argument must conclude that delousing a child is akin to mass murder; the rest of us must look for an argument that draws a smaller circle. Perhaps only the members of our own species, Homo sapiens, have a right to life? But that is simply chauvinism; a person of one race could just as easily say that people of another race have no right to life.

    No, the right to life must come, the moral philosophers say, from morally significant traits that we humans happen to possess. One such trait is having a unique sequence of experiences that defines us as individuals and connects us to other people. Other traits include an ability to reflect upon ourselves as a continuous locus of consciousness, to form and savor plans for the future, to dread death and to express the choice not to die. And there’s the rub: our immature neonates don’t possess these traits any more than mice do.

    Several moral philosophers have concluded that neonates are not persons, and thus neonaticide should not be classified as murder. Michael Tooley has gone so far as to say that neonaticide ought to be permitted during an interval after birth. Most philosophers (to say nothing of nonphilosophers) recoil from that last step, but the very fact that there can be a debate about the personhood of neonates, but no debate about the personhood of older children, makes it clearer why we feel more sympathy for an Amy Grossberg [an 18-year-old girl who delivered her baby in a motel room, killed him and left his body in a Dumpster - VJT] than for a Susan Smith [the South Carolina woman who drowned her two sons, 14 months and 3 years old - VJT]. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

    Pinker also asserts that “Killing a baby is an immoral act.” Nevertheless, the foregoing quotes make it abundantly clear that he regards it as less immoral than killing an older infant, and hence less immoral than killing an adult.

  68. —markf: “However, many on this forum believe that morality is essentially a search for some objective truth.”

    Objective morality is, indeed, the truth about how humans ought to behave, though I don’t know why you would characterize it as a search. Morality is not a process, though a person can progress as a moral agent. Progressing in moral virtue, however, requires a non-moving target at which to aim.

    —”This little debate illustrates some of the problems with this.”

    How, pray tell, does this illustrate problems with objective morality?

    —”In some contexts, not only do we disagree on moral judgements, we disagree about counts as a reason for something being good or bad.”

    The basic laws of objective morality are general and well defined, but they cannot substitute for the virtues of prudence and wisdom which must often be applied in the application. There is nothing in the Ten Commandments that tells us one way or the other that we need not go to extraordinary means to keep a dying person alive. On the other hand, the prudence and wisdom needed to arrive at that conclusion are always informed by the basic commandment against murder and the natural moral law. That, by the way, is also why it is always immoral to throw someone overboard from an occupied lifeboat, but it is not necessarily immoral to give the last place to a baby to a lifeboat not yet fully occupied.

    In the same way, wisdom and prudence tell us that insider trading in a free-market economy is wrong, even though that conclusion is informed by the general commandment against stealing. Take away the basic moral code, and there is no foundation on which to apply the wisdom and prudence.

    Materialist/Atheists have no foundation, so all their conclusions are based on arbitrary standards, such as the irrational notion that one must be a “fully developed human” in order to be “fully human.” As I pointed out earlier, a twelve-year-old boy does not meet that standard. No one has yet answered that point for the simple reason that there is no answer. It makes no sense.

  69. a) yes
    b) no
    c) no
    d) no
    e) no

  70. Roxolan,

    @Clive Hayden #46: I think I was very explicit in what I was trying to illustrate (or rather, to figure out about vjtorley), and you’re speaking complete nonsense.

    You asked a question and your illustration can only be assumed, so what were you trying to illustrate?

  71. OK, so first off, I note the following.

    (“(a) Do you believe that a newborn baby is fully human?”)
    Yes, unless you are talking about PZ Myers, then I would make an exception Joseph – (Whole series answered roughly that way)

    Pee Zee makes me wish birth control was retroactive kornbelt888

    Way to demonstrate your strong moral assertion to the Right To Life (as long as they’re not adult, and you agree with them).

    Now, since the Bible states that life starts at the first breath (God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” [Gen 2:7]; see also Ezekiel 37:1-10), why are you trying to shift the goalposts?

  72. vjtorley @ 67:

    your judgement of what Steven Pinker’s answers to your questions would be based on the article you cite seems quite strange and faulty to me.
    You conclude from him stating that “Several moral philosophers have concluded that neonates are not persons, and thus neonaticide should not be classified as murder.” that that must be his own opinion, although he himself states his opinion as being “killing a baby is an immoral act”. Well, if he thinks that ending a baby’s life is wrong, he must obviously believe that babies DO have a right to life. And since, at least in this article, he associates a right to life with personhood, the most logical conclusion would be that he then also regards a newborn as a person. Consequently the most logical sequence of answers, based on the article you cite, for Pinker’s own opinion would be:
    a) Yes
    b) Yes
    c) Yes
    d) Yes
    e) No

  73. Nameless Cynic:

    Thank you for your post. Your assertion that according to the Bible, life starts at the first breath, is mistaken. I refer you to the following link:

    http://www.prolifeamerica.com/....._Links.cfm

  74. Professor Daniel Dennett’s views

    Judging from what he wrote back in 1976, I believe that Daniel Dennett’s answer to my quiz would be:

    (a) Yes. (b) No. (c) No. (d) No. (e) No.

    Daniel Dennett, “Conditions of Personhood,” in The Identities of Persons, ed. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 175-196. Also in: Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology (Bradford Books, Cambridge, MA, 1976/ 1978), pp. 267-85. Also in What Is a Person? edited by Michael F. Goodman, Clifton, New Jersey: Humana Press, 1988, p. 145-167.

    In his article, “Conditions of Personhood,” Professor Daniel Dennett identifies no less than six different conceptions of personhood in the philosophical tradition, each laying down a necessary condition of an individual A’s being a person:

    A is a person only if:

    i. A is a rational being.

    ii. A is a being to which intentional states of consciousness can be attributed.

    iii. Others regard or can regard A as a being to which intentional states of consciousness can be attributed.

    (Conditions i, ii and iii are mutually inter-dependent.)

    iv. A is capable of reciprocating: that is, A is capable of regarding others as beings to which states of consciousness can be attributed.

    v. A is capable of verbal communication.

    vi. A is self-conscious, or capable of regarding him/her/itself as a subject of states of consciousness.

    (Conditions iv, v and vi successively build on the mutually inter-dependent nexus of conditions, i to iii.)

    In Dennett’s analysis, personhood initially derives from three mutually interdependent characteristics: (i) being rational, (ii) being intentional and (iii) being perceived as rational and intentional. Once a being is acknowledged to have these three characteristics, personhood further requires that the being (iv) reciprocate by perceiving others as rational and intentional; additionally, the being must be (v) capable of verbal communication and finally, (vi) capable of self-consciousness. These last three characteristics are hierarchically dependent, building upon the first three.

    To view most of Dennett’s essay online, see http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/B-PERSON.html .

    For a very short summary of the essay, see http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/B-PERSON.html . See also http://www.animal-rights-libra.....hell01.htm .

    In any case, since a newborn baby does not exercise rationality, it is quite clear that Dennett would not regard it as a person.

    If Dennett does not regard a newborn baby as a person, it is difficult to see how he could regard a newborn baby as having a right to life, or as someone towards whom we could have duties. And it would be puzzling indeed if Dennett regarded the killing of a non-person as morally equivalent to the killing of a person.

  75. Professor Richard Dawkins’ views

    Judging from what he wrote in his book, The God Delusion in 2006, I believe that Richard Dawkins’ answer to my quiz would be:

    (a) Yes.
    (b) “Person” is a meaningless term.
    (c) Yes – that is, the law should recognize newborn babies as having a right to life; however, they don’t possess such a right by nature.
    (d) Yes – as for (c).
    (e) No.

    The following quotes are taken from Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006).

    Human embryos are examples of human life.

    A consequentialist or utilitarian is likely to approach the abortion question in a very different way, by trying to weigh up suffering. Does the embryo suffer? (Presumably not if it is aborted before it has a nervous system; and even if it is old enough to have a nervous system it surely suffers less than, say, an adult cow in a slaughterhouse.) Does the pregnant woman, or her family, suffer if she does not have an abortion? Very possibly so; and, in any case, given that the embryo lacks a nervous system, shouldn’t the mother’s well-developed nervous system have the choice?

    This is not to deny that a consequentialist might have grounds to oppose abortion. ‘Slippery slope’ arguments can be framed by consequentialists (though I wouldn’t in this case). Maybe embryos don’t suffer, but a culture that tolerates the taking of human life risks going too far: where will it all end? In infanticide? The moment of birth provides a natural Rubicon for defining rules, and one could argue that it is hard to find another one earlier in embryonic development. Slippery slope arguments could therefore lead us to give the moment of birth more significance than utilitarianism, narrowly interpreted, would prefer.
    (p. 293) (Emphases mine – VJT.)

    Note that for Dawkins, the immorality of killing an individual is tied to the degree of suffering it is capable of. By that logic, it must follow that killing a newborn baby, whose nervous system is still not completely developed, is not as bad as killing an adult.

    I interpret Dawkins’ later remarks on the slippery slope and on birth as a natural Rubicon as suggesting that he thinks it would be prudent for the law to treat babies as having a right to life from babies, to avoid far worse consequences that would result if they weren’t recognized as having rights.

    Early embryos that have no nervous system most certainly do not suffer. And if late-aborted embryos with nervous systems suffer – though all suffering is deplorable – it is not because they are human that they suffer. There is no general reason to suppose that human embryos at any age suffer more than cow or sheep embryos at the same developmental stage. And there is every reason to suppose that all embryos, whether human or not, suffer far less than adult cows of sheep in a slaughterhouse, especially a ritual slaughterhouse where, for religious reasons, they must be fully conscious when their throats are ceremonially cut.

    Suffering is hard to measure, and the details might be disputed. But that doesn’t affect my main point, which concerns the difference between secular consequentialist and religiously absolute moral philosophies. One school of thought cares about whether embryos can suffer. The other cares about whether they are human. Religious moralists can be heard debating questions like, ‘When does the developing embryo become a person – a human being?’ (p. 297) (Emphases mine – VJT.)

    Note Dawkins’ comparison of human embryos with those of cows and sheep, which suggests that he wouldn’t regard a newborn human baby as any more special than a baby calf or lamb.

    Dawkins also rejects the term “person” as a hindrance to ethical reasoning.

    The evolutionary point is very simple. The humanness of an embryo’s cells cannot confer upon it any absolutely discontinuous moral status. It cannot, because of our evolutionary continuity with chimpanzees and, more distantly, with every species on the planet. (p. 300) (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

    Once again, Dawkins denies a privileged status for human beings.

    A trenchant critique of Dawkins’ pro-choice position can be found at http://www.truefreethinker.com.....-and-sheep .

  76. Christopher Hitchens’ views

    Judging from his recent remarks (see below), I believe that Christopher Hitchens’ answer to my quiz would be:

    (a) Yes. (b) Yes. (c) Yes. (d) Yes. (e) Yes.

    Christopher Hitchens openly uses the term “unborn child,” and has strong pro-life sympathies, as the following recordings show:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI8wwt4yKkc

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

  77. This on PZ today from James Taranto:

    “Myers seems to think symbolic speech from his political foes is a worse offense than the actual killing of babies. His lack of perspective is so gross that it has led him to outright depravity.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....TopOpinion

  78. vj

    What’s the point of all this? It was mildly interesting to know the answers of some of these people (but as they interpret terms such as “person”, “fully human” and “right” differently it is limited). But what is the value of your estimate of what they would have answered?

  79. molch (#72)

    Thank you for your comments. Professor Pinker does indeed write that “killing a baby is an immoral act.” However, it certainly does not follow from this statement that he believes that a newborn baby is a person with a right not to be killed. He might simply think that killing a baby wrongs the baby’s parents, for instance, and that it is immoral for that reason.

    In his essay, Pinker rhetorically asks, “What makes a living being a person with a right not to be killed?” Earlier on in the essay, he writes: “The leniency shown to neonaticidal mothers forces us to think the unthinkable and ask if we, like many societies and like the mothers themselves, are not completely sure whether a neonate is a full person.” At the very least, he’s playing with fire here, by asking these questions and not coming down firmly on the side of those who say that a newborn baby is a person.

    Pinker goes on to say that “It seems obvious that we need a clear boundary to confer personhood on a human being and grant it a right to life,” but then adds that “To a biologist, birth is as arbitrary a milestone as any other.” Hmmm. Doesn’t sound promising.

    He then adduces the opinion of moral philosophers: “the right to life must come, the moral philosophers say, from morally significant traits that we humans happen to possess. One such trait is having a unique sequence of experiences that defines us as individuals and connects us to other people. Other traits include an ability to reflect upon ourselves as a continuous locus of consciousness, to form and savor plans for the future, to dread death and to express the choice not to die. And there’s the rub: our immature neonates don’t possess these traits any more than mice do.”

    Now, if at this point, Professor Pinker disagreed with these philosophers, he should have come out and said so. But he didn’t. In the next paragraph, he went on:

    Several moral philosophers have concluded that neonates are not persons, and thus neonaticide should not be classified as murder. Michael Tooley has gone so far as to say that neonaticide ought to be permitted during an interval after birth. Most philosophers (to say nothing of nonphilosophers) recoil from that last step…

    All we can conclude from the foregoing is that Professor Pinker doesn’t think that killing newborn babies should be made legal. On that point, he differs from the philosopher Michael Tooley. Pinker doesn’t say that he regards neonaticide as murder, however. Rather, he suggests the reverse when he goes on to write: “the very fact that there can be a debate about the personhood of neonates, but no debate about the personhood of older children, makes it clearer why we feel more sympathy for an Amy Grossberg than for a Susan Smith.”

    I hope that clarifies why I concluded that Pinker would have answered the quiz as follows:

    (a) Yes. (b) No. (c) No. (d) No. (e) No.

    You, on the other hand, think he would have answered:

    (a) Yes. (b) Yes. (c) Yes. (d) Yes. (e) No.

    I’m glad we both agree that Pinker’s answer to (e) would be “No.” Evidently, Pinker does not believe that killing a newborn baby is as bad as killing an adult.

  80. markf (#78)

    You ask, “What’s the point of all this?” I’ll be writing a follow-up post in the next day or so. Stay tuned!

  81. #80 vj

    I look forward to it – but please keep it concise.

  82. vjtorley @ 79:

    you basically confirm that a) and e) are the only questions that can be reasonably answered from Pinker’s article. The fair treatment for b, c, & d would be to say: we don’t really know how Pinker would answer them.

  83. @bornagain77 #56:
    As far as I know, what existed at the precise moment of the Big Bang, let alone before it (assuming this even makes sense) is currently unknown. I congratulate you on providing so many sources, but it’s far above the amount of work I’m willing to put into a discussion with a stranger at the bottom of a blog. And I can’t take somebody who uses the cosmological argument seriously.

    @Joseph #65:
    I’m confused, I don’t understand what context you could possibly want. And I did not provide a realistic scenario because I wanted to keep the dilemma simple and unavoidable. When one does otherwise, some readers look for loopholes to provide an alternative solution more to their liking, thus avoiding the question.

    @Clive Hayden #70:
    I was trying to understand vjtorley’s reasoning better. I wanted to know if only life expectancy mattered or if there was some other factor.

  84. So you save the baby. Then what? Do you give that baby to the state and say, sorry not my problem, you take it. I think the question that is more relevant is how we support that infant after birth as a society. For those who believe no woman should abort, maybe they should be looking at how they are going to care of that child. It’s easy to say, you have no right to kill.
    If all infants have a right to live out their potential, who is making sure of that?

  85. Jacky, first you are operating under,,

    The Myth of the Unwanted Child
    http://www.urbanfaith.com/2011.....hild.html/

    Second there are more parents seeking adoption in America than there are babies to adopt:

  86. Roxolan, so you don’t take the Big Bang (absolute beginning of the universe) seriously? or is it just cosmological argument that stems from the overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang that you don’t take seriously?

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