Friday, November 09, 2012

"They aren't alive"

My latest exchange at TGC blog:

November 9, 2012 at 1:54 PM

All this arguing about bunches of cells vs human life. Look at it the same way you look at death. A fetus isn't a "human being/life" until viable, which I realize is changing, but until that fetus can live and breathe on its own outside the womb, it's not "alive". It's so funny how people can be so opposed to abortion, but when people are on their death bed, on life-support, whether at age 20 or 90, once they can't live and breathe on their own the agreement is almost always to pull the plug. Why? Because living and breathing on your own is a requirement for life! They aren't alive. They aren't a "life" anymore. A fetus, until viable, isn't a "life". My 2 cents, as a Christian and nurse.

    steve hays
    November 9, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    I see. So as a "Christian nurse," you don't think old folks who use portable oxygen tanks are even alive. Likewise, you don't think asthmatics who use inhalers are even alive.

    Nice to see the depth of your Christian understanding. Remind me to avoid the hospital where you work.


“I think the person in the violinist example has every right to pull the plug.”

Big deal. Jarvis deliberately designed her thought-experiment to evoke that reaction. She invented a hypothetical situation which was intended to make her position as sympathetic as possible. So she’s manipulating the reader.

But that’s a decoy. The question isn’t whether you’d have a right to disconnect yourself from another patient on life support. The real question is whether that’s properly analogous to parental duties.

It’s striking how many abortionists are duped by the hypothetical. Remember, though, that this is an argument from analogy. The question is not whether you agree with the hypothetical analogy, but whether the hypothetical analogue is, in fact, parallel to the relationship between a mother and her child.

“And would actually have the right to take violent retaliation if they are really being forced. Life support involves the other person be attached the entire time. That means he could literally not go where he wants to go for 9 whole months.”

i) To begin with, that’s disanalogous to the situation of a pregnant woman. Most pregnant women can continue to go wherever they want.

ii) However, let’s play along with the comparison. Sophia Loren has two sons. But she was prone to miscarriage. In order to carry two pregnancies to term, she had to put her movie career on hold and confine herself to bed for months.

For her motherhood was worth it. Pity some many women lack that maternal instinct.

“This makes the bodies of every citizen the constant status as a criminal.”

What does that even mean in the context of pregnancy?

“It is a prison.”

Pregnancy isn’t equivalent to house arrest. You need to get a grip on your emoting and think straight.

“The force makes the person in the example have the right to utilize the self defense argument. The attachment is the attack. The effect on your body is the attack.”

Pregnancy is the way in which all of us, including feminists, come into this world. It’s morbidly fascinating to see this seething hostility towards the critic’s own source of being. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. We all began in the womb. To demonize pregnancy is thankless and perverse.

“I don't see how this is different than arguing that if rape sustained life, you could force it.”

I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. Rape doesn’t sustain life. On rare occasion it produces life.

“The lack of consent concerning your body is what makes sexual violence so traumatic. You'd be being raped by the state. I have seen no argument on this thread that was really that insightful and addressing this specifically.”

i) Of course, “rape by the state” is hyperbolic nonsense.

ii) In addition, not all duties are contingent on consent. For instance, take a man who married a women who later develops a degenerative illness. And this isn’t just hypothetical. Daniel Barenboim’s wife (Jacqueline du Pré) developed MS. Likewise, John Feinberg’s wife (Patricia) developed Huntington’s disease.

Neither husband had that in mind when they married. There was no informed consent in that respect. And it’s quite possible that had they known ahead of time what would happen, they would have married someone else instead. But having married the woman in question, they now have spousal duties to their ailing wife.

Of course, the abortionists on this thread might bite the bullet and say, “Sure, dump your sick wife! That wasn’t part of the bargain doing in. Desert your wife in her hour of greatest need.”

And if that’s your position, then that’s just one more reason why atheism is evil.

Or suppose your daughter is crippled in a traffic accident. Now she needs lifelong care. Is it okay to disown your daughter? Ditch her on the shoulder of the freeway and drive away?

“Furthermore, there is no proof the of the God that is the foundation of the moral code that the arguments lie in. As long as their argument is that God does not want us to do it, it remains irrelevant b/c I do not believe the foundation even exists and there is no evidence for it anywhere.”

All you’re doing is to assert atheism. That’s no reason to take your assertion seriously.

steve hays
November 6, 2012 at 11:03 AM


“The lady in your example who decided to do that made a choice. The government did not force her to. She automatically does not fit into the category of people I am advocating for.”

i) You sound as if you never heard of Sophia Loren.

ii) You absurdly compared pregnancy to imprisonment. However, the condition of a pregnant woman is rarely analogous to the condition of the woman in the hypothetical who’s confined to a hospital bed to keep another patient alive. The thought-experiment of Jarvis is highly artificial. Highly unrealistic.

iii) However, for the sake of argument, I gave an example of the worst-case scenario. Sophia Loren was in that situation. So what?

“I am not demonizing pregnancy.”

When you compare pregnancy to imprisonment, you’re demonizing pregnancy.

“I am arguing that the state should not be able to make abortion illegal. I am demonizing the government forcing individuals to carry their pregnancy to term when they don't want to (especially abortions in the first stages of pregnancy)”

That objection has already been rebutted multiple times on this very thread. Try to keep up with the actual state of the argument instead of rehashing stale talking-points.

“They can legally get a divorce their spouse. They are allowed to leave them within the confines of the law.”

You’re not following your own argument. You made lack of consent the deal-breaker.

i) My point is that a person can acquire social obligations absent informed consent. Try to keep track of the argument.

ii) Your appeal to current law is circular. We could toughen up divorce laws. Divorce laws used to be stricter. The law is whatever we make the law to be.

“Atheism is not a moral system or code. It is a lack of belief in God. Nothing more, nothing less. Atheists have nothing in common inherently besides this.”

Atheism has logical implications. So your statement is irrational.

“Also, it depends on the relationship. I had someone in my life whom was with an abusive partner who got diagnosed with cancer. They had to leave them in order to escape abuse and an unhealthy relationship. Context matters.”

Which is disanalogous to pregnancy. Context matters.

“No I am telling you why your main argument means nothing to me. I literally don't think God is real. I only mention it to give you an idea of what it means to me when you add God to your argument.”

And when we subtract God from the argument, we end up with nihilism. You’re illustrating the sociopathic consequences of atheism. Thanks for the reminder. That’s one more reason to reject atheism.

“But really all your examples are in the hypothetical as much as mine.”

i) Which misses the point. You’re acting as though, just because you’d unplug the violinist, that this somehow justifies abortion. But that’s a diversionary tactic.

For the argument to work, you have to show that the situation of the woman in the hypothetical is relevantly analogous to a pregnant woman. Once again, try to be logical.

ii) Moreover, I haven’t confined myself to hypothetical examples. I’ve used real life examples.

iii) Furthermore, there’s a difference between a totally artificial hypothetical (like the Violinist), and a hypothetical with many real world analogues.

“I keep saying over and over, I think the circumstance of the person being inside the other person completely changes everything about the argument.”

It’s not just “one person inside another person.” It’s a baby inside its mother. That’s a relationship with built-in social obligations. Maternal duties.

“My opinion is based on the specific instance of an unwanted pregnancy with its particular implications, not the system of thinking itself. There is no more logical extreme to my specific argument because the foundation is the fact that they are pregnant.”

And you’re rehashing objections that have already been refuted in this very thread. You’ve done nothing to advance the argument.
steve hays
November 6, 2012 at 2:39 PM


"Neither have you. The arguments were never settled. You have never made a point that is impossible to refute."

Then refute it.

"You don't get to decide when a talking point is done."

Sure I do. I doubt you even bothered to read through the entire comment thread before you commented. Rather, you're a late-comer who jumped into the middle of an ongoing debate and proceeded to recycle stock objections that have already been dealt with further up the thread.

Since you haven't refuted that material, you lose by default.

"For instance, the fact that you think atheism is equated to nihilism is not evidence for God's existence."

I never said otherwise. You give no evidence that you're even acquainted with the arguments for God's existence. What Christian philosophers or apologists have you studied?

steve hays
November 6, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Even if, for the sake of argument, we cast abortion as a women’s rights issue, that would only warrant a very restrictive abortion policy. That’s because roughly half of pregnancies involve baby girls. So even if we treat this as a female-only issue, we’re dealing with two females, not one.

And that also applies in situations where rape results in pregnancy. Roughly half the babies conceived in rape will be baby girls.

At best, then, even if we cast abortion as a women’s rights issue, that would only justify aborting baby boys, not baby girls. Yet how many feminists take that position? Are some women more equal than others?

steve hays
November 6, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Throughout this thread, Keith's argument for abortion takes physicalism for granted. That, however, disregards philosophical and scientific arguments for dualism, such as Mario Beauregard's Brain Wars, or the "hard problem" of consciousness.

    November 6, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Yes; I agree with this statement, I am a physicalist.

    I know of exactly zero scientific arguments for dualism. There are philosophical arguments for dualism and there are scientific questions for which it is argued that dualism has explanatory power, but I know of nothing testable about dualism, let alone evidence approaching the level of scientific argument.

    If I'm wrong on that, I'd be interested in a pointer -- thanks!
        steve hays
        November 6, 2012 at 3:52 PM

        Philosophical arguments don't have to be testable. That's a category mistake. Given intractable philosophical objections to physicalism which even atheists like Searle and Chalmers champion, you can't simply treat physicalism as the default position in this debate.

        As for science, I pointed you to the recent book by Mario Beauregard, who's a distinguish neuroscientist. Chap. 8 of Rupert Sheldrake's Science Set Free presents another scientific argument for dualism.

steve hays
    November 6, 2012 at 6:57 PM


    “Physicalism should be the default position because we have never found anything that wasn't physical.”

    i) You’re appeal is viciously circular. Apparently, you’re presuming empirical discovery or empirical verification as the measure of realty. But, of course, abstract objects wouldn’t be empirical objects to begin with. So your contention is question-begging.

    ii) BTW, testing or finding something isn’t the only way to establish its existence. There’s also a transcendental argument for the indispensable explanatory power of abstract objects.

    iii) You disregard arguments for abstract objects (e.g. numbers, possible worlds). For instance, Roger Penrose is an eminent physicist and mathematician who argues for the existence of abstract objects. Cf. The Road to Reality, chap. 1.

    “That doesn't prove we won't find something, but physicalism has an unbroken track record over thousands of years.”

    Well, the success of science depends on such nonphysical entities as numbers, as well as mental causation and consciousness (i.e. the mind of the scientist).

    “An argument from utility certainly doesn't equal evidence...”

    Arguments against physicalism or for dualism aren’t predicated on utility. Try again.

    “…and in this particular case, the utter lack of evidence of anything that isn't physical trumps the philosophical argument.”

    You’re assuming what you need to prove.

    “I understand Mario Beauregard is a distinguished neuroscientist, but he is not making scientific arguments when he talks about dualism. Ditto Rupert Sheldrake.”

    Unless you read the material I cited, your denial is a reflection of your knee-jerk prejudice.

    “As I said, I have never seen any argument supporting dualism that approached a ‘scientific argument.’”

    It’s surprisingly easy not to see something if you shut your eyes or turn your back.

    “...but physicalism can explain them as far as we can tell, and I would say that Occam's Razor applies.”

    You have a simplistic grasp of simplicity. For instance, there can be a tradeoff between a simpler theory and a richer ontology, or vice versa.

steve hays
November 6, 2012 at 9:32 PM


"I think Sheldrake is very, very unlikely to be proven correct in his theories."

That's a bait-n-switch. The question at issue is not whether you think his theory of morphic causation is correct, but the narrowing issue of his evidence for dualism re philosophy of mind in chap. 8 of the book I referenced.

steve hays
November 7, 2012 at 9:29 AM

Take the sense of being stared at, which he's extensively documented over the years. Or, in the next chapter, take the case of the patient on 234-35 (pagination refers to the UK edition).

steve hays
November 7, 2012 at 12:02 PM


“With respect to the sense of being stared at, multiple subsequent studies attempted to repeat Sheldrake's results and failed. Further, his study methodology has been attacked (if you want references, let me know, but I'm sure you can Google as well as I can). Bluntly, as his results can't be reproduced by anybody else, they're almost certainly experimental bias or a badly designed experiment.”

I’ve seen shoddy efforts to debunk Sheldrake. But if you think you have something better to offer, go ahead.

“With respect to the accounts of telepathy and precognition in Chapter 9 (you didn't say specifically, so I'm guessing as to what you're referring), it's all anecdotal stories, and where Sheldrake tries to approach the level of evidence, it's all uncontrolled, unrepeatable experiments.”

i) You’re arbitrarily restricting the evidence to protect your position. But there’s nothing wrong with anecdotal evidence. Most of what we know is based on anecdotal or testimonial evidence.

ii) You’re also assuming that paranormal phenomena should operate with the same uniformity as “natural” events. But to the degree that paranormal phenomena involve personal agency or mental causation, it isn’t mechanically repeatable. You’re making another category mistake.

“Maybe psychic phenomenon is too subtle for our science to detect, maybe only an experimenter who "believes" can reproduce the results. Those are possible explanations. I think that's less probable than the fact all researchers make mistakes, researchers are as prone as the rest of us to bias, and we can all be fooled by our desire to believe. That is why we have the scientific method, after all: if we were logical, rational beings, we wouldn't need it.”

I wasn’t attempting to make a general case for the paranormal. Rather, I was citing a particular case which intersects with dualism.

As far as evidence for the paranormal generally, Stephen Braude has a number of philosophically rigorous monographs on the subject.

“I hope I'm not rigid or irrational about that belief: if there is evidence for dualism, I'd like to believe I'm eager to be proven wrong and I assert it would be a tremendous thing to learn about the universe and our place in it.”

To the contrary, it’s pretty obvious that you’re a committed physicalist. Your throwaway disclaimers are belied by your actual conduct.

steve hays
November 7, 2012 at 4:13 PM


“Google is all you need; there are multiple studies, by multiple groups, all unable to reproduce his results. There's simply nothing else to say.”

No. That’s not my job. You raised the objection. The onus lies squarely on your shoulders to cite what you think are the best studies by the most reputable groups. I hope you have something a cut above CSICOP.

“I can't imagine how you might justify that statement: first, most of what we ‘know’ is based on science, and science is strongly antipathetic to anecdotal or testimonial evidence. Please name a single broad area of human knowledge based on anecdotal or testimonial evidence!”

Historical knowledge, including the history of science. Or my personal knowledge of my own past. My own observations and memories of people I’ve known, places I’ve lived. Or news reports of contemporary events.

Likewise, a lot of science is conducted outside the laboratory. Take a zoologist who studies wildlife in the field.

“Second, it has been well-studied: humans are genuinely bad reporters of events, and are often mistaken in the big details and invariably mistaken in the little ones.”

That would undercut experimental evidence, which relies on tedious observation.

“You have no evidential support for this statement, you're simply using it as a way to avoid the fact that paranormal phenomenon invariably fails any and all scientific testing.”

To the contrary, you’re prejudging the nature of the paranormal, as if the paranormal ought to operate like a chemical reaction. You’re view of science is prescriptive rather than descriptive.

“In other words, if something cannot be scientifically tested, it must be ‘special’. OK, fine, it's an argument, but it's not a particularly good one.”

Many things can’t be scientifically tested. I remember things my grandmother told me in private conversations. Those remembered conversations can’t be scientifically tested. Does that mean we should systematically doubt every memory that can’t be scientifically tested?

You aren’t beginning with reality. You aren’t beginning with human experience. Rather, you’re beginning with your narrow, preconceived theory, then using that artificial filter to screen out broad swaths of experienced reality.

steve hays
        November 7, 2012 at 7:18 PM


        "You're really saying there's evidence for telepathy..."

        Yes, there's evidence for telepathy.

        "...and it's my responsibility to prove you wrong?"

        If evidence for telepathy dovetails with evidence for dualism, and you're arguing for physicalism, then it's incumbent on you to refute the counterevidence (counter to physicalism).

        "Did I tell you my cats juggle chainsaws when there's nobody in the room? (Refute me if you dare! I patiently await your citations of the best studies by the most reputable groups!)"

        i) That wouldn't be telepathy, that would be telekinesis. In fact, there's evidence for both.

        ii) More to the point, your illustration is a ploy. You ridicule the notion by using a made-up example. Since you made it up, you can make it ridiculous–like Russell's celestial teapot.

        That ploy allows you to duck actual cases (of telepathy/telekinesis) involving actual witnesses, actual evidence.

steve hays
November 7, 2012 at 7:27 PM


"That's exactly what it means. We now know that every time your brain remembers an event, it rewrites the memory. In other words, you are continually rewriting your memories as you access them. This is why humans are so bad at reporting events after the fact."

That's a gross overstatement. Memories are often quite stable over time.

"There's a fair amount research on this, including some recent publications in the context of a drug intended to help you forget bad memories."

Your appeal is self-defeating. You're appealing to your recollection of what these studies say. But if every time you access your memory you rewrite it, then you can't trust your memory of what the studies say.

"In summary, if your memory is not validated by some outside, fixed context, or at least corroborated by multiple people, there's little reason to believe it happened the way you remember it happening."

That's viciously regressive. Appeal to multiple attestation is a form of testimonial evidence. And it takes for granted the collective memories of the corroborative witnesses.

steve hays
November 7, 2012 at 7:50 PM


"That's exactly what it means. We now know that every time your brain remembers an event, it rewrites the memory. In other words, you are continually rewriting your memories as you access them. This is why humans are so bad at reporting events after the fact."

Which instantly cuts the ground out from under your appeal to experimental evidence. If memory is that unstable, then scientists can't trust their recollection of the experimental results.


“On the one hand, God says abortion is murder. On the other hand, humans spontaneously abort roughly a quarter of the time. If God thinks abortion is a bad thing, why would humans naturally and unavoidably do it all of the time?”

i) To begin with, yes, God has the right to do some things which humans don’t have the right to do.

ii) Many things happen in a fallen world. People die of “natural causes” like cancer. That doesn’t mean we’re entitled to induce cancer in people.

steve hays
November 6, 2012 at 3:47 PM

For someone who touts logic, it's amusing to see DL caricaturing the arguments of his opponent. What we're getting from DL isn't logic, but a fit of pique.

And this is the same guy who resorted to the argumentum ad passiones fallacy by invoking his military service to win sympathy for his position.

steve hays
November 7, 2012 at 9:58 AM


“For starters: Why in the world would you just assume that I'm a guy?”

You said you were a combat vet. Women aren’t supposed to serve in combat. And even if the restrictions have been relaxed in the past few years, you indicated that you were retired. So that would be a while ago.

“You see, therein lies my trouble with trying to dialogue with you.”

You’re not my dialogue partner. You’re a foil.

“You make so many assumptions about the other person's character and person before you even engage their arguments.”

We can properly draw inferences about someone’s moral character from their position on ethical issues, viz. Peter Singer.

“The reason why I have ceased to engage you on this topic, is not because of any perceived slight…”

I haven’t complained about your refusal to engage the argument. It’s fine with me if you opt out.

“…but rather the inability to have you answer a single objection on the terms in which the objection is made and without committing any number of gross logical fallacies.”

That’s just your tendentious, self-serving characterization, which you resort to as a substitute for actual argument.

“For instance, please, do tell how invoking my military service to this country and my willingness to lay down my life in a combat environment -voluntarily- as a point of argumentation for a citizen's "choice" is an ad passiones fallacy?”

Because it’s irrelevant to whether or not there ought to be a rape exception. So your interjecting that into the debate is a transparent emotional ploy to elicit bogus respect for your proabortion position.

Your military record creates no more presumption in favor of abortion than Wesley Clark’s military record.

“I only brought it up as a minor point.”

I notice that some people have a habit of raising points which suddenly become “minor” points after the fact once their point is shot down.

“You avoided all of the important points and got hung up on this one.”

I haven’t avoided any of your points. By contrast, you’ve avoided the counterarguments.

“I chose not to belabor it because it wasn't an essential piece; however, the point made still stands.”

Your point was knocked down.

“By your continued mischaracterization of logical fallacies, you've demonstated that you've probably not had any formal rhetoric training. Perhaps that is the crux of our particular communication problem?”

Notice that throughout his comment, DL hasn’t made a reasoned argument for his position. Instead, he tries to characterize his opponent’s argument.

“In his eyes, I'm 'morally depraved', mentally deranged, and equivalent to Jack Kevorkian, neonazis, and Hitler.”

As I noted before, how people react to comparisons is a test of their emotional maturity and critical detachment, or lack thereof.

For instance, the example of neonazis was used to illustrate the fact that beliefs can be culpable as well as mistaken. That immoral beliefs reflect back on the moral character of their proponent. That’s the level at which the comparison operates. For someone who touts logic, DL’s reaction is illogical.

“Granted, I'm coming at this as a person who was orphaned at birth and whose ‘biological parents’ have never shown any parental concern in the sense you and Steve are arguing for."

In which case you should have more compassion for children conceived in rape.

Not to mention that this is yet another argumentum ad passiones on your part.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    Steve Hays: "You’re not my dialogue partner. You’re a foil."

    Thank you very much for proving my point - EXACTLY.

    Let the entire above dialogue at November 7, 2012 at 9:58 AM serve as evidence as to why I do not engage with Mr. Hays. Prayer is all that remains.

    Peace, out,
        steve hays
        November 7, 2012 at 11:38 AM

        DL didn't come here to be persuaded, but to persuade others. He's been using this forum as a platform to lobby for his proabortion stance.

steve hays
November 7, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Your tu quoque fails. Yes, I have an agenda. I'm promoting a consistent prolife position. I don't hide that. I'm upfront about my agenda. No concealment at my end.

You're the one who's pretending that you don't have an agenda.

And of course there are situations in which we're supposed to infer motives. For instance, to convict someone of a crime, you must generally infer criminal intent.

Likewise, we infer the motives of used car salesmen and political candidates.

Why are you so concerned about rhetorical bashing and so unconcerned about physically bashing little babies to pieces? You have no sense of moral proportion.

Finally, all you've been doing in comment after comment is to whine. You offer no constructive substantive input. You just whine.

1 comment:

  1. “I can't imagine how you might justify that statement: first, most of what we ‘know’ is based on science, and science is strongly antipathetic to anecdotal or testimonial evidence. Please name a single broad area of human knowledge based on anecdotal or testimonial evidence!”

    I'd expect as much from someone who says "Google is all you need."