Saturday, October 25, 2008

Operation Pro-choice Mop-up

Zach Moore responds and indicates that my responses to him are too wordy. Evident of his narcissism, he apparently think I am writing for him. I am under no illusion that Moore will be persuaded by rational argumentation, and don't think anything I write will have an effect on him, so I don't write for him. My posts are for others. Apparently Moore is concerned with time and how many words are used, yet for his end, he posts a reply that is about 95% smarm and 5% substance. Moreover, Moore clearly wants to avoid the argument and has been relegated to trying to get the discussion to move to such off-topic issues as TAG and who can smarm the best! How that figures into the debate is beyond me.

Anyway, Moore wants it short, so be it:

Z: His harranguing over the so-called "Utopian Principle" is getting tired, so I'll leave that alone

P: But Zach brought this up. It was his justification for he claim that he would like abortions "rare."

Z: His main thrust has been to assert the full humanity of the fetus.

P: A demonstrable lie, as those who have read my posts can attest. My main thrust has been to show Moore that he is wrong in saying that the full humanity of the fetus doesn't matter for his argument to go through. This means his argument goes through with the premise: Fetuses are fully human. I disagree his argument can go through with that premise, and gave arguments as to why. So my argument is that (a) Moore's argument doesn't work if the fetus is fully human, contrary to his protests otherwise; and (b) Moore must argue that the fetus is not "fully human." He's not done so as of yet.

Z: He claims that since my position is that personal sovereignty is without exception, if I were to grant that the fetus is human, my argument fails. As I have already pointed out, I'm happy to do so. As I said, "Even if I were to follow Paul down his rabbit hole and grant that a fetus has the same sovereignty enjoyed by its mother, that only extends to within the fetus' own body. Once removed from its uterine environ, the fetus is free to exercise that sovereignty in whichever direction it likes."

P: It's not a "rabbit hole" when your claim that, "My argument goes through whether the fetus is fully human or not." I just took Moore at his word. Apparently that's not good enough. I know he "pointed out" that Moore-sovereignty "only extends to within the fetuses own body." I know all of that. I rebutted that in my last post. I specifically showed how this very claim of Moore's works against Moore. So, rather than advance the discussion, Moore repeats himself. Funny for a guy concerned with word count.

Z: Paul doesn't like my definition of sovereignty.

P: Well, that's true, but irrelevant. The honest communicator would let his readers know that I gave actual arguments as to why I think your view of sovereignty false.

Z: But he also appears to not understand it. For whatever reason, he thinks that I'm talking about a 'right' to 'not have bad things happen to my body.' This is not the case. I'll repeat it again: it is the right to decide what things stay in one's body and what things stay out.

P: Right, and this is specifically what I rebutted in my post. I even quoted you verbatim making this exact same claim and gave reasons to suppose it false. Moore’s not advancing an argument anymore. He apparently thinks that the "THUS SAITH MOORE!!" counts as an authoritative word that I must submit to.

Z: I'd appreciate it if Paul actually used my premises, rather than just claim to use them. Thus, all his counterexamples fall apart like an unimplanted blastocyst.

P: I actually did, as anyone who reads my post can tell. And, notice all Moore does here is to assert that I haven't actually used his premises. Moore can't actually engage my argument, but he still had to save face in front of his loyal reader.

See, that's why my post was so long, because of how much I directly quoted you.

Z: don't know if anyone else thinks it's a shame that Paul didn't provide us with the "scientific" argument for the full humanity of the fetus, especially since it's apparently one of the easiest arguments to make.

P: It is easy, but also irrelevant to the specific argument I'm making. Funny, I made this point and explained it my last post. If Moore read it, he should've noted my explanation. But apparently he's big on people reading his post, not so much on reading other's.

Z: And even more especially since his entire argument rests on the humanity of the fetus, while mine does not.

P: Another demonstrable lie. My entire argument with you does not depend on me proving the full humanity of the fetus. That was granted by you. As was obvious to any who read my post, I covered this point in some detail. I'm offering a reductio. An internal critique. See, the beauty of an internal critique is that you don't have to prove any of your premises since all the premises you use are ones granted by your opponent.


  1. Paul,

    I would be interested in seeing how you would defend the personhood of the fetus scientifically. I had said in one of my comments to Zach that I always considered "personhood" to be a metaphysical category rather than a scientific one. I mean, you can see cells, organs, limbs, etc. under a microscope, but you don't see "personhood", right? Maybe I'm not understanding what you mean when you say it's easy to prove it scientifically.

  2. Hi Craig,

    Paul never said *personhood* is easy to prove scientifically.

    Although, he may mean personhood by 'full humanity', I'm not sure.

    What he said is that "I have "science" on my side here too. In fact, arguing for the full humanity of the fetus is actually one of the easiest arguments to make, I think. But that's "immaterial." [to Paul's argument]

    Here Paul may be saying that science helps in proving the full humanity of the fetus (i.e. personhood), by answering the ontological question, that the fetus *is* a human being. The ontological status of the unborn entity definitely informs its normative status.

    Also, talk of 'full humanity' stikes me as better than talk of 'personhood', as I see no reason (besides accidental properties, which I don't think are good reasons) to differentiate between humanity and personhood.

  3. Hey Craig,

    Caleb's mostly stated what I meant.

    I'd add that, much like with evidences in apologetics, I can argue on the unbeliever's own terms. That is, I can use all the evidence of embryology and show that the fetus has it's own unique human DNA, it is a unified organism, it directs itself towards next stages of life, it is living, etc., etc., etc. So it is a human being. The offspring of humans. If not, what species is it? Especially when dealing with unbelievers. With naturalistic materialists. What more do I need? Are they going to invoke some kind of Cartesian soul?

    I think, as virtually all embryologists agree, it is undeniable that it is a human. That part of the debate is fairly a closed case.

    But, just because one may be a human being doesn't mean that it is the subject of rights, allegedly. So here's where non-scientific debates enter into the picture. What property or quality is needed to make on the bearer of rights? Not a scientific question.

    Or, some might want to bring the concept of personhood into it. Granting the obvious - that the fetus is a living human being - they may want an *extra* feature that makes it the subject of rights - personhood. So, they would argue that it is a human that is not a person.

    I can go to all of these places, especially since I never said my argument was limited to using the findings of science. But as far a what science tells us, the festus is a full human. It has all the *essential* elements that would classify it as human *in this field*.

    So, if pro-choicers want to add to the limits of science and argue that the findings of science are not enough to show t's full humanity, that we need to run to the philosophers to determine these questions, so be it. I can play on that field too and will gladly take the admission of yet another area of life that science is impotent to speak on. So these same people are going to have a hard time when they revert back to deifying science in other areas of importance.

  4. The first paragraph reminds me of a conversation I once observed (Adapted from the movie, Amadeus):

    ZACH: My dear fellow, there are in fact only so many words the eyes can read in the course of an evening. Don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many words, that's all. Cut a few and it will be perfect.

    MANATA: Which few did you have in mind?

  5. I'd like to comment on the "personhood" argument, because there seems to be some discrepancy here about what the two sides require of the other.

    The apologists on the one side are stating that the personhood argument is irrelevant. I don't see how this is possible, since the claim is that the abortion destroys a human being. The question that is natural brought up is: is a baby fetus a human being?

    Most people would argue that a human sperm is not a human being, nor is a human egg. If they did, they'd have to deal with the concept that ovulation, masturbation, nocturnal emissions, etc. are all murder. I think we can all agree that this is not the case.

    Most people would also agree that a baby that comes out of the womb is a human being. It can breathe by itself, speak, think, and perform *most* of the functions that you and I can (enough that we call it human).

    This 9 month point is rather arbitrary, as development is a nonstop process until death (the 9 month period happens to be where the fetus is no longer in the womb, but it develops along all the same). The question is, if the beginning--the sperm and the egg--are not a human, and the 9-month baby is, then at what point does this organism become a human being? This question, in the context of the apologist's argument, seems unavoidable.

  6. Marshall,

    I agree that Moore is a hack. He spends his time debating that Old Time religion form of fundamentalism he grew up around. The "America is Christian" subculture. The "Jesus is your buddy" stuff. The moralistic type of Christianity he grew up around. That's why when called upon to exercise the hamster in his head at a higher speed than he's used to dealing with, he understandably falls down exhausted. That's why all he can do is "tell jokes." His words, not mine.

    Moores argument *does not* work if the unborn baby is fully human. That's my point. But he thinks it does. So I'm showing him that *his* argument, *as given*, is a hack job.

    Now, when Moore can get past his pride and do somehting I know he loathes, admit I beat him in yet another debate, then we can move on to those issues. But so long as he's going to put forth the stupid claim that his argument works even if the fetus is fully human, I'm going to point out that the emperor has no clothes and hi-light that stupidity