Life, Conception, and all that

David Schraub, The Debate Link, asks when a human’s life begins?

He seems to be confused on this issue and links to a number of other essays some better than others. I think the question of life’s genesis for a person is a simpler one than the moral and ethical questions surrounding abortion. Look at it this way. You are a unique person. One feature of your uniqueness is a unique (identical up to replication errors) DNA signature found in each of your (diploid) cells. There is a unique point in human history at which point that particular DNA pattern and particular signature came into being. Before that it didn’t exist, after that it was you. That point is the start of your particular life’s journey on this moral coil.

Now as to the moral/ethical question of abortion, it hinges less on the particular point of when life begins, but when you think moral, legal, or other important criteria finds that the life in question has enough value that it cannot be blithely terminated. Mr Singer seems to think this point is sometimes after birth. Others find for other relatively arbitrary points in later development, when the nascent life reaches one or other milestone. Viability is a particularly poor choice in that as technology improves this point recedes. Do those who support this really want to be tied to a point of view which will be extinct probably within half a century?

Personally, I’d prefer we concentrate for our policy on a point of view which realizes the reality that people have differing views of truth and ethics. But for all, we can agree that the blastocyst, while some may consider it not to be morally human, it is something more than other life in the animal kingdom because it has the potential to become human. For that reason, I would support legislation which requires that those wishing to end that life to recognize that this decision is a moral choice which should not be made lightly. While I have some ideas toward that end, I’d certainly entertain less strict ways of accomplishing that end. My proposal is that morals legislation would call for fines, community service, and/or short-term jail sentences be handed down to those who wish to perform acts which we wish be taken not lightly. There might be call to have separate populations for such imprisonment to keep those serving time for “pennance” (?) out of the general prison population, but there might also be good reasons not to do so, that is it might do good to temper the general population with people willing to serve some time for things they believe in.

Mr Schraub also chooses to point out an example of a relatively extreme view, at the blog “I blame the Patriarchy”. It is an interesting, if representative, example of the extreme “feminist” frankly pro-abortion point of view. It is therefore interesting to contrast that post (and blog) with representatives/spokeswomen for the complementarian feminist point of view at girl-talk. The anonymous author of “I blame” is angry, foul mouthed, and mean spirited. The women at girl-talk … are never that. Who might persuade the outside unconvinced more? The comparison reminds me of my anti-ambassador post earlier. It appears Mr Meyers is not the only one.

Update: On consideration of a comment, I’d like to note two things, that the “moral penance” legislation I’d propose is not just for abortion, but also divorce, euthenasia, and possibly marriage. And if one is of the opinion that such legislation is “unfair” toward women because men would not be subject to that. Womens movement’s rhetoric stresses that abortion is about a “woman’s right to privacy” and the women’s decision excluding men. Fair enough, if that is their point of view then it is also their responsibility. If (as I might prefer) that they might come round to feeling that this is a decision which should be up to the father and mother then I would expect the father to share in the required punishment.

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  1. Chris Clarke says:

    The anonymous author of “I blame” is angry, foul mouthed, and mean spirited. The women at girl-talk … are never that. Who might persuade the outside unconvinced more?

    To me it’s kind of a toss-up, but I must say your cloying, condescending, sanctimonious defense of your scientific illiteracy is very persuasive. Maybe both those other blogs should start being more like yours.

  2. Mark says:

    Mr Clarke,
    Condescending was not my intent. Mr Schraub points out that the LBAC has problems in it’s application to the ethics of abortion, but it remains that the argument that life indeed does begin at conception is not so hard to defend.

    Cloying … that I don’t get. I thought cloying means sickenly sweet, possibly over the top sentimentality. I’m not sure I can read that into my essay.

    Sanctimonious or “hypocritical excess piety”? That I don’t get as well. What in my essay leads you to that adjective? Can you be more specific? Do you think I”m sanctimonious because I find resorting to insult and profanity is not an appropriate or even useful in public discourse?

    And as for scientific illiteracy … again, what praytell do you mean? What do you find in my claim that is wrong? On the other hand, while I’m not an expert in biology and I’ll readily admit that, I will put in a plea of innocence against the charge of scientific illiteracy.