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Let me say upfront that I understand this article it not a proof for Christianity. Rather, I am explaining that if one cares for the weak in society, then one must adopt the Judeo-Christian worldview. Likewise, if one is a naturalist, one must not care for the weak or, at the very least, admit that one is contradicting one’s naturalism in caring for the weak.

Within Western culture a great divide has grown between the metaphysical views of materialism and supernaturalism and such a divide has slowly impacted how Western society treats its weak.[1] The vast majority of lawmakers in Western culture, regardless of religious claims, operate under a materialistic worldview. Such a worldview lacks a proper justification for absolute morality and in many cases justifies the extermination of the weak. The Judeo-Christian worldview alternatively, provides the best justification for an absolute morality that protects the weak. The Judeo-Christian worldview best fits with what humans know a priori to be right, namely that a society should take care of its weak rather than bring them harm.

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ABC put forth possibly one of the most biased reports I’ve seen in quite some time. Starting with an emotional appeal, the article reveals its bias in a most blatant manner, “But under a new law in Oklahoma, women like Casteix, who have been sexually assaulted, will be forced to undergo a second trauma. The law requires them to undergo a sonogram, and depending on the state of pregnancy, it could be a transvaginal one, which involves insertion of a wand.” The article goes on to bury the other side of the story, placing it on the third page, a page that most readers wouldn’t get to.

Journalistic integrity (or the lack thereof) aside, it is true that the law doesn’t allow for exceptions in abortion or incest. Considering that 93% of abortions occur for social reasons (with only about 1% occurring for rape or incest), there’s little reason to include a caveat in the law concerning rape and incest. Regardless, such a caveat is, logically speaking, unnecessary.

When abortion proponents bring up rape and incest as exceptions, they are often using fallacious reasoning. They are making an emotional appeal in order to support the act of abortion. Not to sound completely callous, I do have sympathy for someone who has been raped and then been left with a pregnancy as a result of that rape. Such an event is tragic and if the family or private organizations cannot help such a woman, I believe the government has a moral obligation to help her. Whether that be through paying for her counseling, paying for her healthcare during and after the pregnancy, or providing adequate and safe housing, the government should take care of her if her family or private organizations fall short.

Regardless, if a fetus is a human person (even if certain capacities haven’t been fully realized) then whether the fetus’ creation was intentional, an accident, or the product of a forced sexual act becomes completely irrelevant when discussing the rights of the fetus. Whatever the paternal contributor did has no bearing on the rights of the fetus. Looking at the issue logically (which one must do when determining the morality of an issue) whether or not a pregnancy was caused by rape is completely superfluous. If the fetus is not a human person or has yet to obtain personhood, then whether the law allows the caveat of rape and incest is irrelevant; the law is arbitrary and unnecessary. If, however, the fetus is a human person, then no caveat for rape is needed because the fetus is still a human being.

Before we bring in the victimhood of the mother (which is legitimate, she is a victim in the case of rape and incest), we must also realize that the fetus is also a victim. The fetus will eventually become an infant, that infant will become a child, that child will become a teenager, and that teenager will become an adult. In all those processes, that child will most likely grow up without a father and/or knowing that he is a product of a rapist. This causes quite a bit of guilt and problems on the part of the child. Just as the mother suffers so too the child suffers.

Another aspect to consider is the moral status of being a victim as opposed to being a victimizer. One must consider if it is better morally to be put into the Gulag for refusing to spy on one’s neighbors, or if it is morally better to spy on one’s neighbors and put them in the Gulag in order to avoid the same punishment for one’s self. Most ethicists and even laypeople will agree that, morally speaking, it is better to be a victim than to be a victimizer. When we look to the issue of abortion, specifically in the case of rape, though the woman is in the morally better position by being the victim, when she seeks an abortion she actually becomes a victimizer; though a victim of rape, she shares the moral equivalency of her rapist when she seeks an abortion as she is murdering a human person.

Such harsh terminology might make some uncomfortable, but before having an emotional response, it is better to truly evaluate what was just said. If the fetus is a human person, then to terminate that life is the equivalent to murder. After all, we hardly ever say that Stalin “terminated potential votes,” but rather that he murdered millions of people. We don’t say that a rapist had “involuntary sexual intercourse,” but rather that he raped a woman. We use such terminology because (1) such terminology appropriately describes what occurred and (2) certain words have emotional connotations. Thus, when we look to abortion, we see:

1) An innocent human person (the fetus)

2) The killing of the innocent human person

Killing an innocent human person is almost always called murder. When a woman, who is a victim of rape, seeks to kill the fetus that is the result of rape, she engages in murder. Though she will always be a victim of rape, she becomes a victimizer when she seeks an abortion, which makes her just as immoral as her rapist. This might be a hard pill to swallow, but it still remains true.

In conclusion, whether or not a pregnancy is caused by rape is completely irrelevant. If the fetus is a human person, then no caveat for rape or incest should be allowed (life of the mother, however, does remain a legitimate caveat that people can voluntarily consider). A human person is still a human person, regardless of how he came into existence.

Dealing with Intrinsic Human Value

Prelude | Essence and Potentiality | Definitions | What is human? | Intrinsic Value of humanityOf fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part a) |  Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part b) | Functionalism and Utilitarian ethics revisited | Conclusion

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With the previous post, we established a premise for what it is to be human, or better, what criteria we cannot use when determining who is and is not human. We cannot rely upon how a person looks, how big a person is, or the quality of life. These are arbitrary standards and as such we cannot use them; any standard offered must be non-arbitrary.

The standard I have provided can be found in Part 4 of this series. Simply put, a human being is a rational animal; biologically, his DNA and biological make up link him to other homo sapiens. Likewise, he holds the capacity to be rational, that is, creative, inventive, etc. There’s no specification on the degree to which he can accomplish this, just that he has the capacity. After all, how do we determine who is more rational or who is more creative or who is more inventive? We can only go so far as to say that the capacity exists; we cannot use the actualization of the capacity as a standard, because such a standard would be arbitrary.

With the above in mind, we must determine whether certain types of people are actually people; everything from fetuses to the elderly have been thrown into the debate of “person or not”?

With apologies to those with short attention spans, this may be one of the longer posts in the series. I have divided it into sections and sub-sections for those who cannot read it all in one sitting.

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Dealing with Intrinsic Human Value

Prelude | Essence and Potentiality | Definitions | What is human? | Intrinsic Value of humanity | Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part a)Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part b) | Functionalism and Utilitarian ethics revisited | Conclusion

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We now know that to be human is to be a rational animal (thus defined as a human animal). To be a human animal is to have a soul. Is the idea that we have intrinsic value based upon having a soul? I do not believe so. I believe that ensoulment can provide one of the better arguments for intrinsic human value, especially under the Christian worldview. After all, under the Christian worldview, a human being is made in the image of God, thus by the very nature of being human, a person has value because that person is made in God’s image. This is the strongest case so long as a person believes in the Christian God and that He created humans in His image. If one has those two beliefs as a premise, then it logically follows that humans – no matter their stage of development or ability to actualize all capacities – have intrinsic value.

Unfortunately, not everyone accepts such premises and it is doubtful that most people will change their mind on such premises. We are then left to ask ourselves if there is any natural reason for believing in intrinsic human value. Do we have a reason to believe in it by appealing to reason alone? I would advocate that there is certainly a non-spiritual, non-religious, purely natural way of determining that humans have intrinsic value.

Intrinsic Value

What does it mean for a thing to have “intrinsic value”? As the name indicates, to have intrinsic value means that a thing has value by the mere act of existing. One cannot add to one’s value or take away from one’s value; all things that of a group that are intrinsically valuable are all equally valuable. If we could add to intrinsic value, then the value is ultimately extrinsic. It is the same if we could take the value away. Thus, if value is intrinsic, it is the same for everyone.

This stands in stark opposition to the view of extrinsic value. A car is extrinsically valuable. Its value goes only so far as people will let it go. If no value is placed upon the car, then so be it. The American dollar is extrinsically valuable; it only has the power it does because people have decided to put an emphasis on it as a way for paying for services rendered and goods. If we did not value the dollar, then it would be of no value.

So if humans are extrinsically valuable, then there are no human rights; humans would have to earn their value (if there is, in fact, any value to be earned at all). Humans, as a whole or as individuals, would only be as valuable as we make them to be. If we decide that certain humans aren’t valuable, then those humans simply have no value.

This is why the debate over extrinsic and intrinsic value is so important. It lays at the basis over deciding human rights. Those who accept intrinsic value (such as myself) would argue that all humans, regardless of physical or mental condition or stage of development are valuable human beings, deserving of basic human goods (human rights). That is the position that I am going to defend on this post. Though I have already dealt somewhat with utilitarianism and the idea of extrinsic value in the second post of this series, I will deal with it more later in a following post. For now, however, I wish to defend the natural law view of intrinsic human value.

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Cross posted at The Christian Watershed.

I watched the film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas today and, aside from being a very depressing movie, one interaction stood out to me. It was between the protagonist 8 year old boy and his antagonist Nazi father, who is the Comendant for the local concentration camp. The boy had just seen Jews in their Nazi-issues clothing working on a farm (he didn’t know it was a concentration camp and to him it looked like a farm) and inquired to the father about them:

Boy: “Who are the people that work on the farm?”

Father: “Well, you see, those people aren’t really people.”

In other words, the father was telling the boy, “They might look human, but they’re not really human persons; they have no value, so we can do to them as we wish.”

This has been the reasoning for the Nazis, the Soviets (for political prisoners), the slavers, and multiple other nationalities throughout history. The Romans, in an effort to boost “manliness” believed that the patriarch of the family was able to decide who was and was not a human person. This led to weaker boys in the family being killed off. The Spartans viewed the fail and fragile as not being human, to the point that infanticide was a common practice. The reasoning always goes back to one argument, “No matter how much they look like a human or biologically/genetically resemble a human, they’re not a human person.”

The above actions would be, to most people, detestable. If we woke up tomorrow morning and read about a father killing his 13 year old son because he believed his son to be weak or not “manly” enough, every group from Christian organizations to organizations that support transvestites would be declaring such an act to be deplorable, and rightfully so.

Imagine the outrage if we read about the University of Kansas Medical Center taking in the severely retarded and disabled and using them for medical experiments. Imagine what would be done if, against their will, such individuals were forced to give up their organs for some “therapeutic organ relocation program” that took vital organs from the severely disabled and gave it to able-bodied patients who needed the organs. Would anyone in the news media laud the benefits of such a practice, or would the focus be on whether or not such victims (or experiments depending on one’s point of view) are human persons? What if it were done to the homeless? Considering the vast medical benefits, would anyone object?

I would argue that most decent human people would object to such views. We can look to how we treat the Nazi medical experimentation on prisoners to determine the public’s reaction to the aforementioned scenario. Though such experiments offered the prospect of great medical advancements, such prospects are completely ignored and viewed as irrelevant by the vast majority of people. Why is this? Because most humans, no matter what they argue, generally hold the view that human persons have value.

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By:  J. Matthan Brown

(also posted on Truth is a Man)

In all of the debates raging over the status of the fetus I have yet to come across material which articulates the connection this issue has with the philosophy of mind.  This strikes me as odd, because one’s theory of mind is inextricably tied to one’s anthropology.  More to the point, one’s theory of the mind will have a dramatic impact on how he views the fetus.

The most pertinent topic in the philosophy of mind relating to this issue is the so called mind/body problem—which deals with defining what a mind is and how it relates to the brain.  Philosophers tackling the mind/body problem usually fall into two camps: dualists-those who believe both immaterial and material substances exist–and physicalists—those who believe only material substances exist.   In more common language, dualists believe human beings have a soul and physicalists do not.  In relation to issues regarding the fetus, the question boils down to this: if souls exist, does a fetus have a soul?  And how does this impact the abortion debate?

How one answers the mind/body problem will not only have a dramatic impact on how he views the fetus, but on how he views a full grown human being.  This is because one’s theory of mind reflects his general ontology of the human being.  For example, if one adheres to a physicalist theory of the mind then he believes that a human being is nothing more than matter and energy—the hapless byproduct of billions of years of evolution.   Under this scheme, human beings are not endowed with any special or unique importance or value-our existence is just a brute fact of nature.

In contrast, those who hold to some form of substance dualism—that both material and immaterial substances exist—believe human beings have a soul.   If human beings have a soul, this entails the existence of a transcendent immaterial being—namely God.  In natural theology, this forms the basis for the so called Argument from Consciousness which has recently been reformulated by J. P. Moreland (Consciousness and the Existence of God, Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Religion.)   If the argument from consciousness is sound, then God exists; and if human beings are a special part of his creation, it stands to reason that human beings have a purpose—a reason for existence–and that they are inherently valuable.

So we see how foundational our theory of mind is to the status of the fetus.  If the fetus is merely matter and energy, and God does not exist, then the fetus has no intrinsic or objective value or importance.  But, according to the physicalist scheme, this is true for the full grown adult as well.  In essence, there is no ontological difference between a fetus and a full grown human being under the physicalist perspective—both are simply matter and energy and neither one possess intrinsic value or dignity.

However, if substance dualism is correct, then there is a strong possibility that God exists.  If God exists, man has a purpose and is intrinsically valuable.  Like the physcialist, the dualist theory does not delineate an ontological difference between the fetus and a full grown adult.  Both posses a human soul, both are made in the image of God, and therefore, both are intrinsically valuable.

It becomes obvious that the position one holds on the status of the fetus and abortion is inextricably tied to ones theory of the mind.  If a fetus is simply matter and energy then it is ontologically equal to a full grown human being—that is, it possesses no intrinsic value or dignity.  As such, there is no objective reason why abortion is wrong—and for that matter there is no objective reason why the killing of a full grown human being is wrong either.

Conversely, if the fetus is made up of more than matter and energy—if it has a soul—then it is ontologically equal to a full grown human being.  More importantly, if a fetus has a soul, it has intrinsic value and worth—and this is true of the full grown human being as well.  Accordingly, there is an objective reason why abortion is wrong; because it is the killing of a human being; the destruction of a life endowed with the same value, dignity, and worth of a full grown adult.

Dealing with Intrinsic Human Value

Prelude | Essence and Potentiality | Definitions | What is human? | Intrinsic Value of humanity | Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part a) Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part b) | Functionalism and Utilitarian ethics revisited | Conclusion

___________________________________________________

I’m putting this forth from a discussion I’ve been having on my previous post. I’m putting it in this format mostly because I think it’s easier to display my arguments, rather than crunching them into a little reply.

I stated in my previous post:

Anything that has within its nature to be something, even if not actualized, is still that something

That is where the opposition began, specifically this comment:

But surely you don’t think that $5 is actually the same as $10 simply because if you invest $5 it can become $10. If a potential human being is an actual human being, then shouldn’t potential money be as good as actual money?

So, before going on to refute the idea that we don’t have an essence, or that we make our own essence, let me first define what I mean by my statement.

I will use “essence” and “nature” interchangeably, but a very simple definition of what both essence and nature mean is this; “the thing that makes a thing what it is.” In other words, we know the difference between a bear and an apple because both have different essences. The essence is the ding an sich (thing in itself). It is what makes that one thing unique from other groups (there is also a species essence and personal essence, one dealing with the necessary aspects of a species while the other deals with the accidents of the individual, but that is for another time).

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