Pharyngula

Uh-oh…a pro-life poll

Here’s one way to foil a pharynguloid poll invasion: limit your poll answers to those that aren’t even wrong. Try to answer the question of”When does life begin?” — your only choices are at birth, at conception, at some stage, with a god (?), and the ever-useful “I don’t know”. Conception is winning right now, when everyone knows the correct answer is approximately 4 billion years ago. There is no dead stage in the cycle of life!

The alternative answer is “after the kids all move out”, but that option isn’t listed, either.

Comments

  1. #1 Peter Vaht
    July 31, 2008

    “With God” is the same as “I don’t know”

  2. #2 The Adamant Atheist
    July 31, 2008

    They’re grossly oversimplifying a complex issue.

    As a pro-choicer, I admit there is a genuine moral/ethical argument to be had regarding how late is too late to have an abortion.

    But it’s an argument that should be informed by science and not religious superstition.

  3. #3 llewelly
    July 31, 2008

    PZ, please don’t use their language. These deluded people do not favor life at all. Call them anti-freedom, or anti-choice, or pro-back-alley-abortion, or victims of charlatans, or anything but their self-righteous crap name.

  4. #4 Simon Coude
    July 31, 2008

    That is definitely a strange poll. I chose when the baby is born, just to contradict their good old “pro-life” christian values.

    Don’t you think the little angels in the top-right corner look like little demons? Maybe I’m too tired, but they look mean.

    I hope I won’t have nightmares because of them.

  5. #5 John C. Randolph
    July 31, 2008

    Life begins several million years ago. The sperm and the egg are alive before conception.

    -jcr

  6. #6 Bride of Shrek OM
    July 31, 2008

    As I’ve said before I’m such a poll troll moll that crashing these things makes me feel all tingly in my nether regions. Keep ‘em coming PZ!

  7. #7 Zeno
    July 31, 2008

    They won’t be happy till blastocysts have voting rights, embryos qualify for the drinking age, and fetuses are eligible for the House of Representatives.

    So far the only well-documented case of unambiguous personhood in a fetus is Stewie Griffin, who was found to have plans for the conquest of Europe on him at the time of his birth. (And in his case the right-to-life gang should consider the downside of getting what they’re asking for.)

  8. #8 azqaz
    July 31, 2008

    Well, they need to define what they are calling “Life” before the question can be answered. When the cells start to edit DNA into RNA and produce proteins? When cells start dividing with almost identical DNA/genes? When it is Human?!??!?!?!?! Please, have them elucidate on what is “Alive”, and then I can help them.

  9. #9 j a higginbotham
    July 31, 2008

    How long is “the moment of conception”? Is life assumed to begin at the beginning or end or middle of this process?

  10. #10 nanoAl
    July 31, 2008

    llewelly @ #3
    To quote george strombolopolous (SP?)
    “cut the crap, you’re either pro-abortion or anti-abortion”
    and higgs @ #9
    you’re thinking way too hard, these morons don’t have a clue how the process works. They probably think life begins once the man finishes.

  11. #11 nanoAl
    July 31, 2008

    or you could go by George Carlin’s definition, life begins when the man says “Oh sorry honey, I meant to pull out but the phone distracted me…”

  12. #12 John Morales
    July 31, 2008

    I couldn’t vote – there is no “none of the above” option.

    I mean, eggs and spermatozoa are both already living cells, aren’t they?

  13. #13 Liberal Atheist
    July 31, 2008

    “After the kids all move out” Haha never heard that one before. :-)

  14. #14 Jason
    July 31, 2008

    I prefer to call people like them “pro-birth.” After all, they don’t care what happens to you after you exit the birth canal.

  15. #15 Dave in Escondido
    July 31, 2008

    It’s a stupid question, since the word “life” is left undefined and the notion that it begins (rather than began) is taken for granted. If this were a serious discussion I would never answer the question, but would dispute it.

    However, this is politics, not a search for truth.

    I therefore suggest that we all answer “at birth” just to tilt the poll as far from the pollsters’ expectations as possible.

    By the way, in the bakersfield poll, I found I could vote 4 times. I have two computers, and two browsers (Firefox and Safari) on each. If you’re similarly configured, try it.

  16. #16 Brownian, OM
    July 31, 2008

    I can’t vote with a good conscience unless I know all the facts.

    For instance, what is the fetus at A certain stage in the womb’s position on The New Yorker cover depiction of Barack and Michelle Obama as terrorists? And how would ‘I don’t know’ reduce the economic and educational disparity between whites and minorities?

    Boy, it’s true what they say about the media dumbing-down complex issues.

  17. #17 AlanWCan
    July 31, 2008

    I agree with llewelly (#3). Stop letting these loonies set the tone. They’re not pro-life, they’re anti-choice.

  18. #18 Melinda Dillon
    July 31, 2008

    Everyone just needs to vote “when the baby is born.” That will totally blow their tops.

  19. #19 BobbyEarle
    July 31, 2008

    nanoAl @10…

    “They probably think life begins once the man finishes.”

    I know that when I finish, a burning lust for a pizza comes to life.

  20. #20 Hugh G. rection
    July 31, 2008

    In the testicles. Sperm are alive.

  21. #21 Dave in Escondido
    July 31, 2008

    Where is everyone? I know most of the US and Canada are asleep right now, but it’s morning in the UK and late afternoon in Australia. Come on, folks, get busy!

    Presently, “at birth” is beating “moment of conception” 36.9% to 22.2%, with “in the womb” somewhere between those two.

  22. #22 Jim1138
    July 31, 2008

    If the fetus were grown in a machine (not a woman) and there were willing and well qualified parents wanting to raise the baby, I might have objections about abortion. If the mother doesn’t want a child for any reason, who am I (or you) to tell her she is going to have the child? It’s not just a year out of her life, it’s more like a lifetime commitment. If the child is unwanted, statistics say you may have a miserable, vindictive criminal in the future.

    You are too focused on the fetus. Look at the whole picture.

  23. #23 UrbanWildCat
    July 31, 2008

    To quote Bill Hicks: “You’re not a human being until you’re in my phone book.”

  24. #24 Dave in Escondido
    July 31, 2008

    Now “at birth” is beating “moment of conception” 40.9% to 19.1%.

    This is fun.

    Thank you, PZ!

  25. #25 uncle frogy
    July 31, 2008

    when everyone knows the correct answer is approximately 4 billion years ago. There is no dead stage in the cycle of life!

    duh I got distracted by the questioner’s bias and misunderstanding to realize the obvious fact so simply stated by the good doctor, of course there is a direct connection to the first life on earth.
    the question shows a basic lack of understanding of what life is and how it works. thanks for reminding me.

  26. #26 Ygern
    July 31, 2008

    I just can’t bring myself to click on any of them. The poll is just too damn stupid.
    I was raised a Catholic, but I came to my senses eventually.
    Sites like that one makes my brain want to crawl out of my skull and run away.

  27. #27 King of Ferrets
    July 31, 2008

    Crash my polls dammit PZ! I’m getting bored of waiting till I host the Skeptic’s Circle to get some attention. =P

  28. #28 Dave in Escondido
    July 31, 2008

    “at birth” — 43.1%

    “moment of conception” — 16.1%

  29. #29 Eli Vieira
    July 31, 2008

    Hilarious! These pro-life morons insist on trying to fit the world into their infantile god and life into their childish baby-from-stork-like reproductive knowledge.

    I just hope some day priests forget about children and start making love to nuns, who would thus forget about other women’s whombs and vaginas.

    Greetings from Brazil (here we just make our abortions in spite of the law and of pro-life mumbo jumbo).

  30. #30 Peter Ashby
    July 31, 2008

    I have lost count of the number of times I have asked ‘pro-lifers’ which out of a long, non exclusive list of the events of the process of conception and asked them to draw lines. Only one tried and he chose something not on the list which was completely garbled and uninformed and something to do with DNA so we went around again and he piked. Life is cyclical, even if you are a tardigrade on a cold dry day. As you say, it started 4Billion or so years ago.

    The idea that conception is not an event is foreign to these people, it simply does not occur to them and if you force them to confront it they behave like rabbits caught in headlights. Their brains hurt and they find they cannot think.

  31. #31 GunOfSod
    July 31, 2008

    When I develop a womb, the ability to conceive and the cuircumstances where I might have to decide, I’ll tell you. Until then not my F’n business.

  32. #32 Forrest Prince
    July 31, 2008

    To me, the US constitution answers the question. No person can be President until 35 years old. There’s no argument about what that means. It means you’re not considered a person until your moment of birth; the nine prececeding months in the womb don’t count. It’s your birth certificate that establishes your age, not your date of conception or implantation.

    My own standard is that a fetus transitions to moral status as a human being at the point where the fetus becomes viable outside the womb, but that point in time can never be exactly established. The best we can say is it usually happens somewhere between the second and third trimester. (Thus, commonsense laws regulating abortion to the first two trimesters, with exceptions for the third trimester when the mother’s life is threatened by continuing the pregnancy, or when the fetus has died.)

    Otherwise, as established by the US constitution, moral status as a human being begins at birth, period.

  33. #33 GunOfSod
    July 31, 2008

    When I develop a womb, the ability to conceive and the circumstances where I might have to make this decision, I’ll tell you. Until then not my F’n business.

  34. #34 negentropyeater
    July 31, 2008

    Heck, it’s my birthday today !

    I’d say, in a colloquial way, my life started 44 years ago this very day when my mother ejected me from her.

    That’s the only way I can make any sense of this stupid question.

  35. #35 Escuerd
    July 31, 2008

    Any answer I gave on this poll would be a lie. Well played, “pro-life” douchebags. Well played.

  36. #36 Philbert
    July 31, 2008

    The greetings card industry leads me to believe that the answer is “at 40″.

  37. #37 Tall
    July 31, 2008

    Am I the only one who sees a distinction between the poll question “when does life begin?” (the answer to which is at least relevant to the subject of abortion) and “when did life begin?” (the answer to which is, as we all know, several billion years ago).

  38. #38 Carlie
    July 31, 2008

    I saw a greeting card once that said life begins at 40. Does that count?

  39. #39 Carlie
    July 31, 2008

    “cut the crap, you’re either pro-abortion or anti-abortion”

    I’ll gladly take on the label “pro-abortion” if the other side takes on the label “anti-woman”.

  40. #40 T_U_T
    July 31, 2008

    re#37

    then the correct answer is “most probably a few dozens millions of years after a terrestrial planet cools down enough to hold liquid water “

  41. #41 Joseph
    July 31, 2008

    With a god? This is disturbing. Are they saying that Zeus still visits lovely maidens and gives them His manly lightning?

  42. #42 watercat
    July 31, 2008

    As I understand it, a human sperm detaches from the host, dies, and travels in an undead state to a particular site within the living body of a second human. That portion, a human egg, although having become one with its human host, now also joins the living dead. The zombie sperm seeks out its fellow denizen of the dark realm, attaches itself to the zombie egg, bells ring, angels sing, and a new life springs forth from these two dead blobs of tissue.
    Its a miracle, it is.

  43. #43 John Morales
    July 31, 2008

    Who says these comment threads don’t change anyone’s mind? ;)

    I voted after all.

  44. #44 Wolfhound
    July 31, 2008

    I’ve always called these assholes “Pro-Forced-Maternity” since they only give a shit about these “poor, unborn babies” up until they are born (as long as they are Caucasian) and given up for adoption to rich, white, Christian couples. Most of the leaders/founders of these groups are men. My, how surprising! Whatever could their motivation be, I wonder? Espcially in light of the fact that the odious banner graphic for that poll’s group shows little angel babies. If a fetus is aborted doesn’t the little fetus’ soul get to go sit on Jesus’ lap or something squishy like that?

  45. #45 John Morales
    July 31, 2008

    Escuerd @35, that’s exactly what I thought.
    But now I realize they gave me no choice but to lie or to be silent. I chose to lie, but it was a forced choice – the least unpalatable option to me.

    Ah, honesty can get so complicated…

  46. #46 Lilly de Lure
    July 31, 2008

    Negentropyeater said:

    Heck, it’s my birthday today !

    Happy Birthday Negentropyeater! BTW am I the only one to wonder why the anti-choice brigade still celebrate children’s birthdays if they believe a fertilised cell is actually a person? Surely a much more logical date to celebrate in this case would be your Conception Day (prenatal scans and parental memory should be able to give you a fairly accurate estimate of the correct day)?

    Carlie said:

    I’ll gladly take on the label “pro-abortion” if the other side takes on the label “anti-woman”.

    Excellent point – although I prefer “pro-forced birth” myself!

  47. #47 Barry
    July 31, 2008

    When does religious belief become obnoxious?

    A. At conception.

    B. When the faithful try to legislate tenets of their faith.

    C. With God.

    D. I don’t know.

  48. #48 Barry
    July 31, 2008

    Forrest Prince –

    I like the US Constitution as much as the next guy, but I think it requires some casuistry to calibrate moral status based on a clause about when someone may run for president.

    I understand your argument – that viability is difficult or impossible to determine, so we should fall back on some other standard. This sounds reasonable to me.

    I don’t agree that the other standard should be an 18th century document that does not set out to explore the issue of when life begins. I’m by no means an originalist, but I have to believe that had the Framers set out to answer the question of when life begins, they would NOT have embedded their answer in a brief comment about age restriction for the presidency.

  49. #49 John Morales
    July 31, 2008

    Lilly @46, I’m with Wolfhound @44, because they apparently want women to go all the way to term.*

    As also alluded above, as a male I probably can’t grok the true circumstances involved.

    * I.e. they want to mandate what should be a free choice.

  50. #50 Dancaban
    July 31, 2008

    @40. Years that is.

  51. #51 Wolfhound
    July 31, 2008

    @49. What a beastly website. That idiot woman was pregnant with an anecephalic fetus and was selfish enough to carry it to term so it could die a horrible death 2 hours after birth by bleeding out through its unformed skull. Yeah, that’s MUCH better than abortion. In her narrative, I love how any doctors who suggested terminating the pregnancy or weren’t supportive of her hormone-crazed reality denial were “snide and callous”. Sheesh. My favorite line was when she expressed disappointment that when the poor thing was born she noted that all of their prayers hadn’t healed the condition. The whole thing made me shudder.

  52. #52 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 31, 2008

    Happy Birthday NegativeEntropyEater

    Ferret, there is nothing wrong with being a shameless attention whore. I voted yes on your poll, and I want you to be proud of it.

    I was tempted to vote I don’t know on the main poll, if only because the question of abiogenesis is far from settled. But, in the end I did the screechy monkey, FCD thing at voted for “at birth.”

  53. #53 Bagel
    July 31, 2008

    When should we stop protecting a person’s rights?

    A. At birth

    B. When they first disagree with me or my “values”

    C. When they are not a part of my tribe

    D. When God tells us they’re evil

    E. Don’t know

  54. #54 John Morales
    July 31, 2008

    Sigh.

    Yeah, Wolfhound. To you and I, it’s disturbing, but to the “sanctity of life” crowd, it’s wholesome and laudable.

    I wish I were using hyperbole, or that the site were a parody.

  55. #55 Michelle
    July 31, 2008

    Life begins at conception. I’m all for that principle and I believe it is true…

    …Doesn’t mean I can’t kick the kid out of my womb anytime though.

  56. #56 Lilly de Lure
    July 31, 2008

    Wolfhound said:

    My favorite line was when she expressed disappointment that when the poor thing was born she noted that all of their prayers hadn’t healed the condition. The whole thing made me shudder.

    Right there with you Wolfhound, now if you’ll excuse me I tihnk I need to go and throw up!

  57. #57 T_U_T
    July 31, 2008

    then you are for murder, michelle :( sad thing there are many pseudo-pro choicers like this, who agree that embryos have the moral status of human beings, and yet they think they have right to kill them )

  58. #58 Teresa
    July 31, 2008

    Here’s an interesting “prolife” discussion.

    http://conservablogs.com/haemet/2008/07/28/the-real-face-of-choice/

  59. #59 watercat
    July 31, 2008

    Re the story at #49;
    Is it painful to bleed to death?
    If not, I see no reason to condemn this. I assume you have not been in this family’s situation, and even if you have, it was their situation, not yours, and they handled it in the way that brought the least heartbreak to those involved. (and pain, afaik) To those not involved, fuck off: this sort of thing hurts enough as it is.

  60. #60 Ferin
    July 31, 2008

    I alwasy figured it was when your parents left you home alone and forgot to lock up the booze.

  61. #61 King of Ferrets
    July 31, 2008

    @52: Woot! Go shameless attention whoring!

  62. #62 John Morales
    July 31, 2008

    watercat, my point was not to say what she did was wrong* – my point was that this is illustrative of the sort of attitude “pro-lifers” wish to establish as the norm, and to enforce with the weight of the law.

    Same thing with euthanasia; they wish to deny choice to those personally affected, out of their beliefs.

    * I hereby explicitly say it was not wrong IMO – just disturbing. And I presume that no brain = no pain.

  63. #63 Skeeve
    July 31, 2008

    I, like a few others, didn’t vote on this one. It just doesn’t provide enough back info.

    1. When a baby is born.

    Obviously, the baby is already alive at this point.

    2. At the moment of conception.

    This one is where I’m stumped. While I agree in some respect to previous posters regarding the sperm and egg posit of being alive, this is actually where we get our “life”, but at what stage can you morally say that it is a human being? I’m Pro-Choice for the most part, but when I sit down and actually think about this particular issue, I really can’t peg the moment a fresh embryo is considered a new person.

    3. With God

    Null response

    4. I don’t know.

    This should actually be the most common response to those of us without much in-depth knowledge of biology.

    I really would like to crash this poll, but it’s a stupidly worded poll. It was probably created that way to force everyone to choose #2, since that is the only choice that makes any sense. IMO, polls like this should just be ignored.

  64. #64 AJS
    July 31, 2008

    Would these “pro-life” people happen to be the same ones who support the death penalty and illegal wars, and oppose gun control?

  65. #65 Drgeox
    July 31, 2008

    I just checked the poll and interestingly enough, “When the Baby is Born” is ahead by quite a bit right now. I agree that this is a stupid poll, but I voted for the ‘at birth’ option just to bugger them.

  66. #66 freelunch
    July 31, 2008

    Would these “pro-life” people happen to be the same ones who support the death penalty and illegal wars, and oppose gun control?

    Often. They also believe that it’s okay to teach both kinds of religion: fundamentalist and evangelical (Christianity).

  67. #67 Bob
    July 31, 2008

    I have a more worthwhile poll: How many people think P.Z. Myers is a pretentious blowhard? I am quite sure the answer would hover around 100%, given his ridiculous platitudes about nothing being sacred, except of course the things he believes in. However, I think the people at National Review say it best with the following blog entry about Mr. Self-Important:

    Let’s take P. Z. Myers at his word: “Nothing is sacred, everything should be questioned.”

    Everything? A perusal of Myers’s blog indicates that there’s a lot of things he doesn’t bother to question. First, he’s an evolutionary biologist — so he doesn’t question evolution. He’s an atheist, but does not bother to ask what caused evolution.

    Does he regard abortion and homosexuality as deviations from the primary evolutionary imperative to reproduce? Does he question racial equality and desegregation? Does he question affirmative action? Women’s rights? The sexual revolution? The Big Bang theory? Does he question academic tenure? Or ask if his own salary and pension are too high?

    I suspect that Professor Myers holds many views sacred and beyond question. For most campus leftists, the notion “question everything” simply means “question everything except left-wing positions.” There isn’t any “I-only-know-that-I-do-not-know” Socratic humility with this guy. His blog is little more than an anti-religious and anti-conservative screed, and of course he’s been backed fully by the University of Minnesota administration. His antics are simply another example of political theater and anti-bourgeois hatred masquerading as academic inquiry, and further evidence of the debasement of the academy.

    –Michael Filozof, Adjunct Professor, Niagara County Community College

  68. #68 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    Bob are you quoting that in support or to expose another ridiculous fool?

  69. #69 Kirian
    July 31, 2008

    I’m going to jump on the “terminology” thing as well. I am both “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” I don’t know too many non-psychopaths who would gladly call themselves “anti-life.” Meanwhile, every story I have heard of women who have had to make this choice–no matter where their morality fell on the issue–involved an agonizing decision on the part of the mother (and sometimes the father).

    I’m pretty certain no one on either side here would be happy describing themselves as “pro-abortion” either. We all should want there to be fewer abortions, whether you think it’s because of the sanctity of human life or you just want potential parents not to have to make that choice.

    But the supposed “pro-life” people take this one step too far; they also think any form of birth control is evil, and believe in the obviously non-working abstinence-only sex education. They are not “pro-life;” they are “anti-sex” and therefore “anti-human-nature.” They do not care about the abortion act itself; they want to control your sex life by guilting you into not having sex unless you plan to have a baby.

    As far as the poll goes… let’s assume they meant “a given human life,” which is what really matters as far as morality goes. It’s still a fuzzy question, but like some posters above I partially agree with the viability stance; a given fetus is officially alive when it would be viable outside the womb. Whether that should be modified by “without significant medical intervention” is a grey area.

  70. #70 freelunch
    July 31, 2008

    Clearly Mr. Filozof (really?) failed to take a single science class during his college career, or he would know that there are questions asked and answers gathered about evolution. The next set of questions are silly, except for the one that shows his envy for those who have tenure, since he is an adjunct. His suspicions aren’t even justified suspicions, they are routine, mindless right-wing talking points of no value to himself or anyone else. They aren’t even questions. They are tendentious rhetoric, worthy of nothing but mockery.

    So, Bob, next time you try to post a criticism here, don’t copy the work of fools. Maybe you need to learn a bit more so you don’t make yourself look foolish because you cannot tell the difference between sensible criticism and foolish nonsense.

  71. #71 King of Ferrets
    July 31, 2008

    @ 67: Or, yknow, he questioned things like evolution and women’s rights, and decided that they were right. That’s possible too.

  72. #72 Cleon
    July 31, 2008

    Everything? A perusal of Myers’s blog indicates that there’s a lot of things he doesn’t bother to question. First, he’s an evolutionary biologist — so he doesn’t question evolution. He’s an atheist, but does not bother to ask what caused evolution.

    I’m a computer programmer. I don’t question the existence of the Java programming language, as I work in it every single fracking day.

    Likewise, the idea of an evolutionary biologist–someone who studies evolutionary processes every time he walks into his office–”questioning” evolution is rather silly.

    You strike me as a very bitter man, Mr. Filozof, striking out at anyone who dares hold a different opinion than your own. I also note, after a google search, that you seem to have trouble holding a job–but rather than take personal responsibility for it, you blame everyone else.

    In summary, I think you need to look into the psychologist concept called “projection.”

  73. #73 Graculus
    July 31, 2008

    then you are for murder, michelle :( sad thing there are many pseudo-pro choicers like this, who agree that embryos have the moral status of human beings, and yet they think they have right to kill them )

    “It’s alive” is not the same thing as “It’s a human being”.

  74. #74 dgoodin
    July 31, 2008

    Professor Filozof:

    I challenge your assertion that evolutionary biologists don’t question evolution. I would submit that there entire professional life consists of doing nothing but questioning evolutionary theory — testing it, challenging it, and refining their understanding of it. Evolutionary theory has undergone quite a lot of change of the years, but some form of natural selection still appears to be the best way to explain speciation. “Question everything” does not mean “reject everything” (mistake frequently made by True Believers of political stripes).

    Regards,

    D.G. Goodin, Professor
    Kansas State University

  75. #75 Dutch Delight
    July 31, 2008

    First, he’s an evolutionary biologist — so he doesn’t question evolution.

    Quoted for lulz.

  76. #76 dgoodin
    July 31, 2008

    Addendum to above:

    in the second line ‘their’ instead of ‘there’

    in the last line “…of ALL political stripes…

    apologies for the errors.

  77. #77 Lilly de Lure
    July 31, 2008

    T_U_T said:

    then you are for murder, michelle :( sad thing there are many pseudo-pro choicers like this, who agree that embryos have the moral status of human beings, and yet they think they have right to kill them )

    No T_U_T, alive =/= moral status of human being. Plenty of things are indisputably alive, gametes, bacteria, fungi and plants for example – but no-one has much of a qualm about killing them, let alone go as far as describing doing so as “murder”.

    This is why the “when life begins” argument around abortion is pointless because the correct answer is “approxiamately 4 billion years ago” – as PZ pointed out in his post. The real question is, at what point do the rights/welfare of an embryo/foetus/baby become equivalent to or have the ability to override those of it’s mother?

    For my money, whilst it’s still in the mother’s body it’s her body, her rules.

  78. #78 Benjamin Franklin
    July 31, 2008

    Its been mentioned before in other threads, but perhaps the most rationally composed argument is from Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan.

    http://www.2think.org/abortion.shtml

    The survey sucks. Killing a plant is not murder, and condoned by virtually all. Killing a wasp is not murder, and condoned by virtually all. Killing an ape is not murder, although sometimes is illegal. Killing a human being is sometimes murder and frequently illegal. All are examples of “Life”.

    So it’s not really a question of when does a human being become a human being. Sometimes, never, depending on your definition. But the question is how we legislate it.

  79. #79 Dahan
    July 31, 2008

    Bob,

    I hope you don’t teach any of the sciences, because you don’t seem to understand the scientific process. Please see dgoodin’s response at 74.

    Dahan, Adj Prof

    Brown College and MCAD

  80. #80 Dahan
    July 31, 2008

    Bob,

    BTW, bothering to state that you’re a professor of any kind here… is kind of the equivalent of walking into a saloon in the wild west and stating you have a gun. No one’s impressed.

  81. #81 Jams
    July 31, 2008

    Understanding words: a primer.

    # Life
    First, some definitions of life. English words often have multiple meanings that are disambiguated according to the context they exist in. In the case of this poll, the answers and the theme of the site itself clearly disambiguate the definition of “life” being used – well, at least enough to know they mean a single human being, a soul, a free will, or at least something that’s at issue on the topic of abortion. There’s also nothing to indicate this is a science question rather than a political question (as someone else noted). One could wish that it was a science question, then wish that is was about life as a whole rather than that soul thingy, and then one could wish one was arguing against something more substantial than straw – you know, if one were into that sort-of thing.

    # Sacred
    First, some definitions of sacred. Another terribly ambiguous word – oh english, you slut. PZ clearly regards life (one can’t believe in human rights and not believe life is sacred), science (the process, not a specific scientific conclusion), and truth (he holds it above falsity) as sacred (see definition 4). And of course, holding something “sacred” according to definition 1 is not at all equivalent to holding something “sacred” according to definition 4 or any of the other definition of “life” – hence the different definitions.

    So really, when PZ says he holds nothing sacred, his use of the word “sacred” is no less ambiguous than the pro-lifer’s use of the word “life”.

    P.S. One could as easily argue that the word “life” is silly because everything is energy. Then one could laugh at how stupid anyone who uses the word “life” is, adjust one’s monocle, gesticulate with one’s septre, and generally mince about – if that’s what one is into.

  82. #82 freelunch
    July 31, 2008

    Dahan, I think Bob was just quoting from an adjunct professor who has never been near a science lecture. Bob is so profoundly ignorant about science that he is impressed with “Filozof’s” argument.

  83. #83 watercat
    July 31, 2008

    John Morales. Gotcha. Sorry to be cranky. It’s a touchy subject for me.

    Re the embryo/baby disctinction: we were discussing this elsewhere and it was pointed out that in some cases embryos never become human: they just grow up and become vice presidents.

  84. #84 Patches
    July 31, 2008

    “At birth” is the closest response to Biblical correctness.

    The Bible has a number of different interpretations as to when human life begins, whether when they draw their first breath or when they manage to survive more than a few weeks. Either way, the Bible’s stance is ubiquitously “after birth”. Pro-lifers totally ignore these things though and instead use nebulous passages like “I knew you before you were formed” to justify their assertion that human life beginning at or before conception is a Biblical concept.

  85. #85 dtlocke
    July 31, 2008

    C’mon now, PZ, you could be a little more charitable in your interpretation of the question. By “when does life begin” they obviously mean “when does a new person come into existence”. That said, the answer is of course complicated. No doubt there is no sharp line between something that is and something that is not a person—”person” like almost every word, is somewhat vague. Moreover, whether something is a person depends on several factors, all of which are quite a bit more complicated than “birth” or “conception”, etc.

    So you’re right to point out that the correct answer isn’t listed. But that’s not because “billions of years ago” isn’t one of the answers; it’s because “There is no exact moment when a new person comes into existence, but there are periods of time in the womb when the thing is definitely not a person, and later periods when the thing definitely is a person. If it’s a legal issue, we’ll have to set the line at somewhere between these times. Whether we err on the side of caution–that is, whether we set the line closer to the definitely-is-not-a-person side–or whether we err in the other direction, will depend on a whole host of other considerations–e.g., the mother’s rights, the would-be-child’s life prospects, etc.”.

    But I guess that wouldn’t make a very snappy poll answer, would it? I for one just went with “at a certain stage in the womb” since it is the *least* wrong answer.

  86. #86 Steve_C
    July 31, 2008

    But the question is when does “Life” begin.
    Not when does an embryo become a person.
    The egg and sperm are both living cells.
    So when they join, it’s most certainly NOT
    the beginning of life.

  87. #87 Dahan
    July 31, 2008

    freelunch at 82,

    Ah, now I get it, thanks for pointing that out.

  88. #88 Michelle
    July 31, 2008

    then you are for murder, michelle :( sad thing there are many pseudo-pro choicers like this, who agree that embryos have the moral status of human beings, and yet they think they have right to kill them )

    Posted by: T_U_T | July 31, 2008 8:44 AM

    How can I put this…

    Bite me.

    I don’t agree they have moral status of human beings. They are cells and therefore they are alive. HOWEVER, it’s connected to my fucking body. Without my fucking body, it’s dead. Basically, a child is a parasite living off me.

    Now I have the right to keep my resources for myself whenever I decide so. If I don’t want that child sucking off me for 9 months, I can abort it. I believe I can abort it ANYTIME…Though past a certain point it’s just dangerous for the woman, but that’s her choice and I hope they’ll advise her of that danger. And yea, a kid past a certain point too IS able to live.

    But here’s my firm thought:

    The rights of someone that is already born and alive comes WAY before the rights of a kid that is in that person’s uterus. Harsh? Maybe, but it’s the woman’s right to her body and that’s how it should work.

    Call it murder, I call it owning my body.

  89. #89 Wookster
    July 31, 2008

    I want an option for “when it achieves sentience”, as until then it’s just a mammal. Any child development people out there know at what age a baby becomes self-aware?

  90. #90 DGoodin
    July 31, 2008

    In rereading the thread, I guess I responded to someone who was actually be quoted by another poster. Shame on me for not paying attention.

    D. Goodin

  91. #91 notthedroids
    July 31, 2008

    Looks like a bunch of people took the not-so-subtle hint and phreaked that poll. Well done.

  92. #92 Dustin
    July 31, 2008

    Hi, Steve_C and others. I for one agree with you. But… you might want to try interpreting your interlocutor a bit less literally and uncharitably. If you want to actually advance people’s understanding (especially your interlocutor’s), why not try a bit harder to understand exactly what he is trying to say. That way, you can won’t be talking passed one another.

    Please see my comment at 85 for details.

  93. #93 Greg
    July 31, 2008

    I’m a huge believe in avoiding pain as much as possible. So if a woman wants to avoid 9 months of discomfort and pain, then I completely understand.

  94. #94 SplendidMonkey
    July 31, 2008
  95. #95 Badger3k
    July 31, 2008

    When does life begin? Where’s “Miller Time”? How about Friday after work?

  96. #96 Chris
    July 31, 2008

    Life doesn’t begin “until you’re in my phone book” -Bill Hicks

    It sounds reasonable to me, and it makes me appreciate the fact that my parents didn’t abort me as a teen.

  97. #97 Jeff Arnold
    July 31, 2008

    Ok, so here’s an article from the same website/group. Apparently they are criticizing an article written by a woman who intends to have an abortion. Only… the article was published in THE ONION!!

    http://marchtogether.blogspot.com/2006/07/murder-without-conscience.html

  98. #98 Blaidd Drwg
    July 31, 2008

    @ Wookster #89 “Any child development people out there know at what age a baby becomes self-aware?”

    In some cases this never does occur. Case in point: The current Republican candidate for President, and most of his puppetmasters- advisers…

  99. #99 Roadtripper
    July 31, 2008

    Life begins @ 5pm on Fridays.

    Rt

  100. #100 Robert Estrada
    July 31, 2008

    How many trimesters is cheney? One more than that.

  101. #101 Robert Estrada
    July 31, 2008

    Sorry, I don’t want to upset the late term objectors. I should have said 2.5 trimesters more. Lets have a heart to heart with his mom.

  102. #102 Ryan F Stello
    July 31, 2008

    Jeff Arnold wrote,

    Ok, so here’s an article from the same website/group..

    That was amazing.
    It reminded me of the Onion’s point/counter-point articles, what with the dry answers to batshit insane premises.

  103. #103 SASnSA
    July 31, 2008

    When should we stop protecting a person’s rights?

    A. At birth

    B. When they first disagree with me or my “values”

    C. When they are not a part of my tribe

    D. When God tells us they’re evil

    E. Don’t know

    Bagel, you forgot one: When they kidnap my crackers

  104. #104 Jeff Arnold
    July 31, 2008

    These people are so dense that they can’t recognize satire when they see it. It’s quite sad, actually…

  105. #105 Dahan
    July 31, 2008

    Jeff Arnold at 97,

    You win the internets for that one! Well pointed out.

  106. #106 Charlotte Staples
    July 31, 2008

    How very telling – I see that most of these pathetic comments come from men.

  107. #107 Carlie
    July 31, 2008

    I’m a huge believe in avoiding pain as much as possible. So if a woman wants to avoid 9 months of discomfort and pain, then I completely understand.

    Not just “discomfort and pain”, also “potentially life-threatening”. Here in the US the maternal mortality rate is 13/100k, which is also the highest it’s been in a couple of decades. Countries with worse health care than we do have much higher rates. For example, in Afghanistan, the death rate has been up to 1700/100k. And those only count deaths, not problems that end up with the woman in question being sterile, or paralyzed, etc. The dangers of pregnancy are not at all limited to a few months of discomfort and odd cravings, and it’s one of the anti-choice tactics to pretend it is.

  108. #108 Jeff Arnold
    July 31, 2008

    @ Charlotte – Are you implying that men don’t have the right to advocate that a woman has the right to choose abortion as an option?

    Or by ‘pathetis comments’ do you mean the men who think that they CAN tell women what to do with their bodies?

    Just curious.

  109. #109 Zorpheous
    July 31, 2008

    When does life begin?

    The answer is simple, when you shed the lies and falsehoods of organized religion, only then does your life begin.

  110. #110 Michelle
    July 31, 2008

    You know, I’m actually surprised theses anti-woman guys didn’t go ahead and call this poll a trivia instead.

  111. #111 Emmet Caulfield
    July 31, 2008

    Jeff #97,

    Well snuffled out: you win a Digital Truffle Pig Award! Best laugh I’ve had all day.

  112. #112 Dahan
    July 31, 2008

    Charlotte Staples at 106,

    “How very telling – I see that most of these pathetic comments come from men.”

    Not sure what you mean by that. Are you saying if you’ve got a penis you’re ill informed or can’t reason well? Can I go the same way and say that if you’ve got a vagina you’re pretty likely to make stupid comments? No matter what side of the debate you’re on, that comment comes across as you being a completely bigoted, fucking ass.

    Yep. Some of us are men. I am. I support my wife’s right to choose what to do with her body. My mother’s too. In fact, every woman’s. Of course, what do I know, I’m a man.

    Fuck you.

  113. #113 Liberal Atheist
    July 31, 2008

    Makes more sense to find out when personhood begins.

    .

  114. #114 Emmet Caulfield
    July 31, 2008

    #113,

    Exactly. The problem is the conflation of “life”, “humanity”, and “personhood”. A zygote is alive and it is biologically human, but it is not in any sense a person. Given that only 1/3 zygotes implant, if the “pro-life” lobby really believed what they claim, they would have no time to picket abortion clinics because they’d be so busy gathering used feminine hygiene products to baptize and give a decent burial.

  115. #115 kiltedbrick
    July 31, 2008

    “At birth” is now at 54.8%, way over “The womb” at 29.5% and “At conception” at 4.7%. THAT will have them scratching their heads…
    What a ridiculous question.

  116. #116 Jeff Arnold
    July 31, 2008

    Maybe we should start our own poll.

    At what stage in a fundy’s spiritual developement does douchebagginess begin?

    a. at birth
    b. with God
    c. when they eat Jesus

  117. #117 Zeno
    July 31, 2008

    Bob: His antics are simply another example of political theater and anti-bourgeois hatred masquerading as academic inquiry, and further evidence of the debasement of the academy.

    –Michael Filozof, Adjunct Professor, Niagara County Community College

    Just by way of being helpful, because I’m the sort of bleeding heart liberal who cannot resist acts of kindness toward the disadvantaged, I’d like to point out to “Bob” that a part-time position at a junior college is not going to make you the most feared gunslinger on the streets of academia. If you’re going to pull rank, try to do it persuasively.

  118. #118 Brownian, OM
    July 31, 2008

    If you’re going to pull rank, try to do it persuasively.

    Zeno, the first salvo to Michael Filozof’s reputation is his dubious suggestion that evolution should be questioned in some way other than doing the research and testing the hypotheses, the way science ‘questions’ stuff:

    Everything? A perusal of Myers’s blog indicates that there’s a lot of things he doesn’t bother to question. First, he’s an evolutionary biologist — so he doesn’t question evolution. He’s an atheist, but does not bother to ask what caused evolution.

    Does Michael spend his time imploring chemists to ‘question’ chemistry? For instance, what ’caused’ the characteristics of the elements that they can be placed in the periodic table? Should all chemists stop doing redux reactions or molar equations, instead opting for hand-waving origin debates with theologists? Is that what he’d have? Because that’s exactly what he’s implying PZ and other evolutionary biologists should be doing.

    Sorry, but if you don’t think that the kind of research done to create the background for posts like ‘Evolving Snake Fangs’ isn’t questioning evolution, you’ve got some theistic or conspiracy theory agenda to push.

    Fail, Dr. Filozof, fail.

  119. #119 leki
    July 31, 2008

    Michelle: my thoughts, exactly.

  120. #120 tim Rowledge
    July 31, 2008

    Didn’t notice anyone pointing to this related article yet -
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121745387879898315.html

  121. #121 leki
    July 31, 2008

    @ #120, tim:

    “With its expansive definitions, the draft bolsters a key goal of the religious right: to give single-cell fertilized eggs full rights by defining them as legal people — or, as some activists put it, ‘the tiniest boys and girls.’”
    –Wall Street Journal, July 31st

    WHAT?

    Would this mean that a woman could name her fetus in a life insurance policy and then make a claim if she miscarries?

    Eeesh.

  122. #122 Anon Coward
    July 31, 2008

    It’s unfortunate that we mammals don’t have nests with eggs, as this abortion issue would not then be an issue.

  123. #123 Renee
    July 31, 2008

    Life begins at a 1 on the Apgar scale!

  124. #124 IBY
    July 31, 2008

    God, I hate this poll. Everything is wrong with it. What does it even mean at birth or conception? Blimey, sperms are alive too. If I made the poll, I would have added around 4 billion years ago.

  125. #125 Cody
    July 31, 2008

    I have decided that skewing polls has to be one of the most fun things to do. ever.

  126. #126 tim Rowledge
    July 31, 2008

    “WHAT?
    Would this mean that a woman could name her fetus in a life insurance policy and then make a claim if she miscarries?”
    Beats me; clearly they have jumped the shark.

    Say, does full legal status mean you could demand rent, not get it, and legally evict? Would the death sentence apply if the ‘tiniest boys and girls’ were convicted of one of those serious crimes (like crossing a red light, or not going to church regularly) that worry the wingnuts?

  127. #127 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    It’s unfortunate that we mammals don’t have nests with eggs, as this abortion issue would not then be an issue.

    mmmmmmmmmmmmmm mammal egg and bacon souffle

  128. #128 Renee
    July 31, 2008

    Is it really skewing the poll? We’re voting like the good netizens that we are, simply representing a position that they think is less common than it actually is. It’s not skewing the poll, it’s making the poll more accurate. As long as nobody cheats. Nobody likes cheaters.

  129. #129 aleph1=c
    July 31, 2008

    I never really wondered about that until just now, so I asked Baal and he said “who gives a shit?” Then I asked where he got such an attitude, and he said “from reading the Bible.” Now I’m all confused. I’m going to see Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy) tomorrow at the Hollywood Bowl, where I hope to learn the answer to this question and many others.

  130. #130 Neil B. ?
    July 31, 2008

    Life does not begin at conception, since both the egg and sperm cells are alive to begin with. Maybe some mean “personhood” begins then, but I’m not convinced considering how primitive the organism is, albeit given the potential. OTOH, an almost born fetus deserves pretty nearly the same regard as a born one, IMHO.

    BTW The Bible doesn’t give clear answers anyway so I don’t get the evangelical certitude – there’s even that passage about striving in Exodus 21:23-25 that doesn’t look like much concern for the fetus itself.

    22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
    23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
    24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
    25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    Well, if the fruit departs (presumed stillborn), then “no mischief” would have to mean harm to the woman. BTW most of you guys think that fundies care so much about what’s in the Bible and that’s their problem; but instead they are selective of what they care about just like any political or intellectual hacks.

  131. #131 tsg
    July 31, 2008

    If they really believed life begins at conception they’d be having funerals for miscarriages and celebrating “conception days” instead of their birthdays.

    If they aren’t even going to be consistent about what they believe, why should I pay any attention to it?

  132. #132 Michelle
    July 31, 2008

    @TSG: Are you saying that they get laid so rarely that they can remember when they had the sex that made that baby? :P

  133. #133 Dustin
    July 31, 2008

    I asked God. He said that he finds all children delicious when char broiled, regardless of their developmental stage.

  134. #134 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    Clearly the pollsters meant to ask, when does a human lifetime begin? The answer to this is when the body begins to undergo development. So conception is clearly the best answer.

  135. #135 kingj
    July 31, 2008

    Seems the ultra right wingnuts in America are in the process of deciding when life begins, anything that effects a fertilized egg is an abortion.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25940818/

  136. #136 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    @tsg

    There are quite a few people who have funerals for their miscarriages, particularly when the fetus dies during the thrid trimester.

  137. #137 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    #131

    You’re right that the Bible is irrelevant to the pro-forced birth crowd. I think the main issue that they’re dealing with is “ensoulment” (is that a word?). It seems to me that the main concern is killing some being with a soul and it doesn’t make sense in their minds that a soul is given at birth or at somepoint during development. They see conception as a split-second event and therefore assume that is the point when god inserts the soul. The ensoulment issue appears to be the key here because this is why it’s okay to kill animals (souless) but not humans (ensouled).

  138. #138 tsg
    July 31, 2008

    @Michelle #132

    @TSG: Are you saying that they get laid so rarely that they can remember when they had the sex that made that baby? :P

    They only have sex for procreation, right?

    Seriously though, it isn’t my fault if their beliefs are impractical. Nor does it excuse them from not following them, certainly not if they are going to impose them on others.

  139. #139 leki
    July 31, 2008

    @ 134

    “Clearly the pollsters meant to ask, when does a human lifetime begin? The answer to this is when the body begins to undergo development. So conception is clearly the best answer.”

    No, CLEARLY the pollsters didn’t ask that question, otherwise they would have asked “when does a human lifetime begin?” rather than the stated “when does life begin?”.

    Are we expected to know what they ‘meant’ rather than answer the explicit question (as ambiguous and strange as it may be) “when does life begin?”

  140. #140 tsg
    July 31, 2008

    There are quite a few people who have funerals for their miscarriages, particularly when the fetus dies during the thrid trimester.

    Good for them. The vast majority who aren’t are being inconsistent.

  141. #141 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    tsg,

    I agree they’re being inconsistent when they don’t, but I was surprised (and a little creeped out) the first time I heard about funerals for fetuses

  142. #142 tsg
    July 31, 2008

    Good for them. The vast majority who aren’t are being inconsistent.

    I also meant to add, “But even if they are it doesn’t make them right.”

  143. #143 Andrew JS
    July 31, 2008

    I voted for birth, although I didn’t like the poll either. I’ve had a long couple of weeks defending abortion through the local newspaper. It had to relate back to Morgentaler’s order of Canada win. Someone said the award was tarnished, and I responded. They published two rebuttals to my article, and proceeded to take my article off their website.
    The rebuttals are really bad, but here they are:
    Bad article 1
    Bad Article 2

  144. #144 tsg
    July 31, 2008

    Clearly the pollsters meant to ask, when does a human lifetime begin?

    In the immortal words of Cletus Spuckler: “Shoulda but didna.”

    The answer to this is when the body begins to undergo development. So conception is clearly the best answer.

    Says who?

  145. #145 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    #137 Of course you don’t have to believe that the soul exists to be a pro-lifer. I see humans as processes unfolding in time, there is no static entity that is continuous, no soul. Since I see that murder victim has been victimized because the process is cut short, a lifetime is cut short, the immorality of it is the same whether the organism is 20 years old, 2 years old, or 2 months after conception.

    We simply are not biologically disposed to be as emotionally attached to a fetus in the womb as we are to a newborn baby. However, morally, cutting short the life of the baby or fetus is equivalent. Similarly, whenever humans have oppressed or victimized others historically, it is because they do not appreciate the humanity of their victims. Whether enslaving African-Americans or practicing genocide on the Native Amercans, or abortion, the lack of concern has a similar basis.

  146. #146 David Johnson
    July 31, 2008

    I think the biggest problem is that they confuse “life begins” with “being a human begins”. So their poll is – not unnaturally – impossible to answer accurately. As PZ said, *life* begins somewhere around 4 billion years ago.

    To my mind “being a human” begins somewhere (for most) in the first year after birth – though since this is such a fuzzy process at best, using “can survive (naturally) as a seperate organism” as a cut-off date for abortions is probably the simplist answer as to when abortions should stop.

  147. #147 Nerd of Redhead
    July 31, 2008

    I went pro-choice just after Roe vs. Wade. I heard babies were being killed, and then ran a thought test. Could I stand across from a clinic and see these babies being brought in to be killed. The answer is no. If the anti-abortion groups lie about that, what else will they lie about. The lies are not hard to find once you look for them. This biggest lie is fetus=baby. The only way to change my mind to change the results of the above mentioned test.

  148. #148 MikeM
    July 31, 2008

    Life begins when you catch a fishgator.

  149. #149 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    Pro-Lifer,

    I see humans as processes unfolding in time, there is no static entity that is continuous, no soul. Since I see that murder victim has been victimized because the process is cut short, a lifetime is cut short, the immorality of it is the same whether the organism is 20 years old, 2 years old, or 2 months after conception.

    This is nonsense, as in it doesn’t make any sense. Define a “lifetime.” Does cancer cut a “lifetime” short. The oldest (confirmed b-day) person lived to be 122. So, is anyone whose life ends before that a victim? There are all sorts of things that can end life besides murder.

    Here’s a short list: cancer, heart attack, asphyxiation, Tay Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, strep throat, small pox, domestic dog attack, bear attack, feral dog attack, cholera, diarrhea, stroke, medical malpractice, suicide, gun shot, explosions, nuclear bombs, terrorist attacks, meningitis, fire, starvation, AIDS, lion attack, shark attack, drowning, falling into boiling water, car accidents, head trauma, arterial laceration, diabetes, influenza, pneumonia, measels, Deadly Nightshade poisoning, White Oleander poisoning, eating poisonous mushrooms, cobra bite, black mamba bite, coral snake bike, black widow bite, whooping cough, tetanus, Huntington’s disease, anemia, ALS, liver diseas, rabies, etc, etc, etc. I could go on and on, but all of these things end a life before the currently confirmed maximum of 122 years. That doesn’t mean they all have a moral significance.

  150. #150 Paper Hand
    July 31, 2008

    While I think that it’s true that “life begins at conception”, or rather, more precisely, a specific organism’s life begins an conception – that’s the “point” (yes, not really a single point, but close enough) at which a new genetic individual is created – “life” is a rather broad category. An ant is alive, but stepping on an ant is not the same as murder, after all. Likewise, a fetus is not the same as a fully-developed human being.

    In fact, I’d go so far as to say that a newborn is not really fully human yet. Of course, the idea of a single “point” at which the organism “becomes human” is foolish. But, it seems that many religious conservatives want clear black-and-white divisions. Which is probably why they have so much trouble with evolution – there’s no clear division, in evolution, between different groups – it’s all gradual development.

  151. #151 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    From dictionary.com

    Definitions for “process” n.

    1. a systematic series of actions directed to some end: to devise a process for homogenizing milk.
    2. a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner: the process of decay.
    3. Law. a. the summons, mandate, or writ by which a defendant or thing is brought before court for litigation.
    b. the whole course of the proceedings in an action at law.
    4. Photography. photomechanical or photoengraving methods collectively.
    5. Biology, Anatomy. a natural outgrowth, projection, or appendage: a process of a bone.
    6. the action of going forward or on.
    7. the condition of being carried on.
    8. course or lapse, as of time

    Pro-Lifer,

    Please explain which of these definitions you’re using to define humans as an unfolding process and the reasoning you used to justify the application of that definition to human life (or any life in general)

  152. #152 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    #149 Pygmy
    Can you distinguish the moral difference between murder and someone losing their life because of cancer? The reason murder is immoral is because we assume that the murderers acted with intention, the cancer did not. I think we can safely say that a life was “cut short” when a living being is murdered by another. We don’t have to know exactly how long they would have lived had they not been murdered to make a moral judgment, that the act of murder was immoral.

  153. #153 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    #151 Pygmy
    Defn 2: The human organism goes through a series of changes taking place in a definite manner throughout its lifetime. It’s “definite” in the sense that we all go through the same stages: embryo, fetus, baby, youth, adulthood, middle age, old age, death. Also we have the same basic human shape, etc.

  154. #154 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    Yes I can distinguish the moral difference between murder and death by cancer. Here’s a different question for you: There’s a person A who knows person B. B will die of kidney failure if he doesn’t get a transplant. A knows this and is a match for B. Is it immoral for A to not give B a kidney?

  155. #155 Dustin
    July 31, 2008

    I think it’s repugnant that so many people are so cavalier in their disrespect for human life. The only way we can show proper respect for the sanctity of life is to have lots and lots and lots of it. I’m talking like stuffed to the environmental carrying capacity with people. We aren’t really celebrating life until we’ve turned the world into a crowded, disease ridden people-pile.

    It’s also speciesist to think that the sanctity of life only applies to people. That’s why, once we’ve crammed the world full of our progeny, we get the added bonus of extra virulent diseases. In the past, our sparse numbers have made it very difficult for the most virulent strains of pathogens to survive — they simply killed their hosts too quickly! But, in the near future, we’ll be looking out for those little microbes too. Why, they’ll just spread like wildfire among twelve billion bipedal pitri dishes! Starvation, poverty, crowds, pollution, disease. Now, if that’s not celebrating life, I don’t know what is!

  156. #156 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    #154 Pygmy

    Hi Pygmy, Let’s make the analogy a bit closer to abortion. Let’s say that persons A and C arranged it– without person B’s consent — so that person B will die of kidney failure unless person A and only person A gives B a kidney. Because this situation was arranged by A and C, then yes, it is immoral for A not to give B a kidney.

  157. #157 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    #153,

    But we don’t all go through the same processes. Children born with Tay Sachs will never experience adulthood, nevermind middle-age and old-age.

    Also, the changes that occur after reaching adulthood do not necessarily happen in a particular way. This is why it’s so goddamned difficult to acurately asses age at death for skeletal remains. A person’s skull sutures may be that of a 55 yr old, their pubic symphysis looks like it’s 35 and their rib ends indicate they were 45. Not a “series of changes taking place in a definite manner.” If you knew anything about senescene you would know that your interpretation is false.

  158. #158 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    Life begins when you catch a fishgator.

    thanks for that laugh

  159. #159 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    Pro-Lifer,

    Ahh, so here we get to the crux of your argument

    Hi Pygmy, Let’s make the analogy a bit closer to abortion. Let’s say that persons A and C arranged it– without person B’s consent — so that person B will die of kidney failure unless person A and only person A gives B a kidney. Because this situation was arranged by A and C, then yes, it is immoral for A not to give B a kidney.

    If a woman is raped is it okay for her to have an abortion, since she did not get “arrange” to get pregnant?

    If you think it’s okay to abort the fetus in a case of rape, then you don’t really think it’s the same as murder (you wouldn’t condone killing a 2 yr. old b/c it’s mother was raped). You’re just another, apparently non-religious, babies are punishment for sex person.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

  160. #160 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    ACK that should be senescence in #157 not senescene

  161. #161 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    Dustin,

    That’s hilarious!

  162. #162 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    #157
    How “definite” is the process we go through in life is irrelevant to my argument. I don’t even need to use the word “process”, how about “changing over time” as opposed to a static entity like a soul. I’m sure you don’t disagree with the idea that the human organism goes through changes over time. I was just pointing out that you don’t have to believe in a soul to be find abortion highly questionable. You’re nitpicking. The basis of the argument is that abortion, like murder, is of questionable morality because people are intentionally cutting short a life that would have continued had the human organism not been killed.

  163. #163 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    Pro-Lifer,

    I may be nit-picky, but when you present a claim such as humans are “processes” the burden is on you to justify yourself including the terms you use. Now you’re saying that intentionally cutting an “organism’s” life short is murder. What exactly do you eat? Obviously meat of any sort is out of the question as are fruits, grains, vegetables, and so forth. Or, are you arguing that the only organism whose life “process” is important is Homo sapiens?

    I don’t find abortion of a non-viable fetus of questionable morality. It is not a person in any meaningful sense of the word. It does not have self-awareness, moral agency, etc.

    As for the argument you put forth concerning persons A, B and C, I would still say A has no obligation to give B a kidney even though A and C caused the need for a kidney. Though I suppose you could imprison A and C for causing B to need a kidney.

  164. #164 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    #159

    Pygmy: If a woman is raped is it okay for her to have an abortion, since she did not get “arrange” to get pregnant?

    I didn’t say that. The real villian in that case is obviously the rapist. Then your analogy would be that C arranged it without A or B’s consent that A and only A could supply B with a kidney or B dies. A sticky situation.

    Pygmy (setting up a straw man):You’re just another, apparently non-religious, babies are punishment for sex person.

    No, but I believe we should be responsible for our actions, including making babies.

    Pygmy (sarcastically tearing down the straw man): Thanks for clearing that up.

    Do we have anyone here that can carry on an intelligent discussion?

  165. #165 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    Pro-Lifer,

    Please excuse the first paragraph in my last post, I didn’t read yours carefully enough. I apologize. Though I’m still interested in how you seek to place a human embryo on higher ground than, say, an adult chimpanzee.

  166. #166 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    I didn’t say that. The real villian in that case is obviously the rapist. Then your analogy would be that C arranged it without A or B’s consent that A and only A could supply B with a kidney or B dies. A sticky situation.

    Yet you haven’t answered it. IMHO the only relevant concern is that the fetus requires the woman to supply it with everything it needs to develop, even if it leads to the woman suffering a variety of ailments including malnutrition. If a woman decides she doesn’t want a fetus inside her, and that fetus cannot survive outside her it’s a non-issue for me. She has the right to remove the fetus because it’s inside her body.

    As far as responsibility for the consequence of sex, STIs are a consequence of sex. No one argues you shouldn’t be able to treat an STI because STIs aren’t human lives. But neither is a fetus in any meaningful sense of the word.

  167. #167 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    Pro-Lifer,

    I’m not setting up strawmen. That you somehow see yourself as different from those who use the exact same language “responsibility for our actions” is not my problem.

    And, talking about humans as processes and interupting that process has a decidedly woo-like feel, and I hate woo of any kind.

  168. #168 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    #165

    Sorry about getting testy. Your question about the chimpanzee is similar the same question as why attach much importance to the embryo. It can’t think or react (much, depending on the stage), it doesn’t show personality like an adult human. So why is it important? Because it has the potential for all these things. Why is it wrong to kill an adult person? Because he or she has the potential to live on, and we are cutting that life short. It takes longer for the embryo to develop the capacity to display the human potential of an adult or baby, but it is there (in most cases).

    My argument is that the length of time it takes to exhibit human personality is irrelevant to the discussion of the value of the person. Suppose an adult is in a coma that we know will last 9 months. Does it make it OK to kill the person (which we could do in this case simply by neglect), or should we keep them alive for the 9 months? My argument is that we should make the sacrifice to keep the person alive. Others might disagree: She went into a coma, let her die.

  169. #169 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    #168

    If there’s evidence that supporting the person in the coma for 9 mo. could cause significant harm to others, then maybe we should allow them to die. However, that person presumably had a fully developed life before the coma. People that person cares for, people who care for that person, people who will suffer significantly if the person dies. (grief is significant suffering)

    That’s very different from a fetus that only the mother knows about and therefore only the mother cares about. In this situation only the mother is a consideration. If she feels it would be better for her to end the pregnancy, that’s all that matters.

  170. #170 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    I wish you could edit your posts.

    I’d like to add to mine at 167, the woo-like feel is why I wanted Pro-Lifer to give me some concrete definitions. Usually woo-ers won’t. So I guess Pro-Lifer isn’t a woo-er. Hunh, kinda disappointing.

  171. #171 DLC
    July 31, 2008

    Life begins when the right chemicals mix together at the right temperature and pressure. Oh wait, you aren’t talking simple amino acids . . .

  172. #172 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Why is it wrong to kill an adult person? Because he or she has the potential to live on, and we are cutting that life short. Pro Lifer

    No, that’s not the reason it’s wrong. The reason is that we should respect people’s wishes where possible, and most people do not want to be killed. The fetus has no wishes. The mother does, and the continuation of the pregnancy affects her far more than anyone else. So the mother takes priority. Simple really.

  173. #173 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    Hi Nick #172

    Nick says:”The reason is that we should respect people’s wishes where possible, and most people do not want to be killed. The fetus has no wishes. ” I see. So following your reasoning, if someone is standing on a bridge, about to attempt suicide, someone who really has a desire to die, it would be OK to push them off?

    By the way, a baby also hasn’t formed self awareness yet to know that it exists, much less whether it wants to live or die. So if things go bad for the parents, maybe a financial setback, OK to kill the baby?

    Even an adult when asleep has no awareness of his or her own existence (OK, except maybe when dreaming.) They have no wishes. All right to kill the adult at that point?

  174. #174 Pro Lifer
    July 31, 2008

    #169 Hi Pygmy

    I agree with this note, as far as we have more motivation to keep an adult alive who has friends and family than a fetus who doesn’t (except for a potential mother and father.) So to make the analogy closer, how about a homeless person with no friends or family? Suppose she falls into a coma that we know will last 9 months. Are we obligated to take care of her or should we let her die? Would it depend upon the length of the coma?

    I notice that hospitals these days are literally dropping homeless people out on the streets, so this question is not entirely academic.

  175. #175 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Pro lifer,
    So following your reasoning, if someone is standing on a bridge, about to attempt suicide, someone who really has a desire to die, it would be OK to push them off?
    In this case, clearly they can make the decision for themselves, and might change their mind, so no. However, there are certainly cases where it would be morally right to kill someone who wants to die.

    By the way, a baby also hasn’t formed self awareness yet to know that it exists, much less whether it wants to live or die. So if things go bad for the parents, maybe a financial setback, OK to kill the baby?

    I assume you’ve never known any babies.

    Even an adult when asleep has no awareness of his or her own existence (OK, except maybe when dreaming.) They have no wishes. All right to kill the adult at that point?
    Nonsense, of course they have wishes. “Having a wish” is a dispositional state: when we say someone has a wish, we are making predictions about what that person would do in various circumstances.

    Now, try and come up with some serious arguments.

  176. #176 Dianne
    July 31, 2008

    Why is it wrong to kill an adult person? Because he or she has the potential to live on, and we are cutting that life short.

    A chimpanzee has the potential to live on unless its life is cut short. So does a cow, chicken, or stalk of wheat. So does a brain dead person. So does a tumor. So is it wrong to kill a chimpanzee, cow, chicken, blade of wheat, or tumor?

  177. #177 Dianne
    July 31, 2008

    Even an adult when asleep has no awareness of his or her own existence (OK, except maybe when dreaming.)

    Actually, a sleeping adult, unlike a fetus and even more unlike an embryo, has a quite a bit of brain activity, as can be demonstrated with an EEG. And a good deal of self-awareness: try poking a sleeping person and see what happens.

  178. #178 Ian H Spedding FCD
    July 31, 2008

    I could be wrong but I think we have been over this ground several times before.

    To recap, “the right to life” has two components, “right” and “life”.

    In practice, rights are entitlements which a society grants to its members and which function as a means of regulating human behaviour. If you have the right to life it doesn’t mean your are protected against being struck by lightning or struck down by disease or eaten by a lion. It means that other human beings are prohibited from taking your life, except under certain extreme conditions.

    In that context, “life” quite obviously does not refer to life in general but to the individual human life and the question is when can that life be reasonably said to begin. The poll suggests that the majority believe that the individual life begins at birth but an obvious response to that is “So what is the fetus before birth, chopped liver?”

    My argument – which has absolutely nothing to do with religion, being as I am both agnostic and atheist – is that it begins at conception. Separate sperm and egg do not an individual make, but when a sperm and egg fuse then that’s where it starts.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean that the very early stages of human life must be protected by the right to life. That’s for society to decide. My view, though, is that if you are going to give right to life to individuals, then you need a pretty damn good reason to withhold it from the unborn.

    One minor point, upthread someone pointed out the apparent incongruity of so many pro-lifers being supporters of capital punishment, as indeed I am. They overlook the incongruity of so many pro-choicers being squeamish about the execution of a few convicted murderers while happily countenancing the slaughter of millions of unborn humans.

  179. #179 Chris Mueller
    July 31, 2008

    It seems this post has had an effect on the poll, ‘When the baby is born’ is now up to 50%. lol

  180. #180 Dianne
    July 31, 2008

    Separate sperm and egg do not an individual make, but when a sperm and egg fuse then that’s where it starts.

    Yes, we have been over this several times before and you’ve never come up with a convincing answer to this question: What makes a blastulocyte more of an individual than a sperm or an oocyte?

  181. #181 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Separate sperm and egg do not an individual make – Ian Spedding

    Wrong. Every egg and every sperm is a perfectly good individual organism, and member of Homo sapiens. What they are not, is sentient – and nor is the fetus. The murderer, on the other hand, is.

  182. #182 Dianne
    July 31, 2008

    Every egg and every sperm is a perfectly good individual organism, and member of Homo sapiens

    Not only that, but so is every tumor. Some can, what was the phrase, have the potential to live on, independent of their host/parent, if they aren’t killed. See Jurkat or Hela cell lines, among many,many examples.

  183. #183 Jams
    July 31, 2008

    “The reason murder is immoral is because we assume that the murderers acted with intention, the cancer did not.” – Pro Lifer

    How do you know what cancer intends? That aside, if I follow you, you’re implying that abortion is only immoral for those who believe a fetus is a human being. Conversely, this would imply abortion is moral for those who don’t believe a fetus is a human being.

    I concur. Though, I don’t think intension is the only concern.

  184. #184 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere with Pro-Lifer just like we can’t get anywhere with Ian. They’re both dogmatically reiterating that conception=human life.

    Personally, I think too many people have a weird obsession with fetuses. Why do they care so much about an action that only affects a fetus (that doesn’t have agency, consciousness or independence). I don’t get it. Especially when men feel this way.

    Whatever. I’m pro-choice because I could become pregnant and don’t want to be forced to have a baby I don’t want.

  185. #185 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Pygmy Loris@184,
    It’s really nothing to do with the fetus. It’s all about control of women’s sexuality.

  186. #186 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Dianne@182,
    Good point – I expect to see “Pro-lifers” demonstrating outside oncology clinics, protesting against the poisoning and surgical destruction of innocent cancers!

  187. #187 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    Nick,

    You’re right. It’s always about controlling sexuality (particularly in women), but Pro-Lifer accused me of putting up strawmen when I brought it up.

  188. #188 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Pygmy Loris,
    In the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davis: “Well he would, wouldn’t he?”

  189. #189 Pygmy Loris
    July 31, 2008

    LOL

  190. #190 Eve
    July 31, 2008

    To add to the points that Pygmy Loris and Nick Gotts are making, I note that both Ian and Pro Lifer consistently leave out all consideration of the breathing, born woman involved in any pregnancy. They refer to conception, “babies,” pregnancy, etc., as if all of this happens in a vaccuum, where children are safe and guaranteed birth until and unless some evil agency (the mother, apparently) goes out of its way to deliberately target and murder them.

    As someone else higher upthread said, as long as the blastocyst / zygote / embryo / fetus is inside my body, then I and only I have the right to decide what happens to my body. Period. It is no one else’s business how I conceived; it is no one else’s business what I’m considering in making my decision; it is no one else’s business what decision I ultimately make.

    No one or thing has the right to force me to carry a pregnancy to term, in the exact same way that no one or thing has the right to force me to have an abortion. My fetus does not have rights equal to mine; it is to all practical purposes a part of my body, not another body separate and independent of my body. You cannot get to it either to help or harm it without going through my body first – therefore my body comes first.

    To all those who claim to oppose abortion because the fetus is not a part of my body, I say this: then take it from me. Take it, every single molecule of it, from me with all the blessings I as an atheist can give. On one condition:

    When you take it from me, make sure that you do so without touching any part of my body. Not a single molecule.

  191. #191 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    I’m curious what the Pro-Lifers stance on fertility clinics is? What about all those frozen embryos that never get used for IVF and just sit frozen?

  192. #192 Wolfhound
    July 31, 2008

    This is really, really simple: It’s my body, not yours. Anything that is part of my body is mine, not yours. This being my body and the contents therein, everybody else can just fuck off and worry about their OWN bodies. Goddamn busybodies… Pro-forced-maternity assholes (who are usually men or women who have a gazillion kids or women who were unable to have kids) really piss me off.

  193. #193 George
    July 31, 2008

    Its the wrong question. The sperm is alive, the egg is alive. Conception does not start life. It starts development.

    So the right question is: When does a human become an individual will all the rights of other members of the society?

    It seems clear to me that in the USA we have agreed that by the time a baby is born it is an individual. There may not be 100% agreement, but it cannot be far off.

    Some believe in a soul, that is acquired at conception, as a totally non scientific view this is a religious view. So a fertilized egg is clearly not an individual – yet. You religious folks can do what you want but you have no viable science basis to get general agreement.

    Whoa, no the problem is where is the transistion – tough one – I do not have the answer. As I think PZ said once, birth seems a good place to set the bar for now. I agree.

  194. #194 George
    July 31, 2008

    This is the wrong question. The sperm is alive, the egg is alive. So nothing about life starts at conception, sure the chromosomes from the sperm merge with the egg, but life simply continues. What starts is development.

    So the question is when has a human developed to the point to be granted status as an individual?

    Definitely not as a fertilized egg, unless one accepts the nonscientific idea of a soul. So all you religious folks are stuck, based on your beliefs, with conception – sorry.

    A fertilized egg is just not different enough from most cells of the body to say it is an individual. Someday we will clone from any full cell – just a technical problem.

    Birth, as I think PZ said once, is a good line in the sand for now.

  195. #195 Pygmy Loris
    August 1, 2008

    Eve and Wolfhound,

    Y’all have hit the nail on the head there. I’ve always liked the “my body, my choice” phrase because it’s ultimately what I believe. I especially liked Eve’s argument that you can have the fetus if you can get it out without touching me.

  196. #196 dsmccoy
    August 1, 2008

    Life is continuous.
    The question should be when does a separate, autonomous life begin.
    And the answer to that question clearly can’t be any earlier than birth.

  197. #197 ema
    August 1, 2008

    “Pro Lifer”,

    Since I see that murder victim has been victimized because the process is cut short, a lifetime is cut short, the immorality of it is the same whether the organism is 20 years old, 2 years old, or 2 months after conception.

    Why is it immoral to murder a placenta? [I assume you require breathing, circulation, excretion functions in a murder victim. And, just to be clear, the example of the patient on life support is faulty. That patient has the capability to perform said functions, but is unable to because of some glitch in the mechanism. A fetus lacks that capability, period. Delivery is necessary to acquire those functions.]

    Also, you do realize that your position is that pregnancy is immoral, since any time a pregnancy occurs a lifetime is [depending on geography, more or less potentially] cut short. So, forced abortions for all then?

    Ian H Spedding FCD,

    Separate sperm and egg do not an individual make, but when a sperm and egg fuse then that’s where it starts.

    Actually, no. When a sperm and egg fuse, over a period of days, you end up with, you know, a PREGNANCY. Big, huge difference between the reality of a pregnancy and the imaginary, free-floating, fiercely independent, individual American-unborn.

    My view, though, is that if you are going to give right to life to individuals, then you need a pretty damn good reason to withhold it from the unborn.

    Well, for starters there are no individuals/unborns in utero. Just a pregnancy with a maternal, fetal, and placental component.

    And if you insist that the fetal component gets to have rights because, you know, it is the result of the union of egg and sperm, you need to explain why the placenta–same origin and, unlike the fetus, able to perform “life’ functions like respiration, excretion, etc.–doesn’t get super duper rights.

  198. #198 Ron Sullivan
    August 1, 2008

    Carlie in 39:

    cut the crap, you’re either pro-abortion or anti-abortion”
    I’ll gladly take on the label “pro-abortion” if the other side takes on the label “anti-woman”.

    I’ll take “pro-abortion,” sure. Beats the hell out of the alternative: amateur abortion.

    What’s with this “the womb” horseshit?? Either you’re saying “my womb” or it’s none of your business–as Gun of Sod noted. It is everlastingly astonishing to me that people still carry on as if all this were happening somewhere conveniently else.

    Of course, most of the time, for most of them, it is.

    Listen up, guys. There is no such thing as “The Womb.” It is HER womb, it is MY womb, or it is YOUR womb if you are addressing a woman directly. And you’d damned well better say Please. A generation or two where we women could argue about all this among ourselves without the smog of bullying and billshit* that surrounds everydamnthing concerning us right now and in ages past just might yield some productive reasoning.

    *Typo, but I’ll let it stand because we’ve lately experienced an illustrative dose of that here.

  199. #199 Wolfhound
    August 1, 2008

    @195 One of my favorite bumperstickers was “If You Don’t Believe In Abortion, Don’t Have One”. My evangelical nutbag grandmother scraped it off of my bumper so I replaced it with “Fundamentalism Stops a Thinking Mind”.

  200. #200 rijkswaanvijand
    August 1, 2008

    55.2% at birth, not an all american voting;)

    God created abortion by the way, as well as euthanasia…
    As a matter of fact it used to be customary to abort ones living son for the face of our father.

    God used to love that shit.. Then the goats defied him.

  201. #201 AJS
    August 1, 2008

    Pro-lifer,

    Are you “pro-life” when buying groceries? Are you “pro-life” when it comes to invading sovereign nations without cause? Are you “pro-life” about restricting firearms ownership?

    Or do you just want to condemn women, their unwanted children and the rest of Society At Large to a life of misery, or risk desperate women dying in bodged back-street abortions, rather than allow a safe, legal medical procedure?

  202. #202 George
    August 1, 2008

    I am sorry to say that “pro-life” has come to mean:

    Save the embryo at all costs..
    Execute the criminal…
    Invade a country leading to hundreds of thousands of needless violent deaths…
    Murder a person that disagrees with your religious views…

    etc. etc. etc.

  203. #203 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    August 1, 2008

    Life truly begins when your first submissive puts his or her collar on. Mrr.

  204. #204 karen
    August 1, 2008

    The answer to this is when the body begins to undergo development. So conception is clearly the best answer.

    Great! So Social Security will start giving me my checks 9 months earlier, based on my conception date rather than my birth date? Cool.

  205. #205 Chuck S.
    August 1, 2008

    What a silly question. When does life begin? What life? Are not sperm cells and egg cells alive? Is not a fertilized egg cell alive? That’s just daft.

    A better question would be when is the entity in a womb a person? Is it a person when it is a separate sperm cell and egg cell? Is it a person when it is a fertilized egg? Is it a person at the blastocyst stage? That’s the question that makes the abortion debate so thorny.

    Not whether or not the zygote is “alive”. Heck I can swab my cheek and I’ll have some living human tissue on the swab. Who cares?

  206. #206 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 1, 2008

    Dianne wrote:

    Yes, we have been over this several times before and you’ve never come up with a convincing answer to this question: What makes a blastulocyte more of an individual than a sperm or an oocyte?

    Place a sperm or an egg separately in the womb and all you will wind up with are dead sperm or egg. Place an egg fertilized by a sperm in the womb and, given half a chance, you begin a continuous process of development that leads eventually to an individual adult human being. Follow that process back and you return to the point at which the two cells merged. There is no break, no discontinuity, just different stages in the development of the individual. That temporal extension is as much a part of individuals such as ourselves as are physical extensions such as arms or legs.

  207. #207 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 1, 2008

    Nick Gotts wrote:

    Every egg and every sperm is a perfectly good individual organism, and member of Homo sapiens.

    Oh, please, that’s like saying every brick is a house. Sure, every sperm or egg is an individual organism but they’re not individual human beings nor, unaided, do they develop into one.

  208. #208 Sauceress
    August 1, 2008

    “Bush plan defines pill, IUD as abortion”

    http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/daily/local/91560.php

  209. #209 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 1, 2008

    Pygmy Loris wrote:

    Personally, I think too many people have a weird obsession with fetuses. Why do they care so much about an action that only affects a fetus (that doesn’t have agency, consciousness or independence). I don’t get it.

    It’s simple. For us, the fetus is an individual human being like you or I, just at a much earlier stage of development. We’re not asking for it to have lots of rights, just the same right to continue to exist that you and I have.

  210. #210 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 1, 2008

    Nick Gotts wrote:

    Pygmy Loris@184,
    It’s really nothing to do with the fetus. It’s all about control of women’s sexuality.

    For some, maybe, but not for me. For me it has nothing to do with sexuality, either male or female, it’s purely about the right to life.

  211. #211 Dianne
    August 1, 2008

    Place a sperm or an egg separately in the womb and all you will wind up with are dead sperm or egg. Place an egg fertilized by a sperm in the womb and, given half a chance, you begin a continuous process of development that leads eventually to an individual adult human being.

    All that proves is that you didn’t provide the right conditions for the sperm or egg (technically oocyte) with the right conditions to survive. Put a fertilized egg on the counter without any culture medium and it’ll be dead soon too. Does that mean that a fertilized egg is a person only if it is in appropriate growth medium?

    Likewise, the majority (estimated 50-80%) of fertilized eggs don’t implant or spontaneously abort very soon after conception (before a “clinical pregnancy” can be established.) So why aren’t you upset about the fact that, according to you, 50-80% of babies are dying within the first two weeks of life? Perhaps because it isn’t and never was about life or human life, but about controlling sexuality? Because, frankly, no other explanation makes the slightest bit of sense.

  212. #212 Pierce R. Butler
    August 1, 2008

    Many years ago, as a spokesperson for the local affiliate of a nationwide family-planning organization, I did a radio show on which the host asked me my personal opinion of “when does life begin?”

    I said something to the effect of “It began about 4.5 billion years ago and has been a continuous branching process ever since,” much as Prof. Myers (Noodly appendages be upon him!) stipulates. The host chuckled, and – I’m told – the crew back at the clinic roared (to my continuing bemusement).

    AlanWCan @ # 14 is absolutely right: calling the anti-abortionists “pro-life” is helping them promote a major lie. (Those of us in the movement often call them just “antis”, but that doesn’t work in various other contexts. The more thoughtful journalists describe them as abortion-rights opponents, which is accurate but awkward and incomplete.)

    In this context, it’s worth pointing out that a truly “pro-life” (“culture of life”, etc) movement would be led by biologists, would constantly promote the study of biology, would offer bio slideshows at its public events, etc, etc. In the context of dialog with members of the movement claiming that title, in my experience such suggestions have produced only blank stares at best.

  213. #213 Sadie Morrison
    August 1, 2008

    Does anyone else think that the “angel baby” graphics displayed on that website look demonic?

  214. #214 thalarctos
    August 1, 2008

    For me it has nothing to do with sexuality, either male or female

    It’s true–Spedding is every bit as pro-forced pregnancy for pregnant men as he is for pregnant women.

  215. #215 Eve
    August 2, 2008

    And once again, notice how the pro-forced-birthers conveniently leave out the woman owning the womb in their conversation, to the point of not even mentioning her at all, as if she simply didn’t exist or wasn’t a person with any say about what happens within her own body.

    Again, for the slow, as Ron Sullivan points out, it is not THE Womb, some place floating “out there” in a vacuum, belonging to no one and thus fair game for anyone who claims it.

    It is MY womb, or HER womb, or YOUR womb if you’re a woman – a part of MY body inside MY body and thus entirely at MY disposal, no one else’s. Anything inside it is MINE, and does NOT have the same right to exist that I do, unless *I* choose to GIVE it that right.

    Keep your filthy fingers off and out of my body.

  216. #216 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 3, 2008

    Dianne wrote:

    All that proves is that you didn’t provide the right conditions for the sperm or egg (technically oocyte) with the right conditions to survive. Put a fertilized egg on the counter without any culture medium and it’ll be dead soon too. Does that mean that a fertilized egg is a person only if it is in appropriate growth medium?

    Ummm, no, it was meant to emphasize my view that the starting-point of the development of an individual human being is the fertilized egg. You can place a sperm or an egg separately in an ideal growth medium and you still won’t get an human being out of them left to themselves. Of course, if I’m wrong, if women can go around spontaneously getting pregnant without a man so much as looking at them in the wrong way then tell us.

    Likewise, the majority (estimated 50-80%) of fertilized eggs don’t implant or spontaneously abort very soon after conception (before a “clinical pregnancy” can be established.) So why aren’t you upset about the fact that, according to you, 50-80% of babies are dying within the first two weeks of life? Perhaps because it isn’t and never was about life or human life, but about controlling sexuality? Because, frankly, no other explanation makes the slightest bit of sense.

    And if 50-80% of pregnancies already abort spontaneously within the first two weeks, tell me how it makes sense to add to that toll by deliberately killing a substantial percentage of the remainder ourselves?

    Yes, human reproduction is a wasteful process. That’s what evolution produces, solutions that aren’t perfect but just good enough. And people are dying all the time from illnesses or accidents. It’s tragic for them, their families and their friends but that’s the way this Universe works. Shit happens.

    The point is that, whether they die from accident or illness, their right to life has not been violated because rights are granted by people to people and they are meant to regulate people’s behaviour. If some one dies because a rock falls on them their right to life has not been violated but if another person deliberately drops the rock on them it has. By the same token, if the unborn have the right to life then while a spontaneous abortion does not violate that right an induced abortion certainly does.

  217. #217 thalarctos
    August 3, 2008

    We’re not asking for it to have lots of rights, just the same right to continue to exist that you and I have.

    You’re asking for it to have the special right to commandeer another person’s body for its own survival against that person’s will, a right no other individual has.

  218. #218 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 3, 2008

    Eve wrote:

    It is MY womb, or HER womb, or YOUR womb if you’re a woman – a part of MY body inside MY body and thus entirely at MY disposal, no one else’s. Anything inside it is MINE, and does NOT have the same right to exist that I do, unless *I* choose to GIVE it that right.

    Yes, you have rights. You have rights because you are an individual human being and society says you have rights. Those rights include the right to personal privacy and autonomy. My argument is that the unborn should have one right, the right to life. If they do then neither you nor anyone else may violate that right except, possibly, when that right is in direct conflict with your rights.

  219. #219 thalarctos
    August 3, 2008

    My argument is that the unborn should have one right, the right to life.

    Heh. And I want only one thing out of life: my own way.

    Ok, class, who can tell us what logical fallacy both Spedding and I are committing here?

  220. #220 Amy
    August 3, 2008

    SO… according to the “pro choicers”, I’m not allowed to grieve the baby I lost? My second child was about four months, when he or she died in utero. I was devastated. So was my husband, and that child’s sibling. But, according to the pro choicers, my baby was really nothing that mattered, and our grief didn’t matter either. Well then. Thanks for nothing.

  221. #221 thalarctos
    August 3, 2008

    SO… according to the “pro choicers”, I’m not allowed to grieve the baby I lost?

    Amy, I’m sorry to hear about your loss.

    Can you please show us where anyone ever actually said you’re not allowed to grieve your loss? Because I think it’s possible that, in your understandable grief, you are seriously misinterpreting something else that does not mean that at all.

  222. #222 John Morales
    August 3, 2008

    Ian H Spedding @218:

    Yes, you have rights. You have rights because you are an individual human being and society says you have rights. Those rights include the right to personal privacy and autonomy. My argument is that the unborn should have one right, the right to life. If they do then neither you nor anyone else may violate that right except, possibly, when that right is in direct conflict with your rights.

    Flesh of its host, how is not the unborn functionally a parasite upon the gestating woman?

    Because, in my mind, the rights of the host trump the rights of the parasite.

  223. #223 truth machine, OM
    August 3, 2008

    John, you should know two things:
    1) Ian only posts here when the subject is abortion.
    2) You won’t get anywhere with him.

  224. #224 John Morales
    August 3, 2008

    Sifu!

    I’ll let it stand as rhetorical, then.

    Thanks for the heads-up.

  225. #225 John Morales
    August 3, 2008

    BTW, I was impressed by Michelle @88 (=ob credit due)

  226. #226 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 3, 2008

    thalarctos wrote:

    Can you please show us where anyone ever actually said you’re not allowed to grieve your loss? Because I think it’s possible that, in your understandable grief, you are seriously misinterpreting something else that does not mean that at all.

    I, too, am sorry for Amy’s loss but what else would you expect her to think when she reads comments like this:

    Life begins at conception. I’m all for that principle and I believe it is true…

    …Doesn’t mean I can’t kick the kid out of my womb anytime though.

    …or this:

    I don’t agree they have moral status of human beings. They are cells and therefore they are alive. HOWEVER, it’s connected to my fucking body. Without my fucking body, it’s dead. Basically, a child is a parasite living off me.

    …or this:

    It is MY womb, or HER womb, or YOUR womb if you’re a woman – a part of MY body inside MY body and thus entirely at MY disposal, no one else’s. Anything inside it is MINE, and does NOT have the same right to exist that I do, unless *I* choose to GIVE it that right.

    ..or this:

    You’re asking for it to have the special right to commandeer another person’s body for its own survival against that person’s will, a right no other individual has.

    Reading comments like that, is it any surprise that Amy gets the impression that “pro-choicers” view the unborn with revulsion, as some sort of monstrous parasite that has wormed its way, unbidden, into the woman’s body and grows fat and disgusting there like a leech,consuming all the mother’s resources. Because that is what it sounds like.

    To be fair, while I have the impression there are a few who think like that, I don’t think the majority of pro-choicers do. If anything, they have an exaggerated concern for the rights of women which is an understandable response to the way women, over the centuries have been – and still are being in some areas – abused, oppressed and deprived of what we now consider to be basic rights by societies which ought to be protecting them. I say “exaggerated” because, while women’s rights certainly need to be asserted and upheld, they should not automatically override the rights of others, where they exist, just because they are women’s rights.

  227. #227 Pierce R. Butler
    August 3, 2008

    women’s fetus’ rights certainly need to be asserted and upheld, they should not automatically override the rights of others, where if they exist, just because they are women’s fetus’ rights.

    Wasn’t that what you were trying to say, Ian H Spedding FCD?

  228. #228 thalarctos
    August 3, 2008

    Reading comments like that, is it any surprise that Amy gets the impression that “pro-choicers” view the unborn with revulsion, as some sort of monstrous parasite that has wormed its way, unbidden, into the woman’s body and grows fat and disgusting there like a leech,consuming all the mother’s resources. Because that is what it sounds like.

    As you always do, you hopelessly confuse two levels of analysis. Discussing the biological facts of the situation does not mean needing to be unnecessarily cruel to Amy.

    The fact that she needs to lash out and attribute things we never said is understandable in her case, even if it is no more true than what you said above. You, however, don’t have any such rationale, and I notice that, as always, you didn’t address my points about the special right you’re demanding for the fetus to commandeer another individual’s body, nor the reification fallacy + bait-and-switch you committed in your other post.

    But as usual, truth machine nails it:

    2) You won’t get anywhere with him.

    Indeed. We could once again spend hours tracing through your many logical flaws, your failure to understand basic biological facts and probability theory, your confusion of Dr. Who science fiction with real-life women, and your outright cheerful misogyny, with the same outcome as always results when we do so.

    Or I could spend today much more productively trying to teach my cat the Trapezoid Rule.

  229. #229 Eve
    August 4, 2008

    Amy: I, too, am very sorry for your loss. But please bear with me as a fellow woman and notice why you grieve what you lost: you, the sole owner of your womb and what it contained, chose to carry your pregnancy to term. You chose to accept, identify with, and nurture the fruit of your womb. You chose to identify that fruit as a child, your child, and thus you gave that child the right to life. No one else. And I’ll bet you were willing to fight to the death for your right to have that child.

    Now imagine, given the decision you made in your pregnancy, that you lived in a country where the government, in complicity with the religion of the majority of its population, had decided and made law that because your body, and by extension your womb and anything in it, belonged to God that you did not have the right to decide what happened to your body and womb.

    And that the priests of this religion, in complicity with government officials, said that God had told them that women like you (pick a reason: your partner didn’t make enough money, thus revealing that your family wasn’t one of God’s Elect, for example) should not bring any children into the world. And that therefore no matter how much you wanted to carry your pregnancy to term, you had to have an abortion.

    That’s exactly what forced-birthers like Ian are saying: that we women – and yes, I’m a woman like you although I’ve never had a miscarriage – do not have the right to decide what to do with our own bodies. That we do not have full and complete rights over our own bodies. That we do not have the right to decide what to do about our pregnancies, even though only our bodies are the ones pregnant.

    Ian: I say “exaggerated” because, while women’s rights certainly need to be asserted and upheld, they should not automatically override the rights of others, where they exist, [my emphasis] just because they are women’s rights.

    See what he’s doing? He’s making parts of our bodies sound like they are complete other beings, independent and separate from us in some free-floating world, instead of parts of our bodies. I get the impression that he almost resents that we women have any freedoms at all, that it bothers him that not only are we men’s equals, but that we have special rights men do not have.

    Because we do.

    Men cannot get pregnant. This issue is moot for them. Once they play their part in fertilizing egg cells, the entire process is completely out of their bodies and thus out of their direct control. No matter how much they may want us to give birth or not, they can’t do anything about it; they can’t stop us from having an abortion or carrying a pregnancy to term. We have near complete control over the physiological process – because it takes place exclusively inside our bodies, with most of the raw materials provided by our bodies.

    So what’s the only way they can assert any measure of control over us when it comes to pregnancy and related issues such as abortion? Persuasion and other forms of psychological manipulation aren’t exactly very reliable, are they? We women are sneaky creatures; no matter how browbeaten we may appear to be, they can never tell what we may be up to. So what’s the next best way to deny us our rightful place in nature as the primary procreative gender with exclusive reproduction rights in terms of pregnancy and birthing?

    That’s right: make it illegal for us to choose certain options. Make it as difficult and dangerous as possible so that we’re most likely not to choose those options. Try to brainwash us into believing that we do not have the right to dictate what happens inside our own bodies, even though we are the only sex for which this is a biological reality.

    I grew up in a country where abortion is still illegal. I saw the results of those women-hating policies. Guess what? They don’t even eliminate abortion. But they’re great at increasing death and disease from back-alley abortions, not to mention the misery, sickness, and violence from overpopulation and rampant poverty. Life doesn’t become more precious when abortion is outlawed. If anything, it becomes a cheap, undervalued commodity because of the sheer number of people around. It doesn’t even make children more precious, just more likely to be out begging on the streets at younger ages.

    Ever notice how many Americans opposing abortion emigrate to countries where it’s already illegal?

    That’s right: not a whole hell of a lot.

    But now I must go, or bore everyone to death.

  230. #230 cheeb
    August 4, 2008

    *sigh*

    I’m pro-life and I want to punch these people in the face.

    (And no, I’m not debating this here, I’ll give you my email if you’re really that desperate to talk to me.)

  231. #231 St. Paul
    August 7, 2008

    Hmm, let me get this straight. PZ posts a link to a pro-life poll on his blog where he knows his readers are 100% pro-death for the sole purpose of skewing it in an unfavarable outcome to the majority of it’s viewers… Wow, grow up people. Also, to the many articulate prophets of athiesm around here, it’s not becoming to be so full of yourselves. Satan will soon show you I’m right.

    p.s. do all professors in the scientific community try and be-little those less fortunate without phd’s, or is that just the professional thing to do?

  232. #232 Satan
    August 7, 2008

    Satan will soon show you I’m right.

    No, I won’t. Because you are wrong.

  233. #233 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 7, 2008

    Hmm, let me get this straight. PZ posts a link to a pro-life poll on his blog where he knows his readers are 100% pro-death

    Damn. Did you see me throwing out the baby carcasses after dinner?

    I gotta be more discrete.

  234. #234 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 7, 2008

    Eve wrote

    That’s exactly what forced-birthers like Ian are saying: that we women – and yes, I’m a woman like you although I’ve never had a miscarriage – do not have the right to decide what to do with our own bodies. That we do not have full and complete rights over our own bodies. That we do not have the right to decide what to do about our pregnancies, even though only our bodies are the ones pregnant.

    Ian: I say “exaggerated” because, while women’s rights certainly need to be asserted and upheld, they should not automatically override the rights of others, where they exist, [my emphasis] just because they are women’s rights.

    See what he’s doing? He’s making parts of our bodies sound like they are complete other beings, independent and separate from us in some free-floating world, instead of parts of our bodies. I get the impression that he almost resents that we women have any freedoms at all, that it bothers him that not only are we men’s equals, but that we have special rights men do not have.

    Because we do.

    No, you do not and nor should you. You cannot believe in equality and still want to grant special rights to special groups. If you do, what is the difference between you and the men who gave themselves special rights not granted to women over the centuries? What is needed is not special rights for women but insisting that the basic human rights of all are respected equally.

    In spite of my belief that the unborn are entitled to the right to life I don’t believe making abortion illegal is the right road to follow for some of the reasons you have given. And I certainly have nothing but contempt for those societies that have used religion as a means of subjugating women.

    But there seems to be a fundamental and possibly irreconcilable difference of perception between us. For you, the fetus is nothing more than an outgrowth of a woman’s body, like an arm or liver or tumour and, as such, she is entitled to do whatever she chooses with it. But I don’t see it that way. Arms or livers or tumours do not grow into separate human individuals and that is the crucial difference. For you, aborting a fetus appears to be no different from surgically removing a damaged arm or diseased liver or malignant tumour. For me, when you abort a fetus you are aborting a human life, albeit in its very early stages of development. Ultimately, that’s all there is to it.

  235. #235 Eve
    August 13, 2008

    Ian: In spite of my belief that the unborn are entitled to the right to life I don’t believe making abortion illegal is the right road to follow for some of the reasons you have given.

    Then quite frankly, we have no quarrel, you and I. My main concern is keeping abortion legal, safe, available, and accessible to those women who choose it as a medical option. It appears that at the end of the day we are actually on the same side on that issue.

    Since you disagree with me on the basic issue of whether women have special rights when it comes to procreation, you are of course perfectly free to choose not to have a reproductive relationship with me, and of course ditto for me vis-a-vis you.

    My very sincere thanks for a very interesting discussion.

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