abortion non religious pro life argument eighth amendment

Abortion: the railway dilemma edition

Not to get political in the sense of trying to change people’s minds, I want to see what people think about the issue of the right to life of the unborn – reframed as a transplant problem.

In Ireland, it’s always a debated issue as Ireland has very conservative legislation on the matter.

The non-religious pro-life argument is:

  1. There is a right to bodily integrity.
  2. There is a right to life.
  3. The right to life overrides the right to bodily integrity, hence, abortion isn’t rightful.

Underlying assumption: the unborn has rights.

abortion ethics railway dilemma trolley problem

I was wondering if there is a way to use railway dilemma ethics here. To remind you:

“There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Which is the most ethical choice?”

To me, this is identical to the following problem, though some people don’t agree:

“A brilliant transplant surgeon has five patients, each in need of a different organ, each of whom will die without that organ. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of these five transplant operations. A healthy young traveler, just passing through the city the doctor works in, comes in for a routine checkup. In the course of doing the checkup, the doctor discovers that his organs are compatible with all five of his dying patients. Suppose further that if the young man were to disappear, no one would suspect the doctor. Do you support the morality of the doctor to kill that tourist and provide his healthy organs to those five dying persons and save their lives?”

I really like how the railway dilemma was reframed into a transplant issue. I was just curious, could the pro-life argument be reframed too?

So here is a thought experiment:

A grown person requires a life-saving transplant.

You are the only match in the world.

Does your bodily integrity come below their right to life?

Is it different if they are your child?

abortion eighth amendment ethics philosophy

Differences between the unique match vs pregnancy situations:

  1. Assuming that a woman became pregnant through a consensual act, she was aware of the possibility that her bodily integrity could be compromised by another being. A person living with the exact antigen type required never did anything that implied that they may need to sacrifice their bodily integrity for another person.
  2. The process of child birth is natural. Transplant is an invasive man-made procedure.

Differences between unique match to a child vs pregnancy situations in addition to the above:

The mother never envisaged that her bodily integrity would be compromised in this particular way.

What do you think?

Published by

Dr Martina Feyzrakhmanova

I am a hospital doctor and founder of an education platform. The will to power refers mostly to power over yourself. Avid reader and writer of deep introspective blogs.

147 thoughts on “Abortion: the railway dilemma edition”

  1. Abortion is only an issue because of religious ideology. Biologically, a fetus only possesses the framework for consciousness to be built on from sensory input that develops after the unborn reaches a much later level of development.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Humans relate to life via our consciousness, emotions are what we apply to ideas like abortion, such we “feel” badly about destroying the biological aspect of life. Other forms of life don’t relate to this concept, what you’re describing is specifically human?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You know plants emit stress signals when they are being cut that communicate to other plants. The other plants then grow in the direction away from the noxious stimulus. I don’t think that we have to protect only those human features that are exclusively human. And it has to either be emotions and feeling or science and numbers, you can’t run with the hare and chase with the hound! This is why consciousness is an absolute disaster to try and study scientifically.

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      3. I certainly understand where those classical essentialist perspectives are derived from…yet this golden age of neuroscience delivers vastly different perspectives?

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  2. Point 1: Do you mean that the life of the woman is in jeopardy, and the dilemma is to interfere or not to interfere?

    Point 2: Can we compare the life of a healthy individual to a fetus?

    Elisabeth

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  3. RE: Train switch vs transplant. I believe the ethical division here is premeditation. On the train tracks, if you had the time to premeditate the murder of the single vs the death of the five, you would have time to save the five. On the transplant, you have time to premeditate the murder of the tourist. There’s a planning stage involved here.

    I think society would accept a reaction death vs a premeditation death, regardless of the outcome. Imagine if one person held the antibodies to cure every HIV infected person on the planet – but that person had to die for the millions of others to be saved… In what society will that person be kidnapped, murdered and harvested?

    The movie Seven Pounds comes to mind here. Society would accept the accidental death of Will Smith; but not his intentional suicide (for the purpose of harvesting his organs).

    Regarding abortion. No male should have any say regarding this topic. Period.

    If I were a woman, given that I already consider myself part fatalist and part nihilist, the outlook would be grim. But, that said, I fully embraced and enjoyed being a father. Humans are a tragic species.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Just an opinion. Men will never know what gestation and birth is like. Yet somehow men in high places deem to direct, nay — control women in this regard. I’ll never know what it’s like to fly like a bird — how could I assume to know how to take of a pair of wings?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hmm, that’s a really tough one. Maybe to control is too much, but to be involved and have a voice seems more than reasonable. The same way the male obstetrician that will never know what it’s like to deliver a child helps the woman to decide whether she should have a C-section or have a vaginal delivery

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      3. There are certainly biological mechanics that an obstetrician would be relied upon to advise. But the morality of to-term or termination… Again, that’s a deep seated personal and ethical dilemma which maybe a species, in totum, might be, eventually, philosophically elevated to pass judgement on. But today? I’ll abstain from voicing my opinion.

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      4. Yes, actively suppressing my opinion would be a form of tyranny. Just as the old-fat-white-men in the US Congress pass laws down onto women without allowing any woman’s voice to be included in the decision, is a variation of that.
        I’ve wracked my brain trying to come up with an equivalent, reciprocal situation, male vs female, and can’t find one. This topic is unique and incendiary.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I was trying to determine the underlying feeling of difference between the two. And, on first examination, what I came up with was a sense of premeditation. It may not apply, or may only be part of the gestalt that sets the two apart.
        You have to admit that although they may result in identical outcomes, the two feel very much different. Why? I don’t know. One is premeditated?

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      2. The two situations (train/transplant) would only be equivalent if the doctor *knew* that the single patient was ALREADY going to die. If some outside force had given the doctor the choice to SAVE 1 or 5 lives.

        I look at the way society would regard the two people. Society would forgive the train-switcher for choosing to kill the single person. Society would NOT forgive a doctor who premeditatedly murdered the single patient to save the lives of the five. BUT, if the doctor had a choice of saving 1 or 5, saving the five and sacrificing the one would be acceptable to society. It’s the intent I think we’re dealing with here. Choices. When a situation forces your hand, sacrifice takes on a different meaning. CHOOSING to take another’s life when they were not at jeopardy, without the situational forcing, yea, I don’t think that works the same way.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Another medical analogy I’ve read roughly goes like this: A gifted musician is going to die of kidney failure, but she can be saved if surgically attached to a healthy person. You wake up and find that you were chosen, and attached to the musician in the night….is it your moral obligation to stay attached? Here’s another: even if a parent is a perfect match for a kidney transplant to save his/her child, there are no laws requiring that the parent give the child part of his/her body, even to save the life of the fully-formed, sentient child. How dare we require a woman to use her body to let an embryo/fetus develop into a human if she does not wish to do so?? A fertilized seed is NOT an apple. Not all apple seeds can come to fruition. Nature is always more generous with fertilization than the earth could sustain if it all came to fruition. We must let women decide and support them in their decisions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I guess the difference with the musician situation is that there is nothing you can consent to doing that would ordinarily result in a vulnerable musician being attached to you.

      Laws and ethics aren’t the same thing, so I don’t think we can ever argue “this isn’t in law, therefore it can be ignored”. And in terms of the precedence of the unborn vs the fully formed, like you said something doesn’t add up

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In Response to – Abortion: the railway dilemma edition

    https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/55803779/posts/1545172082

    Is it the case that a woman who thinks of her fetus as being separate from her, likely to find the decision to abort this fetus, easier, than if she considered the fetus as being part of her?

    Who made the egg that became the fetus? Was the egg separate, i.e. manufactured outside of her, or was if created by her body?

    If her body made the egg how could it ever be a separate entity/being from its creator?

    Some women, who undergo abortions, experience emotional turmoil that’s easily equal to those who’ve lost limbs or donated organs. We need to see that it’s not the unborn, that has rights, but only the woman’s right to have part of her body removed. A decision taken much too lightly.

    If the possible, full repercussions of abortion were clearly explained to developing girls, it may well be, that having unprotected sex would be seen differently. Parents need longer conversations with teenagers.

    As far as organ transplants go, an individual’s right to life, will always be greater than anyone else’s. If we choose to donate an organ, and we know this act would kill us, we would obviously be viewing another person’s life, as more important than our own. An unlikely scenario.

    Although going off point slightly, when we continue to see ourselves as ‘separate’ from each other, abortion, wars, racism, inequality and so, stay alive and active. When we promote togetherness – as in the fetus being part of a pregnant women – things potentially calm down a little.

    To say that five people’s lives, are more important than one, is to diminish the value of all life.

    In regard to the thought experiment:

    A grown person requires a life-saving transplant.
    You are the only match in the world.
    Does your bodily integrity come below their right to life?
    Is it different if they are your child?

    Bodily integrity is irrelevant if we love ourselves and someone else enough to give them life. Children belong to us all.

    Thought provoking post than you.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. ANONY MOLE is right in pointing out premedititation. The two scenarios aren’t the same. And PLECTRUMM is correct, too. Until full bilateral synchronisation, week 28, there simply is not a human organism, so there’s no dilema at all.

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      1. The hemispherical hookup of the developing brain.

        Professor Goldenring, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Development of the Fetal Brain.”

        “When the coordinating and individuating function of a living brain is demonstrably present, the full human organism exists. Before full brain differentiation, only cells, organs, and organ systems exist, which may potentially be integrated into a full human organism if the brain develops. After brain death what is left of the organism is once again only a collection of organs, all available to us for use in transplantation, since the full human being no longer exists.”

        This is why saying something is being “killed” is thoroughly, hopelessly ignorant of the facts. Before week 28 the foetus cannot meet the legal, medical, scientific definition of death. How can you “kill” something that cannot “die”?

        Something cannot be considered “alive” until it can “die.” Defined Human Life begins at the moment its twin, death, also springs into existence. Without death there is no life. The former begets the latter. The latter assigns meaning to the former. One delineates the other, and the definition of death is not in dispute. Death is when electroencephalography (EEG) activity ceases. That’s it. That’s death. It follows quite naturally therefore that the onset of defined human life is when foetal brain activity begins to exhibit regular and sustained wave patterns, and that occurs consistently at around week 25, although it is not until 28 weeks till we see full bilateral synchronisation. That is when you may call the foetus “On,” and only after something is “On” can it be turned “Off,” meeting the legal, scientific and medical definitions of death. To argue anything to the contrary is patently absurd.

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      2. These things can develop earlier, hence people delivered before 28 weeks can survive. The XIX century EEG isn’t the be all and end all measure of life. Plus, that’s a bit like saying that a person who is 17 years and 355 days old has no responsibility and then when they turn 18 – that’s it, they’re a fully-fledged person. Arbitrary. Nipping the developing brain in the bud isn’t the same as it never existing.

        There are people in ICU who cannot breath and their hearts aren’t beating. It’s easy for us to say they aren’t “full human beings” as the Professor likes to put it. Yet we hold on to any possibility of life.

        “To argue anything to the contrary is patently absurd”. On this blog, to argue is never absurd.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. No, these things (neural networking) cannot develop earlier. And what you’re talking about is premature babies being kept alive on life support. Here is that basic breakdown:
        Odds of a Premature Baby’s Survival by Length of Pregnancy
        23 weeks 17%
        24 weeks 39%
        25 weeks 50%
        26 weeks 80%
        27 weeks 90%
        28-31 weeks 90-95%
        32-33 weeks 95%

        Here is the definition of death:

        In 1979, the Conference of the Medical Royal Colleges, “Diagnosis of death” declared: “brain death represents the stage at which a patient becomes truly dead.”

        This was updated in the 1980s and 1990s to state that brainstem death, as diagnosed by UK criteria, is the point at which “all functions of the brain have permanently and irreversibly ceased.”

        Further still updated in 1995 (to present), “It is suggested that ‘irreversible loss of the capacity for consciousness, combined with irreversible loss of the capacity to breathe’ should be regarded as the definition of death’

        This is mirrored in US law:

        U.S’s Uniform Determination of Death Act (§ 1, U.L.A. [1980]) states: “An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory function, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.”

        It is also mirrored in Australian law:

        The Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) Statement on Death and Organ Donation define death as: a) Irreversible cessation of all function of the brain of the person; or b) Irreversible cessation of circulation of blood in the body of the person.

        So, the question stands: Before full bilateral synchronisation, how can you kill something that cannot die?

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      4. There are people walking around this planet with a hemispherectomy – a surgery that removes half the brain. And you won’t even know they are any different (unless you start a detailed neuro exam). So this bilateral synchronisation doesn’t define whether something is human.

        If you want to argue that this surgery only happens after the two hemispheres had been united and it is the act of their uniting that defines humanity, then consider people with corpus callosum agenesis. They are born without this synchronisation.

        I understand that your logic is neat once we accept the assumptions you make. “If it cannot die, it’s not alive.”

        I don’t think laws should be relied upon to back up arguments in a purely ethical discussion (there have been many insane laws through the times.) Plus these laws are for completely different use: people who are born have different physiology. For example, the unborn won’t ever breath air.

        It seems to me your argument is based on a technicality.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. No, it’s based on developmental facts 😉

        For the purposes of identifying the beginning of human life, sustained brain activity is what we have.

        Pro-forced birthers like to holler about “life” magically appearing in the foetus.

        It doesn’t.

        At no stage does “life” magically appear in a zygote, a blastocyst, embryo, or foetus. Life began on earth 3.8 billion years ago and hasn’t been interrupted since.

        A foetus was never inorganic and suddenly becomes organic.

        For this reason, the only true method we have to distinguish the onset of a distinct, functioning human being is when the brain begins to exhibit sustain EEG activity, and we see full bilateral synchronisation only at week 28.

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      6. You didn’t present an argument against foetal development.

        Bilaterial synchronisation happens at 28 weeks. Sustained brain activity, week 25. For the puposes of debate we should zero in on sustained brain activity, and that is pretty much how most abortion laws are written, using that benchmark with breathing room, typically putting the cut off date at 20 weeks.

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      7. I explained to you that this bilateral synchronisation isn’t necessary for life to exist. You seem to cling to this bilateral synchronisation.

        And no, we should not zero in on sustained brain activity. I don’t see a reason for this to be the start of life. It’s an arbitrary definition. Why not a heart beat? Why not it’s genetic uniqueness? If you think it is our brain that makes us human, most certainly our genome makes us human before that.

        EEG isn’t exactly cutting edge technology. Much as I respect measurable things, measuring has limitations. As I said, EEG is NOT the be all and end all of measuring neural development. With respect, doctors normally do not need EEG to pronounce a person dead.

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      8. Bilateral synchronisation has nothing to do with “life.” I never said it did.

        We are talking about the complete human organism. As Goldenring states: “When the coordinating and individuating function of a living brain is demonstrably present, the full human organism exists. Before full brain differentiation, only cells, organs, and organ systems exist, which may potentially be integrated into a full human organism if the brain develops. After brain death what is left of the organism is once again only a collection of organs, all available to us for use in transplantation, since the full human being no longer exists.”

        And here’s the so-named “Father of the Anti-Abortion Movement,” Dr. Jack Willke:

        “Since all authorities accept that the end of an individual’s life is measured by the ending of his brain function (as measured by brain waves on the EEG), would it not be logical for them to at least agree that individual’s life began with the onset of that same human brain function as measured by brain waves recorded on that same instrument?” (Dr. Jack Willke, Abortion: Questions and Answers)

        This quote by Willke is really quite interesting. If you read the article linked below you will see that Willke based this statement of his on a factoid pro-forced birthers love to throw out. So, what Willke has done here is shoot himself, and his movement, in the head. He has admitted (albeit accidently) that before week 25 nothing is being killed.

        http://www.svss-uspda.ch/pdf/brain_waves.pdf

        You’ve seen the legal, scientific, and medical definition of death.

        So, tell me, How can you “kill” something that cannot “die”?

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      9. Repeating because you keep evading answering the question.

        Your example references a person who has once had a complete brain, with trillions of working networks, memories. There are countless studies demonstrating how the brain adjusts and compensates for damaged (or removed) regions.

        The foetus, before week 28, has not experienced such a thing.

        I prefer to work off week 25; the date when there begins to exist sustained brain activity. At week 25 a foetus can meet the legal, scientific, and medical definition of human death. Hence the question:

        Before week 25, how can you “kill” something that cannot “die”?

        There is no moral dilemma here. None. A human organism simply does not exist before this moment. Potential does, yes, absolutely, much like a chassis has the potential to become a functioning car.

        Now, if you think you know more than the legal professors and doctors who have written the definition of death in the US, Australia, NZ, and Britain, then by all means, write an alternative and submit it for consideration.

        Until that time, I’m afraid the existing (unanimous) legal, scientific and medical definitions of death stands. And as we know what the definition of death is, then we can safely determine when, exactly, a complete human organism exists.

        As I have already pointed out, a foetus was never inorganic and suddenly becomes organic. Life never emerges in the foetus. Never. Life began on earth 3.8 billion years ago and hasn’t been interrupted since.

        So, if you wish to open this conversation up to meaningful debate, then you will have to demonstrate that something akin to a ‘soul’ exists, and demonstrate when that ‘soul’ enters the developing human organism.

        Can you?

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      10. I explained that the EEG centred definition of death used of people who were born is simply not relevant to the definition of death for foetuses.

        A foetus can be dead before it ever develops a brain: has that occurred to you? Defined by the cessation of a heart beat.

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      11. Why is it not relevant?

        I’m sorry, hand waves don’t count as valid arguments.

        If it’s not a human organism, something that can die, what is it?

        And again, if you think you know more than the legal professors and doctors who have written the definition of death in the US, Australia, NZ, and Britain, then by all means, write an alternative and submit it for consideration.

        Now, can you demonstrate some other feature in the human organism, something akin to a soul?

        If you believe there is something that is not being taken into consideration (something like a ‘soul’) then present your evidence for it.

        If such new information were to come to light I’d change my position in accord to that information. I’m not afraid to do so. Until then, I will work off the facts at hand.

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      12. Again, you haven’t presented an argument, and I have indeed addressed both suggestions you forwarded.

        Hemispherectomys are performed on people with working brains, brains with trillions of networks that adapt remarkably to damage, compensating and relearning.

        The heart is a muscle. Theoretically, I can remove the heart from an adult human, and for just as long as I keep blood flowing, that person will remain being a living person because their brain is still functioning naturally.

        You CANNOT do the reverse of this experiment.

        And, as a muscle, it is being driven by adenosine triphosphate which is first broken down and then re-formed during respiration to release energy.

        A foetus DOES NOT breathe.

        I’m astonished that, as a doctor, you would even forward such a preposterous argument and expect me to take it seriously.

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      13. No John, you’re still dodging my argument about the relevance of your definition of death to foetuses and I don’t think you will address it, so let’s move on.

        Astonishment is good, it means you are expanding your horizons. This is an essay someone wrote in school and I think their secular argument is very good. You can skip the theatrics of it and go straight to the bulk of the argument: http://www.625points.com/2016/08/leaving-cert-speech-paper-1.html

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      14. Dodging? Really? Dodging what, exactly?

        Want me to address your two suggestions again? I see you haven’t responded to those.

        And if you ever actually present a “definition of death to foetuses,” rather than just repeating the words ad nauseum, I’ll be happy to respond to it on its merits.

        What’s the purpose in linking to that paper? It says nothing, and as I’ve already expressly demonstrated, life never magically appears in a zygote, a blastocyst, an embryo, or a foetus. Never. Never. The only way we have to measure the onset of a human organism is when the foetus’ brain starts to exhibit sustained brain activity, and that occurs at week 25. Before that moment there is no human organism, just potential.

        So, the question remains unanswered:

        Before week 25, how can you “kill” something that cannot “die”?

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      15. And just so we’re clear, you said:

        I explained that the EEG centred definition of death used of people who were born is simply not relevant to the definition of death for foetuses.

        To which I asked, Why is it not relevant?

        To-date, you have failed to provide any substance to this nebulous statement. You have not backed this comment up with a single shred of supporting evidence, just hand waves.

        Now, I have provided you the legal, scientific, and medical definitions of death from seven countries.

        If you have a legal, scientific, and medical definition of “death for a foetus” from these seven countries, then please present it.

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      16. 1. Because of the nature of the science behind EEG, a small source or higher levels of interference will remove the possibility of detecting activity. In this case, we have a smaller source (foetus before 20 weeks) and more interference (a moving foetus and amniotic fluid in the way). You can imagine how much harder it is to register an EEG on a foetus compared to a person who has been born. This is what I meant when I said that the guidelines you refer to being written for persons who are born and their relevance.
        2. We have to look at the concept of level of evidence required. I am not sure if you are familiar between the difference between civil law and criminal law, but in a civil case, the jury is asked to make a decision “based on the balance of probability”. In a criminal case, they are asked to decide when they are confident “beyond all reasonable doubt”. The reason for this is because the magnitude of the decision is far greater in a criminal case: taking away one’s freedom is a bigger deal than getting them to pay for damage to their neighbour’s fence. What is being disputed here is whether it is a human being. Therefore, the level of evidence should be high. I don’t think you can honestly argue that your point reaches such a level. If you were in a burning building, but the fire brigade thought that there was only a 49% chance you were in that building you would be none too pleased with the idea that they could safely but an inconvenience rescue you, but chose not to. I do not believe the chances are that it’s not a human being. Even for you, who disagree, can you really say that you’re certain before all reasonable doubt?
        3. As an aside, and I say it like this to inject a little humour into the situation, you have contended that because an EEG is used as the definition of the end of life that it must also be the definition of the beginning of life. While that may seem intuitive, it is inaccurate. Our mouths are at the beginning of our digestive systems. Surely, you wouldn’t also contend that they are also the end of our digestive system. To put it in a more philosophical way, we are not dead before we are alive, we simply don’t exist.
        4. This isn’t policy for women’s bodies and lives. It concerns all humans. I feel that men should have a say about their child’s existence.

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      17. 1. What “nature” of the science behind EEG?

        It seems you don’t really know what you’re talking about here. Whatever it is you’re thinking, it doesn’t even matter because we’re talking about the physical development of the brain. Scientists do not attempt to find electrocortical activity in embryos and fetuses because they know more about the physical structure of the developing human brain than they did in 1963, when the research began, and since then extensive EEG studies have been done on premature babies.

        An EEG involves measuring varying electrical potential across a dipole, or separated charges. To get scalp or surface potentials from the cortex (that which represents the living human organism) requires three things: neurons, dendrites, and axons, with synapses between them. Since these requirements are not present in the human cortex before 20-24 weeks of gestation, it is not possible to record “brain waves” (an erroneous term, but one often used) prior to 20-24 weeks.

        Period. End of story.

        The physical structures simply aren’t there.

        2. Yes, I can say my argument reaches such a level of confidence. The science backs me up. There is no ‘competing’ hypothesis. I am presenting facts. You are appealing to Oogity Boogity.

        As I have already said, if you wish to break this debate open to meaningful discussion you will have to demonstrate the existence of some previously unknown element (a soul, for example) in the human organism.

        Albeit one based on nothing but imagination driven by existential death anxiety, it is a hypothesis, and as such, it deserves to be tested. If you can prove the existence of the soul then I will have to adjust my thinking in light of the new information.

        I’m not afraid to do so.

        Now, regarding this hypothesis, I know for a fact that the Templeton Foundation (a Christian research group with over U.S.$4 billion in its research fund) has spent over 30 years and over U.S.$1 billion specifically looking for the “soul.” They have funded actual research (some good, some not so good), but the important thing is that this very well-funded organisation is active and actively investigating the hypothesis.

        That’s a good thing. I support any and all research.

        To date, their efforts have returned exactly zero positive results.

        Zero.

        2. Again, as I have said a number of times and you just keep ignoring it, EEG does not indicate the beginning of life.

        It has nothing to do with it.

        Nothing. At. All.

        Please stop repeating this deliberate distortion of what I have said.

        At no stage does “life” magically appear in a zygote, a blastocyst, embryo, or foetus. Life began on earth 3.8 billion years ago and hasn’t been interrupted since.

        A foetus was never inorganic and suddenly becomes organic.

        4. Ultimately, what you are talking about is regulating a woman’s autonomy over her own body, and as such, her own life.

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      18. It seems to me that you are now changing the goal posts. Can you clarify the following: were you not previously saying that the absence of “electrocortical” activity indicates lack of brain function? You now seem to be saying that what indicates lack of brain function is anatomy and histology and that EEGs have nothing to do with it. Can you clarify this?

        Regarding point 2, your assertion is laughable! I didn’t want to get personal, but you’ve been getting so for quite some time now. So I will say it directly. I would guess you’re not from a science background. You have no hypothesis, you have one null hypothesis and refuse to entertain anything else. However, your problem lies not in science, but in engineering, for lack of a better term. Allow me to explain what I mean by this: there are no scientific studies to show that jelly cannot be used as a foundation of a house. Yet no engineer would attempt to use it because the consequences of failure would be so terrible. This is the question of where the onus to deliver evidence lies. And that is clearly on your side of the argument. If I am wrong, I am inconveniencing women. If you are wrong, then it’s is a person being killed.

        No amount of trying to seem technical by giving details on an EEG will help at this stage: I don’t think you’ve ever been near one. It’s clear that you consider me some kind of religious character in disguise based on your constant reference to ogidy bogidy and the soul. And now you mention religious organisations. That’s a straw man argument against me. Alternatively, you accept that I am not religious, but your visceral hatred for the religious is so strong, you cannot leave it out of the conversation with anyone. In my personal experience, people like that tend to have a problem with religion first and then develop their abortion views simply to be anti the people they dislike, not deriving their view from first principles. Hence, your constant argument from authority, repetition, “explaining” the basic to me when you know I know them, and a confirmation bias so strong that you are using the lack of a clear definition for the beginning of life as a hiding place.

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      19. Moving the goal posts? Please. The only person exercising distortion here is you.

        There can be no brain activity if the physical structures are not in place. Period. There is nothing to measure. EEG studies are performed on premature babies, not, as you erroneously tried to imply, on foetus’ in the womb.

        Null hypothesis? I see, so you’re just hand waving away 60 years of scientific research? Interesting.

        I drew your attention to the Templeton Foundation because it is the only organisation entertaining your hypothesis. If you want to disregard their research, then fine. Can you name any other research presently going on to support your hypothesis?

        If your position is not informed by a religious impetus, then by all means tell me what you’re basing your objection to known science on?

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      20. 1. “Exercising distortion” doesn’t make sense. If you want to sound high brow, please use words appropriately.

        2. I’ve directly asked you if the physical structures are not place before 20 weeks. You have yet to give me an answer.

        3. You stated that the Templeton Foundation hypothesis and my hypothesis are the same. This is wrong. The Templeton Foundation talk about a soul (according to you). I never brought in the metaphysical. I am stating that the point at which a human life begins may well be conception or implantation – or 20 weeks – or any other point. Given that it is human life at stake, the onus is on those wishing to get rid of the foetus to show that they are not killing a human. You have not done this. And if you claim that it is not possible to do that, then I say that we don’t get to act unless we’re sure.

        4. So you did believe that my position is informed by religious impetus. This position of yours is congruent with your arguing from an anti-religious impetus. Anti-religion and science aren’t the same. Do you think that doing things to spite the religious is a more sane way to run a society than based on religion? And my argument above isn’t rejecting any known science, rather carefully examining it – science is all about skepticism.

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      21. 1 One exercises muscles, exercises ideology, exercises nonsense… Exercises distortion.

        2 I answered it, also showing that your assumption that EEG was measured on foetus’ in the womb was simply wrong. The studies are performed on premature babies. There is no ‘interference’ due to ‘amniotic fluid’, as you tried to claim. You just made that up, and that draws into question your capacity to discuss this subject in a rational, factual manner.

        The brain develops, much like a car is assembled. Is a chassis a car? Is a chassis with wheels are car? Is a chassis with wheels, fuel pipes, an engine, but no spark plugs a car?

        NEJM paper by Anand and Hickey, Pain and its effects in the human neonate and fetus:

        Functional maturity of the cerebral cortex is suggested by fetal and neonatal electroencephalographic patterns…First, intermittent electroencephalograpic bursts in both cerebral hemispheres are first seen at 20 weeks gestation; they become sustained at 22 weeks and bilaterally synchronous at 26 to 27 weeks.

        And to repeat Goldenring (“Development of the Fetal Brain”):

        “When the coordinating and individuating function of a living brain is demonstrably present, the full human organism exists. Before full brain differentiation, only cells, organs, and organ systems exist, which may potentially be integrated into a full human organism if the brain develops. After brain death what is left of the organism is once again only a collection of organs, all available to us for use in transplantation, since the full human being no longer exists.”

        If you wish to contradict the experts, then do your research, write your paper, submit it for peer review, and have it published.

        As a side note, I just noticed you blog’s sub-heading is “cognitive curiosities.” Interesting that you would have that in your title, but appear to be jettisoning the very concept here in this thread. How can you have ‘cognition’ (the quality of being human) if the very instrument necessary for that cognition (a functioning human brain, with electrical signals passing between neurons, dendrites and axons, with synapses between them) is not working?

        3 There is no start to “life.” There is only the start to a functioning, complete human organism which exists inside a living system that began 3.8 billion years ago.

        If you can demonstrate some alternative to measure the start of a functioning, complete human organism, then by all means do so.

        So far, you have not.

        4 I am assuming your position is informed by religion.

        Is it?

        And no, I am not arguing against religion, although most debates like this typically are with the religious, and you are certainly demonstrating many of the same failed, emotive arguments…. such as a heartbeat.

        What I am demonstrating is that language that uses words such as “killing” is fundamentally in error.

        This is a fact, unless, of course, you can tell me how you can “kill” something that cannot “die”

        Can you?

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      22. 1 One exercises muscles, exercises ideology, exercises nonsense… Exercises distortion.

        2 I answered it, also showing that your assumption that EEG was measured on foetus’ in the womb was simply wrong. The studies are performed on premature babies. There is no ‘interference’ due to amniotic fluid, as you tried to claim. You just made that up.

        The brain develops, much like a car is assembled. Is a chassis a car? Is a chassis with wheels are car? Is a chassis with wheels, fuel pipes, an engine, but no spark plugs a car?

        NEJM paper by Anand and Hickey, Pain and its effects in the human neonate and fetus:

        Functional maturity of the cerebral cortex is suggested by fetal and neonatal electroencephalographic patterns…First, intermittent electroencephalograpic bursts in both cerebral hemispheres are first seen at 20 weeks gestation; they become sustained at 22 weeks and bilaterally synchronous at 26 to 27 weeks.

        And to repeat Goldenring (“Development of the Fetal Brain”):

        “When the coordinating and individuating function of a living brain is demonstrably present, the full human organism exists. Before full brain differentiation, only cells, organs, and organ systems exist, which may potentially be integrated into a full human organism if the brain develops. After brain death what is left of the organism is once again only a collection of organs, all available to us for use in transplantation, since the full human being no longer exists.”

        As a side note, I just noticed you blog’s sub-heading is “cognitive curiosities.” Interesting that you would have that in your title, but appear to be jettisoning the very concept here in this thread. How can you have ‘cognition’ (the quality of being human) if the very instrument necessary for that cognition (a functioning human brain, with electrical signals passing between neurons, dendrites and axons, with synapses between them) is not working?

        3 There is no start to “life.” There is only the start to a functioning, complete human organism which exists inside a living system that began 3.8 billion years ago.

        If you can demonstrate some alternative to measure the start of a functioning, complete human organism, then by all means do so.

        So far, you have not.

        4 I am assuming your position is informed by religion.

        You haven’t answered my question: Is it?

        And no, I am not arguing against religion, although most debates like this typically are with the religious, and you are certainly demonstrating many of the same failed, emotive arguments…. such as a heartbeat.

        What I am demonstrating is that language that uses words such as “killing” is fundamentally in error.

        This is a fact, unless, of course, you can tell me how you can “kill” something that cannot “die”…

        Can you?

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      23. I didn’t make anything up, John: it is you who failed to make yourself clear. To address your point, the EEGs of premature babies are only an approximation to what happens in the womb. I don’t see why brain maturity all of a sudden flips some proverbial switch in your mind. And if the only reason is that a paper said that there being a brain with brainwaves makes us human, you simply don’t understand how to use scientific literature.

        You still haven’t answered whether the physical structures are there.

        I don’t believe that cognition is “the quality of being human”. A crow can figure out pretty impressive things.

        “There is no start to life”. That’s a pretty meaningless, unfalsifiable statement. By your logic, it’s not even possible to kill you, because you cannot die, because your life never started…

        I answered your question and I will answer it again: my position is not informed by religion.

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      24. Martina, you claimed EEG’s were not reliable as there was “interference” due to “amniotic fluid in the way”.

        No problem. To err is human 😉

        Yes, I have answered…. numerous times. The structures emerge over time. The first sporadic bursts of electrical activity occur only after those structures begin to reach maturity (week 20). It is not, however, until week 25 before that activity becomes sustained, with full bilateral synchronisation at week 28.

        If thinking isn’t the quality of being human, what is?

        There is no definitive “start” of life. Everything living thing is part of a single living system that began on earth 3.8 billion years ago, and hasn’t been interrupted since. We are momentarily unique nodes in that system. That is why sustained brain activity (a brain that is “On”) is how we determined the beginning of a distinct, autonomous human organism.

        Martina, there’s a very good reason why the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. National Library of Medicine call natural abortion after week 20 “preterm deliveries,” while before that date it is labeled “miscarriages.”

        There is a distinct line.

        OK, so you’re not religious, is that correct?

        Are you an atheist, deist, pantheist?

        And if you look back through my comments, you will not find a single reference to religion… It was you who brought it up.

        So, rather than making me guess, what does inform (and motivate) your position?

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      25. As I am not a neurologist, the best answer I can give is the one I have given: the physical structures (the neurons, dendrites and axons, with synapses between them, in the cortex) mature over gestation. At week 20 they have matured enough to permit the first sporadic electrical pulses to flow.

        Now, will you please answer my questions to you?

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      26. I didn’t say that. Please don’t put words in my mouth. It’s deceitful.

        I imagine it’s quite clear, as studies are done on premature babies. If no activity (sporadic as it is for the next 4 to 5 weeks) is ever detected before week 20, then the mature, operational structures are simply not in place.

        That’s self-explanatory.

        As I noted, there’s a very good reason why the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. National Library of Medicine call natural abortion after week 20 “preterm deliveries,” while before that date it is labeled “miscarriages.”

        If not brain activity, then what, Martina, do you think informed this clear definitional partition?

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      27. Martina, are you going to answer my questions, or were you perhaps being a little deceptive in saying religion does not inform your position, and you simply don’t want to admit it?

        If this is not the case, I don’t understand why the evasion.

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      28. Doesn’t listen? That’s interesting coming from a person who, without supporting evidence, hand waves away every argument patiently put before 😉

        And pray tell, what have I not “listened” to?

        As far as I can recall, you presented two suggestions, both addressed.

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      29. I don’t really get involved in religion, so I never really bothered with those specialist terms.

        The reason I mentioned it is that your argument appears to assume it. Assumptions are often visible without having them having to be spelled out.

        “So, rather than making me guess, what does inform (and motivate) your position?” Again – assumption. Why does there need to be a motivation besides what I already outlined. Hard logic. Nothing else.

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      30. No, I did not bring up religion. You did. I said the only way you can open the discussion up to meaningful debate is to demonstrate the existence of some other element in the formation of the human organism, for example, a soul.

        Hard logic. Nothing else.

        Logic? Based on what?

        You’re ignoring all the science, so what you’re actually being is illogical.

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      31. “No, I did not bring up religion.” Find me where I said you did. And then stop with the straw men.

        I am not ignoring all the science John, I am quite familiar with it. I accept that brain development happens the way it happens. I just don’t attribute the same meaning to it as you do.

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      32. And that’s your right.

        However, if you’re going to start meddling in the lives of others, then you should be able to present a rational, verifiable argument supporting your claims.

        So far, you haven’t presented a single thing.

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      33. And yes, the onus is on me, which is why I have given you the facts and detailed the argument.

        You have presented a rational, verifiable counterargument.

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      34. You don’t know?

        Please.

        Do you support a woman’s right to chose? If so, until what date do you think is ‘ethical’?

        Death…. Perhaps you should actually read what has been written. You’ll find your answer there.

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      35. And before you raise the ‘heart’ again (which you should already know, being a doctor, is a silly argument), the heart is a muscle. It performs a task. It is not a human being. Nerve cells in the leg start functioning quite early, much like the heart. These are action potentials. They react. Reaction is a task. What you have to bear in mind here is that the foetus does not (until fill bilateral synchronisation) have any means in place to recognise and process that reaction. There is no information flow. Have you ever seen the experiment where electrodes are hooked up to a dead frog’s legs and electricity passed through? The leg muscles expand and contract and the leg moves. That is something like what is happening in a foetus.

        A foetus does not breathe. What oxygen is being fed into the developing organs/muscles comes from the mother. All living reactions in a human organism are driven by adenosine triphosphate which is first broken down and then re-formed during respiration to release energy. That process is not happening independently inside the foetus.

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    1. Garrison Keillor has a character named Father Emile who gave the following lecture on birth control, “If you didn’t want to go to Minneapolis, why did you get on the train?”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If you mean that people should not have sex unless they intend to get pregnant, then this analogy makes sense. If people intend to have sex for connection, pleasure, and love, but do not intend to get pregnant, and DO get pregnant, even though they used birth control methods, then the train derailed, and they must cope with the outcome, depending on their circumstances and wishes. Every time someone makes love, they are not intending a pregnancy.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, I think Father Emile’s point is that the biology itself has the intention – which everyone knows. My main point was to amuse..

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      3. Thanks for weighing in, Rita. I completely understand the argument. Let’s consider some similar situation.

        You invest into stocks and bonds. You have diversified, hedged your bets and made safe investments. You always knew that there is a small possibility you will get wiped out. Yet you still choose to invest, understanding the risk.

        Another situation: you go swimming and something goes wrong. You drown, someone does CPR and you’re back. Surely, you knew that there was a possibility of drowning when you went into the pool, yet we, as a society all agree, that we should do all we can to reverse the effects of drowning.

        By the sounds of what you’re saying, you would liken the unwanted pregnancy situation to drowning more so than financial meltdown. Could you explain your reasoning – or am I not following you?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thank you so much! I left a comment (which is awaiting moderation). I am probably too frank in my opinions…. but subscribed to you blog, too.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I am, as they say in the American south, a day late and a dollar short. Also likely to get myself into trouble here, but I would like to ask a couple of questions and make a comment. Why are the statements referred to by the various experts involved referred to as facts, when it looks to me like they are clearly judgments? They may be judgments believed to be based on facts, but judgments nevertheless. Judgments are not identical with facts.

    Secondly, is one morally compelled to make the judgment that a certain kind or quality of brain activity equals life?

    Thirdly, couldn’t the argument that life itself has no beginning compel you to say that an individual human life has no precise temporal beginning? or is that what you are arguing?

    And lastly, why be so enamored of the judgments of modern scientists? Is everything a scientific field? I thought “everything” was philosophical…. but even the first physicians had opinions on things – the original Hippocratic oath had vows against causing abortion….

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    1. That’s a powerful saying! The American South must be quite a place 🙂

      “Why are the statements referred to by the various experts involved referred to as facts”. You mean John’s statements? I agree with you. John portrayed a number of quotes from papers as truth in the last instance. That’s not how science works.

      I also agree with you about the brain/life argument. John argues that when a person’s brain dies, we consider them dead. Hence, when a person’s brain becomes active – they become alive. It’s super difficult to reliably measure the brain activity of a foetus. Furthermore, the end and the beginning don’t always match up – I tried to be funny and say that the end of your digestive system looks quite different to the start of it… you get the point. Then he said that life doesn’t begin in a foetus at all – life began billions of years ago. That doesn’t really gel with his EEG argument. I think though that we’re not clear when human life begins and that’s the reason we cannot take chances with it.

      The original Hippocratic oath is very artsy and we can’t take it super seriously. However, I do feel that there is a certain relationship between preserving life and erring on the side of caution when it comes to possible human life.

      As for science, I think the main thing is to always question everything. And like you said – the issues here are much more philosophical than scientific. What makes a human being a human being is as much philosophy as it is science. Btw, my intuitive working hypothesis to that question is our genetics – that we have from the outset.

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      1. It’s super difficult to reliably measure the brain activity of a foetus.

        No, it’s not “super disfficult.” It’s rather well studied.

        Anand and Hickey (New England Journal of Medicine), Pain and its effects in the human neonate and fetus:

        Functional maturity of the cerebral cortex is suggested by fetal and neonatal electroencephalographic patterns…First, intermittent electroencephalograpic bursts in both cerebral hemispheres are first seen at 20 weeks gestation.

        Then he said that life doesn’t begin in a foetus at all – life began billions of years ago. That doesn’t really gel with his EEG argument.

        At no stage does “life” magically appear in a zygote, a blastocyst, embryo, or foetus. Ever. Life began on earth 3.8 billion years ago and hasn’t been interrupted since. A foetus was never inorganic and suddenly becomes organic.

        And to repeat, again, brain activity has nothing at all to do with “life.” Nothing. It is the measure used to determine the onset of a distinct, autonomous human organism.

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      2. John, please don’t comment again if you are going to paste what you said before.

        “And to repeat, again, brain activity has nothing at all to do with “life.” Nothing. It is the measure used to determine the onset of a distinct, autonomous human organism.” – as someone else pointed out that’s opinion, not fact. Do you understand the difference between the two?

        Well studied doesn’t mean easy or reliable. And if it is that well studies is there a metanalysis? A Cochrane review? Or just one paper you keep clinging to?

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      3. as someone else pointed out that’s opinion, not fact.

        If you think that, then please then demonstrate the existence of some other element that constitutes an autonomous human organism.

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      4. Like I said to you before, any answer to that is going to be philosophy/ethics, not “science”. But if you want, let’s think about it. I will let you begin by proposing a definition for an autonomous human organism – and then we can consider how we can identify whether something is or isn’t one

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      5. Functioning brain exhibiting sustained activity, the capacity to breathe by itself.

        Yes, premature babies (17% at 23 weeks) can be kept alive with artificial assistance.

        You tell me why the genome?

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      6. And no, Martina, I have not avoided it. If you ever read what was written you’d know that.

        See August 2, 2017 at 11:01 am

        This is why saying something is being “killed” is thoroughly, hopelessly ignorant of the facts

        .

        Have you forgotten the question I repeatedly asked, but you kept avoiding?

        Let’s try it one more time, and let’s ee if we get an answer…

        How can you “kill” something that cannot “die”?

        Want me to repost the UK/US/Aust/NZ legal, scientific and medical definition of death, as it pertains to the question?

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      7. If it is possible that it’s alive, it can die. It is possible that it’s alive.

        The opposite to the end of x isn’t necessarily the beginning of x. This breaks down your assertion that you need an EEG signal to diagnose that something is an autonomous human being.

        Not that it changes things for foetuses, explain again why you have so much disdain for the circulation aspect of the definition of death?

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      8. My argument, as you surely know by now, is that since we’re not sure if and when the foetus is an autonomous human being, we cannot act to interrupt it. It has nothing to do with the genome per se. I think your appetite for the genome explanation is that you deem it to be “Science”. My argument is purely ethical, so I don’t particularly want to derail into genes.

        Look, I have all the respect in the world for science. But we need to be careful what we call science. A scientific experiment designed to show whether the foetus is an autonomous being is fully dependent on our, man-made definition of what it is to be autonomous. So there is a circular argument. This is precisely the problem I have with the brain argument.

        For example, the professor you mentioned has his own definition (“coordinating and individuating function of a living brain is demonstrably present”) and had a way to time it. He asked a question, he got an answer. I just don’t feel that his definition is trustworthy enough to mass-bet lives on it. I am sure you understand that this definition is down to the investigator. Of course, they have reasons, of course, they are learned, but still they are making an ethical judgement call. You then, reasonably, ask: do I have a better definition?

        Maybe this analogy will help. Imagine you are talking to a Catholic/Methodist/Buddhist/whatever. You explain why you believe their ideas are at least questionable if not outrightly incoherent. They turn around to you and say: OK, I accept that I’ve possibly been wrong in believing what I believe, but then tell me who the real God is. Kind of defies the point, right?

        I feel that that’s what you’re doing to me. I think there just might not be a good enough way for us to know when a foetus becomes an autonomous human being, so that’s why I feel it is generally the more humane thing to do to leave it be.

        There are many more questions like this that we struggle with. The fact that there are scientific terms, scans and numbers involved doesn’t make the essential ethical judgement calls central to this kind of science objective or scientific. The science is all objective, *given* the experiment design is trustworthy. And for a question of this magnitude, I don’t think we can be in any way unsure with what we trust.

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      9. If you know it’s not the genome, why then did you even suggest it was? Were you hoping I wouldn’t push you on it?

        It was the same with you suggesting the heartbeat.

        Why make such deliberately misleading statements? What purpose does that serve? Do you want to confuse people who don’t know the subject well?

        That’s a horrible thing to do.

        It’s cruel.

        That is why I am at pains to stress that language which uses words like “kill” and “killing” is fundamentally wrong.

        Nothing is being “killed”

        I don’t get your analogy. I have spent 3 (or is it 4?) days detailing the facts; the results of decades of careful study. There is no disagreement or alternative set of facts.

        Without a brain that is “On,” the collection of cells and organs which constitute our bodies have no means of experiencing the world. The genome dictates how our body looks and works. It does not guide experiences, or how we, as individuals, process and remember those experiences. It does not structure personality. That requires cognition. It requires movement though life, interactions, learning.

        The genome does not change. We, however, do.

        Brain injury and split brain experiments demonstrate this fact brilliantly, altering a person’s very personality. If there were some other factor in making us, us, then brain injury would not change a person’s personality.

        Some motor functions might be inhibited, absolutely, but not the person’s personality.

        Now, although I’m always open to new information, this fact (this very well studied fact) is how I’m pretty damn confident I’m not inside some ethical/moral dilemma.

        This does not neccessarily apply to you, but this is also why I think people who deliberately try to muddy the water, who inject falsehoods and factually wrong language, are ethical/moral monsters.

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      10. To Martina and to John – you gave it your all. Rest for a couple of days. Also, I think it would make a great opera! Thanks for not minding my nipping at your heels…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. hmmmm….. our genetics – that is a very interesting perspective. It makes sense that our genes are what makes us human, but John’s problem is more – what makes any of us an individual human being? Not just to be IN a species, but to be a particular and unique MEMBER of that species – (sorry for the caps – don’t know how to make that other kind of type).

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  9. John – sorry don’t know where to put this to designate “reply” – but are you saying the brain structures/activity are what denote the – what? – personhood of the baby/neonate/fetus? It’s humanity already exists, it’s life already exists – these are givens? but it doesn’t exist as an individual person until this neurological point?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anna

      I guess you could put it that way, sure.

      As Goldenring (Professor of Surgery, the Paul W. Sanger Chair in Experimental Surgery, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology) details in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Development of the Fetal Brain.”

      “When the coordinating and individuating function of a living brain is demonstrably present, the full human organism exists. Before full brain differentiation, only cells, organs, and organ systems exist, which may potentially be integrated into a full human organism if the brain develops. After brain death what is left of the organism is once again only a collection of organs, all available to us for use in transplantation, since the full human being no longer exists.”

      Like

  10. Thanks – you are saying you agree with him. Although, to me, he sounds confused about the nature of the statements he is making. He is making a judgment, not stating a fact – still less a scientific fact. When judges of the Supreme Court cite a decision, the decision begins with the words, “I decide….” so nobody is ever confused about what they are doing….

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      1. “To be confused about what is different and what is the same is to be confused about everything.” David Bohm >

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    1. He (Goldenring) makes these “if/then” statements – or “when/then” statements as though the “if” or “when” was the cause of the then… if those were simply the necessary conditions for the “when.” But there is no necessary causal relationship between them. It is merely asserted. He can SAY “when such and such happens to the brain, I will call it a demonstration of the fact that a human being exists.” But that doesn’t make it the case. It is his private judgment to call it so. Which is okay with me – he’s entitled to his private judgment, he’s just not entitled to call it “science.”

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      1. But there is no necessary causal relationship between them.

        Well, if we’re talking about an autonomous human organism, then there is, which is why he’s so definitive. It’s why the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. National Library of Medicine call natural abortion after week 20 “preterm deliveries,” while before that date it is labeled “miscarriages.” It’s why the legal, medical and scientific definitions of death in the UK, US, Australia and NZ all identify the cessation of brain activity as the state of being ‘dead.’

        There is a direct causal relationship between gestational development and the emergence of an autonomous human organism. This is also well-studied in the survival rates of premature babies, rising from 17% at 23 weeks to 90/95% after full bilateral synchronisation, week 28.

        Like I said to Martina, if some other (previously unknown) element were ever found, altering our knowledge of what constitutes the beginning and the end of an autonomous human organism, then I would alter my position in accord to the new information.

        I’m not afraid to do so.

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      2. I have respect for the NIH etc, however, just because it is their current definition, doesn’t mean it’s right. Argument from authority once again, John. If you want, you can google various ridiculous laws we had through the times. Maybe that will get you to stop clinging to authority?

        Explain the relevance of the definition of death here. You say that life never begins in a foetus. So explain if it ends and what is death in your universe

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      3. Argument from authority, yes, the experts in the field who you think you can hand wave away.

        I have respect for the NIH etc, however, just because it is their current definition, doesn’t mean it’s right.

        Awesome, so for once stop with the hand waves and support your ‘opinion’ with a rational, verifiable argument.

        Present your facts. Let’s see them and assess them on their merit.

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  11. I feel like a fox terrier at a bull fight – out of my league. But just to draw a cartoon of where John’s position could end up logically, I’d like to remind everyone that there was a special Doctors’ Trial at the Nuremberg War Trials – which probably also included the docs who were busy practicing the “science” of Eugenics – which was, incidentally, also taught at Harvard.

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  12. Is it appropriate to put a magazine article link here? There is an article from Harvard Magazine on just how scientifically respectable Eugenics was. Its very thorough and informative. If anyone is interested, let me know and I will.

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  13. I see your standpoint but I believe the YouTube SisyphusRedeemed had a great argument on this. Picture this, there is a fire at an abortion clinic. On your way out you are presented with a choice. On one side there are ten zygotes that are emerging, on the other, there is a five-year-old child. You can only pick one arm load to save them. Which one would you save?
    Hopefully, your answer will be the answer to the moral dilemma.

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      1. yes – my actions don’t come from an assessment of relative values of different people, but from my own different duties to different people.

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      2. Just thinking as I write – Those who want to save the unborn do so not because the unborn have lives that are more valuable than the mother but because they are more helpless than the mother.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That is very interesting and irrelevant. I’d most probably save the child. I can’t really explain it but most probably the reason for this reaction would be the human instinct of protecting the young. There is more evolutionary advantage in saving a child since most children are not really able to protect themselves (same with old people but I don’t really feel an instinct to protect them).

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    1. Well, to answer that, I would have to consider:

      – are the zygotes alive?
      — if they’re not, we save the child
      — if they are, we ask:
      — how can we weigh up lives?
      —- does one individual necessarily need to be de-prioritised compared to more than one? (so 10 vs 1 in thins case)
      —- do we qualify them based on their chance of survival?
      —- do we qualify them based on their traits/expected traits?

      All very difficult questions! I don’t have an answer at present (just so that you understand, I am more interested in the ethics/philosophy aspect than tangible actionable conclusions as any other kind of thinking usually ends up back-fitting explanations onto an existing point of view).

      I have a question for you:

      you have 10 women in their first trimester of pregnancy and 10 non-pregnant women. Who do you choose to save?

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      1. I wouldn’t have a bias against a pregnant or non-pregnant woman. It is way too hard of a decision to put on an individual to save one human over another because whatever you do there will be humans suffering and dying. Whereas, in my question even though biologically zygotes possess some qualities of life philosophically letting them die would not be killing. If you save the zygotes because they will turn into humans some day you will let a human child suffer to death as he burns.

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