The Instigator
johnnyis
Pro (for)
Winning
7 Points
The Contender
DakotaKrafick
Con (against)
Losing
5 Points

Abortion is generally morally wrong.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
johnnyis
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/9/2012 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,916 times Debate No: 21845
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (17)
Votes (3)

 

johnnyis

Pro

First round acceptance. 8,000 characters, 72 hours for response. Thanks in advance!
DakotaKrafick

Con

What else is there to say? I accept and good luck.
Debate Round No. 1
johnnyis

Pro

Thank you, DakotaKrafick, for your response. From what I've read of your work, this will be quite an interesting debate! If you don't mind, let's get right to it!

Definitions:
  • Abortion: The termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus, specifically when that termination is medically induced [1].
  • Zygote: A cell resulting from the union of two gametes; a fertilized ovum [2].
Argument:
  1. It is generally morally wrong to kill a newborn baby.
  2. There is no significant moral difference between a newborn human baby and a human zygote.
  3. Abortion results in the killing of a human zygote.
  4. Therefore, abortion is generally morally wrong.
As this is a logically sound argument—that is, the conclusion "abortion is generally morally wrong" follows necessarily from the premises—it is incumbent upon DakotaKrafick to demonstrate that one or more of the premises is not true. If my opponent fails to do so, then my position is justified: Abortion is generally morally wrong.

Defending 1:

I feel no need to defend (1) because it seems to be prima facie true. Unless my opponent is ready to justify infanticide, I am nearly sure that we will all be in agreement that it is morally wrong to kill a newborn child. However, if my opponent would like to disagree, the question he must answer is "when is it morally permissible to kill a newborn baby?" Keep in mind that the premise—it is generally morally wrong to kill a newborn baby—requires that his answer be a commonplace situation that makes infanticide generally morally acceptable.

Defending 2:

As I see it, there are only 4 differences between a zygote and a newborn child:
  1. Size
  2. Level of development
  3. Environment
  4. Dependency
I do not see that any of these differences are morally significant. Yao Ming is much larger than I am. Does that give him a right to kill me? My parents are more developed than I am, both mentally and physically. Does that give them the right to kill me? How does the trip down the birth canal—a trip of less than a foot—change the nature of the fetus? If I roll over in bed at night, do I experience such a change to my nature? Does the man dependent on a dialysis machine have fewer rights than I do, with my healthy kidneys? Thus, I do not see that any of the 4 differences between a zygote and a newborn child are morally significant. My opponent must demonstrate that either I have overlooked a difference, or that one of these differences is morally significant.

Defending 3:

I do not think that any well-informed, intellectually honest person will consider this claim controversial, but I will defend it nonetheless. I would also like to add that the premise is inclusive of all of the stages of embryonic development: A zygote, an embryo, or a fetus. The term zygote is simply the most consistent with the context of the argument.

The presupposition here is that the zygote is both (3a) alive, and (3b) human. Now this is not meant in the same sense as a skin cell is alive and human. The difference—and it seems to be a morally significant difference—is that a human skin cell, when left to itself, will never be anything more than a human skin cell. That is what it is, by nature. The zygote, however, will continue to develop as a member of the human community. That is what it is, by nature.

Before defending either (3a) or (3b), I would like to include a few quotes from pro-choice advocates who admit that abortion kills a fetus. This is so it can be seen that this is not simply the pro-life stance, but that both critics and contenders cede that abortion kills a fetus.

"Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions...we need to contextualize the fight to defend abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus is a real death."
— Naomi Wolf [3]

"I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don't know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus."
— Faye Wattleton [4]

Defending 3a:

To say that something is alive is to say that it has at least the capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction [5]. Some definitions include more; some less. It is clear, however, that the human organism possesses these qualities from conception to death—more evidence that the human life is a continuum of the same duration. If my opponent wishes to contend this point, it must be demonstrated that a zygote is indeed not alive—either that the definition of life presented is insufficient, or that the zygote does not fulfill the definition given.

Defending 3b:

Again, I see this to be a properly basic understanding of the nature of the fetus. It comes from human parents, it has the genetic makeup of a human, and, if left to the natural process, it becomes clear that it is human in nature. If it is not human in nature, then what is it? If it is not human, when does it become human? It seems clear that by scientific and rational standards, the fetus is human in nature.

Conclusion:

I hope that in this argument I have laid a sufficient groundwork to demonstrate that abortion is indeed generally morally wrong. As a reminder, the argument I am defending is as follows:
  1. It is generally morally wrong to kill a newborn baby.
  2. There is no significant moral difference between a newborn human baby and a human zygote.
  3. Abortion results in the killing of a human zygote.
  4. Therefore, abortion is generally morally wrong.
The argument is logically sound. Therefore, in order to defeat the work I have done here, my opponent must demonstrate that one of the premises is not true. To demonstrate that (1) is false, my opponent must answer the question "when is it morally permissible to kill the unborn?" with a situation that justifies infanticide in general, not just specific cases in a moral gray area. To demonstrate that (2) is false, my opponent must evince a morally significant difference between a human zygote and a newborn human baby. To demonstrate that (3) is false, he must show that a zygote is not alive, or is not human, or both. If he fails to do so, then the conclusion is warranted, and my opponent must cede that abortion is generally morally wrong.

I look forward to a great debate! May the best argument win.

[1]: http://www.merriam-webster.com...
[2]: http://www.merriam-webster.com...
[3]: Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” The New Republic, October 16, 1995, 26.
[4]: Faye Wattleton, “Speaking Frankly,” Ms., May / June 1997, Volume VII, Number 6, 67.
[5]: http://www.merriam-webster.com...
DakotaKrafick

Con

Thank you, johnnyis, for your very well-written response.

My opponent's argument

To remind the audience, this is the argument that my opponent shall be trying to defend and I shall be trying to refute over the course of the debate:

1. It is generally morally wrong to kill a newborn [human] baby.
2. There is no significant moral difference between a newborn human baby and a human zygote.
3. Abortion results in the killing of a human zygote.
4. Therefore, abortion is generally morally wrong.

Once I add the missing "[human]" in premise one (which I shall since I'm such a nice guy), the argument becomes logically valid; that is to say if the premises are true, then the conclusion would necessarily have to be true as well. It's validity as an argument is not in question; it's soundness is. An argument is only sound when it meets two conditions:

1. Its conclusion logically follows from its premises (valid).
and
2. Its premises are all true.

My opponent's argument, however, is not sound, because one of its premises is untrue.

The Untrue Premise

Well, which premise isn't true, huh, smart guy? Surely it's not the first one. No, I would agree that it is generally morally wrong to kill a newborn human baby. Wouldn't this have been a more interesting debate if I disagreed with this one, though?

The third premise is also unobjectionable; it simply defines what abortion is.

It's the second premise that I have a problem with. To say that there is no morally significant difference between a zygote and a newborn baby raises the question "what exactly are your morals for?"

The Moral Significance; Why is Murder Wrong?

My opponent says it's prima facie wrong to kill an infant, which it is; the concept of murdering a fellow human being is undoubtedly deeply engraved into our very natures as being morally apprehensible. But I fear many people (my opponent included) do not take the time to bother asking "why". And when they do, they usually come up with something like "Well, it's just obvious. I mean, I wouldn't want to be murdered."

But this question deserves much more than a nonchalant answer or a mere dismissal on the grounds that it's just "prima facie". Ask yourself seriously: why is it wrong to kill another human being? Is it also wrong to kill a sea urchin?

If not, why not? The way I see it, there are only a few differences between a plankton and a human being: size, environment, and dependency. But none of these are morally significant differences, as you've said, johnnyis. Maybe I've neglected the most important difference of all: species. Maybe you think it's wrong to kill a human being just because it's a human being.

If that's the case, Pro, then is it wrong to hurt a puppy? I'm sure your frontal cortex just lit up, saying "Of course it is", but do you even know why? This is the poor result of prioritizing intuition over logic, of being satisfied saying it's prima facie wrong to kill another human being instead of asking yourself why is it wrong to kill another human being?

Alright, enough banter; it's time I said what needs to be said already. The most significant moral difference (perhaps the only difference even worth noting) between a zygote and a newborn baby, and between a puppy and a plankton, is sentience.

Why is sentience morally significant?

Is life an important attribute to take into account when discerning moral values? For instance, is it morally wrong to punch an inanimate object, such as an empty bucket? What about a bucket of water? A bucket half full of water? (Or is it half empty...?) Obviously, it doesn't how much water this bucket has; it's not alive. So punch away, Rocky, you're not doing anything morally wrong.

Clearly, if something isn't alive, there's no need to bother acting politely to it. You can tip your hat to as many rocks as you like, but none of them will so much as curtsy back. However, to say life is a deciding factor in moral values and obligations is to only understanding the issue halfway.

At the risk of sounding temporarily barbaric, I would argue that it is morally acceptable to punch a housefly square in its tiny face, even though its alive. Why? Because it's not human, right, johnnysis? No. To say being human is a deciding factor in moral values and obligations is to be inequitably and unjustifiably selective. In all actuality, being human has very little, if anything at all, to do with it.

The reason is because, essentially, punching a housefly is no different than punching a bucket. They both lack sentience, the cognitive functioning necessary to feel pain, pleasure, and everything in between. A housefly reflexively reacts to stimuli in its environment, but it is incapable of knowing pain, or even of being aware of its own existence.

"Animated Matter"

A life, such one like a housefly's, is what I will henceforth refer to as "animated matter". It is a species of animal, so is therefore categorized as "alive", but its existence is more known to us than it is to itself (and other houseflies). It never knows it's alive; it never knows pain; it never knows anything. For the sake of making the answering of moral questions simpler, a housefly might as well not be considered alive, though it biologically is of course.

So punch away. It may seem, at the very least, odd for one to do so without prior instigation, but punching a housefly is not morally wrong.

The principles of morality are not a guiding doctrine to keep things existing just because they exist (like a zygote), or just because they're alive, or just because they're human. Or any combination of the three. They are a guiding doctrine for us to avoid pain and promote happiness in the overall well-being of sentient creatures.

That's why it's wrong to murder something: you cause it pain, physically and/or mentally, going against its want to live. That's why sentience is important; without the ability to feel pain, or be aware of your own existence, you're just animated matter. And that's why my opponent's second premise is untrue.

A zygote is much smaller than even one foot on a housefly. It's smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. It lacks sentience and has never, at any point in its existence, been aware of its existence. It does not want to live, nor does it even have the capacity to want to live. Therefore, there are no morally negative consequences to terminating a zygote, aside from those that might arise as a byproduct of misplaces values.

A zygote is merely animated matter, so punch away.

Debate Round No. 2
johnnyis

Pro

I’ll begin by thanking Con for pointing out my typos with grace. His correction is indeed accurate: Premise 1 should read “it is generally morally wrong to kill a newborn human baby.” Additionally, I substituted ‘sound’ for ‘valid.’ We proceed.

Let us keep in mind that Con has attempted to demonstrate that my second premise is untrue: That there is, in fact, a morally significant difference between a human zygote and a newborn human baby; namely, sentience. However, Con has made several key errors that completely undermine his assertion, and much like a mosquito in a nudist colony, I’m having trouble deciding where to begin.

It is ridiculous conjecture to say that I might respond to the question of the wrongness of murder as Con has assumed. It is not on personal preference that I say murder is morally wrong. But neither do I think it wrong solely because the life taken is a currently sentient one. In fact, Con’s question of the moral wrongness of harming a puppy demonstrates that this indeed is not the fact, or killing a puppy would be morally equivalent to murdering a human. This alone serves to demonstrate the insufficiency of Con’s definition of morality. I contend that currently realized sentience is a sufficient, but not a necessary condition of moral value. Con, however, defines morality as “a guiding doctrine for us to avoid pain and promote happiness in the overall well-being of sentient creatures.” Aside from begging the question—that is, assuming what Con is trying to prove (that sentience is a morally necessary condition)—this definition of morality is insufficient.

Claiming that currently realized sentience alone defines moral worth reduces some persons of moral value to non-valuable persons. A human person undergoing a surgical procedure that requires anesthesia is not self-aware, cannot feel pain, and is unable to have subjective experiences. In other words, a human person under anesthesia is not sentient [1]. Thus, by my opponent’s standard, this human person has the equivalent moral value of a housefly.

Speaking of houseflies, let’s talk about capacity. My opponent fails to distinguish between inherent or inborn capacities and currentor realized capacities. This failure is fatal—literally, in the case of the unborn, and metaphorically, in the case of my opponents analogy. You see, a housefly is not sentient. Nor does the housefly ever, at any point in it’s development, attain sentience. It is not the kind of being that ever has sentience as a property of its existence. In other words, the housefly does not have any inherent capacity for sentience. The zygote, however, does have an inborn capacity for sentience in that, aside from any extrinsic interference, the zygote will attain sentience. (As an aside, this falls under the “level of development” category I listed as not morally significant in my opening argument). Thus it has an inborn capacity for sentience that has not yet been realized. Con has unfairly equivocated between a zygote with an unrealized potential sentience and a housefly without any potential sentience—this is, quite frankly, an absurd comparison.

As Con presented me with the question “is it morally wrong to hurt a puppy?” so I present the following: In case of fire, do you save a puppy or a newborn baby first? By Con’s standard,—and remember, he has stated that being human has “very little, if anything at all, to do with it”—the puppy and the newborn are equally morally valuable. It quickly becomes clear that being human does indeed have something to do with it. Or more aptly, it is the kind of being that you are that gives you moral value. Even if we accept Con’s definition of morality (I don't, save here for the sake of argument), his assertions fall flat, because it is being the kind of thing that has the inherent capacity for sentience, regardless of whether that capacity is currently realized or not, that defines your moral worth. Otherwise, you and I would lose our moral rights when we fell into a deep enough sleep as to cease to be self-aware, and I submit to you, dear reader, that this is an absurd notion.

Now I’d like to briefly explore that aside from earlier. Sentience is a developing characteristic of the unborn, and as such, fits into the second of the four categories I originally laid out as differences between a human zygote and a newborn human baby: Level of Development. Con’s objection is linguistically disguised, in that he has asserted that the unborn does not have the capacity for sentience, but it does not warrant a new category. Again, to demonstrate that currently realized sentience is not a necessary condition of moral value, one must simply ask if there are any other developmental changes that would be morally significant between the zygote and the newborn. If there are not, then Con’s selection of sentience is arbitrary, and should be rejected.

Con has failed to meet the burden of proof required to demonstrate conclusively that sentience is the deciding factor in questions of moral value. His definition of morality is question begging, and his theory of morality is ad hoc and insufficient, in such a manner as I have demonstrated. I do not see that Con has given us any reason to believe that a currently unrealized capacity for sentience is less morally valuable than a currently realized capacity for sentience, and as such, he has failed to raise any substantial objection to my argument. In sum, Con has failed to show that a zygote is not deserving of the same moral treatment as any other member of the human community, and my argument stands unassailed.

1: My opponent did not provide a single clear definition of sentience, so I assume from his usage and context that he is referring to a definition in agreement with this one (http://www.merriam-webster.com...).


DakotaKrafick

Con

Thanks for your response, Pro. I'm confident my colony of nudists will be enough to squish your pesky mosquito (which is morally acceptable since it lacks sentience).

Burning House Thought Experiment

My opponent states this: "Con’s question of the moral wrongness of harming a puppy demonstrates that this indeed is not the fact, or killing a puppy would be morally equivalent to murdering a human. This alone serves to demonstrate the insufficiency of Con’s definition of morality."

Pro, if you think I am unwilling or unprepared to defend the stance that hurting a puppy is equally as morally wrong as hurting a newborn human, you are mistaken. Admittedly, though, it is slightly irrelevant as my primary objection is that sentience is the most significant property to consider when asking questions of morality.

You bring up the scenario, hypothetically if you're house was on fire, and you could only save one, which would you save: a newborn dog or a newborn human? Clearly, we inherit some rudimentary understanding of morality from birth, a byproduct of every social species as a means to perpetuate that species' survival. However, a significant aspect of thinking logically is to disregard what our intuition tells us, at least until that intuition can be logically justified.

Our initial thought may be to save the human, but why ought we save the human over the puppy? Burning alive will cause just as much suffering in a puppy as a human. If we place more value in the human, it is either because our DNA wants to be passed on another generation, or because we recognize that the human has more practical value (it will one day be able to contribute to society), not necessarily more moral value.

And before I move on from this point, tell me, Pro– if you were in a burning house and could save only one, which would you save: a newborn human or a zygote in a petri dish? Let's even grant the hypothetical case that if you save the petri dish, the zygote will be medically inserted into the womb of a woman and continue to grow naturally and safely.

Hopefully, you would save the newborn since it will suffer horribly otherwise, while the zygote would not.

More Thought Experiments (welcome to philosophy 101)


Other than the above mentioned, my opponent spent a lot of words to raise one small objection to my moral significance, sentience: "A housefly has no potential to become sentient, while a zygote does."

To prelude, let me just say I love moral thought experiments. It's very easy to come up with some truly absurd ones, and can be difficult to figure out what the "morally right" answers are. Let me share five similar, yet very distinguishable, moral thought experiments relating to the issue of abortion and sentience.

1. The man who will never wake up

Imagine there was an adult, 25-or-so-years-old, who was hit by a semi-truck. Miraculously, he survived, but he now lies in a hospital bed in a state of comatose. In other words, he is not sentient; he cannot feel pain or pleasure or anything at all; he is unaware of his existence, he never dreams, and although his brain still sits in its skull in one piece, it never does anything worth writing home about.

He will never awake from this comatose state and you know this. Is it morally acceptable to pull the plugs on whatever machines are keeping his heart beating? His family may not want this, since the flatlining of his heart monitor means his life is truly over, but an unbiased third party, such as the man's doctor, would say his life ended when the semi hit him. He may be technically, biologically alive, but his life has lost all value.

It is not morally wrong to pull the plug on a brain-dead human being. After all, no harm is caused.

2. The man who will wake up

But wait a minute. There is a difference between our hypothetical man and a fetus. The fetus will eventually "wake up" (that is to say it will gain sentience later in its development). So let's change the thought experiment a little.

Let's say the man will wake up in a month or so, and we know this. Is it morally acceptable to pull the plug on him? I would say no. It can be said that while pulling the plug would have no negative consequences (it wouldn't cause the man pain or anything of the sort), leaving the machines running would have a positive consequence (the man will wake up).

This is unlike the first scenario where leaving the machines running and pulling the plugs both have neither positive nor negative consequences (though it can be argued that a negative consequence of leaving the machines running is the wasted resources on a hopeless case).

3. The man who will wake up, but at a cost

Well, if we're trying to be as accurate to the issue of abortion as possible, there is another discrepancy in our thought experiment. The man will wake up in a month, and we know this, but only at a cost: someone else must be severely hurt.

This someone else must endure morning sicknesses, random nausea, fatigue (an inability to perform any physical labor, from heavy lifting to merely bending over), increased headaches, minor to severe back-pains, higher blood pressure (which could lead to other medical problems), hormonal changes, and all of this leads up the grand finale, the most physically painful phenomena a mammal's existence can endure: childbirth. Not to mention the huge financial strain the entire process will cost, and the permanent effects to physical appearance afterwards.

Suppose, then, that no one volunteers themselves for this experience (hard to imagine, right?). Would it be morally acceptable to force someone to go through all of this pain in order to allow our non-sentient man become sentient? Of course not. To not force this upon someone has no negative consequences (again, the man will not feel pain; he will simply continue is existence as "animated matter", or biologically die, both of which are morally indistinguishable), while forcing pain upon someone for this purpose would have the positive consequence of the man becoming sentient and the negative consequence of this person enduring horrible pain.

Is it morally right to prioritize the rights of the stranger over the rights of the brain-dead man? It is important to keep in mind that while one can become sentient, one already is sentient. In cases like this, I assert that the rights of a sentient being override the rights of a non-sentient being (even if that being has the potential to become sentient in the future).

Therefore, I would say it is morally wrong to force someone to endure pain for the sake of the man becoming sentient. It prioritizes the rights of the non-sentient man higher than they ought to be, and causes unnecessary and unwanted suffering to an innocent person.

4. The man who will wake up, but at a cost to the one who caused it

Okay, to be fair to the pro-lifers, there is yet another difference: this person who will have to suffer was the one who caused this man to be in a coma in the first place. He/she was the one driving the semi-truck who ran into him (ie, the one who got pregnant and created this fetus to begin with).

Is it morally acceptable to force the one who caused this man's comatose state in the first place to suffer so that the man can regain his sentience? Actually, I'm unsure about the answer to this one, but it doesn't really matter, because there is another difference...

5. The man who will wake up, but at a cost to the one who caused it accidentally

The one who hit him with the semi-truck did so accidentally (ie, failed contraceptives). Should this person be forced to suffer so the man can regain sentience even though it was an accident? No; we ought not to be held responsible for the consequences of actions that are out of our control.

You could say she just shouldn't have had sex, but that's like saying the driver just shouldn't have been driving a semi. She shouldn't be held responsible for failed contraceptives anymore than the driver should be held responsible for failed brakes.

Debate Round No. 3
johnnyis

Pro

In this final round, I will rebut the objections that Con has laid out, reaffirm the case for the pro-life position, and make my closing statements. I hope that in my first appearance here on DDO, I have defended my position well, and I look forward to future interaction. Thank you, Con, for a rousing go-round, and I'm eager to debate further on this matter another time.

Your confidence, bared so brazenly, is a little misplaced, I think. I don't understand your response on the human vs. dog scenario; do we save the baby or the pup? As well, it is perfectly consistent with my entire line of argumentation to respond by saving the newborn child. I ceded that sentience is a sufficient condition for moral worth, and I see that, all other things being equal, saving the infant would be more feasible; above all, do no harm. However, as opposed to the abortion debate, here the issue of current sentience is a matter of mercy, not of moral value. It is less cruel to save the newborn rather than allow it to perish in flames. This does not speak to the moral value of the zygote, and it does not logically follow from this example that abortion is generally morally neutral—the minimum you must prove to truly oppose the resolve.

I take it that you skimmed my rebuttal, or skipped to the end perhaps. I raised several errors in your objection:
  1. Your definition of morality was question begging.
  2. You confused a sufficient condition of moral worth with a necessary condition of moral worth.
  3. You conflated inherent and current capacities.
You do not, in fact, deal with any of those errors in your response, but simply dive into some thought experiments—thought experiments that presuppose your arbitrary definition of morality and your relegation of a zygote to non-person (using person to imply a being of moral value). For these thought experiments to have any weight, you must first bear your burden of proof and show that an organism—the zygote—that is currently developing sentience should, as a general rule, have fewer moral rights than it's mother on the basis of this lack of development alone. You have completely failed to do this.

As to the question-begging definition, you presuppose that morals are to make sentient creatures happy, which is exactly what you're trying to prove: That current capacity for sentience is a necessary condition for moral value. However you give us no reason to believe that, other than a few faulty analogies that don't cross over to the abortion debate. You state that current capacity for sentience is a necessary, rather than a sufficient condition of moral worth, leaving us with the conclusion that killing a man under anesthesia is no more morally wrong than slapping that mosquito (you missed it, by the way).
Now, to deal with these thought experiments. Number one and two are irrelevant to the topic of abortion; they're red herrings that do nothing more than obfuscate the issue at hand: Is sentience a necessary condition of moral value? Three, four, and five strike a little closer to home, but again, as they presuppose that a zygote is not a human person deserving of full moral rights and fully morally valuable, they overstep what little argument you've made.

Your analogies are lacking, but rather than point out every discrepancy, I'd rather deal with pregnancy directly. If an adult human has consensual intercourse, protected or not, with another adult human, one of the possible consequences of that action is pregnancy. You should be held responsible for those consequences that you knew were not only possible, but the natural order of things, barring extrinsic circumstances (i.e., contraceptives). If the unborn is, as I have demonstrated repeatedly now, a member of the human community, then the temporary inconvenience that this may pose on the parents is not reason to kill the child; could you kill a newborn baby because it was putting a financial strain on the parents? Or how about because the mother would have to give up her career to continue to take care of the child? If these reasons are not sufficient cause for the murder of a child, then they are not sufficient cause for an abortion, because level of development is not a morally significant difference. Simply because the child will not experience suffering does not mean that it is of less moral worth than the woman.

Now, Con, another problem for you: When does sentience begin? And what truly constitutes sentience? And when does sentience end? During sleep? Anesthesia, again? Death? You cannot simply assert that sentience is a morally significant difference without actually telling us what you mean by sentience. As a side note, I'd love to hear your opinion on the fact that some research has shown that many animals may not experience pain in the same way that you and I do (this is, of course, a complete aside, and I am not citing this as immediately relevant to the debate)[1].

Just to review the case that I have defended, I have argued the following:
  1. It is generally morally wrong to kill a newborn [human] baby.
  2. There is no significant moral difference between a newborn human baby and a human zygote.
  3. Abortion results in the killing of a human zygote.
  4. Therefore, abortion is generally morally wrong.
In sum, I see a lot of bluster but not much bite. Con has set out to convince us that the current capacity (or lack thereof) of the zygote is the morally significant difference between it and a newborn baby human. He has failed to demonstrate any such thing; rather he has asserted a mass of confusion, conflating inherent and inborn capacities, giving us question-begging definitions of morality, and merging necessary and sufficient conditions of moral worth. Con has not given us any objections of substance, and as such, my argument and position stand true. From conception, they zygote is a full-fledged member of the human family, with all the rights thereof, making abortion generally morally wrong, and rendering Con's position incorrect.

I certainly hope that everyone has had been as intellectually stretched as I have in this debate. I thank my opponent for his grace, wit, and time, and I hope to cross minds with him again sometime in the future. I feel confident that those reading will vote Pro after seeing the insufficiency of Con's argument, and I appreciate the time of anyone who has read through this entire exchange, and I hope that this has challenged you to genuinely seek the truth about the issue of abortion. Again, I ask that you weigh what Con has said carefully, and am confident that you will see that his position is lacking and will subsequently vote Pro. It would be a shame to spend so much time reading and not weigh in yourself!

Until next time,
Johnny.

1: http://www.reasonablefaith.org...
DakotaKrafick

Con

Thank you, Pro, for your response. Before I continue, let me just say it's been a lot of fun and I do look forward to seeing more of your work here on DDO in the future. With that said, and only one round left, let's wrap this up!

Burning House Thought Experiment

You say my answer to your question eluded you: do we save the newborn dog or the newborn human? I'm honestly not sure how I could have represented my stance any more palpably. Both of these two living things would suffer horribly when burning alive; it is, therefore, equally justified to save either one over the other.

I'm glad, though, that you answered my follow-up question to this experiment. You said it was "less cruel" to save the newborn human than the zygote. This alone shows that you recognize there is a significant difference between the two when answering moral questions (a fatal contradiction to your second premise). However, you say this is more an act of mercy than a sign of its moral worth. I disagree, and unfortunately for your case, so did you. You yourself said as a reason for your answer "above all, do no harm".

"Above all, do no harm"

Beautiful moral compass there, Pro, and I completely agree. If we ought to consider anything when determining morally good courses of action, we ought to consider the harm it would cause or prevent. In fact, that's the exact definition of morality I gave, the one you (for some strange reason) have trouble considering valuable in this debate.

You say my definition of morality is "question-begging", but with all due respect, it is certainly better than the nothing of a definition you never gave in the past three rounds. You said you had a problem with my definition on the basis that it is question-begging; in other words, because it promotes my case and refutes yours. However, after three rounds of never giving your own definition of morality, you finally gave one that coincides with mine.

If we should, indeed, "above all, do no harm" then aborting a zygote is, at the very least, a morally acceptable course of action. It causes no harm to the zygote, and prevents future harm in the mother (see the great many things I listed in my third thought experiment).

You have now admitted that avoidance of harm is, at least somewhat, a driving force behind your morality. Therefore, the capacity to experience harm (sentience) is a morally significant property. By your own words' betrayal, your argument falls; premise two has been refuted by the both of us.

Comatose Thought Experiments

You fail to see the relevancy of my thought experiments, or at least claim to. They are merely to illustrate the same moral principle you yourself conceded: "above all, do no harm". This is why it is not morally acceptable to force someone to endure suffering for the sake of a non-sentient being to become sentient. If that person volunteers to suffer, then fine, but it is morally acceptable to not do so.

The Real Issue of Pregnancy

Impatiently, it seems, you jump from my thought experiments to the real issue at hand: pregnancy. Fair enough; that's what we're here to discuss after all. You ask many questions, though, that you should already know my answers to.

Firstly, though, you say "You should be held responsible for those consequences that you knew were not only possible, but the natural order of things, barring extrinsic circumstances (i.e., contraceptives)."

Of course, you have to tag on that "barring contraceptives" bit, because we ought not be held accountable for accidents. Again, though, you defeat yourself. To exclude failed contraceptives in your argument is to say that abortion is "generally" morally acceptable, because more than one-half of all abortions occur from failed contraceptives (not failure to use contraceptives) [1][2].

Shotgun Argumentation

This term ("shotgun argumentation") refers to when a debater bombards the other with a slew of questions, perhaps so he/she will be unable to answer them all in-depth. I will do my best in this case; however, Pro, you should already know the answers to many of these questions.

1. You ask is it okay to kill a child if that child is causing a burden to the mother's finances or career? No, it's not. For one, there are other options: you could put him up for adoption. For two, the child is sentient. You say level of development is not a morally significant difference between a zygote and a child, but I think you'll find you and I have both agreed that it is.

2. You then ask when does sentience begin? I'm not sure, and neither are you; but at least we can both agree that sentience is morally significant. However, it is quite evidence that a zygote is not sentient.

3. Again you ask when does sentience end (ie, when we sleep)? This is, first and foremost, grossly irrelevant to the debate at hand. However, another purpose of my five thought experiments was to dispel this ridiculous question. I already conceded that the potential for sentience is morally significant as well. It is not morally acceptable to kill a person in their sleep because that person will more than likely wake up, and we know this. However, in order for the zygote to "wake up", it must cause suffering in another human being (an already sentient human being). Above all, Pro, do no harm.

4. You then (as a side note) would love to hear my opinion on the fact that some research indicates other animals don't experience pain in the same way humans do. To this I have two things to say. One, your source ("reasonable faith") is biased. Two, the research only shows the animals are less conscious than we are (they do not understand they themselves are existing in a state of pain), not less sentient (they do still feel the pain).

Conclusion

You claim I didn't refute the soundness of your argument, but that's okay; even if I didn't, you did (on several points):

1. By conceded that avoidance of harm is an aspect of your morality, you concede abortion is not morally wrong (as it avoids more harm than it causes, which is none).
2. By excluding all cases of abortion that arose due to failed contraceptives as morally wrong, you admit that abortion is not generally morally wrong (as abortions are generally the result of failed contraceptives).

Again, johnnyis, it's been a blast. Thank you for debating this with me, and thank you, members of the audience, for reading. Please consider both of our arguments carefully and vote accordingly.

Sources

[1] http://www.guttmacher.org...;(contraceptive use pattern)
[2] http://www.lifenews.com...

Debate Round No. 4
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by baggins 5 years ago
baggins
Maybe Freeman is too humble to say so, but he has been part of one of the best debate at DDO which is on the topic of abortion.

Check it out. http://www.debate.org...

BTW, I liked the chatty style from Con. His arguments were extremely easy to read and follow. Though there was a little tendency to digress.
Posted by DakotaKrafick 5 years ago
DakotaKrafick
It was a good debate, johhnyis, I enjoyed it :)

Perhaps I'll try not to sidetrack into thought experiments too much next time (I just really love thought experiments lol)
Posted by johnnyis 5 years ago
johnnyis
@Freeman, thank you for the critique, sir! I'll take your advice into account next time!
@KeytarHero, thank you for your vote!

@DakotaKrafick, thank you for your time. I enjoyed myself!
Posted by DakotaKrafick 5 years ago
DakotaKrafick
@Freeman: Thanks for your analysis. As for your wondering if I addressed the issue of a person sleeping, I did under question three of "shotgun argumentation" round four (although I was only recapping what I already said in my previous round): "I already conceded that the potential for sentience is morally significant as well. It is not morally acceptable to kill a person in their sleep because that person will more than likely wake up, and we know this. However, in order for the zygote to "wake up", it must cause suffering in another human being (an already sentient human being)."
Posted by Freeman 5 years ago
Freeman
Ok, I've read the debate more thoroughly. I'm going to do this a little bit differently. I'll critique Con first and then I'll critique Pro. And then I'll step back and do a meta-analysis of the whole debate.

It bugged me that Con made his case so abstract and sooo theoretical at times. I can follow everything fine, but it doesn't exactly make for easy reading. And clarity should be highly valued in debates. The main points, which are good points, are getting lost in a sea of thought experiments.

Con made a good point, to which Pro never bothered to respond, that Pro's position entails that brain-dead people are moral agents with a right to life. Surely that's implausible. Pro needs to deal with this, as it happens to be one of the strongest and most frequent objections to his argument.

But then Con turned around and did the same thing! He ignored Pro's point that his position would seem to entail that people in reversible coma's could be justifiably killed. Surely that can't be right. And so Con needs to deal with this objection, as it is one of the most frequent objections to his position. Con can correct me if I'm wrong, but he didn't seem to deal with it anywhere. Both of these two points are paramount to the abortion debate. They cant just be dismissed as if they didn't exist.
Posted by DakotaKrafick 5 years ago
DakotaKrafick
@freeman: I agreed with Pro that a zygote is both alive and human. It was the second premise I found the most flawed.

@KeytarHero: Thanks for taking the time to read the debate!
Posted by Freeman 5 years ago
Freeman
It looks like an interesting debate. I haven't read con in detail, but Pro put forward a well thought and careful argument. I would have denied the first premise of the pro side, but that's just me. I don't think it's well supported. I'm inclined to agree with Con, of course, but I dont think I could ever honestly support an argument which said that zygotes aren't human -- they obviously are. I'm not sure if that's what con did, but I'll see. Good job to both of you guys. It was well argued.
Posted by KeytarHero 5 years ago
KeytarHero
RFD:

This was an excrutiating debate to judge as both did excellently. I couldn't give sources to anyone because both used biased sources. I literally spent the entire debate going back and forth on who should win. There was a fatal flaw in Con's analogies but Pro didn't pick up on it so I can't hold them against him. In the end, I feel that Pro slightly deserves the win because Con didn't adequately address the objection about zygotes having an inherent capacity for sentience. First, he didn't seem to give a very specific definition of sentience, but even then if sentience is a morally relevant factor, he didn't fully explain why it is morally acceptable to kill the unborn, who have an inherent capacity for sentience even though they don't have the present ability to fulfill those functions. If the present capacity for sentience is key, then we lose our personhood status whenever we fall asleep, enter a reversible coma, or go through surgery, and it would be morally acceptable to kill that person without just cause.
Posted by DakotaKrafick 5 years ago
DakotaKrafick
Good stuff, johnnyis. Until next time :)
Posted by johnnyis 5 years ago
johnnyis
I wore out the character limit as well. I've really enjoyed this, man! I must commend you for making my first foray into DDO a pleasant experience. May the best argument—which I am fully convinced is mine, but I might be biased—win!
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by baggins 5 years ago
baggins
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Total points awarded:42 
Reasons for voting decision: An well-argued debate from both sides. Con's rebuttal relies on undefined concept of sentience. So punching puppies is wrong, but it is OK to unnecessarily swat mosquitoes! Why exactly? How do we know that mosquitoes don't feel anything and that dog's feel things? Do trees have 'sentience'? Naturally, the only question relevant here is, at what stage does zygote gain 'sentience'? The negation of Pro's P2 is incomplete. 4:2 to Pro
Vote Placed by WriterDave 5 years ago
WriterDave
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Reasons for voting decision: Con successfully established that there is a morally relevant difference between a zygote and a baby.
Vote Placed by KeytarHero 5 years ago
KeytarHero
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.