The Instigator
Zasch
Pro (for)
Losing
18 Points
The Contender
baker27b
Con (against)
Winning
21 Points

Abortion ought to be legal in the United States.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/5/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,763 times Debate No: 1370
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (13)
Votes (13)

 

Zasch

Pro

Hello :) I just wanted to take up the position that you were debating against, since I think my side has a somewhat better defence than was given.

I think that most participants in the debate can agree that people ought not be wantonly killed. Thus, the question that seems most fundamental to the debate is "when does personhood begin"? After all, it is only personhood that matters - not "life" (As there are a great many things that are alive that most people have little qualms about destroying, since those things are not persons).

You attempt to address this by introducing several arguments:

1. Potential ought to be equated with actualisation of that potential
2. Conception, being the point of origination for all humans, ought to be regarded as sacred.

The problem with both of these arguments stems from the assumption that the potential for a thing to develop automatically means that such a thing ought to be given the rights of its fully-developed self. We can demonstrate the folly in this thinking in several ways:

A) We can regress further and further back to demonstrate the absurdity of the "potentiality" argument. Given the right conditions, it is fair to say that a zygote will develop into a human. By your argument, we ought to then afford this zygote with all the rights of a fully-formed human. But is it not the case that, given the correct conditions, a sperm will develop into a human? The conditions are obviously different, but if it is given the proper tools (in the case of a sperm, an egg is required; in the case of a zygote, various nutrients are required) then it too will develop into a human. In fact, the sperm and the egg can be said to be the "origins of humanity"; they contain the genetic information that is essential to the development of an actual human. Without them, no zygote could ever develop, and thus no person could ever develop.

We've defined "personhood" now to mean "potential for becoming a human", which both a sperm and an egg clearly meet, since they both the first and necessary steps for the creation of a human being. What are the implications of this view? One is that most women are quite murderous - every time they choose not to have a child when they are capable, since an egg is a person, we can say that they are murdering that person. Men, however, are guilty of a great sin, for millions upon millions of sperm are typically lost every single day; men, we can say, are commiting a veritable genocide against humanity! Ought we, then, set up an international tribunal (such as the ones held in Nuremberg) in order to bring this gender to justice?

Obviously this line of thinking is absolutely absurd. But why is it absurd? If you are to be believed, then without the sperm (the "acorn"), we'll never develop into the oak tree and thus the sperm is a person that must be protected. The logic seems appealing enough when we're dealing with zygotes, but very few are willing to take it to its necessary conclusion, so why is this? This is because we recognise that moral personhood does not simply begin at life.

Suppose there is a student and his professor. In order to get a 100% on some specific assignment that will determine the mark for the whole course, the professor states that all a student must do is read the poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Suppose further that this student decides to refuse to read that poem, and thus the student receives a 0% in the course. The student may attempt to go up to his professor and say "But you know that I can read - I clearly had the potential for completing this assignment! Is that not the same as actually completing it?". Very few people would fault the professor is he found this argument uncompelling

One final example: Suppose that I have before me some tomatoes, zucchini, frozen meat, cheese, noodles, and various other ingredients. Suppose further that I have been tasked with cooking the meal at a prestigious dinner. The guests show up, but there is no meal to be had. Will I be able to argue that all of the ingredients have the *potential* to become lasagna and thus they should consider the meal served? Of course not. The ingredients may someday become lasagna, if given the right conditions (namely, my skill and interference), but until that point they are merely ingredients on a table - they are definitely not lasagna, and should not be treated as such.

Potential is just that - potential. I have the potential of one day becoming the President of the United States. Does this mean we should simply consider me to be the President? Obviously not. You ask the question of what the difference is between us and our potential. That difference is reality:

If we accept the notion that a thing must not only be alive but must be a person in order to receive full moral rights (a reasonable notion - we do not afford cows or bacteria the same moral rights that we give to a human), then we have established a criterion for those moral rights. Thus, the ONLY test that is relevant when determining whether a thing has those rights is whether they meet the criterion - it is NOT whether they might, someday in the future, meet that criterion.

We need a definition of personhood to go further. I do not have enough space to give a detailed definition, so let us provisionally use this definition (which you may challenge later): A person is that entity (note that it is not restricted to homo sapiens) which possesses such a significant capability for analysis of information that it has become self-aware, has formed a personal identity, is capable of thinking in normative terms, is capable of making informed choices, and is capable of significant abstract thought. Some might criticise this definition as excluding the mentally deficient or small children, but this comes from an underestimation of the mental capacities of these groups of people and thus the definition does not run into that problem.

Thus, when we look at the zygote, we must ask ourselves if it meets the criteria for personhood. Is it self-aware? No! The zygote is not capable of such high-level mental thought. Does it have a personal identity (Is it thinking "I'm me!" while in the womb?). Certainly not. Can it think in normative terms - can it classify things into "good" and "bad"? Since it cannot think in any significant way, we must answer "no". Can it make informed choices? It cannot be informed and it cannot make choices, so no, it is not capable of this. Is it capable of significant abstract thought? Once again, no. Will it someday develop into a thing that meets these requirements? Sure. When it does, then we can afford it with moral rights, and if we want to create an entity that is a person then we ought to protect this zygote notwithstanding its lack of personhood. But it is not a person RIGHT NOW, and thus we cannot afford it with the rights of a person RIGHT NOW, since it does not meet our criteria for giving it moral rights RIGHT NOW.

This is also why we would never extend such protections to a sperm. Is a sperm self aware? Does a sperm have personal identity? Can it think in normative terms? Make informed choices? Capable of significant abstract thought? The answer to all of these is "no". Will it someday develop into a thing that meets these requirements? Sure. When it does, then we can afford it with moral rights.

We can debate whether various stages of development meet the requirements for personhood or not, but ultimately it seems clear that personhood does not begin at conception. You may still make an argument based on the idea that the zygote is owned by the whole of society and thus if any one person objects then abortion cannot be allowed (though this would be a bizarre argument to make), but if my analysis is correct then you cannot continue to negate allowing abortion in the abstract on the basis of the "right to life" of the zygote.

I look forward to your response!
baker27b

Con

First, I just want to say that I accept this debate with the fear that people will that give it the respect it deserves as a debate. People can have preconceived notions about a subject, but the winner of any debate is not the one who argues the popular side.

I am in no way saying that Zasch will be worse debater than I, and in fact, I am really happy to see that he put real thought in to his opening statement. But the last time I debated this subject, I obviously debated the subject better (http://www.debate.org...), but still only took only 63% of the votes.

Second, the other thing I want to put out there is the same idea I put out in the latter part of my opening argument in my first debate. I believe and debate this side out of compassion and desire for consistency, not social or religious pressure. Now let's debate!

Before I get to refuting what you said I will summarize my opening argument because this debate is basically a retort to that.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"There are two arguments I usually hear from the Pro-Choice section of society. The first is that life does not begin at conception. The second is that it is a women's body and government does not belong there. I have thought the two positions over for a long time, but I have never been able to come to terms with them. In fact, I truly believe them both to be wrong." --baker27b (hehe, I've always wanted to quote myself)

My reason for the former being wrong is that of the "potential" argument Zasch mentioned. I see the Acorn being the Oak and on a time line I see A = B because A can become B. Also, without A, B is nothing so A should be regarded as a fundamental part of the line to B and B. Because of its role it should be regarded as sacred.

There is more to this, but remember this is only a summary.

My reason for the latter being wrong is the second argument is often made without the former argument within it. If it is life (I know that is debatable, but just assume it for now), than the latter debate should be absolutely void standalone. I heart goes out to the mother, but my compassion for life and the consistency of the law say that convenience does not trump life.

Now to what you said.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"We can regress further and further back to demonstrate the absurdity of the 'potentiality' argument...In fact, the sperm and the egg can be said to be the 'origins of humanity'" --Zasch

You here refute the notion that potential is not actuality and I agree but want to dismiss any implication or misinterpretation that I was saying that in that context. The Zygote only forms and develops under the right conditions. Contraceptives can be implemented before Zygote formation. That is not an abortion by any definition.

"...[T]he professor states that all a student must do is read the poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Suppose further that this student decides to refuse to read that poem, and thus the student receives a 0% in the course. The student may attempt to go up to his professor and say 'But you know that I can read - I clearly had the potential for completing this assignment! Is that not the same as actually completing it?'" --Zasch

This is a bad parallel of my argument. Note that the student fails through non-action. The context of my argument states that potential is achieved through non-action (the action is abortion). And everyone must understand that I say A = B (shorthand) in a defined context, so to call me "absurd" by focusing on my clause without focusing on my logic is wrong.

The cooking and POTUS arguments are the same and wrong for the same reasons. It takes actions to reach the potentials he has described. It takes actions (abortion) to TERMINATE the development and potential of the zygote. There is actually more to the latter that I will discuss later.

"Is it self-aware? No! The zygote is not capable of such high-level mental thought." -- Zasch

You described self-awareness as equating to life or possibly the ability to grant rights. I understand the drive behind that argument, but I disagree.

"Self-awareness is the explicit understanding that one exists." --http://en.wikipedia.org...

But there is this thing called sentience.

"Sentience refers to utilization of sensory organs or organelles, the ability to feel or perceive subjectively, not necessarily including the faculty of self-awareness." --http://en.wikipedia.org...

(By the way I double-checked the references for those definitions since it is Wikipedia and those definitions are correct).

From what is implied by the definition of sentient, it would seem that something that is sentient is alive. I would find it hard for one to argument that an entity can be sentient and not alive-- but the debate is young.

Okay, why is that important? Well, since life is protected under U.S. law that leaves Zasch's argument of self-awareness wrong. Debating that certain life is not protected is in violation of the spirit of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. I am not saying the 14th Amendment directly voids abortion, but directly voids inequality which leads to refutation of Zasch points with other points incorporated.

That is where I disagree with Zasch-- but I do have a few more points to iterate.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When it comes to Life as implied through our governing principals, it seems that the protection of Life is the protection of one living out development. Ultimately, we all die, so that is the direction development takes. When natures impedes this development, it is tragic. When another human, by any means and without consent of the person who has not himself committed a crime, impedes this development, it is a crime.

It is reasonable to say that a young child naturally develops in adult and then concludes with death. It is reasonable to say that a zygote develops into an embryo and then develops into what we recognize commonly as a baby. Babies inside the womb are then birthed and go on to live a life full of rights.

I want to note that late-term abortions have been banned because they are actively defined as disgusting and a blatant termination of what is life. Yet, applying the definition of protected life to this situation of abortion, abortion then becomes wrong because we are taking away that babies ability for development.

We give it the right to Life in the context that once you've reached a certain trimester or place on a time line, you are "too-human" to kill. This logic seems inconsistent and I think we all what consistency in our laws.

That was probably poorly explained, but I am kind of tired of typing...but let me summarize real quick.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

--I could summarize my points, but since you have already read them, I won't.

--Your logic behind the potential equals actuality was refuted due to the fact that you did not make your examples within the same context of my argument.

--Your logic behind being "Self-Aware" was refuted by the notion that entities can be Sentient alone and alive.

I appreciate you challenging me, I hope there are no typos, and I await your response. Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1
Zasch

Pro

Thank you for responding. Unfortunately, I find that many of your responses seem to apply two different standards of logic when dealing with the same concepts. Allow me to clarify. Before I do that, though, I should note that my original response was well over the limit (by about 7,000 characters), so I'm having to truncate a lot of points. If it seems like I didn't respond to something or that I didn't develop my logic fully, please bring the point up again in your rebuttal, since I may have done so but merely removed it for space. Also, please forgive me if I sound a bit robotic or disjointed. I'll put what I've cut in [Snip: Summary] form when I replace something :)

Suppose a woman were to become pregnant, but were to also fall into a coma. Suppose further that this woman were in the middle of the desert, and thus there were no other humans around to care for her. Assess the probability that the human inside would continue to develop until birth assuming that all variables remained the same. [Snip: A zygote has to be actively supported inside the womb, it is not that the zygote will "default" to being born unless interfered, but it will default to dying unless interference gives is nutrients, etc.]

[Snip: Distinction between action/nonaction irrelevant anyway.]

>>>From what is implied by the definition of sentient, it would seem that something that is sentient is alive. I would find it hard for one to argument that an entity can be sentient and not alive<<<

I apologise, but I do not seem to have communicated my point properly. The point is that "life" is not the criterion that we use - personhood is. This is a very important distinction that I will address in a moment.

>>>Well, since life is protected under U.S. law <<<

Assuming that the Equal Protection clause is not the law you are citing, I would ask that you cite the law that protects "life" in this manner. In fact, I can think of plenty of instances where life is routeinly killed for pleasure, sometimes with the blessing of society.

[Snip: Life isn't protected in general. Bacteria is life, but we murder it quite frequently and gleefully.]

[Snip: Sentient life isn't protected in general. Most of us eat meat.]

To be sure, there is a segment of the population that believes that all sentient life ought to be protected. The refutation of this view will be addressed later as I restate why I support abortion, but as a matter of American law it would seem that neither "life" nor "sentient life" is protected to nearly the extent that you believe.

>>>Debating that certain life is not protected is in violation of the spirit of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.<<<

As it stands, the wording of the Equal Protection clause would appear to support my point: "No state shall deny to any **person** within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". Note that it does NOT say any lifeform: it protects only PERSONS. The 14th amendment that you have cited sets a bar for legal protection in the United States: not the requirement of life, but the requirement of PERSONHOOD. This explicitly recognises that there is a distinction between life and personhood.

Thus, your attempts to conflate life and personhood together fail by your own citation.

>>>, it seems that the protection of Life is the protection of one living out development.<<<

[Snip: When a man is murdered, we mourn his loss of liberty, not merely that his 'potential to die' was interrupted. His liberty comes from the fact that he is a PERSON, not merely that he is alive.]

You would put forth that the zygote has the potential of developing into a person, and thus it ought to be considered a person. While you yourself negate this argument when you agree that potential does not equal actual, allow me to once again refute it: We can demonstrate that this "potential" argument is absurd if we simply take it one step further. Sperm, given the right conditions, will also eventually develop into humans. However, we would never punish a man for masturbating or for simply choosing to abstain from sexual activity because we recognise that a sperm is not a person.

In response to this, you claim that inaction results in the termination of that potential, whereas an active action must be taken in order to terminate the potential of personhood in a zygote. I should note that this does not address the logical point of whether potential ought to be conflated with actual (and, once again, you agreed with me that it ought not be conflated, which makes this little bit irrelevant), but the statement itself is false: If a mother herself does not take an active interest in providing for her growing child, the child itself will die. Indeed, in the hypothetical where the mother does nothing at all (and, thus, is in a state of perfect inaction), the child itself dies fairly shortly afterwards, indicating that active action is needed in order to *keep* the child, and a form of abortion is the result of *inaction*. [Snip: Just as a mother can abort actively or inactively, the student can fail actively or inactively]

However, I need not even do this, because you have not demonstrated how the action/nonaction distinction affects anything whatsoever. And, once again, you already agreed that potential is not actual: Thus, your whole case is negated on the fact that you affirm the idea that a zygote's POTENTIAL to become a person does not, in fact, make it equal to a person. Thus, given its non-equality, that would also imply that there is a non-equality in the rights afforded.

[Snip: Animals are sentient, but not protected. Your profile says you aren't a vegetarian. Thus, your position is inconsistent.]

However, supposing you were a vegetarian, you may claim consistency. Am I defeated on this point? No! Ultimately, any moral determination is going to be a wholly subjective matter. I can claim "Writing on paper is equal to genocide" without being incorrect, per se, if I believe the statement to be true. When we debate about morality, we debate on two fronts: 1. What is "reasonable" to the both of us given our shared values? 2. Is there any part of your moral system that is inconsistent (that is, it contradicts itself)? On the second front, I have already demonstrated that the way you assign rights (such as the right to life) is inconsistent. Now, let me restate why I have also demonstrated that I meet the first requirement.

[Snip: People still eat meat because cows, despite their considerable intelligence, are not sapient.]

Clearly neither "life" nor "sentience" are the requirement for being considered a person: sapience is. People give too little credit to human intelligence, for even the small infant or the severely mentally disabled person is stil capable of great abstractions such as high-level metacognition. Compared to most individuals they may be lacking, but they are still persons. The vast majority of life, even sentient life, does not posess this ability to any significant extent (homo sapeins are, obviously, a notable exception). This, ultimately, is what we ought to base the right to life on, because humans are defined not in their biology or their sex organs or anything like that, but rather by their greater ability for experiencing the world. [Snip: A human in a hypothetical supercomputer is still human. Our personhood is what defines us, not our biology.]

Thus, ultimately your argument fails to convince me as you have failed to adequately defend the idea that the potential for a thing equals the actual for that thing, and as well you have failed to defend the idea that personhood is contingent upon *sentience*, not sapience or some other criteria.

I appreciate how respectful and courteous you have been in this debate, and I want to commend you for bringing up good points. I look forward to your response! :)
baker27b

Con

Okay-- let's see what 5 hours of sleep can afford me in debate...

I really liked your rebuttal, you came out strong and made some good points. You claimed that in some areas I misunderstood your definition of Life/Personhood in regards to sentience, etc.

But to that I would have to say you misunderstood some of what I said. I too ran out of room and left some holes in my argument, which you have dutifully pointed out.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

You say that throughout my argument I have double-standards. This confusion was probably caused by me saying A = B where it clearly doesn't. Yeah...that was my short-hand argument. A more clear statement would be a time line with A at the beginning and B at the end.

But I do want to make note that in our world the same standard does not apply itself in every context. This is mostly about what I said about Action and Non-Action.

"Suppose further that this woman were in the middle of the desert, and thus there were no other humans around to care for her." --Zasch

Okay, yes that is non-action (whereas the action is defined as care). But when I was defining action, I was calling it abortion. That is where I was trying to draw the line and in different contexts action and non-action will be perceived as different things.

Why that is important to me-- if nature takes human-life, it is a tragedy, but if human takes human-life by active choice, it is unlawful and unethical. I think that should clear up my explanation.

"'No state shall deny to any **person** within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws'. Note that it does NOT say any lifeform: it protects only PERSONS." --Zasch

When you take what I said verbatim without any interpretation, the 14th Amendment does support you...I guess. But when I was talking about life, I thought it was apparent that I was talking about human-life, which would make the 14th Amendment support me because there is no inequality of human-life under U.S. jurisdiction. And as to not misinterpret inequality...I do mean a persons right to live-- I don't want to leave the door open for other debates.

"When a man is murdered, we mourn his loss of liberty, not merely that his 'potential to die'... His liberty comes from the fact that he is a PERSON, not merely that he is alive." --Zasch

When I was talking about development, I was not saying the former of your quote, but merely providing logic for personhood (which is your main-point). I completely agree with the latter, and I never explicitly stated that (I reiterate this for clarity).

Conception to death is the route all human-life takes. Between that is going from stage to stage until we hit death. That is a very reasonable statement that I doubt you will disagree with. U.S. law protects us so that process is not ended by another human's action as to where that human-life does not consent or U.S. law has not already determined that human-life void (i.e. Death Penalty [though I do whole-heartedly disagree with the Death Penalty]).

"You would put forth that the zygote has the potential of developing into a person, and thus it ought to be considered a person. ... We can demonstrate that this "potential" argument is absurd if we simply take it one step further. Sperm, given the right conditions, will also eventually develop into humans."

In my first week and a half of classes I have read the Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, and Arthurian Legend. That is English alone and time and thought and ability to sleep are drifting away. I explained that poorly, a time line would have done better.

The fact I said potential really meant the ability for A to go to B on a time line. A zygote does retain personhood (unless the women is experimenting with some other species). But I do not call a Zygote a baby, just as I don't call a child an adult.

These are stages of development on the time line of life. And because that life is human (unless that Zygote is in Catherine the Great and has horse DNA), it is entitled to protection under U.S. jurisdiction. At least, when considering all human-life equal in that context.

"If a mother herself does not take an active interest in providing for her growing child, the child itself will die. Indeed, in the hypothetical where the mother does nothing at all (and, thus, is in a state of perfect inaction), the child itself dies fairly shortly afterwards, indicating that active action is needed in order to *keep* the child, and a form of abortion is the result of *inaction*." --Zasch

Again, you are redefining what I have called action. When I defined action, I called it abortion and only in the context for which abortion could happen and in the time frame of the procedure for which an abortion would take place.

But I love the point you bring up, I was expecting it. Since that child is human-life and endowed with rights, he is protected under U.S. jurisdiction. The mother actually does commit an action here and would be punished. That action is called negligence. But of course, remember that this action is defined as negligence is this context (because aborting a small child is kind of hard to do :-)).

"Animals are sentient, but not protected. Your profile says you aren't a vegetarian. Thus, your position is inconsistent." --Zasch

That was pretty funny. But I will agree with you in saying that I am consistent when it is human-life that needs protecting.

Your final point is very interesting and I am guessing the most important for your rebuttal.

"Clearly neither 'life' nor 'sentience' are the requirement for being considered a person: sapience is." --Zasch

"Sapience, usually defined as wisdom since it is the ability of an organism or entity to act with judgment." --http://en.wikipedia.org...

Taken as said, a dead person is clearly not a person because death hinders the ability to exercise wisdom. But I do not believe that. Why? I will get to that.

"A human in a hypothetical supercomputer is still human. Our personhood is what defines us, not our biology" --Zasch

He is saying that the mind of a human in a supercomputer despite the lack of the human-body is still a human. Nice imagery, but flawed logic. How does the human get its sapience. Is it magic? Or is this ability to exercise wisdom the result of biology and chemistry.

The way you have argued, the human-mind should be able to function without the need for any observable biological or chemical features-- to which I disagree. Even with sapience described as a feature alone needs to come from somewhere. My full-grown human-body is the result of development as dictated by chemistry and biology...my sapience is too.

So the notion that biology does not defined personhood is botched logic. A Zygote clearly has SENTIENCE and it is ALIVE. Looking at it from a biological point-of-view, you see a HUMAN-ZYGOTE.

I have made clear the PERSONHOOD the zygote retains and under the logic of Zasch, he is entitled to protection under U.S. jurisdiction. I will repeat:

"'No state shall deny to any **person** within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws'. Note that it does NOT say any lifeform: it protects only PERSONS." --Zasch

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

--I have refuted his examples of the desert, vegetarianism, etc.

--I made more clear my potential argument with a time line. I do not call a Zygote a baby, just like I don't call a child an adult. But the right to develop into these is a protected right.

--I refuted the notion that I claim 'action' to be defined as only ONE thing. It clearly depends on the context.

--I have now given personhood to the Zygote, which is important because Zasch's argument was grounded in the fact that there was no personhood.

This is a really good debate. I eagerly wait for your response. I pray there are no typos.
Debate Round No. 2
Zasch

Pro

I do apologise - circumstances in my life are taking time away from my ability to engage in online discussions. However, I've really enjoyed debating with you, since you seem to be capable of making good points. I'll try to give a response, but I'm pressed for time and thus it may not be up to standards! Also, once again, I have to snip :(

>A more clear statement would be a time line with A at the beginning and B at the end.<

Indeed, but you must then provide reasoning as to why the beginning ought to be conflated with the end when it comes to moral rights.

>which would make the 14th Amendment support me because there is no inequality of human-life under U.S. jurisdiction.<

The Supreme Court of the United States, however, has stated that nonviable fetuses are not protected under the 14th Amendment. Hence, as a matter of law, you are incorrect. As a matter of philosophy, you still have yet to provide a defence for why we ought to reject the standard of sapience in favour of sentience.

>A zygote does retain personhood<

[Snip: By no reasonable standard of personhood does a zygote qualify. It can't think.]

>When I defined action, I called it abortion and only in the context for which abortion could happen and in the time frame of the procedure for which an abortion would take place.<

[Snip: This definition is abusive. "Action" means "state or process of doing or acting". You are redefining it to suit your argument when this common definition works well enough. By redefining it, your argument becomes circular: You demonstrate that abortion is wrong merely by asserting that such a "positive action" is wrong, when you've defined it as "abortion", and thus "abortion is wrong because abortion is wrong".]

>That action is called negligence.<

"Negligence", the absence of action, can be defined as an action if you like, but then all of your attacks against my examples fall. If we allow for non-action to be defined as an action so long as will it put into the equation, then the non-action in my examples qualifies to illustrate my points.

>The way you have argued, the human-mind should be able to function without the need for any observable biological or chemical features-- to which I disagree.<

[Snip: No. That a thing depends on another thing doesn't mean the two are conflated. I depend upon the food I eat for survival, but we cannot say that the fruit bowl I just ate is me.]

>So the notion that biology does not defined personhood is botched logic.<

It does not define personhood. Suppose we encounter an alien species as intelligent, capable, and dynamic as we are. They also, obviously, happen to be non-homo sapiens. Do we then have the right to treat them as property? No, because personhood is *not* defined by biology. Biology is necessary in developing personhood, but it is a distinct thing from that personhood.

[Snip: If I take a road to New York City, we do not say that the road itself is New York City, but merely a path. In this case, the road is biology and New York City is personhood.]

[Snip: You are conflating ideas again.]

It is not enough to merely demonstrate that personhood follows the development of these biological systems, either. You must demonstrate that the two ideas are, logically, the exact same: these systems immediately result in personhood.

>--I have refuted his examples of the desert, vegetarianism, etc.<

You have not. In fact, you admitted your inconsistency when it comes to vegetarianism, and I have already shown why your definitions are somewhat abusive and result in your argument becoming circular.

>But the right to develop into these is a protected right.<

[Snip: As a matter of law, you are wrong. Morally speaking, you have simply asserted your position, rather than defended it.]

Furthermore, you still do not address the regression argument: Why should the right of a sperm to develop into a human be valued any less than that of a zygote?

>--I refuted the notion that I claim 'action' to be defined as only ONE thing. It clearly depends on the context.<

[Snip: Your definition of action is abusive and highly nonstandard. It changes depending on the argument, and has no consistency.]

>--I have now given personhood to the Zygote, which is important because Zasch's argument was grounded in the fact that there was no personhood.<

Unfortunately, personhood is not something to just be "given" by fiat - that would be an abuse of definitions. I brought up the idea of personhood as encompassing several traits, and you did not dispute upon that idea in the slightest.

[Snip: You offer personhood has including dead people. This is absurd, because dead people can't think or do anything.]

But you offer no defence for even this bizarre definition of personhood. All you say is that:
1. Biological systems give rise to personhood, and therefore biological systems define personhood.
2. A zygote is sentient and alive, and thus a person.

Argument 1, once again, is refuted by the fact that a path one takes to a thing does not define that thing. Biological systems are not the definition of personhood because personhood can exist without those biological systems (for instance, through the use of technological systems). You repeatedly claim that you are not conflating the beginning with the end, but your arguments betray the reality: You ARE conflating the zygote with the person. You ARE conflating the undeveloped brain with the developed brain. You are saying that, morally speaking, the potential for one to develop into the other means that the former *IS*, morally speaking, equivalent to the other. Biological systems are a preqreuisite to personhood in humans, but neither do they guarantee personhood nor do they logically imply personhood. The road is not the same as the destination.

The second argument is one that I defeated long ago, and you did not address. Life is not a good standard for personhood because then we reach a situation where a man affectd by bacteria cannot take medications because that kills life. Sentience too is not a reasonable standard, for you yourself affirm the idea of eating animals and yet they are senitent - the argument may be amusing, but its logic is no less powerful. You have not addressed this at all, and thus your second argument fails.

With both of these arguments out of the way, we must then accept the only reasonable standard of personhood that there is: sapience. If a thing posesses sapience, regardless of whether that thing is terrestrial or extraterrestrial or nonbiological, that thing is a person! When we no longer possess sapience, such as when we die, we cease to be "people".

Since you are unable to either defend against my attacks on your method of assigning moral rights (as they lead to absurd and contradictory conclusions), nor are you able to effectively attack my concept of personhood (that is, why a sapience-based standard is unreasonable), then your entire case falls apart: The zygote is NOT a person by any reasonable definition, and thus the zygote is not entitled to the rights afforded to people. Whether the zygote or the sperm or the tomato will develop into one thing or another is irrelevant, because as you have repeatedly stated we cannot, morally speaking, conflate the two. If the requirement is X, and a thing doesn't have X, it doesn't matter whether the thing may or may not have X in the future...they still do not meet the requirement (the requirement, in this case, being personhood).

Therefore, with zygotes now being recognised as non-persons (both in a legal and moral sense), abortion ought to be allowed.

I'd like to thank my opponent for this very entertaining and respectful debate. Hopefully, in the future, we can have more such discussions! :)
baker27b

Con

I am beginning to think we have got to the point in the debate where the broken record is going to start repeating. But this is fine because we are in the final round.

Much of what I saw in Zasch's closing argument was just a reiteration of what was in the second round, but this time the language was altered so that it could be implied that it was refuting what I said in my rebuttal. So here we go:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Indeed, but you must then provide reasoning as to why the beginning ought to be conflated with the end when it comes to moral rights." – Zasch

This is direct reference to my timeline. My timeline is imagery. It is mapping out where our species develops (a.k.a. lives out their lives). When it comes to applying morals there it is very simple. Another human-being cannot unethically interrupt that timeline. That is a very obvious statement.

How the system is set up right now, abortion can happen lawfully. I am arguing that because it is inconsistent and unethical (the reason being that timeline argument). There is no enthical manner to stop a baby, child, adolescent, adult, or elder from living out the rest of their lives (unless one expresses desire or forfeits his or her own life through lawful means like the Death Penalty).

Hence, I am arguing against the status quo.

"The Supreme Court of the United States, however, has stated that nonviable fetuses are not protected under the 14th Amendment. Hence, as a matter of law, you are incorrect." –Zasch

So what Zasch has pointed out is the status quo. But because we all know our history, we know that entities of government can be inconsistent with the implicit and explicit nature of the constitution. Just because the Chief Legislator takes away habeas corpus does not make it right. Even the Supreme Court has made mistakes (the ruling on Plessy v Ferguson is obviously wrong).

So now does Zasch disagree with the notion of protecting human-life? Does he believe in equity of law? He absolutely does. And we both agree that it is living human-beings under U.S. jurisdiction that are endowed with the rights of the U.S. Constitution (ignoring that weird Vegetarian argument he threw in there).

But we both view that human-beings part differently. But I will get to that later because I want to refute one more thing. 

"[Your] definition is abusive. ‘Action' means ‘state or process of doing or acting'. You are redefining it to suit your argument when this common definition works well enough. By redefining it, your argument becomes circular" –Zasch

When Zasch refutes the ability to redefine action it makes me scratch my head because we do it all the time. When I am playing basketball, the action can be dribble. When I am at the dinner table, the action can be eat. When I am at a restaurant the action can be eat. When I am at the scene of a crime, the action can be murder.

I said this before, but I will say it again: when defining an action, it depends on the situation whether you can retain that definition or not. The situations need to retain some similarity and equating the situation of an abortion to cooking dinner lacks logic.

In the end, that might all be irrelevant because both Zasch and I agree that this boils down to a personhood debate. Once one has been endowed personhood under U.S. jurisdiction, that is it, he is protected. The essential part them becomes, when is personhood attained.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here is where the base of the debate is, and probably where one should decide who won. I argue that life and personhood begin at conception, whereas Zasch argues life may begin at conception, but personhood begins with sapience.

First, I would just like to put out there, a Zygote is in fact alive. It has the irrefutable quality of sentience. If you can argue that something is sentient and not alive, you then have the ability to warp the fabric of logic itself.

But is it a person?

"[Biology] does not define personhood. Suppose we encounter an alien species as intelligent, capable, and dynamic as we are... Do we then have the right to treat them as property? No, because personhood is *not* defined by biology. Biology is necessary in developing personhood, but it is a distinct thing from that personhood." –Zasch

Personhood: the state of being a person
--Dictionary.com

Person: a human being, whether a man, woman or child
--Dictionary.com

I see the defintion of personhood in the light of having the characteristics of a person. I see a person as defined as a human-being. The website dictionary.com agrees with me. It is human-beings that are governed within the context of the law, not anything that just happens to exhibit intelligence.

So this argument falls outside of the context of our argument. You can argue whether dolphins or dogs should be treated as property, but we are talking about the endowed rights of human-beings.

So how does development (all the way to the end of life) distinguish between the Zygote inside a woman and any other species? By its biology. By its chemistry. By undeniable logic, it is Human-Zygote. Utlizing the definitions above the Zygote has personhood.

And now that we have established personhood, it is logical to say it is a person that endowed the rights of the U.S. Constitution (which include lawful, ethical protection of life).

"No state shall deny to any **person** within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." –Zasch

I am sorry I had to shorten my final argument. I typed it really fast because I have Russian homework due in a few moments. Good debate!
Debate Round No. 3
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Zasch 9 years ago
Zasch
Except the definition of sapience has nothing to do with reliance. You may want to review the debate again, as you may have misunderstood some of the arguments made.
Posted by jwebb893 9 years ago
jwebb893
you still didnt answer my question effectively. You say i underestimate human intelligence. I say you overestimate it. A newborn infant is just as reliant (100%) on others for survival as a fetus.
Posted by Zasch 9 years ago
Zasch
Baker: Yeah, that argument is kind of annoying to me too. I support abortion, but the question of whether the feuts has moral rights or not is really essential, and ignoring that in favour of "convenience" is kind of bad :)
Posted by baker27b 9 years ago
baker27b
Hey Zasch,
That was a pretty sweet debate. I got so used to people forfeiting rounds that I almost forgot to make a closing argument. And I am happy that you did not use the convenience argument I hear to often.
Posted by kvaughan 9 years ago
kvaughan
pro effectively argued that moral status is defined by personhood and the fetus does not have personhood.
Posted by Zasch 9 years ago
Zasch
You severely underestimate human intelligence. I see nothing to indicate that an infant is disqualified from personhood under a sapience definition.

Once again, any sort of potential-argument runs into the exact problems of the regression-argument given in the above debate.
Posted by jwebb893 9 years ago
jwebb893
if the pro argument is correct, then cant we willy-nilly slaughter infants? After all, infants ahve hardly developed cognitive capacity to do much of anything? It is completely reliant on its parents for support and cannot survive on its own. Perhaps a zygote is not a person, but by your definition neither is a human child.

Furthermore, while we do not assign legal status to potential, we certainly assign MORAL status to potential. Thats why when someone fails to live up to their potential, it is often called "a shame". This suggests that there is a moral human intuition to avoid abortion if possible. While this is not proof for its illegality, it is certainly something to consider.
Posted by Zasch 9 years ago
Zasch
It's not a problem - get to the debate when you can :) You can run whatever con you would like. I'm mostly interested in the personhood debate, so if you want to run situationally-illegal or always-illegal, go ahead :)
Posted by baker27b 9 years ago
baker27b
Okay, Winter Quarter just. School, work, and everything else is hampering my abilities, but I looked over the original statement again. I really don't want to argue a blanket-ban of abortion, but picking by the Con side wouldn't I be saying it should be illegal? Or does is it mean situationally illegal, in the sense that when it can be life-saving it is okay? That would be more-aligned with my previous debate, which is what I am supposing this is a counter to.
Posted by Zasch 9 years ago
Zasch
If the debate goes in that direction, I might bring it up to challenge a blanket-ban.
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