The Instigator
Mark1068
Pro (for)
Winning
9 Points
The Contender
JustCallMeTarzan
Con (against)
Losing
5 Points

Human life begins at conception - if not, when does it?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
Mark1068
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/19/2011 Category: Science
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,166 times Debate No: 18880
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (38)
Votes (5)

 

Mark1068

Pro

The point at which a process (such as human life) begins can be determined by finding the point that precedes all other stages of the same process. The starting point, which is conception in the case of human life, precedes any/all other stages - no stage of human development could occur without conception having occurred first. Brain development, heartbeat, birth, adolescence and death could never happen without conception. Conception is the building block upon which all other stages depend on. A sperm or an egg could never become human in and of themselves, and the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg, the zygote formed resembles neither the sperm or the egg.

Human development is an ongoing process. There is no moment a human being actualizes. After birth, development continues to occur. The difference(s) between a newborn and an adult is tremendous, and this process doesn't end until death. Therefore, a human being can only be understood, for the purpose of defining a start or end point, as a process. Human beings are always changing and/or developing, and any/all phases of development depend on one point happening first - conception.

Anyone who proposes that human life begins at some point other than conception should be able to propose a different starting point, I would think. If so, when/what is that point? I've heard many arguments against conception being the beginning point of human life - but none of these arguments propose a different starting point......if they do, doesn't that point depend on conception happening first? If it does, then that point can't be the beginning point because it depends on conception to happen before that point can happen. If any point/stage of a process has a predicate cause, it cannot be the starting point of the process because it has a predicate cause. Nothing can precede it's precedent....

Conception is the beginning of human life!
JustCallMeTarzan

Con

My opponent's argument displays a common error most pro-life proponents' arguments suffer from. His position confuses sufficiency and necessity.

While conception is a necessary component to creating human life, it is not sufficient. First, an examination of what "life" means is in order:

Life (http://dictionary.reference.com...)-
  1. the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally.
  2. the sum of the distinguishing phenomena of organisms, especially metabolism, growth, reproduction, and adaptation to environment.
  3. the animate existence or period of animate existence of an individual
  4. a corresponding state, existence, or principle of existence conceived of as belonging to the soul
  5. the general or universal condition of human existence
And of course, we are left wondering what "human life" is if it is indeed distinguishable from "life" writ large. The fifth definition above seems to reference what human life would be, and it is quite difficult to imagine a definition of "human" life distinct from #5 above.

I presume that my opponent means "human life" as in whether there is a difference post-conception that allows one to distinguish between an inorganic or dead organism and one that exhibits growth, reproduction, and internal adaptation.

I present three arguments that show that conception cannot be the beginning of life. Each argument offers a new distinction for when life begins. It is of no importance that they are not a bright line like conception - the burden here is to provide an alternative that cannot be confused with conception. The fact that such condition may occur at different times in the development of individual fetuses (i.e. 9 weeks for one, 10.5 for another) is irrelevant.

1. Argument from Corollary to Death.

Though not completely defined (http://en.wikipedia.org...), death is currently held to be the cessation of electrical activity in the brain. Some suggest that death actually occurs at the point where irreversible cognitive damage has occurred (e.g. such that the brain is no longer capable of sustaining the body's functions). But for the sake of argument, we will suppose that death occurs when there is no more electrical activity in the brain.

If death is the cessation of electrical activity in the brain, life must be the beginning of electrical activity in the brain. There is no brain where electrical activity can occur at conception; therefore a newly conceived organism with no brain is not alive as meant by "human life."
2. Argument from Personhood.

If we accept as a philosophical proposition that human life requires some level of personhood, we may engage in this argument. Let's examine that proposition briefly... It makes little sense to say that "Pete is alive, but he is not a person." It makes even less sense to say that "Pete is not alive but he is a person." But nobody has a problem with saying that "Pete is alive and he is a person."

Thus, we can accept the proposition that if someone is alive, they are a person. Therefore, if they are not a person, they are not alive (proof by contrapositive).

Let us also presume (and I hope this needs no in-depth analysis) that a working brain is required for personhood... for it would be quite unusual to say that "Pete is a person, but he has no brain." Or alternatively, "Pete is a person, but his brain does not work." Even further, that brain must have some kind of content inside it... would anyone say that "This brain is completely empty, but Pete the person uses it?" I think not.

Thus, we can also accept the proposition that unless one has a working brain, they cannot be a person. Therefore, from this proposition and our earlier one, we can conclude that since a newly-conceived organism has no brain, it is not a person, and therefore, it cannot be alive.

And therefore, life begins when a fetus has a brain capable of supporting a personality. This is probably relatively late in the fetus' term, but likely before birth - I doubt many that have been around babies will conclude that they lack personality!

3. Argument from Definition of Life

If the three core requirements of life (as defined above) are metabolic growth, reproduction, and internal adaptation, a newly conceived organism cannot meet any of these criteria.

First, the organism is not experiencing metabolic growth (though it is growing). A zygote (http://en.wikipedia.org...) is not capable of ingesting or breaking down material - it is also not capable of transporting that material to build new parts of the organism. Since catabolism and anabolism are both required processes of metabolism (http://en.wikipedia.org...), the organism cannot be undergoing metabolic growth.

Second, while the cells of a zygote do reproduce, they do not do so in the meaning of the resolution. Humans meet the reproduction criteria because they make more humans, not because they make more pieces of humans. Or, to put it another way... when the cells in a newly conceived organism reproduce, they are not creating a new organism - they are adding to the same one.

Third, a zygote is not capable of internal adaptation. Even a fetus is incapable of such behavior before a point in its development. The fetus is entirely dependant on the mother (really, at this point, the host). Were the environment to change, the organism would not be able to adapt - i.e. if the fetus were removed from the womb it would die. There is some question about the adaptability of a fetus in later stages of development, but we are concerned with a zygote - a pre-fetus, if you will. The sheer number of natural miscarriages is good evidence that zygotes are not capable of adapting to their environments. Further, adaptation requires some mechanism for change a zygote is a little too busy growing to worry about change.

This argument leaves a difficult position for proposing an alternative to when life begins. Since even premature fetuses are capable of ingesting food, this criteria is clearly met before birth... it just happens that fetuses at the end stages of development do not engage in metabolic growth, though they are capable of it. Internal adaptation is somewhat sticky as well. I'm not aware of studies that show one way or the other whether a newborn can survive on its own... it would seem immoral to attempt to construct such a study. But I would imagine that their immune system and growth hormones supply this requirement. And again, premature fetuses are capable of warding off disease and growing (they might not be particularly good at it...). Reproduction is the hardest to determine. A premature fetus has a penis (or vagina, uterus, etc...) and is equipped, but not sexually mature. I think in this context, the fact of being equipped would suffice.

Thus, since premature fetuses meet the qualifications for life, presumably full-term fetuses meet the same qualifications prior to birth, so we can state that a late-term fetus is human life.

I look forward to my opponent's rebuttal - he has his work cut out.

The resolution is:

NEGATED.
Debate Round No. 1
Mark1068

Pro

Having read a few of my opponent's prior debates, I was initially surprised that his rebuttal was as weak as it is. But, a few seconds later, I realized no strong rebuttal is possible. The debate between pro-life and pro-choice is a debate between intellectual honesty and intellectual fraud - for this reason it won't be difficult at all to rebut. So, no work on my part, at all.

Let me point out, first, that my opponent has not offered (at least not clearly) an alternative starting point to conception with respect to human life.

If he is taking the position that life begins after brain development - "If death is the cessation of electrical activity in the brain, life must be the beginning of electrical activity in the brain. There is no brain where electrical activity can occur at conception; therefore a newly conceived organism with no brain is not alive as meant by "human life."" - this position fails. By 'human life begins' I mean the point at which a distinct, new human being begins developing. By arguing that because death is defined at the point the human brain ceases to have electrical activity has no bearing whatsoever on when life begins. If fact, a medical or legal definition of death isn't required at all to determine when life begins. Just because a journey starts in Pennsylvania, it would be a false logic to assume it must necessarily end there - why would it? A journey could easily be determined to be 'complete' if it ends in Madagascar...which bears little resemblance to Pennsylvania. Brain development cannot begin without conception having first occurred. This is very simple and obvious. Human development can end there, but not begin - it depends, utterly, on conception to occur prior to it, so human development cannot begin there. I think there is another characteristic in defining 'human life' that needs to be considered - the existence of a DNA footprint. This, also, is present from the moment of conception. It doesn't appear after brain development, reproductive capability or the ability to self-sustain. Yet is is complete from conception forward - the zygote from the moment of conception has it's own DNA footprint, and identifies the organism as distinctly human.

My opponents attempt to use reproductive capability as a possible requirement to defining human life is equally fallacious. Does anyone know of a 1 year old capable of reproducing? Yet (and I hope this doesn't need in-depth analysis, either), very few people would argue whether a 1 year old is a human being. Or, for that matter, how many people know 1 year old children who are capable of self-sustenance? It doesn't take much thinking to imagine how well a 1 year old would fair if left utterly alone to care for him/herself. A child - at 1, 2, 3 or more - if left to fend for themselves, without help from other people/adults, wouldn't last long at all. My daughter is 9 and quite bright - I couldn't imagine her being capable of self-sustaining for long at all on her own. Children are just as dependent on outside sources as is a fetus, just in different ways. Without help, neither would be alive for long. That's why they are called 'dependents'. So, the argument that reproductive capability and/or self-sustenance fall quite short of being a prerequisite to defining human life.

I'll save further argument for later in the debate. I think this rebuttal is sufficient to counter my opponents (and I'm tired/need to get up early!)

I do thank Con for taking this argument - looking forward to more!
JustCallMeTarzan

Con

Responses:

>> "Let me point out, first, that my opponent has not offered (at least not clearly) an alternative starting point to conception with respect to human life."

Nor do I actually need to - I simply need to give some criteria for determining that it begins at a point after conception. Furthermore, electrical activity in the brain satisfies even his clamoring for a bright-line criteria.

>> "By 'human life begins' I mean the point at which a distinct, new human being begins developing"

Even this, the best case scenario statement for Pro, fails his own criteria. By his definition, neither fraternal twins NOR identical twins would be alive at conception. A weak case can be made for fraternal twins by virtue of there being two identical zygotes, but number is hardly basis for distinction here. In any event, identical twins occur when one egg forms one zygote, which then forms two embryos.

My opponent is put into an unusual position here. He must admit that either one twin is not alive because it did not exist at conception, or concede that life actually begins when the zygote produces two embryos, because that is when a "distinct new human being begins developing" according to his own standard (and I am by no means admitting this standard is correct).

>> " Just because a journey starts in Pennsylvania, it would be a false logic to assume it must necessarily end there"

A disanalogy bordering on a strawman fallacy. We'll forgive my opponent this one transgression - it's more likely he failed to understand the point I was making. There is little point in mincing words with analogies when the issue is so simple.

Death = no electrical activity.
Life = electrical activity.
No brain, no electrical activity.
Therefore, no brain, no life.

My opponent is attempting to confuse the readers with a disanalogy that in no way addresses the actual substance of my claim.

>> " Brain development cannot begin without conception having first occurred. This is very simple and obvious. Human development can end there, but not begin - it depends, utterly, on conception to occur prior to it, so human development cannot begin there."

This argument holds no water whatsoever. Again, my opponent confuses necessity and sufficiency. Conception may be a necessary precondition for brain development, but it is not sufficient - there must be other conditions that occur. If we were to accept this line of reasoning, human development would begin with intercourse, because conception "depends, utterly" on intercourse to occur prior to it. So human development cannot begin at conception.

>> " I think there is another characteristic in defining 'human life' that needs to be considered - the existence of a DNA footprint."

Then I must ask again - at conception, which of the two monozygotic twins is alive? Which is not?

>> "My opponents attempt to use reproductive capability as a possible requirement to defining human life is equally fallacious. Does anyone know of a 1 year old capable of reproducing?"

This point was clearly addressed in the difference between having the equipment and being able to use it.

>> "Or, for that matter, how many people know 1 year old children who are capable of self-sustenance?"

My opponent seems to think that "internal adaptation" means "self-sustenance." This point was also clearly addressed - a functional immune system would meet this criteria, as would the capacity to grow in ways that address the environment (i.e. tanner babies in sunny places).

*****************************************************************

My opponent wastes much of his valuable second round quibbling about whether self-sustenance is a prerequisite for life. Readers take note that my first round argument never mentions self-sustenance... this is a term the Pro has manufactured as a placeholder for internal adaptation.

Pro's essential rebuttal is in his definition of human life - "the point at which a distinct, new human being begins developing." Forgetting for the moment that Pro has simply ignored my definitions from Round 1 and moved the goalpost, this definition has serious problems.

First, monozygotic twins - Pro must concede that in this case, for at least one of them, human life begins when the zygote produces two embryos. This in and of itself is sufficient to negate the resolution, at is shows at least one instance of human life that did not begin at conception.

Second, artificial insemination would negate the resolution. The definition of conception (conceive) is to become pregnant (http://www.thefreedictionary.com...). But by Pro's definition, an egg would be a distinct, new human being at the moment of fertilization. If such fertilization occurs outside a woman's body, conception has not yet taken place.

Third, in the case of dizygotic twins, at the moment of conception, two eggs have become fertilized, but the eggs and sperm contain identical DNA. Thus, while conception has occurred, there are not two distinct organisms (in the relevant way) - the only possible "distinction" that can be drawn is that they are separate, but identical.

Fourth, Pro's definition simply pretends that the qualifications for "human life" include only human DNA and at least two cells. I submit this definition is clearly incomplete, as there is already a term for that - it's called a zygote. Furthermore, Pro's definition leads the reader to infer that humanity is no more than at least two cells and homo sapien DNA. Humanity is not only all humans collectively, it is a descriptor for the human condition (http://dictionary.reference.com...). Pro's definition reduces the human condition to a bag of cells that have a certain DNA sequence. Clearly, there is more to being human.
And last, this definition sets Pro up to beg the question. If life begins when a distinct, new human being begins developing, Pro must provide a definition of what a human being is without simply redefining a zygote.

Readers, in Round 1, I provided three alternative grounds to negate the resolution:

1. Corollary to Definition of Death

Pro weakly responded to this point by providing a disanalogy to a journey. He then stated that since conception is a necessary precursor to brain development, human life begins at conception. If readers accept this logic, they must also accept that since intercourse is a necessary precursor to conception, human life begins at intercourse, and thus the resolution is negated.

2. Argument from Personhood

Pro seemingly does not address this argument at all. I am curious how he will respond in his last round... I suppose he can contend that human life can exist absent personhood, but I'm not sure Pro is ready to claim that non-persons count as human life.

3. Argument from Definition of Life

Pro weakly responds to this argument by redefining "internal adaptation" as "self-sustaining." Obviously the two are nothing alike, so we shall give Pro another go at this argument in Round 3. He also attacks reproductive capacity, pretending that there is no distinction between sexual capacity and sexual maturity.

Readers, Pro has essentially wasted Round 2. Very disappointing.

The resolution is now even more firmly:

NEGATED.
Debate Round No. 2
Mark1068

Pro

This debate is titled 'Human life begins at conception - if not, when does it?'. The provision of an alternative starting point is clearly asked for but, again - not provided by Con. I suggest that it's not because Con won't....rather, it's because he can't. Wise of him not to try.

My opponent refers to 'internal adaption' as being a prerequisite to human life.......but, also states in his first rebuttal that an unborn fetus meets the criteria of being a human being..."Thus, since premature fetuses meet the qualifications for life, presumably full-term fetuses meet the same qualifications prior to birth, so we can state that a late-term fetus is human life." Very interesting conclusion. Con wants me to directly rebut his suggestion that 'internal adaption' is a prerequisite to human life beginning - in response, I ask Con "How is a late-term fetus - which Con clearly contends is a human life - capable of internal adaption?". Whether internal adaption can be used synonymously with self-sustenance in the context Con introduced, I don't know. I can't state, with absolute certainty, what Con meant by this in his first rebuttal. However, it seemed to me that was how he meant it. Either way, it doesn't matter. When Con answers my question above "How is a late-term fetus capable of internal adaption", I'll be better able to know the context in which he was using the term. Taking this question further, has a late-term fetus achieved 'person-hood'? Con's answers to these questions will definitely help me to understand what he meant/means when referring to 'internal adaption' and 'person-hood'. I suspect that a few readers will also be less confused, as well.

I thank Con for distinguishing between 'capability' and 'maturity' - you've helped clarify any misconceptions that could exist when I refer to human life as a 'process' rather than something that happens completely at some given point. Human life - it's exact starting point, ending point and all other stages that occur between the two - is an ongoing process. Human-life has no point when it fully-actualizes - if it did, any further development or change wouldn't exist beyond that point. I don't suggest that a zygote is a 'mature' human being. Rather, I propose that all human life/human growth/human development begins at conception, when the human zygote is formed. Conception is the point that begins all 'growing' .....which, you clearly agree with......."Further, adaptation requires some mechanism for change a zygote is a little too busy growing to worry about change". (Again, this statement that you made helps me to communicate my point.) What is growing, Con? What is it growing towards? Can a human zygote grow into anything other than a further developed human being?

My use of analogy doesn't attack the substance of Con's claim - it shows that Con's claim has no substance. He attempts to 'set rules' for defining where a journey begins by claiming it must have identical start and end points. My analogy shows that it doesn't. Con is trying to introduce a closed system of logic to narrow the parameters of definition because he can't offer an intelligible rebuttal.

Intercourse could be/is the starting point.....really? Does every episode of intercourse result in a zygote being formed? When you can establish it does, we can entertain this possible theory more. (I know it hasn't in my case - thank God!) My logic can't extend to mean intercourse because nothing necessarily begins there. Therefore, intercourse isn't an absolute precursor to conception. At conception, something distinct begins every time - a new human life. Intercourse does not have this characteristic, nor is it necessary. Again, Con is all over the place attempting to suggest an alternative starting point.....but, as stated before, he still hasn't. As Con pointed out, intercourse is not a necessary precursor to conception when he introduced the subject of artificial insemination.

Since Con also wants to argue the semantics surrounding the definition of contraception, I'm forced to respond (I have to remember to count the number of Con's different possible answers to the simple question "if not, when does it?" regarding an alternative start point other than conception.) Wikipedia offers the following definition - "The term conception commonly refers to fertilization, the successful fusion of gametes to form a new organism.". This definition has no actual pregnancy requirement - this can and does occur outside of a woman's body. So, conception is not limited to mean something that must occur within a woman's body in order for it to be properly called conception.

My response to Con's suggestion that 'person-hood' is a prerequisite to determine when human life begins follows the initial, simple, common-sense logic I introduced in the beginning. Person-hood - what it means, when it begins, etc. - would more appropriately be a subject for a different debate. Whatever the answers to these questions are, person-hood could not occur without conception having taken place first. If it turns out person-hood begins at conception, then it would not negate my resolution. If it happens afterward, then it happens afterward and, therefore, not the beginning point of human life.

Regarding human DNA - when forensic science performs blood analysis on tissue, blood, etc. found near a crime scene, it is able to conclude, with absolute certainty, whether such samples are human and often (assuming a quality sample and medical records of people) exactly who the samples belong to or not belong to. These DNA samples are no more complex or developed than the DNA present after conception. DNA footprints can tell us much more specific information about who they came from - not just that the owner is a homo sapien. The term conception commonly refers to fertilization, the successful fusion of gametes to form a new organism. (Of course, the quality of samples vary under circumstance, as well as how comprehensive pre existing medical records are.)

About the identical twins - conception must also occur first. The fact that a second human being develops after the first human being is formed doesn't negate the fact that conception occurred first. I won't elaborate further on this because Con acknowledged the examples weak spots when he used the example....."Thus, while conception has occurred, there are not two distinct organisms (in the relevant way) - the only possible "distinction" that can be drawn is that they are separate, but identical." It is this 'distinction' that points out the flaws in this example.

Looking forward to the next round!
JustCallMeTarzan

Con

Responses

>> "The provision of an alternative starting point is clearly asked for but, again - not provided by Con."

This is simply incorrect. I mentioned in both rounds that electrical activity in the brain provides the bright-line rule Pro is looking for. I further proffered the point at which the organism can support personality, as well as the point at which a late-term fetus is capable of meeting the criteria of life.

At this point in the debate, since I have already addressed this issue multiple times and given several criteria, Pro is, simply put, lying.

>> " I ask Con "How is a late-term fetus - which Con clearly contends is a human life - capable of internal adaptation?""

Again, the requisite level of analysis is capacity not use. Pro seems to miss this point entirely. A late term fetus may have a functioning immune system or the capacity to regulate its temperature to an extent - this is completely independent of whether the fetus is actually doing so.

>> "Can a human zygote grow into anything other than a further developed human being?"

The preceding dicta aside, this is the nub of Pro's argument. Unfortunately for Pro, this begs the question. The resolution concerns whether a fertilized egg constitutes human life. Pro disingenuously asks whether a fertilized egg can grow into more human life. The answer is we don't know, because Pro has not actually put forth a working definition of "life" yet. Obviously, by the only provided definitions (electrical activity; growth, adaptability, reproduction), a zygote is not alive, and thus Pro's question is meaningless.

It's not that the inquiry is irrelevant per se - Pro just hasn't established the foundation in his argument to answer it.

>> "My use of analogy doesn't attack the substance of Con's claim - it shows that Con's claim has no substance. He attempts to 'set rules' for defining where a journey begins by claiming it must have identical start and end points."

I didn't bother rebutting this analogy in Round 2 mostly because I thought it so obviously irrelevant to the resolution. But since Pro still thinks it is, I'll explain.

First, the beginning and end of electrical activity in the brain are hardly "identical start and end points."

Second, electrical activity is simply the device by which we measure whether the journey is still under way - it's not the end point itself.

Pro's journey analogy in no way represents the argument I made. It's a very, very simple argument. At this point, I suggest that Pro is simply attempting to confuse the reader. A proper rebuttal to the electrical activity argument is to attack the criteria, not to assert that life and death are somehow now indistinguishable (which is, in fact, what Pro's terrible analogy does here).

>> "Intercourse could be/is the starting point....."

And in this paragraph, Pro turns what is clearly an argument from absurdity into a strawman that it is my actual position. Pay him no heed.

>> "Wikipedia offers the following definition - "The term conception commonly refers to fertilization, the successful fusion of gametes to form a new organism.""

Oh, my mistake - Wikipedia is, after all, a dictionary. I'm curious then, whether pro considers conception to have occurred if an egg is fertilized outside the body, but not placed in a womb? Who, I must ask, has conceived?

>> " Person-hood - what it means, when it begins, etc. - would more appropriately be a subject for a different debate."

No doubt because it is highly inconvenient for Pro's argument here...

>> " If it turns out person-hood begins at conception, then it would not negate my resolution. If it happens afterward, then it happens afterward and, therefore, not the beginning point of human life."

And now we see why - Pro all but admits here (I think there is a word missing) that if a zygote is not a person, and personhood is part of human life, then the resolution is negated.

>> "The fact that a second human being develops after the first human being is formed doesn't negate the fact that conception occurred first. "

I'm curious how Pro can possibly square this with the fact that by his own definition, one of the twins did not begin life at conception - it began life at the embryonic stage.

>> " I won't elaborate further on this because Con acknowledged the examples weak spots when he used the example....."Thus, while conception has occurred, there are not two distinct organisms (in the relevant way) - the only possible "distinction" that can be drawn is that they are separate, but identical." It is this 'distinction' that points out the flaws in this example."

Here Pro pretends that when I identified a weak spot concerning dizygotic twins it must also apply to monozygotic twins. As readers will note, at the zygote stage, there is no distinction whatsoever between monozygotic twins.

***********************************************************************

Readers, Pro has chosen to spend the debate quibbling over very minor terms and about distinctions which only arise for his failure to provide an alternative definition of "life."

I provided two alternative definitions of "life"
  1. The point at which electrical activity in the brain begins.
  2. the point at which an organism demonstrates metabolic growth, reproductive capacity, and internal adaptation

Pro has not chosen to rebut either of these as a definition, other than to state that the second is perhaps incomplete. Pro has offered absolutely no rebuttal to the first as a criteria for human life.

Humorously enough, Pro criticizes my argument on the grounds that "human life" is some esoteric principle better suited for another debate, but fails to give any sort of criteria other than the point at which a new distinct human begins to develop.

As I pointed out, this definition cannot account for identical twins. Nor can it account for artificial insemination, unless Pro can answer who has conceived when the egg is fertilized in the lab. Was it the doctor? The non-pregnant donor?

The biggest glaring flaw in Pro's argument, and one he did not address in any way is the idea that a concept like "human life" can be reduced to a checklist of cells and DNA. I submit that "human life" is a complex concept that necessarily includes, at a bare minimum, personhood. Pro's struggle with this point probably stems from the fact that he has not provided a definition of life.

Another flaw is that Pro pretends that since conception is a necessary precondition for life (ignoring test tube babies), that it must be the beginning of life, despite the fact that the organism created at conception is not actually alive by the definition of "life."

But the fundamental flaw in Pro's position is logical. Pro asks in Round 2, "Can a human zygote grow into anything other than a further developed human being?" The response to this illustrates where Pro errs on two counts:
First, the interrogative essentially begs the question - it presumes that a zygote is in fact a human being, a question conclusively answered by the second count;

Second, if a zygote has the capacity to later become a human being, it is therefore presently not a human being.

Combine these elements and we have a startling conclusion:

Pro has not provided a definition for life. Nor has he provided a definition for what distinguishes personhood from human life. His argument begs the question of whether a zygote is a human, and his position fails to address whether a zygote counts as "human life" by virtue of not actually being alive in a meaningful sense.

For these reasons, the resolution is clearly:

NEGATED.

Debate Round No. 3
38 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by 7thSon 4 years ago
7thSon
You're welcome, although he did make some very compelling points. After all, saying life starts at conception just "feels" right, does it not? But how he chose to back-up his stance is what threw me. To say that life only requires conception seems at odds with his point…if the point is life (a person) starts at conception. In addition, to say that the only requirement for life is conception is akin to saying that all you need to make a beach is a grain of sand. All sorts of ingredients go into the receipt of "human". In fact, the ingredients are/can be virtually endless; it just so happens that there is no wrong receipt, just bad results. That being said, he is smart, life has taught him well.
Ya, after rereading, I did get my pro's and con's a bit mixed up! lol
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 4 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
Thanks for the comment 7th... this was a very frustrating debate, made worse by the "RFDs" (if you can call them that) left for Pro.
Posted by 7thSon 4 years ago
7thSon
I found both arguments intriguing. But had I voted, I would have voted for Con. I would have done so based upon Pro's constant assertion that Con did not give an alternate point when life starts; when clearly he did; that being the brain electrical activity. Another reason I believe Pro made the better argument is that Pro unhinged the proverbial "shut door" of Con's absolute judgment, that, conception is when life begins, by the example of the twins. Con dismissed Pro's example with saying that both lives came from the same conception, and therefore both were dependent on the same conception. To which, Pro surmised that if that is true, then life begins with intercourse, because conception requires intercourse. It is here, that to me, Pro lost the argument because instead of addressing the flaw in his logic, as pointed out by Con, he merely shored up his statement by saying all intercourse does not end in conception, therefore life does not start at intercourse.
Now it would seem to me that if "result" is the defining point, as in the result of conception is life, and then I would ask about all the conception that did not survive after the magical moment of the mini "Big Bang"? After all, if intercourse does not always result in conception, what about conception that do not result in life?
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 5 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
Well it looks like you are left with two options then... first, you can admit that the Declaration and the Constitution are fundamentally incompatible on the issue of the alienability of some rights; or second, you could say that the Constitution impermissibly addresses the area of rights to life, in which case, there's really no argument to be had on the issue because we're just disagreeing about which source is better.

In the end, it's just the difference between the idea that rights can only attach to persons and the idea that rights attach to potential persons. Clearly there is a great difference between an embryo and the woman it's carried inside. Stating that they are the same in terms of rights qua abstract rights is obviously different from stating that they are the same in terms of rights qua purpose-for-rights. In fact, the latter is patently absurd.
Posted by Mark1068 5 years ago
Mark1068
Excerpt from Wikipedia regarding the following sentence. (Maybe it's time I stop debating this, huh?)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This sentence has been called "one of the best-known sentences in the English language"[4] and "the most potent and consequential words in American history".[5] The passage has often been used to promote the rights of marginalized people throughout the world, and came to represent a moral standard for which the United States should strive. This view was notably promoted by Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, and argued that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.[6]
Posted by NewCreature 5 years ago
NewCreature
man is good,
way to be a psychic man, are accusing me of voting based on bias simply because I already agree with mark1068 to begin with and because i did not right an essay for my RFD???
you're disrespectful dude. i read the debate and my rfd was brief because this topic is seriously a no brainer.
Posted by Mark1068 5 years ago
Mark1068
Unalienable means exactly what you claim it to mean. In this case unalienable refers to certain rights and, by definition, would mean that these rights are intrinsic and no authority (other that the Creator) would have the power to remove them. Which, to me, begs the question "Did the Founding Fathers understand the meaning of the word?". I can't imagine they didn't, but don't propose to know for sure. If they did know the definition (as we define it today), then I would have to deduce they also believed that the court system, via due process, would be acting on the Creator's behalf when a court temporarily or permanently deprived someone of any unalienable right as punishment for a crime.

Again, I don't propose to know the answers to such seeming discrepancies. I never finished college, nor did I apply much effort while there. Any knowledge I've acquired beyond a high school level has been the result of my being an autodidact.

As you say, it works against me - I agree. However, it works against you, too - does it not? Neither of us can be right when unalienable is held strictly to it's definition. I think the Founding Fathers knew full well that unalienable and inalienable were two, non-synonymous words. I also believe they new the different definitions.

I'm going to research this some. I suspect I'll find numerous debates surrounding this.........

Thank you for the debate! Oh, to let you know - the night I instigated the debate was the first night I found this site. I had no idea what I was doing when I started it (voting time, debate rounds, rules, etc.....still don't know how to italicize! lol). Nor do I invest any stock in my winning - egocentrically or otherwise. The winner and loser of debates surrounding abortion are, typically, won depending on which side of the argument has the greater number of readers.

I am convinced, with absolute certitude, that human life begins at conception and remains equally viable until natural death.
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 5 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
>> "Our Creator endows us with certain unalienable rights - governments are instituted to secure them. Such rights can be taken as punishment by society, provided due process of law is followed and that person found guilty of a crime."

What do you think "unalienable" means?

>> "Allow me to point out my using inalienable when I should have been using unalienable. Slight but critical differences exist between the two, but my mistake was grammatical not fundamental."

This may be a partial source of confusion, but it's largely irrelevant here. Inalienable rights are unable to be transferred without consent. Unalienable rights are unable to be removed. The distinction is largely semantic, but works against you.
Posted by Mark1068 5 years ago
Mark1068
I ran out of room when making that comment but thought I'd wait for you to pounce on it before expounding on it.

The compelling motive I was referring to was that the Founding Fathers knew they were obligated to dismiss the authority of England over them - they were morally compelled to refuse to be subject to the King's laws because they were tyrannical. All 18 complaints in some way violated fundamental, intrinsic human rights. I never said God condemned the King, anywhere, directly or implicitly. (I hope your taking my statements out of context is accidental, despite the fact that it's beginning to seem habitual.) "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,...." (except from the Declaration). Our Creator endows us with certain unalienable rights - governments are instituted to secure them. Such rights can be taken as punishment by society, provided due process of law is followed and that person found guilty of a crime.

By no empirical, objective test exists to define 'person-hood' I meant person-hood - not definitions as a whole. Allow me to restate - no definition of person-hood exists that is singular enough to determine the value of a human being. Person-hood is defined by different sources differently and, often, more than one definition is offered. It is, therefore, too subjective to make it a requisite in determining human viability. A definition of living and human being are the only necessary definitions needed to answer the question of when human life begins.

*Allow me to point out my using inalienable when I should have been using unalienable. Slight but critical differences exist between the two, but my mistake was grammatical not fundamental.
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 5 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
>> "'Odd' that I think objective morality exists???"

Yes, odd - not because you think that no empirical, objective test exists for determining a definition, but are willing to say that objectivity concerning moral propositions exists. A definition is a definition precisely because it IS objective. If I define an apple as a piece of red fruit, but you define it as a piece of yellow fruit - we are not having a disagreement about a subjective term... your definition is incorrect. In the case of abstractions like humanity we can argue all day about which is correct and which is not, but at the end of the day, one definition will be correct. Curiously, however, objectivity in definitions does seem to exhibit the peculiar property of being one of the only objective standards that is obtained by convergence... but then again, that's not a problem with the concept - that's just how language works.

>> "No society/government can make legal that which God condemns"

Oshit, I shouldn't be eating pork then huh? Do you think Lawrence v. Texas was wrongly decided?

>> "This was the compelling motive behind the Founding Fathers creating the Declaration of Independence to begin with."

Lolwut!?!? There are 18 complaints in the Declaration of Independence. Which of them, if any, supports the idea that God's condemnation of the King was relevant to these complaints?
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by BennyW 5 years ago
BennyW
Mark1068JustCallMeTarzanTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con was unable to refute the assertion that conception is the starting point of human life.
Vote Placed by Man-is-good 5 years ago
Man-is-good
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Reasons for voting decision: I'm nullifying NewCreature's vote...I did originally intend on voting on the debate but seeing NewCreature's vague RFD (which is made even more suspicious by the fact that she agreed with Mark before the debate...indicating bias) convinced me to cancel NewCreature's vote until he can post a far clearer RFD.
Vote Placed by imabench 5 years ago
imabench
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Reasons for voting decision: I think human life develops when the heart muscles form and function. Pro failed to provide a good example of life beginning at conception and Con failed to provide an alternative, however when the Pro accuses the pro choice argument as intellectual fraud was very offensive so conduct went to con....
Vote Placed by Nur-Ab-Sal 5 years ago
Nur-Ab-Sal
Mark1068JustCallMeTarzanTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Very close debate.
Vote Placed by NewCreature 5 years ago
NewCreature
Mark1068JustCallMeTarzanTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Solid arguments by Pro.