The Instigator
Pro (for)
4 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

The Unborn Are Persons From Fertilization

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/9/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,469 times Debate No: 23507
Debate Rounds (4)
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I would like to thank Elvroin for debating this with me. I will lead off with my argument in this round, but first a few definitions/terms.

This debate will be about when "personhood" should be assigned to a human entity (either while unborn, at birth, or some point after birth). My position is that the unborn should be assigned "personhood," that is, basic human rights including the right to life, at fertilization. In order to win this debate, Elvroid must either show why my qualification for personhood fails, or offer his own qualification and show why his should be accepted in lieu of mine.

I generally dislike using the term "person", as it is a term that allows for the legal discrimination of a group of humans. It has been used to discriminate against Jews by the Germans in the Holocaust, and it has been used to discriminate against blacks in the United States by allowing them to be slaves and/or killed without moral justification.

I should also point out that when I use the word "value," it means that an entity's life should be protected. As in, the unborn are as valuable as we are and therefore should have the same right to life we enjoy.

I will now make my case.

I will put my argument in the form of a syllogism and then support my premises with evidence.

Premise 1: From fertilization, the preborn are biological members of humanity.
Premise 2: All members of humanity are intrinsically valuable based on the kind of thing they are, humans.
Premise 3: It is prima facie wrong to kill an innocent human being.
Premise 4: Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being.
Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is generally immoral.

Premise 1

Embryologists, who are the experts in the field, consistently agree that life begins at fertilization. For example, from the most-used textbook on embryology, the authors note: "Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a 'moment') is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte." [1]

Here's another example:"Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." [2]

And another: "Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization... This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development." [3]

On top of that, the more sophisticated pro-choice philosophers, like Judith Jarvis Thompson (who came up with the famous analogy of the violinist), and Peter Singer, accept the full humanity of the preborn. Peter Singer has noted, “It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo sapiens’. Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.” [4]

It's simply common sense. We know the preborn are alive because they grow. Non-living and dead things don't grow. They also exhibit other signs of life including metabolism and cell division. The preborn have human DNA, and they are the product of human parents. Creatures reproduce after their own kind; dogs have dogs, cats have cats, and humans have humans. At no point in human development is a member of humanity a "non-human."

This is also different from saying that a hair follicle has human DNA, so it is wrong to pluck them out. Zygotes/embryos/fetuses are unique individual humans, developing from within, made up of all the individual parts. A hair follicle must stay plugged in to the parent organism to function. However, the parent organism can still function even if he/she loses parts of their body. The zygote/embryo/fetus is a full human organism made up of individual parts of which it develops from within, not constructed like a car.

The pro-life position is that life begins at fertilization, which is supported by science. The pro-choice position places "human life" at certain arbitrary points which change from human to human. The pro-life position is the only consistent one.

Premise 2

Human value is an intrinsic value, not an instrumental one. Most people agree that humans outside the womb are valuable and should be protected. People decry the loss of innocent human life, especially when those lives lost are children. Human value is not something we get in degrees, it's something we either have or don't have. A pre-born human is just as valuable as a born human, and any reason used to rationalize abortion due to the preborn human being "different" leads to discrimination and would allow us to discriminate against someone outside the womb who fits those same characteristics.

Premise 3

When I say the preborn are innocent human beings, I am not talking "spiritually" innocent, but physically innocent. They have committed no crime, and certainly not anything worthy of being killed for it. The only thing they have done is exist, and in the vast majority of cases it was through a consensual action of two people. If two people engage in a consensual act that results in the creation of a new, needy human life, they bear a responsibility to care for that life.

Premise 4

Every abortion takes the life of a new, unique, living member of humanity, which has an intrinsic value just based on being human. Abortions take the life of an innocent, unique human being and is therefore immoral.

My contention is that because the preborn are biological members of humanity, and killing an innocent member of humanity is wrong, then killing an unborn human being is likewise wrong. The resolution stands affirmed.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to Con's response.

[1] Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8.
[2] Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. p. 16.
[3] William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology, New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998. p. 1

[4] Peter Singer,Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 85-86.


Thank you, KeytarHero, for being willing to Debate this topic. Note to all: Links I include will begin "ht... ", so the web site software won't damage them. Copy the link-string to a blank web page and replace the initial dots with appropriate/normal web-address characters.

Let me start by agreeing that the concept of "person" is one that has indeed been misused at various times and places. The reason it *can* be misused is because it is a construct of the Law, and not something that is as easy to define as, say, a rock (more on that later). As a result, many business corporations have the status of "persons", despite the fact that they are social constructs, not biological organisms. And, of course, if the Law is changed....

It might be noted that a variety of entities are currently disqualified, per the Law, from personhood. Unborn humans are on that list, which is why this Debate exists. But also on that list are many ordinary animals, from mites to bears, and all plants, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and machines.

After reviewing Pro's argument, I think I can conclude that its foundation is simply this: "human = person". Details don't matter. Logically, if there is any flaw in that equation, then details *will* matter.

Well, does the equation work both ways ("person = human")? What about corporations? Let us ignore those, since all known corporations consist of humans working together as a group, behind the *overall* label of "person".

How about the realm of speculative literature? If it is possible to *imagine* that some sort of non-human might qualify as a person, then is there any reason to think such could *never* exist for real? So, here is an abbreviated list:

1. "E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial", as portrayed in a movie. Clearly non human. In the movie, human children who interacted with that entity wasted little time deciding it was something more than just an animal. What criteria did they use, to reach that decision?

2. In the fictional realms of "Star Wars" and "Star Trek", very many non-human entities are portrayed as interacting on a fully equal basis with humans. It seems obvious that the *default* assumption of those realms is rather different from the equation "person = human". I will use the phrase "person-class" to refer to non-humans that are described in such a way that they likely qualify for genuine-person status. A particularly unusual person-class entity, in the Original Star Trek show "Metamorphosis", is described as being "made of simple electricity" (not just non-biological, but non-molecular!).

3. Dragons, variously. In China dragons are wise beings, definitely person-class, while in the West they are often portrayed as being merely beasts, with some exceptions (see the movie "Dragonheart"). Some stories describe them as being *both* --that is, the dragons themselves consider their own youngsters to be no more than animals, until after they've lived and grown for perhaps a couple hundred years.

4. The Martians of Robert A. Heinlein's books, "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Red Planet" are being listed here specifically because of their reproductive biology. They are "R-strategists"; they produce many offspring at a time, which are released into "the wild" and mostly allowed to die. They *know* that their offspring are not person-class, and don't become person-class until after they do a significant amount of growing in the wild (if they survive). Meanwhile, humans are "K-strategists" who have relatively few offspring, and provide each with a lot of protective care. A relevant link: ht..../

5. Ents, from "The Lord of the Rings" tales, are portrayed as interacting in a person-class way, even though their biology is plant-based, so they have a natural preference for doing things slowly, most of the time. It might be noted that most plants do "R-strategy" reproduction (and most of their seeds get eaten).

6. Before modern science figured out what viruses actually were, but after they were discovered, there was an opportunity for writers to speculate about them wildly. One of the resulting novels is a classic, "Needle", by Hal Clement. It assumed that viruses could act like cells, and that, cooperating as ordinary cells do, person-class organisms could evolve into existence. Such an organism could be quite small because its component "cells" were so extremely small. The science is now known to be faulty, but the concept of "person" was certainly stretched.

7. Molecule-sized person-class entities were imagined in the book "Dragon's Egg", by Robert L. Forward. Their bodies were made of "degenerate matter"; they lived on the surface of a neutron star, and their physical-body energy sources were of nuclear magnitude, not chemical. Science has not yet ruled out the possibility that such organisms might exist. A link: ht..../

8. "The Bicentennial Man", a movie based on a story by Isaac Asimov, is about a robot that seeks person status --and earns it.

9. God must be non-human because God is supposed to have existed before humans began to exist. So, if God qualifies as (at least!) a person-class entity, then that proves that not even a physical body, much less a human body, is needed for personhood to exist.

From the preceding it should be possible to conclude that the equation "person = human" is *very* *probably* flawed. Therefore two primary options appear to logically follow:

1. We can make a list, something like: "human = person", "E.T.-species = persons", "Yoda-species = persons", "Klingon = person", .... It would include actual not fictional species, of course, and we would have to scour the whole Universe to make the list complete, and it could end up being a very long list.

2. We can generalize the concept of "person". What qualities do persons of *any* type possess, that distinguish them from ordinary animals and plants? Well, the details can wait; let's focus on the consequences.

For the second option, it is quite logical that any organism failing to possess the generic qualities of personhood *can't* be anything more than a "mere plant" or a "mere animal". And "failing organisms" could very well include many growth stages of the offspring of persons, *especially* shortly after fertilization, when it consists of just a few biological cells (or equivalent).

Abortion opponents won't like that, so they'll probably prefer option #1, despite the amount of work it will entail to create that list. That's because, for *almost* any species on the list, "details won't matter", and killing offspring at any growth stage could be prohibited.

"almost"? Yes; that is why the reproductive "R-strategy" was mentioned above. Just *one* person-class species, anywhere in the Universe, employing R-strategy reproduction, would "plug into" Pro's argument this way (call it "species-R"):

1. From fertilization, the preborn are biological members of species-R.
2. All members of species-R are intrinsically valuable based on the kind of thing that they are, species-R.

We can stop there. Remember than when an R-strategist breeds, hundreds or even thousands of offspring can result (oysters can manage hundreds *of* thousands). Is it in any way *possible* for R-strategist parents to provide K-strategy care for that quantity of "intrinsically valuable" offspring???

I formally invite you to think about the Law of Supply and Demand, and remember that "price" relates to "valuation": ht..../

Pro's argument is fundamentally flawed because the mere *claim* that something is intrinsically valuable needs to be proved, and he hasn't done it. And if he can't prove it, then that means the offspring of *any* person-class species can actually be arbitrarily valued. The conclusion of his argument then becomes invalid due to Bad Logic.
Debate Round No. 1


I would again like to thank Elvroin for taking the time to debate this issue.

I would like to begin by pointing out that the unborn are not disqualified for personhood (at least in the United States). In fact, wantedness defines the unborn's status in this country. If an unborn child is unwanted, they are considered no better than trash to be disposed of as we please (e.g. through abortion). If they are wanted, they are considered persons and we treat them like any other person. If the unborn has a treatable defect in the womb (such as spina bifida), then they are treated like patients. Also, if a pregnant woman is murdered and the unborn child also dies, the murderer is charged with two counts of murder (such as in the fairly recent case of Scott Peterson who murdered his pregnant wife and was given a harsher punishment due to killing two people).

I would like to amend Con's definition. It is not exactly true under my argument that human=person. My argument is that if we define "person" as someone deserving of basic human rights, including the right not to be killed (the most fundamental of all rights, since without that right you cannot enjoy any other right), then the unborn from fertilization should be considered persons for the reasons given.

Obviously the details do matter. As is stated in my argument, it is prima facie wrong to kill an innocent human. Sometimes it is morally justified to kill an innocent person (e.g. in a just war, as innocent deaths can't always be prevented), and we are morally justified in pulling the plug on a brain-dead human. My argument is that if we're going to kill the unborn, we need a morally justifiable reason.

Under my argument, all entites were were similar to humans would be included. I don't mean similar in appearance. Remember that my reason for considering all humans valuable is that we all (unborn and born) have the inhernt capacity as moral, rational creatures. Any exterrestrial or fantastic creature that would exist, if they have the same qualities that make us valuable, would also be deserving of basic rights, including the right to life (which is the most fundamental of rights). It would be just as wrong to abort a Vulcan or Klingon unborn child as it would be to abort a human child.

So it is unfortunate, but Con's entire last round was used attacking a Strawman of my actual argument. Nothing he said last round rebutted my qualifications for basic human rights, and he did not offer any qualifications that should supercede the ones I gave.

As such, I extend my argument (as he has not even refuted a single premise) into the next round.


KeytarHero, thank you for continuing this Debate.

What you wrote about doctors "treating the unborn like any other person" is not accurate. Most doctors specialize in learning about the human *animal* *body*. (Veterinarians generalize, for many animal bodies.) It doesn't matter if *any* human qualifies as a person or not; it's *body* is still the type of animal that most doctors specialize in treating.

Next, there is a *specific* way in which *all* unborn humans are *not* counted as legal persons. They are quite literally not counted during the *Constitutionally* *required* decennial *Census* of *persons*. The Founding Fathers started that in 1790; they didn't count chickens before they were hatched, and they didn't count persons before they were born. And no unborn human has ever been counted in any Census since.

Next, your attempt to "amend" the equation "human=person" did not actually amend it at all. In regular words, the equation states "*All* humans are persons". That *is* your side of what we are Debating here! The reversed equation is "all persons are humans" --and *that* is very probably wrong (especially for anyone who believes God exists).

The notion of "inherent value" is an oxymoron. Something that is "inherent" can be Objectively Measured, like the hardness of a diamond. But *ALL* values are Subjective, not Objective. That's why the Law of Supply and Demand applies even to adult human lives, for example, whenever some boss fires you and doesn't care if you starve to death, by saying, "There are plenty more where *you* came from!"

So your argument is still broken; "inherent value" simply does not exist. Period.

The word "being" has several definitions. The way it is used in the phrase "for the time being" is different from the way it is used in the phrase "The unbearable lightness of being". And of course yet another meaning is tied to the phrase "human being".

Abortion opponents are very fond of the phrase "human being". They very frequently use it when talking about an unborn human. Why? Why isn't the word "human" sufficient by itself? Suppose we were talking about rabbits instead of humans. How often would the phrase "rabbit being" appear in the conversation? Almost never, right? Because the word "rabbit" *is* sufficient, by itself!

So, somehow, the word "being" has a special meaning in the phrase "human being", so special that the word very seldom gets used when talking about other living things. Phrases such as "radish beings" or "eel beings" or "paramecium beings" basically just *don't* get used!

But! There *is* one area of human communication where "being" *does* frequently get used for other living things. In the literature of science fiction, there are "alien beings", "extraterrestrial beings", and "intelligent beings" galore!

And therefore the *special* meaning of the word "being" is revealed: It is a synonym for "person". So, we don't talk about rabbit beings because we don't consider rabbits to be persons. Ditto for radish beings/persons. And so on.

Thus, the reason abortion opponents are so fond of the phrase "human being", when talking about an unborn human, is: They are trying to *subtly* convince you that the unborn human is a person.

But that is Bad Logic. They need to prove it is a person *before* they start calling it a "human being"! Perfectly human, that unborn organism most certainly is. But a person? *Not* *just* *because* *you* *call* *it* *one* (using phrase-trickery)!

And now I invite you to think about the phrases "zygote being", "blastocyst being", "embryo being", and "fetus being". Because, to whatever degree any of those phrases seem as "wrong" as "rabbit being", that is the degree to which some part of you thinks that development stage, of an unborn human, actually isn't a person. Regardless of all the anti-abortion propaganda out there!

Various people who oppose abortion make an argument based on the idea that the average human organism is a kind of "continuum" in terms of its growth and existence. Abortion in the broader sense can only affect the stages of the continuum between conception and birth (would include any type of "morning after pill" that can prevent pregnancy from even beginning).

After birth the continuum of a human life proceeds for a hopefully long time. And a natural death would be the preferred end. Obviously an abortion would interrupt that continuum. But if, in general, a human life should not be interrupted, then what can possibly be the rationale for allowing abortion?

In other words, how is a minutes-from-being born human so significantly different from a just-born human that the latter can be called a "human person", and has legal rights under the U.S. Constitution, but the former somehow escapes receiving such rights, as if it was no more than a "human animal"?

Why aren't the two morally/ethically equivalent? Well, it just so happens that there actually is an *exact* answer to that question.

Prior to birth, *including* the last few minutes before birth, the "modus operandi" by which an unborn human survives is this: It *takes* biological resources from someone else, *without* *asking* *permission*.

After birth, a newborn human is physically almost totally helpless, and so a new "modus operandi" for survival is required: It accepts gifts. Note that while any other newborn mammal can reach a teat by itself, and *take* nourishment, a newborn human must be *carried* to a teat; it can't take nourishment without active help.

As an aside, it might be mentioned that various ancient human cultures, such as Rome, were quite willing to practice infanticide simply by withholding the gift of a teat. Apparently the Romans (and others) assumed that physically defective newborns didn't deserve that gift. Well, that was then, and is not relevant today, when our Constitution basically (using different words than these!) grants newborns the *right* to be given access to a teat. (Aside ends.)

Now, why is that distinction, the difference birth makes, so important in terms of morals/ethics? Let us sneak up on the answer by looking at an exaggeration, courtesy of the realm of fantastic fiction.

The stories describe intelligent humanish entities who at first glance would qualify as "persons" under the U.S. Constitution. In the classic stories any one of these entities is often a Bad Guy, who has a "modus operandi" of survival that involves *taking* biological resources from someone else without asking permission....

That act is considered to be so immoral and/or unethical that there is a classic penalty for it --and no judge or jury is required, either! A wooden stake should be driven through the heart of a "vampire".

Opponents of abortion talk about how the procedure "stops a beating heart" --while completely ignoring the fact that the organism containing that heart was behaving at least as immorally/unethically as a vampire. Actually, the unborn human is *worse* --because only it *also* dumps its toxic biological waste products into the body of someone else, *still* without asking permission.

Arguments like "An unborn human is totally unable to ask permission", and "It doesn't understand what it is doing", don't work. Basically, the unborn human is *either* a dumb parasitic "human animal" with no *right* to life, *or* it is a person who is *more* immoral/unethical than a vampire. Therefore, *no* woman should need encounter either judge or jury or any other legal nonsense, to seek an abortion, if she doesn't want her blood sucked and poisoned by an unborn human.

(In the next Debate Round, I'll destroy the "implied granting of permission by having sex" argument.)

Meanwhile, a newborn human is still physically unable to behave immorally or unethically. It is indeed innocent. And it is protected by the Constitution.
Debate Round No. 2


I would again like to thank Elvroin for taking the time to respond to my debate challenge.

Actually, what I said about doctors treating the unborn like any other person is entirely accurate, as I showed last round. If an unborn child is wanted, she is treated like a person, even receiving life-saving treatment in the womb. If the unborn are not wanted, they are given a very different surgery. One designed not to heal them, but to kill them.

I didn't say that the unborn were considered "legal" persons, just that they are treated as persons if they are wanted. The unborn are not counted in the census because under the Fourteenth Amendment they are not U.S. citizens. This does not mean they don't have a right to life, since it is immoral to kill illegal immigrants in the U.S. despite their not being citizens.

As a matter of fact, my amenment to Con's argument did, in fact, amend it. Con claims I am saying that all humans are persons, but this is not the case. Individual human cells have human DNA but they are not persons. This is because they are not separate organisms, like the unborn are (as I have already justified and Con has not argued against). Being human is a sufficient condition, not a necessary condition for basic human rights. This is why intelligent alien species would qualify, as well as God or angels would qualify. They are not human, but they have the same qualities that gives humans intrinsic value: the inherent capacity as rational, moral agents.

Additionally, Con uses an invalid conversion of his own Strawman argument, creating another Strawman argument. All persons are not necessarily humans, because intelligent alien species, as well as God and angels, should also be considered to be persons.

Let me now direct your attention to the definition of inherent: adjective: 1. Existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute.
[1] Remember that in round one I defined value as that which gives someone (born or unborn) the right to life. We are inherently valuable based on the kind of thing we are, living human organisms. We are living human organisms from fertilization, so our inherent value never changes. Inherent value certainly does exist, and my usage of the phrase is perfectly reasonable.

Con's rabbit trail of the word "being" (apart from beginning with an equivocation) is a complete red herring and does nothing to detract from my argument. We are all human beings. The unborn are living human organisms from fertilization, just as we are living human organisms. The unborn are human beings just as we are human beings. It has nothing to do with subtly trying to convince someone of anything.

I have already proven that the unborn is a person, and Con has, thus far, failed to refute my definition of personhood, and he has failed to provide his own. He merely begs the question, assuming that the unborn are not persons without providing any justification for his claim.

A quick note about level of development (since Con brought it up). It is not adequate criteria for ascribing personhood. For example, toddlers are less developed than adults. Yet (almost) no one believes it is morally justifiable to kill them. The reason murder is illegal is because it kills a human being. As such, abortion should also be illegal because it kills a human being. If you cannot kill a human outside the womb simply for being less developed, neither is it moral to kill an unborn child for that same reason.

Here, Con takes a bizarre turn. He starts arguing from the right to refuse, and no doubt the right to refuse is a very strong argument in favor of aborton. But the right to refuse arguments accept that the unborn are human, and are persons! This completely undermines Con's entire argument, since he is arguing against the unborn's personhood, and even their humanity. If Con is correct, then right to refuse arguments are essentially useless. It's perfectly fine to kill the unborn for any reason, so no right to refuse is necessary.

However, Con is not correct, as I have demonsrated. So I will address the right to refuse argument he brought up.

It is simply silly to hold the unborn accountable for taking biological resources from someone else without asking permission. In the vast, vast majority of cases, sex was consensual. Therefore, the mother and father are responsible for the unborn child's creation and the unborn child's state of neediness (as Con stated, "taking biological resources from someone else").

But you might ask yourself, what about rape? Rape certainly is a horrible tragedy, one that no woman should ever have to go through. It's a travesty that rapists are almost never punished and when they are, they are never punished enough. But why should the child pay for his life for the crimes of his father? Shouldn't we hold the rapist, not the child, accountable? Having an abortion is not going to make the woman forget about the rape. Why compound one act of violence upon another?

Let me offer an analogy. Say two woman are raped. One has an abortion, one gives birth to the child. This child becomes two years old and suddenly starts to take on the features of the rapist, to where whenever the mother looks upon the child she is filled with rage to the point she wants this child dead. Is she morally justified in killing this child? I would hope you would say no. If no, then why not? Why can't she kill the two-year-old child outside the womb, but she can kill the unborn child inside the womb? Both are human beings.

Con's examples of modus operandi are irrelevant. It is true that the unborn child is completely dependent on the woman, but so is the infant that must breastfeed on the mother. So why is it okay to kill the unborn child but not the born child? Becaus of modus operandi? Certainly not! Both are completely dependent upon the woman for their survival. If it is wrong to kill an infant who is completely dependent upon her mother, then why is it justfiable to kill an unborn child for the same reason?

Con's appeal to the ancient Romans is irrelevant. It is an appeal to popular opinion. The Romans were wrong to kill infants, as can be philosophically justified.

Here, also, Con presents a severely fallacious understanding of responsibility. The vampires are in the wrong and should be stopped because they are aware of what they are doing, and what they are doing is wrong. They are malevolent beings. It is unfortunate that they require blood to survive, but if vampires existed there could likely be ways to sate the vampires' hunger without resorting to them sucking other peoples' blood (for example, set up some kind of blood donor program for vampires).

Con is simply incorrect by claiming the unborn are just as immoral/unethical as vampires. First, as I explained, the mother and father are responsible for the child's being there. The child is not responsible for that. Second, the unborn do not understand what they are doing, so they don't bear responsibility as the vampires do. However, this is largely a moot point since pregnancy is a natural process. The woman's body is designed to get pregnant and to care for the child while she is pregnant.

Therefore, unborn children are not parasites. Con begs the question by stating that they are unable to ask permission and they don't understand what they are doing are not valid. I have shown that they are valid objections and Con simply assumes they are not valid.

I have supported my argument in spades, and Con has failed to rebut my qualifications. I might also remind Con that no one "destroys" an argument. No one has the last word on any argument. I have already shown why she grants permissin by having sex briefly, but apparently more on that next round.



Thank you, KeytarHero, for continuing this Debate.

In my first posting to this Debate, I stated, "We can generalize the concept of 'person'. What qualities do persons of *any* type possess, that distinguish them from ordinary animals and plants?"

Pro has attempted to provide a definition, while also talking about "value".: " reason for considering all humans valuable is that we all (unborn and born) have the inherent capacity as moral, rational creatures. Any extraterrestrial or fantastic creature that would exist, if they have the same qualities, [would basically also be persons.]"

First, the Universe doesn't care *what* human (or other) *opinions* are, about their so-called "inherent value". If such *actually* existed, then (to pick a "reductio ad absurdum" example) no blizzard would ever kill *any* human, because the blizzard would somehow fail to destroy "inherent value", the same way a blizzard actually *would* fail to destroy a sufficiently and *inherently* strong concrete-and-steel bunker. See how absurd the concept of "inherent value" *really* is?

*All* the "right to life" *really* is, is a *subjective* *agreement*, between entities *able* to make such an agreement. Yes, the agreement has widely been extended to encompass various others that cannot understand it. No, that doesn't mean it *must* be extended to encompass *all* others who can't understand it (bacteria and unborn humans, to name two).

Next, Pro is misunderstanding the difference between "capacity" and "reality". My pocket has the capacity to hold some money, but that doesn't mean there is actually any money in my pocket. Nor can I go up to the average roadside vendor with an empty pocket and say, "See this capacity for holding money? I want to spend some of that money here, thanks!" Basically, *things* *that* *don't* *actually* *exist* *are* *utterly* *ignorable*.

Unborn humans certainly exist, but *none* of them have the *actuality* of ethics and rationality. Just like most ordinary animals, they indeed are not persons!

Let's examine some Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) research. Multiple scientific disciplines are involved, from biologists studying the structure of the human brain, to engineers copying things learned ("biomimicry"). We have "neural nets", "multiprocessor systems", "expert systems", "natural language processing", "self-editing software", "genetic algorithms", "Turing Test contests", advances in miniaturization, and even systems that are *evolving* more and more intelligence.





Researchers are very confident that it will be one day possible (and likely, because of continuing miniaturization progress, within 20 years) to build an electronic brain that has *greater* processing power than a human, in *every* respect. It will be a true A.I. that, just like the average adult human, will have Free Will and be able to understand ethics and experience emotions, and be able to "mentally put itself in the shoes of another". Its ancestry will guarantee that it will be rational; we could call it a "machine organism", not a biological organism.

Plus, at that time we *could* build such an A.I. system into an automated factory, so that it can construct many more A.I. "offspring". So, per Pro's argument about "capacity" and "inherent value", we *must* let those offspring organisms be constructed in endless numbers (consuming lots of resources), once the factory/A.I. is activated, right?

If we prejudicially favor humans over A.I. organisms, then what does that *really* tell us about "inherent value" and "capacity"? Pro's argument is absurd! --that's what it tells us!

Most ordinary animals have a "breeding season". Biology strongly urges them to breed when it arrives; the sexes ignore each other "that way" the rest of the time. Also, most female mammals manage to care for their offspring by themselves, and their offspring generally help by being independently active within hours of birth.

But humans *don't* have a breeding season, and our offspring are so helpless that the chance of successful child-raising increases a great deal if a female human can obtain assisstance. So: ht..../

Human biology allows females to use sex to encourage males to provide help. We can indulge in sex at almost any time, therefore, not merely when successful breeding might happen. *This* *is* *fundamentally* *important*. Because the *primary* purpose of human sex is not breeding; it is "pair bonding". Of course, humans that indulge in sex *often* enough are relatively likely to do so during ovulation, which can lead to offspring....

A given pair of adults can therefore end up with about the same total number of offspring that some other species will have using the "breeding season" method (assuming both typically produce one offspring at a time). In other words, the fact was not detrimental, that our species shifted its reproductive biology away from the breeding-season model.

Certainly humans can specifically target ovulation in a deliberate attempt to breed. But this is *far* from the usual case! Meanwhile, abortion opponents tend to spout nonsense implying that humans "do" follow a breeding-season model, such that when sex leads to pregnancy, the participants "should have known better". Despite hidden ovulation!

The next relevant things are some details of the reproductive process. Here's a simple cause-and-effect statement: "Ordinary sexual intercourse causes virginity to end." Truth! Now, what about this one: "Sex causes pregnancy."? *Not* the Truth!

Throughout history about 1/7 of heterosexual couples were naturally unable to have offspring, no matter how much sex they had. Some fraction of them never had a pregnancy in the first place, much less a miscarriage. So, if the statement "Sex causes pregnancy" was *actually* as True as "Sex ends virginity", there would *never* be cases like those.

What sex *really* does in *allow* some *independent* *living* *organisms*, sperm and egg, a chance to interact. They are *not* *forced* to interact. By the way, the egg *chooses* which sperm --*if* *any*-- will fertilize it:

Fertilization yields a new and *different* independent organism, a zygote. After a few days it becomes a blastocyst that seeks to implant in a womb. *If* it succeeds (and many don't), *only* *then* does pregnancy begin. But it is not *forced* to succeed, *just* because two adults indulged in sex. Not to mention that its success might only be temporary:

A huge percentage of abortions are done because various common forms of birth control happened to fail; abortion is thus a "second line of defence" with respect to not having offspring. It is literally not credible for an abortion opponent to claim that those pregnancies were "granted permission". That's like saying that if you can succeed at robbing a bank, you must have had permission. Utterly false, it is!

Finally, because we have Free Will, we *very* *often* refuse to accept a given situation. So we irrigate a desert, or put a flood-control dam on a river. Or seek an abortion. The unborn *only* have potential not actual personhood, and they can have low value because they are usually *very* easy to replace!
Debate Round No. 3


I would, once again, like to thank Elvroin for this debate.

Con talks about what the "Universe" cares about, but this is irrelevant. Even though people die in natural disasters, this doesn't justify committing murder. Natural disasters are just that; natural. They make not distinction between living creature or natural structure.

I have already justified my position on what the unborn deserve a right to life and Con has not actually challenged it. In fact, he hasn't challenged a single premise of my original argument, so it stands.

Con tries to make a distinction between "capacity" and "reality," but his distinction fails. His pockt has the capacity to hold money. The reality is that his pocket has the capacity to hold money. His pocket does not have the potential to hold money, because that's what his pocket actually does. His pocket does have the potential to have money in it, but the ability to hold money is not a potential. It's an actual. As such, the unborn are actual humans, but potential toddlers. As the unborn are actual humans, they have the inherent capacity as rational, moral creatures. They don't have the actual ability, they have the potential for it. But the reality is they have the capacity for it, and given the chance to continue on their natural course of development they will eventually have the actual ability for it.

I'm not sure how we would treat A.I.'s that appear like humans in the future. They may not have a right to life because unlike us, they don't have the inherent capacity as moral, rational creatures. They will still be machines. How would you be actually be able to know if they are really moral, rational creatures or merely acting within the programming and mimicking rationality? At any rate, we don't have an obligation to bringing potential life into the world. If the only way for these A.I.'s to reproduce would be to construct a new one, we have no obligation to do so, just like we have no obligation to use the cells in our bodies to clone other humans. We have no obligation to potentiality. This is different than the unborn, because they are actual humans, so we do have an obligation to care for them. However, we can morally use contraception to prevent conception of a new human because you can't harm a being that doesn't exist.

Con's argumet about "breeding seasons" is bizarre. First, appealing to other animals' breeding seasons to look at us is an argument from nature, a logical fallacy. Just because it occurs in nature does not mean we must follow the same pattern. Second, pro-lifers don't imply that humans follow a breeding season. Any time a couple has sex it could lead to pregnancy; we know this from observation. With sex comes the possibility of pregnancy, so whenever a couple has sexual relations they should be aware of this fact.

Con states that "sex causes pregnancy" is not a fact. One might ask Con how he believes people get pregnant. His argument from the number of heterosexual couples getting pregnant, despite the fact that he didn't source it so I don't think we can accept it as true, is irrelevant. Some couples take years before they conceive their first child; some are never able to conceive. This doesn't mean that sex doesn't cause pregnanct. Not everyone breaks out in acne from eating chocolate, but chocolate is still a cause of acne (I can attest to this).

Whether the egg "chooses" to get fertilized or not is irrelevant. The act of sex is what results in the woman becoming pregnant. The only way to completely ensure she doesn't become pregnant is to abstain, as couples do get pregnant even using contraceptives.

Con actually helps to make my case here. The zygote is a new living [human] organism. As such, they deserve to be protected (as I have made my case elsewhere). I have already made my case that the unborn are new, unique living human organisms, and deserve a right to life. Con has not argued against my criteria, and he has not argued against any of my premises. As such, my argument stands.

Thanks again to Con for debating this with me.


Thank you, KeytarHero, for continuing this Debate.

In your first post you wrote, "In order to win this debate, Elvroin must either show why my qualification for personhood fails, *OR* offer his own qualification and show why his should be accepted in lieu of mine." (Emphasis on "or" is mine.)

Any argument has two aspects, "data" and "connections". My arguments have focused on *parts* of Pro's data, but more on the connections. I need no alternate definition of personhood (see "or" above). Revealed flaws are:

1. It is fallacious to talk about "inherent value", because all valuations are Subjective, not Objective. A large percentage of killings in history are directly tied to the *fact* that various humans, or groups of humans, valued themselves more than they valued other humans or groups. (Some killings, say by man-eating tigers or disease bacteria, happen because humans have value as "food".) And the Law of Supply and Demand truly *does* apply, even among adult humans. Peasants/workers have always, everywhere on Earth, been valued less than lords/bosses, because peasants are so "common" (that's more a *definition* than a pun). Well, it happens that unborn humans are *very* easy to make, by most sexually active adults. We may not make them hundreds at a time like an "R-strategist", but we can easily make them faster than we can accommodate them. Therefore, per the Law of Supply and Demand, they tend to have less value than things which are difficult to make. Yes, since *all* valuations are Subjective, the unborn tend to be valued highly by the subset of humans who naturally have difficulty making them, but who says *their* valuation of the unborn must be forced upon others?

The concept of a "right to life" is an Ideal, such that, *at* *least*, anyone able to understand it would have reason to agree to it. Obviously, you don't have to worry so much about being killed just because you are in someone else's way (or other trivial excuse). Logically, that "right" need not be granted to organisms such as tigers or bacteria, which are unable to understand it.

It is *pragmatic* that we grant "right to life" to organisms such as young humans, which also are unable to understand it. If we want the human species to persist, at least some young humans must be protected. How do we decide which? Different cultures have used different criteria. In ancient Rome, physically defective newborns were specifically denied protection. In modern America, the unborn are *generically* denied protection.

Note that "denying protection" and "actively killing" are two different things, which Pro seems confused about. The average tree in the woods is not generically protected, either, but that doesn't mean it must therefore and automatically be chopped down. Likewise, even though no unborn human in modern America is generically protected, most of them are *not* aborted.

And none of Pro's arguments have changed the above *facts*.

2. It is fallacious to claim that an empty bag must be valued as much as a full bag. That is, by focusing on their *capacity* to hold morals and rationality, Pro is admitting that unborn humans are the equivalent of "empty bags". Pro seems to think the *bag* should be valued, just because of what it *might* someday contain --and in fact it might not, as proved by the existence of "serial killers". It is simply *irrational* to confuse an empty bag with a full bag!

3. It is fallacious to mis-use the word "being". A common definition of "being" is "something that exists", and certainly unborn humans exist --but so also do radishes. We still don't typically say "radish beings" in any ordinary conversation. If Pro can call an unborn human a "human being" simply because it exists, and conclude that the unborn human is a person, because "being" can *also* mean "person", then I can call a radish a "radish being" simply because it exists, and conclude that the radish is a person. Sorry, Pro, but logic doesn't work that way.

4. It is fallacious to claim that unborn humans are "innocent", when they demonstrably do things that adults would typically be arrested for doing. Pro also distorted what I wrote, since I did *not* say anything about a "right to refuse". I specified "without asking permission", which is a completely different thing. As an analogy, suppose you walk up to the carcass of a deer and *take* it, without asking permission of the tiger that made the kill. The *action* is done *regardless* of whether or not permission might have been refused. Likewise it is *actions* that make the unborn guilty, not innocent. Regardless of any communication problems concerning permission!

Another distortion that Pro made involves this that I wrote: "Basically, the unborn human is *either* a dumb parasitic 'human animal' with no *right* to life, *or* it is a person who is *more* immoral/unethical than a vampire." Pro then focussed only on the latter part of that, the unborn's lack of being "deliberate" about those horrible actions --but that is *exactly* why the unborn should be considered a "human animal", not a person! Sorry, Pro, you can't conclude something that *only* acts like an animal qualifies as a person!

5. Pro has exhibited *denial* regarding future Artificial Intelligences. *Our* *own* brains qualify as "self-programming computers", because any "habit" is equivalent to a "program", and we can make or break habits at will. A true A.I. will be able to do that, too, because we are *copying* what we learn about human brains to A.I. research. And that's why some A.I. will *eventually*, *inevitably*, qualify as a "rational and moral" entity, or "person". Suppose we build the A.I. with an ability to reproduce by making a "starter" machine that can add more things to itself, until it also becomes an A.I. Now suppose the original A.I. begins building starter-machines in droves. Pro's argument regarding personhood and developing organisms *requires* us to allow *all* the starter-machines to finish. *OR* Pro must recognize that his argument is invalid!

6. It is fallacious to claim "sex causes pregnancy". Otherwise "artificial insemination" and "in-vitro fertilization" would *never* work. Pregnancy really *is* typically caused by an organism *other* than, and *two* stages removed from, people who engage in sex. Should they be *completely* blamed for the *independent* *unrequested* actions of that other organism? Hah! Yes, they are *partly* to blame --so make them pay for an abortion *if* they want it.

7. It is fallacious to claim human pregnancies are generally associated with "permission". Pro ignores the *fact* that humans, unlike other animals, mostly have sex for reasons *other* than an urge to breed. It does *not* logically follow that if pregnancy happens, it *must* have been permitted.

Thus does Pro's argument suffer from some small-but-critical bad-data items, plus multiple points of catastrophic *logical* failure.

Finally, Pro wrote an odd thing:
"...we are morally justified in pulling the plug on a brain-dead human."
Someday a new brain can grow to replace a dead one! The body on life-support has the "capacity" to once more be a rational/moral entity! But it will be a *different* entity than before, due to all-new brain-wiring (different as twins/clones).

Suppose a future Emergency Rescue Squad reaches a decapitation accident-scene in just two minutes. Do they put the head or the body in a regeneration vat, to save the *person*?

If "head", then a human *body* is *not* automatically a person. In reality the *mind* is the person, and *it* is associated with a well-developed brain (or equivalent) that mere animals lack.

Regeneration can't restore the *dead* *minds* of the brain-dead on life-support --and unborn humans don't *develop* person-class minds until some time *after* birth. Animal *bodies* they *both* truly are!
Debate Round No. 4
28 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by GEIxBattleRifle 4 years ago
So if I walk near a swamp knowing beforehand a mosquito or a tick can attach itself to my body should I allow it to take my body resources without my conscious continued consent? You would say no

We're allow to kill the mosquito and tick because of WHAT THEY DO and they don't know what they're doing either.

The unborn human does activity in the womb much more worse then what these two do so I see no problem with killing unborn humans for the same reason as well.
Posted by elvroin_vonn_trazem 6 years ago
KeytarHero, it's been raining here randomly for the last 2 days, interfering with some of the other things I've been needing to do. So I might as well Instigate the next Debate.
Posted by elvroin_vonn_trazem 6 years ago
XimenBao, you may have a point, but to the extent that KeytarHero's conclusion depends on the validity of ALL aspects of his premises, then invalidating any one of those aspects also invalidates the conclusion.

And that's independent of showing that the conclusion is absurd when all possible types of intelligent beings are considered (which absurdity, by the way, shows again how the Law of Supply and Demand wipes out mere claims of "inherent value").

If we need to routinely use the equivalent of mathematical rigor in these Debates, and never assume the readers can connect some dots, then even 8000 characters per post may be inadequate.
Posted by XimenBao 6 years ago
I saw the potential for an intriguing values debate off of your interpretation of supply and demand, but I didn't think it developed into a solid attack.
Posted by XimenBao 6 years ago
I like your R-strategy tactic, but it needs better followup. You can win the point that R-strategist parents can't provide K-strategy care for their offspring, but you need a better tie-in than a recourse to declaring valuation arbitrary. Because, as happened here, Pro just shrugs and says "here are the values I'm using" and without an argument from you as to how their arbitrary nature invalidates them, your critique has no power.
Posted by elvroin_vonn_trazem 6 years ago
KeytarHero, I most certainly did rebut certain parts of your premises. You included the concept of "inherent value", which cannot exist. You misused the phrase "human being" even After I pointed out the irrationality of doing that. You claimed unborn humans are "innocent", which is uttertly false.

AND the entire/overall argument was reduced to an absurdity, because of how it would apply Either to an R-strategist species, where every breeding pair might have a thousand offspring every breeding season, Or to massively-replicating A.I. machines.

Besides that, you made other obvious errors which, since they were not specifically part of your premises, the topic under discussion at the moment, need not be repeated here.
Posted by KeytarHero 6 years ago
This was your RFD:

Con demonstrated that Pro did not offer an adequate account of personhood, that sex is not a cause of pregnancy in the sense of being a necessary or sufficient condition. His other arguments were lacking in one way or another, but this was sufficient to overturn Pro's case.

Con did not rebut my criteria of personhood, which is our inherent capacity as rational, moral agents. He didn't rebut a single one of my premises, and didn't show why having a capacity as rational, moral agents was insufficient. Sex being a cause of pregnancy is irrelevant to my case, which is that we have an inherent capacity as rational moral agents. Convenient that you didn't bother to list my other arguments which were allegedly lacking (actually, I only had one that mattered, which I listed in round one which went uncontested).
Posted by WriterDave 6 years ago
If that were an RFD, Keytar, I would CVB it.
Posted by KeytarHero 6 years ago
WriterDave, I'm confident you didn't even read the debate, or didn't read it very closely. My burden of proof was satisfied, and Con didn't rebut a single one of my premises.
Posted by elvroin_vonn_trazem 6 years ago
XimenBao, The Rich Text Editor does not work for me, so I can't use italics or bold to apply stress to words. Using all-caps is not acceptable, so, if you have something against asterisks, what alternative would your choose?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by XimenBao 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: I thought Con was doing well in the inherent/actual/potential argument until it went off the rail into objective/subjective. Con's innovative if bizarre strategies of fictional aliens and overabundant reproduction didn't go anywhere, tho I liked the 'being' bit. I didn't feel that Con mounted a sustained argument against any of the premises Pro was using to affirm the resolution. There's no need for that much emphasis, especially if it requires making your argument resemble a starry sky
Vote Placed by WriterDave 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con demonstrated that Pro did not offer an adequate account of personhood, that sex is not a cause of pregnancy in the sense of being a necessary or sufficient condition. His other arguments were lacking in one way or another, but this was sufficient to overturn Pro's case.