The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
21 Points

DDO Tournament Debate: Zygotes Should be Recognized as Persons

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Voting Style: Judge Point System: Select Winner
Started: 6/4/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,233 times Debate No: 56053
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (85)
Votes (4)





This debate is part of Mikal's DDO Tier Tournaments Take 2.
Round 1 of Mid Tier users.

I thank schachdame for partaking in the tournament and I look forward to a hard fought debate.


Pro's contention is that zygotes should be recognized as persons.



6. Law: A human or organization with legal rights and duties. [1]

Neither myself nor Con are Americans. Thus, the debate is more philosophical in nature and not fixated on the laws of any one nation.


• Round 1 is for establishing the debate, acceptance and pleasantries only.
• 8k characters max. per round
• 4 rounds
• 72 hrs
• Select Winner Voting
• Judges: Mikal, YYW, orangemayhem, SeventhProfessor, Blade-of-Truth
• 2 Week Voting Period (Please don't take that long judges!)




Acceptance given.

Good luck for my opponent, enjoyable reading for the judges and hopefully an interesting argumentation for the visitors.
Debate Round No. 1



A major unresolved issue in western law is the true legal standing of the unborn. As such we hope to debate whether the unborn should be legally recognized as people. It is my intention to show why the unborn should be recognized as the people they are.


1. Human Being

There really is only one argument to be made. The unborn child is a person because they are an individual member of the Homo Sapiens species. The modern understanding of early human life as shown through biology and embryology is conclusive in that from the zygote onwards an individual organism exists. There are a large variety experts, texts, testimonies and logical deductions that could be used to describe this, but in this round I will use 2 proofs.

a. Regression

If I were to rewind your life second by second, I would find that you were always the very same organism until I get to the point where the male and female gametes are about to merge. If any other egg and any other sperm had combined at your conception you would not be you. You would be someone else. There is a continuity of life from the joining of the gametes onward. The normal development and lifespan of a single human organism (provided nothing goes wrong) is:

zygote -> embryo -> fetus -> baby -> toddler -> youth -> teenager -> adult -> elderly

b. Sexual Reproduction

I will use fish as an example of sexual reproduction. Unlike humans, a female fish will lay her unfertilized eggs in the water and the males fertilize them by releasing their seed over the eggs. [2]

These fertilized eggs generally settle to the floor of the body of water. From these fertilized eggs, fish develop and eventually grow to adulthood with no further genetic material or physical aid from the parents. Now this method of sexual reproduction produces many offspring at once. A Chinook Salmon will produce between 2,500 and 7,000 eggs! [3]. This large number of offspring is necessary because the death rate is so high. The eggs are unprotected and the fish are fed on by predators at every stage of life. Mammals on the other hand have an advantage for their young. Mammals protect the young inside the mother until a much greater stage of development is reached. While this results in far fewer offspring per mother, the odds of survival is drastically enhanced. Additionally, it provides a means for more advanced organisms.

Thus we share the same means of reproduction as fish. If fish are individual organisms at the zygote stage (which they must logically be), then we too must be unique individual organisms at the zygote stage of development. Nature/God/Evolution (take your pick which one(s)) has merely given human beings a more advanced way of protecting the youngest members of our species.

2. Equality

A fundamental aspect of law is that, for it to be just, all people must be equal before the law. This comes from an understanding that though people are not equal in ability they are equal in human dignity and fundamental value. This concept comes from a long philosophical tradition in the west:

St. Thomas Aquinas:

“Nature made all men equal in liberty, though not in their natural perfections” [4]

St. Bellarmine:

“All men are equal, not in wisdom or grace, but in the essence and nature of mankind” [4]

Declaration of Independence:

"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." [5]

Now, allowing for the classical use of man:

The human race; mankind [6]

It can be shown that this understanding of the equality of all members of the human race is critical to the fundamentals of law. It is equally important to know that this unalienable right is not granted by government, but belongs to every member of the species by right. If something is an inherent right to each and every member of the human race, then it is illogical that every human organism would not possess this right from the very moment of their existence. Thus, this right must clearly be held by every member of the species from conception through to death.

If one argues that the government has the authority to grant personhood, and thus the associated fundamental rights that are guaranteed with it, then you logically have given the government the authority to rescind the right of personhood. The only means of preventing the eventual abuse of this power by government is to recognize that every member of the human species is a person.

3. Superset

Personhood is a superset of humanity, not a subset. I will provide several examples to illustrate this.

a. God
Now the concept of God (whether you believe or not) would be that He is a Person - or 3 Persons if you have a Christian view of God. Thus, if there is a God, we would certainly acknowledge Him being a person(s).

b. Angels
Carrying on with the above theme, we would agree that angels are persons too.

c. Space Aliens
Now if a spacecraft visited Earth we would acknowledge that this race of highly intelligent aliens are persons before the law.

d. Super-Duper Computers
Let's say for argument's sake that one day we manage to create a computer with real self-directed thought, self-awareness, etc... We would have to acknowledge that it and its progeny are a race of persons as well.

4. Discrimination

The general refusal to acknowledge the unborn as persons before the law is, in fact, a form of discrimination of the powerful over the faceless, voiceless and powerless. Every form of discrimination uses some arbitrary metric to enable the discrimination. In the context of this debate, you have to be "human AND" in order to have your rights acknowledged.

This form of discrimination has been used before to commit great wrongs and atrocities:

You had to be human AND white in the American South.
You had to be human AND not Jewish in Nazi Germany.

Now I'm sure that some will object to my comparing the unborn to slaves. And yet that is exactly how they are treated. A slave does what a slave is commanded to do because, if she does not, then the owner will kill her as is within his right - because he owns her. Thus a slave is one who is denied the rights of personhood. Likewise, without their fundamental rights as persons being respected, the unborn children are, for all intents and purposes, the property of the mother to do with as she pleases.


In this round I have clearly established that the unborn are human beings, and that it is necessary for all member of the human race to be treated equally before the law. It has additionally been shown that Personhood is a superset of humanity and not a subset. Finally I have shown that the means that people employ to deny the unborn children their rights is simply a form of discrimination of the powerful against the powerless.

Thus the resolution that Zygotes Should be Recognized as Persons is upheld.

I look forward to Con's opening arguments, and invite her to now present them.


In my sources I do not renumber them at the beginning of every round. This is done so as to be able to reuse a source previously listed without having to re-enter it again in every round that it may be used.



Note | Well this is certainly challenging. Glad to be here, hope this is going to be entertaining.

I see two ways to approach the problem: Should Zygotes be recognized as Persons?

a SCIENTIFIC APPROACH (1) that ask whether a Zygote is a philosophically person based on indicators provided by science

and a PRACTICAL APPROACH (2) challenging whether it should be considered as a person therefore evolving around the question, if there would be any good in considering a Zygote as a person.

I want to show that there are good reasons to believe, that a Zygote is not person and that it would not be beneficial for our society as well.

1 | Scientific Approach

A Zygote, is a fertilized egg cell. It “represents the first stage in the development of a genetically unique organism” [1]. It subdivides via mitosis into blastomeres which are later the base for everything that is needed for a functioning (human) offspring.

1.1 | Development stage

We might feel uncomfortable thinking about ourselves that way. We often have troubles imagining ourselves as infants, because the infant we are thinking about seems to have nothing in common with the person we are today. The difference between a zygote and an infant is even more severe.

The basic zygote is only one cell. It doesn’t have a nerve system, blood circuit or self-awareness. It’s scientifically impossible for a zygote to feel pain.

It’s a delicate unit (Even the ideal group of women between 20 and 34 showed a spontaneous abortion rate of 7% [3]) that all living things (apart from bacteria) went through: Trees, Flies, Apes – they all were one fertilized cell at the beginning of their existence and all these examples overcome in their adult form a zygote in complexity and awareness.

Regarding a zygote as person would mean to put it on one level with all born humans and above everything else. How can we consider it as responsible ethics (and not egoism) to think that one simple fertilized human cell is worth more than a fully grown complex Chimpanzee?

1.2 | Individuality

A Zygote holds a unique DNA. Unique, in a relatively small range because two people’s DNA is mostly identical as there is only about 0,1% difference between the genes two random people [2].

With a chimpanzee, that is genetically 1,6% [2] away from the average human DNA, the human zygote has an 1,6% better claim on personhood than an chimpanzee zygote. Because that is the only thing that keeps them apart. There visual and theoretical structure is exactly the same.

And a very crucial problem: A zygote might split. Due to our current definition, a person only needs certain rights to make it one. But considering a zygote as an individual makes a zygote that splits into two separately developing cells (Twins) a difficult thing: If identical Twins are two different people, what was their zygote before it split?

1.2 | Potential

A right is usually granted on the current situation, not on potential situation. A doctor in training is no fully licensed doctor yet and we have good reasons to not allow them to treat patience, even on the very real potential that they might be doctors soon.

Potential is speculation. There is no assurance that a zygote will be born as human infant and granting a right on what might be, is logically not coherent.

Not all humans will be born and live up to something we might consider as “greater good”. Some zygotes will later become mass murderers, suicidal or politicians. Some will not naturally not survive the next week of pregnancy. If we’d grant a right based on what might be, we’d have to grant it on all that might be. And that we cannot foresee.

A Zygote can be made in labs. Fertilizing an egg outside a woman’s body is daily life for many reproduction scientists. But a Zygote in a Peter’s pence is never going to become a human there. How can we built on a potential that is not even likely. If potential and future is the key, then have these cells no claim on personhood, because they have no potential. If a man fertilizes an egg cell in a Peter’s pence nobody can honestly think that any woman should be forced to carry that zygote into a child. And if that right cannot be granted than the Zygote has no right at all and cannot be a person conclusively.

2 | Practical Approach

The Philosophical/ Scientific approach showed many points where only ones personal ethics can tell, what kind of interpretation seems to be the better one for ourselves. Still, Personhood is a concept, to indicate how we should treat and see a living subject. Whether we regard a Zygote as person or not does not change the thing itself. A Zygote is what it is and what we call it does not matter for it.

Important is, what we do with those, we regard as a person. Legally we ensure their survival. That’s the most basic right any person gets: the right to live.

2.1 | Paradox

To a certain extend can we assume that an egg cell is part of the woman’s body and she has any right do make decisions about her egg cells. A woman’s body is built from about 3.72 × 10^13 cells [4]. One cell is absurdly close to “nothing” compared to that. Yet that one fertilised cell would gain the same right that the other 372 Trillion together.

This is primarily paradox, because a woman cannot hold be two people at the same time. Especially because the claim to live that both simultaneously have, might be correlating. We might want to morally ensure that a zygote/foetus/embryo survives, but regarding these as a person would create a definition paradox.

Especially for a Zygote goes that it and the Woman carrying it cannot be separated without having one or both “parties” to die. Giving them the correlating rights by giving them the same status, especially as this status is a mere human-made concept, is an unnecessarily self-made mess, which can be best avoided by not regarding a zygote a person.

2.2 | Evaluation and Abortion

The term “person” is not practical. It takes the woman nearly any claim on her own body and automatically outlaws abortion for every situation there is. The line between a cell that is not at all and the adult who is certainly a person is not there. But that does not mean that they are the same.
Development and Progress always transfere something from one form into another. That a transformation is fluent is no sufficient reason to say it is not there. Just because I cannot say, when I started thinking, does not mean I have always thought nor that I have not been thinking before I can remember thinking. And it also does not mean that I always will think. Pregnancy is philosophically a mess. And the term "person" is making it worse.

One might regard a zygote a “person” out of one’s personal religious or ethical believes, but as these believes are not shared by anyone is the real question whether we SHOULD regard it as a person. And considering the down sides of forcing every woman with a fertilized egg inside her to give up half or full claim on her own personhood is a question for evaluation.

Abortion has its benefits for society and giving them up, just to apply a man-made term to something that does not care about it, might be over sensible. The current way to theoretically divide a pregnancy in three different stages (zygote, embryo, foetus) that all have different laws protecting or not protecting it makes logically and rationally sense. A zygote shouldn’t be considered a person if that brings us into a position where we have morally and legally hamstrung us all.

Sources |

[1] The Encyclopaedia Britannica: Zygote

[2] Human Origins: Genetics

[3] Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand: Spontaneous Abortion Rate

[4] Research Paper: An estimation of the number of cells in the human body

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks to Con for the compliment and her opening arguments.


Using Con's numbering system:

1.0 Scientific Approach

Con agrees that zygotes are unique human organisms:

Zygote: "represents the first stage in the development of a genetically unique organism"

1.1 Development Stage

The law of identity states that 'A' is 'A' [7]. Thus the unborn is a member of the Homo Sapiens species or it is not. Here Con is attempting to imply that the zygote is not really human because it is only in the first stage of being human and it will undergo much change. There are two fallacies at play here. Con uses technical medical terminology to imply the unborn are not human. Yet, terms like zygote, blastocyst or fetus are merely descriptors of developmental stage like toddler or teenager. Nor do zygotes develop into a random variety of species. Two humans will have a human zygote, and not a tree, fly or ape zygote.

The second fallacy being employed is that greater development grants rights. This concept is incompatible with that of inalienable rights discussed last round. Logically, if additional development grants greater rights, then the amount of rights must depend on the amount of development. Thus an adult deserves greater (unequal) "human rights" in comparison to babies, or even other adults who never developed limbs due to thalidomide as both these groups are less developed. As this is philosophically unsound the argument is nullified.

Con goes on to state that many zygotes will not live until birth. This is the equivalent of saying that babies that are born with congenital defects, and have a low prognosis of living more than a month, are not worthy of human rights. A high death rate does not invalidate their being members of the species or being persons.

1.2 Individuality

Con essentially argues that at the zygote stage both a chimp and a human are visually the same and that the only difference is that there is a slight variation in DNA. Once again we note that the law of identity notes that one is a chimp and the other a human and thus they are not the same. (Please do not think that I am accusing Con of being racist) This is, ironically, the same argument that was used under slavery to attempt to dehumanize blacks. They were just like monkeys or chimps. Sadly some still have a discriminatory attitude today:

Attempting to dehumanize people based on arbitrary similarities to non-humans is always wrong.

B) Identical Twins
This is a an intelligent argument by Con that asks a good question because it exposes an exception to the norm. However, it does not expose an exception to the norm in terms of zygotes being human beings, but an exception to the norm of reproduction. While the human race is dependent on sexual reproduction for its continued existence, due to the totipotent nature of the zygote, asexual reproduction is also possible means of human reproduction for a limited period in every person's life.

1.3 Potential

A) Assurance of Outcome
Con argues that there is no guarantee that the unborn will live to birth. There is no guarantee that people who have heart disease will survive long either, and yet we do not deny that they are persons.

Con further argues that we do not know that they will not grow up to be mass murderers or even politicians (ha!). This is an unknown about everyone. Yet, we even acknowledge mass murderers and politicians as persons (yes, even them).

B) In-Vitro
It is not about what in-vitro means to personhood, but what does personhood mean to in-vitro? The fact that we have the ability to expose the male and female gametes to interaction in an artificial environment does not deny that their joining is the beginning of a new human life. Instead, we should be asking why are we so cavalier with newly formed human life that we feel that we are entitled to treat it as a commodity to be bought and sold.

2.0 Practical Approach

In this section we find that Con's arguments are anything, but practical. They are means of attempting to justify why it is okay to deny fundamental rights to unborn human beings.

Her first argument is one of relativism in that different personal ethics should govern. This is an opinion based on whim and a poor basis for law. If law is to be just it must be based on solid facts and principles. We do not say that slavery was okay because it was considered ethical by a significant portion of the population at one time.

Con furthered my argument by stating: "the most basic right any person gets: the right to live." Though, I would argue that we do not legally ensure people's survival, but that we legally protect their rights, which has the effect of helping them survive.

2.1 Paradoxes

a) Part of Woman's Body
Pro states that we can assume the unborn "is part of the mother's body". This is completely false as it was shown to be a unique organism.

b) Number of cells
Con argues that just one cell cannot be a person because an adult has so many more cells. Is Con going to argue that the morbidly obese are more human than a premie? The number of cells in a human being makes them no more or less a unique human organism.

c) Two people at once
I see no difficulty in this. One person who lives inside another for a part of their existence. It is like saying I don't understand how one can draw one square inside another.

d) One or both parties dying
That one party is dependent on the other party for survival does not deny personhood. Different ages have different levels of dependency. A baby is just as dependent on others for survival. Heck, if you dropped me naked with no tools in the middle of the woods, I'd die in a few days as well.

2.2 Evaluation & Abortion

In this section Con asserts that we cannot grant personhood to zygotes because of the consequences. This is analogous to the slave owners (see how often the parallel comes up) arguing that slaves are necessary for the economic viability of the cotton fields. This is not justice, nor is it sound reasoning for creating law.

a) Philosophical Mess
Con argues that pregnancy is a philosophical mess and that Personhood just makes it worse. It is only a mess because Con is trying to justify a philosophically unsustainable position. My arguments are very straight forward philosophically. 'A' is 'A' - a zygote is a unique human organism. All humans are persons. We inherently know this because we refer to our fundamental rights as Human Rights. It is only though denial of solid facts that this issue becomes a philosophical quagmire.

b) Religion/Ethics
Con attempts obfuscate this debate into one on religion or personal ethics. Yet the arguments presented have been about scientific fact, logic and fundamental rights inherent to a just legal system. When dealing with the possible murder of human beings one must always err on the side of caution in the same manner that when you go hunting you are required to visually verify your prey it is not another human.

c) Affects Personhood of Women
I see no way how acknowledging the personhood of the unborn lessens the personhood of women. This has not been established by Con.

d) Benefits for Society
Con is arguing some unspecified form of utilitarianism just as cotton field owners would have 200 years ago. Truth and just laws, that are in keeping with facts, protect the rights of the citizenry and will ultimately create a just and prosperous nation. Laws based on lies or error are fundamentally unjust and injustice always results in harm.

Con is correct that Personhood is a man-made term. This is why it is only be necessary as a superset descriptor to humanity. However, legalities require a definition of who is a person.


I believe that I have refuted everyone of my worthy opponent's arguments in this round while reinforcing my main contentions of:

• Zygotes are Unique Human Organisms
• Equality of All Humans Before the Law
• Personhood is a Superset of Humanity
• The Unborn are Victims of Discrimination

I look forward to Con's new arguments.



Rebuttal Part I | Con in Round 2

Note | I am mixing up the order (not the numbering) to coordinate the rebuttal arguments into good setting for me.

1a regression | I don't see how every human organism is automatically a person. A male teenager is sexually mature. That does not automatically mean that he always has been sexually mature. Sexual maturity is a process but at a point he is not at all sexually mature (at birth f.i.) and at a point he certainly is. I don't see why personhood cannot be a process as well? The universality of personhood is only one interpretation.

1b reproduction | Yet again Con shows that a zygote is a human organism. Not how this makes it automatically a person. Personhood doesn't automatically equal these two. Being a human organism is biology. Being a person is law terminology (see following arguments for more context).

2 / 4a equality and discrimination | Discrimination is a daily problem. And will always be a problem. You cannot abolish discrimination. From 30 points in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDoHR] most of them have a hidden AND/BUT in it. Liberty [7], Article 3, and residence, Article 13, f.i.: You have to be human & never convicted of (a certain) crime in your country.

Quoting Article 1 from the UDoHR [7] : "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.", we might even state that to be born is the most basic characteristic of being able to hold a right.

Mentally disabled people and children are and will always be discriminated in a necessary and an unnecessary way. They cannot be allowed to drive or buy a gun. That is a form of discrimination. But necessary. But they can hold (to a certain extend of interpretation) all the 30 rights from the Declaration. An unborn cannot. Mainly when they interfere with the mother's. - see Part II 2.2/2.3

4b Zygote-Slavery | The believe or imply with comparision that unborns are the mother's slaves is something I totally object. They are of no financial/work benefit for the mother (to their own harm especially) yet they are a permanent health risk for her. A woman enslaves herself when she becomes pregnant. Not the other way around.

3 Superset | I enjoyed the conclusion of the idea that personhood is a superset of humanity, yet Con may forgot to actually show that personhood is superset of humanity. Up till then the examples given are slightly irrelevant.

Rebuttal Part II | Con in Round 3

Note | The reason why I did not use sub-numbering for subarguments was to avoid having them seen as a single statement. I am dealing with them the way Con structured them, but I want to underline that they are meant to be read in context of each other.

1.0 Objection | A development progress doesn't equal the initial form with the final form. Con is wrong to conclude that I agreed with him. I am not disagreeing now but I object the interpretation because it was not what I said and I don't like it when my own words are getting twisted.

1.1 Development | Unequal rights for unequal development stages are daily life. Con's statement is wrong, that we don't practise this daily. Children have a lower developed judgement for speed [5], that's why they are not allowed to drive till they are older.

1.2 A DNA | I disapprove the words spent on the showing the similarities between my statement and racism. The statement, that 99% human DNA are identical implies opposite (because it acknowledges how much we all have in common, despite the looks) and the picture and cartoon can therefore only be misused to twist my arguments.

1.2 B Identical Twins | Con cannot turn down my Twin argument, by explaining how identical twins biologically occur. "How" is not the answer to the problem I outlined.

1.3 A Potential | I've not stated that murders or popes have a different claim on personhood. The argument of potential was there to show that you cannot award personhood on the potential that they might have, because you cannot evaluate that potential. Potential is an often used argument for the personhood of Zygote and I was probably wrong to use it before Con introduced it himself. We might want to put that on hold therefore.

1.3 B In-Vitro | Agreeing that personhood influences in-vitro I would probably move it to the practical approach section, because personhood automatically forbids most research that involve stem cells. A field that has been highly successful to keep the

2.0 Acknowledgment | I was expecting critique here. And I am glad my opponent took the time there because it's morally important to ask these questions.

Some of the arguments are actually relativisation of profit and life and should never be solely enough for a decision. But they show that not only the best motives but also their applicability need to be considered. There is no use (= it shouldn't) in considering a Zygote a person if there is no way to fulfill the demands of that status. And that is a valid thing to consider and not latently racism.

2.1 A Biologically connected | A unborn and a mother are not totally separated. Nearly everything a woman does to her body, influences the unborn. Smoking and Alcohol are just two examples. There health systems are linked and to argue that a unborn is plain a "different organism" is not acknowledging that link sufficiently.

2.2 B/C Why it's a paradox | Con did a bit too much splitting here. B/C are linked.

B - That one cell in comparison to over 700 billion having the same rights is not an argument that a cell cannot be a person but to prepare a base for the problem in "C"

C - Con (as male?) might not be close to seeing that pregnancy is risky for a woman. Peripartum cardiomyopathy, preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, fatty liver of pregnancy, and amniotic fluid emboli [6] are actual health risks and every pregnant woman risks her life as well. If a woman actually is facing the situation that her death can only be prevented by abortion and the second "person" in her at the same time has the right to live, than the paradoxical situation occurs that a woman has to give up her right to live (personhood) to ensure the personhood status of the unborn. Or the other way around. Or both acknowledge their personhood and both die. That is of course an option. And for Con can it only be the only one.

2.2 D Dependence| A grown person can survive on his/her own. They probably never learned how but they physically can. A zygote cannot be taught how to develop an organ system outside a whomb.

2.3 Society | This is not about "Cotton Fields" this is about pregnant woman. Scared woman that face death, shame, social exclusion, poverty, suicide. For them it's (A) a philosophical mess because "personhood" makes them either murderers, (mentally/physically) ruined or dead (which would also make them murderers to some believes, if they choose to die, because they don't abort = suicide). Personhood is creating the mess. Not my position.

The personhood of a zygote is criminalizing
  • Any sort of non-natural abortion (murder) at any time
  • natural abortions due to a woman's false life choices (manslaughter)
  • stem cell research (that ironically helps to make pregnancy safer and extend life)
Note | I want to encourage Con to take in account, that we are dealing with linked organisms of which only one is self-aware, can feel physical pain and can encounter the fear of of death, torture and destruction of their sanity. The mother can not be excluded from the question whether a Zygote should be seen as person, because it's influencing her rights.

Conclusion | Giving a zygote that status of a person is therfore logically impossible because the resulting rights of all involved parties would contradict itself.

Debate Round No. 3



I'm going to continue to address the issues point by point and try to group them, where possible, to reduce repetition.


3 - Con claims that I have not established that personhood is a superset of humanity. I have logically shown through deductive reasoning that personhood is a superset of humanity. It is intuitively obvious that, if we are persons, any being who had a nature equal to, or greater than, that of humans would logically be a person.

Fundamental Rights

- Con agrees that the zygote is a human organism and thus a member of the human species, but argues that the biological facts shouldn't be the basis for law. Facts must be the basis for law, as ignoring facts can only lead to injustice. Con argues that a teenager is more sexually mature than a newborn. While true, it does not equal the teenager is more of a human than the newborn (law of identity).

1b - Con later goes on to quote the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The UN is a political body in which many special interest groups influence the wording and declarations issued. Additionally, what the UN says is a true statement - everyone is born with fundamental rights. It is uncommitted on the rights of the unborn (the purpose of this debate). As previously noted, it is illogical that the same organism can have varying fundamental rights. If a right is fundamental it cannot be gained or lost, it is intrinsic to the organism.

1.3 - Con has somewhat argued potential, but tried to push it aside. I am not arguing potential. I am arguing that all human beings deserve the recognition of their intrinsic rights.

2.2D - Con argues that the unborn cannot be a person because there is a level of dependence. We all have varying levels of dependence on others at various stages of life. An unconscious adult with critical wounds is completely dependent for his life on those providing first aid, just like a zygote is on her mother.

Note - Con's final argument is that we cannot grant the zygote the fundamental human rights because doing so may have an effect on others. This is a fallacious argument. The entire reason we have laws is to limit the application of rights between people. Con argues that because the unborn are not in a position to even recognize the rights they have, or what they may be losing, that we are justified in denying them those rights on the basis that it may affect someone else. It could then be argued that it is okay for me to steal the winning lottery ticket from Con that she had completely forgotten about. She never knew that she had won, and she'll never miss it because she didn't know about it. Thus, my theft would be perfectly justifiable. I believe that the fallacy in that reasoning is evident. The unborn's fundamental rights belong to the the child and not the mother, even if the child cannot assert her right to them.

As con stated in Round 2: "That’s the most basic right any person gets: the right to live." All other rights are based on this right. If one group of humans can deny this right to another group of humans, we reduce this right to a privilege, because we have agreed that this right is not fundamental to any of us, but is merely a social custom.


Our own unjust discriminations are always the toughest to see. Most slave owners honestly believed they were just in their actions. Likewise we, the powerful, find it convenient and expedient to discriminate against weak, faceless, defenseless human beings and thus deny them their fundamental rights for our own personal gain.

2/4a - Con argues that we cannot eliminate discrimination. While this is true, it does not mean that we enshrine egregiously unjust policies into law!

Con argues that the UN Declaration of Human Rights enables the denial of liberty to criminals. This is because criminal have intentionally violated the rights of another person and are now subject to justice and possible incarceration for retribution/protection of society. As Con has argued that the unborn are not yet self-aware, we can hardly expect that they are criminally liable for anything, especially not a death sentence. Con further argues that the mentally handicapped are not permitted to drive or own a gun. These are limitations on societal privileges, not a repudiation of their fundamental human rights.

4b - Slavery has to do with ownership, not production. If I can choose to kill you at any time for any reason without fear of reprisal, you are my slave. That may permit me to compel you to work, but it's not actually a requisite for slavery. That the mother incurs an obligation to the child is not in dispute - however that has nothing to do with the resolution of this debate.

1.1 - Con notes that children are not allowed to drive. Again, this is a limitation on societal privileges, and not a repudiation of their fundamental rights.

1.2A - Con complains about my comparing the similarities between comparing chimp zygotes to human zygotes and how racists compared blacks to monkeys. Both are attempts to dehumanize humans by comparing them to something superficially similar. If the shoe fits...


As previously stated, effects on a third party should have no bearing on the recognition and defense of the fundamental rights of anyone. However, since the judges may not agree, I will provide a brief rebuttal to these points.

2.0 Con seems to have a problem accepting that circumstances can create an obligation. It is already a legal requirement for parents to provide for the needs of their children [8] (Canadian Law as an example). Likewise, a nation may also conscript its citizens to protect the nation at the cost of their mental and physical well being.

2.1 - Yes the bodies are linked. Thus the mother should be careful as to what she does, just like with a woman breastfeeding.

2.2 B&C - Yes I am a male, and I have been there with difficulties/complications during pregnancy and birth with my own wife. Con makes assumptions as to what future laws would state. There are also ethical means that do not require direct abortions to save the mother's life. Ireland who did not permit abortions had 5 maternal deaths for 157k births between 1989 - 1991. Abortion would have prevented none of these deaths. [9]

2.3 - Pro is essentially arguing that because someone is poor, or may be shamed that they are justified in killing an innocent third party. Nonsense. Personhood may be criminalizing - so was abolition.


1.2B - Con argues that I did not properly deal with twinning because I only explained the science. From the science I can deduce that the twinning process results in either a parent-child relationship or a cloning relationship between the zygotes. Both of which clearly demonstrate that the zygote was a human being before the twinning occurred.

1.3B - Con argues that personhood would have serious effects on in-vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research. Again, determining whether somebody has fundamental human rights on possible legal ramifications to others is immoral and the antithesis of the concept of fundamental rights. As noted in Round 3, this is analogous to saying that Blacks cannot be given human rights because of the effect it would have on cotton plantations. It is evident that these types of arguments are ludicrous. Fundamental rights must be based solely on the nature of the unborn. I have clearly illustrated why the unborn are also persons and, for the sake of justice, need to be legally recognized as such.


I have successfully defended each of my arguments

• Zygotes are Unique Human Organisms
• Equality of All Humans Before the Law
• Personhood is a Superset of Humanity
• The Unborn are Victims of Discrimination

and refuted each of Con's arguments. The majority of Con's arguments were merely some form of justifying the discrimination against the youngest human beings - zygotes.

I thank Con for the debate and the judges for their time.



Part 1 Final Rebuttal

3 | Superset has not been proven deductively
As Pro did not point to the part of his argumentation where he deductively shown that personhood is a superset of humanity, I am presuming he meant that it was developed over the course of his arguments 1a to b. Visually and rhetorically is point 3. rather loosely placed after a certainly not directly relevant #2 equality which didn't help making it "intuitively obvious".
Argument 1b has shown that a Zygote is a human organism and 1a why Pro claims that personhood applies to all life states of a human organism. The only possible deduction therefore would be that being a human organism is the decisive factor for personhood. Which does not make it a superset. Neither a god nor iRobot supercomputer VIKI are human organisms.

1a | Law of Identity
It's also questionable that personhood is applicable to any state of the human life circle. I've shown that there are biological characteristics that apply to more than one but not all stages. Personhood can therefore theoretically also apply to some but not all stages.
Pro has not properly outlined why Personhood and Humanity are the same. The law of identity is not enough, because A isn't "intuitively obviously" A here. Whether personhood and humanity are an example for the law of identity is the whole point of this debate and claiming that it applies is just a repetition of the core statement. It's a moral assumption not a scientific argumentation.

Note | I am not sure where I ever stated that "biological facts shouldn't be the basis for law". I just pointed out that they are not equal (Round 3 Argument 1b). That doesn't mean that biological facts are irrelevant for law. But not all are all the time.

1a | Ignoring facts and Discrimination
Ignoring facts is also something that we do every day. We evaluate and then conclude that some are not relevant or variable. Law must apply to all and for that we constantly ignore individual facts. The whole idea of equality is based on "ignoring facts". Gender equality is for example ignoring the biological factor gender to ensure justice. Discrimination, Equality and Justice are as difficult as they are because organisms are physically and mentally different and sometimes need to be treated different to ensure justice. That's why courts exist: Every convicted murderer gets punished but not all get the same punishment. That's they grey area of life and Pro's black-and-white-argumentation is morally comforting but not realistic.

1b - 2/4a | Fundamental rights
Yes, law is there to regulate the relationship of two individuals. But not even law can resolve the contradiction that occurs when the same right is hold by two parties and exclude each other. Usually one right overlaps with another but not the same or is not exclusive. My right to live where I want might overlap with someones property rights - this is solvable because these rights are not the same and come with limitations. These limitations can be evaluated against each other. Two rights to live can not be evaluated against each other. No judge could decide whether the Zygote-Person or the Mother have a claim to live. Especially not in time (from a practical point).
(1.1) To take and hold social privileges are an extend of our fundamental right as they are ensured by it. Law is not a one-way-street. Social privileges like jails (not for those in them but those NOT in them) are directly linked to fundamental rights and their limitations.

4b | Slavery
True, slavery means ownership (my bad). But depending on what you argue the focus lies either on the mother or the unborn. If the mother is legally forced to die to give her child a chance she's been legally enslaved, because her role has to be reduced to serve the willing or rather unwilling decisions of the unborn. If the unborn has to die for the mother's sake it's the unborn that has been enslaved. That's the paradox I've been trying to show the whole time.
We only have two options: we establish it that way and create a conflict that will need to be individually resolved unlawfully (as it will always end up enslaving one party) or we don't create it in the first place by not defining a Zygote as a person. I don't want to be pointed out as racist or discriminating, but there are no other options as far as I can see. Reality strikes again, to be bold.

2.0 | A conscript to protect the "country" (not an individual for that matter) at the cost of personal well being is in all democracies linked to war. Pregnancy is no war and it would be rather hasty to apply war-morals. This is especially relevant when a woman has not deliberately chosen to become pregnant (rape, contraception accident).

2.2 | Source [9] is a bit weak for my personal taste. It relates to a study published in 1982, held at only one hospital and reviewed only 74,317 births within a ten year period (1971-1981/2?). Therefore the study does not even relate to the five deaths between 1989 and 1991. Also: as Ireland is strongly catholic/ christian (as some might remember the riots) the conclusion that "induced abortion would not, in any way, have reduced the number of maternal deaths" makes the whole source a bit problematic. They also compare absolute numerical death figures of two countries with different populations.

2.3 | Picking one example out of a list just to imply a discriminating statement that ignores the context might sound clever but it's poor style. Shame itself is not a sufficient reason to kill someone but the combination of problems that face a (especially unwillingly) pregnant woman can be overwhelming and a situation like this never just relates to just one personal problem.

1.2B | Pro gives two good examples how to deal with a twin situation. They both are based on the assumption that the Zygote was a person at the beginning, so I'll just refer to the first two arguments of this round to repeat why this is not fully established. But I'd like to point out that Pro again is messing up personhood and humanity, by stating that the Zygote has been a "human being" all along.

1.3B | Personally I am getting tired of this habit/style to Pick only one Part and twist into something that sound racist. It's uncreative and absolute. And absolutes are something that I've already pointed out many times as unfounded and unrealistic. Still...
While in-Vitro fertilization can't claim that, embryonic stem cell research for example creates a new grey area in terms of medicine and law. Implanting embryonic stem cells to save a life by murdering/sacrificing/using/involving a life that would have never been there in the first place and that would and will never be aware of any of that is morally a draw, as long you see a Zygote as person.
This draw is not created by science, as science would argue that a full grown sexually mature human has more evolutionary value than an unaware, undeveloped Zygote (Round 1, 1 | Scientific approach), this is a conflict created by morals.

Part 2 Conclusion

I have shown
* that there are scientifically good reasons to not consider a Zygote a person
* that it would be legally highly problematic to consider a Zygote a person, as
** we have no realistic solution for the resulting paradox

We have not fully/properly discussed or clarified
* that there are good moral reasons to consider it a person, as
** equality and discrimination are a daily process of evaluation in law routine and not wrong/or right itself
** we cannot properly separate our moral responsibility for the the mother and the unborn

I want to thank my opponent as well, I learned more than I expected (no offense, please) . It really was a pleasure debating you. Thanks also to the judges who will have to take the time to read, think and vote. You are making this work. THANKS.
Debate Round No. 4
85 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
One more time... sorry, I was talking as I wrote this...

Just a question for any judges out there who read this. I'd just like a bit of feed back on this debate for my own clarification for future debates.

My arguments (as I see them):

P1 - Zygotes are humans
P2 - Law is based on a philosophy of the equality of all humans
P3 - Born humans are persons
C - Zygotes are persons

P1 - Zygotes are humans
P2 - Personhood is a superset of humanity
C - Zygotes are persons

P1 - Zygotes are humans
P2 - It is unjust to deny human rights (personhood) based on discrimination.
P3 - Zygotes are discriminated against
C - The denial of personhood to zygotes is an unjust act.

Con concedes P1 in each argument. Can someone clarify for me how Con defeated the arguments? I'm not trying to get people to change their votes, I'm honestly curious. Thanks in advance to any Judge(s) who take the time to answer.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Just a question for any judges out there who read this. I'd just like a bit of feed back on this debate for my own clarification for future debates.

My arguments (as I see them):

P1 - Zygotes are humans
P2 - Law is based on equality of all humans
P3 - Born humans are persons
C - The Unborn are persons

P1 - Zygotes are humans
P2 - Personhood is a superset of humanity
C - All humans are persons

P1 - Zygotes are humans
P2 - It is unjust to deny human rights (personhood) based on discrimination.
P3 - Zygotes are discriminated against
C - The denial of personhood to zygotes is an unjust act.

Con concedes P1 in each argument. Can someone clarify for me how Con defeated the arguments? I'm not trying to get people to change their votes, I'm honestly curious.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Just a question for any judges out there who read this. I'd just like a bit of feed back on this debate for my own clarification for future debates.

My arguments (as I see them):

P1 - Zygotes are humans
P2 - Law is based on equality of all humans
P3 - If the born humans are persons
C - The Unborn are persons

P1 - Zygotes are humans
P2 - Personhood is a superset of humanity
C - All humans are persons

P1 - Zygotes are humans
P2 - It is unjust to deny human rights (personhood) based on discrimination.
P3 - Zygotes are discriminated against
C - The denial of personhood to zygotes is an unjust act.

Con concedes P1 in each argument. Can someone clarify for me how Con defeated the arguments? I'm not trying to get people to change their votes, I'm honestly curious.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Thanks BoT for your vote.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Don't worry about it. Just wait until you're in a debate with Zarroette... then you'll see the debate section explode! :-)

Debaters are people with strong opinions. As such everything becomes contentious!
Posted by schachdame 7 years ago
Well. I tried to keep my head out of the comment section for a while. I really hope that I'll do better next time and avoid bringing all parties in that unfortunate situation.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Thanks to bladerunner060 for his vote.

I thought that I had answered his question about God being a person with:

"if we are persons, any being who had a nature equal to, or greater than, that of humans would logically be a person."

Congrats to schachdame.
Posted by bladerunner060 7 years ago

I am a fill-in judge, so this vote can't count in the "scoring" as per the site, but does as per the tournament.

The BoP was on Pro to give good grounds to assert that all humans are definitionally persons. In fact, he somewhat hurts his case by agreeing that God would be some kind of person--upon what criteria does he make that determination? Surely God isn't a human, so what makes a deity a person? He appeals to the notion of a superset, but doesn't really connect it--DNA can't be sufficient for belonging tot he superset, otherwise 1, it's indistinguishable from humanity and 2, it wouldn't include god. Pro's failure to define personhood thus hurts his attempts to apply it to zygotes. Arguments to Con, and as always, happy to clarify this RFD.

Fundamentally, I think Pro failed to establish a philosophical reason to have all unique human DNA clusters (to try to neutral terms) to be necessarily persons. Con, on the other hand, gave several justifications for why an undeveloped zygote should be set differently on a "scale" than a fully developed human.
Posted by orangemayhem 7 years ago
@YYW -

I'm not going to 'bring it' because, as I said, I think publicly criticising valid votes doesn't help anyone. Given the massive voting problem on the site, I think we should be aiming to achieve as many justified votes as possible, and I think creating in-fighting by creating wars over RFDs brings about more harm than it prevents.

If you want to openly criticise my RFD then there's nothing I can do to stop you, but I question what it will actually achieve (if you don't want me to change my vote).
Posted by DeletedUser 7 years ago

Realize that I assumed that if I publicly scrutinized your votes, that you and Mikal would have something to say about mine. I'm very comfortable with that, because without question I know I didn't make a mistake.

Realize further that I don't think you're the easier target than Mikal, and that I'm just as inclined to scrutinize his as yours. You just happen to be drawing attention to yourself...

Realize in summation that I don't especially care if you change your vote or not. I want only to draw attention to the fact that you and Mikal both made mistakes here, which I have, and I think that if you weren't at least unnerved by the possibility that I'm right, you wouldn't have made that last post that you did.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Blade-of-Truth 7 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: This was an excellent debate from both sides. The decision was not easy, but I believe Con won this. I've seen that others have touched on this already, so I won't waste too much time. The resolution included the term *should*, and as others have noted, this was Con's saving grace. Pro failed to convince me that a zygote should be recognized as a person. Pro's arguments were hurt by the rebuttals in which Con showed that the far-reaching implications are just too complex at this current time. This is seen in her Slavery paradox, which for me, needed to be resolved by Pro. Con even reiterated this in the final round due to the standing conflict presented within that paradox. Also, the super-set issue he was trying to present, for me, was shown to be invalid by Con. Even in his last round, I just failed to see how the nature of a zygote was equal to or greater than that of an adult human. For these reasons, I award Con arguments. Great job from both, please take no offense from my RFD.
Vote Placed by Mikal 7 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: rfd in comments
Vote Placed by orangemayhem 7 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Anonymous 7 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD given in comments. I would encourage both sides to refute less on section/subsection fragmented refutation (i.e. debating this like a policy round) and more on the lines of reasoning (or lack thereof) from the opponent. Refutation in that way just irritates me, for reasons I'll articulate in the comments.

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