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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: Phred]
    #803818 - 08/08/02 05:23 AM (19 years, 1 month ago)

You are confusing the adjective with the noun.

In the case of a frog zygote the word frog is an adjective. Which means you can rephrase it, the zygote of a frog, which in turn means, a frog.

Other examples are:

An adolescent gorrilla.

An adult orangutan.

A newborn spider monkey.

Don't just take my word for it. Ask a biologist. When two words like "human fetus" are combined the first word tells what animal it is and the second one tells what stage of development it is at.

Otherwise the term zygote would not have a definition all by itself.

Cheers,


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Invisiblebuttonion
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Registered: 04/04/02
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Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: ]
    #803934 - 08/08/02 07:16 AM (19 years, 1 month ago)

Understandable?

Is pragmatism the only reason to ackknowledge "arbitrary" distinctions?

Yes. I can?t think of another. As a means to some end (consciously or non-consciously) See next for elaboration.



How do you know that the distinctions are merely formed out of convention?

So I contend ?things? do not actually exist in the normally sense of the word ?exist.? (see previous post) The question is now, why do we acknowledge these things in the first place.

First, they may not originally be formed out of convention, ontogenically speaking. A person may distinguish a perception as a thing because of defining features that set it off from the background that our organism responds to (gestalt psych did a lot with this), patterns that became programmed as notable because of the survival value they imparted, or patterns that have been culturally transmitted for another reason. I would say that these patterns remain in the language of the culture because of their utility.

In direct answer to the question, again, I can think of no other reason- I think it is the most plausible answer.



How do you know this is not the "real state of affairs"?

Basically, because things don?t exist. If things don?t exist, then the billiard ball, causality model of nature is not the real state of affairs.



Are all perceptions arbitrary?

Yes. See above for elaboration.

I'm thinking that the idea that "things don't exist" (Emptiness) lies at the heart of this whole debate. What do you think?


--------------------
Concepts which have been proved to be useful in ordering things easily acquire such an authority over us that we forget their human origins and accept them as invariable.- Albert Einstein


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OfflinePhred
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Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: ]
    #804628 - 08/08/02 01:47 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

Mr_Mushrooms writes:

In the case of a frog zygote the word frog is an adjective. Which means you can rephrase it, the zygote of a frog, which in turn means, a frog.

It can be rephrased, true, but grammatically speaking in the second arrangement (which I should have used) both "zygote" and "frog" are nouns.

Semantics aside, there is a biological difference between the group of examples you used -- "newborn", "adolescent", and "adult", and a zygote.

A newborn gorilla IS a gorilla, albeit a sexually immature one. The zygote of a gorilla is NOT YET a gorilla. The fertilized egg of a frog is not yet a frog, nor is a tadpole yet a frog. This is precisely WHY biologists are careful to CALL them "zygotes" or "tadpoles" rather than "really young frogs".

When two words like "human fetus" are combined the first word tells what animal it is and the second one tells what stage of development it is at.

Not precisely. It tells what animal it is FROM (a duck egg vs a chicken egg, for example, or a monkey tail vs a horse tail), not necessarily what animal it IS.

It may be that I have had the misfortune of encountering only very literal biologists, or biologists who deal mainly in species who have a distinct larval stage (my uncle is a marine biologist), but I have never met one who referred to a tadpole as a frog, much less characterize a mere zygote as a frog.

This may all seem unnecessarily picky, but there is no firm legal definition based on biology as to what determines when a zygote or blastocyst or fetus becomes a human. Potential human, sure. Fetal or even larval human, sure, depending on which biologist you speak with.

What is THE defining characteristic that separates us from the other apes? It is not the upright stance or bipedal locomotion or opposable thumbs, it is the fact that man is a RATIONAL ape. Man's essential tool of survival is his MIND as opposed to his instincts. I submit that a zygote is not a rational being.

pinky



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


Edited by pinksharkmark (08/08/02 02:07 PM)


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: buttonion]
    #805112 - 08/08/02 06:06 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

Things do not exist.

You are a thing.

You do not exist.

You have already acknowledged that you can differentiate between yourself and me. Do you see what I mean?

You seem to place an emphasis on the fact that things have a relationship with other things and disavow their existence because of it.

Let me break this down into as understandable terms as I am able.

I am a realist. Philosophically that means that I hold three tenets to be true.

1. There are real objects.

2. They exist independently of our experience or our knowledge of them.

3. They have properties and enter into relationships independently of the concepts by which we understand them or of the language with which we describe them.

Science, common sense, and the bulk of philosophers throughout history hold to these three tenets. Others; metaphysicians, certain religious persons, and philosophers, do not agree with these tenets and are anti-realists. They have various ideas that seem to negate any or all of the three tenets but none of their ideas can be upheld in the light of logic. Essentially all their ideas boil down to; we can know reality only as we know it. That is a mere tautology and begs the question. I asked you how do you know that the distinctions are merely formed out of convention and the best answer you gave was that it seemed plausible. It may seem so to you but I assure you that most people do not agree.

Now, are there varieties of ways to perceive the world? Yes, I can think of a few immediately. When a person is in a dream state they perceive the world or can perceive the world in a completely different manner. When a person uses hallucinogenic drugs, they also can perceive the world completely differently. However, for most people, they accept the fact that this reality is real and that the other states are not as valid. Are the other states as valid? There is no way to be certain of that. However, thinking that dream states and or hallucinogenic states are the real reality is a flight into irrationality at best and a flight into insanity at worst. Take your pick. I'll side with the reality I am in most of the time and use the standard interpretation of that reality. Others may do as they please.


How do you know this is not the "real state of affairs"?

Basically, because things don&#8217;t exist. If things don&#8217;t exist, then the billiard ball, causality model of nature is not the real state of affairs.

That is circular reasoning. You are begging the question.

I'm thinking that the idea that "things don't exist" (Emptiness) lies at the heart of this whole debate. What do you think?

I think that our dialectic is centered around this idea, yes. However, here is what I further think. I think that most people that are imbued with Eastern thought and Eastern Mysticism have a misperception when it comes to what it means to be without the ego. In simple terms, the ego is who we are. A person that places an emphasis on their own well-being at the detriment of others is called an egotist. That means they are consumed with things that, they think, benefit them. The way we treat others is a standard of who we really are. Such a person causes much harm in this world and can bring about pain to people within their orbit. Reality is a harsh place. The Tao is a refuge; a place of solace for people who have experienced the pain this life offers us. So, in order to hide from that pain they play hide and seek among things that cause the pain in an effort to diminish it or nullify it completely. In doing so, they are extremely focused on themselves. That is another function of the ego. It is another variation of an ego defense mechanism. This is most common among those who did not grow up with Eastern Mysticism and so are not culturally prone to it. Alan Watts was of this variety I think and that is why he couldn't put the bottle down. He knew this life was painful and sought sanctuary in the bottle and in ideas that are not accepted by most people.


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: Phred]
    #805146 - 08/08/02 06:15 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

It can be rephrased, true, but grammatically speaking in the second arrangement (which I should have used) both "zygote" and "frog" are nouns.

I do not understand what you mean here.


A newborn gorilla IS a gorilla, albeit a sexually immature one. The zygote of a gorilla is NOT YET a gorilla. The fertilized egg of a frog is not yet a frog, nor is a tadpole yet a frog. This is precisely WHY biologists are careful to CALL them "zygotes" or "tadpoles" rather than "really young frogs".

See above post.

Not precisely. It tells what animal it is FROM (a duck egg vs a chicken egg, for example, or a monkey tail vs a horse tail), not necessarily what animal it IS.

The word human also tells where we are from.

This may all seem unnecessarily picky, but there is no firm legal definition based on biology as to what determines when a zygote or blastocyst or fetus becomes a human.

This is incorrect. The SCOTUS decision which does not concern us here defined all stages of human life as human, but that those humans were not persons and could not be protected by law.

What is THE defining characteristic that separates us from the other apes?

DNA.

I really suggest you consult a professional biologist on this matter because it seems no matter what I say you cannot understand my point and/or cannot agree with it.

Zygote, Embryo, and Fetus are terms for stages of development. Human, chimpanzee and gorilla are terms for the living organisms themselves.

Cheers,





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Invisiblebuttonion
Calmly Watching

Registered: 04/04/02
Posts: 303
Loc: Kansas
Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: ]
    #805196 - 08/08/02 06:33 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

Cool. I'm not going to be able to respond for a bit. Probably late tomorrow or Saturday morning.

By the way, I really appreciate your engagment in this, especially since we are getting a bit off the topic. I really want to iron this out.


--------------------
Concepts which have been proved to be useful in ordering things easily acquire such an authority over us that we forget their human origins and accept them as invariable.- Albert Einstein


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: buttonion]
    #805257 - 08/08/02 06:53 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

I feel the same.

Take your time. The slower we go the more progress we might make.

Cheers,


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OfflinePhred
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Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: buttonion]
    #805588 - 08/08/02 09:02 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

I think this is straying further and further afield from the original topic of the thread. It might be best to spin it off to a new sub-thread, don't you think? But what the hell, I can't restrain myself from addressing a few points right now.

buttonion writes:

Everything that we acknowledge as a thing is ultimately dependent on a countless number of conditions for its ?existence.?

Perhaps. So what? The thing exists nonetheless.

This is the same with all ?things?- any ?thing? you can think of is dependent on an infinite amount of conditions. In other words, all existence, without exception, is entirely contingent- no inherent, by itself existence, but, contingent, dependent existence.

Ummm... not quite. It is true that a chunk of iron ore could not exist before a supernova somewhere created the conditions that allowed the formation of iron atoms from simpler atoms, but that doesn't mean that once formed that ore has no independent existence. It exists. There it is. Pick it up and handle it if you wish. That chunk of ore DOES have a "by itself" existence. It is no longer dependent on the continued existence of its parent supernova.

When the conditions change, my plant changes. Although it makes sense to say that ?it changes?, there is in reality no ?it? to change...

This argument holds water only if one defines an existant (let's call it an entity from here on) as something that is both eternal and static; something that has always been there and always will, ignoring the dimension of time. Just as an entity cannot simultaneously occupy every point on the X, Y, and Z axis of the standard physical three dimensional grid, so it cannot occupy all points on the time axis.

...for when my plant has become compost, where is the ?it? which was the plant?

The constituent components of what were once configured as the entity "plant" are still there, but in a different form. That doesn't change the fact that for a certain period of time, the plant existed as a plant.

Where is the fist when I open my hand?

Same answer, but now you are resorting to sophistry.

We refer to ?it? as ?it? because it is useful- we note a relatively stable chunk of perception...

Not exactly accurate. We PERCEIVE a relatively stable entity, which is not the same thing as noting a perception. The entity exists, whether we perceive it or not.

...that we have a need to refer to from time to time, and so it gets a label. But as Swami said, ?the map is not the territory.?

Perhaps. Yet the entity exists, whether we perceive it or not, whether we label it or not, whether we discuss it or not. Its existence is independent of our perception.

These nouns we throw around are useful ways for our organism(s)...

-- which are entities --

... to achieve some satisfactory understanding of the Tao.

Which, if I understand the term correctly, is the sum of all entities.

Responding to Mr_Mushroom's statement: In cases of individual life/death and inorganic/organic not only are the distinctions more than arbitrary they are foundational to our understanding of the world. buttonion asks:

How is this any less arbitrary than any other distinction that is made?

Because the distinction between a living entity and a non-living entity is THE key distinction to be made. It is not arbitrary at all. It is dead simple to differentiate a non-living entity from a living entity: a non-living entity cannot initiate action. A living entity not only CAN initiate action, it MUST do so in order to consider to exist as a living entity. Further, not only must it initiate action, it must initiate a complex and continuing SERIES of CORRECT actions necessary to sustain its existence as a living entity. Failure to do so results (in a very short period of time) in the end of its existence. A chunk of gold is a chunk of gold, whether hammered into a thin sheet or fashioned into an ornament or simply lying in a lump somewhere. A gold nugget can lie motionless in a cave for eons and still be a gold nugget. But if a mouse lies motionless in a cave for more than a few days it is no longer a mouse, it is a sack of decaying meat.

Not to belabor the obvious, but if the distinction between a living and non-living entity was arbitrary, hence of no fundamental importance, who would be around to even pose the question?

pinky


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


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: ]
    #805699 - 08/08/02 09:51 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

There are some very interesting responses in this thread...

The original question did not address at which point a human life becomes a person. The question was not an appeal for a legal definition. The question was really one of biology. Perhaps I should have presented it differently with more qualifiers, "At what point does an individual, biological human life begin?" However, the answers are most instructive in uncovering people's justifications for their moral and political positions (as I expected). My currently held assumption remains the same as previously stated. I have not encountered any compelling arguments to change it. Mr_Mushrooms stated quite well, my reasoning on the matter. My assumptions are based on observable, reproducible scientific (biological) evidence and principles.

Swami, I must say that I was quite distressed that I found myself in agreement with Alex123 regarding your statement, "Dig up a plant and tell me where the plant's roots end and the earth begins. It is impossible as it is a continuum." As one who has done a fair amount of gardening (legal and otherwise), that was pretty weak.


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: Phred]
    #806248 - 08/09/02 06:30 AM (19 years, 1 month ago)

Bravo bravo, well done!

[stands and applauds]


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: ]
    #806254 - 08/09/02 06:35 AM (19 years, 1 month ago)

To invest one's self in the pseudo-assumed conclusion of any particular premise or set of premises is the surest way to blind one's eyes to the truth. This thread offers abundant evidence of that.


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InvisibleSwami
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Registered: 01/19/00
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Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: ]
    #806392 - 08/09/02 07:50 AM (19 years, 1 month ago)

Swami, I must say that I was quite distressed that I found myself in agreement with Alex123 regarding your statement, "Dig up a plant and tell me where the plant's roots end and the earth begins. It is impossible as it is a continuum." As one who has done a fair amount of gardening (legal and otherwise), that was pretty weak.

When digging up any plant, you will bring up some dirt with it and leave some rootlets in the ground. It is impossible not to. Now whip out a microscope and state that you can tell EXACTLY where one starts and the other begins. The dirt is in the process of becoming part of the plant.

Try not to be too distressed.


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



The proof is in the pudding.


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: Swami]
    #806430 - 08/09/02 08:08 AM (19 years, 1 month ago)

I would state that the root begins at the cell wall.


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: ]
    #806514 - 08/09/02 09:02 AM (19 years, 1 month ago)

For the plant to absorb any nutrients, the cell membrane cannot be totally closed. It must be permeable and that means an indistinct boundary. Is the mineral that is half in and half out of the membrane, dirt or plant?


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



The proof is in the pudding.


Edited by Swami (08/09/02 09:43 AM)


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: Swami]
    #806545 - 08/09/02 09:15 AM (19 years, 1 month ago)

The boundary is placed between that which has DNA and that which does not. The one side is organic and living and the other side is inorganic and non-living. There is nothing difficult about it.

Please refer us to a scientific peer-reviewed article that gives credence to your idea.

Thank you.

Cheers,


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Invisiblebuttonion
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Registered: 04/04/02
Posts: 303
Loc: Kansas
Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: ]
    #807066 - 08/09/02 01:06 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

This is kind of funny. I have spent quite a bit of time on my response? and a way to expedite the conversation just dawned on me. I realize that it is my turn to respond, but your answer to this question will likely save me (actually us) a lot of time.

What is a thing, more properly known in philosophy as an ?object? or ?real object??

It is probably important to lay out a working definition, especially since I am basically saying that they don?t exist. A definition that I found involves independent existence, but this can't be what you are saying since I have shown that all "things" have interdependent existence.


--------------------
Concepts which have been proved to be useful in ordering things easily acquire such an authority over us that we forget their human origins and accept them as invariable.- Albert Einstein


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InvisibleSclorch
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Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: buttonion]
    #807193 - 08/09/02 02:01 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

Too much idealism... not enough reality.

Practically speaking, the word "object" is VERY accurate.
HOWEVER, once we all note the interdependence (no determinism implied here) of all "things" in this place we call reality, it becomes quite clear that there is no ideal way of separating something from "the rest". Waves... particles... whatever, someTHING will "contaminate" (for lack of a better word) the "object" we are trying to separate from everything else.

So, it all boils down to our conceptualization of the world AND, since there are many different ways of looking at it, before we start arguing about such "things" it would help to have a common ground. The problem arises when deciding which common ground we'll use. Since I'm getting a little tired of tapping at these keys, I'll let someone else decide as this is not my argument.


--------------------
Note: In desperate need of a cure...


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Invisiblebuttonion
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Posts: 303
Loc: Kansas
Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: Sclorch]
    #807219 - 08/09/02 02:16 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

it becomes quite clear that there is no ideal way of separating something from "the rest". Waves... particles... whatever, someTHING will "contaminate" (for lack of a better word) the "object" we are trying to separate from everything else.


Sclorch! Dude, jump in! I know your at least familiar with Watts. I can only think of so many ways of saying what I am trying to say here. Your input may clarify a lot.


--------------------
Concepts which have been proved to be useful in ordering things easily acquire such an authority over us that we forget their human origins and accept them as invariable.- Albert Einstein


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: buttonion]
    #807500 - 08/09/02 05:20 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

This question is actually more complex than some might think. I'll do my best to answer it.

Things, more properly called entities as Pinky indicated, must meet a set of criteria in order to count as things. Entities must be either an individual or a property or a relation or an event or a state of affairs or a set. Each of these examples is a category. Secondly, the existence, or being, of a thing is what makes it an entity. Thirdly, it has to have identity that is distinct from everything else. It must have properties and have a relation to other entities. And lastly, it must be logically self-consistent.

If you need a further explanation just ask. I can go into each section in more detail but that might be a bit cumbersome. Hopefully these answers are sufficient for our purposes.

Good job in asking for the definition. Most people argue without defining the terms they use. It's a mess.

Cheers,


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Anonymous

Re: When Does Human Life Begin? [Re: Sclorch]
    #807504 - 08/09/02 05:24 PM (19 years, 1 month ago)

Too much idealism... not enough reality.

Yes, that has been on my mind ever since this thread took a turn down this path.

Berkeleianism makes my skin crawl.

Cheers,


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