When does life begin according to atheists? [Kill Em With Kindness]

razorphreak
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When does life begin according to atheists? [Kill Em With Kindness]

I had been debating someone on a different online forum about some political issues and it turned into a conservative vs. liberal debate, to which I posed the question what exactly is a liberal and what is a conservative.  The response I got was defining a liberal as "Modern liberalism is infused with idea that truth is relative. Surveys consistently show this. And if truth is relative, it also must follow that honesty is subjective."  So I asked for an example of when truth could be relative and I was given as a liberal example, "A human embryo is only a human after the first trimester, and a "partial-birth" abortion is not a death (explain partial birth)." 

Anyway I got to wondering, how do you guys define when life started?  I couldn't exactly find any concrete position here so I thought I'd put the question up for debate.

And forgive if this has been a previous post...

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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Life begins when you are

Life begins when you are first issued your social security number, before that you don't actually exist ....

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I'm afraid you've gotten bad

I'm afraid you've gotten bad information.  Liberalism (in a philosophical sense... not political) doesn't depend on subjective truth.  It is typically the acknowledgment of the objective truth that much of the human experience is subjective, and that there are often multiple ways of doing something, all of which are valid.  It also tends to value individual freedom above group conformity.

Both the egg and the sperm are alive before fertilization.  Scientifically speaking, life doesn't begin.  It continues.  As far as the individual that will grow into a human, it is alive in a scientific sense from conception.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Life begins when I create

Life begins when I create it.  All sperm are alive.  Every time a man masturbates or has sex, millions and millions of alive potential humans are killed.  Even when a woman gets pregnant we can expect for about 10 million potential brothers and sisters to be killed off due to the fact that only one of the sperm will make it.  If you think sperm are not alive, ask yourself when is the last time you saw a dead thing swim.  Great plan your god had eh? 

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Sapient wrote:  Even when a

Sapient wrote:

  Even when a woman gets pregnant we can expect for about 10 million potential brothers and sisters to be killed off due to the fact that only one of the sperm will make it... Great plan your god had eh? 

Perhaps God considers the loss of 10,000,000 potential humans as collateral damage ?  Besides life is cheap when you are a God who can create humans out of thin air.

www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/misanthropy

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I don't think you could find

I don't think you could find a group of atheists who would necessarily agree on the beginning of life and/or the concept of personhood. There is nobody who can claim that an embryo is not "alive" by definition--any single-celled organism is. The question is whether or not it is a "life", as in a person deserving of rights and protection under the law. That is an entirely different question that has nothing to do with atheism. Peter Singer thinks that babies up to a month old are not persons, and he's an atheist. I know atheists who are anti-abortion. And I'm sure there are tons somewhere in between. Personally, I would say the beginning of the third trimester is the point at which a fetus deserves protection as it is capable of life outside the womb and has developed all of the senses that we have as adults, including the ability to feel pain.


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life

razorphreak wrote:
 how do you guys define when life started? 

 

What is life?

 

Are you thinking of abiogenesis?

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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I was going to wait for the

I was going to wait for the inevitable question, but Kelly has addressed it before razor could ask.  The question of abortion is a political one, not a scientific one.  The thing is, razor, the moral outrage that will now ensue is not justified, for it has been well established throughout history that some killing of humans is not only ok, but even good.  The "dignity of the human spirit" argument is horseshit.  The bottom line is that your opinion about abortion depends on your opinion of the value of human life, and more specifically, the relative value of a fetus compared to an independent human.  This is not something that's set in stone, and there are good arguments from many different sides of the table.

 

 

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ProzacDeathWish

ProzacDeathWish wrote:

Life begins when you are first issued your social security number, before that you don't actually exist ....

HOSTIS HUMANI GENERIS

A man after my own heart....


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Sapient wrote:Life begins

Sapient wrote:

Life begins when I create it.  All sperm are alive.  Every time a man masturbates or has sex, millions and millions of alive potential humans are killed.  Even when a woman gets pregnant we can expect for about 10 million potential brothers and sisters to be killed off due to the fact that only one of the sperm will make it.  If you think sperm are not alive, ask yourself when is the last time you saw a dead thing swim.  Great plan your god had eh? 

Don't forget all those eggs that just get flushed down the toilet. (I know. Orders of magnitude of difference, and all.)

Every time a woman menstruates, God cries.

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Thank you guys for some

Thank you guys for some interesting replies. 

I don't mean to send this thread down the political issue of abortion as that was not my intention. 

hamby, your comment of "life does not begin...it continues" is a point of view I never really considered (I wonder how that would apply to the political debate?).

Sperm without and egg or vice versa is not life.  It is potential life yes but one without the other is basically nothing. 

But it is Kelly's comment that is more to the point.  When conception happens, is that human life?  If anyone is about to become a parent, is the life within the woman life now?  Was it an "it" or life when it was conceived?  I'm guessing here that both Sapient and hamby believe it is life at conception...Kelly not so much?  Or did I get you wrong Kelly?

Is there a debate on this when it does not involve the political issue of abortion?

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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Tax deduction

I have always said, when the IRS allows you to claim this child, that's when life begins. 


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razorphreak wrote:Is there a

razorphreak wrote:

Is there a debate on this when it does not involve the political issue of abortion?

I imagine there's a lot of philosophic debate among embryologists. Among the general population? Not a lot, though I got into a great discussion about similar things once while getting stoned with some friends.

I imagine there's some point after the first mitosis of the zygote and before high school graduation when self-awareness creeps in. That's the only point I can think of that really distinguishes the life of of a "person" from the life of two haploid cells in the instant before fertilization. Sure, there's lots of other differences. But really, life is life. If you decide that eggs and sperm aren't "life," then what makes the zygote special? What makes the fetus special? How is that life qualitatively different from the two star-crossed gametes?

I'd tend to agree with Kelly on this one. The viability of the fetus is really the determining factor. Until the point that the fetus is able to survive outside the womb, it is essentially a parasite in the womb of the host mother. It's an arbitrary distinction, but it's the best I think we can do for now.

Hey, Razorphreak, a serious question: I'm assuming you believe we are inhabited or are otherwise infused by a soul. Is the soul distinct from the body? That is, does it pre-exist, or is it something that grows with the body? Basically, what's the mechanics of the soul/body duality?

There's no hidden motive for me asking. I'm just curious, and I believe this has a bearing on the topic at hand.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


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I don't think there's a

I don't think there's a hard-line 'right answer' here. I do think the mother should have the right to choose to abort a fetus, and I lean ever so slightly towards Singer's opinion as far as the 'term' is concerned. There are enough people on the planet as is, and life is not 'sacred'. That notion can be lost to ancient history alongside theology, as far as I'm concerned. We're altruistic by virtue of instinct anyway - we don't need a metaphorical nonsense term like 'sacred' governing any issue.

Parents should have time to 'try-out' their new baby and their parenting skills (as well as the option to abort a fetus they're unsure of their ability/want to parent). If they don't like it or can't cope with it, the option should be on the table to euthanize the infant (we experiment on and kill intelligent animals like rats all the time, which I also endorse. This is hardly much different, except that a human infant has neither the memories, consciousness or intelligence of the other animals we kill without batting an eye over).

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"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

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nigelTheBold wrote:I'd tend

nigelTheBold wrote:
I'd tend to agree with Kelly on this one. The viability of the fetus is really the determining factor. Until the point that the fetus is able to survive outside the womb, it is essentially a parasite in the womb of the host mother. It's an arbitrary distinction, but it's the best I think we can do for now.

But isn't the possibility for life mean just as much as survivability?

nigelTheBold wrote:
Hey, Razorphreak, a serious question: I'm assuming you believe we are inhabited or are otherwise infused by a soul. Is the soul distinct from the body? That is, does it pre-exist, or is it something that grows with the body? Basically, what's the mechanics of the soul/body duality?

I'll be honest, I don't really see the relevance only because I honestly started this thread looking for different viewpoints on the subject of "when does life begin."  I'd much rather start a new thread on theistic questions regarding a soul.  I really wanted to keep this thread free from atheist vs. theist regards.

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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Quote:Sperm without and egg

Quote:
Sperm without and egg or vice versa is not life.  It is potential life yes but one without the other is basically nothing.

Razor, you're letting theism get in the way of using your brain.  I know the concept of sex cells being alive is troubling for anti-abortionists, but they fit absolutely every scientific criteria for life.

Just to prove it to yourself, go to the store and buy yourself a cheap microscope.  Jerk off onto a glass slide, and look at it under the microscope.  You'll see lots of little cells, separate from your body, wiggling around independently.  Sperm have approximately a 3-5 day lifespan, which is slightly longer than the lifespan of gastrotricha, a very small freshwater animal.

The egg is similarly alive, independent of the female's body.  How do you think fertility clinics get their work done?

Quote:
I'm guessing here that both Sapient and hamby believe it is life at conception...Kelly not so much?  Or did I get you wrong Kelly?

There is no scientific debate about whether the sex cells are alive, nor is there any doubt that the newly fertilized zygote is alive.  As I have pointed out, there was never a point where there was no life.  Life is a continuation, not a series of independent events.   Razor, you need to remember that life is essentially DNA.  When any animal makes a baby, it is passing on some of its genetic material directly to a new organism.  You have DNA in your cells that is, from a very legitimate point of view, billions of years old.

If Kelly is disagreeing on any point, I imagine it's a question of when something can rightly be called a human being.  I don't have a firm opinion on that because I think it's largely a question of semantics for political posturing.  I'm quite content with my own position on abortion, and have no particular need to commit to a position.

Quote:
hamby, your comment of "life does not begin...it continues" is a point of view I never really considered (I wonder how that would apply to the political debate?).

I've noticed that scientific accuracy rarely, if ever, enters into the political debate.  I hardly think it matters in the least to politicians.

 

 

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Hambydammit wrote:Razor,

Hambydammit wrote:
Razor, you're letting theism get in the way of using your brain.  I know the concept of sex cells being alive is troubling for anti-abortionists, but they fit absolutely every scientific criteria for life.

Just to prove it to yourself, go to the store and buy yourself a cheap microscope.  Jerk off onto a glass slide, and look at it under the microscope.  You'll see lots of little cells, separate from your body, wiggling around independently.  Sperm have approximately a 3-5 day lifespan, which is slightly longer than the lifespan of gastrotricha, a very small freshwater animal.

The egg is similarly alive, independent of the female's body.  How do you think fertility clinics get their work done?

But one without the other is nothing no?  Sperm has no purpose without the egg.  And the egg has no purpose without the sperm.  Neither can be called "human" until they are together and the magic happens (don't flame me on that statement ok...I'm talking figuratively).

That did get me wondering...how are sperm and eggs considered "alive?" 

My question to you is since cells/DNA are part of a unique entity we'd call a human being, doesn't that mean those cells/DNA are not life but part of a life?  When sperm and egg come together, do they not create a new unique entity?  So since we are talking human life, parts of the whole, like the thousands of skin cells you shed daily, how can they be considered "life" as well if they are not unique entities themselves (that is they serve no purpose alone/seperated)?  No "theism" in my questions...I'm really intriguied by this line of thought that you present.

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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Quote:But one without the

Quote:
But one without the other is nothing no?

Yes.  An egg is an egg and a sperm is a sperm.  That's not nothing.  It's a living cell.

Quote:
Sperm has no purpose without the egg.  And the egg has no purpose without the sperm.

Purpose is an artificial construct.  Neither a sperm nor an egg have goals.  What  they have is genes that, under the right conditions, will trigger a series of chemical events.  If those conditions are not presented, the events don't happen, and the cell dies.  Before you protest, consider that we can just as easily say that the purpose of an egg and a sperm is to die.  The testicles are designed with a set of biological apparatus whose "purpose" is to reabsorb unused and non-motile sperm back into the body where they will literally be disassembled and used for other "purposes."  The egg has it worse.  It doesn't even get to stay in the body, for the menstrual cycle's "purpose" is to dispose of, and ultimately kill, an egg, along with quite a lot of blood cells, which are also alive.

So, if purpose is assigned based on a conclusion that has evolved mechanisms to facilitate it, an egg or sperm's "purpose" is either to die or to unite with its complementary cell during outcrossing.

Quote:
Neither can be called "human" until they are together and the magic happens (don't flame me on that statement ok...I'm talking figuratively).

I can't argue with you.  A haploid cell is certainly not a human.

Quote:
That did get me wondering...how are sperm and eggs considered "alive?"

Typically, something is alive if it meets these criteria:

Homeostasis - check.

Organization - check.

Metabolism - check.

Growth - check... though they don't grow after they are fully formed, spermatogonia constantly line the walls of the seminiferous tubules, and after puberty, they begin to divide and form the cells that will grow into sperm.  A similar process produces eggs.

Adaptation - check.  Sperm and eggs both have competitive strategies that have evolved in response to selection pressure.

Response to stimuli - check

The only somewhat nebulous criteria is reproduction, but seeing as they are reproductive cells, it's kind of a moot point.  Again, you can play semantic games with it, but from a scientific point of view, there is no debate.

Quote:
So since we are talking human life, parts of the whole, like the thousands of skin cells you shed daily, how can they be considered "life" as well if they are not unique entities themselves (that is they serve no purpose alone/seperated)?

Notice that "discreet existence" was not a criteria for life?  Symbiotic organisms often cannot survive without their counterparts.  In fact, some symbiotic relationships have become so blurred that it's genuinely difficult for scientists to say whether it has, in fact, become one organism.  In short, there's no requirement for discreet existence apart from other life.

Quote:
No "theism" in my questions...I'm really intriguied by this line of thought that you present.

Gotcha.

Quote:
My question to you is since cells/DNA are part of a unique entity we'd call a human being, doesn't that mean those cells/DNA are not life but part of a life?  When sperm and egg come together, do they not create a new unique entity?

From the point of view of a gene, not particularly.  From the point of view of a brain, yeah.  Though each of our trillion or so cells is, in fact, alive, they are part of a much larger conglomeration of cells.  From a cell's point of view, there is no human. 

The example of symbiotic organisms is also very telling.  A termite cannot live without the wood digesting protozoa in its belly.  Without a termite, the protozoa get no wood and die.  Beyond that, the Trichonympha rely on symbiotic bacteria for the enzymes they use to metabolize the cellulose.  Yet, each of these three organisms has its own classification of life form.  It's really not much different for a human.  In fact, sperm is a great example.  In each of your sperm, there are mitochondria which will be discarded from the cell before genetic insertion into the egg.  These organelles are descendants of discreet organisms that predate the eukaryotic revolution.  They have become so integrated into the cells they once preyed upon that they are virtually indistinguishable.  Yet, it is now virtually universally acknowledged that they were at one time, discreet organisms.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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razorphreak wrote:But isn't

razorphreak wrote:

But isn't the possibility for life mean just as much as survivability?

I think that's a whole 'nother can of worms. At that point, "possibility" becomes any logical combination of gametes, or even artificial clones. At what point is "potential" and "possible" worth defending?

For instance, females spontaneously reject fertilized eggs all the time. An early-stage foetus might be discarded during regular menstruation, and the female won't even realize she was pregnant. That discarded egg has just as much "potential" as a fertilized egg that attaches to the wall of the womb, and is later carried to term. Are we letting millions of children die each year, simply because we don't do more to ensure every fertilized egg is carried to term?

I'm not discussing the viability of those zygotes. The body rejects them for a reason, in most cases. The lives we would be "saving" by ensuring every zygote becomes a foetus might not be worth saving.

From a biological standpoint, we have an obligation to our species. (Well, "obligation" might not be the correct word. But I haven't had much coffee yet. I can't use my words good until I drank me some coffee.) That obligation is greater than our obligation to an individual.

That leads me to an interesting question: How and why did we evolve the desire to not be pregnant? Even to the point of discarding the product of our own reproduction?

Quote:

I'll be honest, I don't really see the relevance only because I honestly started this thread looking for different viewpoints on the subject of "when does life begin."  I'd much rather start a new thread on theistic questions regarding a soul.  I really wanted to keep this thread free from atheist vs. theist regards.

The relevence is limited. Mostly, it's just the "other side of the coin." I was just trying to indulge my curiosity. But, you are absolutely correct. No need to derail a perfectly intelligent conversation to satisfy my own selfish desires. I retract that question for now, with the hope of getting back to it on another thread, after we've played out this thread.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


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hamby thank you for that

hamby thank you for that explanation.  I have no reason to disagree with anything you wrote there. 

I'm still trying to wrap my thoughts around the "alive" part since it cannot be alive without being part of the whole.  But I do see your point.

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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nigelTheBold wrote:At what

nigelTheBold wrote:
At what point is "potential" and "possible" worth defending?

Depends on if we are attempting to alter what happens naturally I suppose, but then that's the political argument I think.  Humans naturally remove both for all manner of purposes.  There is no need to label it good or bad since that is part of nature and nature does not distinguish between the two.

nigelTheBold wrote:
From a biological standpoint, we have an obligation to our species. (Well, "obligation" might not be the correct word. But I haven't had much coffee yet. I can't use my words good until I drank me some coffee.) That obligation is greater than our obligation to an individual.

That leads me to an interesting question: How and why did we evolve the desire to not be pregnant? Even to the point of discarding the product of our own reproduction?

I'm assuming you are talking about the continuation of the species, not your blood line, that "obligation."

I don't think we ever "evolved" out of that desire...wouldn't it be more an issue of societal pressures rather than natural desires to reproduce (that is, at least to those who can reproduce)?  I mean if you cannot financially afford 15 kids, I don't think you'll continue having sex with reproduction in mind right?

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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razorphreak wrote:hamby

razorphreak wrote:

hamby thank you for that explanation.  I have no reason to disagree with anything you wrote there. 

I'm still trying to wrap my thoughts around the "alive" part since it cannot be alive without being part of the whole.  But I do see your point.

A haploid cell is by any other name a cell.  It is alive.  It has life.  Which part of that weren't you getting?  What is the 'whole' you speak of?

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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Thomathy wrote:A haploid

Thomathy wrote:
A haploid cell is by any other name a cell.  It is alive.  It has life.  Which part of that weren't you getting?  What is the 'whole' you speak of?

The human body. 

The cell is nothing without it.  What I'm trying to grasp, if this was hamby's point, was while the cell may be "alive," is it considered "life."  Perhaps one reason for what has me stumped is when I'm thinking the term "life," I'm thinking human life which is what I meant by the OP.  But I digress that "life" can yes be nothing more than one cell.

hamby, et al, does it make any difference if I were to have specifically asked "when does HUMAN life begin" in your responses (although I do believe Kelly was responding to exactly that point)?

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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Hmm...

Hambydammit wrote:
The only somewhat nebulous criteria is reproduction, but seeing as they are reproductive cells, it's kind of a moot point.  Again, you can play semantic games with it, but from a scientific point of view, there is no debate.

It seems to me that sex cells do not in any way, shape, or form reproduce. Reproduction is the means by which organisms create copies of themselves. A sperm cell does not create a copy of itself. Instead it combines with an egg to create a copy of an organism. No reproduction = not alive.

 

Now for the bigger question which I think is: When does life begin philosophically?

I believe the one thing that makes human beings unique from every other organism on the face of the earth is the ability to reason. So as far as I'm concerned, a fetus becomes a human being when he/she has a functioning brain.


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razorphreak wrote:I'm

razorphreak wrote:

I'm assuming you are talking about the continuation of the species, not your blood line, that "obligation."

I don't think we ever "evolved" out of that desire...wouldn't it be more an issue of societal pressures rather than natural desires to reproduce (that is, at least to those who can reproduce)?  I mean if you cannot financially afford 15 kids, I don't think you'll continue having sex with reproduction in mind right?

Precisely. If someone chooses to not reproduce, even to the point of aborting a foetus, they are obviously not following some innate desire to reproduce their own specific genes. However, very few people desire to see the end of our species.

I think you've hit the answer to my question about evolving a desire to avoid breeding. Societal pressure seems to be a big evolutionary influence at the moment.

Anyway, that's completely tangential to your original discussion. So, to the real point:

razorphreak wrote:

Thomathy wrote:
A haploid cell is by any other name a cell.  It is alive.  It has life.  Which part of that weren't you getting?  What is the 'whole' you speak of?

The human body. 

The cell is nothing without it.  What I'm trying to grasp, if this was hamby's point, was while the cell may be "alive," is it considered "life."  Perhaps one reason for what has me stumped is when I'm thinking the term "life," I'm thinking human life which is what I meant by the OP.  But I digress that "life" can yes be nothing more than one cell.

hamby, et al, does it make any difference if I were to have specifically asked "when does HUMAN life begin" in your responses (although I do believe Kelly was responding to exactly that point)?

So two gametes are "nothing without [the human body]." How about the zygote? Is it also nothing? How about the embryo? The foetus?

I think that was Kelly's point -- that survivability is the best cutoff we have. It's arbitrary, but pretty much any definition of the beginning of "human life" is arbitrary. As Hamby points out, it's really a continuum. There's no instant in which something goes from non-life to life in the reproductive phase. It's all just "life." It appears that any other question becomes one of practicality, ethics, or politics. Ignore the ethics and the politics, and you're left with practicality. With that, I believe survivability is the only real option as a definition.

At least, that's how I see it. Perhaps I'm missing options, though.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


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imthinking wrote:It seems to

imthinking wrote:

It seems to me that sex cells do not in any way, shape, or form reproduce. Reproduction is the means by which organisms create copies of themselves. A sperm cell does not create a copy of itself. Instead it combines with an egg to create a copy of an organism. No reproduction = not alive.

But it moves and has an objective to reach the egg.

Is it a programmed mechanical device then?

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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imthinking wrote:I believe

imthinking wrote:

I believe the one thing that makes human beings unique from every other organism on the face of the earth is the ability to reason. So as far as I'm concerned, a fetus becomes a human being when he/she has a functioning brain.

I'd be careful here. I believe it is an error to think humans are unique in their ability to reason. Many other species have demonstrated the ability to reason to one degree or another. Humans have just proven to be particularly clever at it. Just as cheetahs are the fastest sprinters, it doesn't mean other animals can't run.

We have simply specialized in being generalists.

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It's a cell.

aiia wrote:

But it moves and has an objective to reach the egg.

Is it a programmed mechanical device then?

It exhibits certain properties common to living things, but reproduction is a required property of ANY living thing. And since it does not exhibit reproduction, it is not living.

I am by no means an expert, but this is my understanding. Sperm don't actually have an "objective" to reach the egg. To have an objective, you have to be able to think as far as I'm concerned. Instead the sperm cells all move vigorously not necessarily of their own accord, but it's just what they do. This is construed as "trying to get to the egg".


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nigelTheBold wrote:I'd be

nigelTheBold wrote:

I'd be careful here. I believe it is an error to think humans are unique in their ability to reason. Many other species have demonstrated the ability to reason to one degree or another. Humans have just proven to be particularly clever at it. Just as cheetahs are the fastest sprinters, it doesn't mean other animals can't run.

We have simply specialized in being generalists.

Honestly, this is something that I often wonder about. How do you define the difference between a human's ability to reason and the ability of animals to reason. Regardless, I find the human brain to be the aspect of humanity that distinguishes it from any other life forms. And I think that it is the best decider for the beginning of a life. Although I will admit it remains somewhat arbitrary.


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nigelTheBold wrote:So two

nigelTheBold wrote:
So two gametes are "nothing without [the human body]." How about the zygote? Is it also nothing? How about the embryo? The foetus?

Well...aren't they?  I mean in the context of human reproduction, would either gametes exist without the carrier?  The others are the results of the first so you can't have anything that will become a human being unless you have two humans supplying the necessary tools for the job.  Outside the human body, they are basically useless (and I'm not talking about frozen for later use neither).  It's a bit lewd, but if you were to jerk off onto the floor, the sperm are now basically useless.

nigelTheBold wrote:
As Hamby points out, it's really a continuum. There's no instant in which something goes from non-life to life in the reproductive phase. It's all just "life." It appears that any other question becomes one of practicality, ethics, or politics. Ignore the ethics and the politics, and you're left with practicality. With that, I believe survivability is the only real option as a definition.

At least, that's how I see it. Perhaps I'm missing options, though.

See that's what I understand as well.  And I agree with it.  But are the individual cells life themselves, again in the context of human reproduction?  That's the concept that's a bit harder to grasp. 

To me, right now the answer is a resounding yes, they are life.  Their purpose, while an artificial construct as hamby pointed out, however is to either simply die or to be used for procreation.  So if you use those gametes for their "ultimate" purpose, to procreate, then a new individual human life has begun.  Reason, senses, etc. are moot because no matter how you approach it, it is a new human life.

Am I off on that conclusion?

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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Quote:The cell is nothing

Quote:
The cell is nothing without it.  What I'm trying to grasp, if this was hamby's point, was while the cell may be "alive," is it considered "life."  Perhaps one reason for what has me stumped is when I'm thinking the term "life," I'm thinking human life which is what I meant by the OP.  But I digress that "life" can yes be nothing more than one cell.

The problem you're going to run into is that you're mixing philosophy with science.  The sex cells are alive by all scientific definitions.  All of them.  By the way, did you notice that even though I addressed the issue of reproduction, someone still brought it up?  It's almost as if people don't read the posts...  Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

Alive = life.  It's just two forms of the same word.  If I have life, I am alive. 

Quote:
hamby, et al, does it make any difference if I were to have specifically asked "when does HUMAN life begin" in your responses (although I do believe Kelly was responding to exactly that point)?

As I've said before, this question is mostly semantic, and frankly, I don't give a damn.  I don't know if you've been following some of the other threads, but there's been a lot said recently about the concept of a species.  The uncomfortable truth is that "species" is  (and I'm going to keep saying this until someone notices) specious.  Life is a continuum.  Zoologists invented the taxonomic classifications before they knew about DNA, or that all life was related to a common ancestor.  Though the divisions of species work well enough, they are far from exact.  This is because there is no objectively real division between life.  You and I have over 90% of the same genetic material as an oyster.  Statistically, the differences between any two animals are so slight as to almost be insignificant.  Having said that, of course we can look at a human and say, "That's a human."  For all intents and purposes, you and I share so many similar qualities that there's no problem saying we are the same thing, but from another point of view, we're not.  My genome is not replicated by any other organism on earth, and neither is yours.  We are discreet entities that have never existed before and will never exist again.  Furthermore, either one of us, were we to reproduce (I have no idea if you have kids) could, in theory, become the father of a new "species."  Since species are only identified in reverse, we have no way of knowing for many, many generations.

I know I'm not really answering your question, but that's because your question is somewhat misplaced.  Taxonomy, though it represents real phenotypic and genotypic differences between discreet genetic "packages," is an artificial construct that makes it easier for scientists to conduct research.  Politically, the definition of "human" matters quite a bit, but scientifically, it's nothing magical.

I need to point out, just to be thorough, that there are certainly quantifiable, real differences between say, eukaryotes and prokaryotes.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that there are plenty of clear cut divisions that enable us to construct taxonomic boxes for things.  However, at the fringes, it gets really nebulous. 

A blastocyst formed in a human female will, if implantation is successful, form an embryo and a placenta, from the embryoblast and trophoblast, respectively.  To a scientist, it's a blastocyst.  Is it human?  I dunno.  It's a blastocyst.  When it's an embryo, is it a human?  I dunno.  It's an embryo.  All of these terms have exact scientific meanings, and refer to a very specific entity.  As far as I know, scientifically, a life form becomes its taxonomic name after birth.  In other words, if you show me a mass of cells from a chimp and ask me to identify it, I'll do some experiments and tell you it's a blastocyst.  If it's from further in pregnancy and has certain developmental characteristics, I'll tell you it's an embryo.  If you ask me what species produced it, I'll tell you a chimpanzee.  Show me a baby chimp, and I'll tell you it's a chimpanzee.  At each stage, we have a precise way of identifying the thing.  To call a blastocyst a chimpanzee is a scientific mistake.  Since humans are just another life form in the same tree, I can't think of any reason to treat humans differently.

 

 

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imthinking wrote:aiia

imthinking wrote:

aiia wrote:

But it moves and has an objective to reach the egg.

Is it a programmed mechanical device then?

It exhibits certain properties common to living things, but reproduction is a required property of ANY living thing. And since it does not exhibit reproduction, it is not living.

It quacks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it smells like a duck, it looks like a duck, it has web feet like a duck...

the only difference is, the sperm does not reproduce itself. Its like a severed finger; for a while the nail will continue to grow until the nutrients are depleated.

Quote:
I am by no means an expert, but this is my understanding. Sperm don't actually have an "objective" to reach the egg. To have an objective, you have to be able to think as far as I'm concerned. Instead the sperm cells all move vigorously not necessarily of their own accord, but it's just what they do. This is construed as "trying to get to the egg".

Yes the program. Its in the dna - like the Mars Lander, but instead of bringing back samples it delivers samples.

 

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Quote:The problem you're

Quote:

The problem you're going to run into is that you're mixing philosophy with science.  The sex cells are alive by all scientific definitions.  All of them.  By the way, did you notice that even though I addressed the issue of reproduction, someone still brought it up?  It's almost as if people don't read the posts...  Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

Alive = life.  It's just two forms of the same word.  If I have life, I am alive.

I saw the comment about semantics in your original post as a clear means to prevent anyone from attacking the whole in your definition. "A sperm cell meets almost all of the requirements for life, but that's just semantics." A sperm cell is neither alive nor a life. Laughing out loud


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razorphreak

razorphreak wrote:

Well...aren't they?  I mean in the context of human reproduction, would either gametes exist without the carrier?  The others are the results of the first so you can't have anything that will become a human being unless you have two humans supplying the necessary tools for the job.  Outside the human body, they are basically useless (and I'm not talking about frozen for later use neither).  It's a bit lewd, but if you were to jerk off onto the floor, the sperm are now basically useless.

I'm smiling big-time. This is the kind of philosophic discussion that I find terribly interesting. Since this is essentially framed as philosophy rather than biology, I'll go with the philosophical angle, though I think we can be neither "right" nor "wrong" when discussing this. So, it's merely a matter of perspective.

A sperm is not a separate organism from its producer. I'll grant you that. Masturbating into a sock is hardly any different than bleeding from a cut. The blood is alive only in the strictest sense of the word; same with the sperm. And we would consider neither one a human.

But then we have the zygote. Is that a human? If it were removed from the womb, it would be basically useless, just as you describe. Its purpose is to go through the process of mitosis over and over again, and form an embryo.

Then what about the embryo? If it is removed from the womb, it too becomes useless, just as the sperm ejaculated onto the floor become useless.

And so on.

At every stage, the developing gamete/zygote/embryo/foetus is dependent upon the producer. There are several distinct and interesting parts: the fertilization which forms the zygote, the specialization of cells into organs, the first heartbeat, the point at which the foetus becomes capable of surviving outside the womb, birth, and what-have-you.

What is the "use" of each of these stages?

I guess  my point is just as Hamby said: "usefulness" is an artificial construct based on value judgements, rather than any objective criteria.

But again, this is all philosophy, and not biology. So I think it's all a matter of perspective.

Quote:

See that's what I understand as well.  And I agree with it.  But are the individual cells life themselves, again in the context of human reproduction?  That's the concept that's a bit harder to grasp. 

To me, right now the answer is a resounding yes, they are life.  Their purpose, while an artificial construct as hamby pointed out, however is to either simply die or to be used for procreation.  So if you use those gametes for their "ultimate" purpose, to procreate, then a new individual human life has begun.  Reason, senses, etc. are moot because no matter how you approach it, it is a new human life.

Am I off on that conclusion?

I don't think you're off at all. I think it's a valid conclusion from your philosophical foundation. The zygote is the first place that a unique and particular combination of genes is created. So, if it is the genetic foundation that makes us "human," that is as good a place as any to declare, "This entity is a unique human."

I think it's important to realize that a different philosophic foundation will result in a different judgement. And this is where I think the discussion falters. I'm not sure how to continue on, other than to try to figure out our philosophic differences. I think that's what the others (Hamby, especially) are attempting to do: outline their philosophic assumptions.

For instance, another assumption might be that it is the expression of the genes that makes us human, in which case we aren't human until we've sufficiently developed to be considered a full expression of our genes.

Anyway, that's my take on the topic so far. I have to admit, I've never really considered it to this extent before.

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No, I'mthinking.  (Ironic

No, I'mthinking.  (Ironic name...)  Read what I'm about to write very carefully.  Sex cells are haploid.  Unlike polyploid cells, which have two or more homologous copies of each chromosome, haploids have one.  This is not a problem for the definition of life, for there are many kinds of single celled organisms that do not reproduce by meiosis.  Horizontal transfer and binary fission are also common among single cells.  It is not restricted to prokaryotic cells, either.  Some eukaryotic cells undergo cytokinesis instead of mitosis or meiosis.  In short, gametes are unusual in sexually reproducing organisms because they are haploid rather than diploid.  However, this has no particular bearing on the existence of their metabolic processes, only on the chapter of the science book they're going to be mentioned in.

Quote:
"A sperm cell meets almost all of the requirements for life, but that's just semantics." A sperm cell is neither alive nor a life. Laughing out loud

A sperm cell meets all of the requirements for life, and one of them has an asterisk because it is an entirely different kind of cell than any other in the organism.  I'm not going to argue with you about this because there is no argument to be had.  If it is a cell, it is alive.  Period, end of story, fin, fine, done.  Your lack of scientific knowledge is a problem for you, but I'm not going to get into a debate where the answer is easily apparent for anyone who wants to crack a textbook.

 

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imthinking wrote:[It seems

imthinking wrote:

[It seems to me that sex cells do not in any way, shape, or form reproduce. Reproduction is the means by which organisms create copies of themselves. A sperm cell does not create a copy of itself. Instead it combines with an egg to create a copy of an organism. No reproduction = not alive.

imthinking,  did you ever hear the phrase "A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg."?  Apply that to human sperm and eggs.  Yes, they do reproduce, by making a human who will produce more sperm/eggs.

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aiia wrote:the only

aiia wrote:
the only difference is, the sperm does not reproduce itself. Its like a severed finger; for a while the nail will continue to grow until the nutrients are depleated.

I don't care much for this language.  Although it's technically true, it's missing a very important point.  The human body is clearly programmed such that each sperm is not destined for an egg.  Even in the ejaculate of a successful copulation, only one out of millions of sperm will fuse with the egg.  Sperm, from a biological function perspective, are meant to be thrown away.  We have a mechanism for re-absorption of unused or non-motile sperm into the body.  We have nocturnal emissions.  There are many ways in which sperm can become separated from the body, and as a functional argument, are doing exactly what they are "supposed to do," even without fertilization.

A severed finger is not part of a biological design.  It is an accident that can lead to the death of the organism it was attached to.  Furthermore, a severed finger is part of an organ -- the skin -- and contains elements of larger structures, like muscles, tendons, and bones.  It is not really a "whole" anything.  A sperm, on the other hand, is a self sustaining, organized, metabolizing singular entity.

Oh, and just to reemphasize the point, a sperm has a longer lifespan than some animals.

 

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Hambydammit wrote:The

Hambydammit wrote:
The problem you're going to run into is that you're mixing philosophy with science.  The sex cells are alive by all scientific definitions.  All of them.  By the way, did you notice that even though I addressed the issue of reproduction, someone still brought it up?  It's almost as if people don't read the posts...  Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

Alive = life.  It's just two forms of the same word.  If I have life, I am alive.

Gotcha...crystal even.

Hambydammit wrote:
I know I'm not really answering your question, but that's because your question is somewhat misplaced.  Taxonomy, though it represents real phenotypic and genotypic differences between discreet genetic "packages," is an artificial construct that makes it easier for scientists to conduct research.  Politically, the definition of "human" matters quite a bit, but scientifically, it's nothing magical.

[...]

Since humans are just another life form in the same tree, I can't think of any reason to treat humans differently.

I understand.  Guess this is what would start up the philosophy part of the debate.  As interesting as the whole thing is, odd how cold it seems.  But then I guess that's science.  But to your last statement, I assume you mean scientifically.  At least I would hope...

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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Sex cells DO make copies of

Sex cells DO make copies of themselves - they combine, grow into larger multi-cellular organisms, which, among other things, produce more sex cells.

Many life-forms go through stages in their life-cycle where they could barely be recognised as living things - spores, seeds, pupae. Would you classify these as neither alive nor living things? If not, does that mean that living butterflies arise from non-life?

'Life' is a process. We perceive certain apparently discrete entities as individual life-forms, but few, if any of these are truly independent entities. No sexually reproducing can make a copy of itself independently of other living entities, so are they not alive?

The point about symbiotic organisms illustrates that this division into 'individual' things is not always unambiguous, just as with 'species'.

I think that sperm, ova, zygote, embryo, fetus, etc for a particular 'species' are all part of that particular process. In the case of our own 'species', they are all part of the particular sequence of fertilization, growth, maturation, breeding, etc that is a 'human life'.

When we talk about a human life in the sense of an individual, conscious entity, the characteristics that we think of as defining a person, typically grow from virtually zero at the point of fertilization to recognizably 'human'  over the growth process, roughly continuously, albeit with some major spurts of growth at various points in the time-line of an individual human entity.

For many practical purposes, especially legal, we have to draw lines somewhere, but this inevitably is to some extent arbitrary.

EDIT:

I think the question of 'soul' is actually quite relevant here, because it is the idea of an 'essence', some discrete attribute of an entity that is either there or not, such as a 'vital force' making the difference between living and non-living entities, or 'mind' in the dualistic sense, and, of course, the 'soul', that leads to this sort of question. The reality, as our scientific investigations continue to reveal, is that the attributes we try to 'explain' with such concepts are emergent properties of particular complex structures and processes, not separate things in themselves.

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razorphreak wrote: Anyway I

razorphreak wrote:

 

Anyway I got to wondering, how do you guys define when life started?  I couldn't exactly find any concrete position here so I thought I'd put the question up for debate.

And forgive if this has been a previous post...

Life begins when sperm meets egg, but that certainly isn't when personhood begins, which is the important question.

A human and a person are NOT the same things.

As an example, a zygote and a Terry Shiavo are humans, but not persons.

When personhood begins would be a subjective call, but I do think the matter can be approached objectively.

 

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Wow you all, thanks .... And

Wow you all, thanks .... And the "source" of all this great posting (you that are alive with consciousness) is what ? The Source ???

Basically what I am reading here is how we divide and measure the ONE. That is what we do, in all of science and philosophy. Just as I choose the word "source", I realized it is in error, for lack of knowing "everything". All I am left with is all is ONE , the father / mother TOTAL cosmos is alive, in a linguistic sense !  Now what, dogma ? !!!  Call it spirit, ? Does life come from un-life ?  A beginning ???  Life  / Dead ?  I AM confused ..... All I can say is all is ONE, all is equal, yet we still bicker, and it seems we always will. Go science and philosophy .... let's figure it all out !   

Now what was that rant ? Ummm, Beer, Pot, LSD flash back, Allan Watts, Dad, Mom, Friends, Science, and ALL the rest that I AM .... 

Possible life ??? My sense of morality is to love it all, to understand it all, to do all we can do, to stop suffering for all that can feel .... within our free will capacity ....  (does the forest feel and love the sun ? ))))))) 

 Geeezzz , fix my words and math ....   

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Yellow_Number_Five

Yellow_Number_Five wrote:
Life begins when sperm meets egg, but that certainly isn't when personhood begins, which is the important question.

A human and a person are NOT the same things.

As an example, a zygote and a Terry Shiavo are humans, but not persons.

When personhood begins would be a subjective call, but I do think the matter can be approached objectively.

I might want to suggest you flip back to the first page of this thread and read hamby's posts.  His posts on this topic are about as objective as you can get because of the biological point of view.  As nigel has pointed out, I think this discussion is probably going to get far more deep into the philosophical than anything else...as is by how you stated a difference between a "human" and a "person."

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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nigelTheBold wrote:I'm

nigelTheBold wrote:
I'm smiling big-time. This is the kind of philosophic discussion that I find terribly interesting. Since this is essentially framed as philosophy rather than biology, I'll go with the philosophical angle, though I think we can be neither "right" nor "wrong" when discussing this. So, it's merely a matter of perspective.

It has been interesting for sure...

nigelTheBold wrote:
A sperm is not a separate organism from its producer. I'll grant you that. Masturbating into a sock is hardly any different than bleeding from a cut. The blood is alive only in the strictest sense of the word; same with the sperm. And we would consider neither one a human.

But then we have the zygote. Is that a human? If it were removed from the womb, it would be basically useless, just as you describe. Its purpose is to go through the process of mitosis over and over again, and form an embryo.

Then what about the embryo? If it is removed from the womb, it too becomes useless, just as the sperm ejaculated onto the floor become useless.

And so on.

At every stage, the developing gamete/zygote/embryo/foetus is dependent upon the producer. There are several distinct and interesting parts: the fertilization which forms the zygote, the specialization of cells into organs, the first heartbeat, the point at which the foetus becomes capable of surviving outside the womb, birth, and what-have-you.

What is the "use" of each of these stages?

I guess  my point is just as Hamby said: "usefulness" is an artificial construct based on value judgements, rather than any objective criteria.

But again, this is all philosophy, and not biology. So I think it's all a matter of perspective.

What I got to wondering as I kept pondering the point you make here is if the  philosophic is just as important as the biological.  Should we care about the purposes of each stage?  Take Kevin's post for example.  Each time I read it I can't help but think of the extremity of the ideas not just against my own personal opinions but at the same time thinking how many Americans might react to something like that.  Thinking about it can open a Pandora's Box of scenarios not just from the moral aspects of it but think if it had been an option say 100 years ago; would this world have never seen the likes of someone like Hitler or Einstein or for that matter any single person on this forum (whoa)?

But extremes aside, is there more to "life" than just the biological?  If so then I think hamby's point of human life being nothing special (paraphrasing from the "Since humans are just another life form in the same tree, I can't think of any reason to treat humans differently" point) just flew right out the window.  So I wonder, since we agree on the scientific, is the philosophical aspect of "when does life begin" important? 

My personal take: just as important as the biological.

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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I consider anyone under the

I consider anyone under the age of, say 10 (at least) to be a parasitic organism.


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Quote:I understand.  Guess

Quote:
I understand.  Guess this is what would start up the philosophy part of the debate.  As interesting as the whole thing is, odd how cold it seems.  But then I guess that's science.  But to your last statement, I assume you mean scientifically.  At least I would hope...

One day, I'm going to start a betting pool in the mod forum.  I would have totally won this one.  I'm going to call it:  Guess The Fallacious Response.  Everybody chips in ten bucks, and the one who guesses the next fallacy by the selected theist wins the pool.

Anyway, before you finish reading this post, please take some time and read this article:

Does Science Take Away Wonder and Awe?

Done?

Ok.  Now you know that science doesn't, in fact, take away wonder or awe.  You also know how fulfilling it can be to take a scientific discovery and run with it because the scope of even a small insight can have enormous impact on our day to day lives.

To address your main point, the reason the scientific explanation sounds cold to you is that you've been fed (and believed) a bullshit version of human life.  There is no magic in the universe.  There is no "higher meaning."  There is no inherent sanctity of human life -- or any other life, for that matter.  However, the very act of living is amazing.  The realization that each moment I experience is a singular, unrepeatable, unimaginably brief flicker of time makes that last bite of seared tuna taste really fucking awesome!  If I never get another bite, I have done something amazing, and my existence was better for it.

(Speaking of which... tonight, I'm making a Tuna, Fennel, Avocado, and Tangerine salad with Citrus Vinaigrette.  I've wanted to try this recipe for months!)

As I've said, I have a very clear understanding of my position on abortion, and I'm very comfortable with it, regardless of political posturing.  Does this mean I'm a cold, calculating shell of a man who doesn't have any human compassion?  Of course not.  Ask anyone.  I'm a very empathetic person, and my preferred field of study -- evolutionary psychology, specializing in human sexuality -- is interesting to me precisely because I want to help other people have a healthy and true understanding of their own bodies and minds.  I'm tired of seeing my friends repeat mistakes over and over because they simply don't understand their own instincts.

Whether it's inner city violence, spouse abuse, genocide in Rwanda, or the destruction of the rain forest, there is something happening in the world that you look at and think, "That sucks, but damn... it's just part of the way the world works,"  and then you go on being a good person in spite of it.  Just because science looks with an unbiased eye at human existence, it doesn't mean that you or I or anyone else must turn into a cold, heartless person.  The true explanation that fetuses are not technically humans doesn't make pregnancy any less wonderful for a couple who's been trying to get pregnant for years.  The fact that a girl who doesn't want a baby gets an abortion doesn't make parenthood any less wonderful for those who love it.

Think of it one more way.  Suppose that scientists discovered, with as much certainty as they have about evolution or gravity, that human fetuses go through a phase where they are not only not human, they are actually chimpanzee -- in every way.  (I know it's stupid and far fetched, but run with it.)  When you have a candlelight dinner with your beloved, and you gaze longingly into each others' eyes, is the experience any less meaningful?  Of course not.  Science doesn't take away from the warmth of your life.  It just explains in true terms why it is as warm and wonderful as it is.

 

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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razorphreak wrote:Sperm

razorphreak wrote:

Sperm without and egg or vice versa is not life.  It is potential life yes but one without the other is basically nothing.

That's like saying a human without hair on his/her head is not life.  The thought is so extremely preposterous one must assume you're blocking reality with theist goggles.  Take them off and join us here in REALITY.

 

 

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razorphreak wrote:But one

razorphreak wrote:

But one without the other is nothing no?  Sperm has no purpose without the egg.  And the egg has no purpose without the sperm.  Neither can be called "human" until they are together and the magic happens (don't flame me on that statement ok...I'm talking figuratively).

Any cell regardless of its function is useless on its own. It's a large combination of similar cells that make up an organism and the parts required for it to function. It's like the tree/forest analogy. So if a cell is nothing, why is a conglomeration of nothings not also nothing?


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Quote:That's like saying a

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That's like saying a human without hair on his/her head is not life.

Careful, there... bucko...

Quote:
The thought is so extremely preposterous one must assume you're blocking reality with theist goggles.  Take them off and join us here in REALITY.

Yeah.  I don't know how else to say it.  It's sort of like the ID/evolution "debate."  It isn't a debate at all.  It's just the educated on one side and the ignorant on the other, and occasionally the ignorant say things like, "Hey... you.... um... scientists... you ain't so smart!!!"

Ok... Razorphreak... that last comment was not directed specifically at you (yet).  You seem to be absorbing the information and trying to incorporate it into your worldview.  That's more than I can say for a lot of theists.  However, I have to say this clearly.  If you come to any conclusion other than life being a continuum and sex cells being alive in every sense of the word, you're being delusional and irrational.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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imthinking wrote:It seems to

imthinking wrote:

It seems to me that sex cells do not in any way, shape, or form reproduce. Reproduction is the means by which organisms create copies of themselves. A sperm cell does not create a copy of itself. Instead it combines with an egg to create a copy of an organism. No reproduction = not alive.

Reproduction is only one of the criteria for defining living organisms. How could two not live things suddenly turn into life?

 

Quote:

Now for the bigger question which I think is: When does life begin philosophically?

I believe the one thing that makes human beings unique from every other organism on the face of the earth is the ability to reason. So as far as I'm concerned, a fetus becomes a human being when he/she has a functioning brain.

Define "functioning." Does that include the ability to regulate bodily functions? What about sentience? What about self-awareness? You've put yourself on a slippery slope with your poorly defined terms here. If the ability to reason is what you are referring to, then 2 year olds are not necessarily life. Nor are those with mental retardation. What's the crucial element then?


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imthinking wrote:I believe

imthinking wrote:

I believe the one thing that makes human beings unique from every other organism on the face of the earth is the ability to reason.

This is really only true for a small minority of the homosapien species. People have the potenial to reason, but most don't, if you have any doubts, attend church for a while.

 

imthinking wrote:

 So as far as I'm concerned, a fetus becomes a human being when he/she has a functioning brain.

How do you define that? Is that just one nerve cell sending a signal to another? How big does the brain need to be?

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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razorphreak

razorphreak wrote:

Yellow_Number_Five wrote:
Life begins when sperm meets egg, but that certainly isn't when personhood begins, which is the important question.

A human and a person are NOT the same things.

As an example, a zygote and a Terry Shiavo are humans, but not persons.

When personhood begins would be a subjective call, but I do think the matter can be approached objectively.

I might want to suggest you flip back to the first page of this thread and read hamby's posts.  His posts on this topic are about as objective as you can get because of the biological point of view.  As nigel has pointed out, I think this discussion is probably going to get far more deep into the philosophical than anything else...as is by how you stated a difference between a "human" and a "person."

I think Mike's using the term "life" as the beginning of a separate individual organism--not "life" as in how cells are defined as life. I assure you that Mike is quite aware of cellular functioning since he specializes in a field that deals with life on that level. (Don't remember exactly what it's called--something about cell membranes and stuff.)