Tuesday, July 06, 2021

What is the unborn?

There's really only three things you have to show to establish that the unborn is a living human being. You have to show (1) that it's alive, (2) that it's human, and (3) that it's a whole distinct organism.

Believe it or not, I've run into pro-choice people who deny all three. I remember going back and forth with somebody on reddit about whether the unborn is alive. I was all involved in making arguments about growth, metabolism, cellular structures, miscarriages, and still births until I took a step back and thought, "Wait a minute." I had been taking this person seriously, trying to reason with him, when the fact of the matter is that it's absolutely absurd to deny that whatever the unborn are, they obviously are at least something that's alive. It made me question whether the person I was talking to was being serious or not. Was this one of those situations where somebody was embracing an absurdity just to win a debate or avoid conceding a point? As I thought about that, it all of a sudden seemed silly for me to be going into detail about the scientific understanding of what it means for something to be living as opposed to non-living. Nobody in their right mind ought to deny that the unborn are at least living things.

I have also run into people who deny that it's human. I can't remember a personal anecdote at the moment, but I do remember listening to . . . Oh wait, I just remembered a personal anecdote. This happened before class in one of my history classes in college. I don't remember the details of the conversation, but I was talking to two people, and one of them was saying either that the unborn were not human or that we couldn't know if they were human, and I remember saying something like, "Well, it's not a lizard or a bird. It's a human." . . . Anyway, I remember listening to a debate between Scott Klusendorf and a couple of Canadians on abortion. Durng the cross examination, Scott kept pressing them on this question of what the unborn were. He was trying to get them to admit it was human, but they kept saying, "It's a fetus." Scott wasn't getting anywhere with them, and in his frustration, he accused them of not understanding his question. But it was obvious they understood his question and were just being evasive. He was asking them what species the unborn belonged to. I wish he had used the word, "species," but it was obvious that's what he meant. They were talking about a stage of development as if it were a species.

It seem to me that no reasonable person ought to question whether the unborn are human and whether they are alive. Any reasonable debate ought to be over that third thing--whether the unborn is a whole distinct organism. After all, even a fingernail can be human, but it's not a whole distinct organism. Something is human as long as it is organic and comes from a human and/or shares human DNA and proteins and stuff. If a paleontologist found a bone, they could probably tell you whether it was a human bone, a dinosaur bone, or whatever. Any organ you have or any piece of hair or fingernail that falls off of you is human, but it's not a whole organism. So one might argue that the unborn are human since they are growing inside of a human, and it's alive since it isn't dead or inorganic, but they might also argue that the unborn is not a whole distinct organism. They might argue this on the basis that it isn't fully developed and that it isn't independent of its mother. It still gets it nuitrients from its mother. While I think this argument is wrong, it's not as unreasonable as denyhing that it's alive or human.

So why think it's a whole distinct organism if it isn't fully developed, and it's still living inside of and off of its mother? There's a few things. First, something doesn't have to be fully developed to be a complete organism. We are not fully developed when we're born. A caterpillar isn't fully developed. Some people never do fully develop.

Second, whole distinct organisms are things that undergo development, so you have to be a whole distinct orgnism before you can go through different stages of development in the first place. You don't become a whole distinct organism through a process of development. A hand, foot, organ, or whatever is incapable of going through every stage of human development because they are not whole distinct organisms. As long as the unborn aren't killed or die of natural causes, they will go through every stage of human development--embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent, adult. You have to be a full distinct human to do that. I like what Francis Beckweth said one time: "You didn't come from a zygote; you once were a zygote."

Third, the unborn have their own distinct DNA. If I cut off a hand or foot, that hand or foot will have the same DNA that I have since it came from me and used to be a part of me. But the unborn have DNA that is distinct from both of their parents, and they will have that same DNA from conception until adulthood. If they were mere parts or appendages of a whole distinct organism, then there would have to be a whole distinct organism that shared their DNA. Otherwise, what are they a part of? Not their mother since she has a different DNA.

Fourth, it would be absurd to think the unborn were mere appendages of their mother rather than being distinct oganisms because if they were part of their mothers, then there would be women with four arms, four legs, two heads, and in the case of boys, you'd have a woman with a penis.

I guess that's about all I have to say about that. Oh wait. I argued in this post that there's three things you have to establish in order to show that the unborn is a living human being. But as far as the abortion debate goes, there's a fourth thing that is relevant--whether the unborn is a person. I've met lots of pro-choice people will concede everything I've argued in this post, but then deny the personhood of the unborn. Maybe I'll talk about that another time.

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