6/15/2007

The Definition of a Human

I have been following the discussions regarding the wish to end abortion on the Great Canadian Wishlist.
Pro-life CBC Editorial
Pro-choice CBC Editorial.

Reading the comments I came across the following absurd statement:
It's a logical fallacy to simply assume a fetus is a person or human being...

A logical fallacy refers to some sort of error or flaw in a logical argument. It can refer to a mistake in one's pattern of reasoning or an untrue statement. The author of the above comment is essentially saying that it is an error to assume that a human fetus is a human.
Where do I begin with such a foolish statement? The urge to heap ad hominem upon this idiot woman is almost irresistible.
The definition of a human being is not one for philosophical debate. Anyone who says it is needs to go back to highschool and take biology again. Clearly, they were not paying attention in class. Any and all attempts to philosophize about what it is that makes us human can only be rooted in unforgivable superstition and scientific ignorance.
We know what makes us human.
All beings, human or otherwise, are defined by their DNA. This was shown by Watson and Crick in 1953. The Human Genome Project is a massive ongoing project to decode the entire human genome.
There are 24 distinct human chromosomes: 22 autosomal chromosomes, and the sex-determining X and Y chromosomes. The egg provides 23 chromosomes (22 autosomal chromosomes plus and X) and the sperm provides 23 chromosomes (22 autosomal chromosomes plus either and X or a Y) for a total of 46. A human being is therefore defined at conception when the egg and sperm join.
Biogenesis is the process through which life forms produce other life forms like themselves. To find out what a living thing is or will be, one need look no further than at its parents. A human woman can therefore give birth to nothing other than a human. Stages of development change, but it will always be a human. Abilities and disabilities can never be considered when defining a human being. This is a scientifically untenable position, since both individuals with disabilities and individuals with exceptional abilities still contain all the DNA required to define a human being.
That a human fetus is a human being is an axiom, not a logical fallacy. No assumption is being made. It is simply an unarguable statement of scientific fact.

10 comments:

Jim said...

Of course, if you trace parents far enough back, you eventually come to a non-human. The dividing line between human and non-human is very fuzzy.

Then you have advances in genetics. We will soon be able to insert genes in a fetus reliably. Is the result human? And then there is the project to build life directly from the antecedant chemicals so there is no continuity at all. What happens when we can manufacture people? Are they human?

Ruth said...

None of these things change the fact that humans are defined by their DNA.

The dividing line between human and non-human is very fuzzy.
This statement will remain untrue until the "missing link" is found.

We will soon be able to insert genes in a fetus reliably.
Define soon. Then prove that any result will live. Then prove that any result will not be sterile, such as the liger or mule.

What happens when we can manufacture people? Are they human?
I assume you are referring to clones. The answer is yes, since they are defined by their DNA as any other human would be. Twins are, after all, a type of clone.

Peter Thurley said...

"The definition of a human being is not one for philosophical debate. Anyone who says it is needs to go back to highschool and take biology again. Clearly, they were not paying attention in class. Any and all attempts to philosophize about what it is that makes us human can only be rooted in unforgivable superstition and scientific ignorance."

Clearly you've never taken a class in philosophy. Clearly you're just as ignorant as the person who made that statement. While your analysis is entirely right about the humanity of a fetus, you failed to address the concept of a 'person'. We may know what makes us human, but do we know what makes us a person? These are two different concepts, with entirely different moral consequences. The original statement doesn't make this error, as it is stated in the form of a disjunction. You've only dealt with the latter half of the disjunction. I'm waiting for some analysis of the the former half of the disjunction.

John M Reynolds said...

Even when the missing link is found, they existed what, a million years ago? Whether or not we will be compatible with humans in a million years is irrelevant. What matters is now -- this millenium.

What is a person if not a human being? The first definition of person in my Collins dictionary/thesaurus is "an individual human being." The thesaurus section has for person: being, body, human, human being, individual, living soul, and soul.

How are those terms not synonymous?

John M Reynolds

Jeff Davidson said...

ok, let's accept your definition of a human being. now, tell me why you reject a woman's right to choose?

SUZANNE said...

The distinction between "humans" and "persons" has always been used to oppress. It's no different than today.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I just came across this yesterday.

Anton said...

When debating the morality or ethics of abortion a philosophical analysis of "person" is irrelevant. We need only concern ourselves with whether or not the object of the argument is human. We have laws that prohibit the murdering or mistreatment of humans. Since abortion involves the termination of the "object" we need to establish if the "object" is human. Genetics does this absolutely.

If we were to debate about the philosophy of the "person" in regards to abortion then we get into the realm of relatives. Once we go down that road we can easily create arguments for killing any kind of aberration that we feel is appropriate for the day.

It can't create fine art, it can't create a symphony. I can't either and I'm in my 84th trimester.

MrEd said...

Before my son was born I believed in Pro choice... I'm now a stanch believer in pro-life. I defy any pro choice believer or supporter to look at their own children and then look me or anyone else in the eyes and support their position

Ruth said...

Jeff Davidson:
The answer to your question is simple: A woman is not making a choice over her own body. She is making a choice over the body of another human being.
The "it's my body" argument is overly simplistic.

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