Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Regarding Personhood

I was writing a post regarding this subject matter, but my mind wandered into another dimension. Gomen. Here is the thing I am refuting: the pro-choice viewpoints on personhood. You see, the whole argument stands on the moral permissibility of an abortion at a certain stage in the pregnancy. The pro-life position, particularly for Catholics such as I, is that a human person is at stake in every stage of pregnancy from conception on and should be given the same natural rights as people who are already outside of their mother's womb. The most basic of these natural rights is the right to life. No one has the right to just take your life, naturally speaking. The death penalty may be applied on certain people, but that is a matter of legal rights moreso than natural rights. In truth, the government and no one else, has the right to take someone's life, though they may deem it necessary to save other people from having their lives taken. Truly, if the death penalty must be applied, it should only be done in extreme circumstances. In any case, all humans have the same natural rights based on the simple fact that they are human. For the pro-choice advocate to be right, everything before having a more recognizable human form in the womb must be a non-human and therefore cannot be afforded the same natural rights as everyone else. This would mean one cannot conflate abortion (at that point, at least) as a murder. Murder, after all, is the taking of a person's life. That is why it is wrong. They harmed another person, something that we should not do. If abortion is not that, then it is not a murder. I believe differently for both logical, scientific and religious reasons. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the logical and scientific aspect: it is illogical, and rather silly, to insist that a baby is only a baby when it is accepted or has reached a certain state of maturity. It simply does not make sense, if you're truly being sensible and open-minded. Since all pro-choice people cannot agree on when the growing "little one" (read: fetus) reaches the plateau of personhood, I will focus on the following: 1.Physical maturity is the measure of personhood. There is a certain stage of physical development where a being will possess all, or at least most, of the qualities that we can recognize in living human persons. To respond to this notion, I would first like to note that such standards of personhood appear to be very arbitrary. It is just as arbitrary to insist that people in "primitive" societies are not persons because they lack certain trappings of our "civilized" society. They are savages or mongrels, certainly not people deserving of our love and respect. Three common standards of (arbitrary) personhood are as follows: 1. Brain activity 2. rational activity 3. personal activity (meaning the ability to engage in the human world with the 2 previous activities and to be alive in general) For #1, the response is obviously: what sort of brain activity is necessary for personhood, and why is brain activity even necessary for personhood? Some people will bring in argument number 2 at this point, but others will say that certain points like the ability to feel pain, or something of the sort. It should go without saying, but there are many different creatures who possess brains and therefore possess brain activity. Can we call them persons as well? What would that say to our eating them? Clearly, no one is clamoring to say that other animals are persons. That just doesn't make sense. They may then say, I mean human persons need a certain amount of activity to be considered human. This again does not address why brain activity is important to being human and leaves the door open to a wide variety of questions: does the brain activity need to be willful--and so on. Upon dropping general brain activity, a person may fall back on rational brain activity, the ability to choose, plan and other activities. Here the fetus would cease being a human person, because their brain activity is not yet equipped to do so. It is not until outside of the womb that they become persons with rational (though limited) abilities. This is, once again, a curious line to draw. While it is true that humans possess reason, what with being the "rational animal" and all, they will possess it at different capacities during their lives. Some people may, in fact, no get very far in their rational growth, or rationality may deterioate due to dementia. Most people would agree that an infant is not fully able to rationalize anything, in fact we know that the brain goes through developmental stages where such things become more and more possible. A 3rd year old's reasoning is no where near that of a 10 year old's, much less an adult. Did that child become MORE human as their grew? Is there a distinction to be made in regard to having the possibility of reasoning and the actual ability to do so? If there is, then it would seem to follow that we become more human as we grow and lose our humanity as we get sick, old or die. Clearly, a patient suffering from Alzheimer's is losing their grip on their humanity, not just their mind, if you take that distinction to it's logical conclusion. Furthermore, what does this say about people with different intelligences? Am I superior in my humanity because I can reason well and a friend of mine cannot? I would say that that idea is ludicrous, and many pro-choicer's would agree, but it does not follow from their argument. Now, they could try and back track, eliminating a distinction between possibility and actuality. This actually would serve as a way for them to corner themselves, because the growing child is filled with possibilities that are actually probabilities. If the child is carried to term and successfully delivered, then the child will engage in rationality more and more. This would mean that they were human from the start, with the same possibilities. The final argument combines the other two and runs into the same issues. The line eliminates many people whom we might consider human beings, the comatose or person with down syndrome. They cannot participate in the larger society very much due to their condition. They are in possession of a human body, but not in possession of humanity through some logic loop. At least, that would be true if the idea is carried to its conclusion. If you are a human only when you can do certain things that other humans can do, then we each have varying humanity. It's hard to argue for equality under the law if this is true. Why should people who are less human than others get the rights of those who are more human? If a person loses their humanity, they lose the rights that came with their previous station. Having shown the absurdity of those arguments, I would like to provide an alternative. Here are my basic points: 1. we have scientific verification that, upon conception, there is a new, growing and living "thing" within the woman who gets pregnant. 2. There is no way that these newly formed cells are going to change into the cells of a dolphin and produce a freak dolphin/human baby. 3. Even at its earliest stage, the developing creature is a human creature. 4. All humans are persons by virtue of their humanity. My first point is simple: once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a new genetic structure is formed, a combination of the parents DNA. The new creature is neither its mother nor its father, but a result of "two becoming one" and is therefore an individual. If everything goes like it should, the fertilized egg latches onto the uterine wall and continues the process it had already begun. As the cells continue to divide, they end up becoming a fetus and then later a newborn infant. This is not a process that we can consciously stop without committing a heinous evil. Does the creature LOOK human? No. But, since when does disfigurement (for whatever reason), lessen someone's humanity? Why then should being in an earlier stage of development matter? Some children will have troubles in their development and develop certain traits that make them appear different from other people, and I would still say they are human, just as we would say about any child with down's syndrome. Some things, unfortunately, went wrong in their initial formation, thereby making it difficult for them to engage in all that their humanity has to offer. That circumstance does nothing to diminish their humanity, their personhood. In the end, people are constantly developing, even while we are old and we therefore are not doing anything that much different from when we are just a fertilized egg. The difference is only in degree. Just as a young child cannot lift 100 pounds, a developing fetus can lift nothing. Neither is less for their lack of their ability, and they both may very well gain that missing ability later through practice. My second point is that the fertilized egg is a human egg and the sperm cell that entered the egg, whilst unfertilized, is a human sperm cell. The DNA that is created at that moment is human DNA. All of that combined tells us that the creature that is developing is of the species homo sapiens. Without direct intervention from an outside source (like the ooze in ninja turtles), the creature will develop more and more fully take on the bodily form of humans we all recognize. There is no change in species: a human fetus is a human fetus, a chimp's is a chimp's. Since being of the species homo sapiens makes you a human, you are a person. simple. The third point is along the same line: it is not going to be a surprise that a human child is born, though we may be surprised by its gender, if we so choose. A human birth is what expected and it would be awkward if a woman went to the doctor and laid an egg. The developing creature can be nothing but what it is: human. The fourth point is an assertion. Basically, it is based in the belief of natural rights--the rights given to all persons. being a human means being a human person and their humanity is never in question. I'm clearly delirious. Here's a final metaphor: what is the difference between that fertilized egg cell and the singularity that started the big bang? Nothing beyond scale. The Big Bang brought forth matter from that singularity and that could not have happened if it was not already there, that is: if it was not already in it's DNA, so to speak. WOOT! *sleeps*

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On Love

I have not written on a blog in ages. This is due to the fact that I am realizing, more and more, that I do not enjoy blogging all that much. It feels quite constraining, even though I make posts that are often long. I would rather write books and take my time than just writing stream of consciousness writing that I will never edit. In any case, I felt the need to write this particular blog because...well, I am not sure really. But, I guess I want to get my thoughts down on this particular subject considering how part of me is still heartbroken over last year. I'm not planning on promoting this, so if you're reading this. Welcome haha. Anyway, I have been leafing through "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis and decided to read the segment called "Proof of a True Lover." It was and is of particular interest to me, because I am naturally inclined towards romantic entanglements and the Church and Scriptures often refer to our reconciliation as preparing for a wedding feast. A wedding, you'll recall, is what our culture considers the summit of our expression of romantic love for another person. In fact, a wedding is actually a completely different sort of event, an event that you are not allowed to remain unchanged by. A fairly wise protestant minister I know once said that a marriage is two funerals and one resurrection. This is what proponents of "traditional" marriage are fighting for and, it is this disconnect in our thinking that makes the conversation as contentious as it is. The wedding is merely the start of the romantic adventure, the prelude to an ongoing battle against the forces of evil, if you will. I'm not really wanting to focus on marriage here, however. I want to comment on this particular part of the passage in question: "Christ: My child, you are not yet a valiant wise lover. Disciple: Why, Lord? Christ: Because with a little adversity you leave off what oyu have begun and eagerly seek outward consolation. valiant lovers of God stand firm in time of temptation and pay no attention to the deceitful suggestions of their enemy, the devil. When all goes well with them, I please them; and so do I please them when things go wrong." This passage really strikes home with me because it is how I have seen romantic love for a long time, and it really does parallel our relationship with Christ. This is why, I believe, marriage is a sacrament in the Church. You truly do learn more about loving Christ, and living for Christ, when you join in matrimony and attempt the same project with an imperfect human person. The fact that Christ is perfect is probably one of the biggest deterrents, because we become aware of our faults in His presence. People do not want to believe that there is anything wrong with them in any sense. We see examples of this in other matters of life, but I want to keep this focused on romantic love and was is called Charity (caritas). With our spouses, or significant others, we encounter the good and bad within ourselves. We encounter the fact that, if this marriage/relationship is going to work, we need to change. We need to start with the "Man in the Mirror," if we want this world to become a better place. A good marriage takes work, and a lot of that work is going to be working on yourself and how you relate to your spouse. That said, I think that that very same deterrent for Christ is part of our issue with marriage, family, and our spouses. No one wants to change or to admit that a trait in their character is flawed. We want to be perfect, an inborn desire that should--hopefully--spur us on toward Christ. So, we lie to ourselves and put everything else on the other person. Well, a lot of us do. Considering my childhood and natural temperament, I tend to assume that it was ALL my fault, even when I know that it makes no logical sense. It is something that I am working on, and I've gotten a lot better on admitting to the flaws of both myself and my significant other. My last relationship ended before we really got to put any time in. She came in suddenly, with overtures. I was shocked to find out the way we could talk about so many things that I could only really hint at before. We both fell swiftly into love with one another. Honestly, she may have pushed harder initially, in the sense that she was often the first to make those deep statements of love at the beginning. That usually was enough to prompt me to admit to my own feelings toward her. We truly seemed marriage material, just like that. However, marriage requires death. A relationship that is going toward that goal, the goal that is a new beginning, needs both people to be willing to sacrifice. In the end, I was willing to do that and she was not. She sensed everything was not perfect, which I would have already admitted to, and detached herself in order to make a break for it. It was too much, too fast, and it was frightening. I cannot blame her really, I've had similar freak outs. It has resulted, often, in missed opportunities that I can never retrieve. Who knows where I would be without that scamper from something real. Anyway, she let her thoughts turn outward and looked for greener pastures. She was already doing this well before she broke it of, but kept up appearances. She seemed pleased with me, though she was admitting to being a bit smothered. I was trying to accommodate her and backing off. You see, I had no realized that I had begun to hold on so tightly. I saw this more clearly when she was gone, but I still firmly believe that those issues were all fixable, if she was willing to work on it with me. I was willing, she was not. When things were not perfect, she reached a point where my particular differences or foolish moments were no longer pleasing to her. She was not pleased with me, when things were bad (though they really were never that bad for us). There were other outside issues she was dealing with and I think that put even more pressure on us. That said, while I believe myself to be a valiant lover in my romantic relationships, I am not yet a valiant lover of Christ. I love Him, sure; but, I tend to do the most foolish things when I feel like He is withholding something or treating me poorly. I do this for many reasons, but the only pertinent one is my humanity. Things are not as they should, and we all know that deep down. We all manifest our sin differently, but it is sin just the same. That is something I need to be much better on, because I know that my help, and my everything, are ultimately found within his Sacred Heart. So, I pray that I am more romantic toward my relationship with the Lord from now on. I've run out of momentum and I think that I got everything down that I was thinking. I was most concerned with the search for greener pastures. I merely hope that we all learn to follow through, one day.