Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Reality Check" gets a reality check

Hey. You may know me from from The Lair of the P-LELLNA, where I pointed out pro-abortion fallacies. I'll be doing the same thing here, just more frequently and more than just fallacies.

Anyway, I came across this video on YouTube. I missed the beginning at first, and thought it was supposed to be an even debate. But the anti-Personhood women's arguments were so bad I thought she was a parody. Turns out, she was supposed to be the right one.

Some things you need to know before we start.


"anti-abortion": one opposed to a legal right to choose to have an abortion, analoguous to "anti-gun", "anti-slavery", or "anti-gambling"

"anti-Personhood": a shortened, less clumsy form of "anti-prenatal personhood"

"conception": synonomous with "fertilization"; this is important because conception was redefined so that certain drugs could be sold as "contraception", rather than abortifacients

"Personhood" [capital P]: shorthand for "legal personhood beginning at fertilization".

"prenate": a useful coverall for zygote, blastocyst, embryo, and fetus

"pro-abortion": one who supports a legal right to choose to have an abortion, analoguous to "pro-gun", "pro-slavery", or "pro-gambling" NOTE: Before anyone starts complaining to me, read this.*

"pro-life": one in favor of the right to life in general, one that follows a Consistent Life Ethic: those who are anti-abortion yet pro-war or pro-death penalty are not pro-life. Note: "pro-choice" is not in here because it is overbroad and would translate to something like "libertarian" or "anarchist"

"pro-Personhood": a shortened, less clumsy form of "pro-prenatal personhood"

"Roebot": a pro-abortion person who demonstrates such a low level of inteligence and critical thinking that they would get a D- on the Turing Test Note: I have not corresponding term for the anti-abortion side, because I have yet to find a suitable pun

About me:

I am pro-Personhood.

I know a lot about logical fallacies, and am not afraid to call you out on them.

I get really annoyed when people use a comma where a semicolon belongs or mess up their subject-verb agreement. I don't know why; other gramatical errors don't phase me.

Let's get started on the video! I've painstakingly transcribed it for your convenience, color-coded on the speaker's hair color, my comments in black.

On this edition of Reality Check, we’ll weigh in on that endless, unresolved debate: When does life begin? Or, to be more specific: Is a fertilized egg already a person?

Good. So far, so good. Although, I should point out that "fertilized egg" is an oxymoron; once it's fertilized, it becomes a zygote by definition. That's like saying "melted ice cube".

I believe that life begins at fertilization; that’s the first time you have a separate, unique being that’s different from his parents. Naturally, that’s when you declare him a person. That’s why I support state constitutional amendments that define life as beginning at conception.

Good, good. I see from the into that you're "misinformation", so I'm waiting for something...

There’s no actual, scientific moment that life begins. Most scientists would coyly tell you that life began over a billion years ago in the primordial swamp and has continued and evolved since then.

Of course they would, because scientists love to be smartasses. You asked the wrong question. Ask any scientist when an individual human's life begins, and every single one will tell you it's when the sperm and egg meet. A unique individual is present at conception. That's sixth grade stuff. It's also irrelevant to the debate as to whether or not said individual is a person.

Declaring a fertilized egg a person, on par with a baby is insulting to babies; fertilized eggs have no feelings, brains, or anything else that babies have.

Ah, our first logical fallacy! This is the fallacy of begging the question; there are three ways to get two unequal values (A and B) to equal each other: (1)move A only, (2)move B only, or (3)move A and B. Let's call the moral value of the prenate A, and the moral value of the infant B. Now, let's assume a specific low value for A. This fixes A's value, eliminating options (1) and (3), leaving us with (2). Because we assumed a moral value for the prenate lower than that of the infant, the only logical way for the two to be equal is if the value of the infant is lowered. However, this is not what pro-Personhood are suggesting. We are saying that A is not fixed; we are raising the value of the prenate, not touching that of the infant(1). The same applies to those who say comparing abortion to the Holocaust belittles the Holocaust. EDIT: Statistically, abortion is worse.

Interestingly, a similar argument is made against gay marriage:

Declaring a gay marriage "marriage", on par with a heterosexual marriage is insulting to heterosexual couples; gay couples cannot have kids.

In both situations, an irrelevant factor is cited, and raising the value of one does not deminish the value of the other. Oh, yeah, did I mention I'm pro-gay?

EDIT: I mean that's like saying granting personhood to newborns is insulting to adults because adults can do more. Also, who's out there trying not to insult babies?

May the fetus I save be gay or not; I don't give a [crap]. What makes people think I'm anti-gay? Oh, right, the Spotlight Fallacy.

But if you leave it alone, a fertilized egg becomes a person; it’ll grow and develop into a baby that needs to be protected from harm.

I don't think I've ever heard a pro-Personhood say this; they would, by definition, say that the zygote is already a person, and cannot "become" something it already is!

Why are we protecting people at all if we’re not gonna protect them at their weakest moment?

This is an argument used by many of us pro-life liberals. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I'm a liberal too!

Fertilization seems like a simple line in the sand for personhood, but it isn’t. Most importantly, it’s far from guaranteed that any one fertilized egg is going to become a person; many, possibly most, fertilized eggs sloff off or die on their own without a woman even knowing about it. Does that mean we should file a death certificate? Or a suicide report? Or a homicide investigation?

No, it means that zygotes, like all people, are mortal; people die at all stages of life. Also, notice the begging the question in the phrase "become a person".

Well, in my heart, I know that’s when life begins. Sexual union is holy because that’s when God intended for life to begin. I believe that it’s a person with a soul, and that is more important than whether it has brains or feelings.

This is a blatant strawman! Nobody argues for Personhood just because they believe it; they support it with why they believe it!

What’s great about America is we have religious freedom; you can believe that a fertilized egg is a baby if you want. You can believe it has a soul whenever you want. You can believe that a sperm delivers a soul or that it has a soul when it takes its first breath. The First Amendment gives you that right. But in order to protect that right, you can’t impose your beliefs on others. The Constitution forbids you from imposing your beliefs on my body and my right to do what I want with it according to my beliefs.

Actually, religious freedom does not extend to actions; human sacrifice is illegal whether or not it is okay with you personally. A person's religion may teach that blacks are inferior to whites, but you'll still go to jail for lynching one. Also, your child is not your body.

You’ve been wrong all along; there’s definite, scientific proof that it’s a separate person at fertilization. A fertilized egg has it own DNA, and once you have your own DNA, you’re definitely a person.

Good argument. Let's see how she handles it...

Interestingly, sperm and eggs also have unique DNA that’s separate from the people that they’re in, but we don’t consider them separate people.

Okay, Ms. Roebot. Where'd you go to school?

Come on, if we though DNA was what really made people distinct, then we would think that identical twins, who come from one egg, are not separate people.

An interesting conundrum, but not an anti-Personhood one.

And I dare you to find one set of twins that’s okay with that.

Okay, here's another one! Appeal to emotion this time. I do not believe that twins are the same individual, but, if they were, they would still be the same individual no matter how much they objected.

Now the "debate" is over, and the Roebot is giving her closing statement.

The argument that life begins at fertilization is a fundamentalist Christian belief that has no scientific evidence behind it.


Wait, are you serious‽ That's a hasty generalization. I want to point out that I am an atheist. The anti-abortion movement cuts across religous boundaries. I'll point you to Pagans for Life, the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-life League , and the Society of Pro-Life Agnostics and Secular Humanists for starters.

In fact, no one really acts as if they believe that

Whoa! That's an ad hominem attack you got there. An ad hominem tu quoque to be precise. Morality is a function of reality. Reality doesn't change based in what anyone acts like is true.

unless they’re looking for a reason to restrict women’s rights.

Riiiiiight. It's all to restrict women's rights; that's why we do it. It isn't at all because we hold the rights of the mother against the rights of the child and determine that the universal non-agression axiom is not wavered in prenatal mother-offspring relations.

All sarcasm aside, I guess you're right; we do restrict women's rights. We restrict them in the same way the abolitionists restricted the rights of slave owners, and Civil Rights activists restricted the rights of KKK members, and feminists restricted the rights of husbands. Any advance in the rights of group A is going to restrict the rights of group not A to oppress group A.

And let's assume you're right and we are trying to restrict your rights. Reality doesn't care who's advocating what position for what reason; what's moral will stay moral and what's immoral will stay immoral. Even if Copernicus had developed his model of the solar system to piss off the Church, he still would have been right.

Did I mention I'm a feminist?

If we really though that life began at conception, we would sing songs to celebrate your conception, and not your birthday. And pregnant women could use the carpool lane. And we’d have funerals for tampons, just in case.

This is just a pile of appeals to common practice, but I'll go though them anyway.

We do not celebrate the anniversary of your conception because we don't know whan that is. This is also an appeal to tradition.

We do not let a pregnant woman ride in the carpool lane because she only take up one seat. I don't think infants count in the carpool lane either, but correct me if I'm wrong. EDIT: Okay, I'm wrong. In that case, it's basically using the law to justify the law.

We do not hold funerals for anyone "just in case".

It’s clear that, outside of the reproductive rights debate,

This is not a "reproductive rights debate"; this is a human rights debate. If the prenate is a person, the mother has no right to kill it unless her life is in danger. Reproductive choice is not retroactive, and, if you're pregant, you've already reproduced. Just as I couldn't (morally) go up to my 16-year-old daughter and shoot her in the head, claiming I'm choosing not to have a child (which I already have), you cannot (morally) have an abortion to not be a mother (which you already are, and would just become a mother of a dead child through abortion).

no one acts as if they think that life begins at fertilization.

Yeah. Think I'm done here. Though take into account that her arguments being fallacious does not make her premise wrong, since r
eality doesn't care who's advocating what how.

Let's recap: I'm a godless, pinko, anti-choice, feminist hippie. If you don't hate me already, let me tell you something. I agree with NAMBLA theoretically (on paper), but not necessarily in action. But not for why you might think. NAMBLA supports protecting young people from unwanted sexual experiences (such as rape) while keeping consensual sexual relationships private. I support this, as I consider age of consent laws immoral ageist discrimination against the young. Do you hate me now? Yes? This should be fun! No? Welcome to the club!

I did a long post about abortion here. A must read for everyone! I may repost it some day.

*I don't applaud every time someone gambles. In fact, I wish nobody would gamble. Yet I am pro-gambling because I support the right of people to (choose to) gamble.


RiverKnyle said...

Bravo, my friend. It's great to see someone with half a brain who can actually vocalize their pro-life opinions so well; it's rare. Especially considering I came across you via youtube. Thanks for brightening up my night with a spark of intelligence.

ProLifeCatholic said...

Clear Thinking. Thank you for furthering the debate, instead of just going in circles.