Josh Kolic’s Beef with Free Speech

Wow. Josh Kolic, Lakehead University Student Union’s VP Finance, really has it in for pro-life clubs. Clarissa posted the NCLN press release on Friday, and Josh appeared in the comments calling the Lakehead pro-life group an “extremist” organization.

You know your argument is solid when all you can do is call your opponents “extremists.”

That same day, Kolic wrote an open letter to Lakehead students trying to garner support for his crusade. It’s hard to know where to begin, so we’ll take it from the start.

In a great victory for human rights on this campus, Life Support was denied club status in our first board meeting this year.

In other words, assuming what needs to be proven and glossing over the very centre of the debate — are the unborn human? Kolic clearly isn’t studying biology.

Sadly, a contingent of board members has continued to openly meet with Life Support members and is attempting to have that decision overturned. It is believed that these members are acting in the interest of an interest group and not in the interests of the student body as a whole.

It is believed… by whom?

I believe that Lakehead University is a campus that values human rights.

Oh, by Josh. Right. So, only board members who agree with Kolic are acting in the interest of the student body as a whole. Other board members, other student representatives, don’t represent students. Only Josh does. Because students value human rights, as Kolic selectively defines them — not including the right to life of unborn human beings, or a right to free speech of Lakehead students (or board members…).

Nice use of the passive voice. Almost had me there.

As your Vice President Finance, I met with members of Life Support in early October and suggested to them that if they truly wanted to represent “pro-life” values that they would perhaps be better served advocating for increased programs for expectant mothers on this campus or increased funding for child care services on campus rather than simply maintain an anti-choice stance by denigrating those who believe in a woman’s right to choose. The group turned down my proposal. Almost immediately.

As VP Finance, Kolic believes that he has the right to set the agenda of student clubs, and ignore the fact that many of the pro-life organizations that Life Support is connected with are doing those very things.

Kolic: If I can’t run your group, then you won’t be recognized.

I find it interesting that while Life Support refuses to change its aggressive and exclusive focus, not a single group that favours the pro-choice option ever advocates exclusively for women to have abortions. This statement might seem somewhat ridiculous in that I’m simply pointing out the obvious, but it is very telling in terms of the tactics that Life Support continues to employ. In fact, the neutral stance is simply one that allows the individual woman herself to choose. This stance is the one that I believe LUSU should advocate and certainly the one that I believe that you as a student body would advocate for as well.

At least he’s not shy about it. This isn’t about being “neutral” or even about respecting the LUSU constitution. It’s about pushing a pro-choice perspective onto the entire university through the student union. Board members and students who disagree? Well, they don’t count — Josh knows what the student body believes.

What an exemplary representative of the student body.

As your elected representative, I believe that you as a student body agree that a woman has a right to make decisions regarding her body. I believe that we as a student body agree with the BC Supreme Court that the existence of groups such as Life Support violate the rights of students on campus. It was once said in this country that the state has no place in the bedrooms of this nation. I also contend that the state has no place within a woman’s body. Neither does a student union club.

The state has no place in the bedroom… except when it involves tax dollars. The state has no place within a woman’s body, yet it’s apparently not okay to talk about the body inside a woman’s body that the state routinely facilitates the destruction of. The student union club should agree with Kolic’s politics if it wants to be recognized.

This isn’t the voice of a responsible representative of the student body, seeking to respect the LUSU constitution and treat all students justly. This is a renegade activist abusing his position of responsibility to force his own political views and sense of morality on the student body.

“Don’t impose your morality on others!” Oh, wait…

I would ask all of you who support a woman’s right to choose [choose what?] to come to our next board meeting and – as the Life Support group has done – give a deputation to the board as to why a woman’s right to choose [choose what?] is important to you.

It’s not about whether or not the group has a right to exist. It’s about whether or not people who don’t like the group can be loud enough to abuse the LUSU and shut Life Support out.

I implore you to help restore democracy and the spirit of human rights to the Lakehead University Student Union.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Sorry. Lost it for a second.

Someone want to send Kolic a treatise on freedom of speech and democracy? Or a biology textbook? According to NCLN, Josh admitted at the Nov 5th meeting that they were in violation of their own constitution. He’s using his position of responsibility as a student representative and his ignorance of the pro-life position to hijack the LUSU and force his own political views onto the campus. Now, he has the gall to invoke ideals of democracy?

Seriously, Josh, I’m sure you’re a nice guy. Please, stop embarrassing yourself.

Blaise Alleyne completed a B. Sc. at the University of Toronto in 2009 with a major in Computer Science, and minors in English and Philosophy. He is currently a part-time student in the Master of Theological Studies program at Regis College, U of T. Blaise has been involved with UTSFL since becoming a member in 2005, and is now focused on education and activism with the club.

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41 comments on “Josh Kolic’s Beef with Free Speech
  1. Al Tonkin says:

    Sir,
    I am writing to respond to your article, “Josh Kolic’s Beef with Free Speech,” on the University of Toronto Students for Life website. I am a student at Lakehead University; I am not involved with any clubs and I am not a member of LUSU. I do not believe that Kolic is imposing his morality on me or others; in fact I see him as a responsible representative of the student body.

    Your condemnation of Kolic’s perspective on democracy prompts me to begin with some contextual information. As your title indicates, Kolic has a beef with free speech; the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees citizens free speech. In Canada, Section 2(b) of the Charter states that “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: … freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.” Following John Stuart Mill’s argument that people should have the right to profess any doctrine they may choose, Justice Jean Beetz states in National Bank of Canada v. R.C.U. that “all freedoms guaranteed by s. 2 of the Charter necessarily imply reciprocal rights: … freedom of expression includes the right to not express.” This applies to your argument in that students who do not agree with the human rights Kolic allegedly defines for the student body are guaranteed the right to hold and express alternative sentiments, but it does not guarantee them the right to receive funding because they have formed a group.

    Kolic implores Lakehead’s student body “to restore democracy and the spirit of human rights” to LUSU. Lakehead University is an autonomous, democratic, secular institution within a democratic, secular society. Paul Martin recently cemented Canadian secularism: on July 20, 2005 Bill C-38 (The Civil Marriage Act) received Royal Assent and became law, allowing same-sex marriage. This means marriages do not need to be legally validated by any church or religious group. The law distinctly separates church from state in Canada. Democracy requires elected persons to represent the people. As a political representative, meaning he was voted in to his position and not appointed in to it, Kolic does not impose his morality on others, he takes a utilitarian stance that best serves the student body by giving pregnant women the right to choose to keep or to abort their pregnancies. As Spinoza states, in his Theologico-Political Treatise: “The aim of a Republic is not, I say, to make human beings from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but, on the contrary, it is for their mind and body to function safely in their functions and for them to use free reason and not struggle in hatred, in anger, or with a ruse, and not bear an inequitable spirit toward one another.” Democracy and the spirit of human rights are not exactly new concepts to which one can claim ignorance since democracy in Italy and Greece predate Jesus Christ by over five hundred years.

    Within the political context of a democratic, secular society like Canada, I will now look at how antiabortion groups are situated. It is here worth reiterating an important point Kolic makes and you eschew in your response: “I believe that we as a student body agree with the BC Supreme Court that the existence of groups such as Life Support violate the rights of students on campus.” Furthermore, Dr. G. Davidson Smith of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) classifies antiabortion groups as single issue terrorists in “Commentary No.74: Single Issue Terrorism.” After attributing many violent acts to pro-life groups, he concludes that “the challenge is to provide and appropriate, reasoned and reasonable response to the threat of single issue terrorism which avoids overreaction and remains with the rule of law.” Kolic also echoes Pierre Trudeau’s statement that “[t]he state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation,” to which you reply, “except when it involves tax dollars. The state has no place within a woman’s body, yet it’s apparently not okay to talk about the body inside a woman’s body that the state routinely facilitates the destruction of.” Biology aside, it appears that you are either advocating health care reform, perhaps to hold elections on what procedures do and do not comply with voters’ ethics, or that public funds should not facilitate abortions. Again, Canada is a secular society and religious morality has no place in state-provided health care. Exclusively private abortion clinics are not a good idea because, given the attacks against the Morgentaler clinics and other clinics, they would no doubt be targeted by violent antiabortion zealots.

    To educate your readers on the biological standpoint concerning abortion, and how Kolic “glosses over the very centre of the debate” which you define as the unborn human, you provide a Youtube infomercial that claims that one can become an expert in embryology if s/he buys and reads five books for $536. The video purports that life begins at fertilization. Logically, once an egg is fertilized, something (life) is created out of nothing. An attempt to support this claim relies on a geneticist’s statement that is 28 years out of date. In reality, biology as a discipline does not have an official stance concerning abortion, as it is more of a philosophical issue. However, contemporary biological theory asserts that life is on a continuum: both sperm and egg are biologically alive and both carry DNA. Therefore the idea of life being ‘created’ when a sperm fertilizes an egg is not an accepted theory within biology. Biogenesis does not exist.

    For clarity’s sake, I will attempt to answer the questions you parenthetically inserted as criticism into Kolic’s quotations. You twice ask “choose what?” The answer to both questions is ‘to keep or abort her pregnancy.’ Furthermore, someone who chooses not to write in full sentences (i.e. fragments) is in no position to criticize another’s syntax and sentence structure, especially when the sentence you claim is a “nice use of the passive voice” (“I believe that Lakehead University is a campus that values human rights”) is in the active voice.

    In closing, pro-life groups like Life Support fallaciously place themselves in opposition to pro-choice groups as if they represent pro-abortion, which is not the case and incidentally constitutes a false dichotomy. A pregnant student does not have an easy choice to make, regardless of her politics, and I believe that Lakehead’s Gender Issues Centre will support whatever choice she makes. Perhaps Martin Luther’s “veritable choice” or “mutable choice” might be more agreeable terms for you to get a better conceptual understanding of the “free choice” inherent in pro-choice.

    With Respect,

    Al Tonkin

    • Danny Ricci says:

      Just a few comments:

      The abortion debate has nothing to do with religion. Your comments regarding Canada being a secular society have nothing to do with the morality of abortion. In Canada, it is illegal to murder a person and so if the unborn are human (which they most certainly are) then abortion is not a right.

      Second, if you read any credible textbook on embryology, a new human life, distinct from both mother and father, is created at conception. You may also want to rethink your views on the LAW of biogenesis.

      Finally, if defending those without a voice (ie. the Unborn) places us in opposition to Pro-Choice groups, then so be it. The unborn are human (science defines this, not religion) and so no one can choose to terminate the life of another, whether they are in the womb or not.

      Danny Ricci
      Build a Culture of Life:
      Defend life from conception to natural death

    • “[Free speech] applies to your argument in that students who do not agree with the human rights Kolic allegedly defines for the student body are guaranteed the right to hold and express alternative sentiments, but it does not guarantee them the right to receive funding because they have formed a group.”

      Yes, I never said that the protection of free speech in the Charter means that LUSU owes anyone money.

      “Kolic implores Lakehead’s student body “to restore democracy and the spirit of human rights” to LUSU. Lakehead University is an autonomous, democratic, secular institution within a democratic, secular society”

      First, Danny pointed out how this has absolutely nothing to do with Canada being a secular society. You introduced that out of the blue — no one is suggesting otherwise. Jesus? Same-sex marriages? You’re way off-topic, man.

      Second, Kolic implores the student body to respect the spirit of human rights. In pointing out that he doesn’t give a damn about free speech, I’m not suggesting that the Charter regulates LUSU’s funding decisions, but that discriminating against a club because you don’t like its views is a pretty glaring contradiction to the spirit of human rights.

      Unless you think that kind of discrimination is the spirit of human rights.

      “Kolic does not impose his morality on others, he takes a utilitarian stance that best serves the student body by giving pregnant women the right to choose to keep or to abort their pregnancies.”

      1. Guess what: A “utilitarian stance” is a stance. Kolic isn’t neutral. He’s taking a stance.

      2. He isn’t imposing his morality on others by simply taking that stance. He’s imposing his morality on others by denying club status to those who don’t agree with his personal stance, with his moral views, and abusing the LUSU, and violating its constitution, to wage a personal war against a group that simply doesn’t conform to his political views.

      “It is here worth reiterating an important point Kolic makes and you eschew in your response: “I believe that we as a student body agree with the BC Supreme Court that the existence of groups such as Life Support violate the rights of students on campus.””

      I’d love to see the text of the decision, and I’m willing to bet it doesn’t say, “the existence of pro-life groups violates the rights of students on campus.” Plus, we’re allowed to disagree with Supreme Court decisions. That happens all the time (e.g. how do you think abortion laws were overturned initially? Pro-choicers had to disagree with them.).

      “Furthermore, Dr. G. Davidson Smith of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) classifies antiabortion groups as single issue terrorists in “Commentary No.74: Single Issue Terrorism.” After attributing many violent acts to pro-life groups, he concludes that “the challenge is to provide and appropriate, reasoned and reasonable response to the threat of single issue terrorism which avoids overreaction and remains with the rule of law.””

      Oh, come on. When was the last instance of violence by an anti-abortion group in Canada? And where does Life Support even factor in? Unless you have evidence that Life Support poses a threat of violence, you’re simply blowing hot air.

      “Biology aside, it appears that you are either advocating health care reform, perhaps to hold elections on what procedures do and do not comply with voters’ ethics, or that public funds should not facilitate abortions. Again, Canada is a secular society and religious morality has no place in state-provided health care. Exclusively private abortion clinics are not a good idea because, given the attacks against the Morgentaler clinics and other clinics, they would no doubt be targeted by violent antiabortion zealots.”

      For someone writing an essay in the comments, you sure are sloppy. Those sentences are loaded with assumptions. What did I say that has anything to do with health care reform? I’m simply saying that if tax paying dollars are funding the procedure, abortion is not a private matter — by definition. We have a right to question abortion, just as we have a right to question anything else we’re paying for with our taxes. The issue isn’t just in the bedrooms of the nation or the womb of a women’s body — it’s smack dab right in the middle of the public square once you send tax dollars to pay for it.

      “To educate your readers on the biological standpoint concerning abortion, and how Kolic “glosses over the very centre of the debate” which you define as the unborn human, you provide a Youtube infomercial that claims that one can become an expert in embryology if s/he buys and reads five books for $536. The video purports that life begins at fertilization. Logically, once an egg is fertilized, something (life) is created out of nothing. An attempt to support this claim relies on a geneticist’s statement that is 28 years out of date. In reality, biology as a discipline does not have an official stance concerning abortion, as it is more of a philosophical issue. However, contemporary biological theory asserts that life is on a continuum: both sperm and egg are biologically alive and both carry DNA. Therefore the idea of life being ‘created’ when a sperm fertilizes an egg is not an accepted theory within biology. Biogenesis does not exist.”

      I simply linked to one of our recent posts.

      Want another video?

      http://loretohouse.ning.com/video/video/show?id=2080628%3AVideo%3A1284 (via http://utsfl.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/the-miracle-of-life/ )

      Want a lengthy philosophical and scientific approach?
      http://utsfl.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/once-again-life-begins-at-conception/

      I don’t think you realize what you’re saying when you say “biogenesis does not exist.” Do you know what the law of biogenesis even means? It simply means that like naturally produces like, human offspring are naturally human, and canine offspring are naturally canine. You want to challenge that? Go right ahead.

      Biology takes no moral stance on abortion, but to say that we don’t know when life begins is an absurd and profoundly ignorant statement. At the point of conception, you have a unique human being. Unique, because has a separate, complete set of DNA (sperm/ovum don’t have complete DNA, they aren’t growing into adult human beings, etc). Human, because human offspring is human. Being, because it’s clearly alive.

      If you want to argue whether or not that unique human being is a person, go right ahead. But that’s philosophy, not biology. And, if you want to section out a class of human beings who aren’t persons, that’s the very formula of a human rights abuse. Good luck with that.

      Biology doesn’t take a stance on abortion because it doesn’t address the personhood question, but to say that we don’t know when life begins is either ignorant or dishonest.

      “Furthermore, someone who chooses not to write in full sentences (i.e. fragments) is in no position to criticize another’s syntax and sentence structure, especially when the sentence you claim is a “nice use of the passive voice” (“I believe that Lakehead University is a campus that values human rights”) is in the active voice.”

      Someone who chooses to spit out a poorly written freshman political philosophy essay in the comments of my blog had better know what he’s talking about before attempting to take me to task on my grammar.

      1. When you have a chance, go try the Internet. Take a little time to understand the medium before criticizing the message out of context.

      2. If you have nothing better to criticize than sentence structure, you don’t have a very strong argument. If I were grading your essay, you’d be losing marks big time for that one.

      3. Read my post before criticizing it. The “passive voice” criticism was in two parts, with the passive voice clearly coming from the earlier quote: “It is believed that these members are acting in the interest of an interest group and not in the interests of the student body as a whole.” Plus, I wasn’t even criticizing his sentence structure, but rather observing how he’d used the passive voice to make it seem like that “belief” wasn’t just his own personal belief. Read the post, understand the medium. If you can’t keep up, at least try not to embarrass yourself in the comments.

      The point of questioning the object of the choice is to diffuse the rhetoric. It sounds great to talk about “choice” as something unconditionally good, but once you realize that “choice” is the intentional destruction of an innocent human life, any remotely intellectually honest person would concede that the choice is at least somewhat controversial.

      You don’t need to be pro-life to realize that abortion is an important issue that ought to be discussed, or that a group isn’t “extremist” simply for discussing a controversial issue.

      The question of Life Support’s club status has little to do with the accuracy of the pro-choice position. You don’t need to forfeit your pro-choice views to recognize that it’s unwise to deny a group club status simply because their political views are in opposition to yours.

  2. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    Hello, I am an actual scientist that has read (and understood) a hell of a lot more than 5 intro text books, and I’m not even going to bother with science Youtube videos because there is no reason to believe a youtube video supporting either side of this argument.

    Reading the discussions of science in these posts is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. People like to confuse semantics an philosophy with science. I have my opinions on abortion rights, but I’m much more fired up about the abuse of science in these posts.

    You quote the “law of biogenesis” like it’s relevant to this debate at all. The law of biogenesis ONLY addresses the fact that life will not spontaneously generate in the environment, as was the belief in the 1800′s. Before Pasteur’s experiments, it was thought that mold and maggots would spontaneously generate, and their “law” simply stated that another life form had to be there first. At the time, they didn’t know about DNA, and they knew very little about developmental biology. One of you said “You may also want to rethink your views on the LAW of biogenesis”. So tell me friend, what exactly should he be rethinking about this? Was he trying to say that things spontaneously generate?

    I think he began to touch on the bigger point here. The “miracle of life” that you’re so forcefully protecting is just two DNA strands coming together inside a living cell. At exactly which point does this become a human? When more than half of the DNA is annealed? Or perhaps when the first of the billions of base pairs anneal? Actually, there is no obvious biological definition of the start of life according to the biochemistry of the cell. Everything is alive the whole time. There is a new combination of DNA, but it is still DNA, and it was DNA in a cell before it combined. You can state biochemically when a cell has divided (when the phospholipids of the two daughter cells fully separate), you can state when DNA is no longer combining (when the DNA polymerase and ligase responsible for annealing the strands are no longer chemically bound to the DNA), but you CANNOT state, in logical biochemical terms, when a new “life” has started because any definition you use is just an arbitrary point defined by humans.

    And another important point about semantics: The seeds on a strawberry are multicellular, contain DNA resulting from sexual reproduction, but are not called “strawberries”, they are called “strawberry seeds”. You don’t eat one banana and then say that you ate a thousand bananas because you ate a thousand seeds with it. You don’t say that a chicken just laid a chicken, you say it laid an EGG.

    But wait, you consider a fertilized egg a human, right? So do you follow these other absurd definitions I just gave? No, because your SEMANTICS dictate that a fertilized egg is a human but a strawberry seed is a seed and not a strawberry.

    I mean, why are humans so much more important than chickens, or even plants for that matter? At the molecular level plants are very very similar to us, using DNA inside of a cell to assemble molecular components to maintain biological activity inside the cell. What about bacteria? We commit mass bacterial genocide every time we wash our hands. Why is that OK? Even bacteria have means of exchanging DNA (through a process called “conjugation”), so you can’t say that they don’t matter because they just divide to reproduce.

    Lots of people answer that only animal lives are sacred. But why draw an arbitrary line at the evolution of plants and animals to define what’s moral to kill and what’s not? Every living organism has a common ancestor dating back to the primordial soup, including bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. To say that animal life, or just human life, is more sacred than a bacteria’s is a matter of PHILOSOPHY, not science!

    There is no scientific consensus on even the definition of life, let alone exactly when it starts or if it matters. Is a virus alive? It’s just a sequence of DNA contained in a small protein shell, and uses live cells to perform all other processes. Is a virus sequence of DNA, outside of the shell, considered life it is still capable of reproducing if it were placed inside a cell? If so, then how many base pairs are required for life? Is a test tube full of adenine (one of the DNA’s “letters”) life because it’s a component of DNA? There is no answer, because there is no logical biological definition of life.

    And when exactly is something dead? If it’s alive when DNA anneals, then is someone who hasn’t been breathing and whose heart hasn’t been beating for 5 days and who’s rotting from the inside out still alive because their DNA is still together? You could still clone their DNA into an egg cell (as in Dolly the sheep), incubate it in a human, and create a new human life, so are they really dead? Clearly they’re dead by our definition, but biologically not all that much has changed, and biology has no logical definition of death because it has no logical definition of life. That’s why you’re all being silly.

    So please, argue semantics, philosophy, morality, and religion all you want, but leave science out of it.

    - A scientist

    • Thanks for your comment.

      “There is a new combination of DNA, but it is still DNA, and it was DNA in a cell before it combined. You can state biochemically when a cell has divided (when the phospholipids of the two daughter cells fully separate), you can state when DNA is no longer combining (when the DNA polymerase and ligase responsible for annealing the strands are no longer chemically bound to the DNA), but you CANNOT state, in logical biochemical terms, when a new “life” has started because any definition you use is just an arbitrary point defined by humans.”

      Are you claiming that there’s no basis in biology for recognizing the existence and emergence of a distinct organism? Of course all the cells along each stage is alive, but a claim of a “unique human life” is a claim that we’re dealing with a unique organism.

      “And another important point about semantics: The seeds on a strawberry are multicellular, contain DNA resulting from sexual reproduction, but are not called “strawberries”, they are called “strawberry seeds”. You don’t eat one banana and then say that you ate a thousand bananas because you ate a thousand seeds with it. You don’t say that a chicken just laid a chicken, you say it laid an EGG.

      But wait, you consider a fertilized egg a human, right?”

      Yes… fertilized eggs, not eggs, in the same way we wouldn’t consider a strawberry seed a strawberry. I’m not sure I understand how this is a relevant semantic point. We are recognizing a unique human organism as different from a mere sperm or egg.

      “I mean, why are humans so much more important than chickens, or even plants for that matter? At the molecular level plants are very very similar to us, using DNA inside of a cell to assemble molecular components to maintain biological activity inside the cell. What about bacteria? We commit mass bacterial genocide every time we wash our hands. Why is that OK? Even bacteria have means of exchanging DNA (through a process called “conjugation”), so you can’t say that they don’t matter because they just divide to reproduce.
      Lots of people answer that only animal lives are sacred. But why draw an arbitrary line at the evolution of plants and animals to define what’s moral to kill and what’s not? Every living organism has a common ancestor dating back to the primordial soup, including bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. To say that animal life, or just human life, is more sacred than a bacteria’s is a matter of PHILOSOPHY, not science!”

      Again, I fail to understand how this is a criticism. No one is claiming that a right to life rises from biology. It’s not a matter of biology alone. But most people agree that we shouldn’t kill human beings, and the law recognizes a right to life of human persons. We point out that it’s a sign of a human rights abuse to deny personhood to a member of the human species. That claim obviously doesn’t arise from biology alone, but biology, politics, philosophy, etc… The personhood debate is absolutely a philosophical issue, as we’ve pointed out before.

      • A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

        To address your comments:

        - I’m saying that logically defining different organisms is not as clear-cut as you think it is. You can start a cell-line in which your skin cells grow in a test tube on their own, separate from you. Is that a unique individual? Is it not unique because it’s the same DNA? If so, then are twins the same person? At exactly which point in the fertilization of an egg does it become a new organism?

        Biologists don’t ever bother defining these things, we’ll say that the egg is in the process of fertilization, and now it’s a fertilized egg, and now the egg is dividing, and now it’s a zygote, and now it’s a fetus, and now it’s a baby. We don’t bother to say “now it is a new life, biologically”, because for all the reasons I discussed earlier, it’s all semantics and a waste of energy

        - For the second comment, it’s clear that you’re missing my points entirely, a chicken egg is fertilized, a strawberry seed is fertilized with pollen, so my semantic point stands and your rebuttal makes it clear that you don’t understand even very basic, rudimentary developmental biology, but that you really do think that you do. You know, that’s what motivates me enough to post here. I don’t care if people are ignorant, but people who are ignorant but say they know things really piss me off, particularly when they’re trying to impose their religious position on other people.

        - And as for your last point, you’re really clarifying my central argument here. Recognizing a right to life of “human persons” and then saying that a fertilized egg has a right to life is saying that a fertilized egg is a human person, which has no scientific merit at all. I won’t bother rehashing the reasons why.

        • “I’m saying that logically defining different organisms is not as clear-cut as you think it is. You can start a cell-line in which your skin cells grow in a test tube on their own, separate from you. Is that a unique individual? Is it not unique because it’s the same DNA?”

          Will a cell-line of your skin cells develop into an adult human being? However blurry the boundaries are, isn’t it obvious that isn’t a unique member of the human species? I don’t think that’s an honest argument.

          “For the second comment, it’s clear that you’re missing my points entirely, a chicken egg is fertilized, a strawberry seed is fertilized with pollen, so my semantic point stands and your rebuttal makes it clear that you don’t understand even very basic, rudimentary developmental biology, but that you really do think that you do. You know, that’s what motivates me enough to post here. I don’t care if people are ignorant, but people who are ignorant but say they know things really piss me off, particularly when they’re trying to impose their religious position on other people.”

          Thanks for your comments. My last answer was pretty rushed and stupid. I get the semantic point now, though I’m still not sure that it changes the argument. We don’t say we’re eating thousands of strawberries, because when we say we’re eating a strawberry, we’re really talking about eating a mature, “adult” strawberry. But, also, clarity isn’t very important here because most people wouldn’t see a problem with eating strawberries. When talking about human life, which our society tends to recognize deserves a certain dignity, precision and clarity become more important, hence recognizing unborn victims of crime, or the destruction of unborn human beings in abortion.

          This semantic point just seems like a different formulation of the acorn / oak argument. Correct me if I’m wrong.

          By the way, you and Al are the ones talking about religion, so I’m not sure where the “religious position” bit is coming from.

          “Recognizing a right to life of “human persons” and then saying that a fertilized egg has a right to life is saying that a fertilized egg is a human person, which has no scientific merit at all.”

          We clearly disagree, but yes, a fertilized egg is a human person because it’s a human being in its earliest stages (that is, a unique human organism, member of the human species, etc.). The personhood question is a philosophical concern. We maintain that all human beings are human persons, because we’re not particularly fond of human rights abuses.

    • Anne Smyth says:

      It seems to me that arguing about whether or not a fertilized egg is human is avoiding the real crux of the abortion issue. Abortion involves the extermination of a fully formed, heart beating, blood coursing through the veins, developed lungs, brain, fingers and toes of a baby in the womb. When a woman feels her baby kick she doesn’t say, O my fetus just kicked, she knows it’s a baby. It’s a matter of ethics, principles and basic common sense which, I must say, from where I sit some of the pseudo intellectuals, especially those identifying themselves as a “scientist”, are missing. Also, pro choice is a misnomer as it is rarely about choice, more often it is pressure from family, relatives, or even the father of the baby, that is, if and when he is even consulted.
      LUSU Vice President of Finance Josh Kolic mistakenly identifies anti abortion the same as pro life. Pro Life is for All life from conception to natural death and shouldn’t be confused with those who consider killing justifiable. It is an unfair and untrue comparison by Josh Kolic and disingenuous as I can’t believe he really means such a preposterous statement. I believe those in the student union who deny democratic representation of all students and stand up for those with whom they don’t agree, they are ill equipped to hold a position in the union and it becomes an illegal organization and against human rights. They are not there to impose their views on students, they are there to ensure that all views are presented so that students can truly make a choice freely and democratically.

      Katrina Scheibler-Smith, a LUSU board member, had it right when she made a motion to rescind the October 29th decision, basing her motion on the fact that LUSU is meant to represent all students and that by banning the club they were going against their constitution.

      I hope this situation is resolved in favour of the pro life club otherwise this university will not be fulfilling its mandate to educate and formulate free thought and free speech.
      If Josh Kolic has his way, as it is now, the union stands for intimidation and dictatorship and bigotry. It is a human rights issue on many levels including the unborn.

  3. Al Tonkin says:

    Sir,
    It is true I introduced religion into this debate, but I did so to ensure that religion stays out of the debate. Lakehead’s Life Support members frequently cite God and the Bible to buttress their arguments. I also brought up the CSIS classification of antiabortion groups, which prompted you to ask me: “When was the last instance of violence by an anti-abortion group in Canada? And where does Life Support even factor in?” Well, Life Support and other antiabortion groups have recently sent threatening emails, including death threats, to at least three LUSU members. Uttering threats and harassment, especially in hardcopy, are against the law and do constitute violence. If it is true, as Mr. Ricci states, that “[t]he abortion debate has nothing to do with religion,” and, as you imply, that Life Support advocates nonviolence, you may want to contact the members applying for club status at Lakehead because it appears you have solidarity issues.
    The anonymous scientist asks for science to stay out of this debate, for the same reason Bertrand Russell states in “The Problems of Philosophy,” because “those questions which are already capable of definite answers are placed in the sciences, while those only to which, at present, no definite answers can be given, remain to form the residue which is called philosophy.” In this context, throughout different eras and through different perspectives, philosophy indicates that being depends on consciousness:

    The first to assert this is René Descartes’, who states in his “A Discourse on the Method” that “considering that all the same thoughts which we have while awake can come to us while asleep without any one them being true, I resolved to pretend that everything that had ever entered my head was no more true than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately afterwards I noted that, while I was trying to think of all things being false in this way, it was necessarily the case that I, who was thinking them, had to be something; and observing this truth: I am thinking therefore I exist”
    Following Descartes, Baruch Spinoza’s “The Ethics” reaffirms that “the human body is affected in a manner which involves the nature of any external body, the human mind will regard the said external body as actually existing, or as present to itself, until the human body be affected in such a way as to exclude the existence or the presence of the said external body.”
    It is tempting to reduce consciousness, as in perceiving the world as an individual, to solipsism. Although it is not the case, even solipsism has its merits. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s treats this issue in his “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:” “This remark provides the key to the problem, how much truth there is in solipsism. For what the solipsist means is quite correct; only it cannot be said, but makes itself manifest. The world is my world: this is manifest in the fact that the limits of language (of that language which alone I understand) means the limits of my world. The world and life are one. I am my world. (The microcosm.)”
    Moving beyond the reef of solipsism, Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness” (Part Two) explicates: “Being-in-itself can found its nothingness but not its being. In its decompression it nihilates itself in a for-itself which becomes qua for-itself its own foundation; but the contingency which the for-itself has derived from the in-itself remains out of reach. It is what remains of the in-itself in the for-itself as facticity and what causes the for-itself to have only a factual necessity; that is, it is the foundation of its consciousness-of-being or existence, but on no account can it found its presence. Thus consciousness can in no case prevent itself from being and yet it is totally responsible for its being.”
    The anonymous scientist asks: “why are humans so much more important than chickens, or even plants for that matter?” S/he goes on “[t]o say that animal life, or just human life, is more sacred than a bacteria’s is a matter of PHILOSOPHY, not science!” Admittedly, I have not read any philosophy that compares human life to plant life, but I do have something comparing human life to animal life. In part, George Herbert Mead specifically looks at the difference between humans and dogs in his “Mind, Self and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist.” Mead states: “It is quite impossible to assume that animals do undertake to express their emotions. They certainly do not undertake to express them for the benefit of other animals. The most that can be said is that the “expressions” did set free a certain emotion in the individual, an escape valve, so to speak, an emotional attitude which the animal needed, in some sense, to get rid of. They certainly could not exist in these lower animals as means of expressing emotions; we cannot approach them from the point of view of expressing a content in the mind of the individual.”
    Philosophically, being relies on consciousness; it has not been proven that an unborn foetus possesses consciousness. Mr. Ricci purports that “[i]n Canada, it is illegal to murder a person and so if the unborn are human (which they most certainly are) then abortion is not a right.” Factually, murder is illegal and abortion is legal. A foetus is then not human, philosophically or by law, until it is conscious, which means ‘the unborn human’ is not the centre of the debate.
    The centre of the debate is antiabortionist groups’ attempts to reduce women’s rights to govern their own bodies while they ostensibly advocate for a foetus’s rights and protection. The fact that women have had to fight for equality, the fact that women were not considered people in Canada until they were granted universal suffrage in 1919, and the fact that women are still not considered equal (in regard to pay equity etc.) in Canadian society, is appalling. In “On Liberty,” John Stuart Mill states that “nothing more is needed for the complete removal of the evil than that wives should have the same rights and should receive the protection of law in the same manner as all other persons; and because, on this subject, the defenders of established injustice do not avail themselves of the plea of liberty but stand forth openly as the champions of power.”
    In regard to Josh Kolic’s non-neutrality, I state that he takes a utilitarian stance. You respond: “1. Guess what: A “utilitarian stance” is a stance. Kolic isn’t neutral. He’s taking a stance. 2. He isn’t imposing his morality on others by simply taking that stance. He’s imposing his morality on others by denying club status to those who don’t agree with his personal stance, with his moral views, and abusing the LUSU, and violating its constitution, to wage a personal war against a group that simply doesn’t conform to his political views.” Focusing on democratic republics, Mill states, in “On Liberty,” that “[t]he ‘people’ who exercise the power are not always the same people with those over whom it is exercised; and the ‘self-government’ spoken of is not the government of each by himself, but of each by all the rest. The will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people — the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority.” Perhaps Kolic violates the LUSU constitution, but he does so by acting in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms rather than the LUSU constitution when there is a discrepancy between the two. I maintain that Kolic is a responsible representative of the student body at Lakhead University.
    With Respect,
    Al Tonkin

    • Hi Al,

      “It is true I introduced religion into this debate, but I did so to ensure that religion stays out of the debate.”

      You brought religion into the debate to ensure it would stay out of it? That’s pretty self-defeating!

      “Lakehead’s Life Support members frequently cite God and the Bible to buttress their arguments.”

      What does that have to do with their club status? Should a group’s club status be revoked for making religious arguments? (What about religious groups?)

      “Well, Life Support and other antiabortion groups have recently sent threatening emails, including death threats, to at least three LUSU members. Uttering threats and harassment, especially in hardcopy, are against the law and do constitute violence.”

      I’m sure you have the evidence to back this up. LUSU’s published the emails, right? Or sent them to the appropriate authorities? Because I bet Life Support would deny these accusations, and those are pretty strong accusations to be making citation-free.

      “The anonymous scientist asks for science to stay out of this debate, for the same reason Bertrand Russell states in “The Problems of Philosophy,” because “those questions which are already capable of definite answers are placed in the sciences, while those only to which, at present, no definite answers can be given, remain to form the residue which is called philosophy.””

      Sure, we are already capable of answering whether the unborn is human, the philosophical question of whether every human being is a person is what remains.

      But I find something incredibly interesting about the quote you provide. Are you admitting that “no definite answers can be given?” That this issue is still up for debate? I mean, you’re debating it here. If you think it’s still a legitimate topic of debate, that we don’t have definite answers… then why would you support censoring one side of a legitimate debate?

      “In this context, throughout different eras and through different perspectives, philosophy indicates that being depends on consciousness… The first to assert this is René Descartes… Philosophically, being relies on consciousness; it has not been proven that an unborn foetus possesses consciousness.”

      Are you honestly quoting Descartes to make a point about personhood? You’re kidding, right? If I take Descartes for his word, the only thing I can know for certain is that I exist. Why should I even believe that you exist?

      Plus, Descartes point is about knowledge. A rock doesn’t know it exists. Does it follow that it doesn’t exist because it isn’t aware of its existence?

      You’re all over the place with this argument, introducing way more holes than you’re plugging.

      Why should I agree with Descartes or Spinoza? Why not Aquinas or Aristotle instead? If you’ve studied philosophy in any seriousness, you must realize that for any respectable philosopher you quote, there’s another respectable philosopher who will argue the exact opposite. Quoting philosophers doesn’t prove anything. This isn’t an assignment for PHL101.

      I’d place myself in a broader philosophical tradition and argue that being relies on essence. Unless you think that unconscious things don’t exist.

      And even if we take your criteria of consciousness as the determinant for personhood, it still doesn’t say anything definitive about the unborn. No one is always actively conscious of their own being, and we accept many conditions for consciousness. If an adult human being is asleep, they could be conscious, if they were awake. Thus, some sort of state is an acceptable condition on consciousness.

      What about a newborn? Is a newborn baby really conscious of his/her existence any more than before s/he passed through the birth canal? And how conscious is a new born? Is there any real self-awareness there? Is a new born more or less conscious than an adult dog?

      I contend that consciousness is a criterion for human personhood only insofar as its proper to the human species. A new born is a person because it is a human being, a member of the human species who is in the process of developing into an adult human being and has all that is needed to activate consciousness. The only condition is time, or more specifically, growth.

      In the same way, growth is the only condition for consciousness of an unborn human being. Every human being has the capacity for consciousness by virtue of being a human being, by virtue of the essence of a human being, by virtue of what they are rather than how old they are.

      “A foetus is then not human, philosophically or by law, until it is conscious, which means ‘the unborn human’ is not the centre of the debate.

      The centre of the debate is antiabortionist groups’ attempts to reduce women’s rights to govern their own bodies while they ostensibly advocate for a foetus’s rights and protection.

      Now you’re just making stuff up. The law has absolutely nothing to do with consciousness. It has to do with the location of the child. If the child has passed through the birth canal (or been removed via c-section), it is granted personhood. If it hasn’t, it’s not a person.

      That’s your legal definition of personhood — not what a thing is, but where a thing is. Do you think that’s philosophically sound?

      And of course it’s the centre of the debate? How could it not be? You prove this yourself. If the unborn is a human person, your “centre of the debate” doesn’t even make any sense because there are two persons that need to be considered. You’re assuming what needs to be proven by defining the centre of the debate around your own argument. And that’s why you spent the proceeding couple paragraphs trying to prove that the unborn isn’t a human person.

      If the unborn is not a human person, then no justification of abortion is necessary. If the unborn is a human person, then no justification of abortion is adequate.

      The humanity and personhood of the unborn is the very centre of the debate.

      “The fact that women have had to fight for equality, the fact that women were not considered people in Canada until they were granted universal suffrage in 1919, and the fact that women are still not considered equal (in regard to pay equity etc.) in Canadian society, is appalling.”

      Absolutely! But do you see what you’re doing? You’re recognizing that women were denied personhood for the longest time, but then you’re denying personhood to another class of human beings? Do you realize that the women who fought for personhood and the right to vote also believed that abortion was wrong?

      Denying personhood to a class of human beings is the very pattern of a human rights abuse. It was when women were denied status, it was when blacks were denied status, it was when first nations people were denied status, and it is when the unborn are denied status.

      Thanks for bringing it up.

      Perhaps Kolic violates the LUSU constitution, but he does so by acting in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms rather than the LUSU constitution when there is a discrepancy between the two. I maintain that Kolic is a responsible representative of the student body at Lakhead University.”

      That’s brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

      In your last comment, you were arguing that the freedom of speech rights in the Charter don’t apply to LUSU. Now, you want to argue that it’s okay if Kolic violates LUSU’s constitution because he’s deffering to the Charter when there’s a discrepancy?

      Uh, how about the bigger discrepancy of freedom of speech? Kolic is deferring to the Charter, he’s making up his own rules. He’s ignoring the one’s he doesn’t like, and then calling an ideal of democracy when it’s convenient. A responsible student representative doesn’t act like he’s above the rules, and doesn’t pick and choose which constitutions and which sections of each constitution he feels like following.

      Most importantly, however, you’ve been proving one of my points simply by having this argument. You said it was philosophical, because we don’t have definite answers. You proceeded to make your argument, in response to mine. That’s what people do when they have legitimate disagreements over controversial topics. I disagree with you strongly, but you have a right to your opinion, and you have a right to promote your opinion, even though I will try and argue that your wrong whenever I think you are. But I have no right to silence you, to declare your position illegitimate, to claim that my stance is the “neutral” stance so that I can restrict your freedom of speech.

      Censoring a legitimate debate is a cheap cop out for people who can’t argue their position. You’ve demonstrated that you’re above that by engaging in an important dialogue here in our comments. Why do you support Kolic’s efforts to stifle this sort of important debate?

      There’s clearly an inconsistently in your views and your actions that needs to be resolved.

  4. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    I’ll quote you here:

    “I contend that consciousness is a criterion for human personhood only insofar as its proper to the human species. A new born is a person because it is a human being, a member of the human species who is in the process of developing into an adult human being and has all that is needed to activate consciousness. The only condition is time, or more specifically, growth.”

    Are you saying that consciousness is necessary to define a human? Either way, you’re contending that a fetus is human because it just needs time to grow in order to become conscious.

    To paraphrase, you’re saying that the fertilized egg will undergo physical changes in order to become incorporated into part of the body of an organism with consciousness. All it needs is time. But before it was in the egg, the sperm’s DNA also has the potential to become part of a being with consciousness, all it needed was time. And it has -exactly- the same amount of consciousness as a fertilized egg, so by this logic we should protect the rights of every sperm cell in everyone’s body; after all, they each have the potential to start a conscious human life. Maybe I’ll start keeping mine in a jar in the fridge or something

    What about atoms, maybe we should protect them too? They’re unconscious, but in the end it’s the activity of atoms that gives you your consciousness, and all they needed was time to get incorporated into your body. Why don’t you rally against the LHC, it’s destroying atoms that could become part of a sperm that could become part of an egg that in time will become a human being!

    Also:

    Nobody cares if you deny allegations of name calling and harassing on the part of Life Support. Hating on pro-choice people is all that they stand for! I saw the harassing posters that they put up a few years back, and that’s all that I EVER need to see to support LUSU in denying their club status. In the Argus today, one of the Life Support people wrote that the club will actually -reduce- people being harassed about getting abortions, because they will provide healthy ways for people to talk about these issues. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW, PLEASE GIVE THESE FINE GENTLEMEN CLUB STATUS LUSU

    Who wants to join my Nazi club? We’re not really about hating blacks and jews. We might debate with them about their race but we won’t harass them. No, we’re more about providing a place that people can get together and talk about how much we enjoy racial cleansing. That’s just free speech, it’s perfectly legal for us to hate blacks and jews, and even though it’s legal for them to be black or jewish, we don’t really agree with them. It’s totally not even true that one of the skinheads on campus called someone racial slurs last week, and if they did, they probably weren’t technically part of our group. Well not yet; if they feel that strongly then they’re more than likely going to get involved with us, but what can you do, you can’t prove anything, you don’t even have sufficient forensic evidence. The fact is that if we had a club, we could find healthy ways for people to talk about how much they hate blacks and jews amongst ourselves, and that will really reduce the amount of racism on campus and help Lakehead’s reputation

    • Danny Ricci says:

      First of all, thank you for proving Godwin’s Law correct.

      No, we should not “save the sperm” since a sperm on its own cannot grow into a human being no matter how much time we give it. This argument is actually rehashed nonsense that has been used before and it is not a good way of arguing the point.

      What exactly were on those signs that made you upset? A picture of an aborted child? “Abortion kills babies”…. what was so “Nazi-like”? (I did not see any of these pictures so I would like to know what they were about)

      You’re previous postings were actually quite challenging to argue scientist… I hope to see more of those instead of references to “preserving sperm in jars” and Nazis.

      Danny
      Build a Culture of Life:
      Defend life from conception to natural death

      • A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

        First of all, what specifically offended me about the posters is not the aborted fetus, but the guilt and awful feelings that you’re purposely projecting onto girls who have LEGALLY and according to most of the population, MORALLY gotten an abortion. I absolutely despise you pro life people for thinking that you’re so damn right that you’ll put these girls through hell to make your goddamn point, when you have NO logical basis for your belief system. Are you pro life people so deluded that you actually think for a second that people getting an abortion FORGET that there’s a dead fetus involved? Do you think a fuckin stupid little poster is going to change someone’s mind when they choose to get an abortion? What exactly was the purpose of the poster other than to bring more negativity into the world??

        A fertilized egg outside of the womb “on its own” cannot grow into a human being no matter how much time we give it, it completely relies on the biology of the mother. The point I’m making in all of these posts (and that I won’t spend any more time rehashing because you’re too stubborn to even budge an inch on it) is that your defining a fertilized egg as a “human life” is based on semantics and philosophy, not logic. Your logic keeps falling back to “it’s a human life because a fertilized egg is how I choose to define what a human life is”. Well I call it a goddamn fertilized egg because that’s how I choose to define what it is. So let’s take a quick comparison of the logic streams here and maybe let Al decide which is more correct:

        Your logic: fertilized egg = complete human life
        My logic: fertilized egg = fertilized egg

        Life support are nazis in the way that their whole purpose of getting together is to hate and harass another group of people for doing things that are perfectly LEGAL. Why should a hate group be allowed to be a club, and what other legal activities are perfectly OK to harass people about?

        Maybe I’ll start a pro-choice club where I put up posters of young girls getting raped and then giving birth to the children of rape, and then not being able to get an education because they have to stay home and support their rape-child. And then her child will grow up with an emotionally disturbed poor single mother. What exactly about that poster would make you upset? Probably nothing, that’s like a utopia to you fuckin nazis, the rights of a FERTILIZED CELL are more important than offering a choice for a better life to millions of girls facing dire consequences.

        • Are you pro life people so deluded that you actually think for a second that people getting an abortion FORGET that there’s a dead fetus involved? Do you think a fuckin stupid little poster is going to change someone’s mind when they choose to get an abortion? What exactly was the purpose of the poster other than to bring more negativity into the world??

          Well, with people like you comparing unborn human beings to bananas and sperm, there are lot of people who think the unborn is just a “clump of cells” and are surprised how quickly it develops. I have a friend who has provided support for many women in crisis pregnancy situations, many of whom were unsure about the nature of the unborn.

          Second, the Candian Centre for Bioethical Reform, which runs some of the most controversial graphic image campaigns about abortion in the country, have many examples of positive influence. There are lots of examples of people whom the graphic images didn’t convince too, I’m sure. We debate their merit all the time at UofT.

          But you make a grave error in suggesting that the poster brings negativity into the world. The poster only brings into the light what is happening thousands of times across the world each day. The source of the controversy, the source of the negativity is abortion — not some poster.

          It’s abortion that’s offensive. Why would the posters disturb people if there isn’t anything wrong with abortion?

          A fertilized egg outside of the womb “on its own” cannot grow into a human being no matter how much time we give it, it completely relies on the biology of the mother.

          Yes, but leave it in its natural state (i.e. don’t kill it), and it will continue to develop into an adult human being. A child becomes gradually less dependent on its mother as it grows, past the point of viability, and past the point of birth. Degree of dependency does not change what a thing is.

          All the unborn requires is safety and nourishment, much like any of us.

          Your logic: fertilized egg = complete human life
          My logic: fertilized egg = fertilized egg

          A tautology is hardly a definition.

          How do you define “complete human life” then? How would you define personhood? As the law does? Do you think personhood appears at birth?

          Life support are nazis in the way that their whole purpose of getting together is to hate and harass another group of people for doing things that are perfectly LEGAL. Why should a hate group be allowed to be a club, and what other legal activities are perfectly OK to harass people about?

          How do you think any human rights abuses were opposed in the past? People who challenged slavery challenged legal activities. People who challenged a woman’s lack of voting rights challenged the law. Martin Luther King challenged and “harassed” the law and the status quo to fight against segregation. We absolutely have a right to challenge what’s legal, and I’d argue in this case, a responsibility.

          But there’s a difference between challenging and harassing. Harassing isn’t compassionate. But it seems like you consider any defence of the unborn to be harassment of women seeking abortions. I challenge you to take a closer, more honest look at the broader pro-life movement before rushing to such misinformed conclusions.

    • Are you saying that consciousness is necessary to define a human? Either way, you’re contending that a fetus is human because it just needs time to grow in order to become conscious.

      I’m not saying consciousness is a requirement for personhood. That was Al’s suggestion. I tend to disagree.

      But, I’m saying, that even if consciousness were some sort of requirement, it’s because consciousness is proper to human beings, because consciousness is a capacity of human beings. Thus, a human being at a lower stage of development has that capacity too, the only condition is growth. Certainly, consciousness doesn’t emerge at birth — either the unborn is conscious before birth and our law is flawed, or a new born isn’t sufficiently conscious in which case there should be nothing wrong with infanticide.

      I think “consciousness” is a lousy criterion. But even if you follow it through, the point at which a human being becomes a human person in Canadian law doesn’t make any sense.

  5. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    And another thing: I hate how you pro lifers use phrases like “Defend life from conception to natural death”. Ohh yeah, I’m sure that you’re really active in defending the lives of people 40 years and older, how’s all that cancer research going there? Oh no, no cancer research? Do you do a lot of peace rallies where you refrain from ever talking about abortions or stating anything about conception or “prolife”? No? Don’t try to hide your motives in little catch phrases, as if you care about anything other than reducing a woman’s legal rights, being deceptive is not getting more people on board, and it makes smart people hate you.

    • I hate how you pro lifers use phrases like “Defend life from conception to natural death”. Ohh yeah, I’m sure that you’re really active in defending the lives of people 40 years and older, how’s all that cancer research going there?

      Well, I thought it’d be obvious, but the “natural death” part is clearly a reference to euthanasia and assisted suicide, which primarily affects the elderly, the infirm and the disabled. Second, the primary focus of the pro-life movement is typically to affirm the dignity of human life where society is denying it, with cases at the beginning and end of life being most relevant right now. No one is neglecting cancer patients because they aren’t considered to be persons. And lots of pro-lifers are involved in doing work outside of advocacy surrounding beginning and end of life issues.

      Real Scientist, you had some civil comments earlier, but now you’ve devolved into swearing, hyperbole and vague, strawman, ad hominem attacks. You seem like a really smart person. Take some time to take an intellectually honest look at the pro-life movement rather than railing against a caricature.

  6. democracy gal says:

    I consider myself a smart person, and I don’t hate prolifers or anything they have to say. By the way, thanks for providing an open forum on this debate. It’s unfortunate that our student union doesn’t likewise feel that we should embrace dissenting views among our ranks.

    The issue at hand is not whether or not abortion is moral, it is whether or not our university should support students who believe that it is not and provide them with a venue to express these views. It’s the sanitization of views at our university that concerns me. The vote on banning club status was only won by a 7-6 vote. Yes, a majority, but hardly enough to suggest that the student body (through our elected representatives) are in agreement about how club status should be handled. If our elected representatives do truly represent us (you think turn out to national elections is deficient, try student union elections), then we are divided on the issue.

    Philosophical and biological debates aside, I sincerely hope that women (and “real scientist”, females at university are women not girls, adults not children) who have had an abortion feel strong enough about our own choices to accept that a university is the appropriate place to challenge our views and our decisions. My own views on abortion have evolved through life experience and education (I now believe abortion is wrong, I am prochoice, not affiliated with a religious group, and I am also open to the fact that my views could change). We are active participants in our university community and should take the issue head-on, and not marginalize opposing and potentially unpopular views. With all rights, including the right to make decisions about our own bodies, come responsibilities. Posters offend us? No more than a poster of a starving child in Africa, which is largely a result of our foreign trade policies, relief programs, and fueled by our insatiable appetite for luxury commodities, would. I am far more offended by a student union that believes that students need to have our hands held because we don’t have the maturity and composure to deal with emotionally-charged issues. The price of democracy is eternal vigilance, afterall. How many pro-choice battles were lost before abortion was made legal in Canada? And what choices are we truly being offered? Suffer through an emotionally-scarring, invasive medical procedure or raise a child in a society that still stigmatizes single parenthood (thank-you pro choice men for allowing us to abort your unborn children, and thereby truly creating a safe environment for women on campus). Our society needs to continue to evolve, and prolife groups are part of that discourse.

  7. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    ” How do you think any human rights abuses were opposed in the past? People who challenged slavery challenged legal activities. People who challenged a woman’s lack of voting rights challenged the law. Martin Luther King challenged and “harassed” the law and the status quo to fight against segregation. ”

    - I don’t know how many feminists you’ve talked to lately, but I think you’ll find that generally they want to support a woman’s right to choose. Like, for example, choosing to vote, and choosing to have an abortion if they want. All of those examples list situations where people have fought FOR freedoms, and you’re fighting against them. So technically the people fighting FOR choice are the ones fighting for freedom. Please don’t compare yourself to Martin Luther King, you are posting on a U of T blog and he put his life on the line for black rights. Challenging slavery was a little different than putting up posters of aborted fetuses and making death threats by email.

    “But there’s a difference between challenging and harassing. Harassing isn’t compassionate. But it seems like you consider any defence of the unborn to be harassment of women seeking abortions”

    So putting up posters to purposely guilt people who have already made a decision is a “challenge”? What are you challenging, do you think that these people haven’t thought about their decision, and that you’re now introducing new ideas? I made this point before, people are fully aware of the debate, and people don’t need to be harassed with posters. I don’t care what you think about the situation, what Life Support wants to do is harassment, plain and simple. Let’s see, what other “challenges” have Life Support offered to the people of Lakehead? Death threats to LUSU board members? Yelling “baby killer” at people who’ve had abortions? I can’t think of one time that there’s been any kind of constructive, gentle debate on the part of Life Support, all of their “activities” constitute harassment, and giving them club status certainly isn’t going to calm them down.

    “the primary focus of the pro-life movement is typically to affirm the dignity of human life where society is denying it, with cases at the beginning and end of life being most relevant right now.”

    Are you serious? You think that abortion and euthanasia are the biggest human rights concern in the whole world right now? You think that every society in the world is really respecting the rights of every woman and every child? Do you even think that in Canada, the worst abuse of human life is happening in a doctor’s office? Wow, you need to get out more, seriously. Maybe put your efforts into helping people that are actually conscious of their suffering.

    Quote from democracy girl: “I sincerely hope that woman … who have had an abortion feel strong enough about our own choices to accept that a university is the appropriate place to challenge our views and our decisions”

    Again, as I said before, having an abortion isn’t exactly an easy decision for any woman. Of course she’ll go through some stress in this situation, more than likely everyone that’s had one doesn’t want to be reminded about it all the time. But you sincerely hope that women who’ve had an abortion WANT people to bring it up all the time and challenge their legal decision that they’ve already made? Don’t you think that maybe some people just want to go to school in peace and not be harassed and worried about death threats and getting yelled at by a bunch of crazy people who think they’re Martin Luther King?

    “It’s the sanitization of views at our university that concerns me.”

    So what, you don’t want Lakehead to decide which clubs will be affiliated with Lakehead’s name? Again, I could try to start a white power club, should Lakehead allow it on the grounds that I’m just trying to “challenge” people’s views about accepting other races? Of course Lakehead tries to sanitize their reputation, they’re a BUSINESS.

    Life support has no legal entitlement to club status, they’re free to say what they want, and Lakehead is free to decide not to be associated with them if they want. The last time I checked, club status at LU is not in the declaration of human rights. And besides, Lakehead is not obligated to support the views of every student on campus, like I just said, they’re a business and having prolifers representing you is not good for business.

    (democracy girl) “I consider myself a smart person, and I don’t hate prolifers or anything they have to say.”

    You don’t hate prolifers because you clearly are one. I mean you wrote a huge rant about how good prolife is. So don’t try to act like you’re a neutral third party to the debate. And I stand by my statement that smart people hate pro-lifers.

    • Danny Ricci says:

      Blaise was not comparing himself to Martin Luther King, but illustrating that just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is moral (keep in mind slavery was legal about 150 years ago). Therefore, it is just to fight against laws that deny certain persons their rights (in the case of abortion, the unborn).

      You make the claim that it is the pro-choicers who are promoting freedom by promoting the choice of abortion. However, do not the unborn have rights of their own (this is, essentially, what we are arguing about now)? If not, what is your criteria for denying their rights?

      We have kind of gotten away from the original intent of the article (Life Support being denied club status) and I thank Democracy Gal for bringing it back to that debate. Blaise is correct, harassment is not just, but showing a picture of an aborted fetus (if that is your problem with the posters) is not harrassment. If, for example, slavery was still accepted and I showed pictures of beaten slaves would I be harassing slave owners or simply challenging the view that slavery is ok (and please don’t twist this to mean that I think women who have abortions are like slave owners… it is just to illustrate that exposing the truth about an issue is not harassment). Also, you keep mentioning threatening e-mails.. please provide examples of some of these.

      Abortion is the greatest civil rights abuses of our times. 42 million babies are killed worldwide through abortion a year and so even though we have a responsibility to care for others who are suffering no other issue really comes close to the human rights abuses that occur with abortion.

      You make the claim that everyone knows about the debate but does everyone have the facts? Do all women who go for an abortion know exactly what it entails and how they will feel afterwards? (please look up Silent No More for some of the consequences of abortion). To say that because everyone knows about the debate and so no one should talk about it and “harass” others is false because not everyone knows about the issue.

      Danny
      Build a Culture of Life:
      Defend life from conception to natural death

    • I don’t know how many feminists you’ve talked to lately, but I think you’ll find that generally they want to support a woman’s right to choose. Like, for example, choosing to vote, and choosing to have an abortion if they want. All of those examples list situations where people have fought FOR freedoms, and you’re fighting against them. So technically the people fighting FOR choice are the ones fighting for freedom.

      “Choice” was the same rhetoric used by proponents of slavery. It isn’t new to human rights debates, but expected. And there are feminists who disagree with abortion.

      You must ask, “freedom to do what?” What choices are we talking about?

      Please don’t compare yourself to Martin Luther King, you are posting on a U of T blog and he put his life on the line for black rights. Challenging slavery was a little different than putting up posters of aborted fetuses and making death threats by email.

      First of all, I’m still waiting to see evidence of email death threats from Life Support members. That’s a strong accusation to be making citation-free.

      Second, the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform often brings up Martin Luther King Jr. because his tactics were controversial and called into question, much in the same way the CCBR’s are (if we’re talking about graphic images, exposing the horrors of a human rights abuse directly).

      I made this point before, people are fully aware of the debate, and people don’t need to be harassed with posters. I don’t care what you think about the situation, what Life Support wants to do is harassment, plain and simple.

      Yes. Everyone everywhere who has an abortion is fully aware of the implications. No one ever regrets an abortion. Tell that to everyone from the Silent No More project.

      You keep table thumping to assert that the posters are harassment, “plain and simple.” If the majority of people think that abortion is morally acceptable, then why would anyone be bothered by posters? Are they bothered because it makes them question its morality?

      Posters depicting abortion aren’t targeting and guilting anyone. You can’t change the past. They’re about revealing the truth of abortion so that we can prevent it in the future, and provide women with real solutions, rather than offering to kill their unborn children as a solution to a crisis pregnancy.

      “the primary focus of the pro-life movement is typically to affirm the dignity of human life where society is denying it, with cases at the beginning and end of life being most relevant right now.”
      Are you serious? You think that abortion and euthanasia are the biggest human rights concern in the whole world right now

      Reading comprehension. Slow down a little. I didn’t say that there aren’t other human rights abuses. I said the cases of abortion and euthanasia are the most relevant cases where society is denying the dignity of human life. That is, dehumanizing human life. And killing people. Denying personhood to human beings. The poor are mistreated, but not because we don’t consider poor people to be persons. To help the poor requires a different response.

      Do you even think that in Canada, the worst abuse of human life is happening in a doctor’s office? Wow, you need to get out more, seriously. Maybe put your efforts into helping people that are actually conscious of their suffering.

      For someone who takes pride in logic and being smart, you sure argue with a lot of ad hominem. You don’t know me. You don’t know the majority of pro-lifers. You have no idea what else I’m involved with beyond the pro-life movement. I never said the pro-life movement was the be all and end all of helping to alleviate human suffering in the world. But I do think it’s important to ensure that we recognize human suffering at the beginning and end of life, where it is often ignored or rationalized away.

      So what, you don’t want Lakehead to decide which clubs will be affiliated with Lakehead’s name? Again, I could try to start a white power club, should Lakehead allow it on the grounds that I’m just trying to “challenge” people’s views about accepting other races? Of course Lakehead tries to sanitize their reputation, they’re a BUSINESS.

      Oh yeah? What does the Lakehead administration say about this? At Memorial and McGill and York, efforts by the student unions (note: not the universities) have been met with disagreement from the university administrations, but it’s not the university administration’s role to administer student clubs. This isn’t a business decision on the part of Lakehead University, it’s a political decision on the part of LUSU.

      Second, it’s astonishing that someone as seemingly intelligent as you compares pro-life groups to white power clubs. You assume what needs to be proven, that the unborn are not persons and you assume the entire debate is decided and the pro-life side is illegitimate.

      I’ll ask again: when do you think a new human being should legally become a person? When it changes location, and slides down the birth canal? You don’t think there’s any legitimate challenge to one of the few Western countries that doesn’t have any laws about abortion? You’re in a small minority here.

      You don’t hate prolifers because you clearly are one. I mean you wrote a huge rant about how good prolife is. So don’t try to act like you’re a neutral third party to the debate. And I stand by my statement that smart people hate pro-lifers.

      I don’t know who democracy girl is, but I’ve read very similar comments from intellectual honest pro-choicers at the University of Toronto. Believe it or not, some people might not fully agree with us, but they still think abortion is a legitimate topic of debate.

      Table thumping about “smart people” isn’t going to get you very far when you ignore the real concerns and revert to ad hominem and ad hitlerum style arguments.

  8. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    Just because you’re fighting something that’s legal doesn’t mean that the law itself is immoral or wrong in any way. Martin Luther King was fighting for the rights of conscious people, aware of their suffering, and was clearly fighting for a good cause, but that doesn’t logically mean that you are too!

    You keep asking about when I consider a fetus to be a human, and I consider that definition unimportant to the issue. What I consider important, in terms of human rights, is whether or not somebody is suffering from an action. If you kill a clump of cells that has no consciousness, does not feel pain, and who nobody else has an emotional attachment to, then that’s fine, it’s essentially the same as killing bacteria at that point in terms of suffering.

    This is not the same issue as slavery. Slaves can feel the pain that they’re going through, an aborted fertilized egg can not. You know, people find it very offensive when you liken abortion to serious, real world suffering like slavery. I’m sure that descendants of slaves would love to hear you equate their suffering to the suffering that a fertilized egg feels. But please, write again that it’s a “human being” so that you can feel like it’s logical.

    And please stop suggesting that I don’t like the aborted fetus posters because of some subconscious feeling that I am a pro-life supporter. The fact that a fetus looks gross and people don’t want to look at it does not mean that it’s wrong, as you are suggesting. Open heart surgery is gross too, I don’t want to see pictures of open heart surgery posted all over campus, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Anyway, the issue, as I’ve already said and you keep ignoring, is that it’s harassment. It’s target is to INCREASE the guilt and suffering of someone who’s had an abortion, which is the opposite of what you claim to stand for, and I would love to see one of you address that point.

    Like, here’s what you’re saying, essentially: “If these posters offend you, then that means you don’t agree with us, so we’re glad that you’re offended or feel guilty in any way. If you join us then you won’t be disturbed by it, and if you’ve had an abortion, then fuck you, look at this shit! This shit is so gross!”.

    It’s like PETA putting up posters of cows being slaughtered. We all know cows get slaughtered because we’re not retarded, we’ve made a decision that we’re morally OK with cows getting slaughtered, but the PETA people think that we’re so stupid that we weren’t really aware of what’s happening and that seeing the images will change our minds. Yes, we know, some people are against this, but we don’t want it pushed on us all the time, it’s just more negativity in the world, and it’s harassing people that don’t agree with you.

    By the way, I’m not saying, as the one person suggested, that nobody regrets having an abortion, but you can’t try to force your opinions because SOME people regret something. Some people regretting an abortion doesn’t mean that nobody should be allowed to have one. Maybe we should outlaw football; It’s legal, and some people who get injured regret playing it, and not everybody’s completely aware of all the specific injuries that can happen. So it should be outlawed.

    And I don’t care about your pro life website, I’m sure there’s all sorts of testimonials from all sorts of people on the internet, all of which don’t matter at all because it’s the same exact argument all the time. PETA has a silly little website too, I’m not going to read it to decide if I’m going to be vegan or not. Testimonials (which, by the way, could be written by anybody) don’t give you the right to harass people, your moral definition of a human being doesn’t give you the right to harass people, and like I said, we’re sick of you acting like we’re uninformed or something. If we’re so stupid, then please tell me something that I don’t know instead of telling me that your purpose as a club is to tell me something I don’t know. Just say it!

    The death threats happened, I heard about it from one of the people who got threatened, I didn’t think to request forensic proof at the time. Of course I’m sure that ALL pro lifers just put up offensive posters targeted to guilt and harass people, but would definitely draw the line at sending an email.

    And I’m not “table thumping”, I am totally 100% serious that every smart person I’ve ever asked is pro-choice. That’s just an observation really, you should know the facts. If you’re offended by it, then maybe you shouldn’t read my posts, or maybe you should consider going to my website where other people talk about how all smart people they know are pro choice

    • Danny Ricci says:

      Thanks for answering the question on when you think a fetus becomes human. In response to your claim that the aim of pro-life posters is to promote guilt, I would answer that this is not the case. In fact, whenever pro-lifers are showing posters (with pictures or just with words) the aim is to have people come up to us to ask questions or debate about the morality of the issue. We are not there with signs saying “This is what you did to your child” or hound people about our view. We are there peacefully and if people want to talk that is fine and if not that is ok too. If the primary aim was to make women feel guilty we would probably be doing a very bad job at that. Also, instead of harassment, we offer women who are thinking of abortion ways they can get in contact with crisis pregnancy centres and, for women who have had abortions, resources such as Rachel’s Vinyard in case they are going through problems related to their abortion.

      You say that when a fetus becomes a human is not important, but shouldn’t we know who is human so that we know that they have human rights? If suffering/consciousness is your criteria, then perhaps you can think about abortion being wrong at least past 20 weeks (when, some studies have shown, pain pathways are fully formed). I will look up the exact studies and post them later since I know you have a science background and can critique them. At least we would be able to agree on something if that is the case. Also, you mention emotional attachment but there are people in the world who have no emotional attachment to anyone and so I don’t think this would be a good way to determine who is human and who is not human.

      You are correct in the sense that slavery and abortion are not the exact same issue. However, in both cases, a group of individuals is denied their human rights and in this way they are similar. We still do not agree (and probably won’t in the next little while) that the unborn are human beings. However, I don’t think your criteria of suffering, consciousness (what happens if someone is in a coma for a little bit; do they lose their human rights in this instance?) and emotional attachment really hold water.

      Danny
      Build a Culture of Life:
      Defend life from conception to natural death

  9. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    You’re still dead wrong about the posters. To quote you:

    “We are not there with signs saying “This is what you did to your child” or hound people about our view.”

    But both of those things are EXACTLY what those posters are doing! Let’s get real here, nobody except for strong prolifers or prochoicers are ever going to contact you, so that justification is just silly. So really harassment is the ONLY purpose that those signs are serving, whether or not that’s your intention. There’s no other way to spin or interpret it.

    Yes, when the fetus is able to feel suffering is my criteria for when I consider it wrong to abort it, as I indicated. I would like to read a paper on the topic if you can provide it. The 20 weeks that you suggested sounds about in line with what I remember about the topic. Only about 0.8% of abortions happen after 20 weeks in Canada, and actually more than 90% happen before 13 weeks. I’m not going to harass people and fight to overturn the law because 0.8% of abortions happen shortly after a fetus -might- be conscious. But keep in mind that pain pathways being formed still does not necessarily mean that the fetus is conscious of pain, same as someone in a coma has fully developed pain pathways.

    And by referring to emotional attachment, I was actually addressing the coma issue. If someone is in a coma and will never get out of it, then as far as they will ever care, you could just morally pull the plug. The person in the coma themselves would never suffer from it. But, since this is a person that’s lived a life and has a family that knows and loves him/her, you have a moral obligation to at least consult their loved ones before you pull the plug. In the case of abortion, the only person that needs consulting is the mother, who’s the one making the choice anyway. But wow, it’s great that prolifers think that they should be consulted as a group to make this choice for every mother.

    • Danny Ricci says:

      Here is a paper written back in 1987 (older but still relevant) with 201 references on the issue (there is a more recent article but I couldn’t find the link for it):

      http://www.cirp.org/library/pain/anand/

      And here is an editorial on the subject:

      http://www.cirp.org/library/pain/fletcher/

      I understand that the majority of abortions in Canada occur in the first trimester but later-term abortions do not seem to be that rare (where are these stats from?)

      Also, you hit the nail on the head when you said that even if pain pathways are present at 20 weeks that does not necessarily mean that fetuses feel pain. So, the question is, how can we know for sure that a fetus is feeling pain? Because pain is subjective there really is no way of truly knowing if a fetus really feels pain or not (there can be a response to stimuli but that also does not necessarily mean that the fetus is feeling any pain/suffering). Therefore, by the pain criterion, we would allow abortions to occur not because of objective facts but solely because we are ignorant of whether the fetus feels pain or not (which is a criterion we would never be able to measure anyway).

      In terms of the signs practically everyone who comes to talk to us may declare to be “pro-choice” but they really are not hardline pro-choicers. We have good discussions with those who speak to us and so if our intent was to harass, they wouldn’t feel like talking to us but rather would be shouting us down. Again, if we were showing posters to harass, we would be doing a crappy job.

      Pro-lifers don’t demand to be consulted, but we are there if the woman wants other choices (no pun intended).

      Danny
      Build a Culture of Life:
      Defend life from conception to natural death

  10. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    Aside from the fact that the paper you showed was from 1986, it only talks about babies right before they’re born, so it’s pretty irrelevant to this discussion.

    But wait, here’s one from 2006 that discussed exactly this topic http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/scisoc/brownbag/brownbag0506/fetalpain.pdf . This extensive review of all the literature published in the Pubmed database from 2005 and earlier “suggests the capacity for functional pain perception in preterm neonates probably does not exist before 29 or 30 weeks”. It also starts off by talking about how doctors are recommended to give the fetus anesthesia if it is older than 20 weeks. So there’s the most scientific information on the topic that I could find, it’s nice to hear that there is almost no chance that an aborted baby can feel pain as a result of an abortion. In very late term abortions, the doctors will anesthetize it.

    I got that 0.8% number (the percentage of Canadian abortions that occur 20 weeks or later), actually from a pro-life website here http://www.late-term-abortion.com/ , who was citing statistics Canada (the spreadsheet of the data can be found at http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/StatsCan-gestation-times-1995-2003.xls )

    So actually examining the facts supports a pro-choice argument, particularly if you agree it’s not immoral to abort a clump of cells or tissue that are unconscious and unable to feel pain. If you disagree with that, then I guess you’re free to take a philosophical or religious stance, but again I’m here to debate the science.

    “Because pain is subjective there really is no way of truly knowing if a fetus really feels pain or not”
    The fact that people feel pain differently is a matter of our interpretation of signals from a complex neural network that delivers electrical impulses which tell our brain to feel pain. In the absence of this neural network, it’s not subjective, it’s just straight-out absent (just ask anyone with a severed spinal cord). If there’s no neural network, pain receptors, or pain centres in the brain, there is no pain, period. Once these physical pieces are in place, then we can start arguing whether or not the fetus actually detects them, but they’re not even in place until 29 or 30 weeks, and as I said, even then the fetus will be anesthetized.

    “Again, if we were showing posters to harass, we would be doing a crappy job.” Yes, I agree, you are doing a crappy job. A couple of people talking to you does NOT make up for the harassment you’re putting on everyone else. Is putting up harassing posters really the only way that you can get a couple of people to talk to you? Like seriously, it’s insulting to everyone’s intelligence when you act like you didn’t even KNOW that it’s harassing to put up a picture of an aborted fetus on campus. Clearly there’s about a million different ways to contact people with a message that aren’t harassing.. Maybe facebook? myspace? A separate website? Posters advertising yourselves without pictures of aborted fetuses? Writing in the argus? Talking to other local media? Talking to people who agree with you at churches? Setting up a table in the agora? Or maybe, how about leaving people alone entirely and not trying to force your religious views on them?

  11. You keep asking about when I consider a fetus to be a human, and I consider that definition unimportant to the issue. What I consider important, in terms of human rights, is whether or not somebody is suffering from an action. If you kill a clump of cells that has no consciousness, does not feel pain, and who nobody else has an emotional attachment to, then that’s fine, it’s essentially the same as killing bacteria at that point in terms of suffering…

    Yes, when the fetus is able to feel suffering is my criteria for when I consider it wrong to abort it, as I indicated.

    The main problem I have with your argument is that you equate harm with pain. It’s as if you think it wouldn’t be harmful to kill someone if their death was painless.

    I got that 0.8% number (the percentage of Canadian abortions that occur 20 weeks or later), actually from a pro-life website here http://www.late-term-abortion.com/ , who was citing statistics Canada (the spreadsheet of the data can be found at http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/StatsCan-gestation-times-1995-2003.xls )

    Did you read all the numbers in the spreadsheet? There were 103,619 total “abortion records” from 2003, whatever that means. If you dig further… Stats Canada reports [PDF] that 103,768 abortions took place in 2003.

    That’s still nearly one thousand abortions past the 20 week mark. I’d be interested to know how many of those abortions involved providing the fetus with anesthesia.

    Dr. Paul Ranalli is one of the leading Canadian experts on fetal pain. He’s based at UofT, working out of the Division of Neurology in the Department of Medicine. He spoke at an event we hosted last year on campus.

    His most recent findings are presented in a DVD. Unfortunately, the video is not available for free, but there’s a long summary:
    http://www.theinterim.com/features/dvd-review/new-dvd-provides-information-on-fetal-pain/

    And here’s a 1 minute overview of the talk that appears on the DVD (not much details though):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSRD0n6LNQA

    I’ll continue digging…

    Here’s an editorial from 2000:
    http://www.nrlc.org/news/2000/NRL09/ranalli.html

    Ranalli isn’t alone. Here’s a study criticizing the narrow approaches taken by some scientific studies (like the one you cited):
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16269314?dopt=Abstract

    Also, you can check out work from Dr. Vivette Glover (who describes herself as pro-choice). It might also be worth looking up Dr. Kenneth Craig’s research, as it seems he’s been studying pain in premature babies at UBC for the past couple decades.

    Oh, and the study you mentioned from 2005 was quite heavily criticized, since the studies’ authors failed to disclose ties to the abortion practice, including the lead author’s former advocacy work with NARAL. Hardly sound scientific practice.

    I’m sure that descendants of slaves would love to hear you equate their suffering to the suffering that a fertilized egg feels.

    First of all, I am very likely a descendant of black slaves. Second, Martin Luther King Jr’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, wrote in the Washington Times that “abortion and racism are evil twins, born of the same lie.”

    The fact that a fetus looks gross and people don’t want to look at it does not mean that it’s wrong, as you are suggesting. Open heart surgery is gross too, I don’t want to see pictures of open heart surgery posted all over campus, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

    So are pictures of the Holocaust, or black people being lynched, put people aren’t clamouring to have them removed from high school textbooks. And graphic images helped to expose the evils of those human rights abuses in the past.

    Anyway, the issue, as I’ve already said and you keep ignoring, is that it’s harassment. It’s target is to INCREASE the guilt and suffering of someone who’s had an abortion, which is the opposite of what you claim to stand for, and I would love to see one of you address that point.

    The target is not to increase the guilt and suffering of anyone. That’s a flat out lie. It’s to depict the harsh reality of abortion, what it does to the unborn child, so that we don’t do it anymore. We can’t undo abortions of the past. The goal isn’t to make people feel guilty, but to make people realize that abortion is wrong. And it’s not just about women or people who’ve had abortions. It’s everyone’s responsibility, as a society that offers women in crisis pregnancy situations death for her unborn child instead of real compassion and assistance.

    We held a demonstration at UofT last week (no graphic images, but using signs with slogans), and I spent a good 15 minutes talking to sign-holding pro-choicers who were counter-protesting. We clearly disagreed on the issue, but not one of them was stupid, ignorant or dishonest enough to suggest that our purpose was to harass women. In fact, one of them even affirmed our right to be there, and none of the others contradicted him.

    Is it really that hard to understand that these sorts of protests aren’t about harassment or guilt, but exposure and education? You’re certainly not stupid. I can’t tell if you’re really that ignorant, or if you’re just being dishonest.

    The death threats happened, I heard about it from one of the people who got threatened, I didn’t think to request forensic proof at the time.

    Well, it’d be nice to know that the death threats actually came from Life Support members before you go around publicly declaring it, potentially opening yourself up to libel lawsuits.

    Was the threat reported to the appropriate authorities?

    And I’m not “table thumping”, I am totally 100% serious that every smart person I’ve ever asked is pro-choice. That’s just an observation really, you should know the facts.

    This is hilarious.

    You think it’s stupid to be pro-life. If you encounter a pro-lifer, you won’t think they’re a smart person. With that sort of ignorance, it’s absolutely meaningless to say “ever smart person I’ve ever asked is pro-choice.”

    What amazes me is that you actually think that’s an “observation” worth mentioning, yet you try and claim objectivity for your perspective.

  12. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    ” The main problem I have with your argument is that you equate harm with pain ”

    Well, please articulate the difference between these. What measurable “harm” is it to kill that which is and never has been conscious to existence or pain? I mean, this is the central argument between pro life and pro choice, but I’ve never heard it articulated in a way that makes any logical sense. It always comes down to pro-lifers distinguishing a fertilized egg as a human being, which I’ve already spent enough time on. Again, the intrinsic value of human life is a philosophical debate that doesn’t interest me.

    ” It’s as if you think it wouldn’t be harmful to kill someone if their death was painless. ”

    Again, yes, I don’t think it’s ‘harmful’ to kill something that’s unconscious, has never been conscious, and that can not feel pain. For these reasons, I really don’t care that there’s been 100,000+ abortions, it could be a billion abortions and it’s the same moral principles in question.

    And let’s address your “references”:

    1,2,3. First of all, doctors like Paul Ranalli who speak at pro-life rallies are biased and certainly not obligated to be strictly scientific in their discussions. A DVD is NOT a peer-reviewed scientific piece of work. It’s irrelevant what the DVD says, and it’s irrelevant what the talk says. As I’ve said before, doctors can be just as biased as anyone else, but I’m only interested in the pure science, which is only found in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

    4. The editorial is not peer-reviewed either. It is a short paper that probably reiterates his DVD and his talk. Besides, his point seems to be that the fetus feels pain at 20 weeks, which isn’t that far off from the papers he’s supposedly trying to contradict. Then he says “if” some pain is felt at 17 weeks then the fetus might feel pain during those abortions. Wow, do you think that “if” rocks feel pain that throwing a rock might make it feel pain? Let’s discuss the implications! This is why he hasn’t been able to publish the “data” from this talk, DVD or editorial in a peer reviewed article.

    5. The conclusion from this paper is “Rigorously controlled studies of invasive procedures and analgesia in the fetus are required to clarify the impact of fetal nociception on postnatal pain sensitivity and neural development, and the potential benefits or harm of using analgesia in this unique setting.” So essentially the argument of this paper is that more studies should be done to determine when to start using anesthesia during abortions. It’s not suggesting that the results of these studies may be wrong, it’s just suggesting that more studies should be done before we can be more sure. And really, this goes for any science, that more studies = more confidence in a theory. More studies about heart surgery should be done to find better heart surgery protocols!

    6. This article is the same as the editorial you listed earlier, the 17 weeks was apparently cited by Dr. Glover with no real scientific basis. But yes, as you said she’s pro-choice, she’s saying that the fetus should be anesthetized when it’s 17 weeks old or older. I’m not sure how you’re implying that this supports a pro-life stance, or how it really conflicts with the paper I listed other than the dates are slightly different. And I’ll repeat, that date of 17 weeks isn’t based on any actual data of any sort, it’s just Dr. Glover’s opinion (that I don’t care about)

    7. And OK, let’s look at those 4 links you gave, and who criticizes the paper I cited:
    - A pro-life website called lifenews.com
    - A legitimate website, but is citing outrage from “Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee”
    - One that just says that the articles raised questions about bias
    - Another pro-life website

    As for the bias, the authors were found to be tied to abortion clinics or something. Oh wow, I read a cancer paper published by someone working in a cancer group, and a heart disorder paper written by a heart surgeon. Of course the most appropriate authors for a paper on abortions is going to be written by people who perform abortions, this is not as much of a big deal as the pro-life websites make it sound. I would question the data more if a doctor NOT involved in abortions had written it, it’s actually more reliable if it’s written by an expert. All of those pro-life scientists can write their own peer-reviewed paper published in a reliable scientific journal. Oh wait, no they can’t, nothing about being pro-life is based on science because all of their arguments are philosophical ones masked as actual science. Something about the phrase “pro-life scientists” is very funny to me.

    So out of all of these things you’ve cited, where are the real SCIENTIFIC objections to this review paper? Of course people are upset and want to refute the findings, but what’s their scientific basis for rejecting the data? Again, this was a review paper, which compiled all the papers on the subject in the biggest medical scientific database in the world. I didn’t even see one mention of a paper they cited that’s disputable, or one mention of an important pro-life supporting paper that they missed.

    ” First of all, I am very likely a descendant of black slaves. Second, Martin Luther King Jr’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, wrote in the Washington Times that “abortion and racism are evil twins, born of the same lie.” ”

    First of all, I don’t care if you’re a descendant of slaves, and second of all I don’t care what Martin Luther king Jr’s niece has to say about it. I don’t even care if Martin Luther King Jr himself said this! The issue of slavery is not the same as abortion, and I still think it’s offensive that you suggest that it is.

    In reference to the posters being offensive, you said ” So are pictures of the Holocaust, or black people being lynched, put people aren’t clamouring to have them removed from high school textbooks.”

    Yes, from TEXTBOOKS! If you were putting up posters of mutilated dead black people on campus, do you think people would be thanking you for keeping them informed? I’m not suggesting that pictures of abortions be removed from surgical TEXTBOOKS, I’m just suggesting that you stop harassing people by putting it on posters! By the way, nice move equating abortions to the holocaust, I’m sure that jews appreciate this analogy.

    You guys won’t let this poster thing go, but everyone with any sense knows the purpose of these posters is to harass pro-choicers and people who’ve had abortions. Every time you try to justify it you add to my dataset of examples of prolifers being stupid.

    “Is it really that hard to understand that these sorts of protests aren’t about harassment or guilt, but exposure and education?”

    I’m sure that you really believe this, but that doesn’t make it true. As I’ve said about 10 times already, EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT ABORTION ALREADY! The excuse of using it to educate is just silly, how stupid do you think the general public is? If you’re over the age of 14 and you still don’t know that abortions lead to aborted fetuses, then here’s some other information you need to know: You are the stupidest person on earth.

    “Well, it’d be nice to know that the death threats actually came from Life Support members before you go around publicly declaring it, potentially opening yourself up to libel lawsuits.”

    Who’s going to sue me? You?

    ” You think it’s stupid to be pro-life. If you encounter a pro-lifer, you won’t think they’re a smart person. With that sort of ignorance, it’s absolutely meaningless to say “ever smart person I’ve ever asked is pro-choice.” ”

    Actually most of this is from judging people before I find out if they’re pro-choice or pro-life. There are other examples though, such as pro-life people suggesting that putting up posters of dead fetuses is a reasonable means of generating civil discussion because people are uneducated. I am interested in compiling some IQ vs stance on abortion datasets, but every time I tell pro-lifers about my hypothesis, they threaten to kill me.

    ” What amazes me is that you actually think that’s an “observation” worth mentioning, yet you try and claim objectivity for your perspective. ”

    This pretty much sums up how I feel when you say that a fertilized egg is a human being. And I stand by my observations until they’re proven false

  13. Danny Ricci says:

    “Of course the most appropriate authors for a paper on abortions is going to be written by people who perform abortions, this is not as much of a big deal as the pro-life websites make it sound. I would question the data more if a doctor NOT involved in abortions had written it, it’s actually more reliable if it’s written by an expert.”

    Of course, I will remember this the next time the tobacco company funds research into the health risks of smoking (they are the experts after all).
    It also seems that one of the researchers, Dr. Drey, has a little bit of a soft spot for second-trimester abortions and beyond:

    http://www.prch.org/eleanor-drey-md

    Oh, you wanted actual study flaws, well the researchers refer to one study of 102 premature newborns which used an electrical recording method (evoked potentials) to record the brain’s responses to stimuli. That study found that signals are present at 29 weeks. They used this as evidence to support their claim that pain is not felt until 29 weeks. However, they failed to state that this study of newborns involved only two who were under 29 weeks, but even they evoked a response, although slightly delayed compared to the rest. Also, the researchers refer to a study which found normal EEG signals appearing at 24 weeks which they toss aside in favour of another study which found that EEG signals representing wakefulness appear around 30 weeks and conclude from this that pain is not felt until 30 weeks. So, they make the assumption that wakefulness is necessary before pain can be felt. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that preemies tend to sleep a lot and so their EEG will be different depending on the state (waking or sleeping). In actuality, normal EEG waves were recorded as early as 24 weeks and this finding is discounted by the researchers.

    Now, before you go and comment about how only 0.76549% of abortions occur at 24 weeks or after I want to draw your attention to a couple of your quotes:

    “Again, yes, I don’t think it’s ‘harmful’ to kill something that’s unconscious, has never been conscious, and that can not feel pain”

    and

    “It’s not suggesting that the results of these studies may be wrong, it’s just suggesting that more studies should be done before we can be more sure. And really, this goes for any science, that more studies = more confidence in a theory”

    Hmm, you seem to be certain that babies in the first trimester (at least I assume that is who you are referring to in the first quote) cannot feel pain but then go on to say that more studies need to be done to be sure about this theory (which is absolutely correct). What if in the future as science and technology improve we discover that 13-week old fetuses can feel pain? Substance P and enkaphalin, chemicals in pain perception, have been detected in the fetal brain at 11 weeks. What if science discovers that 11-week olds can perceive pain? The point I am getting at is not whether a fetus can feel pain at these stages but to try and demonstrate that our humanity is not based on simply scientific advances. Science has not said specifically that a fetus cannot feel pain before 20 weeks but only we do not know if the fetus feels pain before 20 weeks. If science finds this out in the future, is a 16 week old all of a sudden a human being? Did anything inherently change about a 16-week old fetus before the discovery or after?

    You reject the claim that a new human being comes into existence at conception because it is just two pieces of DNA coming together but then come up with an arbitrary criterion of suffering to determine humanity, a criterion that, like viability, is not really dependent on the organism but based more on how much science can advance. This is more like saying, “Well, we don’t really know if it can feel pain or if it really is human so what the hell what could it hurt?”. You reject the science that says life begins at conception and then come up with your own interpretation that humanity depends on the ability to feel pain (which doctor/researcher/scientist said this is the case?) but yes, all pro-lifers are the unscientific type.

    Danny
    Build a Culture of Life:
    Defend life from conception to natural death

  14. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    ” Of course, I will remember this the next time the tobacco company funds research into the health risks of smoking (they are the experts after all).”

    If you don’t think that an abortion doctor is qualified to write a paper on abortion, then please explain who is. There are no “tobacco doctors”, there are lung surgeons who would probably write the review papers about tobacco. And again I’ll point out, this was a review paper with no new research.

    The article about that author states that she’s concerned about the lack of doctors willing to do second trimester abortions. It explains that this is important because many women (and girls) don’t realize they’re pregnant until week 14 or so, and by then many doctors are unwilling to perform the abortion. The fact that she has a “soft spot” for it is a problem for you lifers, but not for us sensible people.

    There is more to interpreting this paper than looking at individual studies out of context. I’ll address the points you brought up:

    ” However, they failed to state that this study of newborns involved only two who were under 29 weeks, but even they evoked a response, although slightly delayed compared to the rest. ”

    The thalamus is the part of the brain responsible for the relay of neural input from the sensory neurons to the cerebral cortex (where the pain input would be processed). If you look at table 1 in the study, it cites two studies that show that thalamic afferents (neurons) don’t reach the cortical plate until 23-24 weeks. That’s why the bottom end of the range in the next studies is around 24 weeks, because before the thalamus is “hooked up”, there’s no way the fetus can feel pain. These studies cost many millions of dollars, so doctors won’t bother wasting their time testing before a logical range. If you’d like to raise money to test an earlier range, then maybe that’s one actually useful, logical way that pro-life people can support their own cause (although logically the data would work against you)

    ” Also, the researchers refer to a study which found normal EEG signals appearing at 24 weeks which they toss aside in favour of another study which found that EEG signals representing wakefulness appear around 30 weeks and conclude from this that pain is not felt until 30 weeks. So, they make the assumption that wakefulness is necessary before pain can be felt. ”

    In the literature, there are often conflicting results. In this case, there is one paper that says there’s normal EEG’s at 24 weeks, and then three that say it’s later. It’s a GOOD sign when the researchers include conflicting papers in a review article, it shows they’ve been thorough and presented all the evidence.

    The authors here are clearly focusing on thalamocortical connections, which is where they get their 23-30 week range from. They’re clearly not as comfortable putting any confidence in EEG measurements, as they said all of the following:

    ” Given these baseline differences between neonatal and adult EEGs, patterns associated with impaired consciousness in adults (33,35) are inapplicable to the analysis of neonatal EEGs. ”

    So these authors present the EEG information, as many neonatal pain studies are based on it, but they suggest that measuring consciousness using EEGs is not logical, as it’s too difficult to interpret the patterns. Again, these authors favor an anatomical approach, where they suggest pain reception can’t occur until the proper anatomical structures are in place.

    You misinterpret this quote, as I thought you might, which is why I provided some clarification earlier: “ It’s not suggesting that the results of these studies may be wrong, it’s just suggesting that more studies should be done before we can be more sure. And really, this goes for any science, that more studies = more confidence in a theory ”

    Science always needs to be -refined-, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. This paper shows thalamocortical connections between 23 to 30 weeks, which is a broad range, but they want to be sure they don’t define it to narrowly right now. More research might show it’s between 25 to 27 weeks. Or 28 to 30 weeks. More research must be done, but that doesn’t meant that this research is wrong. Similar refinements in the exact age of development of features occur all the time, particularly in forensic sciences. The speed of light was initially an estimate, refined by rigorous scientific studies over the years, but that doesn’t mean that the initial estimate was wrong.

    You ask ” What if in the future as science and technology improve we discover that 13-week old fetuses can feel pain? “, and that was not the point I’m making. I’m confident in their 23-30 week range presented in the paper, because before that there’s no anatomical means of sensing pain. Pain is logically not felt at 13 weeks, and the -refining- process doesn’t mean that this data will be invalidated.

    “Substance P and enkaphalin, chemicals in pain perception, have been detected in the fetal brain at 11 weeks. What if science discovers that 11-week olds can perceive pain?”

    Chemicals in the brain are unable to relay signals without the presence of connected neural networks. So this won’t happen.

    “Science has not said specifically that a fetus cannot feel pain before 20 weeks but only we do not know if the fetus feels pain before 20 weeks”

    Science says that the anatomical features necessary for pain reception are not present before 20 weeks. To scientists, this is equivalent to saying that they don’t feel pain before 20 weeks. Particularly in the case of abortion, it’s important to watch how you word things because prolifers might kill you.

    The reason I didn’t give my criterion of when I consider it “bad” to abort a baby is because I knew you would twist my words. Here’s my quote:

    “Yes, when the fetus is able to feel suffering is my criteria for when I consider it wrong to abort it”

    And here’s your quote:

    “You reject the claim that a new human being comes into existence at conception because it is just two pieces of DNA coming together but then come up with an arbitrary criterion of suffering to determine humanity”

    I did NOT say that the ability to feel pain “determines humanity”, I don’t waste my time and effort trying to define wishy-washy unscientific things like when “humanity” starts. I just said that my personal opinion of when it’s “wrong” to kill a fetus is when it can feel pain. And science can tell, by anatomical observation of the neural networks in the fetus, when it’s definitely, logically unable to feel pain, and I’m ok with that. More studies would only INCREASE the minimum age, as right now the minimum is set by the lack of sufficient structures.

    ” This is more like saying, “Well, we don’t really know if it can feel pain or if it really is human so what the hell what could it hurt?” ”

    No, we do know when it definitely can’t feel pain, and again science and I don’t care when you define it as “human”

    ” You reject the science that says life begins at conception ”

    Umm, what science is this? You’re getting right back to the start of this debate, trying to say that the “humanity” of a fertilized egg is important.

    And I’ll state again, putting importance on the ability to feel pain is my OPINION and not a scientific fact. I’m not saying anyone else said this is the case, and I’m not using it as a central part of my pro-choice stance. Unlike you I can separate opinions from facts.

    Real Scientist
    Build a culture of Reason:
    Defend science from evolution to conspiracy theories

  15. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    Just to clarify:

    Science itself doesn’t say whether something is “moral”, and doesn’t distinguish between right and wrong. This is why I hate when you try to say that science defines “humanity” at some point, and therefore logically defines something as wrong.

    You can do global warming research and identify trends, but the data itself doesn’t say that pollution or warming are in some way “wrong”. Even in cancer research, the data generated describes the system but doesn’t say that cancer is bad. Likewise, abortion scientific research describes the fetus and generates information on fetal development, but taking a stance on when it’s “right” to abort is a philosophical issue, and is not defined by science itself. I’ve presented my philosophy, but I’m not trying to expand it into the broader scope of scientific “right and wrong” because that doesn’t exist.

    Maybe that’s why “pro life scientist” sounds funny to me, because taking a stance on the issue of abortion is not a scientific process. A “pro choice scientist” is equally absurd. Abortion researchers are more accurately something along the lines of “fetal development scientists”, as the data itself, properly presented, has no bias.

    So stop trying to define humanity or the sanctity of life in scientific terms, because it’s impossible. That’s really been my point from the first post on this board.

  16. Danny Ricci says:

    I apologize for taking your quote out of context. I just assumed (I know, you should never assume things) that since you were speaking about how abortion would be wrong if the fetus could feel pain that you were considering the fetus as a human at that point (getting rid of a clump of cells that could experience pain signals may be unfortunate or inconvenient but I’m not sure if it should be classified as wrong since it still would not be considered human in your opinion).

    Yes, it seems as if we have come around full circle on this topic. I was going to discuss the work of Dr. Davenport Hooker but perhaps in another discussion (we have discussed fetal pain too much already). We will not persuade each other on this issue of “Is the unborn human?” even if we get to 300 posts (but I thank you for the debate… it has been fun).

    I am not a “real” scientist (though I am a “potential” pharmacist) and yes you are probably more knowledgeable than I am when it comes to scientific studies and how to analyze scientific data and so forth. But, I will simply leave you now with words from a “real” embryologist, Dr. Ward Kischer, Ph.D:

    Virtually every human embryologist and every major textbook of Human Embryology states that fertilization marks the beginning of the life of the new individual human being.

    The reason why this is true is the following:

    from the moment when the sperm makes contact with the oocyte, under conditions we have come to understand and describe as normal, all subsequent development to birth of a living newborn is a fait accompli. That is to say, after that initial contact of spermatozoon and oocyte there is no subsequent moment or stage which is held in arbitration or abeyance by the mother, or the embryo or fetus. Nor is a second contribution, a signal or trigger, needed from the male in order to continue and complete development to birth. Human development is a continuum in which so-called stages overlap and blend one into another. Indeed, all of life is contained within a time continuum. Thus, the beginning of a new life is exacted by the beginning of fertilization, the reproductive event which is the essence of life.

    Danny
    Build a Culture of Life:
    Defend life from conception to natural death

  17. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    ” Continuum: a continuous nonspatial whole or extent or succession in which no part or portion is distinct or distinguishable from adjacent parts ”

    It’s pretty funny that this super smart embryologist says that “all of life is contained within a time continuum” and then concludes from that (with the word “thus”) that there is a clear definition for the beginning of a new life. So life is continuous, thus it is divided into intervals. It’s one of those continuous non-continuous things. Oh I see, well at least that sounded really science-y and important.

    It doesn’t matter what I, you, embryologists, textbook authors, doctors, Jesus, the pope, or even that Blaise asshole defines as officially “human” because it’s unscientific, arbitrary, and based on opinion, philosophy and/or religious beliefs. The use of a particular definition of “human” is the foundation of the entire pro-life movement, and that is why the movement is based on philosophy and/or religion and not science or logic. That is also why I find it so silly that you insist that there’s some kind of science behind it.

    You said ” The unborn are human (science defines this, not religion) and so no one can choose to terminate the life of another, whether they are in the womb or not. ” Science doesn’t define this. Some ScienTISTS might choose to define it this way according to their classification systems based on their own philosophy, but it’s not scientific logic. Science, by the way, also doesn’t care if people suffer, die or go extinct, so even if it DID clearly and logically define the point at which a DNA strand becomes human, it wouldn’t say that it’s immoral for that human to be killed. Science doesn’t define humans, and doesn’t care if organisms live or die, and doesn’t belong anywhere near the pro-life or pro-choice debate.

    That’s why I’m irritated that you concluded your pro-life argument with a quote by a shitty scientist. Here’s how I’ll end mine: Have fun selling the morning after pill as a pharmacist, that will be pretty funny

  18. I’m ordering quotes topically more so than chronologically here in the interest of catching up with the conversation.

    Again, yes, I don’t think it’s ‘harmful’ to kill something that’s unconscious, has never been conscious, and that can not feel pain.

    You equate harm with pain, but are careful to insert consciousness as well.

    How do you define consciousness, scientifically?

    And, do you think it’s wrong to kill an adult if they aren’t conscious of it and
    don’t feel any pain? Why (or why not)?

    Science itself doesn’t say whether something is “moral”, and doesn’t distinguish between right and wrong. This is why I hate when you try to say that science defines “humanity” at some point, and therefore logically defines something as wrong.

    No one is claiming that science answers moral questions. I’ve specifically linked to past posts from this blog making the very same argument that you have earlier in this thread.

    What Danny’s saying — which I don’t think you actually disagree with — is that science can provide us with important information that we can use to form moral opinions. You claim that the scientific research surrounding pain is relevant for your moral framework, because you only think something is harmful if it’s painful. We tend to think the question of whether you can kill something is based on what something is, not whether or not it can feel it. So, recognizing the beginning of a new, separate organism is relevant data to consider.

    You may think “humanity” has ethical or moral connotations. Danny may think it has biological connotations (i.e. membership in the human species). Is humanness better than humanity? Biological humanness? Being a human being, a unique human organism? I know you’ll still contest that as something we can define, but I think that’s separate from the allegations you make here — no one is saying that science alone answers moral questions.

    As for the bias, the authors were found to be tied to abortion clinics or something.

    One of the lead authors failed to disclose a previous job working for NARAL — not an abortion clinic, but a political advocacy organization. Some of the others make money from the abortion industry. That’s not a conflict of interest? A lung cancer doctor isn’t hoping that cancer “remains legal” for the sake of her job and income in the same way that someone who depends on abortion services would.

    Yes, from TEXTBOOKS! If you were putting up posters of mutilated dead black people on campus, do you think people would be thanking you for keeping them informed?

    I also mentioned that graphic displays helped to expose human rights abuses in the past (sentence after the one you comment on), fighting against slavery, civil rights and war. But I suppose it’s plain and simple that those people were just harassing slave owners, racists and soldiers.

    By the way, nice move equating abortions to the holocaust, I’m sure that jews appreciate this analogy.

    Logic hint: an analogy isn’t an equation.

    If you’re over the age of 14 and you still don’t know that abortions lead to aborted fetuses, then here’s some other information you need to know: You are the stupidest person on earth.

    Once you hit 14, I suppose everyone with half a brain automagically becomes an expert on fetal development. Especially with the help of all those smart people who keep telling us that the unborn is just a clump of cells.

    It’s pretty funny that this super smart embryologist says that “all of life is contained within a time continuum” and then concludes from that (with the word “thus”) that there is a clear definition for the beginning of a new life. So life is continuous, thus it is divided into intervals. It’s one of those continuous non-continuous things. Oh I see, well at least that sounded really science-y and important.

    For a super-smart, real scientist, you really have some basic reading comprehension problems. Did you miss the part that said “all subsequent development” before the mention of a continuum? Obviously, the point of invoking the notion of a continuum is to say that conception is the starting point, and everything after that is just continuous development. Conception is what kick starts the continuous development.

    Try reading it again, with a little help: “Nor is a second contribution, a signal or trigger, needed from the male in order to continue and complete development to birth. Human development is a continuum in which so-called stages overlap and blend one into another.”

    For someone on such a proud and arrogant crusade against stupidity, you sure are great at taking quotes out of context.

    The use of a particular definition of “human” is the foundation of the entire pro-life movement, and that is why the movement is based on philosophy and/or religion and not science or logic.

    Is it really that hard for you to separate out the notion of human as in human being and human as in human person? Human being, in the biological sense of the term, is where science plays a role. Whether or not we consider that biological human being to be a person — that is, a “someone” with rights — is a matter of ethics and politics.

    You’re the one muddling the terms.

    Science doesn’t define humans, and doesn’t care if organisms live or die, and doesn’t belong anywhere near the pro-life or pro-choice debate.

    You obviously don’t believe this. When explaining your opinion, that pain is the determinant of harm, you yourself were willing to consider scientific data in explaining your moral decision.

    Yes, absolutely, as I wrote months ago, science does not tell us whether something is moral or immoral. But to say that science doesn’t belong anywhere near the debate? How can you be so arrogant yet so intellectual dishonest with yourself? What, you want the debate to ignore science? To be unscientific?

    The ethical and political arguments should stand atop the scientific arguments.

    Is it really that hard to grasp?

    By the way, thanks for addressing the topic of fetal pain. I’ve been in touch with Dr. Ranalli recently for the latest peer-reviewed research on the topic, and I’ll likely cover it in a subsequent blog post. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Oh, and thanks for providing such a great demonstration of the compassion, civility and intellectual honesty of a “real scientist” and pro-choice apologist. And for demonstrating the need to engage in dialogue and debate, a need that Josh Kolic finds so hard to understand.

  19. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    ” Human being, in the biological sense of the term, is where scienc plays a role. ”
    AGAIN you missed the point, and you’re the one calling ME an idiot. I don’t know how to explain this any simpler: Classification systems are neat little ways for humans to group things, but are NOT SCIENTIFIC. If you think that science classification systems are logical, answer all of these questions please:

    1. Is a strawberry seed a strawberry?
    2. Is a fertilized chicken egg a chicken?
    3. Is a human skin cell containing the whole human genome a human being?
    4. Is a brain in a jar that can still “think” a human? If so, how much of the brain in this jar can you remove before it’s not human anymore?
    5. Is a body without a brain a human? How about a body without a functioning brain?
    5. Are we a human after we die? If not, at exactly what point are we considered dead?
    6. At exactly which point in the DNA ligation of the sperm DNA to the egg DNA is the cell considered a human? Is the egg or sperm itself a human? How much of the DNA needs to be annealed before it’s a human? What changes in the cell make it more “human” than the egg before it was fertilized?

    It’s all semantics! Classification systems are the best we can do to group things so that they’re easier to describe, but they don’t reflect the actual science of it. “Biological definitions” of when something is “human” are just arbitrary, and part of the reason I think you are stupid is that you keep insisting that there’s some logic in labeling something “human”.

    Most of that nonsense in your last post was attacking me for my opinion, and again I’ll state, my opinion doesn’t matter, because I realize it’s based on my own philosophy. That’s the difference between you and me, I can’t delude myself into believing that there’s a logical, scientific point at which something is “human”, I don’t pretend like there’s a sacred rule that says that everything labeled “human” by this definition should be protected, and I don’t base any of my pro-choice OPINIONS on this definition.

    You quoted me ” Science doesn’t define humans, and doesn’t care if organisms live or die, and doesn’t belong anywhere near the pro-life or pro-choice debate. ” and then said “You obviously don’t believe this” because I gave my OPINION and it differed from that of pure science.

    Unlike you, I am able to make a distinction from fact and opinion.

    Facts: the flow of electrons and protons making up the atoms that make up our cells does not CARE if we live or die. Science itself does not take a stance on human rights
    My Opinion: I generally care if people die, but only if their death causes some degree of suffering or pain to themselves or to people who depend on them.
    Your opinion: You care if people die, even if they are unable to feel pain or detect anything close to it. You choose to define “people” as a fertilized egg.

    I STILL believe that science doesn’t give a shit about people, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t give a shit about people. I may be an asshole, but I’m not a sociopath. The scientific “truth” is that nothing in the universe matters or has any intrinsic value, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value anything. And if you disagree with this fact, please provide the scientific method for quantifying “value”.

    You said ” But to say that science doesn’t belong anywhere near the debate? How can you be so arrogant yet so intellectual dishonest with yourself? What, you want the debate to ignore science? To be unscientific? ”

    The prolife/prochoice debate IS UNSCIENTIFIC, that’s my whole point that you keep skipping over because you’re being stubborn. The facts don’t support either side, including my opinion. It’s not intellectually dishonest for me to say that this is a PHILOSOPHICAL debate, it’s intellectually dishonest for you to say that this is a SCIENTIFIC debate.

    Even debating opinions about when something is “conscious” is fundamentally unscientific, and is a philosophical debate. Although you can try to use science to maybe tell when something meets your opinionated criteria for consciousness, this is actually just a human label too. Is self awareness responsible for consciousness? Is the ability to react to the environment consciousness? There is no scientific definition, this is a philosophical question that Al alluded to earlier.

    You also said “The ethical and political arguments should stand atop the scientific arguments. Is it really that hard to grasp?”

    Yes, which of your pro life arguments “stand atop” scientific arguments, specifically? Logic hint: None

    I thought it was obvious that the age of 14 was picked arbitrarily. My point still stands, everyone knows that abortions lead to aborted fetuses, and there is no need to “educate” the masses on it, particularly in a University full of adults. If you want to show preschoolers pictures of aborted fetuses, be my guest.

    And don’t attack my comprehension skills because you think that I’m missing the clear message of that ridiculous quote, please tell me exactly how the author asserts that “ALL OF LIFE is contained within a time continuum” and then says that a new human starts at fertilization. Is he saying that all of life is contained in this one cell? That there is no life outside of an individual? Please rewrite this whole quote the way that you understand it and we’ll evaluate if it makes any sense. Logic hint: It doesn’t make any sense

    I detect a note of sarcasm when you say that I’m compassionate, civil and intellectually honest. I’m not pretending to be compassionate or civil, because clearly I’m neither, but if you’re going to call me intellectually dishonest, you should check to make sure that all of your counter arguments are logical first.

    And go ahead and talk to Dr. Ranalli. Here’s a hint about science: You don’t need to talk to Dr. Ranalli to find the latest peer-reviewed research, you can perform it yourself. But obviously the best way to convince pro-choicers that you’re right to get the most biased information available and then pretend like it’s pure science. It’s worked really well so far in this thread.

    • Alright, this is likely my last comment in response to this thread with real scientist (which is notably off-topic on the actual post — glad you’ve affirmed the legitimacy of this debate by participating in it!).

      Me: Human being, in the biological sense of the term, is where scienc plays a role.
      You: AGAIN you missed the point, and you’re the one calling ME an idiot.

      Is context so hard? In at least a couple places in my last comment, I acknowledged that you disagree. I specifically said that the point of bringing it up again was to show that “no one is saying science alone answers moral question.” The point is that science is part of the answer. That’s a separate point from the merits of the science.

      And if you think it’s just semantics to identify a unique organism at the point of conception, we’re not going to agree, but I challenge you to show that the difference between mother and child is semantic through all 9 months of pregnancy. You don’t have to agree that a fertilized egg is a human being to agree that birth is a lousy line to draw for abortion.

      The prolife/prochoice debate IS UNSCIENTIFIC, that’s my whole point that you keep skipping over because you’re being stubborn. The facts don’t support either side, including my opinion. It’s not intellectually dishonest for me to say that this is a PHILOSOPHICAL debate, it’s intellectually dishonest for you to say that this is a SCIENTIFIC debate.

      I’m astonished at the difficulty you have with this.

      Who said it was a scientific debate? I’ve repeatedly agreed with you that the debate is mostly philosophical. But you can’t seem to be believe that philosophy can be at all influenced by science. I think it’s “unscientific” if we ignore the science when discussing philosophy, but that doesn’t mean I think that philosophy with a regard for science makes it a scientific debate.

      Yes, which of your pro life arguments “stand atop” scientific arguments, specifically? Logic hint: None

      Um… if we’re talking philosophy, that’s not actually a logical assertion. It’s just more table thumping. Note that I used the phrase “logic hint” to make an actual logical distinction (analogy != equation), not to simply hurl an insult. But nice try.

      My point still stands, everyone knows that abortions lead to aborted fetuses, and there is no need to “educate” the masses on it, particularly in a University full of adults.

      You haven’t spoken with many women or couples in crisis pregnancy situations, have you?

      And don’t attack my comprehension skills because you think that I’m missing the clear message of that ridiculous quote, please tell me exactly how the author asserts that “ALL OF LIFE is contained within a time continuum” and then says that a new human starts at fertilization.

      I didn’t rewrite the quote. I requoted it, because you seemed to have trouble with it the first time.

      You can disagree with the author and dismiss the premise of his statement as false, but bending it and taking one line out of context with complete disregard for the rest of the quote isn’t going to get us anywhere.

      But obviously the best way to convince pro-choicers that you’re right to get the most biased information available and then pretend like it’s pure science.

      Ah, so finding the latest peer-reviewed research with the help of a doctor who is pro-life is biased, but people who happen to advocate for “abortion rights” publishing peer-reviewed research isn’t. Thanks for the hint about science.

      I’m not pretending to be compassionate or civil, because clearly I’m neither…

      See, there are a few things we agree about!

  20. A real scientist (name withheld because Life Support also supports issuing death threats) says:

    ” You haven’t spoken with many women or couples in crisis pregnancy situations, have you?”

    No, do they forget that abortion leads to aborted fetuses? Do they actually forget that? Fuck, hopefully there’s a poster somewhere on campus to remind them!

    So according to you, this is more or less how the conversation between you and these people in a crisis goes (I’m just paraphrasing here):

    Crisis person: “I’m having trouble deciding whether or not to have an abortion. If I keep the kid, I know I won’t be mature enough to raise it myself, and the father’s already left me, and my mother won’t talk to me or help me. But on the other hand, there is no negative consequence to abortion”
    You: “Actually, abortion leads to aborted fetuses”
    Crisis person: “WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS? Wow I won’t consider abortion now that I know that FACT THAT I DIDN’T KNOW. Hey, if I didn’t know that, why did I even contact you to talk about this?”
    You: “I don’t know, it’s strange that you somehow forgot that abortions lead to aborted fetuses, but you had the mental capacity to contact a strong pro-lifer to ask for advice”
    Crisis person: “Yes this is a common occurrence that justifies harassing a large group of people”
    You: “I’m glad you agree, that scientist guy sure is an arrogant asshole”

    “glad you’ve affirmed the legitimacy of this debate by participating in it!”
    Ok, just please don’t confuse the legitimacy of debating with the legitimacy of your argument. I debate with creationists too

    ” Who said it was a scientific debate? I’ve repeatedly agreed with you that the debate is mostly philosophical.”

    Please don’t act like you don’t try to use science to justify your stance:
    - In your first post here you say “In other words, assuming what needs to be proven and glossing over the very centre of the debate — are the unborn human? Kolic clearly isn’t studying biology.”
    - This video you posted http://utsfl.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/oh-did-we-mention-life-begins-at-conception/ saying that “experts on human embryology” agree that a fertilized egg is a human being, asserting that there’s some kind of scientific consensus and solution to the issue if you were only educated. I know you didn’t “say” this but you definitely support it and try to spread the message
    - A quick search for the word “Science” on your blog also brings up a post in which you say “Modern science helps to clarify the questions — life begins at conception.” (Jan 3 2009)

    Danny also said:
    - “The unborn are human (science defines this, not religion) and so no one can choose to terminate the life of another, whether they are in the womb or not.”
    - “Second, if you read any credible textbook on embryology, a new human life, distinct from both mother and father, is created at conception. You may also want to rethink your views on the LAW of biogenesis.”
    These quotes are really what prompted me to get involved in this debate in the first place.

    My point is that pretty much every pro-life debate I’ve heard resides on the “definition” of human life, which you often state as if it’s a fact and not a philosophy.

    ” Ah, so finding the latest peer-reviewed research with the help of a doctor who is pro-life is biased, but people who happen to advocate for “abortion rights” publishing peer-reviewed research isn’t.”

    I think you meant pro-choice in this quote.. But like I said before, I can go back and re-read all of the articles that they’ve cited and make a decision about the merit of each one. I certainly wouldn’t try to call up the authors of the review paper to see what their opinion is regarding the science, and then state their opinions as if they have any more merit than the facts suggest. And again, I’ve asked before, please send me all of your peer reviewed scientific research articles that support a pro-life stance and I’ll get to reading them right away.

    You still haven’t addressed the question: which of your pro life arguments “stand atop” scientific arguments, specifically?

    • Please don’t act like you don’t try to use science to justify your stance… You still haven’t addressed the question: which of your pro life arguments “stand atop” scientific arguments, specifically?

      I don’t know why we’re going over this again. You clearly don’t agree with our arguments, but this response is about the method of argument.

      The central argument against abortion is as follows:
      1. It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human person.
      2. Elective abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human person.
      3. Therefore, elective abortion is wrong.

      Most people attack the second premise (the first is pretty widely accepted). The most contentious part of the second premise among abortion supporters is the claim that the unborn is a human person. Scientific arguments are used to affirm that the unborn is indeed “human,” i.e. a member of the human species (something I realize you contend is just semantics), which then usually forces the debate to the ethical question of personhood, i.e. squarely into philosophical territory (“is every human being a person?”).

      Abortion is legal through all 9 months of pregnancy in Canada, so there’s plenty of room for consensus with most people without them having to accept that a fertilized egg is a unique, individual human being (which, yes, I know, you think is just semantics). Most people don’t find it difficult to distinguish a second or third trimester fetus, for example, from its mother as a unique, individual human being, as more than just a matter of semantics.

      In short, scientific arguments are used to respond to the question, “is the unborn human?” (Lots of people do argue “it’s just a clump of cells,” or that it’s a “parasite,” etc.) But, that doesn’t make it a scientific debate. The more important questions (e.g. “can we kill the unborn?” or “under what circumstances can we kill the unborn?”) are clearly ethical questions.

  21. Wylie says:

    To all the men spewing off against a woman’s right to choose: When YOU grow an organism in YOUR womb, YOU can decide the morally correct course of action. Until then, go sit in a corner and play with your penises.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Josh Kolic’s Beef with Free Speech"
  1. [...] don’t tell anyone not to hurt an unborn child! That would be hate and harrassment. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Week of Wonders 31: Raising ballerinas, artists, [...]

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