Friday, March 28, 2008

The Illative Sense and what people believe

I have written in an other post that we 'believe' things which might not appear to be true. For example, if we assume every event has a cause, the idea of 'free will' would be absurd. Also since all our obsevations of the world are in the final analysis in our minds, it is impossible to "prove" there is a world outside our perceptions. However, almost all sane people believe there is a 'world' outside our minds, and that I have a choice to sit down or stand up. Free will and the existence of a 'world' outside our minds cannot be proven but we accept these ideas as almost certain. (See as suggestive, Newman's Illative Sense.)

Now the Catholic position on abortion, starting with the idea that human persons come into being at the time of conception is simply not believeable to the very great majority of perple. I believe it was Cardinal Hume who said when he was in a room with fertilized eggs in a petri dish he was there with each dish containing a person. Now assume a fire were to destroy this laboratory, and it had 15 fertilized eggs would we say 15 people were killed. Cardinal Hume would say "yes." The overwhelming majority of people would say "no" because it affronts their belief that what was in the dishes were "persons".

Most people do not accept that a tiny number of undifferentiated cells are "persons". Most people do not accept that human matter that has no brain waves, no feeling, no ability to experience pain etc. is the same as a human being.

And in the practical emotive sphere, a person who has a miscarriage at 6 weeks does not react as if they had lost a born child. (Although I did find one person in my blogging, who argued that a miscarriage was just as traumatic as the death of a one year old.) A women who exersizes while pregnant and loses a fetus is not charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Obviously endless examples could be given e,g. fetus' are not counted in the population. But the point is clear. No matter how many clerics fulminate that 1 or 2 cells are a person, people just don't buy it. Let me make it clear, these cells are POTENTIAL persons, but the modifier shows that they are not persons. The cell or cells are human life, but so are my fingernails, so are cancers and on and on.

In sum then, common sense makes a clear distinction human life and a person. My kidneys are human life; they are not a person. Sophistry about potentiality does not change our thinking. After all every acorn is a "potential" oak tree, but when I throw away an acorn no one says I threw away an oak tree. Jack


  1. ...or you could try the Thomistic approach.

    To determine whether the boulder in your yard is "real," simply kick it hard, while barefoot.

    Another trick: use your head to buttsmash the boulder.

    Should produce gravel, if done repeately.

  2. Hi dad29. I believe the quote you are trying to cite is by Samuel Johnson on kicking a rock:"Thus Berkeley, I refute thee!!" I see Easter did much for you in conflating your Christian attitude. God bless you. Jack

  3. Frank

    Possibly we are confusing issues.



    What makes a creature a member of a species is that it has the DNA for that species. If it is self animating it is a living member of that species. A basic fact seen form the scientific observation of natural phenomena. This is a reality whether one is aware of it or not.

    A one cell embryo (or fetus or baby if one prefers) with human DNA is a human being, just as much as you or I.


    A person is one who has a standing in law.

    It is a status created by a legal system not a natural state of affairs. It is essentialy a "fiction" to make the managemnt of pratical affairs eaiser. The same human being may or may not be a person in different systems of law at the same time.

    Even if one does not have any status as a person in law they remain a human being.

    What is the relationship between Biology and Law?

    The Church’s answer is that killing innocent human beings is sinful - “thou shall not kill.” That it may be legally acceptable (or even required) in some culture does not change the fact that it is sinful.

    One may disagree with the Church's teaching on killing innocent human beings, if one wishes, but the question of personhood in law is irrelevant.

    Yes, this can create interesting situations, but protecting the lives of living creatures with Human DNA is a first principle.

  4. Hey, welcome back. I have really missed your blog!

    Does not a piece of my hair have DNA? Is this piece of hair a human being? Certainly not because it has no brain activity, ability to feel pain etc. Is it a creature if it has only one or two cells? It seems to me, with all due respect, that to say any tissue with DNA is a "creature" (person) defies our view of reality.

    One of my essential points was that your view is accepted by practically no one. I believe your mistake is to regard any tissue with human DNA as a person. My kidney is not a person, I think you would agree.

    Even the super pro-lifers, if you have noticed, have almost universally changed from making the issue one of destroying a "person" to one of destroying "life." I believe because they see the absurdity of calling one or two cells a "person."

    Do you believe a fertilized egg SHOULD be counted as a person and have fell stading in a court; which it seems to me would be the only logical outcome of your reasoning? Best wishes, Jack

  5. Make that "full" standing. Jack

  6. If brain activity is the measure you use for personhood, when would you say it is no longer within moral norms for a woman to have an abortion? In other words, after how many weeks into a pregnancy should abortion no longer be an option since brain activity could begin a little earlier than usual in a certain person's pregnancy?

  7. Your question would be best answered with any degree of exactitude by a well qualified scientist. I certainly would not be an expert on that. I believe most scientist would agree at 4 months or to be safe the first trimester. This is a scientific question not a theological/philosophical question to be answered by clergy. My point is simply that a one or two cell complex called a person by right to lifers is a total absurdity. Then we can proceede from there. Jack

  8. Joe

    People, including members of the church do not understand or perhaps accept the Church’s teaching. The subject changes over time but that is 2000 year old news.

    As always the church will outlast.

    Thanks be to God.

  9. Joe

    Actually in an inheritance court they do have legal standing if the court is aware that conception has taken plce.


    On the practical side.

    But in deciding who is a person as opposed to human being who is not a person is fraught with opportunities for injustice.

    For any thing to hold in law you need a clear point where something is present that was not present just before. Otherwise a not very bright lawyer will attempt to manipulate to his clients advantage. Sharp lawyers will probably succeed if there is money to be made. Life, peronhood ect begining at conception is the only point that can hold up long term.

    I suppose your neighbors to the south will not declare all Sooners to be non-persons (of course Oklahoma may want to say the same thing about Texans) but once you set the precedent that the government can decide who is or is not a person, other than self interest how can you object. In the previous century alone there are numerous examples of people being declared non-person because of their race, nationality, religion, sex or political opinion. Once you have opened the door it will be open further and further to take care of people the ruling elite’s don’t like.

    “From conception to natural death” is the only way that will work.

    Grace and peace.

    PS. Come on by my blog. I have some new posts with which you may want to disagree. How can one learn with out some polite disagreement. I am going to be rearranging the polls to cover the new situation sometime in the next week or so.

  10. Well, of course, someone has to decide who is a person. Is sperm a person? Is a 250 year old skeleton a person? Aren't you just saying in effect, society can't determine that; only the church has the right to define a person? I can't follow you. Jack

    I looked at your site. Will be back every day. A little worried you read "Human Events". I'll make that a project. Joke: I can't make smiley face!!!