Yet another weird SF fan


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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Are Republicans or Conservatives Pro-Roe?

Richard Bennett is dubious about whether Dubya wants Roe vs. Wade overturned on the grounds that there might be a backlash against pro-lifers. Well … the fact that Dubya signed the McCain–Feingold campaign finance restriction bill might be an argument that he regards the short-term benefit of the Republican Party as more important than following principle. On the other hand, it is dubious as to whether there will be a backlash.

First, as far as I know there has never been an election where abortion was a major issue that was unexpectedly won by a liberal Democrat. Second, abortion was illegal for over a century with no backlash. For that matter, abortion is less “necessary” than ever considering improved contraception and a richer society able to support “unwanted” children. Third, in my experience most pro-choicers are unwilling to engage in a really sustained debate. Fourth, there has been a long-term decline in the number of abortionists. The people most involved are rethinking their actions. If we make more people think, we can expect more pro-lifers. Fifth, if the attempts to tie the Schiavo case to abortion succeed, there will be recruits for the pro-life cause who are “bleeping terrified” for their own lives and thus cannot give in. (It's worth noting that there were private options in the Schiavo case.)

I suspect there have been other bluffs about abortion. For example, making abortifacients available over the counter is unlikely to have that much of an effect since it will not provide the excuse that it is a medical matter. A doctor is needed to give permission.

4 Comments:

Blogger JesseM said...

Third, in my experience most pro-choicers are unwilling to engage in a really sustained debate.

OK, I'll bite. My view is that one's views on abortion are determined in large part by whether one believes human consciousness is a natural or supernatural phenomenon; if one believes that consciousness is purely a product of signals being exchanged between neurons in the physical brain, it's hard to see why a fetus should be granted "personhood" before the end of the second trimester when the synapses form, since before that point there can really be no organized brain activity whatsover. And relating back to the Schiavo case, would you grant personhood to the body of a decapitation victim whose headless body was being kept alive by some wacky sci-fi technology? In my view, the brain makes the person, a brainless body or a fetus with a completely nonfunctional brain doesn't qualify. And in practice, most who view consciousness in naturalistic terms are pro-choice, while most pro-lifers hold to some sort of supernatural view of the mind/self (although from previous posts I gather you may be a rare exception to this rule).

4:35 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

In the Schiavo case, the autopsy revealed that she actually did have a brain. In any case, brain death requires the entire brain to be nonfunctional. Terri Schindler Schiavo had a functioning brain stem (and possibly other parts).

There might not be a functioning brain in an early fetus, but an early fetus is a time slice of four dimensional object which normally has a brain.

I'm not taking sides on the existence of the supernatural until I can figure out what it means.

3:38 PM  
Blogger JesseM said...

In the Schiavo case, the autopsy revealed that she actually did have a brain. In any case, brain death requires the entire brain to be nonfunctional. Terri Schindler Schiavo had a functioning brain stem (and possibly other parts).

Well, the autopsy basically confirmed what was already known from the CAT scan, that much of the cortex had died and been replaced by fluid but that chunks of it remained (I think enough was gone that they could pretty much rule out the kind of integrated global function that seems to be necessary for consciousness). The brain stem did function, but then I don't think a human brain stem is all that different from that of other animals, it's mainly our cortex which gives us mental abilities beyond other species. My view is that there's nothing inherently valuable about human body tissue, it's our mind that sets us apart--if we contacted intelligent aliens, or created AI or genetically engineered animals with human-level intelligence, I would think that such entities would qualify as "persons" and would deserve all the same rights as a human.

But I didn't really want to get into a discussion of the Schiavo case, I just mentioned it in passing in relation to the more extreme thought-experiment I brought up, where the brain is gone completely but the body is kept alive artificially. Would you treat such an entity as a person, deserving normal human rights? If not, what makes a fetus whose synapses have not yet formed (or whose brain has not yet formed, in the earliest stages) different?

There might not be a functioning brain in an early fetus, but an early fetus is a time slice of four dimensional object which normally has a brain.

"Normally" with respect to what? Human biology? First of all, it's thought that about 2/3 of fertilized eggs don't come to term for one reason or another (often because they fail to implant in the uterus), so at least when talking about the earliest stages of pregnancy it isn't necessarily normal or expected that the zygote will be a time slice of an entity which later has a brain. Second of all, since I'm a darwinian, I don't believe in a static god-given "natural order"--our biology is a product of contingent historical events, and features of our biology can change, whether due to further darwinian evolution or due to technological intervention, there's nothing unnatural or abnormal about this. Is it just the fact that abortion interferes with what would "naturally" happen biologically that makes you think it's wrong? As another thought-experiment, if primates had evolved the ability to intentionally abort a pregnancy by having conscious control over the hormones in their uterus, would this make a difference in your opinion about it?

I'm not taking sides on the existence of the supernatural until I can figure out what it means.

Well, in this case I'm basically just talking about the reductionist idea that everything the brain does can be explained in a bottom-up way, in terms of local physical interactions between more basic elements that make it up (neurons, molecules, whatever) following simpler rules. If you agree that mind uploading would be possible in principle, then you don't believe in any supernatural soul as I'm defining it.

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look, Republican politicians make "pro-life" noises only enough to keep people who are against abortion voting for them. They don't want to rock the boat any further than that. There's no percentage for them in actually opposing this nightmare. Bush's nomination of this Miers bag who turned out to be "pro-choice" shows how serious he is.

3:34 AM  

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