The "personhood" argument


This argument guys… this argument. This is the ONE argument that I cannot seem to come up with a precise response too.

The context is that pro-choice people claim that abortion is okay because the zygote/embyro/fetus is not a person yet. I feel that this argument began because once most people realized that it is clearly a living human with it’s own specific DNA, they had to come up with a new reason for why abortion is okay. So, the personhood argument came about. It’s not the first time either, dehumanization has been used plenty of times to justify murder (Jew’s, blacks, slaves, women, children, etc), and the definition of personhood conveniently changes to help people feel like they did nothing wrong.

This being… I DO believe that human and person are different terms. For example, the three Persons of the Trinity, angels, and potential extra-terrestrial life are all people, albeit not human.

However, I just can’t seem to come up with an argument for what makes us people, and until at least one of us comes up with something good… the debate is lost before it even begins.

I tried to argue that anyone with a natural, inherent ability to perform personal acts made us people… but there’s a hole in this argument, where people can say that until you reach the ability to perform these acts, you aren’t a person.

The soul argument obviously can’t be used against atheists… however I’m not sure if the spiritual soul is really what makes us people any way.

Where do I or should I say “we” go from here?


The argument from personhood is not much use against those who do not believe that human beings have a soul. It is the soul which, united with the body, endows human beings with intellect and will, and the aspect of being persons rather than simply material objects.

So, if one does not believe that human beings have souls, one has to believe that no human being is a “person,” as understood by philosophy for centuries.

If humans are merely material objects, then one can dispose of them at will, and base the decision on their stage of development or any other factor.

What is clear, though, is that every individual of the human species has a beginning. And that beginning is at conception. At conception, there comes into existence a new individual of the human species.

For those supporting abortion the only argument is, at what stage of development are we no longer allowed to kill this new human being?

Note that the spiritual aspects of the soul–intellect, will, and personhood, inhere in the new individual from its beginning, even though they will only be exercised in conjunction with bodily development.


Up to several months after birth humans do not satisfy above criteria, as small babies lack the ability for conscious acts.

Hence, either humans are not persons up to several months after birth, in which case killing a baby is not murder; or tying the right to life to personhood is wrong.

Second aspect would to ask the other side, whether then the declaration of independence should be disregarded as its central argument, that its self-evident truth that governments are instituted to protect the rights of humans, is obviously false if governments are instituted to only protect persons and not humans.


The problem is not as difficult as it seems.

First, the “soul” argument is unconvincing for three reasons: one, there is no coherent definition of a “soul”; two, there is no way to find out if a being has a soul or not; and three, not even the church can pinpoint the moment of “ensoulment”.

On the other hand, we can perform a simple thought experiment. Let’s consider a human adult, who is obviously a person. Now let’s start to remove / substitute different body parts and organs from this human. (Don’t try this at home :)) As the different parts are removed or substituted, the human might lose (or gain!) some capabilities, but he will stay a human person nevertheless (and keeps his personality)… all the way until the brain is removed, or rendered inoperational. If ALL the organs and body parts are replaced by identically or very similarly performing artificial prostheses, but the brain is kept alive and well, there is no rational reason why this being should be denied a “human person” status.

Without an operational brain there is no human being. So the best way to define a human person is to look at the brain activity. If there is a brain activity, we “define” this being a human person. Obviously this definition (as all definitions) is arbitrary. But at least it describes the generally accepted humans. This definition does away with the objection that people who are asleep or unconscious would be “redefined” non-persons.

If, however the being reaches a persistent vegetative state, with no possibility of reversing that status, then the being will be safely declared a “has-been”, just like a corpse. There is another interesting question here. What if the brain could be substituted with an identically working artificial brain?

But the problem mentioned in the OP is simply solved. Up until the point that the brain’s electro-chemical activity starts, there can be no “person”, just a bunch of cells, which MAY - under the proper circumstances BECOME a human person.


I do not agree with your argument, because the state of the unborn child is a natural precursor to the state in which advocates of abortion believe it becomes wrong to kill.


It is not the brain which makes a human being a person, and the state of a newly-conceived baby is a natursl precursor to the state at which even abortion advocates believe it is wrong to kill.

The only way this argument of theirs works is if they say that people who have survived are permitted to arbitrarily pick a definition which suits their agenda, just as so many have in the past. Is that what we want?


God says we were thought about even before we were born. I believe the breath of God is what gives us life, no matter how minute that life may seem to be. From the minute the sperm and egg are united, there is life and there is God.


The Fetus, The Embreo, and The Zygote have all seven of the scientific characteristics of life.

And The Fetus, The Embryo, and The Zygote also all have 46 total chromosomes.

Therefore, they are human AND alive.


While you raise good points, you miss in my opinion six important aspects:

  1. Humans in persistent vegetative state still have human rights; anybody killing them outside the legal or medically established protocols could rightfully be charged for murder in any country i am aware about the relevant laws; hence, societies in general do not consider vegetative humans to be just bunch of cells; hence, absence of operational brain is insufficient to distinguish between what you call human person and what you call bunch of cells.

  2. What if the brain of an adult is damaged in such way that it is permanently reduced to the capabilities of a brain of a 1 day old newborn? Would he/she/it still be what you call a human person?

  3. Its called universal declaration of human rights. Its not the universal declaration of person rights. Even if you’re distinction into what you call human persons and what you call bunch of cells is correct, there is still the question whether it is relevant, as the bunch of cells prior 5 month of gestation (or whenever brain activity meets your criteria) is certainly a living organism, that belongs to the species human.

  4. When does “the brain’s electro-chemical activity start”?
    “Neurogenesis is underway, showing brain activity at about the 6th week.”
    Does that fulfill the criteria of electro-chemical activity of the brain? And who is to decide according to which criteria?

  5. If there is doubt about “the brain’s electro-chemical activity” due to lack of empirical evidence (e.g. we have some criteria exactly defining what constitutes activity, but for example for week 6 and 7 scientists are uncertain, whether or not brain activity meets the criteria), should “it” presumed to be a non-person or should in a sense in dubio pro reo be applied and he/she be considered to be a human person?

  6. As brain activity is undoubtly going on at week 20 and later, shouldn’t it mean that you should consider Planned Parenthood and any of its political allies the same way you consider any other organization in favor of unrestricted killing of human persons? After all, they fight tooth and nails a 20-week-abortion limit. And, correlated, if you arrive at the conclusion that brain activity in week 6 is sufficient, should you not consider this organization to be just a bunach of true mass murderers, as the majority of abortions happen in or after week 6, which means that PP supported by its allies kills about 1000 human persons DAILY?


Let’s address them. :slight_smile: (Would you please tell me, what did you consider good points?)

Laws are human concoctions, fluid and variable. You also point out - correctly - that there are legal and medical protocols to deal with such humans. Such humans may have certain rights, probably for nostalgical reasons. They are “grandfathered” into a certain status, even if that process is irrational. But their brain is STILL operational on a certain level. And that differentiates them from a zygote/fetus which does not even HAVE a brain before a certain time.

Terri Schiavo comes to mind. And no, she was not a “person” after her brain got damaged. Her condition is best described as a “corpse” which is artificially kept “alive”. Let’s recall that death is usually not a “instant” dividing line. Some parts of the body still exhibit signs of “life”, for example the hair and the nails keep on growing for a short while.

It is not an independent organism, which makes all the difference. Moreover, such embryos are not afforded certain rights. A fetus, one minute before being born cannot inherit, for example.

I would be ready to accept that. It is an objective criterion. As far as I know, most abortions happen before that time.

It is fine to err on the side of caution. But not to go to some irrational extreme.

Don’t exaggerate. A “murder” is a legal term. The state appointed executioner is NOT a murderer. Nor are soldiers as long as they stay within the boundaries of the Geneva convention. Also the doctors who perform abortions in those places where abortion is legal.

Now, after I addressed your points, will you address mine? Namely, before - say - 5 weeks into the gestation, the embryo does not have a working brain, and as such cannot be considered a “person”, so the idea of a morning after pill (for example) cannot be discarded. So is it OK to have an abortion before that time? If not, what is the secular argument against it?

There are other problems to consider. Economical ones. To keep a brain-dead person alive costs a lot money and resources, which could be used more efficiently in other cases. This is a typical “lifeboat scenario”, frequently used in psychological tests. If there are insufficient resources to satisfy the needs of everyone, what procedure should one use to decide who will get the limited resources and who will be left to die?

And there is another one. Even if one accepts that a fetus is a human being, there can be a conflict of interest. Whose desires should be respected? The mother, who is undoubtedly a human being, or the fetus which cannot even have a “desire”, not being advanced enough?

So the problems are numerous. And there are no easy solutions. Let’s also pinpoint a fundamental error, frequently mentioned. There is no “right to life” (or liberty or pursuit of happiness). It would be nice if there would be such a “right” but there is not. A “right”, which cannot be enforced is just a “pie in the sky”. There are no “natural rights” either. If someone lives alone on an island, there is no one who could limit what he can or cannot do. A “right” is afforded by a society, and it describes that certain activities can be performed without a fear of repercussion.


Your argument in favor of tying personhood to brain activity by arguing that an healthy adult human would in case of ongoing loss of organs only might cross into non-personhood if the brain is lost is well thought.

But i am anyway not a fan of personhood for embryos in early gestation as it leads to lots and lots of more or less arguments devoid of any tangible facts. Unborn humans are humans and all humans have human dignity and the right to life; personhood is an added “bonus” that doesn’t change these fundamentals in my view.

It would be horribly wrong to continue full protection equivalent to any born person. As this protection includes that if any cop happens to see someone approaching such human with the intent to kill, the cop may use his gun to stop the attack. Filling a suspect with bullets due to nostagical reasons would be wrong (No cop would open fire at someone trying to mutilate a corpse).

True, but that doesn’t change that if they have rights no only due to nostalgical reasons (which as i sais above would be wrong) but as human and/or person like other humans and/or persons, the criteria of operational brain to assign rights would be called into question.

If such humans have human rights, especially right to life, on their own - even if these are reduced due to their state - means that human rights are at least currently not tied to operational brain.

If Terri Schiavo due to having brain capability of a newborn was not a person and due to this had no longer a real right to life, then any newborn due to having brain capability of a newborn is not a person and due to this has no real right to life; hence, charging the killing of a newborn as murder would be called into question.

Ship sinks. A tries to swim towards the shore. Comes along B, unconscious and just in the process of going under. A grabs B and tries to reach shore with him. No other survivors swimming to shore, no help anywhere near or far.
Is B an independent organism under that circumstances? Taking the usual way this not an independent organism is framed, he isn’t because for his survival he is totally dependent upon A; if A drags him along B might survive; if A let go of him B dies for certain.

But does this lack of ability for independent survival mean that B is a non-human? No, he still is a human (and a person presuming he still got his brain).

Does this lack of ability for independet survival put even the slightest dent into B’s rights? Not in any way, he still is a human, he still has a right to life and any potentially helper should race to get to A before A loses strength and B drowns, because then a human would die, which should be prevented if possible.

The only relevant effect is upon As duties towards B; as As survival might require him to let go of B, A letting go of B usually would not be charged as homicide; A would be presumed to have run out of strength to keep him above water. But a lifeguard arguing he needn’t hurry to help B because A could let go of B without it being a crime, would still be shameful and maybe even legally punishable.

So no, that unborns cannot survive independently does not change their status as humans and does not change their rights; it changes, if, when and how women aborting should or shouldn’t be punished; it does not alter the state’s duty to protect them in any way, it just makes it more difficult and less straightforward and might limit the usual just-imprison-the-evil-guys approach the state usually applies when protecting humans.

Graphic roughly at middle of page shows about 66% of abortions happen 7th week or later. It doesn’t further distinguish between week 4, 5 and 6. But considering that its pretty hard to note pregnancy before 4th week, when first definite hint for pregnancy due to lack of period happens, and pretty hard to schedule an abortion in less than 1 week, its likely that a large part of the remaining 33% are in 6th week.

Hence, personhood at 6th week would have consequences for a large part of abortions. (Of course not for morning after pills.)


What would be the irrational extreme, if scientific evidence is inconclusive about brain activity at a certain point in pregnancy?

Ok, cross out “a bunch of true mass murderers” and replace with “people morally comparable with executioners and soldiers in war killing humans on a grand scale”.

Considering that soldiers currently busied with killing in a war calling for an complete abondenment of the geneve conventions in its entirety might be considered to be ethically at least in a rather dark gray area - what decent motive could they have to call for completely unrestricted killing in war? - doesn’t that mean that the “ethical credentials” of PP and supporters should be at least diminished by their call for unrestricted abortion during all 9 months up until full exit from birth canal?

No, because while the embryo is not a person, the embryo is still a human and has a right to life.

The embryo is a human and all humans have the right to life.

Which does not change that if a brain-dead person is a human, the brain-dead person has a right to life and therefore kept alive, if the resources can be afforded and it is considered to be in the person’s interest to be kept alive (which often might not be the case; but the person’s right to life minimally requires that the people pulling the plug consider this issue beforehand).

Of course, there might be need for such procedures.
But this doesn’t change:
-that the humans thrown overboard have a right to life, which minimally requires careful consideration whether its realy necessary to throw them overboard
-that such an event is regrettable and the state has a duty to try to prevent such situations from happening, because in such situations the right to life of some humans is not honored optimally as it should ideally be honored.

Absent any contrary information any human is presumed to have a desire/interest to continue living; for this reason unconscious humans are medically treated and kept alive even although it cannot be excluded that this is against their actual will.

If desires or more precisely rights, here the right to have a say about being pregnant aka bodily integrity of the mother and the right to life of the unborn, are in conflict, resolving the conflict might have negative impact on one or both rights; but the rights still exist; even if one concludes that women cannot be forced to carry pregnancies to term, this does not change the unborn humans right to life and does not change that it is regrettable that the conflict is resolved by them being killed and does not change that the state has the duty to protect them as far as possible in light of the conflict of rights.

At minimum in my eyes the conflict of rights can be easily resolved after 22th week by just banning abortion but allowing pregnant women after 22th week to end pregnancy for some or even any reason by inducing birth with the added caveat that if they desire so they are not registered as mother of the potentially surviving child.

The unborns interest is survival. That is honored by this solution. Unborn’s interest in having/later knowing the biological mother as mother is in conflict with unborn’s interest to survive and comparatively completely unimportant.

The pregnant womans interest is not continue to be pregnant and not to be mother of the child. Both is honored by this solution.


Before 22th week the situation gets difficult and i do not have good suggestions. Just mediocre ones.

One would be to require the woman prior to abortion to attend counseling aimed at helping her to decide in favor of the child, including offering her help in certain ways; and require her to at least describe her reasons for considering abortion during that counseling; this is both for the counseling to have better chance of sucess and to gather anonimized data regarding the motives; based on this data the state should try to reduce the hinderances women find in deciding in favor of the child. (E.g. if a number of women report their reason to abort is pressure from childs father, laws enforcing certain “behavioral standards” of father-to-be might be an option)

I think that solution to be acceptable, because first if a woman considers abortion to to certain problems, her actual interest is not having an abortion, but hacing the problems resolved; as its also in the interest of the unborn to have the problems resolved, cause then the unborn will survive.

There is for a relevant part of women seeking abortions on a first level no conflict of interest between her and the unborn, she would prefer the problems to be resolved instead of having an abortion and the unborn would prefer the problems to be resolved instead of being aborted.

Since the number of women in such general situation is rather high - from what i know i would estimate that a good 50% of women considering abortion would prefer resolving of problems to abortion - i think such a general requirement for all women seeking abortions is justifiable, because it certainly honors the interest of the unborn and is at least not diametrically to the interest of the women, its more so-and-so in the interest of some women against the interest of others.

This is even true, although many of the problems are in the concrete situation unresolvable; e.g. education not finished; one cannot snip fingers and then magically education is finished; but still on a general level the gathered data might help with solving the problem, as if many women abort due to not yet having finished education the state, which is to a large extent in control of content, duration and many conditions of education, could strive to reduce education time (the earlier education is finished, the less women will get pregnant during education), improve compability of education for mothers and mothers-to-be and try to adjust external factors, which might have an effect upon probability of unplanned pregnancies during education (theoretically; practically this would a bloddy slugfest with democrats calling for daily condom delivery to every college woman and republicans calling for seperated dorms, banning of alcohol and parties on campus and abstinence classes, which both will not result in anything positive, but theoretically it sounded great).

Especially, data about pressure from fathers-to-be might be helpful in deciding on repsective course of action/laws, because when the father-to-be pressures the pregnant woman to have an abortion without her realy wanting it, the interest of the woman and of the unborn are perfectly aligned - after all, when A is dragging B towards the shore while already gulping water and some D comes along the shore to throw insults and stones at A, so that B is more likely to drown, any cop would no longer need to bother with the complicated question whether or not he might have to arrest A, if he let go of B, and how the conflict of interest between A and B is legally to be resolved, instead he would know at once what his duty requires him to do about D.


But the point about human rights is that they exist and honoring them shoultd be tried not only even when they are bothersome and complicated but especially when they are bothersome and complicated.

Look at refugee crisis currently in Europe; its a large problem, threatening to fracture the European Union. And its only that bothersome due to human rights. Why?

The refugee flow could be stopped inside days or even hours with all releated problems more or less resolved. How? Greet the next group of refugess at the border with machine gun fire. The refugee flow would stop at once.

Why is that option not allowed? Human rights.

Hence, the requirement to respect the human rights of the refugees forbids the quick solution, in a sense the human rights of the refugees make the situation bothersome and complicated; but that especially means the rights of the refugees should be honored as far as possible.

Then these people:
were a bunch of idiots, this document:
is legally invalid due to faulty reasoning, and this gentlemen:
should visit this lady:
at once, kneel down and offer his personal and his subjects apologies and ask for forgiveness for 240 years of inlawful insubordination and disobedience to the lawful head of state.

Or in other words, if there are no such rights, then reevaluation of lots and lots of issues that are treated as a given in western societies, would be necessary.


Thank you for your well-presented arguments - even if I disagree with them. It seems to me that you summarily discard the “personhood” argument, and concentrate solely on the “human rights” argument. If I am mistaken, please correct me.

Now for the good stuff.

First: there are no such things as “natural” rights. Nature does not care about us, or anyone else either. When the lion chases a gazelle, it does not have a “right” to kill it; or the gazelle does not have the “right” to escape. When a new kind of flu virus mutates into existence and mows down thousands of people, these people have no “right” to stay alive. And the virus does not have the “right” to escape the antidote the scientists can develop. As the saying goes, nature is “red in the tooth and claw”. The stronger wins, or “might makes right”.

So we can simply conclude that “rights” are not “natural”, but they are social constructs. And as such they are dependent upon the society, where they are formulated.

There is no need to use strong words, like “idiots”. The Founding Fathers were well meaning but naïve people, who did not think the problem through. And the Declaration of Independence is not a “legal” document in any sense of the word. The whole legal system in the US is based upon the Constitution, which does not mention any “rights” or “creators”.

Ah, that brings back a great conversation from the book “Shogun” (by James Clavell). Blackthorme, the pilot of the English ship talks with Toranaga (the future Shogun). During the conversation the topic of the English rebellion against the Spanish throne comes up, and Toranaga asserts that revolting against to legal ruler is an unacceptable action. Blackthorne contends that there are mitigating circumstances. When Toranage asks what those mitigating circumstances might be, Blackthorne answers: “Unless you win”! Toranaga bursts out laughing, and admits, that there is ONE and only one mitigating circumstance: “winning”.

The reason I brought it up is obvious. Rights are always decided by the strong ones, and when the weaker ones rebel … and WIN, the prior rights become null and void. It is always the “strong” and powerful one, which (or who) grants rights to the others, and enforces those rules by the usage of force. A “right” which is not enforced is not a “right”. It is not “fun” to admit that at the bottom of it, there is no other “foundation”, but “might makes right”. (Important disclaimer: the word “right” here does not mean correct or desirable, it denotes the “legal right”.) We might wish that it would not be the case, but this wish is unfounded.

So the “unborn” have no “rights” unless they are afforded by the state. And if the state says that abortion is legal, then the unborn have no “right” to survive. If the state says that the unborn cannot inherit, then it cannot inherit… period. We may or may not like this approach, we may or may not wish to change it, but the fact is there. There are no “natural rights”.

A short remark concerning the dependence of the fetus. I did not mention (sorry!) the all important biological dependence. A newborn cannot survive on its own, but the dependence on the caretaker is no longer a “biological” dependence. The woman-child relationship is a symbiotic one during the pregnancy (actually, it could be considered a parasitical relationship). I say that this kind of dependency is significantly different from nourishing the child after the birth. You may disagree with this distinction, but I see no rational argument against it.

The strange fact is that the symbiotic/parasitic relationship is not healthy for the woman. As a matter of fact, the woman’s body actively “fights” against the embryo, especially the male embryo. While the pregnancy is important for the survival of the species, it is detrimental for the woman itself. But as we are all aware, nature does not care about us, especially about the individuals.

If there is something that you consider important and I did not reflect on it, let me know. I concentrated upon the “human right” argument, because I thought that this is the most important factor for you.


How do they know it isn’t a person? At what point do they say a developing human being becomes a person? Just curious as to what they would say and if it would make sense.

However, I just can’t seem to come up with an argument for what makes us people, and until at least one of us comes up with something good… the debate is lost before it even begins.

Instead of accepting that “the zygote/embryo/fetus is not a person yet” and trying to prove that it is…I’m just wondering out loud…isn’t it legitimate to ask those who make that claim how they know that it isn’t a person and when they think that it does become a person?

I think we could agree with pro-choice folks that ,objectively speaking, the fetus is alive, growing, has unique DNA, and is a member of the human species. It is a member of the human species at the earliest stage of development ('cause it wasn’t made by, like, cows or something). So when would they say it becomes a person?

I don’t know that much about this topic but it seems to me we are people because we are members of the human species. Unless someone can explain some point at which we developmentally become a person along the way.


I like Fr Robert Spitzer’s definition of a person:

“a being of human origin with a full human genome”
So any being born of human parents, is a human being, starting with conception.

This is a good article on principles of ethics, which touches on personhood as well as Roe vs Wade, which Fr Spitzer describes as a violation of the principle of nonmaleficence.



I usually place the ball on their field. Let them define personhood.

Start with a toddler, for example. Ask them if a toddler has rights as a person: it can’t live by itself, and is completely dependent on its caregivers still.

If a toddler is a person, go back some years. A newborn. Is it something deserving of human rights (to life, safety, food, shelter, etc)? Or would it be ok to throw in the trash if it doesn’t have the right eye color? (or gender, as usually happens in China)

If they declare it a person, then you can start to take day by day back. One week, 6 days, 5 days, 4 days - still a person? And 1 day? Still a person?

Take a newborn on their birthday - does its place define if it is a person? As in: in its mother’s arms it is a person, but on her womb it is not.

Most will fumble with this idea.

Then you can keep going back day by day. Is there much difference between a 40weeks “fetus” from a 39weeks one? From a 32 weeks?

By this time, some will think they got you: personhood starts when the heart beats (or brain works, or something of the sort, like “when it can live by itself outside of the womb”)! You can go day by day here: the heartbeat starts at around 6weeks. So, 6weeks+1day it is a person, but 6weeks-1day isn’t? How can you be sure the -]baby /-]fetus is 6weeks old, as gestational age is just an approximate gestational age? You could be killing a person by mistake if you calculate wrongly!

(if they say “when it can live by itself”, simply point out how technology has made it possible for younger and younger fetuses to live outside their mother until maturation. Does our technological advancements define “person”? A child in a poor nation would die being 4 years old, but in a rich country we’ve had an 18weeks old living and getting healthy enough to live into adulthood)

I go for this sort of mind games with them. To explain my position, my understanding of “personhood” would be too complicated. But to destroy their understanding? Easy as pie - their understanding is too immature, it never holds if you know which bricks to kick!

For example, when they go against babies with anencephaly, or Down, saying that personhood is related to one’s capacity in functioning at society, I simply ask them about their elderly, chronically ill, often disabled grandparents. Should we just rid ourselves of them all, is that what they are suggesting? Should we do the same to people who lost their limbs, or became paralyzed? This kind of question brings up the lack of charity in their pro-abortion-choice reasoning.

And don’t even get me started on those “I’d never do it, but I am not against letting others choose”. Fence-sitters (the lukewarm) are a pet peeve of mine! :mad:

That also would mean that those who lost said abilities are not people either. As I said: let them define “person”. To you, a cell with enough chromosomes (even lacking an X or Y, or with more chromosomes than needed) to form a human being is a person.

To them? They have no idea. You’ll see by yourself how confused they are.

(unless, of course, you find someone who really doesn’t care about “person”: those who wouldn’t mind if elders and healthy children were killed for “the good of society” and all. But if you find one of those, simply raise your hands in peace and back away slowly)

Atheists are fun to talk. They are so disconnected from the “immaterial” that they have trouble defining just about ANYTHING. Seriously, try to ask them where morals come from - often, they will say “from laws” and stop there; when you point out that just about every law had origins in religious morals, most will start to sweat. The more studied types will argue for a “natural” origin, to which we bring up Aquinas and say that idea was used by religions a long time ago - we did “invent” God by observing how the world works, after all :rolleyes:. But I digress.

Ask them what a person is. You are going to demolish their ideas piece by piece; it will be tedious, and you’ll never destroy that wall in one sitting. But you will cause them to think and that is often enough to put them on their way to God (they will look for answers, after all. Guess where you can find those answers? :rotfl:)

But first, YOU have to understand your point and God’s points. You can’t think a person only has value because “God says so” or “because soul”; you need to understand WHY He thinks we have value. What, in our failed and broken existence, is so beautiful that He saw it fit to create us? (because, for bad or worse, He wanted us :rolleyes:)

When you understand why that healthy person on the other side of the street mugging your friend is special and has value, or why that awful rapist’s life HAS value as well, then you will be able to see the holes in atheists point of view.

Because, as good as their reasoning sounds, it always lacks love. They are unable to love that mugger, even with all their “reasons” for “personhood”, and for the same reason they are unable to love the unseen child in a mother’s womb.

PS: the use of “it” in regards to “fetus” was intentional. :ehh:


Nice tactics. :slight_smile: When you have no answer… evade!

Since “rights” are social constructs, they do not exist independently from a given society. And you also confuse the biological dependence of the fetus with the social dependence of the “generic” caregiver.

I used the opposite approach in a previous post. Start with a fully grown, normal human, who is obviously a person. Start to replace or remove each organ. Up until the brain is active and operational, the being is still a person. So there might be some argument about how to define a “person”, but there can be no argument about who does NOT qualify as a person… namely some entity, which does NOT have a functioning brain. As such the zygote and the conglomerate of the cells before the brain’s electro-chemical activity starts does not qualify as a “person”.

Only the brain counts. When you take a fully grown person, and remove the brain, it will cease to be a human (much less a human person). It will become a corpse. Death is defined as the cessation of brain activity.

Fortunately the game can be “played” by both sides. How could someone be a “person” without a brain?


There is no such thing as a static human genome. We have some arbitrary and vague limits, which we declare a “human” genome. The approach taken by Spitzer cannot be applied to “mutants”, for example. How far can the genome deviate from the nonexistent “norm”, before the mutant becomes a “non-human”? What about mixing the genes of some non-human with the genes of humans?

By the way, the article is interesting. It has some good and some bad points. But a detailed critique would lead very far from the topic of the thread.


Foul. The person you are responding to did not describe an evasion.

According to the OP: “The context is that pro-choice people claim that abortion is okay because the zygote/embyro/fetus is not a person yet.”

To ask somebody how they know that the fetus isn’t a person, or explain when a developing human being becomes a person, or to defend their assertion isn’t an evasion.
(I think the person you were responding to called it “putting the ball in their field”.)

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