Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Biden on When Life Begins

I'll admit to having been back and forth on the abortion issue. And if people want to have a debate on when "life begins" in regards to the abortion debate, then we should have it. But Joe Biden has demonstrated he is a relativist of the worst kind when he said that when human life begins is a "personal and private" matter. That statement is ridiculous on the face of it. While one may not agree about when life begins, the answer to that is an objective part of reality and is not up to an individual person's subjective whims. While we may not yet agree about the nature of that objective reality, it is an objective reality. It is just now up to us to figure out what that reality is.

The two issues here are "human" and "life." A cell capable of dividing is alive. Period. That is an objective fact. End of discussion. The real question, then, is what is a "human"? Is any cell with human DNA a human? Or are we only talking about cells that have the potential to become a human being, meaning we can reasonably leave out blood cells, cancer cells, etc.? So we have to differentiate between a human and a human cell. It may be that a fertilized egg, though, is a human precisely because it has human being telo -- its goal is the creation of a human being. Because of this goal, because it is teleological, the Catholic church argues, a fertilized egg is a human being.

Certainly there are other arguments out there. I heard a bioethicist argue that one could use the legal definition of when life ends to determine its beginning. With brain-death, a person is legally dead. Thus, he argued, when brain function begins, life begins. If one is looking for a compromise, this seems a reasonable one. Muslims, on the other hand, believe that the soul enters the body upon birth, so for them abortion isn't an issue at all. This is consistent with the Greek concept of soul, as their word for soul, psyche, means both "soul" and "breath." Catholics believe the fertilized egg is ensouled, so there's no room for negotiation.

The modern Catholic church is quite consistent in its pro-life stance. They oppose abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment. As a Catholic, Biden is supposed to believe this too. And he's supposed to believe it's an objective fact. Thus, the Church's outrage at his statement.

I have another reason to show concern: if determining when human life begins is "personal and private," then one could easily argue that someone is not truly human until they acquire language. Thus, infanticide up to the point of language acquisition would, logically, be allowed by Biden.

And never mind about Obama. This discussion is far above his pay grade.
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