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Thread: Life & Death

  1. #1 Life & Death 
    Ascended Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Can we now define at what point life really begins?, for example is it really life at the moment of conception? or does it only become life when it arrives at the point of consciousness?

    Conversely can say when the exact point of death actually occurs? The point at which they are no more and with no chance of retrieval?


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    A bacterium is not concious, it's still alive.

    Death, is when a being has no more chemical/biological processes of it's own running. But a human is dead when eiter it's brain stops functioning, or the heart stops beating.


    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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    Cheers Zwolver. Unfortunately I didn't phrase the question that well, I was trying really to relate it to human life. I was see if medically deterime that exact points that human life begins and ends. I read somewhere that doctors and nurses arn't always sure when someone is actually dead and that sometimes didn't standards of death are applied. Also the idea of people apparently dying and then being brought seems to suggest to me at least that even when people may appear to be dead it's not always so.

    Going back to the beginning of life I am interested as what people consider to be the actual point that humans become alive, I mean are they still alive before consciousness? I guess I suppose medically speaking they may still be alive, but is this really an accurate description of life for a human without consciousness, in the same way I'm interested as to whether they can still be brought back to life once consciousness has seemed to have left the body.

    I'm not interested in any religious ideas of soul or anything like that I interested in the whole idea of how consciousness relates to ideas of life and death, the idea of human life without it seems disconnected to me as consciousness to me at least seems to be an essential part of being a living human.
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    Well, for beginning of life, you have to leave some time from initial conception. First you need successful implantation. Then you need to be sure how many and what kind of human you might be dealing with.

    Monozygotic twins/triplets separate after a few days and the development of a male embryo takes several weeks.

    And I don't think people really believe that early embryos are fully human. (Nobody seems at all concerned that half or more of conceptions miscarry.) The callousness of people in talking to women (and their partners) when they've suffered a known miscarriage indicates that they're not really thinking in those terms. Very different from the way they behave when there's a stillbirth or the death of an infant.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    For Cristorlitz. Can't help you Chris. When Life begins. When it ends. My life never really began. I was always working towards having a Life, but I've never really got round to it. Death I can be more certain of. I'm slowly dying of several different medical conditions, but none of them have prooved fatal as yet. Still.... give them time. westwind.
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    To me, conciousness is a requirement for considering a human alive. When a patient becomes brain dead after an accident, that person is dead as far as I am concerned. When it comes to foetuses, it is not that clear cut for me. For example, I wouldn't support abortion up to right before the foetus is thought to become concious.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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    To me, a baby is, even when it's born, not really more then a collection of cells. It's the experiences, the problems it struggles with, and the way to overcome them what defines conciousness for me. Not everyone will be able to attain conciousness on my standards, as i know plenty of people who just lack basic problemsolving mentality. I'd say, to those who have the brainpower to stop, and ponder about their existence to be concious. But i know, these standards are extremely high.. Hehe..
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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    My definition is not nearly so scientific as some others. I always defined life as the ability to survive independently. Granted, this is primarily based on abortion discussion. Prior to a certain time (23-26 weeks?) a fetus cannot survive outside the womb without assistance. A person who cannot function without life support is also in my consideration as dead.

    This isn't so much from a biological perspective as it is from a personal and political one, which I know isn't particularly the point, but I thought I would share it anyways as it has become a fairly hotly-debated topic recently.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    My definition is not nearly so scientific as some others. I always defined life as the ability to survive independently. Granted, this is primarily based on abortion discussion. Prior to a certain time (23-26 weeks?) a fetus cannot survive outside the womb without assistance. A person who cannot function without life support is also in my consideration as dead.

    This isn't so much from a biological perspective as it is from a personal and political one, which I know isn't particularly the point, but I thought I would share it anyways as it has become a fairly hotly-debated topic recently.
    Presumably you don't mean babies that could survive in incubation chambers or people that have a good prognosis of recovery?
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Well, for beginning of life, you have to leave some time from initial conception. First you need successful implantation. Then you need to be sure how many and what kind of human you might be dealing with.

    Monozygotic twins/triplets separate after a few days and the development of a male embryo takes several weeks.

    And I don't think people really believe that early embryos are fully human. (Nobody seems at all concerned that half or more of conceptions miscarry.) The callousness of people in talking to women (and their partners) when they've suffered a known miscarriage indicates that they're not really thinking in those terms. Very different from the way they behave when there's a stillbirth or the death of an infant.
    Hi Adelady, I think we can mourn the loss of potential life just like life even if others may not really believe it had gotten to the stage of being an actual baby, I would think in such situations of miscarriages it is still necessary for the parents to grieve just as if it was baby that had actually been born. To them is was still a loss of life even if only potential life. My mother had 4 miscarriages before my brother was bourne and my parents mourned those losses.

    Quote Originally Posted by westwind View Post
    For Cristorlitz. Can't help you Chris. When Life begins. When it ends. My life never really began. I was always working towards having a Life, but I've never really got round to it. Death I can be more certain of. I'm slowly dying of several different medical conditions, but none of them have prooved fatal as yet. Still.... give them time. westwind.
    Hi Westy, like the Cristorlitz btw . We are all slowly dying but that also tells we are alive and living, this is the duality of life, to be alive is ultimately to die one has to have the other.

    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    To me, conciousness is a requirement for considering a human alive. When a patient becomes brain dead after an accident, that person is dead as far as I am concerned. When it comes to foetuses, it is not that clear cut for me. For example, I wouldn't support abortion up to right before the foetus is thought to become concious.
    Hi Kal, I'm not getting into the whole abortion thing as I'm simply not knowledgeable to even have a sensible opinion I'm afraid.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    To me, a baby is, even when it's born, not really more then a collection of cells. It's the experiences, the problems it struggles with, and the way to overcome them what defines conciousness for me. Not everyone will be able to attain conciousness on my standards, as i know plenty of people who just lack basic problemsolving mentality. I'd say, to those who have the brainpower to stop, and ponder about their existence to be concious. But i know, these standards are extremely high.. Hehe..
    Hi Zwolver, I'm trying to really understand conciousness and how it relates to living, I think there are many groups of living cells, for example a foot, but by it's self it isn't cable of conciousness or achieving it. Where as something like a baby even the moments after conception it then has the potential to achieve conciousness.

    Is conciousness just merely a by product of a human being alive, or is it something more essential to making us human, is it something much more important than the results of an electro-chemical process? Also how can conciousness be 'brought back' when people have supposedly died?
    Last edited by Ascended; September 25th, 2012 at 03:37 PM. Reason: missed something out
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  12. #11  
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    I love this question. My college class had many intense discussions on this topic. Chris, you aren't going to find consensus among scientists on this one, but there are some great theories. Personally, the one that helps me make sense of it is the idea that "life" is a complex pattern drawn in the processes and materials of our universe (I am being poetic, not mysterious or spooky). In this paradigm, death is merely the disruption of the pattern beyond recovery. So if the pattern can be arrested without degradation, then restarted, death has never actually occurred (we might call that interim state "stasis" or something similar). For example, if a child dies of hypothermia but is brought back to life, it seems like a miracle. But in my view there is nothing astounding about it. All those complex biological processes and materials that make up the child did not degrade beyond recovery--primarily because that degradation was slowed by freezing temperatures. They were, perhaps, pre-dead. But they are not proper dead until their "pattern" degrades beyond recovery. By the way, you may like this article explaining just how a person might survive said freezing temperatures. Mystery Explained: How Frozen Humans Are Brought Back | LiveScience
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    My definition is not nearly so scientific as some others. I always defined life as the ability to survive independently. Granted, this is primarily based on abortion discussion. Prior to a certain time (23-26 weeks?) a fetus cannot survive outside the womb without assistance. A person who cannot function without life support is also in my consideration as dead.

    This isn't so much from a biological perspective as it is from a personal and political one, which I know isn't particularly the point, but I thought I would share it anyways as it has become a fairly hotly-debated topic recently.
    Presumably you don't mean babies that could survive in incubation chambers or people that have a good prognosis of recovery?
    No, I don't. I mean fetuses which cannot survive outside the womb and people who are brain dead and respirating artificially.

    Off topic, this forum is not compatible with my tablet. Argh!
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    Thought so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post

    Off topic, this forum is not compatible with my tablet. Argh!
    Well, you wanted an iPad....Have you tried Tapatalk?
    Last edited by KALSTER; September 25th, 2012 at 06:56 PM.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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  15. #14  
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    Life is a terminal sexually transmitted disease.
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    Dear skeptic.. So I can live forever? westwind.
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  17. #16  
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    Imho
    life starts when an egg is fertilized by a sprem, then implants successfully.
    death = no more neural activity.
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    Quote Originally Posted by westwind View Post
    Dear skeptic.. So I can live forever? westwind.
    Afraid not, westwind. Like many other sexually transmitted diseases, it can be passed from mother to child.
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  19. #18  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Also the word 'terminal' means just that.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    Thought so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post

    Off topic, this forum is not compatible with my tablet. Argh!
    Well, you wanted an iPad....Have you tried Tapatalk?
    I'm operating on Android. Turns out I just need to wait for the page to load completely before I hit reply. Bah. Who has the time for patience anymore...

    On a surprisingly related note, I am very curious about this idea of defining the beginning of life. It's extremely hot in politics right now being that people are trying to implement some social policies which have expressed, in my opinion, some questionable references to actual biology.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    That does seem like a more interesting question, or at least a harder-to-define question. Since we're talking about humans I guess the first question might be--as was mentioned earlier--to what degree does consciousness play a role in defining life? I'm of the opinion that we can never answer "when does life begin" until we can answer "does a brain-dead individual qualify as living".
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    If this question is related to the politics of abortion, frankly I think it is the wrong question. I think the right question is : "When does a new life form become human?"

    A zygote is not human. It is just a single cell. The development of a fetus goes through various 'animal' stages. At one point it has a tail. At another, it has gills. And so on. A 2 mm long lump of living tissue with gills and no brain cannot be said to be human. When does the developing mass of tissue become human?

    My view is that humanity is a function of brain power. What makes us human is that organ between our ears. We become human when the brain is large enough to permit conscious thinking. I am not sure exactly when that is, but I know it is not at conception.
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    Haha! Skeptic you are jumping straight to the point that I was leading to. :P
    If people can agree on something like a full-grown person without a brain is not "alive" in any meaningful sense (or some derivation of that concept) then we can transfer that idea over to the 2 mm lump of tissue. The situations are related.
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  24. #23  
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    JoshuaL

    I have been impressed with your thinking on several occasions now. I think you should embrace skepticism, since you are clearly a person who uses evidence based thinking, which is the basis for the skeptic movement.
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    I think you should embrace skepticism, since you are clearly a person who uses evidence based thinking, which is the basis for the skeptic movement.
    Are you recruiting people into "The skeptic movement" ?
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  26. #25  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Nah

    The key thing about skepticism is living it. If you are a good skeptic, then belonging to some organisation does not matter. The important thing is being rational in your thinking, and not believing crap just because some idiot tells you to.
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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrisgorlitz View Post
    Can we now define at what point life really begins?, for example is it really life at the moment of conception? or does it only become life when it arrives at the point of consciousness?

    Conversely can say when the exact point of death actually occurs? The point at which they are no more and with no chance of retrieval?
    You're not really asking about living tissue, you're asking about living persons. So we need to define person.

    "Person" is a social construct isn't it? In that case, kinda like the worth of money, it's whatever people believe it is, no more and no less. If some elephants smash open an abandoned crate of Zimbabwean dollars, and chew it, what they have is hardly money - it is paper. Conversely if a parent lovingly spoon feeds her darling little boy, whom was born without a brain, he is certainly a person by that parent's estimation.
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    Lets just imagine for a minute that what we think of as 'human life' is actually a 2 stage process, first the growth of the cells, after conception, towards becoming a bady. This being the process of the growth of a 'body' basically an interface for the consciousness to interact with physical world.
    The second stage is the 'birth' of the consciousness. Now if we think of it in this way we can seperate the idea of consciousness from the body. This is an important idea because if we can think of it like this we can relate life to our understanding of the way a computer works. A brain can be seen as a CPU that makes a computer run, the body all the peripherals that allow the computer to interact with the outside world, then we get to the consciousness, this is the programming that makes the computer run.

    But why should we be thinking about a human being in the same terms as a computer? Well once we to start to do this it throws up some rather interesting possibilities. A computer can be switched off with no loss of program data. This means that if we can do this with a computer, they why not be able to switch off a human? This may well indeed one day actually be possible. Right now the problem with this is that 'switching off' the brain would result in loss of data/consciousness. Again the problem being that the brain is somewhat more complex than modern computers, but in time could well be possible.

    This in it's self also raises other possibilities, if indeed it does become possible to switch consciousness on and off with no loss of data or self, then why not the ability to transfer that consciousness from one place to another? This may all be beginning to sound a little bit like science fiction rather than science fact and we certainly arn't there yet, however it should be noted that these ideas are not beyond the realms of what may one day be possible.

    When that days comes it may well force all of us to reconsider our notions of what being 'alive' or 'living' really means.
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    Thanks, Skeptic. I'd love to learn more about it. Any links or readings you would particularly recommend?
    Pong, yes you are bringing up a great point, but I have to ask if there is a limit. (I guess that's really what this debate comes down to--where is the line in the sand?) For example, in the scenario you present what if we go to the extreme and say the darling little boy is not just brain dead, but proper dead. No pulse, no brain activity, nada. At that point, regardless of what the parent thinks, the rest of society will agree that her deceased son is no longer a person in any material or lawful sense.

    EDIT: the point I am getting at is whether an individual opinion should be the definition of personhood. I suggest that just because a mother says "this is a person" does not make it so.
    Last edited by JoshuaL; September 28th, 2012 at 11:34 AM.
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  30. #29  
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    Any links or readings you would particularly recommend?
    There are skeptics groups all round the world. Since you are American, you probably should look at them. There is an active group under the guidance of Dr. Michael Shermer, with an email newsletter, eskeptic@skeptic.com that includes articles, and is a free subscription. The organisation is accessible via skepticssociety@skeptic.com
    They have a paper magazine you can subscribe to (I do and I find it fascinating). There is a skeptic discussion forum. http://www.skepticforum.com/

    There is also the James Randi Education Foundation. James Randi is a retired stage magician, who has dedicated himself to exposing superstitious nonsense. He has a discussion forum also. http://forums.randi.org/forumindex.php

    You can see an example of Randi at work here.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9w7jHYriFo
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    Thanks! I'll give them a look.

    Interesting. Looks like there is a lot of confusion for the layperson around the term skeptic. The word has become synonymous with "cynic", which is clearly not what skeptics are promoting (as a group at any rate--one might find fault with an individual member of said group).
    Last edited by JoshuaL; September 28th, 2012 at 04:56 PM.
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    I'd say I agree with Sculpor's opinion of the matter. Successful conception would be the point I'd consider something to be alive. Having said that, I was thinking on making an argument for the point when your sperm cell half had come to life (seeing as the egg had been present for some time already? Genuine question by the way..), but I settled for conception.

    For death? I have an odd time with this one. Assuming everyone's brain will inevitably die from a lack of oxygen.. I get to thinking about half-lives, and want to say you'll never die - but that would silly. Obviously there is a point where the brain ceases to exist entirely, and even then it would've stopped being something you'd consider functioning and/or alive.. So, I'm comfortable with just saying the point you're dead is when your brain cannot be rescued in any way.

    This subject reminds of a quote I once heard. I heard the quote in a song. The quote stuck with me for sometime: "Death is not the opposite of life. Death is the opposite of birth. Life is eternal."

    Apparently some New Age hippie type said it in a book. Anyway, nonsense quote, just thought it was an interesting one.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    Looks like there is a lot of confusion for the layperson around the term skeptic. The word has become synonymous with "cynic",
    Exactly.
    The real meaning of 'skeptic' varies a bit according to who is defining it. My personal definition is that a skeptic is a person whose belief system is based on credible, empirical, and objectively derived evidence, rather than faith.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stander-j View Post
    I was thinking on making an argument for the point when your sperm cell half had come to life (seeing as the egg had been present for some time already? Genuine question by the way..)
    Stander-J, I don't understand the question. What do you mean?
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    Sperm cells are alive. As are the cells that divide to form sperm cells. And so on back into the past.

    If you want to follow this line of reasoning, the first living cell was a progenitor that existed some time between 3 and 4 billion years ago. This is kind of ludicrous, but is an inevitable conclusion to the question as asked. I think the question is at fault. That is why I tried to change it from the beginning of life to when a human can be considered to have come into being. Either way, there will be no exact answer. Just a fuzzy time period.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Sperm cells are alive. As are the cells that divide to form sperm cells. And so on back into the past.

    If you want to follow this line of reasoning, the first living cell was a progenitor that existed some time between 3 and 4 billion years ago. This is kind of ludicrous, but is an inevitable conclusion to the question as asked. I think the question is at fault. That is why I tried to change it from the beginning of life to when a human can be considered to have come into being. Either way, there will be no exact answer. Just a fuzzy time period.
    My apologies Skeptic and Joshua, I was asking whether or not all the eggs a woman has exist by the time she reaches puberty - each one being released from the ovaries as needed.

    Edit: I think I've just answered my own question (Fraternal Twins).
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    The human body is a meaningful connection arising from creation. It's like a phrase "eollH" or "oeHll" which make no sense, and "Hello" which makes sense even-though all 3 connections have the exact same letters, or building blocks. So it's basically a very complicated connection of atoms, just like the solar system is a connection of celestial bodies and galaxies a collection of stars. It's all in how things get connected.

    Meditation helps a lot when it comes to understanding creation. In my case, after doing it for 16 hours, the body gives you important clues about creation and the Universe in general. The human body actually works the exact same way as the universe. You just need to listen to it very carefully and for a very long time. If the sun or our galaxy had a voice, it wouldn't feel less lost than we do, it wouldn't know how it got there. The Universe wouldn't know either. In fact, if we had the technology to travel at any point in existence, we wouldn't find such an entity who knew exactly how it got there. We are all lost.

    I think our problem comes from the fact that we put too much importance into time and space. Time and space fits into existence, existence is too big to fit into time and space. There is something beyond that, there is an infinity of dimensions. It's something I feel, I cannot describe it really, it's like describing colors, but it's clear to me that space, time and matter it's not all. It looks like it's all but it's not...it's a part so small it simply doesn't "matter". Nice pun!
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    To explain how it feels, imagine you made a "boson bomb" and you had the technology to destroy the entire Universe. You wouldn't change anything...you cannot undo the cycle or stop it no matter what you do, because the cycle never started and will never end no matter what. So no, if Earth fries due to global warming, it's not the end of life. Lol.

    Why did this existence cycle never start? Why does it not have a beginning? Because when you refer to "start" or "beginning" you refer to time. So by asking when existence started, you think that existence fits into time or somehow obeys to the laws of physics. Remember what I said...existence does not fit into time or into the laws of physics, it's time and the laws of physics that fit into existence. Existence is just too big to fit into anything. It does not obey any rule or equation. It's beyond any human logic or understanding.

    So have fun, get lots of sex and forget all about death and stuff like that. It just doesn't matter. All that matters is what you live NOW, in this very moment. It's why the planets turn around the stars and why the galaxies were created, so you can sit at a computer desk and wonder why they were created.
    Last edited by Oxycodone; September 28th, 2012 at 11:15 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    If this question is related to the politics of abortion, frankly I think it is the wrong question. I think the right question is : "When does a new life form become human?"
    Possibly, but the tangential process of splitting hairs could then mean defining the difference between living tissue and "life". The biological definition tells us that our cells themselves are technically alive. Is a fertilized embryo "more" alive than a sperm cell and ovum separate? Does life depend on some kind of trigger or is it a phase in development?

    EDIT: I got excited and posted before I read all of your post. You basically said the same things I did.
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    Dear skeptic.. So I can live forever? westwind.


    ( Completely disregard this Poste 39. It is not what I posted, although the Poste was auto=saved. Where the blue blazes it went, and who took it, and for what reason, maybe I'll never know. ) westwind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    If this question is related to the politics of abortion, frankly I think it is the wrong question. I think the right question is : "When does a new life form become human?"
    Possibly, but the tangential process of splitting hairs could then mean defining the difference between living tissue and "life". The biological definition tells us that our cells themselves are technically alive. Is a fertilized embryo "more" alive than a sperm cell and ovum separate? Does life depend on some kind of trigger or is it a phase in development?

    EDIT: I got excited and posted before I read all of your post. You basically said the same things I did.

    I have to question this idea, a few of you guys have now come up, of life being based on whether the cells are alive, the cells in a kidney are alive and yet it is not 'life', a kidney can be transplanted and that would make the recipient have 2 lives? I don't think so. Yet DNA can be taken from a kidney and implanted into an embryo to create life. The point I'm trying to make is a sperm and/or egg is a constituent part of creating life, but I don't think you can or should define it as life.

    I still think that 'human life' is defined and cannot 'be' without consciousness, it is the consciousness that defines us, it is who we are. Imagine a body being kept functioning by artificial respiration, is it really alive? If someone is no longer capable of independant action other even thinking are they really still alive?

    Surely human life must end at the point of permantent loss of consciousness and thus also must begin at the point of the birth of consciousness.
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    I was trying to take the prototypical political standpoint to superimpose that particular standpoint over a biological one.

    Biologically, I believe in the definition of life. The problem is when you apply that logic to living tissue actually becoming the living organism it is programmed to create.

    Biologically, we have defined cells as living. However, from a political standpoint, is it still valid to say that a cluster of cells with the potential for creating a recognizable human is technically alive and should be protected legally?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post

    Biologically, we have defined cells as living. However, from a political standpoint, is it still valid to say that a cluster of cells with the potential for creating a recognizable human is technically alive and should be protected legally?
    That is a very complicated issue with many may factors to take into consideration, we could equally ask, when the process of creating a new life has begun do we have the right to stop it? The point is different people will have different opinions. The same can also be said for death there will always be people that think once consciousness has left the body we shouldn't try to bring it back.

    What is interesting though is if we can learn to place less importance on cells and bodies, why? quite simply put we now have the technology to grow or replace body parts.
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    Yes, Chris, I completely agree. That's why, as Pong suggests, we should actually be talking about "persons" rather than "life", to avoid any confusion. We don't just mean when is a thing alive. Like you said, our individual cells are alive, but this is a larger question of being a person, and that means having consciousness. Flick, you used a great word that is causing so much consternation: potential. As I see it we should not allow potential to be a defining factor, because there is potential for life everywhere. As you may know there is only about a %20 chance of becoming pregnant at each ovulatory cycle. That's because even when a sperm makes it to an egg, they have to successfully fuse, then the blastocyst has to successfully travel to the fallopian tube and implant in the uterus. And that doesn't even take into account the genetic mechanisms that ensure the blastocyst is aborted if it is not developing properly. (Otherwise our population would contain more afflicted individuals than healthy ones.) But all of these opportunities are potential for life. Potential is not enough. It seems clear to me at least that, when discussing personhood, actuality is more important than potential.
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    I tend to agree with you guys. It is always interesting to see how the subject matter is handled in a political atmosphere, though. Well, sometimes terrifying...
    Last edited by Flick Montana; September 30th, 2012 at 07:24 PM.
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    I just had a thought, just suppose in the not to distant future a patient was brought into hospital after an accident and declared brain dead, I mean all brain activity had ceased, yet physically the patient was pretty much undamaged. Now lets suppose that whilst the body and brain was being maintained artifically, that a scientist came along and said we could place an artificial consciousness within the brain to bring the body back to life so as to speak, would then that person still be alive? The body would be functioning, so would the brain and the artificial consciousness able to look act and sound like that of the original. Now if the person had had their heart replaced we would still think of them as still being the same living person, but what about with the artificial consciousnes would we still think of them as the same living person? I think this is where ideas of life and death are definately complicated.
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    Chris

    That idea is purely hypothetical at this point, since we cannot do it. I am inclined to think that speculating on what is currently impossible is not really useful. For a start, why would we do that? Much better to use that healthy body for spare parts and save many lives.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Chris

    That idea is purely hypothetical at this point, since we cannot do it. I am inclined to think that speculating on what is currently impossible is not really useful. For a start, why would we do that? Much better to use that healthy body for spare parts and save many lives.
    Well skeptic, I certainly don't disagree on any point, I was trying to really push an understanding of what life or living really means, could it be without the body, could it be without the consciousness. But you are quite correct we arn't there yet and don't yet have to deal with such considerations.
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    It's sort of a topic many sci fi shows and books have dealt with. Maybe it's just not possible to define life as a law. Maybe the definition and the ideology which governs our action has to be capable of adaptation as our society changes.

    Part of my political ponderance when it comes time to vote is based upon parties that think change is a bad thing. That a government which evolves with its society is somehow a recipe for disaster.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stander-j View Post
    ... , I was asking whether or not all the eggs a woman has exist by the time she reaches puberty - each one being released from the ovaries as needed.
    ... .
    It is my understanding that women are born with all the follicles that will turn into eggs------(about 35-40 years worth)

    as/re abortion
    I think that parents have the right to kill their own children---including by abortion, or by grabbing their baby by the ankles and dashing it's brains out against a wall (I see little difference in these 2 actions as the result , for the child in question, is roughly the same)
    but
    When they do so, I tend to think of them as mentally ill.

    Do they have the same right when it comes to sending their children into battle?

    ......................
    when in doubt about death, wait a few days, and the dead will speak to you through your olfactories
    I once read that there was a tradition of placing a string in the coffin attached to a bell, just in case, the living were accidentally burried. And, a bell watcher was hired to hang out in the graveyard and listen for the bell.
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    For JoshuaL. QUOTE "" And that does not even take into account the genetic mechanisms that ensure the blastocyst is aborted if it is not developing properly."" END QUOTE. Surely this quoted mechanism and implied indocrinated concept encoded in our DNA is an act of intelligence? A deliberate encoded intervention to ensure survival efficiency? At an intellectual level? Now I wonder how the Theory of Evolution can explain what seems to me to be the key survival mechanism required at the very beginning of re-creation? westwind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by stander-j View Post
    ... , I was asking whether or not all the eggs a woman has exist by the time she reaches puberty - each one being released from the ovaries as needed.
    ... .
    It is my understanding that women are born with all the follicles that will turn into eggs------(about 35-40 years worth)

    as/re abortion
    I think that parents have the right to kill their own children---including by abortion, or by grabbing their baby by the ankles and dashing it's brains out against a wall (I see little difference in these 2 actions as the result , for the child in question, is roughly the same)
    but
    When they do so, I tend to think of them as mentally ill.

    Do they have the same right when it comes to sending their children into battle?

    ......................
    when in doubt about death, wait a few days, and the dead will speak to you through your olfactories
    I once read that there was a tradition of placing a string in the coffin attached to a bell, just in case, the living were accidentally burried. And, a bell watcher was hired to hang out in the graveyard and listen for the bell.
    Thank-you for the response to the question.. I am a little confused by the abortion bit though, was that directed at somebody else?
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    ncluding by abortion, or by grabbing their baby by the ankles and dashing it's brains out against a wall (I see little difference in these 2 actions as the result , for the child in question, is roughly the same)
    I strongly disagree with this. Unless 'roughly the same' means the same thing as 'entirely different'.

    There are huge differences between early and late miscarriages, stillbirths and early death of infants which happen from illness of mother or fetus, congenital conditions or other natural causes.

    Those same differences apply to actions deliberately taken to terminate a first or second trimester pregnancy, to kill a baby during labour (as midwives in some places did occasionally if obstructed labour was threatening the mother's life) or to kill a live infant after successful delivery.

    Morally and medically speaking, those actions become less and less acceptable the further the pregnancy advances and completely unacceptable once a live infant is born.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    as/re abortion
    I think that parents have the right to kill their own children---including by abortion, or by grabbing their baby by the ankles and dashing it's brains out against a wall (I see little difference in these 2 actions as the result , for the child in question, is roughly the same)
    but
    When they do so, I tend to think of them as mentally ill.
    I don't know if it was your intention, but I find this particularly offensive. I sincerely hope you aren't suggesting that a woman who gets an abortion is equivalent to a mother murdering her newborn.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    ... result , for the child in question, is roughly the same...
    I don't know if it was your intention, but I find this particularly offensive. I sincerely hope you aren't suggesting that a woman who gets an abortion is equivalent to a mother murdering her newborn.
    Yeah, offensive, kind of a zen or chan school of sudden enlightenment sort of a thing. (I did try to voice that from the perspective of the fetus/child/zygote/whatever.)

    My take,
    Each unique combination of genetic material has the potential to develope into a unique individual with unique talents, strengths, weaknesses, personality, intellect, etc...etc...
    those that do not survive remain an unknown
    the potential is gone(maybe forever?)
    and I find that discomforting------------kinda like the unasked question, the unread book, the unsolved problem
    I have met families that should of had abortions, and comforted women who did have one , and then lived to regret the action.
    This all goes to an emotional level not well expressed by words, no matter how verbose.

    but
    I do not believe that anyone has the right to impose one's will on others, especially in these matters.
    Hell, I even think the existentialists morality of Sartre, (roughly)"every decision you make for yourself, you also decide for all mankind" may just be a tad to arrogant for my tastes. So, if someone decides that they would rather be the end product of evolution, are they making that decision for all mankind?

    the unique combination may have been another sibelious, tchaikovsky, bernstein, rodin, cellini, etc... or a politician, an egomaniacle mass murderer, a mindless 9-5er-------good or bad?
    potential lost

    ..........
    so I plant trees and watch them grow into a forest which is host to songbirds and squirrels, and alive with the buzzing of bees
    And, every once in a while, I have to cut one out for the good of the forest, but i do not make that decision lightly, and always with a bit of sorrow.
    ............
    Morally and medically speaking, those actions become less and less acceptable the further the pregnancy advances and completely unacceptable once a live infant is born.
    Which puzzles me
    and seems,
    somehow
    arbitrary
    Last edited by sculptor; September 30th, 2012 at 10:46 AM.
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    While I agree that abortion is a terrible thing, a world without it (more aptly, a world where it is not needed) would certainly be the better, there is a disingenuous quality to comparing women who get abortions to murderers. Eliminating a potential for life is not comparable to eliminating a current life. Consider that there is no way to know what that life would have been. People love to use the idea that an aborted fetus could have been the next Einstein or Gandhi. That's emotion and irrationality speaking. We cannot base our laws on that illogical thought process, even though it may drive our personal convictions.
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    We cannot base our laws on that illogical thought process, even though it may drive our personal convictions.
    amen
    brother
    amen
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    It's good that you have the ability to separate personal conviction and societal imposition. I find it a rare and powerful trait. I try to emulate it as best I can.
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    In early stages, the baby is not aware, but it is comfortable, just like a huge worm you grab from the Earth is not aware...but it is comfortable. So when you step on the worm, you break that comfort for a few moments and then it dies. That's all there is with abortion. Unless stepping on a worm disturbs you, you should have no problem with it. In fact they even have a pornography about stepping on bugs...very...special. Lol.

    And while you could still hope to get an Einstein out, there's 1,000,000,000% more chances it will be a mental retard and 100,000% more chances that the baby will be born without a brain at all...so who cares what would've come out. The taking a life argument, it's all existentialistic anxiety. Things like this don't matter. You think you need to help existence make things right? Existence doesn't need your help. Leave it up to it.
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    given a few weeks, no worm will become human

    I put worms on hooks to catch fish
    It never occured to me to use a human baby like that

    Oxy
    you are a very strange fellow
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    The problem with the "potentially human" argument is knowing where to draw the line. If you take it to its ultimate and ludicrous conclusion, it becomes every woman's duty to remain permanently pregnant from puberty to menopause, or else she is denying "potential humans" their chance at life. A ridiculous argument, and I reject it utterly.

    If, however, we consider "truly human" to be the standard, then the time at which a developing fetus becomes human is probably after birth - some time before it reaches its second birthday. Not that I am proposing infanticide. Killing a baby is something that would carry an immense emotional cost, and I would not want to do that to any parent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    given a few weeks, no worm will become human

    I put worms on hooks to catch fish
    It never occured to me to use a human baby like that

    Oxy
    you are a very strange fellow
    Remember, there is never right or wrong. It's always a man's belief versus another man's belief. You think you're right, and I think I'm right too! Who decides? The answer is: nobody. We will never know who's right.
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    In early stages, the baby is not aware,
    In early stages of pregnancy, you have a zygote, then an embryo, later on a foetus. "Awareness", even of comfort, comes much later.

    (Seeing as an embryo can survive being frozen and thawed, calling it a baby is a very long shot.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post

    Morally and medically speaking, those actions become less and less acceptable the further the pregnancy advances and completely unacceptable once a live infant is born.
    I completely agree with this.
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    the problem arises when we try to blend science, politics, religion, and legislation
    when does life begin
    when does legal life begin
    when does religious life begin(and which religion?)
    when does political life begin
    ................
    we're dealing with elephants and donkys dressing in tutus and claiming to be ballerinas
    ...................
    teen battle cry of the '60s
    old enough to be a soldier, too young to vote or drink
    ...........
    edit
    Are we able to distance ourselves from the socio-political biases, and come to a purely scientific conclusion?
    Last edited by sculptor; October 1st, 2012 at 08:50 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    If, however, we consider "truly human" to be the standard, then the time at which a developing fetus becomes human is probably after birth - some time before it reaches its second birthday. Not that I am proposing infanticide. Killing a baby is something that would carry an immense emotional cost, and I would not want to do that to any parent.
    Is this the only problem you have with infanticide, then?
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    Thinking of that quote from Borderlands2: "I'm hungry! I want to eat your babies!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Are we able to distance ourselves from the socio-political biases, and come to a purely scientific conclusion?
    I believe so, yes. Perhaps along the lines of Sam Harris' presentation:
    Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions | Video on TED.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Is this the only problem you have with infanticide, then?
    There are various problems with the idea of infanticide. For example ; determining when a fetus or baby becomes sentient. After that point, a killing is murder.

    However, even if we could prove that a baby was non sentient, killing it would carry a massive emotional burden. Both to the parents and to the killer (assuming the killer is not a psychopath.).

    Then there is the legal problem. Killing a baby followed by spending 20 years in prison is not a good bargain.
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  70. #69  
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    Skeptic
    are you a politician?
    the question posed was:
    Can we now define at what point life really begins?,
    You seem to want your focus to be on "sentient"

    my take on unique combinations of dna--genetics---as the scientific point when "life really begins"
    leads to seeing abortion as the killing of a lifeform , which is why I added that parents have that right as/re their own offspring
    if the right exists at conception and continues for several days/weeks/months afterwards
    then when does it end?
    how about "partial birth abortions"?
    or days/weeks/months after birth?
    ............
    can there be a consensus------------ignoring the socio-political consequences of that consensus for when life begins?
    I think my life began at conception. When did yours begin?

    hell man we don't even have a good universal definition of the length of a year
    (did you mean, calendar year, sidereal year, tropical year, anomalistic year, draconic year, lunar year??????)
    (one of my personality quirks doesn't like the newyear/christmass missing the solstice)

    back to :
    Can we now define at what point life really begins?,
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    You seem to want your focus to be on "sentient"
    For myself I believe we ought to focus on sentience rather than life OR turn the argument into one about killing of anything that's alive, as opposed to specifically killing a human baby. I'll think you'll find most people are pretty cavalier with non-human life, so it would much easier to confine our discussion to humans only. Then, what makes a human? Surely the answer is sentience, is it not?
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

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    I agree with Joshua.
    I feel no guilt about stepping on an earthworm. Yet a fetus that may one day become human goes through a long period when it has fewer brain cells than an earthworm. It is pretty clear that it does not think, feel, or react in any human way. If we kill a fetus that is less developed than an earthworm, is that killing a human? I think not.
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    my take on unique combinations of dna--genetics---as the scientific point when "life really begins"
    That simply won't work.

    If you're looking at the straightforward combination of cells resulting from fertilisation of an egg, you have to realise that the very great majority of these will not result in a baby. Some of them won't implant at all. Many that do initially implant will be lost around the time of the woman's next, maybe 'late', menstruation. Some of them occasionally turn into tumours after implantation. Even if they're not lost in the first trimester, others may survive until the second trimester when the mother's or the foetus's condition forces a spontaneous abortion or foetal death requiring medical intervention to save the mother.

    And then you have the issues of identical twins/triplets, chimeras, mosaics and 'absorbed' twins forming at various stages making it pretty difficult to come up with a definitive time or stage of pregnancy to mark the Now! moment that tells absolutely everybody that there's absolutely no doubt about the status of the no longer zygote or embryo but a genuinely viable foetus or two (or three, or more).
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Are we able to distance ourselves from the socio-political biases, and come to a purely scientific conclusion?
    I believe so, yes. Perhaps along the lines of Sam Harris' presentation:
    Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions | Video on TED.com
    No, Sam Harris fails in my opinion. His argument basically amounts to argument from incredulity: "Does anybody REALLY believe (some religious practice) is a good thing?" He does not come up with any objective criteria.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    If you're looking at the straightforward combination of cells resulting from fertilisation of an egg, you have to realise that the very great majority of these will not result in a baby. Some of them won't implant at all. Many that do initially implant will be lost around the time of the woman's next, maybe 'late', menstruation. Some of them occasionally turn into tumours after implantation. Even if they're not lost in the first trimester, others may survive until the second trimester when the mother's or the foetus's condition forces a spontaneous abortion or foetal death requiring medical intervention to save the mother.

    And then you have the issues of identical twins/triplets, chimeras, mosaics and 'absorbed' twins forming at various stages making it pretty difficult to come up with a definitive time or stage of pregnancy to mark the Now! moment that tells absolutely everybody that there's absolutely no doubt about the status of the no longer zygote or embryo but a genuinely viable foetus or two (or three, or more).
    cessation of life through failure to implant, spontaneous abortion, or foetal death, all imply pre-existing life
    n'est pas?
    so then, life must then preceed all of the above quoted?
    or
    .....................???
    as/re identical twins
    before their egg can replicate into 2(split, devide), must it not also have the pre-existing condition of life?
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    skeptic
    "guilt"
    kinda drifts this thread toward a peculiarity of the species which abstracts from reality to form super-sets of reality based applications.
    the old phrase "extrapolate from known data" broadens into creating data by it's very existance.

    but as with any tool, the tool is both a benefit and a limiting factor.
    do we blindside ourselves by the patterns of super-sets we choose?,
    are the suber-sets limited by the classificatory schema of the sub-sets

    this thread is , I believe, an example of a classificatory schema warping a potential to voice a shared view
    are there certain things for which we must(by nature) take a seemingly irrational view?
    through "guilt" a shared interest in remaining a society within the greater sociable species--and others of it's like-
    --the collective sub-conscious, and the collective conscious

    ...............
    but then again, i could be wrong.
    Last edited by sculptor; October 2nd, 2012 at 10:12 AM.
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    Sculptor, I always feel like there is something meaty and good in your posts, but--I'm not trying to be rude here--but I never quite understand what you're saying. Might you elaborate on certain points instead of assuming we will understand your reference to larger ideas? For example, I'm not sure what you mean by "super-sets of reality based applications". It sounds like there is a great concept in there, but it requires some explanation, as I don't read that and automatically know what you mean. (And if I get lost at the beginning of the post I have a hard time following the rest of it.) Just one example. If time permits, it would be worthwhile to elaborate your ideas rather then truncate them. I'm all for brevity, but it has its place. ;P
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    Dear JoshuaL. Sculptor was just testing if you were following the Thread and staying on Track.

    Words do not always explain themselves, but
    There are heavy words and light words,
    Bricks in a LightHouse
    That sometimes fail to illuminate. westwind.
    Words words words, were it better I caught your tears, and washed my face in them, and felt their sting. - westwind
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    No, Sam Harris fails in my opinion. His argument basically amounts to argument from incredulity: "Does anybody REALLY believe (some religious practice) is a good thing?" He does not come up with any objective criteria.
    I agree, Harold, and I was a little saddened by that, but I think the idea is sound. We can say, for example, that a blastocyst has no nervous system and hence can feel no pain. That, to me, makes a moral decision possible. Of course this argument dissipates if there such thing as a soul/spirit/etc.
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

    Take two of these and call me in the morning
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  80. #79  
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    (we don't need no thought control----my sculpting mentor once refered to me as "a victim of too much education")

    I'll try to expand/explain:
    supersets
    metadata
    when we learn, we classify and store our knowledge in sets with commonality
    seeing the abstract, we rearrange our sets to fit within an abstracted classificatory schema(which allows extrapolation to seemingly simular structures of interactive subsets).
    when one enteracts with members of a culture, over time, we generate a superset rearranging the knowledge sets into a new classificatory schema
    which biases the knowledge to the prevailing concept of what we perceive as a cultural norm
    from whence are born taboos and religions and the feelings that forbid concepts beyond the pale of the perceived cultural norms(like "guilt")
    ergo
    "blindsided" by our prejudices

    There has been a long ongoing debate within the linguistic community as to whether classificatory schema preceeded and facilitated language
    or whether language preceeded and organized the classificatory schema.

    cultural consensus may also play into the creation of the supersets

    the cultural supersets, then embody a classificatory schema that organizes the sets and subsets of knowledge,

    It has been speculated that we learn our culture on a epigenetic level, and that there is a continuity of assumed norms without needing the current examples nor teachings of the members of the culture.
    Add in the claims that though we may have many different cultures, we may indeed have a comonality in our hard wiring , and, if true then assimilation to a universality of cultural norms should be a cake walk

    but this doesn't seem to be the case
    ...........
    beyond which, i wonder if there is a broader species wide bias or supermeta set whose classificatory schema
    governs the areas of knowledge which we may readily assimilate
    and obfuscates or obscures other areas-assigning greater or lesser appreciations of different aspects of "reality"

    .................
    too obtuse?
    ////////////////
    just another brick in the wall
    wow
    that could be in a song\..........
    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7...k7bo1_1280.jpg
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZbM_MIz4RM
    Last edited by sculptor; October 2nd, 2012 at 09:04 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    beyond which, i wonder if there is a broader species wide bias or supermeta set whose classificatory schema
    governs the areas of knowledge which we may readily assimilate
    and obfuscates or obscures other areas-assigning greater or lesser appreciations of different aspects of "reality"
    Derailing this post by several miles, but yes I have always assumed this to be the case! I really don't know how to discuss it, though. I'm pretty sure that even if I knew how to describe the idea to the layperson, they would reject it outright. We aren't used to thinking that far outside of our own experience. I would love to read more about the idea if you happen to know of any articles, books, etc.
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

    Take two of these and call me in the morning
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  82. #81  
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    Derailing this post by several miles, but yes I have always assumed this to be the case! I really don't know how to discuss it, though. I'm pretty sure that even if I knew how to describe the idea to the layperson, they would reject it outright. We aren't used to thinking that far outside of our own experience. I would love to read more about the idea if you happen to know of any articles, books, etc.
    Hell man, the train was already off the rails, I was just building a spur line.

    Most of what I posted came from my intensive studies into cultural anthropology and psychology many many years ago-----It's like i saw vague outlines of patterns within the classificatory schema that seemed counter productive to the expansion of the knowledge base, but couldn't define them....
    I began to suspect that I had delved too deeply into the subject matter and had developed a highly subjective view of the subject. Time and distance have revealed little more, nor are the view of the patterns, i suspect, yet objective.

    Vague shadows.......drifting o'er the mind...
    A gnawing feeling on the edge of a conceptualization that something doesn't quite fit...
    Last edited by sculptor; October 3rd, 2012 at 09:11 AM.
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    This is precisely why I want to study semiotics. It seems like it would provide a logical almost mathematic framework in which to have these sorts of discussions, maybe even provide the language necessary to sensibly explore and describe the limits of our information processing abilities. Just ordered the print copy of Daniel Chandler's book on the subject (online here). What fun awaits!
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

    Take two of these and call me in the morning
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    It seems like it would provide a logical almost mathematic framework in which to have these sorts of discussions,
    If you're talking about the "when does life begin" issue, then logic and mathematics won't get you very far. The only reason we're interested in this matter at all is when we have ethics and values and politics on the table.

    When the questions are about IVF, or who does/doesn't get it, about medical testing or interventions in pregnancy, about the benefits and costs of treatment of extremely premature live births or about terminating pregnancies, logic (or maths) are only valuable to very few people. And most unlikely to be of any value at all to doctors, hospitals, mothers, families, administrators or politicians who have to make very hard decisions about very difficult problems.

    You might think you can map a clear, logical decision tree for a doctor advising a pregnant woman who, both people know, is in serious danger of permanent injury or death if the pregnancy continues. We all know that different doctors will vary in their advice. We all know that different women will make different decisions about whether they terminate pregnancy and, for those who continue the pregnancy, different women will make different choices about how they deal with the predicted problems as they emerge.

    Clear thinking is always helpful in difficult circumstances. But it's clear thinking about values, ethics, morals for women, families and doctors and, for hospital administrators and politicians controlling budgets, it's also about those issues as well as the monetary and organisational consequences of supporting doctors and families in dealing with the choices made. Not the sort of thing easily amenable to the kind of approach you're suggesting.
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    Heh, no Adelady I definitely was NOT thinking "when does life begin". I was talking about the limits of the human mind that sculptor had mentioned. Like I said, miles off track from the OP. Although there is a tangential field called "biosemiotics" which might attempt to answer the question of when does life begin, what is life, etc.
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

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