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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Values Clarification

Back in the 1970's, a new concept hit the air: "values clarification". The idea was that we need to figure out exactly what is and isn't valuable. An example was the famous "Lifeboat" scenario played out for school kids. They were told that a ship sank and a lifeboat could only hold so many people, but there were three more than that. Given information about the available people in the boat, they were asked to figure out who would live and who would ... not. It was an exercise in determining the value of human life. A failed exercise.

From a moral perspective, there is (nearly) a universal belief that human beings are intrinsically valuable. They have innate rights. They deserve legal protection. The value of human life is not in question. Enter "values clarification" and we are asked to determine degrees of value for human life. So while just about everyone agrees that humans are valuable, not everyone agrees on how valuable.

This, in fact, is the center of the abortion question. No sane, informed person can deny that human life begins at conception. It is simply the first of many stages of human life. An embryo is just as human as a sexagenarian (someone in their 60's) (not me). Either we agree on that or some are perfectly happy defying all modern science, evidence, facts, biology, medicine, you name it. But, that's where the agreement ends. You see, the pro-abortion side will argue that some human life is not as valuable as other human life. So let's play some "values clarification" to see if we can figure out where and how.

Pro-Life (PL): We value all forms of human life.

Pro-Abortion (PA): We value all forms of human life.

PL: Um, no, you don't. Not the life of the unborn.

PA: Oh, well, no, not those. But ... those aren't human.

PL: Well, scientifically they are. So what is not human?

PA: Ah, yes, you see, prior to birth they are not fully developed.

PL: So, "fully developed" defines "human life" versus "potential" or "not meaningful" life.

PA: Yes!

PL: So the baby born, say, without arms or legs or with underdeveloped lungs is perfectly suited for execution as not as valuable?

PA: Oh, no! That's not it. No, it's viability!

PL: Could you define that, please? I mean, it isn't just the ability to survive outside of the womb because a newborn cannot survive outside the womb without care. And the number, thanks to modern science, keeps changing. It was once around 30 weeks and is now all the way back to 21 weeks. Would you then prevent the abortion of a human being over the age of 21 weeks of gestation?

PA: Well, no, not really. No, let's consider the real issues. Human life is a function of the brain. It requires sentience.

PL: Hmm, okay. So when science indicates that a fetus has measurable brain waves as early as 6 weeks (with the given limitations of modern instruments) and the ability to detect external stimulation at 7 weeks, and actually dream at 17 weeks, you would see all those as reasons to deny killing a human being after, say, 6 weeks, right?

PA: Oh, don't be silly. Those brain waves are not fully developed brain waves.

PL: Okay, so at what point are brain waves classified as fully developed?

PA: Well, it's largely determined through self-consciousness, the ability to self-direct, the ability to interact with one's environment.

PL: Okay, I'm still not getting it. Science tells us that a fetus is self-conscious, capable of recognizing its mother's voice in the womb, capable of responding to stimulation in the womb. I mean, have you seen the picture of the fetus that grabbed the hand of the doctor? During surgery? That is self-directed interaction with one's environment.

PA: Well, perhaps, but it's not really consciousness.

PL: So, given that consciousness is the criteria, is it your position that terminating the life of a coma patient or a person in a vegetative state or an unconscious drug user would be fine since they fail to meet your criterion of consciousness?

PA: No, of course not! Why are you being so obtuse??!!

PL: I'm just trying to figure out what line you're drawing that classifies one human being as valuable and another as not.

PA: Look, this isn't hard. It's about fetal development. Until they have the proper functioning parts and the proper functioning brain and the proper functioning organs, they just aren't ... quite ... human.

PL: I see. So my wife no longer has her gall bladder and my friend no longer has his appendix and my cousin had her leg amputated because of cancer. Missing standard human parts makes them less valuable, right?

PA: Oh, you religious zealots, you'll never see the truth. You're just evaluating it from your right wing position while we're using science and reason.

PL: Yes! Science and reason. So ... when do you start using them?

I'm sorry, folks. I think we're at another failed "values clarification" exercise.


David said...

There you go bring reason and consistency to the table again. Can't you see this isn't about truth, but about wants and perceived needs? Its not about protecting life, its about protecting life style. Leave your reason at the door and lead with your heart.

Mike said...

One argument I like to bring to the table is this:
PL: So if you are carrying a child that you want and six month into your pregnancy, someone does something to you to cause you to lose your, um, fetus, you don't expect them to get a murder charge. Right?

PA: Well, of course I do. They murdered my baby!

PL: so it's murder if you want the baby, but "a woman's right to choose" if you don't? YOU decide if it's human or not and at what stages?

Stan said...


"Lead with your heart." Clever.

Stan said...

Yes, Mike, so very true. It is actually their position that the mother's right to choose determines the personhood of the baby. Oddly, if a woman on the way to an abortion clinic to have the baby killed is shot in the abdomen, survives, but loses the baby, the person doing the shooting can be convicted of murder for doing precisely what she was going to pay the doctor to do at the end of the day.

Equally nonsensical is the fact that there is a federal law that classifies killing a fetus as murder ... with the sole exception of abortion. Recognizing on one hand that it's a human life and, on the other, that killing it is the woman's right. (For reference, the law is The Unborn Victims of Violence Act and was passed as the "Laci and Conner's Law".)

David said...

I tried talking about that very thing, a woman on her way to an abortion, losing the baby to violence before that, and the answer I received was basically that the court gets to decide willy-nilly when to apply personhood to a human.

Stan said...

Yeah, the court gets to decide. But ... they won't. So now North Dakota has declared "No abortions after the heart beats." "That's a violation of Roe v. Wade!" they're shouting. But, wait! If the justices declared "We won't define 'person'" and North Dakota says, "We will -- it's a heartbeat", I don't see how it's a violation. I mean, they left it open.

David said...

Yeah, with all their posturing behind Roe V Wade, it really is a rather weak ruling. "We won't decide, but we won't let the states decide either."