Saturday, February 2, 2008

On the conceptus

[Another ongoing debate from Facebook.]

"While a brain dead human on life support certainly has the biological characteristics of life, it does not have the societal characteristics of life that we value and choose to protect." -Brad

Only because the condition of the brain dead patient is one of irreversability. Hence the wording in the UDDA:

an individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.

The lack of brain function in the earliest weeks of a developing new human being is a condition which is quite plainly *not* irreversabile. Therefore, the criteria of the UDDA not being met renders the state of the fetus indisputable. Namely, "not dead".

"to state that a human life exists simply because the genetic coding that will form that human life's traits is present doesn't make sense, as potentiality does not equate to actuality." -Brad

You must have missed these three paragraphs in which she carefully explains the notions of act and potency, and how the conceptus is an active, natural potentiality -- as distinct from a passive, specific potentiality (i.e. my potential to be president of the United States). Here it is again, Brad:

The rich philosophical notions of act and potency carry distinctions adequate for describing the developing life of a human being. The description of the present reality at any developmental stage in the life of an individual human being must convey the fact neither of nothing nor of completed being. The conceptus exists as a present reality -- in act -- with potentialities directed toward a particular perfection -- the goal established by the genotype. The conceptus is a human being in act. Within that being resides the active natural potentiality to become a more fully developed human being. Explication of this complex potentiality requires attendance to the notions of potentiality that are active/passive, natural/specific, and remote/proximate. In active potency, the being goes from not acting to acting and is also the agent of the action. For example, the human being may develop or move, by its intrinsic agency from being not conscious to being conscious. In passive potency, a human being has the capacity to receive a modification but the agency of the modification is an external agent. For example, a potential president may actually become president by the agency of the voters. The president received the office (a passive reception) from an extrinsic agency. The present reality of the conceptus in relation to the adult human being is not that of passive potentiality which requires extrinsic agency for actualization. In the act that is the conceptus there resides the active potentiality to become a more fully developed human being.

There are two distinct factors that make up the notion of active potentiality. One is constitution or nature and the other is tendency. Constitution is the underlying manifold which determines the direction of the tendency. It is that which tendency by its dispositive thrust urges to completion. Tendency is the drive to action. The conceptus is, by its constitution, determined as a human being and is, by tendency, determined to become -- in a fashion prefixed by its constitution -- rather than not. Since the tendency of the conceptus in regard to fuller human development proceeds in a completely determined manner and since it cannot become something other than what the constitution determines it to be and since it cannot of itself not become, it may be said that the potentiality of the fetus for more fully developed human life is an active potency.

Active potentialities are designated either natural or specific. In the accomplishment of an active specific potency, such as the choice of a specific food to satisfy hunger, the agent has a degree of freedom in the actualization of the potency. The agent may specify the manner in which to actualize the potency. Active natural potencies, such as the formation of the cerebral cortex, are accomplished in a completely determined manner. The agent is not free to choose whether or not to actualize the potency. Tendency determines that the potentiality will be actualized. In addition the agent is not free to specify the manner in which to actualize the potency. For the actualization of an active natural potency nothing is needed on the side of the agent beyond its constitution and the tendency to realize the constitution. Factors external to the agent may bring about its destruction and hence inhibit the actualization but the agent itself cannot inhibit the actualization.

"We do not value the active potential of our cells due to their genetic coding; we value our ability to think, to experience, to be aware of our surroundings. Mere human cells with genetic coding can't do this. Mere cells with genetic coding don't contain our societal view of human life." -Brad

One must be truly bent on justifying first trimester abortions (what could be the motivation, I wonder?) to submit that a human embryo is not a human life, and that its intentional destruction does not amount to homicide.

Thirty years ago, such a position might have been forgivable. But today? With the advancement of ultra-sound technology, the science of embryology, and the pictures of early term abortions this is not a topic of discussion up for debate.

There can be no excuse. It is only the usurpation of conscience via an overriding act of the will in the face of such overwhelming evidence which points to a growing human being in the womb and declares: he is not alive!

No comments: