Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I am Doug; Ask Me Anything

Are you familiar with Reddit's Ask Me Anything (AMA) series?
AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything,” which is basically just a trendy internet term used to describe an interview that occurs between one user who hosts it and all the other users who want to ask questions. -
So, let the interview begin! Ask me anything. You can solicit questions from others, if you wish.

I may ask you several questions.

On a scale of 1-100, with 50 being the most middle-of-the-road politically speaking, and the most liberal being 1 and the most conservative being 100, where would you place yourself and why?

I would probably put myself around 75... I am, by far, not the most liberal person I know. I'm not even especially liberal. I believe that the government can help with many problems, but I don't mind too much that social programs often rely on capitalistic systems. For example, I didn't mind too much that Obama constructed "health care for all" on top of commercial health care. I don't mind too much that there are some charter schools. But I do believe that there needs to be health and education for everyone, and if that requires getting rid of the commercial interests in health and education, then I am all for that.

I am ashamed at how little we pay public employees like firefighters, police, soldiers, and K-12 teachers. If it were up to me, I would make these people as well paid as doctors and lawyers. I am ashamed at how poorly we treat our poor and homeless.

I can see we've missed out on some opportunities for some blogs. You're a 75? Many of my co-workers are Democrats, and you are far, far more to the left than any of them.

Well, imagine trying to be a Democrat in Indiana: it isn't easy! In any event, I think it fair to say that you know me better than you know your co-workers, and I would wager that some are at least as progressive as I am, maybe more. They are also polite, and probably wouldn't bring that up at work. But I hardly think that my self-identified progressive rating is worth talking about in the future. We could talk about what progressives value, such as wages for public employees.

I'd like to respond to your comments now, but we have several questions for you from our FB followers.

Well, that's good because in an Ask Me Anything, you are not supposed to "respond." You just ask. Now, the questions from others:

Brian (via Facebook):
What is a reasonable restriction on abortion? 20 weeks? 30 weeks? Full term? Partial birth? Before the cord is cut? Before kindergarten? Surely there's a cutoff somewhere. If there is a cutoff, why?

Lisa (via Facebook):
Yes, what day do you become a human?

Elle (via Facebook):
I like the question of when life begins. It would be interesting to hear from each side; what are your convictions on the subject and what thought processes brought you to those conclusions.

Really? All of the questions from Facebook (so far) have to do with abortion?

That means they would like to have you answer the differing aspects of the question. You see, this issue is very important to a great many folks.

Huh, I didn't get that. You see, it is very important to me too! But I'm a little shocked that three people want to ask this question (and only this question) in three different ways. The different forms of the question show the main issue: is there a point where a developing human should not be terminated? If so, what is that point? I have thought a lot about this question, and come to the same answer that many people (scientists and nonscientists alike) have also come to.

Does something magical happen when the sperm meets the egg? No. It isn't even the beginning, as both the sperm and the egg have made quite a trip so far. And, there is quite a trip to make before becoming a person. Many things can happen along the way.

Is there a magical point along the way that one can proclaim that the developing fetus is human? No. Any point would be completely arbitrary to declare that it is now human. What about when it becomes "viable"? No, as that point continues to get earlier and earlier, thanks to science. And the only way to test is to remove it from the mother's body and see if it survives.

To me, because the fetus is in the woman's body, it belongs to the woman. It is the woman. No government, or other person, can dictate what happens when the growing fetus is in the woman's body. Only the mother can decide.

I have a certain amount of respect for those cultures that consider the newborn infant not fully formed until a specific point (say, first birthday, or thirteenth birthday). But these days, once the baby is born (i.e., removed from the woman), I think that science, and culture, can consider the new baby a person, and make sure it deserves to be treated as an independent soul. (Of course, I use the term "soul" metaphorically.)

But once it is born, then we need to really rise to the occasion and make sure (as a society) that is it fed, educated, taken care of, and moved into society.

So, to answer the questions: the mother can decide to terminate the pregnancy at any point before the fetus is born. "Partial birth" is not a medical (nor scientific) term, and doesn't have any meaning. Why do I consider the birth the "cutoff"? Well, it seems that once the baby is out of the mother, then that is a clear distinction. If the baby isn't viable, then of course we would still leave any decisions in the hands of the mother (and father).

What day do you become human? Well, much, much later. And it is a gradual process. You gain certain rights, and abilities, as you develop. But, for many legal points, as soon as you are born you gain many rights. I'm fine with that distinction.

When does life begin? That is not  very well-defined question. But I would say that it started many billions of years ago. It is a baton that we pass on to our children. And, if we don't destroy ourselves and our planet, it is something that they will pass on to their children.

As Thad Blank mentioned, if you try to define a legal timeline for "becoming human" or "becoming alive" then the government needs to know the date of conception. Do you really want the government that involved with your sex life?

But what about the "life" of the "baby"? Go ahead and try to make that argument to the mother, but it is her decision. Period. Many of the women I know have had abortions. Many have not. But it is not your business (nor mine). We live in a great country that allows many religions and cultures. The right for a woman to have control over her own body is seen by the younger generations as a fundamental right.

So called "pro-life" people want to take away the rights of the mother. I don't find many such "pro-lifers" very believable because their care for the fetus seems to stop when the baby is born. Food for the poor? "Get a job!" they say. Many of them don't want to let Syrian children into our country, but they are happy to bomb Syria, complete with collateral deaths. Why are the "pro-lifers" so concerned about preventing a mother's choice then? I think it is about control. They often complain about "Big Government" but they are all in favor of government when it forces their beliefs on others. If you want to control a mother's choice, then you are in the wrong country.

To clarify some of your answers, I think you should elaborate on your comments. You indicated you are not human when you are born even though you do have some rights. What, then, makes you human, and when do you get to join the species? You also completely glossed over the fundamental question that is being asked: When does life begin? Not when did life in general begin, but when does an individual's life begin. That is the question being posed. Is there an answer you can give?

I'd be glad to elaborate, but I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding my answers. You are trying to put my responses into your framework, and that just might not work.

Becoming human is a continuum. It isn't that one second you are not-human and the next second you are human. It is a process. Humanity isn't a club that you are in or not-in. It isn't a country club that you get to "join." Over time, you gain more functionality, more rights, and become more human. You can see the "humanity" in Koko the sign-language-using gorilla. We share a lot with chimpanzees and gorillas. They are more like us than different.

Life is a similar concept to me. I think it would be silly to try to describe a fetus as "not alive" one second and "alive" the next. Life is a continuum handed down over the millennia. But a fetus gains a new status when it separates from the mother. It isn't that birth makes it now "alive"... but birth now gives it independence. Once it gains independence, then it has taken a big step along the continuum of becoming human.

Thanks, everyone, for your questions! I appreciate them, and (if you made it this far) I appreciate taking the time to read my responses. Next week, we'll Ask David Anything. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be kind and respectful. Thanks!