Before getting to the main subjects of dispute which remain between us, let me quickly summarize the surprising number of points on which Mr. Carrier and I seem to agree.
Even if we stopped today, I think finding the aforementioned areas of common ground would make it worth the time and effort. Even better, we're not stopping today. I am confident that we can reach understanding, though probably not agreement, on the areas where we differ.
A quick clarification
In his first rebuttal, Mr. Carrier makes the following note during the discussion of whether or not science can determine who is a person:
I must tread carefully here, for this is semantically confusing ground. Science can tell us when an individual human being comes into existence, since by "human being" I mean simply "an individual member of the species Homo sapiens" (see my opening statement for definitions). However, science cannot tell us whether or not we are using the correct criteria for determining which particular human beings should be considered "persons" with human rights. That is a philosophical question. Once we have established our criteria, scientific inquiry can tell us whether or not a given organism fits them -- at least, if we have chosen sufficiently objective criteria.
Criteria for personhood
Mr. Carrier argues against personhood before 20 weeks' gestation as follows.
A. The possession of an "individual human personality" is what we especially value as a person.
B. Prior to 20 weeks' gestation, the cerebral cortex has not yet developed to the point that the organism can possess an "individual human personality".
C: The prenate prior to 20 weeks' gestation is not a person.
I take issue with premise (B) because developmental processes long before 20 weeks are vital to the formation of the individual personality. For the moment, however, I will lay aside that objection.
If one accepts premises (A) and (B), this argument appears sound. However, for it to be strictly logically valid, the conclusion would need to be rephrased slightly.
C': The prenate prior to 20 weeks' gestation does not possess what we especially value as a person.
C and C' are only identical if "possesses what we especially value as a person" = "is a person". Mr. Carrier has not adequately defended that equation; nor is it self-evident, as I can propose and defend an alternative.
As I argued in my opening statement, the powers of reason and moral choice are the properties which set humans apart from other animals (as far as we know), and which make human rights possible. Therefore, I propose that reason and moral choice are less arbitrary criteria on which to base personhood, since they stem not from subjective preference, but from the nature of rights themselves.
Of course, the prenate is not yet able to exercise reason or moral choice. This brings us to our next point of disagreement. Mr. Carrier argues that the personality (the trait upon which he bases personhood) must be present and functioning on some level in order for the organism to be considered a person. In other words, it is not enough for the organism to be in the process of developing the personality, or to be the type of being which develops a personality. In fact, he argues that the biological organism is not the person at all -- the personality is.
I contend that the biological organism is the person, for the reasons I have laid out in my opening statement and first rebuttal. I will not repeat those arguments at length here, but in a nutshell:
In summary, my equation would be: "a being in whose nature it is to reason and to make moral choices" = "a person".
Now read Richard Carrier's Third Rebuttal
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