Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Treatise on the Beginning of Life (This one's for you Justin)

Happy Roe v. Wade day! Ok, I know I missed it by a few days (the 31st anniversary of the decision, (which, regardless of your views on the topic, is analytically one of the worst in American history) was on Monday - January 24th)(which, coincidentally, has been determined by a group of learned people (scientists and psychologists and sociologists and such) to be the most depressing day of the year). But I haven't been able to get to my blog recently, and so now that I'm here I'm gonna take the opportunity to wish everyone a happy holiday. Happy Roe v. Wade day!

Of course, I don't really like abortion. I'm soundly pro-life. So why do I say happy? Truth be told, I'm not really sure. But every year, when Roe v. Wade day rolls around, I feel a certain amount of pleasure, a distinct happiness. I guess if I had to push the issue I'd say that the feeling is directly related to a hopeful confidence. I firmly believe that someday pro-life will be the only way people are. That they won't even question the issue.

I know, this seems to be a blind hopefulness, that doesn't look at the world around, that somehow overlooks the deep divisions in the country and the impractical nature of such a vast change. But this hopefulness isn't an issue of practicality, of when and where and how laws will be rewritten. It isn't founded on the idea that we can build bridges between the polarized factions. I'm not even concerned with igneous process, time and pressure slowly changing dissent into support.

My hope, my confidence, is purely philosophical. For anyone who approaches the question with an honest rationalism there is only one conclusion: Life begins at conception.

"When does life begin?" is, of course, the essential question in the abortion debate (The companion question "What is it that constitutes a life?" in many ways serves the same purpose in this debate; in order to reject that life begins at conception it must be shown that a fetus lacks some critical definitional aspect of "life." It is precisely my contention that this cannot be accomplished.). To answer the question, let us examine serious contenders (I should note that Peter Singer (the noted animal rights philosopher) has done a similar analysis, though he uses it for a different ends. I vaguely remember reading it around 7th grade and I couldn't tell you much about the execution, though I remember that I approved of the approach.). There are only three potential answers which might find reasonable support: conception, viability, and birth.

Let us start with birth. The argument that life begins at birth is simple: the fetus has become independent from the mother, and is now a completely separate person. Those who argue this point would claim that there is some individual element in the constitution of life, and that only at birth is that element satisfied. This argument falls short for several reasons. First among them is that using birth seems to impose an arbitrary line. One minute, while inside the mother, the fetus is not a life, the next, while outside the mother, the fetus suddenly meets the definitional requirements of life. In many ways this is tantamount to saying that anyone inside a certain boundary - let's say, oh, Iowa - is not alive, while everyone outside that boundary is alive. There is nothing about the nature of the people inside Iowa that distinguishes them from those outside of the state. Similarly there is nothing about the nature of a fetus inside a womb that distinguishes it from a fetus outside of the womb. The boundary is more natural, but the nature of thing which is being defined is no different. Perhaps it would be objected that while inside a womb a fetus is hooked directly to the mother and so it is only when the umbilical cord is severed that life begins. The problem with this objection is that it fails to recognize that the fetus is capable of independence, even while still connected to the mother. The natural response is that it is not enough for something to be capable of independence - that the definition of life requires that the fetus must at some point actually be independent. This, of course, would mean that any dependence defeats the definition, and thus no one actually becomes a life until they carve, completely unaided, from existence their own sustenance. If this is the case, there are very few of us who are truly alive. More importantly, however, is the way in which this fails as a definitional argument. If we look at a parallel we can see why requiring actual independence is a fruitless requirement. If we consider the definition of "human" we see that certain characteristics are required. Aristotle famously listed "rationality" as a distinctly human trait. Thus, to be a "human" there must be an element of "rationality" present. If we use the logic of the birth argument that something must actually be independent we would require that before something can be a human it must first actually exercise rationality. The capacity for rationality is not enough to make a being human. Thus, until an infant becomes a child who reasons, it is some other species than it's parents, than the rest of humanity. This seems clearly absurd. If independence is to be considered part of the definition of life (which I do not dispute) it must be enough for the fetus to be capable of independence to satisfy the definitional aspect. As this capability is required much earlier, birth cannot be the starting point for a life; life must start at some earlier time.

The weakness of the "birth" argument becomes the appeal of the "viability" argument. Viability is simply the point at which the fetus is capable of independence, that is, it could survive without the mother. This point is generally deemed to be around the end of the first trimester (or is it second? I forget...), and is a focal point of the law as it currently stands (pre-viability, abortion is legal). I am convinced that the popularity of viability as a starting point is largely attributable to the way the law is currently structured. In other words, from the law people draw the idea that viability is the legal starting point of life. However, what the Court has actually said is "we don't know if it is a life before viability, but after viability we are more confident that the fetus is a life." In essence the court hasn't given a legal starting point for life, but has only drawn a line after which it considers a fetus to be a life. This is exactly like drawing a line for "adult" at 18 - people may reach adult maturity before that, but legally we're not going to investigate, we're just going to draw the line and call it a day. This is exactly what the court has done at viability, and nothing in the legal reasoning precludes the idea that life begins at conception.

But I regress... Viability is the strongest counter-point to saying that life begins at conception. Viability builds on the idea that "life" must contain an element of independence. At viability a fetus is capable of surviving without the mother and is therefore deemed to be capable of "independence." But what does "independence" mean? It certainly does not mean that the fetus can survive completely on it's own, for again this would force the definition of life to a point at which an individual is capable of sustaining itself free from the assistance of others, and we would be left with the same problems discussed above (notice that if this is what is meant by independence the only difference between birth and viability is that the birth definition requires the individual actually survive on their own, while the viability definition requires only that the individual be capable of surviving on their own).

So we need another definition of "independence" in order for viability to have any real meaning. (Notice that we are sticking to the question of independence because our focus is on the beginning - that is, something starts being a life the moment it possesses all of the qualities of life independent or separate from something else which possesses those qualities (i.e. the mother)). What could independence possibly mean then? We have already eliminated complete self-sustenance, so the answer must be "capable of surviving outside of the womb." To say that life begins at viability means that life begins when the fetus is capable of living outside of the mother.

This seems to be a logical place to find independence - the fetus can survive without the mother, and so is clearly an independent being. Notice, like with the legal definition, that the conclusion that a fetus is a life at viability does not preclude it's being life before that. All that we have proved with this definition is that a fetus is certainly a life at viability. The question we must ask is whether there is anything which identifies the point at which a fetus is "viable." What distinguishes a viable fetus from a non-viable fetus? The answer, of course, is the definition of viable - able to survive outside of the womb. But what does this mean? It means we need to look to the empirical evidence, to ask what point an infant can survive outside of the womb.

I must confess, the question is a bit of a tease, because the answer is not important to our discussion here. What is important about the question is the fact that the answer is impermanent. It has changed as technology has progressed. Babies have survived at unbelievably premature birth ages and weights. As early as 1977 there was success with in vitro fertilization - a developing fetus lived for a time (days I believe, though possibly only hours) outside of the womb before it was even placed inside of it. Potentially there will be complete in vitro children someday, fetuses that survive outside of the womb in their entirety. If technology ever reaches that point the concept of viability will lose all meaning; all fetuses will be capable of surviving outside of the womb as early as conception. Once technology progresses far enough there will be no meaningful distinction between viability and conception.

Technological progress, of course, is uncertain, and though this development seems like only an eventuality, I am not satisfied to rest my argument on uncertain grounds. There is a much clearer reason why viability cannot be the starting point of life: viability is not universal.

It is the nature of definitions that they are universal. What is defined as a square in the US is defined as a square in England, is defined as a square in Somalia (setting aside translation issues). 4 sides of equal length, 4 right angles, 2-dimensional, etc. If the definition were different in Somalia - there were only 3 sides, still 2-dimensional and a total angle value of 180 degrees (a triangle obviously) - we would think something were amiss. It doesn't make sense to accept that a square can be one thing in the US and something different in Somalia. Even if there are some similarities between the two definitions we cannot accept that they are the same thing. Definitions must be universal.

This is precisely why viability falters when held as the starting point for life. If we include independence in the definition of a life (a fetus is a life when it has properties x, y, z, and independence), and in turn define independence by reference to viability, (a fetus is a life when it has properties x, y, z, and is capable of surviving outside the womb) then, because whether something can survive outside the womb is an empirical question, it follows that we are defining "life" by reference to an empirical condition. And here's the rub for viability as a definition: empirical conditions differ - from time to time and from place to place. The point of viability is different between the US and a third world country. When a fetus is capable of surviving outside of the womb is different now than it was in 1900. Because these empirical references are being used in a definition of life, we are left with a definitional impossibility.

To say that life begins at viability is to say that life is defined as having the property of being able to survive outside the womb. The property of being able to survive outside the womb differs from place to place and time to time. In the US our current definition may say that life exists at 24 weeks. In 1900 it may have been 30. In Somalia it might be 37 (Just for reference, 37 weeks and before are considered premature).

Parallel to the definition of a square, this kind of variation is unacceptable. "Life" cannot be different between times and places. A baby at 27 weeks in the US possess life but the same infant in Somalia does not? This is clearly absurd, for it pushes all meaning out of the concept of "life," which, by it's nature, must be something without reference to empirical properties. To say that life begins at viability is to commit a logical fallacy, a definitional error. Life must begin at some other point. And, recalling that we have already established that a fetus must be alive at viability, we know that life must begin prior to viability. The only option, of course, is conception.

Given that we started with three options, and eliminated two, we could, as Sherlock Holmes would surely do, conclude that conception is our answer. However, I think more can be said to strengthen the case for conception, and so we will consider it in more depth. To say that life begins at conception is to say that the moment an egg is fertilized a new being, with all the features of a life, has come into existence. Any challenge to this claim must be based on the claim that a newly-fertilized egg does not possess all the qualities of a life. But what qualities could it possibly lack? It can grow, develop, it has a unique genetic structure, etc. (I would further contend that at conception the fetus possesses a soul, but that view is merely supplementary to this argument, and so will be set aside). The only quality of "life" which it seems a newly-fertilized egg might not possess is the same property which our earlier discussion focused on: independence.

How can it be that a newly-fertilized egg is independent? It cannot survive outside of the womb, it is physically attached and dependent on the mother, it has no distinguishable form. These would seem to be hallmarks of independence, but our fetus has none of them. There is no physical reason to conceive of this cell-clump as alive. And in fact, I'm willing to grant that there is no physical reason to presume a life in a newly-fertilized egg (although I will grant it, I am unwilling to say that it is true - I have not investigated this question of physical evidence of life, and have no basis for developing an opinion).

The reason I am willing to grant that there is no physical evidence of life is because there is evidence on a different plane of existence. There is metaphysical evidence that life begins at conception. For anyone with a philosophical background this idea is relatively simple: there is independence of being in the new fetus and this clearly satisfies the requirements laid out in the definition of "life."

For those with no philosophical background I will try to explain a little more clearly. Everything which exists has it's own independent being. A person, a building, a pencil. Even perfectly identical things - two completely identical pencils - are different things. If there are two identical pencils on a desk and you are asked how many things are in the room you will answer three - the desk and two pencils. Each of these has its own "thingness." That "thingness" is, long story short, the object's being. Each of them is a separate being from the other things, and that being stays with the object. Even if we switch the pencils' position so that they sit in exactly the place that the other pencil just sat in they possess the same being that they did before. Each pencil is still the same pencil that it had been previously. Now say we were to grind up the two pencils and make one super pencil. Say that we did so in such a way that each of the previous pencils was completely destroyed and someone walking into the room would now say that only two things were in the room. The being of those pencils, their independent existence, has been destroyed, and they no longer exist. What does exist, however, is a new thing. A giant pencil which has it's own being. This new thing is more than the total of the "thingness" of those previous two pencils. The giant pencil has an independent thingness, it's being is separate from the being of those previous two pencils. (To prove this point simply conceive of the pencils being ground up and turned into a pile of sawdust instead of formed into another pencil - the pile of sawdust is a different thing than the giant pencil, therefore there must be something in the giant pencil's being which is independent).

The same idea applies when an egg and a sperm conjoin. A new thing comes into being, something that is more than the total of the egg and sperm. This fertilized egg has it's own being, and therefore is independent. And, to keep it simple, that's all we need to identify it as a life. It has all the other properties (distinguishing it from a giant pencil, which cannot, say, grow, as a "life" can), and now we find that it truly has independence of being. Philosophically, life begins at conception.

Perhaps this is not enough for some. Surely, even after reading these arguments there are people who will maintain that life does not begin at conception. Perhaps they will point to some other reason which I haven't addressed, perhaps they'll take issue with a particular argument. Perhaps they can point to an element of "life" which a newly-fertilized egg doesn't appear to possess. If that is the case, we will have to begin our investigation anew. But I cannot conceive of such an element, and independence certainly isn't the property which is lacking (if indeed one is). To be sure though, I do not expect this treatise to satisfy everyone now. But to be sure, someday people will come to this table, and they'll take on this analysis, and they'll come to the only possible conclusion.

And so I conclude with a smile and a hopeful confidence. My recommendation is a strange one for someone who has just undertaken the treatise you have read: I recommend that we relax. That we take joy knowing the soundness of the philosophy. This is not say that we otherwise abandon the cause, but rather that as we go about it we take the time to say happy Roe v. Wade day, full in the confidence that someday when people ask the question they will answer with the one true conclusion: life begins at conception.

16 comments:

Alan said...

its funny how every other blog i read that started with "Happy Roe v. Wade day!" went in another direction.

Kendrick Novak said...

It's funny because a lot of times life in a biologist world can constitute one cell. So as soon as the egg and sperm meet and fertilization begins you could say there is life. Also some would also say a virus is alive. Now a virus is like you argument of birth, excpet in the opposite direction. Without a host it is dead and cannot live and I believe it is not considered alive. However, with a host it is alive and growing and doing almost everything normal cells would do. Just somethign to think about.

Lady said...

didn't read it all. liked what i read.
i'm a big believer in if we support girls more after they have their baby it will be more appealing to have it. Right now they make it seem like a good choice to rip a baby from you. "they" are good at that aren't they? making bad things appeal to you. oh well.

Hyper-gurl said...

Oh. My. gosh. You have WAY too much time on your hands if you can post a blog that long! i read1 sentence then scrolled to c how long it was...and had to stop! maybe one day when i'm really bored..i'll read it!

CAL said...

Now THAT'S a blog. Welcome back.

JAAndersland said...

While I am all for Pro-Life. I don't exactly agree with your argument. Like kendrick said is a virus alive? Or even a transposon? They have similar qualities as stated, but everyone in the scientific field would say that a transposon is not alive. Just something to think about. Also, maybe it's that I don't get the whole "thingness" arguement but, from what I understand I don't agree with it. Why? Because it presumes the assumption of one and only one perspective/field of view. Einstien a great scientist came up with the theory of relativity. Which in short says things depepend on your perspective of where you are at. So here is my point.

Your argument of the pencil is one of looking at objects from one perspective, that of the visible spectrum. Now what if you look at it in a different perspective, say at a molecular level. You say that the penicil and one ground up to sawdust are two different things, BUT if you look at a molecular level no change has occured and they are the same thing. Just something to think about. It may be that I'm not really getting the "thingness" arguement and need further clarification.

In any case I'M NOT trying to sway or even support abortion. I'm just anal and have a habit of pointing out flaws in an arguement when I think I see one. I know I should get my self committed :) Otherwise, good post.

josh

Matthew B. Novak said...

I think you are missing the point of thingness - it transcends any particular view point. "Thingness" has nothing to do with visible perception or molecular constitution or any of that. Each of the objects has their own BEING. Even if they have the same molecular make-up you wouldn't say that they were the same THING. You might say that they are the same in one regard, but you would never say that a pile of sawdust and a set of pencils are the same thing.

I understand that the whole question of metaphysics is difficult. On the physical level we ask questions like "what is that thing made of?" or "what shape is that thing?" On the metaphyscial level we ask questions like "what is a 'thing'" or "why is there being at all, instead of nothingness."

So the whole point I'm getting at is that, no matter what the physical attributes are, each thing is, on a metaphysical level, seperate from every other thing. Everything that exists is it's own thing. Thus, metaphysically, when conception occurs something new comes into being. A new Thing exists.

Does this help? If not, I'd recommend starting with Aristotle's metaphysics, and I'd be happy to sit down and discuss all of this.

JAAndersland said...

Ok so I think I understand what you are saying. An object is in itself a "thing" and that transcends any viewpiont. (or once again I'm just lost on it).

However, maybe it's a bad example but I keep coming back to your pencil analogy. How you can have 2 pencils each having its own "thingness", but when you grind them up to make a new pencil they now are no longer their own "thingness" and rather a new "thingness". So my question is then, how does grinding them up and making a new pencil out of them make the new pencil a new "thingness". Take for instance that same pencil. If I break it in half does it now have a new "thingness"? Or how about if I stick tape on it does it now have a new "thingness"? I guess to truly understand the concept of thingness I have to understand the definition of what "thingness" entails. Or maybe I need to understand what you mean by destroying something and then making something new to understand "thingness".
Because as it sits right now here is what I am thinking. The "thingness" deal seems well odd (I know you're gonna laugh, who am I to question one of the greatest philosophers... but like I said maybe it is a lack of understanding on my part).
So let me try and work you thru my thinking, and maybe you can point out the flaws in my ponderings.
Situation: There are 2 pencils, identical in every way.
Assumption 1: Each pencil has its own "thingness".
Assumption 2: By "destroying" (definition of destroying:
1. To ruin completely; spoil: The ancient manuscripts were destroyed by fire. 2. To tear down or break up; demolish (definitions found online at dictionary.com)) the pencils and making a new big pencil you have a new "thingness".
Ok so under this situation and assumptions I have to dissagree with the philosophy of "thingness", and hence my perspective/point of view arguement. At the visible level yes there is a change and back in Aristotle's time I probably would have agreed with this. However, in 2005 I have to disagree. Why? First of all you have one perspective on it, the visible level. One other perspective is the atomic level. At the atomic level the atoms have not changed at all. In fact they are all composed of the same things carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, etc. By grinding up the pencils and making a new one you have not changed the atoms at all... One could take a further look and say that well all atoms are composed of protons, electrons and neutrons. Or even further, looking at the composition of protons/electrons/neutrons are proposed to be made up of quarks, which are consequently unaltered in the scenario. I could keep going but I think I made my point on the matter. As it sits I need a better explanation/definition of what constitutes "thingness". My arguement is very much like your arguement for viability and abortion where one country the fetus is viable in the US at 24 weaks but in 3rd world countries it's much later, both are arbitrary lines that are silly. If it is true for one place it should be true for another, likewise perspective if it is true for one perspective (visible spectrum) it should be true for another (molecular level). Basically the fault lies in assumption 2. At a visible level yes these pencils are destroyed. But at a molecular level there is no change. (even the definition of destroying something is flawed in this matter, while obviously when you burn something it is no longer the same but the atoms are still the same. In fact the only thing burning does is rearange bonds, while the electrons/protons/neutrons are unaltered.) One could say that this big pencil is a combination of "thingnesses" and is therefor a new "thingness". But then this really leads to a mess. If all it takes is to exchange or combine atoms to make new "thingess" then we ourselves are constantly becoming new "thingnesses". One could say that it is a matter of numbers. However, numbers in and of themselves are arbitrary. Like age, how does turning 18 or 21 magically make you an adult or competent to drink? Ok I'll stop rambling and hope I didn't lose you that bad. I'm interested in your responce, so if I did lose you please let me know and I'll try to clarify anything without rambling. Because I'm sure I've forgotten something. :)

josh

JAAndersland said...

Ok so I think I understand what you are saying. An object is in itself a "thing" and that transcends any viewpiont. (or once again I'm just lost on it).

However, maybe it's a bad example but I keep coming back to your pencil analogy. How you can have 2 pencils each having its own "thingness", but when you grind them up to make a new pencil they now are no longer their own "thingness" and rather a new "thingness". So my question is then, how does grinding them up and making a new pencil out of them make the new pencil a new "thingness". Take for instance that same pencil. If I break it in half does it now have a new "thingness"? Or how about if I stick tape on it does it now have a new "thingness"? I guess to truly understand the concept of thingness I have to understand the definition of what "thingness" entails. Or maybe I need to understand what you mean by destroying something and then making something new to understand "thingness".
Because as it sits right now here is what I am thinking. The "thingness" deal seems well odd (I know you're gonna laugh, who am I to question one of the greatest philosophers... but like I said maybe it is a lack of understanding on my part).
So let me try and work you thru my thinking, and maybe you can point out the flaws in my ponderings.
Situation: There are 2 pencils, identical in every way.
Assumption 1: Each pencil has its own "thingness".
Assumption 2: By "destroying" (definition of destroying:
1. To ruin completely; spoil: The ancient manuscripts were destroyed by fire. 2. To tear down or break up; demolish (definitions found online at dictionary.com)) the pencils and making a new big pencil you have a new "thingness".
Ok so under this situation and assumptions I have to dissagree with the philosophy of "thingness", and hence my perspective/point of view arguement. At the visible level yes there is a change and back in Aristotle's time I probably would have agreed with this. However, in 2005 I have to disagree. Why? First of all you have one perspective on it, the visible level. One other perspective is the atomic level. At the atomic level the atoms have not changed at all. In fact they are all composed of the same things carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, etc. By grinding up the pencils and making a new one you have not changed the atoms at all... One could take a further look and say that well all atoms are composed of protons, electrons and neutrons. Or even further, looking at the composition of protons/electrons/neutrons are proposed to be made up of quarks, which are consequently unaltered in the scenario. I could keep going but I think I made my point on the matter. As it sits I need a better explanation/definition of what constitutes "thingness". My arguement is very much like your arguement for viability and abortion where one country the fetus is viable in the US at 24 weaks but in 3rd world countries it's much later, both are arbitrary lines that are silly. If it is true for one place it should be true for another, likewise perspective if it is true for one perspective (visible spectrum) it should be true for another (molecular level). Basically the fault lies in assumption 2. At a visible level yes these pencils are destroyed. But at a molecular level there is no change. (even the definition of destroying something is flawed in this matter, while obviously when you burn something it is no longer the same but the atoms are still the same. In fact the only thing burning does is rearange bonds, while the electrons/protons/neutrons are unaltered.) One could say that this big pencil is a combination of "thingnesses" and is therefor a new "thingness". But then this really leads to a mess. If all it takes is to exchange or combine atoms to make new "thingess" then we ourselves are constantly becoming new "thingnesses". One could say that it is a matter of numbers. However, numbers in and of themselves are arbitrary. Like age, how does turning 18 or 21 magically make you an adult or competent to drink? Ok I'll stop rambling and hope I didn't lose you that bad. I'm interested in your responce, so if I did lose you please let me know and I'll try to clarify anything without rambling. Because I'm sure I've forgotten something. :)

josh

Matthew B. Novak said...

Ok, your first statment was dead on the money. I thought you had it. And then you digressed. I think it is because your example is missing the point. The "thingness" of any object is more than it's composition. If we grind up the pencil, even though the molecules continue to exist, the pencil does not (and notice that each molecule is a "thing" on it's own). Even though there is no molecular change, the pencil is no longer a "thing"; the pencil has lost it's existence. The fact that this can happen is precisely the point - there must be something about the pencil as a "thing" that it existed at one point but no longer does, even though there has been no molecular change. An object is in itself a "thing" and that transcends all of it's attributes, on every level and from every viewpoint.

If this doesn't clear it up, call me.

Anonymous said...

As I'm not a philosopher, I can't really make claims about the correctness of the "thing" argument, but I guess my question would be: how is this relevant to the question of life? After all, if everything in the universe has being - is a "thing" - how does this have any effect on the question of whether or not life begins a conception, when a new "thing" is created? Since a pencil can become a new thing and the sperm and the egg can combine to form a new thing, how are they any different? What makes the combine egg and sperm "thing" more special than the giant pencil? The creation of a new "thing" does not constitute life in the pencil, so why should we believe that it does so with the egg and sperm? My point is, there still has to be something besides "being" that constitutes life.

Since you're a philosopher, I'm surprised that you didn't mention the "thought" argument - cogito ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am"). And I'm not just talking about brain waves, but actual human thought. Since the newly formed zygote cannot possibly think (it hasn't yet formed any brain tissue), how can it be alive? Isn't rational thought supposed to be what distinguishes us from the animals? And if not, why don't we call the killing of animals (or plants, for that matter) murder? Perhaps the "thought" argument is out of date with modern philosophers, but I'm just putting that out there as one alternate possibility of gauging life. There has to be something beyond mere biology that constitutes life.

On a related note, the idea of "conception" is not so easily pinned down as you seem to assume. When do we say that conception occurs? When the sperm first comes into contact with the egg? When it first penetrates the egg? When it first mingles the DNA or when the cell begins to split (since I'm not a biology major, I forget the term - mytosis or something)? All of these things take time and they aren't instantaneous. This may seem to be really picky, but it's something that should be acknowledged, since life progresses in stages.

Now, I don't want people to mistake me for being pro-abortion - I'm not. I think abortion is a terrible thing. However, I also don't think that making laws against it will solve anything. Abortion has existed pretty much since the dawn of time, and it will continue to exist even if it is made illegal. The real concern is, what will happen to the women who can't deal with being pregnant? Would it be better for her to kill herself in desperation, losing two lives? Or to try to abort herself and end up bleeding to death on the bathroom floor? These are all too real situations, and no one who claims to favor life should deny the fact that this situation is worse - there is, frankly speaking, more loss of life. What we really need to do is focus on preventative measures. Contraception, sex education (including, but not limited to, abstinence), and so forth. But, just as importantly, we need to show pregnant women that they matter and that they're not alone. Making pre-natal care available to all is a good start. So's correcting the welfare and medicaid systems so that women can actually benefit from them when they need it. There are a lot more factors that need to be addressed, because making abortion illegal will only cause more harm and death.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Great post anonymous. I'll try to go down the line and address it all.

First, you don't need to be a philosopher to grasp the thingness idea. And you're right, it isn't having an independence of being alone that makes a fetus alive - a pencil sure isn't alive. What you missed is that there are other things which identify a fetus as alive. It grows, it has unique genetic material, if given the chance to develop it will do so in a specific way, it has the potential for thought, it moves, it reacts, etc. These things are not in dispute - the only disputed claim was whether a fetus is independent (since that is one of the required features for establishing a life). Thus, I directed my inquiry to whether the fetus was independent, and, metaphysically, it is. So, it meets all the other requirements of being alive and it is independent, thus it is a life. So your comment was dead on, I just think that the additional requirements are clear enough that they need not be given seperate proofs (or at least, they didn't in the particular discussion that was going on).

Secondly, you bring up the idea of thought as the starting point for life. I didn't address this, and maybe I should have, though I think it falls into several problems. First, what constitutes human thought? Is a human vegetable not alive? What about a person in a coma? What about a mentally handicapped person? An insane person who is not capable of rational thought? A child? How about an ape who understands rational thought and can communicate? Do you see the problem? Defining whether something is a human by the type of thought they are capable of is a quality-based standard, and implies that people are more or less human as they are more or less capable of thought.

Second, using thought as a gauge requires that thought actually be executed - something isn't a life until it actually has a human thought, it isn't enough for the possibility to exist in the future. At what point does a being actually have a human thought? Does human though require rationality? Does human thought require self-awareness? Do babies really have human thought? Toddlers? We have to resolve these questions in order to know what human thought is. And then we have to realize that equally developed persons will not execute this human thought at the same time. Thus, even though they are equally developed, some will be alive and some will not. I don't think that's acceptable.

Third, I'd have to say conception is the point at which a new strand of DNA, completely unique, has been created. Good point, that it needs to be pinned down more clearly.

Finally, I agree, just making abortion illegal isn't good. Or rather, I would argue, isn't good enough. I planned on addressing this in a future post, but let me just say that if you are pro-life I think you need to fight the complete battle, for prenatal treatment, and against poverty, and pregnancy prevention for unwed couples, and acceptance of unwed mothers, and access to adoption, etc. That being said, I do think that it is also a noble goal, in itself, to fight against abortion - 1.31 million innocent children killed every year is simply not acceptable.

Thanks for the good comments. Hopefully you read this response. If you do, just please post a quick note saying you did (or feel free to respond in greater depth too).

Anonymous said...

It's me again. I'm glad that you can appreciate my arguments. :) It's nice to be able to have a calm, rational discussion about abortion. I just have a few counterpoints, for further discussion.

I think I failed to articulate my point about the other things which identify a fetus as being alive - namely, the growth, unique genetic material, specific development, potential for thought, movement, and reaction. I guess my point is that most of those aspects of life - save only the potential for thought - are the same in all living animals, regardless of species. As most of us don't scruple to take an animal life, we must find something that makes the human fetus different - something that really marks it out as a 'human' life, and not just life. (Does that make any sense?) That was mainly my point about thought as an index of life.

Now, I know that there are a lot of problems with this idea, and we can get into some really circumstantial and situational elements, which make it very difficult to pin down what life is, or (as some would put it) what makes life 'meaningful.' After all, we allow doctors to take people off of life support, and they aren't necessarily always brain dead. Is this sanctioned murder? At what point does thought cease to be an important index of life? These are very difficult questions, and ones that we need to find the answers to, not just for the abortion debate, but for other medical situations as well.

And on the bright side, doctors and researchers are actually looking into the possibilities for thought in the fetus. I don't know a whole lot about it, just that they're making some progress. (For example, they now know that the brain doesn't develop pain sensory functions until the 15th week of pregnancy (at the very earliest). As most abortions happen before this point, it makes the point about the fetus feeling pain mostly irrelevant, since it physically cannot do so at this point. But I digress.) In any case, I think that a lot more research will have to be done on the possibilities for thought before any kind of decisive conclusion can be reached.

As for the question of independence, this poses its own problems (which I forgot to address in my last post). I do think it's fair to pose independence as a point of reference in the life debate. However, I don't believe that simply existing as a separate entity makes one independent, at least, not in the way that's important for the abortion debate. For me, the real issue is whether or not the child can live without the mother (in other words, the point of viability). If it can, than certainly the fetus has 'life' and it becomes a question of relative rights (a sticky situation in itself). But before that, we get into some really hazy and potentially dangerous situations (at least, dangerous if you're a woman and value your basic right to bodily integrity). Here I will pose a situation from real life. A woman who had cancer had gone into remission and, thinking it was gone, ended up getting pregnant. She wanted to keep the child and intended to do so. However, she soon found out that the cancer had come back. She chose not to go through chemo, since that would have caused a miscarriage. Her doctors were concerned that the child might not get enough oxygen and that it would die if they didn't perform an emergency c-section. Now, if they did this, the woman would certainly die. Knowing this, the woman made an agreement with her doctors - if the crisis came (the child wasn't getting the oxygen it needed) and the child was at the point of viability, they should operate and save the child, killing her. If the child wasn't at the point of viability (at this point, about 22-24 weeks), they shouldn't operate and just hope for the best. Her doctors agreed, but hospital administrators (for various reasons) decided to interfere. They got a court order to perform the emergency c-section, even though it was before viability, the mother had refused consent, and her own doctors had said it would only result in the death of both and refused to do the operation. The court order overruled the mother's objection, the hospital did the c-section, and both mother and baby died. Now, what does this have to do with the question of independence? It's simple - because the administrators saw the child as independent and therefore equal to the mother, even though it was not at the point of viability, they priviliged the life of the child over the mother. This woman lost her ability to choose what happened to her own body - lost her bodily integrity - because the fetus was seen as an independent person.

The question of bodily integrity is an important one in our society, and one of our most fundamental and protected human rights. And the case of the woman who died demonstrates the essential flaw (some might even say misogyny) in our society. What makes the fetus more important than the mother? And why can the courts overrule a woman's bodily integrity to save a fetus and not in other cases when the child is already born? Our laws uphold bodily integrity in all other cases, even at the cost of a child's life. Say, for example, that a child is dying and needs an organ transplant (say, a kidney) and the only person who is a match is one of the parents. The court cannot order that the parent donate the organ, even if the child will die without it. Why? Because the parent has a right to bodily integrity that the state refuses to interfere with. So why is it different for pregnant women? Why can their bodily integrity be overruled for the sake of an arguably independent being? I seem to have wandered off the main point, but I guess my point is that, even if we do establish independence as an index of life, we have to be very careful what we define independence as.

As far as the legality of abortion goes, I agree with you to some extent. We do need to fight the whole battle, and I think that's one place where the pro-life movement is sadly lacking. Too much emphasis is placed on making abortion illegal and not enough is done to address the causes of abortion. If we deal with the issues you mentioned (pre-natal care, poverty, etc), I think that would go a long way toward preventing abortion. And if we don't need abortion, there wouldn't be any point in having a law against it.

But I would also add that there are social factors that have to be addressed as well, certain inequalities that cause women to feel as though abortion is the only option. One of the most important is job security. Women aren't necessarily guaranteed job security if they take maternity leave. This would cause big problems for a lot of women, but especially for single mothers. Another is the the shame factor that accompanies pregnancy outside of marriage. We have to stop viewing pregnancy as a punishment for illicit sex, or women will not stop feeling ashamed and having abortions to hide their 'sin' (and yes, I know this is irrational, but it happens). But perhaps the biggest problem (at least, in my book) is rape. As long as rape remains at epidemic levels in this country (1 in 4 women will be raped at some point in their lives), I don't think it's right to refuse a woman the right to terminate a pregnancy. This is a really touchy and emotional issue, and people are really divided about this, but we come down to the issue of relative rights and the question of what constitutes 'life' again. Is it right to psychologically scar a woman by forcing her to carry and give birth to the product of a rape? Should she be forced to live with a daily reminder of the brutality she endured? I know it's not the child's fault, but that doesn't stop it from hurting the mother. This brings us ultimately back to the question of which we value more, child or mother.

I guess my overall point is that, if we rule out the social, economic, and physical factors that lead to abortion, we wouldn't have to worry about it any more, legal or no. And leaving it legal but unnecessary is, I think, the best way to go. That way, women who are raped, or who psychologically cannot deal with pregnancy, or who will die if they give birth will have a way out. Granted, some innocent children will die for the sake of the mother. But, on the other hand, how many women today (and throughout history) have died for the sake of the child? How many women die in childbirth? I don't know the exact numbers, but mother mortality hasn't dropped to 0. (It's actually risen in recent years, but I can't remember to what percentage.) Are these women any less innocent, any less valuable, than the children who would die for the sake of the mother? We tend to forget about these women, but they're lives too. Pro-life should mean being in favor of all life, not just the child's life. At least, that's my take on the matter, and I know there are others who would not agree with me.

But, in any case, this post has gotten far, far longer than I intended and you probably stopped reading a long time ago. Plus, I should really be in bed, or at least doing homework. I hope I didn't bore you and that you made it all the way to the end. I look forward to reading your response, if you feel like posting again.

Matthew B. Novak said...

All right, you left me with a lot to respond to. And before I say anything else, I want to address what you wrote in a more general fashion, because I think it will help show where we ideologically differ.

It seems to me you are getting caught up in complications of the main issue, and that each of your individual arguments does not address specifically the central thesis of the pro-life position. That central thesis, of course, is that Life takes precedence over all other values, and that Life begins at conception, therefore abortion, which denegrates the value of Life below some other value, is wrong. Plain and simple. And ultimately any response to the pro-life position has to come on a level which addresses this syllogism. Any "complication" is simply an external argument, which happens outside of the core thesis. For example, when you posit a question about when the mother's life is in danger, the pro-life response would be "that's not a typical question of abortion because the situation contains a life versus a life, not a life versus quality of life (or some other such factor)." Thus, most (but certainly not all) pro-life individuals will tell you that in a case where abortion is the only way to save a mother's life, it IS permissible. Does this make sense to you? This is why your proposition that Life begins at human thought was a great suggestion - because it went directly to the central thesis.

Moving on to specifics, I would say that there is something which clearly identifies a fetus as a "human" life. The fact that genetically it IS a human. The fact that if allowed to develop it will become a human. The fact that it has the potential for rational thought, and emotional development, and all those other things which are uniquely human. Let's not overlook the obvious. Also, I would further posit that there is a soul, which, if you accept this belief, is an overwhelmingly strong indicator of life.

Next, I think the fact that we can ask such fundamental questions, such as "when does thought cease to be a meaningful index of life" further cements the inappropriateness of 'thought' as a measure of what is and is not a life.

Moving on, you re-pose viability as an option for when life begins. See the original discussion for why viability fails. Yes, a fetus IS alive at viability, but also surely must be alive before that point. Your real-life example is a horrible case of administration taking a position without thinking deeply about their choices. For most people who accept that a fetus is alive at conception (which surely these administrators did) the course chosen would still not be acceptable. It is hardly an argument against life begining at conception that some are blind to the correct implications of the fact.

Also, you are right, the question of bodily integrity is important. No person who truly knows what they are talking about in the abortion debate likes the idea that we have to regulate a woman's body. However, given that life trumps all other values, it is absolutely essential to do so. It is simply the lesser of two evils. Pro-life people are not anti-choice (as some would have you believe), they simply value Life above choice. (And really, anyone who is opposed to murder or such feels the same way - we regulate an individual's "choice" to murder another individual)(the difference, of course being that bodily integrity is not so immediately implicated in the instance of making murder illegal (though to be sure, it IS implicated, just not as strongly)).

You say, in conclusion, that we have to be "very careful of what independence is." I don't think this is quite accurate. I think what we need to be careful about is what is implicated by the fact that a fetus independent. For example, we need to know that the fetus' life does not trump the life of the mother, but that it does trump the mother chosing to abort the child because she simply doesn't want it.

Next, you want to discuss the social factors which make women feel as if abortion is their only option. I think these need to be addressed as well, though I think it is essential to note that the vast, vast majority of abortions are had by white, middle-class women in fairly committed relationships. Those for whom abortion would more rationally seem to be the only choice (the poor for example) do not have abortions on the same level. I take this to be an indicator of some questionable decision making on the part of those who have abortions - it seems normally abortions are not a product of necessity, but rather a function of some other personal desire (i.e. the desire not to tell parents that you are pregnant, or other such concerns).

Next, I think your rape argument can be addressed quite succinctly. A life is a life is a life. No matter how the life came into being (rape, incest, ineffective contraception, etc.) it takes precedence over any other value. I would suggest that we provide further support and assistance to rape victims, and that we do our best to eliminate the instances of rape. That being said, I wish to pose a series of questions to you:
Is there ever a time when a person's quality of life is so low that it justifies ending that life? (do you ever think suicide is justified?). Is there ever a time when a person's quality of life is so low that it justifies ending the life of a 2nd party who has caused that suffering? Is there ever a time when a person's quality of life is so low that it justifies ending the life of an innocent 3rd party who is completely powerless over the situation? Because when you look at it, that's exactly what's going on if we allow rape victims to have abortions. We are not only valuing quality of life above life, but we are valuing one person's quality of life above an innocent person's life. I'm unable to accept that proposition. To me, life has value, and that value trumps all other value. You may feel differently, and if so I would ask what is more important than life? And, if you can name a concrete value, HOW is it more important than life? (And please, feel free to answer these questions, because that'd probably be a great debate)(also, p.s. on the rape issue, less than 1% of abortions list rape as the reason).

Finally, your idea that if we prevent the *need* for abortion we are in the best situation. I question how practical you are being. As I said before, most abortions are not performed out of necessity, and the only way to prevent all abortions is for people to take on my original philosophy and see that life starts at conception. Short of that, the law is the best way to go. It'd be great to have no abortions regardless of the law, but since abortion is wrong anyways we might as well reflect that in our laws. Better to have a pointless law that indicates our moral code than to have no law at all.

Ultimately, to wrap this all up, I think we should say that Life is the most important value. And this includes all life (so the life of a fetus does not trump the life of the mother (to solve this problem we'd need to resort to some other philosophical analysis, which I won't attempt here)). Given that life starts at conception - (so far all of your challenges on this point have only served to further define that the independence of a fetus is both a life and human) - the right of a fetus to life trumps the right of the mother to choose whether that fetus should live.

Anonymous said...

I think the underlying problem that we face here is a fundamental difference in ideology. Each of us, I believe, makes very valid points - that's what makes the debate over abortion so difficutlt.

The question of 'life' is still a big sticking point for me. I don't necessarily accept that it begins at conception, despite your arguments. True, the DNA of the fetus is human. And it does have the potential for thought and growth and so forth. However, how is this life? Technically speaking, the sperm and the egg both have unique human DNA, but they aren't alive. Likewise, one could argue that the sperm or egg have the potential for thought and growth. Given the chance, they too will develop into an individual. Moreover, the sperm actually moves of its own volition and the egg takes an active part in conception. These things would seem to indicate life - would seem to have many or all of the same potential indicators of life that the fetus can be said to have - but these don't make the egg or the sperm living beings. These are just questions which are meant to provoke thought - I don't really think anyone would argue that sperm or eggs can think. Again, it comes down to that "something else" that defines the beginning of life. (And as for the soul, I don't think anyone has actually proven that it exists, let alone when a person is ensouled, so this is about as ambiguous as the question of life. The existance of a soul is a matter of faith, not fact.)

As for the central thesis of the pro-life movement - that life trumps any and all other things - I just don't see that as an active principle in our society. In fact, our laws specifically go against this in many cases, and this issue is intimately tied to the question of bodily integrity.

I know that many pro-life advocates are uncomfortable with the idea of the government's right to undermine a woman's bodily integrity, but perhaps they should be more concerned with the implications of this. As I stated in my last post, the government currently strictly prohibits using force to override someone's bodily integrity, even if it will save the life of another person. For example, a parent cannot be forced to donate an organ to their child, even if they are the only match and the child will die without it. How can it be right for a person to refuse to donate a non-vital organ (such as a kidney) to a dying person, but it's not right for a woman to choose what's right for her own body and her own health? In both cases, it's a moral decision on the part of the individual, and it can cost another person his/her life. And yet, I don't think anyone (pro-life or no) is going to be willing to give the government the power and the right to go out and harvest non-vital organs from people in order to save the lives of others. People may choose to donate organs to others out of the goodness of their hearts, but no one can force them to do so. In this case, peoples' own personal wants, needs, and desires outweigh the worth of the life of the other. Is this wrong? Are you willing to let the goverment take pieces of your liver and one of your kidneys and possibly a lung in order to save someone else? If not, you must be willing to admit that you too place more value on your own comfort and health (since donating the organ would not lead to your death) than on the life of another person. And if you and everyone else in this country aren't willing to sacrifice your own bodily integrity, how can you demand that a woman sacrifice hers? It would seem, then, that life does not actually take precedence over all other things in our society. I'm not quite sure what does take precedence, or what should. But personally (and maybe I'm selfish for this), I'm not willing to let the government have control over my internal organs, and likewise I don't want them to have control over my reproductive functions. Basically, I don't see the argument of bodily integrity as a complication. For me, this is central to the debate over abortion.

I also understand that most pro-lifers would support abortion in cases where the mother would die if she has the child. And while this is good, I see one major problem with this sort of exception to the (desired) general anti-abortion rule. Namely, such an exception could not be fairly and adequately enforced. We know this from the days pre-Roe v. Wade. At that time, women could apply to panels of doctors if they had reason to believe that pregnancy was a danger to them. The doctors would then decide if abortion was right or not. The problem here is that many women were denied when they had legitimate claims, and many women suffered and died as a result. Perhaps it would be different now, but I doubt it. Women's lives would be subject to the whims of a small number of doctors, and this system is horribly exposed to abuse. Women would have no recourse. What's more, where would we draw the line at life-threatening? Because, technically speaking, any woman could die when she gives birth. Mother mortality, though not as common as it used to be, is still a factor. Do you see the inherent problems in this system? Selective legislation usually proves problematic in the long run. The real life example of the woman killed by the hospital administration should act as a warning here.

You made a good point when you said that middle-class white women make up the majority of those who have abortions. You go on to point out that the poor and those who have more "rational" reasons for feeling as though they have no other options do not have as many abortions. However, this argument neglects a few very important facts - namely access to abortion services and the funds with which to pay for an abortion. Abortions are expensive, so naturally a poor women will have less opportunity to have an abortion. Also, abortion providers are getting fewer and farther between, which makes access to abortion services very limited, and in the case of poor women with limited means of movement, this is a very real problem.

And as for cases of rape, I think we will have to simply agree to disagree. For one thing, we're back to that pesky life question again. For another, we're back to relative rights. Trying to eliminate rape and providing support and assistance to rape victims is a start, but you're ignoring the very real psychological trauma that raped women feel. Indeed, the trauma is so great that a high percentage of rape victims commit suicide, regardless of pregnancy. Now, add to that emotional burden then constant, daily reminder of what happened and the added pain and disruption that accompanies pregnancy, and you have one very, very unstable person. You say that allowing raped women to have abortions is valuing the quality of life over life. I would counter by saying that it's not just a matter of quality of life for the rape victim - it might very well mean her life. If you utterly destroy a person psychologically, as rape and forced pregnancy can, that is destroying a person's life (literally, if they chose to commit suicide). (And, as for suicide, I personally think that's something to be worked out between an individual and God.)

What's more, you said, "We are not only valuing quality of life above life, but we are valuing one person's quality of life above an innocent person's life." I'm sorry, but I cannot accept the latter part of this argument. What makes the child more innocent than the mother? In my opinion, innocence should have nothing to do with the abortion debate, since that just leads us ultimately to valuing the life of the child over the mother, and I really, really don't want to go there.

Furthermore, you said that, "To me, life has value, and that value trumps all other value." Since I don't know what your answer is to the question of involuntary organ donation above, I guess I'll just have to accept this. As I acknowledged before, I don't know what the highest value in our society ought to be - life is certainly up there on the list, perhaps highest. However, I do believe that we shouldn't dismiss the importance of quality of life - for the child as well as the mother.

Finally, I don't think that it's impractical to believe that reducing the need for abortion is the best situation. Or, perhaps I stated my position wrong. What I mean is, we eliminate the reasons why women would choose to have abortions, whether they are practical (i.e. they're poor), social (i.e. stigma and shame), or physical (i.e. failed contraception and unplanned pregnancy). Because, quite frankly, a woman who has a reason for having an abortion will find a way to have one, whether it is legal or no. This is ultimately the most practical thing we can do - treat the causes, not the symptom. Making abortion illegal just causes that much more harm and death, it doesn't solve the problem. You cannot force all people to believe that life begins at conception, and therefore you probably cannot make all people believe that abortion is wrong. Eliminating reasons for abortion neatly circumvents this problem and ends abortion - everyone wins.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Can I please ask who you are? I think at this point the discussion has moved beyond posting comments, and I'd like to continue it further, perhaps face to face or such.

Also, I do want to address a few little things.

First, when would you say life begins? You say that this is still a big question mark for you, but you haven't addressed the unsuitability of the other points. Do you honestly believe viability is a good point for defining life? If so, please deal with the arguments I made demonstrating it as unsuitable. Also, with regard to this issue, I think it is clear that there is a difference between a fertilized egg, which has the full range of DNA and chromosomes and will develop, and sperm/egg which have limited chromosomes and have peaked in their individual development. You want something that makes it a "life" - I give you the fact that it is human, grows, will develop in a set and particular manner, has potential for thought and emotion, is independent, etc. Why don't you think this is sufficient? You say you want more, but what more is there to want?

Secondly, with regard to the "bodily integrity" argument there is a very real, and obvious, difference between abortion and forced organ donation - in one case the parent is the agent of harm, in the other they are not. If person A chooses to not give person B an organ, then person A isn't harming person B, they're jsut not helping them. On the other hand, if person A is choosing to kill person B, then person a IS harming person B. Huge difference. And, I should point out, one our law already recognizes - in torts, for example, you are not obligated to help someone who is hurt, but if you cause the hurt then you are liable. This is a clear distinction, and precisely what I would premise the limitation of "bodily integrity" upon - a person is not entitled to bodily integrity when they use it to cause harm to others. Yes, this another way of phrasing one of the core questions in the abortion debate - should a person's bodily integrity trump another individual's right to life? I just can't accept that it could - I can't think of any other time when we'd allow person A's misery to justify killing person B. Particularly when person A's misery was caused by themselves (which, except in cases of rape and the like, it is). I guess this is partially a response to your challenge of "innocence" - given that person A had the chance to get or not get pregnant, they should be forced to accept responsibility for their action. Abortion, as it is practiced in the US, is, for the most part, a consequence-avoiding procedure. There are many exceptions to this, and I would never premise an argument on the fact, but it should be observed, because it helps us establish just what is really going on in most instances; Person A, in 99% of the abortion cases (seriously 1% of cases involve rape or incest), has willing had sex, and has become pregnant. Why should person B have their life ended because person A wishes to avoid the consequence of their action.

Finally, in the rape instance, you are missing several other key points. First, adoption serves as a reasonable alternative so that they need not be faced with a daily reminder, beyond a 9 month period. Second is the rare occassion when it happens - hardly enough to justify abortion being legal in it's own right. Finally, many women who have become pregnant from rape love and adore their children just as much as any other mother. I've met both rape mothers and children, and they have been entirely well-adjusted and normal. Your suppositions of the tragic aren't based in a real assesment of the world.

I could say plenty more, but I'm going to cut it short here. The fact of the matter remains that conception is the best point for defining when life begins. It also remains the case that a person's quality of life should not trump the life of another. It is not acceptable to justify harm to another on the edifice of bodily integrity. Though you've been highly cogent in your arguments I remain unconvinced - I think you need to look at the larger picture, to see how the implications of your arguments truly play out. Because your reasoning leads to many untenable and undesirable conclusions. If you'd like to discuss this more in the future, please let me know who you are and give me some contact info. Feel free to e-mail instead of post if you want to remain otherwise anonymous. mbnovaksju@yahoo.com