Originally posted by GradyPhilpott
Whether or not a mass of tissue is a human being should, in this day and age, be determined by DNA.
Not possible, because there exists no medical or biological definition of "human being." All we can determine without agreeing on such a definition
is whether the mass of tissue is biologically human, not whether it is a human being.
The DNA of the fetus is human and it is DNA that differs from that of the mother. Therefore, it is a human being regardless of its stage of
Here, you are offering your own statement of what constitutes a "human being," one based entirely in DNA. That is your own choice, and not anything
self-evident or obvious. In a very real sense, DNA is not a biological reality but a blueprint for a biological reality, and in that sense an embryo
at conception does not have the status of a human being but only the information on how to become one.
The idea that in order to be a human being a birth certificate must be issued is, well, novel.
True. But the idea that in order to be a human being one must have human feelings and a human mind, is not.
In the context, Grady, we're talking about whether something should have the RIGHTS of a human being. The following examples will show how using DNA
for the purpose of determining that is problematical.
Suppose that aliens come to earth, defecting from their home civilization, and live among us on earth. These creatures would be highly intelligent,
and derived from a high civilization, yet their DNA would be quite different from ours. Should they have the same rights as human beings do, or
Suppose that genetic engineering was performed on, say, Chimpanzees, to create a new species as intelligent and civilized as ours. While their DNA
would be much closer to ours than the hypothetical aliens', chimpanzees being our close cousins already, still it would be discernably non-human.
Should these intelligent, civilized chimps have the same rights as human beings do, or not?
Suppose that massive breakthroughs in artificial intelligence result in the creation of a "race" of robots with genuine intelligence and self-will.
These beings would have no DNA whatsoever, but still they would be as intelligent and civilized as we are. Should they have the same rights as human
beings do, or not?
What I'm trying to illustrate here is that we agree to recognize rights of our fellow man on bases other than their possession of human DNA. As
things stand, we know of no life forms without human DNA that have these characteristics in sufficient abundance that we grant them the full range of
human rights. Yet it is these resultant characteristics, and not the DNA that serves as their blueprint, which move us to recognize those rights.
An embryo in the early stages of development, on the other hand, does NOT have those characteristics, it merely has the blueprints for them and thus
the potential to develop them. Should we recognize full human rights in such an organism purely on the basis of potential? And if so, then why not
extend it a bit further and recognize the same rights for unfertilized ova, which also have the potential to become human beings, requiring only one