Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Is Brain Function Required to be a Human Being?

In the following piece, Scott Klusendorf of Life Training Institute addresses this question by first arguing for substance dualism over scientific materialism.  He writes:

if we are nothing more than physical beings, how can we account for personal identity through time and change? In the last seven years—indeed, in the last five minutes—my body has undergone numerous changes. In what sense, then, am I the same person I was seven years ago or even five minutes ago? As J. P. Moreland and Scott Rae point out, a property-thing view of human persons means that when a person’s properties change, he changes. This is deeply problematic:

From that perspective, there is no essential person that survives the process of change. This would suggest that, for example, the person who committed a crime, the person brought to trial for the crime and the person serving a jail term for that same crime are all different persons. The notions of moral responsibility and criminal justice are both premised on a substance-dualist view of a person; otherwise, it would be conceptually difficult to hold anyone responsible for immoral or criminal actions. 

Klusendorf then explains the superiority of substance dualism in accounting for human equality:

the substance view tells us that you are identical to your former fetal self even though you lacked a brain at that earlier stage of development. You are the same being now as you were then, though not because of something physical that will change over time, such as your brain function. From the moment you began to exist (conception), rather, you possessed a nonmaterial human nature that grounded your identity through all the stages of your development. There’s been no substantial change to your essential being even though your physical body has changed dramatically. Thus, if you are intrinsically valuable now, you were intrinsically valuable then as well.
Second, the substance view can account for human equality. Human equality is not grounded in some accidental property that may come and go in the course of our lifetimes (such as our immediately exercisable capacity for self-awareness), but in our common human nature. Put simply, the substance view says we’re valuable because of the kind of thing we are rather than some function we may or may not exercise.
Secularists...can deny this, but only at a terrible cost. For example, at any given moment, some of us can exercise greater brain function than others. In what sense, then, are we equal? Suppose my brain is severely damaged due to a stroke. Am I any less me? If I later regain all of my cognitive functions, am I back to my old self?
A simple way to remember this is to remember the L in the acronym SLED.  L stands for Level of Development, and the level of development of a human being is irrelevant in providing them with moral value.  The value of a human being is grounded simply in what they are not in any function they may gain and lose during their life.  For more on SLED, see here.

In addition to the case Klusendorf makes for why brain function is irrelevant in establishing the equal worth of the preborn, I argue that like an image on a polaroid picture yet to appear but already there, so to the brain function of the early human embryo is in place.  All that is required is time and an environment conducive for the life of the new human being to continue.

Stand firm in Christ and stand firm for the preborn,
Chase

2 comments:

Stardusty Psyche said...

" In what sense, then, am I the same person I was seven years ago or even five minutes ago? "
You are not precisely the same person. No object remains precisely the same. You are the same by continual transition. You did not come from a rock or a tree or a cat or some other person. Each of us are a transitional form of our previously constituted selves.

"there is no essential person that survives the process of change"
Yes, there is because each transition is small relative to the whole, so there is an unbroken link between my former selves and my present self that only I share. The essential self is that only I am on this particular chain of transitioning selves.

"the person brought to trial for the crime and the person serving a jail term for that same crime are all different persons"
They are slightly different persons, but all those persons belong to a particular chain of transitions that no other person is physically linked to.

"Second, the substance view can account for human equality."
Humans are not equal, obviously. Equality is an idealistic social construct most of us accept based on our personal senses of ought.

"In addition to the case Klusendorf makes"
Klusendorf is quite apparently unqualified to make a case for humanity at any age, much less make a sound analysis of the humanity of a fetus.

" I argue that like an image on a polaroid picture yet to appear but already there, so to the brain function of the early human embryo is in place"
You are confused between the blueprint and the building. The image is not already there, only the exposure has occurred. That exposure must be chemically processed to appear. If the exposure is not chemically processed the image will never appear and does not exist.

Throwing blueprints in the fire is not arson.

"All that is required is time and an environment conducive for the life of the new human being to continue."
The same can be said for a man and a woman standing 100 meters apart, or a sperm cell a centimeter from the egg.

You seem rather confounded by the notions of time and reality. Things that could be in the future are not the same as things that are in the present.

The next time you are at the checkout and the cashier asks for money I suggest you hand over an open palm of only air stating, "this is money, all that is required is time and environment at my place of employment".


















Chase said...

Hello again Stardusty Psyche,

You are not precisely the same person. No object remains precisely the same…

Yes, there is because each transition is small relative to the whole, so there is an unbroken link between my former selves and my present self that only I share…

They are slightly different persons, but all those persons belong to a particular chain of transitions that no other person is physically linked to.

Are you saying that humans are merely physical objects similar to a chain that keeps getting links added to it and each link in the chain is a different human? I am trying to understand your view. Please clarify.

Humans are not equal, obviously. Equality is an idealistic social construct most of us accept based on our personal senses of ought.

Your inability to recognize the objective reality that all humans are equal is a moral handicap which in no way calls into question what the majority of us clearly recognize. Hopefully you do not practically live out your view. More than likely you do not and if so, why hold a view that does not work practically?

Klusendorf is quite apparently unqualified…

Ad hominem. Address the case he makes not his credentials. We are clear on Klusendorf’s position on the status of the preborn and the case he makes for that position. You have yet to even clarify your position on the status of the preborn. I asked on a previous comment thread and so I ask again here: Is your position that prior to brain function the embryo is not human and dead?

The image is not already there, only the exposure has occurred. That exposure must be chemically processed to appear. If the exposure is not chemically processed the image will never appear and does not exist.

Imagine you and I are on a jungle expedition. You have your polaroid camera with you and you are taking a photo of the trail to document the beginning of our experience. Just as you snap the photo a black jaguar leaps across the trail. You are excited because black jaguars are rarely photographed and this will be quite a substantial piece of income for you. The camera spits out the paper but before you can grab it I grab it and rip it to pieces. Would you be satisfied if I told you that the image never existed because the chemical process on the paper was not completed?

The same can be said for a man and a woman standing 100 meters apart, or a sperm cell a centimeter from the egg.

No, it cannot. In both of these scenarios there is not a human zygote already in existence which is the full context of your quote of me. With time and an environment conducive for life the human zygote will develop brain function. Why? Because brain function is innate to the zygote.

Respectfully.