Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: <>
Date: Wed Mar 18 2009 - 16:23:24 EDT

I am not suggesting that "life begins with neural activity" but that "rationality begins with neural activity," and that therefore personhood does not begin any earlier than that.


---- David Campbell <> wrote:
> > The "certain level of ...mental function" that I (& others) have suggested
> > is anything above zero.  I.e., I would be happy to say that once the brain,
> > or any neural structure, begins to form, the embryo should be considered a
> > person.  It seems to me that with this criterion there is no question about
> > the personhood of those with Alzheimers, the comatose, &c.  Part of the
> > rationale for this is the parallel with the criterion of brain death at the
> > end of life - which means whole brain death, not coma, vegetative state, &c.
> That is certainly a coherent and reasonably precise criterion
> (determining exact line between zero and some is likely to be
> difficult, and "any neural structure begins to form" would need to be
> defined as to whether it includes the point at which a cell is
> definitely destined to form neurons versus the point at which a cell
> first shows any sign of neuronal features). However, "life begins
> with neural activity" seems no less arbitrary than "life begins at
> conception".
> Some things that might be of interest philosophically, though not
> directly applicable to human development, come from consideration of
> other animals. Sponges do not have any neurons at any point, though
> they have some capabilities for slow motion, internal communication,
> etc. They easily reproduce asexually by fragmentation, so the concept
> of an "individual" is somewhat blurry.
> Looking at more advanced animals, the vast majority have cell fates
> set from the start of embryonic development. There are no twins
> formed the way human twins are (some can asexually multiply embryos,
> though). From the very first cell division, the exact part of the
> embryo that will become neurons is fixed. Thus, the scenario would be
> somewhat different if arthropods or mollusks were considering the same
> issue.
> --
> Dr. David Campbell
> 425 Scientific Collections
> University of Alabama
> "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Wed Mar 18 16:24:06 2009

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