The “Conception post” was a follow-on to answering a series of questions posted at Citizen Tom’s blog. The questioner is a commenter who goes by the moniker “mastersamwise” — and he asked these questions:

Tell me: does man have the liberty to define life as beginning at the point when a fetus can survive outside the womb? Does man have the liberty to define marriage as being between a man and a man? Does man have the right to pursue happiness through frequent intercourse with various partners? Does man have the right to purse happiness through amassing his own wealth with no care for those less fortunate?

He asserted that the answer to all of these was “no” — and I took issue with each question, one at a time. Here was the first one:

[Y]ou began each of these with “Does man….” Of course, “man” takes no actions and makes no decisions except as the effect of individual actions (whether compelled or not) and individual decisions.

I know you prefer to think of collective terms, and disdain the concept of individualism and individual liberty as you’ve said. But individual liberty and individual rights are the key elements in play here, and thus I will answer your questions in that context. So:

Tell me: does [a] man have the liberty to define life as beginning at the point when a fetus can survive outside the womb?

Yes. I did, just a moment ago … and then decided to reject this notion, as there is too much contradictory evidence. I can think my own thoughts, and there is no regulatory body that can prevent me from doing so.

Now, do I have the liberty to force others in my community or nation to agree with me? No. In an ideal grouping of people, such things would be best done under a careful study of texts and natural law, and then convincing of others (and against an appropriate Constitutional framework such as we originally had), and even so must not infringe upon nor force changes upon others’ practice of their own beliefs, so long as such beliefs do not infringe upon the rights of still others.

And there is no question in the minds of most people that a human baby, minutes before birth, is a human being. I have proposed a working definition that mirrors the current legal approach of considering brain death the end of life. I propose that “brain life” — the point at which enough differentiated and organized neurons have formed a brain capable of perceiving pain — be legally fixed as a point at which the developing human inherits legal rights including the right to life. There are still agonizing decisions to be made in cases of the life of the mother, somewhat similar to the difficult process associated with rare cases of Siamese twins requiring separation where only one twin can survive. But we do make such decisions, and such a definition — as a compromise, and sensitive to freedom of religion — may act as a reasonable guide to lawmaking.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle