About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Definitions, definitions

Scientists are often assumed to be obsessed by definitions. After all, if you cannot precisely define a concept, say what a planet is, or what a biological species is, you literally don’t know what you are talking about, and how can you then possibly do science using that very same concept? And yet, the practice of science is very different, and to a surprising extent does not seem to depend on definitions of its objects of study.

Take the recent brouhaha concerning whether Pluto should be considered a planet or a different kind of celestial object (a captured asteroid perhaps, or a “planetoid,” whatever that may be). My colleague Neil deGrasse Tyson is a strong advocate of the Pluto-is-not-a-planet school, for which he has been chastised even by Jon Stewart. That idea won the day, and now the solar system only sports eight planets. But as I’ve argued in a Skeptical Inquirer column, the question is academic in the strictest sense of the word: it does not matter in the least to astronomy or planetology whether one officially designates Pluto as a planet or as a lesser entity. The interesting scientific fact is that Pluto has several distinctive characteristics from the other eight planets (most notably the shape and angle of its orbit around the Sun), characteristics that require an explanation that is different from the one found to be satisfactory in the case of the “other” planets.

The issue is even more complex, and the technical discussions more acrimonious, in the case of biological species. Biologists and philosophers of science have been debating it for decades, and the resultant literature is voluminous, intricate, and largely inconclusive. (A few years ago I suggested that this is because “species” is a particular kind of concept identified by philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein, and known usually as “family resemblance” or “cluster” concept: it does not admit of a simple definition in terms of a small set of necessary and sufficient conditions. Rather, it is fuzzy, made of a number of conceptual strands that intersect in a complex fashion.) As in the case of planets, however, this lack of an agreed upon definition has not stopped biologists from studying species, their characteristics, and even their modes of origin (i.e., speciation processes). How is this possible?

It turns out that there are two very different ways of thinking about “definitions,” ways that were beginning to be parsed by Socrates and Plato back in ancient Greece. Many of the early Socratic dialogues (those that more likely represent Socrates’ actual thinking, as opposed to using the figure of Socrates as a mouthpiece for the more mature Platonic philosophy) have at their core a discussion aiming at defining a particular term. So, for instance, Euthyphro is about the definition of piety, Meno is about courage, Protagoras about goodness, and Republic 1 about justice. In all of them, Socrates and his companions pretty soon find themselves engaged in a heated discussion along the lines of “what is X?” which they take to be central to making progress in whatever endeavor they happen to be pursuing.

A naive reading of these dialogues has brought some people to talk about the so-called “Socratic fallacy,” the idea that one cannot say anything about X unless one can precisely define X. This is obviously not true. Not only, as I mentioned before, can biologists happily proceed with studying species even though they don’t agree on a definition of species, but in every day life as well we talk about all sorts of things (skyscrapers, baldness, porn) even though we would be hard pressed to give an exact definition of those same things (what’s the minimum height of a building that qualifies it being a skyscraper? When is it exactly that a man turns from having sparse hair to being bald? And of course there is the famous quip by American Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart that he could not precisely define pornography, but he knew it when he saw it).

Besides, Socrates was too smart to fall into that sort of trap. Indeed, the way he went about examining concepts clearly shows that he did not commit the “Socratic fallacy.” The philosopher was famous for his method of “elenchus,” that is showing that someone’s understanding of an idea was mistaken based on the production of counter-examples that did not fit that person’s original explanation of the idea. For instance, in Euthyphro, the character that gives name to the dialogue at first claims that piety is to do whatever the gods wish. But Socrates quickly forces him to admit that that can’t be right, because in that case piety would simply be an arbitrary construct backed up only by (supernatural) force, not grounded in any inherent goodness. There must be something else to it, which Euthyphro is obviously missing. Socrates could not use the method of elenchus if he really thought that one cannot begin to talk about X unless one has a precise definition of X: in that case, how could one even think of a counterexample? A counterexample to what?

What Socrates is after, then, is not a precise a priori definition of a given concept, but rather a theory of the extent and applicability of that concept. This isn’t something that can be arrived at by simply consulting a dictionary, but it requires thoughtful philosophical investigation. The very same thing is true of modern science: not only is the absence of a precise definition no embarrassment to scientists, it is that very search for a theory of X (planets, species) that defines what science actually is. That search is also where scientists and philosophers talk to each other across the divide between the two cultures: whenever a philosopher identifies a problem with the way a scientist deploys a particular concept, the philosopher has uncovered a legitimate area for further conceptual (i.e., philosophical) and/or empirical (i.e., scientific) inquiry. For the scientist to shrug off the suggestion and dismiss it as “just semantic” is then a naive mistake, one made out of sheer intellectual snobbism, and therefore unbecoming to a true intellectual.


  1. A very stimulating article. While I was reading it I could imagine hordes of creationists eagerly proclaiming the fallibility of a methodology lacking precise definitions...but of course no concepts are more vague and nebulous than theological/religious ones.

  2. "For the scientist to shrug off the suggestion and dismiss it as “just semantic” is then a naive mistake, one made out of sheer intellectual snobbism, and therefore unbecoming to a true intellectual."

    That's right. And therefore the matter of a child being either inside or outside of the womb is not just a matter of semantics, is it.

    A child born or unborn is not a different kind of "thing" just based on LOCATION and semantics.

    Unintellectual to say the least!

  3. Ironically Cal, Massimo's discussion of the problems of definitions of planets and species work against your dogmatic position on abortion.

    Can we really take the concepts of "child", "baby", "person", or "human being" and directly apply them to the pieces of tissue known as embryos and fetuses that grow inside a woman after conception? No, its not such a straight forward application of the former concepts to the latter.

  4. Well..Sheldon, can you offhandedly think any parts of tissue on your own precious body that would be better off thought of as not so important and gotten rid of? Easy to ask some unknown little person to sacrifice their "tissue". Not quite so clear when it comes to own own.

    We unfortunately happen to live in this SUPER self-centered culture and have "arrived" at this level of so called sophistication where we strictly and religiously understand our own potential for pain and inconveniences and no one elses.

    Location, in the 'right to birth' discussion, IS JUST a semantics game.

  5. can you offhandedly think any parts of tissue on your own precious body that would be better off thought of as not so important and gotten rid of

    Two words a ppendix. or how about the 6th digit in polydactyl infants. or warts or foreskin. There's 4 just offhand.

  6. Those who oppose abortion like to imagine that there is a concretely existing personhood that exists in some beings and not in others, and if you have it you have it and if you don't you don't.

    So, someone like caliana doesn't think that individual sperm and eggs matter morally, because they don't have personhood. But the moment a sperm pokes into an egg (a HUMAN egg, that is) she thinks that the two suddenly have the same right to life as Massimo Pigliucci.

    Why? She believes in something called "the soul", which does not actually exist.

    Clarity for the win.

  7. can you offhandedly think any parts of tissue on your own precious body that would be better off thought of as not so important and gotten rid of?

    How about adipose tissue?

  8. Cal said:
    "Easy to ask some unknown little person to sacrifice their "tissue"."

    What on earth are you talking about? Nobody is asking "a little person" to sacrfice their tissue. If you are referring to a fetus, well then you can't ask them to sacrifice anything because they are not persons capable of making a decision.

    Being a man I don't presume to attempt to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, or to abort a pregnancy. That is for her alone to decide. I can only politically defend her right to have that freedom of choice which I do unapologetically.

    Joseph Frantz said:

    "Why? She believes in something called "the soul", which does not actually exist."

    And meanwhile actual real live and born human children die of preventable diseases and malnutrition every year.

    Putting that into perspective, worrying about abortion is simply a waste of time.

  9. What Socrates is after, is [...] a theory of the extent and applicability of that concept.

    I'm agree. If i couldn't talk about X, how could i define it?

    The problem of "concept-use" emerges even in defining "nature". When i say of something that is unnatural, does this imply that it is even "wrong", or that "natural" should be preferred?

    According to John Stuart Mill (who took the problem seriously) no, but it's not so obvious (words like "unnatural" have a deep emotive force).

    Definitions are important not only for scientists!

  10. Massimo-

    Good post, but I do have to question the effect this view of definitions has on the ability of science to communicate with the general public. I whole heartedly agree that science is about ‘developing the definition’ and not ‘predetermining definitions’. This seems very similar to the idea that no scientist knows any fact with 100% certainty. All knowledge is held under the assumption that new evidence could overturn currently held conventions. However, this uncertainty is often misinterpreted by a public who trades in assurance to mean of less value when exactly the opposite is true. The value of science comes from its uncertainty but this uncertainty often allows dissenters to ignore the overwhelming evidence for something like evolution.

    This is all to say that I wonder if the same snag is true for definitions. For example, the classification of Pluto as a planet or not doesn’t hinder the study of Pluto by scientists but it does speak volumes to the lay public. Planethood may be only semantic for the study of the Pluto…but it is far from trivial when considering that it affords us the opportunity to at least communicate what the current definition of a planet is with the public and why Pluto doesn’t fit. That is, I still see value in having the semantic argument over Pluto so that our language for planets doesn’t lose all meaning.


  11. "Two words a ppendix. or how about the 6th digit in polydactyl infants. or warts or foreskin. There's 4 just offhand."

    It is rare to have things that HAVE to be removed. Babies categorically are not ANYTHING LIKE warts or tumors. If they are, so are their mother and father. They are made, after all of exactly the same stuff.

    And the matter of foreskins is strictly for the recognition of a covenant. Most guys would avoid it unless there was a doggone good reason for it. And a "covenant" is what is created as well when two people create a child together. Neither may acknowledge it is as such, but in Gods order and wisdom that is what has occurred.

    And in Gods order children (all children) are meant to be blessing not a judgment or a curse.

  12. JF "Why? She believes in something called "the soul", which does not actually exist. Clarity for the win."

    Apparently neither does the software for the pc or mac you're using then. There are many types intangibles (trademarks, intellectual property, mathematical concepts and so on) tho impossible to see evidence of at times, they are not nonexistent.

    You've proved absolutely nothing. Your clarity could be coupled with more thoroughness and and broadmindedness I think.

  13. Cal,
    The software you speak of is not a good choice to make to case for a soul. We know that software, even though intangable, was designed by people. We do see evidence of it's existance, but that's not what proves that its real. We know its real because we can positively trace its origin to other humans. The soul on the other hand, is something that humans dreamed up to explain (or define) their own consciousness. This alone is not sufficient for it to be real.

  14. If you want to know the different theories of meaning, you can check
    the list of theories about it that are:

    There is a very intersting paper that insted of traditional logic for meanings and other things that discusses about:
    "An Ontological and Epistemological foundation of Fuzzy Set and Logic Theory is reviewed in comparison to Classical Set and Logic Theory. It is shown that basic equivalences of classical theory breakdown but are re-established as weak equivalences as a containment relation in fuzzy theory. It is also stressed that the law of conservation of information is still upheld within fuzzy theory."
    The problem with science (and socrates theory) is when people belive that the definitions they give to something are indeed the real truth, and there is no other posibility for that thing.

  15. Thanks, cal, for not contesting my assertion that your opposition to abortion hinges on your belief in the soul.

    As for its existence: no, I am not denying the existence of collections of things or abstractions. I am denying the existence of the soul, which is not even there in abstract terms. There is a mind, of course, but no eternal soul which is waiting to meet Jesus.

  16. All,

    leave it to Cal to turn a discussion of epistemology and philosophy of language into one about abortion and the soul... Talk about a one-track mind.

  17. Massimo,

    So right. However I will comment on the subject anyway (sigh).

    Cal, we are all aware that you pro-lifers argue that abortion is bad (OMG we're killing babies!!!). Almost everyone agrees that abortion is not a good thing. That is not the issue. The issue is if you make abortion illegal (the pro-lifers goal) how do you propose that will help or save babies or children?

  18. Laneman
    Abortion as 'birth control' is bad for everyone. Don't even think that this leaves women completely unaffected. I'm only sorry that we have a culture that is so hardened that we can't even think this through. It doesn't prevail as some kind of "right" as a matter of what women want. It is men who both perform and support most abortions. Gets em off the hook.

    Our daughters, especially my older daughter, befriended and spent time with a young woman who was giving her baby up for adoption. Her baby was born last week. I am very proud of my girls. They are willing to care and go the distance with other young women on this.

    I'm sure you'd 'step up' as well if someone needed you to, right?

  19. Cal,

    You didn't answer my question! Nice dodge! Let's try again. How do you propose that making abortion illegal (the goal of pro-lifers)will help and save young women, babies and children?

    You say abortion as 'birth control' is bad for everyone. Are other forms of birth control bad for everyone too? Are the pill, condoms, diaphragms, which prevent the need for abortions bad for everyone?

    As long as "pro-lifers", and conservatives continue to force through policies that make sex education, and contraception unavailable to young people, then we will continue to have abortion as 'birth control' because biology is more powerful than ideology.

  20. "leave it to Cal to turn a discussion of epistemology and philosophy of language into one about abortion and the soul... Talk about a one-track mind."

    My fault, I fed the troll. But I did think the problems of defining what is a "person" or a "human being" was relevant, and it just drives me crazy the idea of unreflexively conflating embryo/fetus to person.

  21. Oh crap! I really am sorry for going on and feeding the troll, but what Cal says here just can not pass without disputation.

    Cal says:
    "It doesn't prevail as some kind of "right" as a matter of what women want. It is men who both perform and support most abortions. Gets em off the hook."

    The right to reproductive freedom, which includes the autonomy to prevent, end, or continue a pregnancy has been a central demand of women's rights organizations the world over since the begginning of the modern era.

    Historically male dominated institutions have used this denial of reproductive freedom to keep women subservient. There is just no way to pretend this isn't so.

    Perhaps Cal, you and other women like you are perfectly content to be the baby factories of your fundamentalist Christian sub-culture. Fine, that is your freedom and right.

    But don't pretend you speak for the many women who prefer to live free from your religious shackles.

  22. Cal, abortion is used frequently in asia. Do you therefore conclude that all Japaneswe, Chiense, and korean people are evil?
    When I had dinner with massimo I raised this point, and I'll raise it again here. Although the Socratic fallacy may be to insist on a precise definition of something, definitions can be arbitrarily changed by the woo-woo brigade in the service of their dogma. For example, I once had an internet debate with a woman who opposed cloning on the grounds that "clones aren't real people" (i.e., she meant that they don't have a soul, although she eschewed the use of thta word as she knew it wouldn't fly with a secular audience).
    So, I retorted sarcastically, "Congratulations! You've just insulted every identical twin who's ever lived, including my twin nephews!"
    "What do you mean?" she sputtered. So I explained that identical twins are all clones of each other, because they have identical DNA. To which she screamed, "No! No! That's not what cloning means! Cloning means grown artificially in a laboratory!"
    If she's going to arbitrarily redefine the word "clone", then she and I can't have a conversation on the subject.

  23. LM "As long as "pro-lifers", and conservatives continue to force through policies that make sex education, and contraception unavailable to young people, then we will continue to have abortion as 'birth control' because biology is more powerful than ideology."

    But that is not what has occurred. Birth control has been distributed quite freely for somewhere close to 25-30 years now. Abortion is not used as birth control because birth control can't be found in a vending machine on EVERY STREET CORNER. Its used as such (by some people) because THATS what they WANT to do.

    So once again, since we both agree that aborting is not the best possible thing to do you'd still consider " 'step(ing) up' as well (to prevent an abortion) if someone needed you to, right?"

  24. kimpat,

    Any society that has accepted aborting their OWN offspring is as crazy as the next one that does far as I am concerned. I don't care why it is thought that they do it - because the Asian and Indian countries "reasoning" certainly is not the same as the USs - but all in all, it usually is in some respect boiling down to an argument over economics. But I would theorize IN CONTRAST that countries that place high value on their babies and offspring will in fact prosper by one means or another. Emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and possibly and sometimes even financially.

    Cloning? Actually, I just don't have that well of an informed opinion over it yet. I have a twin niece and nephew as well. Strange tho that some people are more interested in proving that we can "create" humans artificially but we struggle to accept the ones that are born to us naturally?!

    That does seem kind of wasteful, honestly. I guess it is the "JUST CUZ we CAN" kinda thing???

    Are clones souless? Not necessarily. I don't know what would dictate that they would have to be. I think God can place a soul in anything or anyone that He wants to.

    Genesis: "And MAN became a living SOUL." The BIBLE clearly says that if it is a HUMAN it has a soul.

  25. August 25, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Jim Caviezel, the actor who took the film world by surprise with his moving depiction of Christ in 2004, said this week that abortion has nothing to do with helping women and that he is willing to risk his career to say so.

    Caviezel gave an interview with the US magazine Catholic Digest, in which he spoke about the challenge he received from a colleague to adopt a disabled child as a demonstration of his well-publicized pro-life stand. Earlier this year Caviezel adopted his second child - a five-year-old girl with a brain tumour from the Guangzhou region of China.

    Reflecting on the 51.5 million surgical abortions to date in the US since Roe v. Wade, Caviezel began by saying, "I was listening to Johnny Mathis the other day and I said, 'What an amazing voice'. I have yet to hear another person sound like Johnny Mathis.

    "Look, I am for helping women. I just don't see abortion as helping women. And I don't love my career that much to say, 'I'm going to remain silent on this'. I'm defending every single baby who has never been born. And every voice that would have been unique like Johnny Mathis's. How do we know that we didn't kill the very child who could have created a particular type of medicine that saves other lives?"...

  26. Okay something more concrete. Center of this video there is this very tiny baby's arm reaching out of moms tum during a surgery hanging on to possibly the surgeon finger?

    Video and music not too bad either. :)

    David Crowder Band - How He Loves


  27. Caliana,

    Do you crave all the bad attention you’ve received here? I bet you feel demoralized, but you just keep coming back. Why? If I were you, I would have disappeared long ago. I actually feel bad for you. Sometimes, it felt like that you were bullied. You draw bad attention to yourself because you are so random and your comments are often illogical. You know very well what kind of responses you will get here. Hmmm…

  28. Ok, ET, whatever. Did you WATCH the video? It is kind of random but I like it.

    I know hundreds and thousands of people in real time (probably) but this is what I LIKE to do. I figure philosophy is best understood when it's argued and defended thoroughly.

    You don't think so?

  29. I am a woman who had an abortion several years ago. I was in an abusive relationship and had no health insurance. It would've been nice to have this baby but under those circumstances everyone would have suffered and suffered for years. I am offended profoundly when women like caliana think they speak for all women when CLEARLY she does not. I am grateful to live in a country where abortion is legal and safe and I hope, for the sake of all those women out there who have to make this very difficult choice, that it stays legal.

    Many, many women lead healthy normal lives after abortions just as I did and continue to do.

  30. I can believe, Tina, that there are women who don't or will not for whatever reason raise their own children. My mother did not raise me or my three brothers either. If anything like that happens in the future, keep in mind, there are always people who struggle with getting pregnant and it is not completely out of the question to allow some other decent couple to raise your child. Usually adoptive parents are extremely grateful to have the chance to raise a child and most often will pay all medical expenses.

    I don't know, Tina. Even tho I came from rather mixed up parents,(my father was not merely abusive..he's scary) I'm still am awfully glad to be here.

    Maybe I do overcompensate, but don't think I have it in for women who have gone through abortions. I don't.

  31. Caliana,

    In other words, you are trolling here to take advantage of the readership because it’s the internet and, hey, you can. I see… trolling statements are never meant to be constructed logically and rationally, and you only want to “force” other readers to respond to them and consequently hijack the post. So really, you are quite smart. Got you. Congratulations! I believe you have succeeded in doing so.

    Sorry, I didn’t watch the video.

    I appreciate your reply, because I was really curious to know why you do the same thing repeatedly knowing what responses you will receive.

  32. ET,

    That's a really strange response. Not sure why you're so cynical and bitter. No one is forced to discuss anything here or elsewhere.

    A couple places that I respond to comments (a media source) people might tend to agree with me, some places like this they may not. But I'm not particular to either - I'll gladly have discussions with people who agree or disagree. It was what was modeled for me as a kid growing up I guess. The Finnish men I grew up around would have these very heated rounds about Communism, evolution, religion, science politics for years! Same discussions over and over again. But they'd walk away from the discussions somehow as friends. Very funny actually.

    Do you suggest that philosophy and theology are best discussed only in venues where people pretty much fully agree with each other?

    I honestly don't think so. What would be the point then? A lot of what makes us who we are is how we deal, I think, with people who have dissenting views from ours. If you can't tolerate even reading a point of view that is dramatically or even slightly different from your own, don't try to suggest to me that you are against war(s) or going to war. That's how wars really start. People with completely diverse views get polarized in their positions and just simply refuse to talk anymore.

  33. Cal, don't quote Bronze Age books to maintain a scientific position.
    Interesting that you consider all 127 million Japanese to be crazy, though...

  34. Sheldon,
    My old friend. Too bad I didn't save a copy of the post I sent to you that Pignocchi found offensive. I would have liked for you to read it! Tell me, when does the "piece of tissue" as you put it, become a "child", "baby", "person", or "human being"? Be very careful! This is where the slope gets REAL slippery!

  35. I admit to not reading all these comments too thoroughly, because...well, honestly, I got the gist right away.

    What I'm moved to comment on here is how some of the same pat responses keep coming up on both sides -- as if the nuances of the so-called "abortion debate" actually have to do with the right to a medical procedure.

    Before you write me off as being rude, let me explain my position, which is also summarized well here: http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/they_push_the_hardest_on_abortion_because_we_give_the_most_on_it/

    The most radical anti-choice activists couldn't care less about the lives of children. If they did, Scott Roeder wouldn't be considering a justifiable homicide defense (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_abortion_shooting), because he would understand that no real potential for life was preserved by his cold-blooded assassination of Dr. George Tiller. The late-term abortions Dr. Tiller performed were on fetuses with conditions such as anencephaly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anencephaly) -- babies who would have been born without brains and would have died immediately.

    Are all anti-choice activists Scott Roeder? Of course not. But they enable it. Have you ever seen The Accused? A woman (played by Jodi Foster) is raped and she brings charges against the men who watched. Their defense is that they had nothing to do with the crime, but they created the environment of support that allowed for a woman to be held against a pinball machine in a crowded bar and raped.

    So the so-called "peaceful" protesters, who just intimidate women outside of clinics or hold candlelight vigils for the "40 million murdered" or any of that nonsense which is a direct attack on women choosing to exercise a legitimate right to a health care procedure, are directly or indirectly fostering violence and hatred. As Dr. Warren Hern observed after Dr. Tiller was killed, you can't have decades of extreme anti-choice rhetoric, people making accusations of "baby killer" and so forth, without violence and murderous intent becoming policy.

    This is why I can say: No. I'm not ceding the ground and agreeing that "abortion is a bad thing but..." Because it isn't. It can be the right choice. It can be a hard choice. It can be the wrong choice. But if we believe women are rational adults, it has to be their choice, or it is just state-enforced gestation, also enforced by murderous psychopaths like Scott Roeder.

  36. Oh, and caliana? You wrote, "Birth control has been distributed quite freely for somewhere close to 25-30 years now. Abortion is not used as birth control because birth control can't be found in a vending machine on EVERY STREET CORNER. Its used as such (by some people) because THATS what they WANT to do."

    Let's be clear about a few things. First of all, I'm aware that Griswold v. Connecticut was decided in 1965, which means that the right to contraception has been protected for 44 years in America. But nothing meaningful has been done during that time to promote accessibility. I have fantastic health insurance with Blue Option and even my birth control pills are not covered. OTC emergency contraception was delayed by the FDA until 2006. At, say, 12 for $8, quality condoms are a serious expense for low-income people. The barriers to decent birth control are well-documented elsewhere; I'm just pulling these off the top of my head.

    Having dismissed that ridiculous notion, let's move on to the idea that "people" (come on, you mean women; what men are getting pregnant?) "WANT" to have abortions as their primary method of preserving non-parenthood.

    Um...okay. So 86% of the counties in the United States don't have an abortion provider. Some states, like Mississippi or South Dakota, only have one or two in the entire state. Some clinics, even in populated and moderate states like Florida, are only open two or three times a month. The surgery, although outpatient, is invasive and not anesthetized and costs hundreds of dollars. I think it's fair to ask: does that sound fun to you? Because I'm pro-choice and it does not sound fun to me.

  37. My link to Pandagon got cut off. It should read, in full:


    My browser isn't supporting making it a hyperlink for some reason.

    That's all. ty.

  38. James,

    my name is Pigliucci, not Pignocchi. Couldn't be bothered to look to the side bar of the blog, or wanted to be deliberately insulting?

  39. "The surgery, although outpatient, is invasive and not anesthetized and costs hundreds of dollars. I think it's fair to ask: does that sound fun to you? Because I'm pro-choice and it does not sound fun to me."

    Some would contend that there is no reason in the world that aborting your own offspring should be cheap, free or easy. Every woman who wants a dead baby is entitled to one and painlessly and effortlessly as well?

    How awful.

    The upside Amy, is that more young women are beginning to understand this as a conflict of interest to the way that women are in fact wired and the trend is shifting towards the younger set being more prolife than boomers and Xers.

    Driving unborn babies to (partial) extinction devalues the lives of every person who believes it as a way to simply "control births". Its impulses that need to be controlled not births.

  40. Massimo,
    I posted an apology 3 hours ago. Don't know why my posts are not being seen. Maybe I am doing something wrong. I am a bit technologically challenged. Maybe it will show up. I also wrote about the acrimonious nature of the current debate. I am trying to see if there are not ways that we of different political persuasions can come together. If you are interested, more on my blog, http://averageamerican-james.blogspot.com/2009/08/is-it-wrong-to-be-right.html.

  41. Once again caliana dodges the question. If abortion is expensive and painful, then what planet are you from if you think women are intentionally choosing abortion as their primary method of birth control?

  42. "..intentionally choosing abortion as their primary method"

    "Intentionally" has nothing to do with it (if it was, we certainly wouldn't be pregnant in the first place) and "primary" certainly doesn't indicate what is true in everyone's situation, does it.

    I'm not the one being HURT when people are educated and prompted to use misleading or inarticulate verbiage. But I'll certainly be glad to point it out to you when you do.

  43. When talking about the "definition problem", my favorite example is: we haven't been able to define life yet (have we?), but we have biology nonetheless, nothing but the study of an undefined (undefinable?) thing.

    But give me that any day over theology, the study of non-existing things, heh...


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