Friday, January 19, 2007

A good pro-life argument

I'm pro-choice. I have reasons for this view. But my reasons for this view are not important. What's important is this: Here's a really good argument for being pro-life. It hinges on an account of "natural kinds" within the animal kingdom. I suspect that most of us think there is a very real difference between, say, humans and chickens. A difference that is read off of the nature of the world, and not merely a kind of human construction in place for us to better understand it (the world, that is).

One way to reject the argument is to reject that the differences between humans and chickens is really so "natural." This sounds silly. But will you think it is as silly as all that after you peek at the case of the duck-billed platypus?

We all know that one difference between mammals and fish (and birds) is that mammals have live births (amongst other differences) and fish (and birds) lay eggs. We also know that the difference between live births and laying eggs is super duper important. That this is enough to claim a difference in kind, and a difference that is read off of the way the world is rather than merely how we think it is, or what is useful for us.

Oh, wait, live births is no longer a requirement of being a mammal? Having certain bones in the ear is? Right, right. Bones in the ear is what really, truly matters... Not live births! Forget what I said earlier... The platypus is so obviously a mammal, even if it lays eggs...


Blogger Joanne said...

Very interesting argument. I'll have to ponder that one.

That's awesome that you are highlighting this even though you are pro-choice. I admire that.

6:02 a.m.  
Blogger Janet said...

Echidnas are my favourite egg-laying mammal.

This was an interesting article. It's always good to hear a new and/or strong argument for one side or the other.

10:08 a.m.  
Blogger Danté said...

Duck Billed Platypuses (Platypi?) and Echidnas aren't actually real mammals, but belong instead to a group known as the monotremes. Mammals are viewed a a more derived lineage of organisms, having achieved complete viviparity.

12:26 p.m.  
Blogger artward22 said...

There are very good reasons to think that species are not kinds, let alone natural kinds. The philosophers Elliot Sober and Philip Kitcher have written good work on this. A kind is a class of things with a property shared by all and only those things. Species naturally show variation in both genotype and phenotype. Evolution occurs when the variation is increased or decreased drastically. If humans were a natural kind you would need to find that natural property (a certain gene, perhaps?) that turned us (suddenly - because you can't aquire a gene slowly) from homo erectus (or whatever we were before we were homo sapiens) into current humans. Basically, this can't be done. This isn't to say that we can't distinguish between species at all, but it's a very messy process. If there are differences, they are not differences in kind. It does not have agreed upon rules, as evolutionary biologists will tell you.

10:17 p.m.  

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