Friday, September 16, 2011

The Facebook Thread

Zeta Beta Tau, Delta Omega Chapter (R.I.P) Oh, how we miss it so... I've gone on record before saying I'm not a huge Facebook fan. I'm not especially enamored of the format, the concept, or the knowledge that I am their product rather than their customer. I don't really appreciate the fact that they are voraciously trying to find out as much about us as they possibly can in order to build marketing profiles on us. If I didn't need to keep an eye on my teenagers' accounts, it's doubtful that I would even have an account of my own at all. Generally speaking, I try to keep a pretty low profile over there, but I admit it's also kind of nice to be back in touch with some old friends again, and every once in a while I'll put a little something up, or comment on something I find interesting.

The other day, I put up a post signifying that I was excited about Elizabeth Warren's entry into the 2012 Massachusetts Senate Race (challenging Scott Brown), and it led to a short political discussion between me and a few of my college fraternity brothers. When I pointed out that they all seemed to share libertarian leanings with different points of emphasis, I was challenged on that by brother Bob, who denied having libertarian inclinations. In doing so, he also voiced some strong views, as is his wont, and in doing so he touched on the topic of abortion.

Now, I don't even really like to talk about the "A" bomb here, let alone on Facebook. It's such an emotional topic, I figure most people I'm friends with really wouldn't appreciate having it in their morning feeds. What do I know about the private lives of some of my FB friends? What do I know about what kinds of pain or losses they've gone through?

At any rate, I suggested taking it up over here. It's not an evasion or a dodge. As many of the people who correspond with me here (if they are still reading, that is) are likely to disagree as agree with me on this, so here goes... Here is how it went on FB:

Bob: Libertarian? Me? Jeff, you are WAY off. I look over my right shoulder with binoculars to see Karl Marx. I exaggerate. A little. I'm a social ultra-liberal and a fiscal conservative. I'm in favor of social safety nets for people that NEED them (as opposed to the leeches that milk them for all they're worth.) I'm in favor of enacting legislation to abolish for-profit health insurance, because the ability of a citizen to get health insurance shouldn't be determined by an HMO accountant. I'm against having military bases all over the planet and being the world's police force. I'm VEHEMENTLY against allowing religion to have ANY say whatsoever in the operation of government, and think churches should pay taxes. I'm in favor of equal rights for all citizens, all the time. I'm in favor of same-sex marriage and transgender non-discrimination bills. I'm in favor of women having the 100% iron-clad right to decide what they do with their bodies - including if and when they will carry a fetus to term. I know (not "believe," but KNOW,) that a collection of undifferentiated cells or an embryo that has yet to develop a central nervous system or a functioning brain is NOT a human being and should not be accorded the rights of one. I'm in favor of erasing all laws that would be enforced by a "vice squad," and vigorously prosecuting the white-collar Wall Street thieves that brought us our current financial crisis. I don't know what all that makes me, but i do know it ain't a Libertarian.
Wednesday at 10:51pm · LikeUnlike

Jeff: Bob, I admit that when I read “I'm a social ultra-liberal and a fiscal conservative,” that translates as “libertarian” to me, and probably to most other people as well, but I suppose it’s not a precise match with the actual philosophical definition.I believe that we should have a social safety net, as every human being has dignity just by virtue of the fact that he or she is a human being, and does not have to earn that basic level of dignity by their utility. At the same time, we should discourage, by non-legislative means as much as possible, the behaviors that cause people to fall into safety nets.

Facebook is not a blog, and I think it’s a horribly inappropriate venue to discuss such an emotionally hot-button topic like abortion, but when you say…

"I know (not "believe," but KNOW,) that a collection of undifferentiated cells or an embryo that has yet to develop a central nervous system or a functioning brain is NOT a human being and should not be accorded the rights of one.”
… I have absolutely no idea how you can come to such a conclusion, or why anyone else should feel compelled to agree with such a subjective value judgement stated with such vehement authority, especially when you reject omnipotent authorities, but I’m not getting drawn into an abortion discussion on Facebook.

I do have a blog, however, where I discuss religious, political, and cultural issues. I’d be glad to discuss such things over there. If anyone is at all interested, you can message me to find out what it is.
Yesterday at 7:25am · LikeUnlike

Bob : It's simple Jeff, if something doesn't have a brain or a nervous system, it's not a human being. A human being has a brain for thinking and a central nervous system for feeling. The idea that "life begins at conception" is a religious belief, not a medical fact. The fetus i described can't think and can't feel, and therefore has no means of experiencing physical distress and no self-awareness to "kill."

18 hours ago · LikeUnlike

Jeff: Is that a fertilized egg? The acorn already has every single solitary genetic attribute designating what it will ever be as a tree... The caterpillar is not a dress, but it is the same exact creature that will be recognizable later as a butterfly.... By what scientific reasoning does a central nervous system and a brain constitute what a human being is? That's as subjective a value judgement on what "personhood" is as any religious dogma I've ever heard. What gives you the right to say that "thinking and feeling" defines what a human being is, and that it represents a consensus on what the rest of us should believe? The notion that sentience is the defining factor over anything else is philosophy, not science.
7 hours ago · LikeUnlike

Allen: Bob: How do you know that?
7 hours ago · LikeUnlike

Craig: Though we'll likely never resolve the "when does a?" question, we should all recognize the loss we all suffer when the government takes an interest in and insists upon awareness of the gestational status of every female private citizen.
7 hours ago · LikeUnlike

Jeff : Oh well... I asked - politely - to be messaged on this, but my request was ignored... To Craig's point, yes, it is always best to propose rather than to impose... I find it interesting that at the same time the acceptance of gay marriage and full civil rights for gay people is growing, the support for the pro-life postion is ALSO growing. I haven't led an innocent, risk-free and sheltered life, and I do get the nature of the back-alley problem. I get it. Having said all that, I'd like to add that even if we did entertain the notion that 'thinking and feeling" had something do with defining personhood, you need to say * precisely when * that begins, and if you can't do that, you need to err on the side of caution and go back to the begining. If people of a scientific bent want to plant an arbitrary yardstick on this, why not set it at the point when our entire genetic makeup is defined?
6 hours ago · LikeUnlike

Craig: Give us the link! Just caught up with this one late last night, and figured I'd toss in a moderating two cents...
6 hours ago · LikeUnlike
Craig, please feel free to moderate away, if you like...