Jeremiah Smith wrote:
The question, as has already been stated, is "when does the mass of fetal tissue become said thinking individual?" Despite our advanced imaging technology and vast knowledge base on thought and sapience, and though I champion rathional thought and empiricism, I don't believe that any amount of anatomical or behavioral evidence can definitively determine when an embryo becomes a person.
Er, how about when we can detect organized brain activity? Or at least when there's an actual brain? Would that work? I am a bit curious as to how there can be a thinking individual when there isn't even any organ to think with.
When does simple synaptic activity become organized brain activity? Cultured neurons excised from lab animals show patterns in their interactions with one another, but I don't think anyone here would argue that that constitutes signs of a mind. I am concerned with the possibility that we may be unable to recognize fetal thought patterns as such. Even infant thought patterns are drastically different from those of adults, and those of fetuses are, at the very least, less sophisticated. Does all organized brain activity constitute thought? If not, where do we draw the line for what we consider intelligence? Should a fetus exhibit thought on par with a rat? A dog? A postnatal infant?
The brain continues to develop radically even after birth. Infants do not have anywhere near the same capacity for thought as do older humans. They can't use language, they have little control over their bodies. In fact, at birth they do almost nothing but respond to stimuli. They do, however, have a great deal of neurological plasticity and the capacity to develop sophisticated intelligence. Not to seem a demagogue, but would someone care to clearly delineate the difference between abortion and killing a postnatal infant? How is either different from killing an animal?
There isn't some clear line. It gradually turns from the one into the other.