Personhood?

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Good news has come out this morning (9/9/11) regarding Mississippi voters rejecting an amendment to their state constitution, known as the Personhood initiative. This amendment would have defined personhood (or humanity) as starting at conception. If passed, this amendment would not only have made all forms of abortion illegal, but also many forms of contraception and in virto fertilization, not to mention stem cell research. To understand the magnitude of what this would have meant if passed, not only abortion but many forms of contraception would have been considered person ending actions, and probably fall into some category of murder or manslaughter.

I find it almost needless to say that the only way a 21st century educated person could even consider such a ludicrous idea is if religion is involved. This is a prime example of just how diametrically opposed reason and modernity is to dogma and superstition – better known as the conflict between science and religion. There are, of course, still many things that science has not yet discovered about the illusive subject of consciousness, and the vagaries of when a fetus becomes a person are still there. I personally do believe that there is such a thing as an unborn baby and that even before birth we can start calling a well developed fetus that sleeps and dreams and plays and yawns and reacts to stimuli as a person. But these are beliefs that are based on observable, measurable, evidence. What are we to do with the ideas of those who reject reason and evidence and claim that nothing more need be studied and understood because everything that could ever be important to know has already been revealed; either by subjective faith or through interpretations of iron aged tribal Middle Eastern legends? How can an intelligible debate about embryology and personhood be held between those who seek information and those who claim that they already know everything there is to know? What reason and evidence can be presented to those who do not even value reason and evidence?

On a slight side note, one cannot help but notice how strong of a connection exists between Christian fundamentalism and the Republican Party. I do not choose to interject politics into the religion vs. science debate but cannot help notice the overt correlations. Is it any surprise, therefore, that some of the same people who think corporations are people, also believe that personhood starts at conception?

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