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thordaddy



Posts: 486
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2006,21:26   

We've been having a lively debate about when life begins.

I made the statement that "life begins at conception" and several forumites disagreed and declared the opposite.  They stated that "life does not begin at conception."

Since we were speaking in the context of abortion, both constrasting statements can be further defined as;

Human life begins at conception.

and

Human life does not begin at conception.


But we also need to go further and define "conception."  The general meaning of conception is a "beginning."  The opposing statements would then read;

Human life begins at the beginning.

and

Human life does not begin at the beginning.


The more specified meaning of conception in the context of abortion is the fusion of the egg and sperm cell to form a new human organism.

I will assume this second definition as the one that is being used as it is clear that the first definition makes the statement "human life does not begin at the beginning" self-evidently false.

Unfortunately, the second definition of "conception" leads one to make very unusual assumptions and once we get through all the silliness about fundies and wing-nuts, it's seem only logical to assume that human life does indeed begin at conception.

Human life does not begin a conception (doesn't begin with the fusion of egg and sperm to form a new human organism).

This can mean only 3 things:

1. Human life began before conception.

2. Human life began after conception.

3. Or, human life had no beginning.

------------

No. 3 can most easily be discarded because it leaves us with only 2 possibilities;

Human life is eternal,

or

Human life came from non-life,


Hence, human life is either the very concept that many scientists seek to extinguish, namely, a supernatural being,

OR

Human life did not begin with the fusion of a egg and sperm because both sperm and egg are "alive" and human life began from non-life.

The is ZERO evidence for either of these stances.

------------

No. 1 also poses problems.  If the argument states that human life began before conception then consciousness no longer becomes a defining feature of human life because no one suggests a sperm or egg has consciouness.

Next, if the argument is that "life comes from life" (hence, life began before conception) and therefore "conception" merely represents a continuation of ordinary life (but not the beginning of human life) then one must trace his/her beginning all the way back to the OOL.  Essentially, this "conception" that brings forth a new human organism is nothing more than an outgrowth of one very old entity.  We only have the illusion of individuality and independence.  Our "life that came from life" came from the OOL.  To discard a zygote or to die an early death is nothing more than the equivalent of this billion-year-old living entity shaving his beard or cutting his toenails.

Clearly these ideas seem ludicrous because we never become human life under this scenario because only one liveform exists and it's the one to be found at the OOL.

------------

No. 2 seems the mostly likely conclusion given by those that state "life does not begin at conception."

So does human life begin after conception?  Well, if one discounts No. 1 and 3 and believes "human life does not begin at conception" then No. 2 is the only possible conclusion.  But what is the evidence?

What makes something a human life if not "conception" itself?

A. Some suggest the emergence of consciousness as that which defines human life after conception.

B. Some suggest that a CNS helps define a human life after conception.

C. Some suggest the birth itself defines human life after conception.

As for A, there is no evidence of when consciousness emerges and therefore no need to assume it emerges anywhere other than at conception.

As for B, there is no evidence that the CNS spontaneously develops or that consciousness spontaneously emerges.  It seems reasonable that as the CNS develops so does a greater degree of consciousness.  This is clearly evident in constrasting the consciousness between a zygote versus a newborn versus an adult.  Again, there seems no reason to assume that the development of the CNS and the associative degree of consciousness that goes with it began anywhere other than at conception.

As for C, the best we can say is that a newborn has a developing CNS.  But, we have no reason to assume that the CNS began developing at any time other than at conception.  With this information the best we can say is that the newborn either has NO consciouness or a very low degree of consciousness that corresponds with its developing CNS.  But the actual birth TELLS US NOTHING about whether this newborn in fact represents human life after conception.  

In fact, no DIRECT evidence exists for a conscious newborn.  No newborn has ever asserted his/her consciouness.  Again, we ONLY assume a conscious newborn lest we treat is like a disposable zygote.  The evidence is inconclusive at best and non-existent at worst.

In conclusion, I see no rationale and no evidence to assume that human life begins anywhere other that at its conception.

  
hehe



Posts: 59
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2006,21:39   

But this is just semantics. It doesn't matter if the "human life", whatever it is, begins at conception. It is obvious that a zygote is not equivalent to, say, even a newborn, whether it is "human life" or not, it can be safely disposed of, if needed.

  
Stephen Elliott



Posts: 1773
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2006,21:52   

Thordaddy said:
Quote


In fact, no DIRECT evidence exists for a conscious newborn.  No newborn has ever asserted his/her consciouness.  Again, we ONLY assume a conscious newborn lest we treat is like a disposable zygote.  The evidence is inconclusive at best and non-existent at worst.


Are you serious? You claim to be a father, have you held a newborn? How much evidence for consciousness do you need?

  
thordaddy



Posts: 486
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2006,23:41   

Stephen Elliot,

I've held two newborns and I can say they looked no more conscious than Terri Schiavo.  Consciouness is self-awareness and not simply reacting to one's environment.  If consciousness was simply a case of reacting to external stimuli then, yes, a newborn would be conscious but so would a sperm, egg, zygote, embryo, fetus and Terry Schiavo.  

But the point is that DIRECT evidence of consciousness HAS TO BE asserted by the conscious entity itself.  Direct evidence of newborn consciousness has to be the newborn declaring self-awareness.  No such evidence exists and birth signifies NOTHING as to how we define human life.

You can say a newborn is conscious and clearly I would agree if I thought consciousness began at conception.  The point is that a newborn may or may not be conscious at birth and since we are uncertain about the emergence of consciousness then why should we assume that consciousness begins anywhere other than at the time of conception?  

You would agree that a newborn, if we concede consciousness, is still developing his/her CNS and his/her consciousness is developing right along with it?  And if the mechanisms for consciousness are developing and hence consciousness is developing along with it then what evidence are you relying upon to assume this development didn't begin at conception?

  
jeannot



Posts: 1201
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,00:08   

I'm sorry Steven; I have to agree with Thordaddy here: consciousness cannot be inferred to a new born.
The only way one can infer consciousness is comparison (which is not very scientific): “I am a conscious human being, you are a human being who behave roughly the same as I do, therefore you should be conscious.”
This comparison cannot be made with a new born because you can’t begin with “I am a conscious new born”.

  
Stephen Elliott



Posts: 1773
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,02:00   

Well surprisingly enough we will have to first establish what we mean by "consciousness". It apears to have no exact definition.

There are quite few papers here. Not all the links work, but there are several woks that do.

I am happy to go-along with Thordaddy's definition of "self-aware", indeed that was the definition I was using.

From my observation, newborns certainly apear to be conscious. The simple fact that they can cry and show signs of discomfort infers consciouness to me. Include the obvious observable distinction of them sleeping and being awake and (to me) consciousness seems conclusive.

From memory I certainly know that I was conscious within a few days of being born. Admitedly I thought in a much different way to now. Presently I tend to think in English. Back then I thought in pictures.

Renier, if a conscious entity has to state it is conscious to be so, then you would probably have to consider animals such as dogs, cats, dolphins etc. as not possesing consciousnes (many people do just that). I would be uncomfortable with such a claim. Lots of creatures show signs of memory and I would think that consciousnes is required before memory can function  in a biological entity.

However, those are just my opinions. Science doesn't seem to have a definitive description of consciousness at the moment.

  
Jay Ray



Posts: 92
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,02:57   

I'm not sure if this is a good definition or not, but I consider conciousness the recognition of the difference between SELF and OTHER.  This probably occurs right about the time that a being learns that it can intentionally manipulate its enironment.

Consider an average newborn baby waking up in a quiet daylit room.  It is at this point a perfect receiver.  A cloud drifts past a window.   The baby's body blinks its eyes at the light, but the baby doesn't do this on purpose.  It doesn't know the difference between the light from the sun and its own senses.   Noises burble from behind a closed door, and the baby hears them.  The baby's body coos quietly in the mellow room.  The baby doesn't distinguish between its own voice and the noises in the world.  Everything is one thing.  The baby itself is part of the everything else.  

I reckon this state only lasts a few weeks tops for your average baby.  Very soon the baby starts to learn that it has some control over things.  The baby's brain is primed for knowledge, and ever since it left the womb the brain begins to build connections based on the baby's experiences.  The people around the baby respond to it, and interact with it in  intentional ways.  The brain starts building neuronal pathways as a response to this flood of information.  The baby begins to get a limited realization that it is somewhat autonomous.  Before you know it, the baby starts doing things intentionally to effect its environment.   Of course, it still shits all over itself, but hey.  You've got to start somewhere. :)

That's conciousness to me.  Intentional interaction.

  
Jay Ray



Posts: 92
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,03:23   

Oh, yes.  Life of course does not begin at conception, and does not rely on conciousness.  Life began in the deep past and has continued in an unbroken chain since that time.

  
Russell



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Joined: April 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,03:45   

Why do you suppose Thordude is avoiding the "fire in the fertility clinic" test? It's obviously not for lack of time.

--------------
Must... not... scratch... mosquito bite.

  
improvius



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Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,03:55   

Clearly this is a question about semantics.  As TD himself demonstrates, there are multiple "correct" answers to the question.  It all boils down to how you want to define your terms.

--------------
Quote (afdave @ Oct. 02 2006,18:37)
Many Jews were in comfortable oblivion about Hitler ... until it was too late.
Many scientists will persist in comfortable oblivion about their Creator ... until it is too late.

  
Jay Ray



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Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,04:02   

For much the same reason why he won't answer this question.

Quote
TD:  I digress, science, by your own implication, cannot give us an answer on issues of OOL.  Now who should we look to for the answer?  Science is out of the game.


Me:  Who should we look to, then?


In either case, he'd be forced to address something he is painfully trying to ignore.  Maybe for different reasons, but ultimately it goes back to the same source.

  
Arden Chatfield



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Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,04:41   

WTF? Is this like the fourth thread here devoted to Thordaddy? ? ?

--------------
"Rich is just mad because he thought all titties had fur on them until last week when a shorn transvestite ruined his childhood dreams by jumping out of a spider man cake and man boobing him in the face lips." - Erasmus

  
PuckSR



Posts: 314
Joined: Nov. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,05:39   

If conciousness is defined as purposeful interaction with ones enviroment...

Then I was under the impression that fetuses exhibit at least some purposeful interaction with their enviroment.
I do not think I would compare Terry Schiavo to a new-born.  The main difference being that newborn babies have incredibly underdeveloped senses(not in the biological sense, but in the cognitive sense..they havent really been using those eyes to interpret complex visuals in the womb).  They do more than react to stimuli, they purposefully engage stimuli.  When you see a newborn moving around, it is actively seeking stimuli.  I dont believe I have ever seen someone who is in a vegetative state reach out looking for something to touch.

I would also accept the ability of an organism to 'learn' as an important capacity for conciousness.  A baby, while still in the womb, will actually gather rudimentary information.  It, for example, learns the sounds of its mother's voice.

I know this link is from a Catholic news agency...but it actually refers to peer-reviewed studies.
Cognitive Capacity of fetuses

The thing you need to realize Thordaddy is that we could have several points of genesis.
When does anything truly "become".
When does a seed become a plant?
When does a house become a house?
obviously as soon as they lay a foundation, we are building a house, and that foundation will become a house...but is it a house yet?  Obviously it becomes a house well before the  painters take care of the interior.  
Its also important to note that a house has major developments in its construction.
The foundation is important.  The framing is important.  putting the roof on is important.  closing the walls is important.  Its all important, but their isnt a single point of  "creation' for a house...its a process

  
ericmurphy



Posts: 2460
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,05:46   

I have to say, this must be a first. I don't think I've ever heard anyone claim consciousness for a fertilized human ovum, but deny it for a newborn. (Actually, this is the second time Thordaddy has made the same argument.) I guess it's really true when they say pro-lifers believe life begins at conception and ends at birth.

But what do we really expect from a guy who expounds logical gems like this: given three possibilities, we can most easily dispense with the third one, because that leaves only two.

--------------
2006 MVD award for most dogged defense of scientific sanity

"Atheism is a religion the same way NOT collecting stamps is a hobby." —Scott Adams

  
ericmurphy



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Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,06:12   

Another example of how weak Thordaddy's reasoning is:

Quote
Since we were speaking in the context of abortion, both constrasting statements can be further defined as;

Human life begins at conception.

and

Human life does not begin at conception.

But we also need to go further and define "conception."  The general meaning of conception is a "beginning."  The opposing statements would then read;

Human life begins at the beginning.

and

Human life does not begin at the beginning.


No, Thordaddy, in this context, conception is not synonymous with "beginning." You're assuming what you're trying to prove. In this context, the term "conception" has a technical definition, i.e., the moment when egg and sperm (both of which, as has been pointed out to you ad nasueum, are already "alive") fuse. You're no further along proving your point (which is irrelevant in any case) than you were to begin with.

--------------
2006 MVD award for most dogged defense of scientific sanity

"Atheism is a religion the same way NOT collecting stamps is a hobby." —Scott Adams

  
MidnightVoice



Posts: 380
Joined: Aug. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,06:15   

Going back to the original post, obviously life exists with or without conception.  But some (please note - some) biologists consider pregnancy begins at implantation of the embryo.  This is spatially and temporally distinct from fertilization.

If human consciousness were to start at fertilization, then we would surely have to do something about all those fertilized eggs that are NOT successfully implanted by mother nature.

--------------
If I fly the coop some time
And take nothing but a grip
With the few good books that really count
It's a necessary trip

I'll be gone with the girl in the gold silk jacket
The girl with the pearl-driller's hands

  
Flint



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,06:20   

Around we go again. The question isn't when life starts, the question is when a person legally exists. This isn't a genetic question, it's a legal question.

And so I repeat: When slaves were property, they were legally NOT PEOPLE. Their genes didn't matter. Didn't matter that they were conscious, self-aware, intelligent, educated, or anything else. Legally, they were not people. Their owners could legally kill them at any time.

Abortion is the same thing. A fetus is by law not a legal person. Unless this discussion focuses on the law, it misses the entire point.

  
Jay Ray



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Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,06:25   

Legal Schmegal.  We just like to watch TD squirm.

  
avocationist



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,06:35   

Thordaddy, my guess is you are male. I just want you to know that in my opinion men have no authority whatsoever on the topic of abortion. Perhaps there is an ethical debate to be had, but it isn't your debate.

Newborns do have consciousness. Self versus other are not required. The baby is in a highly aware state shortly after birth.

Also, just to drive you all mad, my daughter spoke to me from the womb a week before she was born.

  
PuckSR



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,06:36   

If anything productive comes from this thread...and that is a huge IF...I hope we can at least guide thordaddy towards logical reasoning skills.  

Right now, he has more logical fallacies in his arguments than should be legally allowed.  Now, this doesn't mean that his thoughts on the subject are valid/invalid...it just means that his arguments suck from a logical perspective.

Also, if we can get him to understand logic...maybe after that we can get him to understand that even if your reasons for a belief are incorrect, the thing you believe in can still exist and be correct.

Finally, I hope we can convince him that several terms are  impossible to absolutely define, such as: life and consciousness

  
Jay Ray



Posts: 92
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,06:37   

Quote
Also, just to drive you all mad, my daughter spoke to me from the womb a week before she was born.


:D

/me runs naked and screaming into the street.

  
ericmurphy



Posts: 2460
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,07:49   

PuckSR made an interesting analogy that has the added benefit of showing exactly why Thordaddy's whole line of reasoning is irrelevant (not that he hasn't be told that before):

Quote
When does a house become a house?
obviously as soon as they lay a foundation, we are building a house, and that foundation will become a house...but is it a house yet?  Obviously it becomes a house well before the  painters take care of the interior.  
Its also important to note that a house has major developments in its construction.
The foundation is important.  The framing is important.  putting the roof on is important.  closing the walls is important.  Its all important, but their isnt a single point of  "creation' for a house...its a process


As it happens, I have some familiarity with construction law. There are certain milestones in the construction of, say, a single-family dwelling (otherwise known as a "house"). One of these milestones is, as PuckSR pointed out, the pouring of the foundation. Interestingly, the pouring of the foundation is relatively insignificant legally. It's about as signficant legally as fertilization is (at least, for the moment; and if fertilization ever really does become important legally, it will be really fun watching how the medical profession becomes tasked with determining the exact moment of fertilization).

Another important milestone is the condition of weathertightness. At this point in the construction process, the exterior structure of the building is completed to the point where the interior is protected from the elements, and interior finishing can begin. In many instances, a condition of weathertightness still looks very unfinished to the untrained eye.

Another milestone is the point of substantial completion. At this point, the house is essentially finished, with just few minor punch-list items (missing outlet covers, a few nicks in the paint, missing light fixtures). Often, but not always, substantial completion is the point when the owner has beneficial occupancy of the house.

The point is, the owner's and contractor's legal rights and responsibilities differ at different points in this process. Kinda like what happens between conception and birth. Any reasonable person (a category that evidently does not include Thordaddy) understands that the legal rights of a fertilized egg are different from the legal rights of a third-trimester fetus. I think it's the ultimate in straw-man arguments to try to limit the possibilities for drawing the line dividing full human rights from lesser rights at either conception or birth. There's nine months' worth of development in between those points, where enormous changes occur.

It's the same kind of illogic that led to the Iraq war. The straw-man there was, either we invade and occupy Iraq, or we do nothing at all.

--------------
2006 MVD award for most dogged defense of scientific sanity

"Atheism is a religion the same way NOT collecting stamps is a hobby." —Scott Adams

  
cogzoid



Posts: 234
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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,07:52   

Quote
Also, just to drive you all mad, my daughter spoke to me from the womb a week before she was born.
What did she say?

  
Faid



Posts: 1143
Joined: Mar. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,08:06   

Quote
I've held two newborns and I can say they looked no more conscious than Terri Schiavo.



WHAT

You're comparing your newborn child to a person in PVS?

You are a liar, thordaddy. You either lie about having children, or you lie about your children, which is worse.

Either way, I'm through wasting my time with you. Stupid of me not to do so before.

--------------
A look into DAVE HAWKINS' sense of honesty:

"The truth is that ALL mutations REDUCE information"

"...mutations can add information to a genome.  And remember, I have never said that this is not possible."

  
Flint



Posts: 478
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,08:10   

Quote
Any reasonable person (a category that evidently does not include Thordaddy) understands that the legal rights of a fertilized egg are different from the legal rights of a third-trimester fetus.

I hope any reasonable person can see that this is not necessarily the case. Laws are essentially arbitrary. We can attempt to make them reasonable, but they have no requirement to be reasonable beyond the fact that if they cannot be enforced, they are nugatory.

In the US, as I understand it, the legal rights of the fetus do not change from conception to birth. They change only at birth itself. But at least, we've recognized that we are talking about legal constructs here.

  
ericmurphy



Posts: 2460
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,08:31   

Quote (Flint @ Mar. 31 2006,14:10)
Quote
Any reasonable person (a category that evidently does not include Thordaddy) understands that the legal rights of a fertilized egg are different from the legal rights of a third-trimester fetus.

I hope any reasonable person can see that this is not necessarily the case. Laws are essentially arbitrary. We can attempt to make them reasonable, but they have no requirement to be reasonable beyond the fact that if they cannot be enforced, they are nugatory.

In the US, as I understand it, the legal rights of the fetus do not change from conception to birth. They change only at birth itself. But at least, we've recognized that we are talking about legal constructs here.

Actually, the rights of a fetus do change at various points between conception and birth in many states. Late-term abortion laws, also known as "partial-birth" abortion laws, confer different rights on fetuses at different stages of pregnancy. A fertilized egg, as far as I know, has no rights in any state. Given that a fertilized (but not yet implanted) egg is difficult even to detect, this is probably unavoidable.

My point, Flint, is not that the law itself is reasonable (which after all is a matter of opinion), but that any reasonable (or at least knowledgeable) person understands that the rights of a fertilized egg are different from the rights of a third-trimester fetus. This is a matter of fact, not opinion.

An least some of us are aware that we're talking legal, and not scientific, concepts here.

--------------
2006 MVD award for most dogged defense of scientific sanity

"Atheism is a religion the same way NOT collecting stamps is a hobby." —Scott Adams

  
thordaddy



Posts: 486
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,11:10   

What I have not said,

A zygote is conscious.

A newborn is unconscious.

What I have said,

There is NO DIRECT evidence of newborn consciousness.

There is NO DIRECT evidence to suggest that human consciousness DOES NOT begin at conception.

Now, unless one believes we are simply conscious outgrowths of ONE billions of years old entity then it can be assumed OUR life DID NOT begin before conception.

Next, unless one believes OUR individual lives had NO  BEGINNING and hence we are ETERNAL or came from NONLIFE then it can be assumed WE ALL HAVE A BEGINNING.

Lastly, if OUR HUMAN LIFE did not begin at conception, but after conception, what's the evidence that it didn't start right after conception?

  
Flint



Posts: 478
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,11:13   

Quote
any reasonable (or at least knowledgeable) person understands that the rights of a fertilized egg are different from the rights of a third-trimester fetus. This is a matter of fact, not opinion.

??? Didn't you just get through saying that this is a matter of law, which varies from state to state? That what you claim is a fact is only true in some places, but not true in others?

Once again, to the best of my knowledge, in at least some states the rights of the egg and the rights of the fetus the day before birth are equally zero.

  
Flint



Posts: 478
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,11:17   

thordaddy:

Quote
Lastly, if OUR HUMAN LIFE did not begin at conception, but after conception, what's the evidence that it didn't start right after conception?
Hello, anyone home?

Your human life started at conception. Your status as a legal person with legal rights started at birth.

  
thordaddy



Posts: 486
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2006,11:26   

ericmurphyopines,

Quote
My point, Flint, is not that the law itself is reasonable (which after all is a matter of opinion), but that any reasonable (or at least knowledgeable) person understands that the rights of a fertilized egg are different from the rights of a third-trimester fetus. This is a matter of fact, not opinion.


We know that there are different legal rights for a fertilized egg and a third-trimester fetus.

What we don't know is WHY?

WHY, ericmurphy?

The law certainly doesn't seem to be based on any science, does it?  If so, what's the science behind the difference in "rights?"

  
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