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Part 9 What makes a human valuable?

What makes a human being valuable[1]?

We stand before two possible futures based on two radically different views of humanity.  One view says that human beings are intrinsically valuable simply because they are human.  If something is “intrinsically valuable” it is valuable by itself and not because of its associations.  According to this view, your rights do not depend on what you can do or your level of achievement but on the fact that you are a human being.

The other view asserts that human beings are merely instrumentally valuable, meaning they are mere carriers of what is valuable, most notably consciousness, intelligence, and the like. On this view, you are not fully human until you acquire certain arbitrarily selected properties or manage to function at a certain level.  Let’s look at each of these two views and how they play out in the abortion debate.

Instrumentally valuable: A human’s worth is judged by how well he or she can function at a certain level.  Dr. Peter Singer, profession of bioethics Princeton University, says the any argument used to dehumanize the fetus disqualifies newborns as well.  In other words, Singer argues that there is no relevant difference between fetus and newborn.  Neither one has acquired self-consciousness, hence, neither is valuable.[2] He recognizes that once you advance the principle that human beings have no intrinsic worth, there is no basis for protecting newborns or fetuses.  That’s why Singer’s argument permits infanticide.  He believes there is no difference between killing an unborn and killing a 1 to 2 year old baby.  As scary as this view is at least he is consistent.  If your argument against the rights of the unborn hinge on how he or she functions at a certain level, then to be consistent as Dr. Singer states, you have to apply that standard to a newborn.  If you are pro-abortion, are you also pro-infanticide?  If not, why?

Intrinsically valuable: Valuable simply because you are human.  If I was to offer you a $100 dollar bill, would you take it?  How about if I crumple is up, step on it, tear a corner off, would you still take it?  If you are like most people, the answer is yes to both offers.  The reason is because the $100 bill is intrinsically valuable.  A crumpled or torn appearance doesn’t alter the value.  The same goes for being an intrinsically valuable human.  It doesn’t matter if you are disabled, mentally deficient, or still in the womb, if you are human you are valuable.

In part 10 I will present a tool for making the case for the intrinsic value of the unborn.

Go to part 10 here


[1] Much of my information comes from Scott Klusendorf President of Life Training Institute.

[2] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) pp. 169-72.

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