Human is?


Oleg Volk
July 17, 2003, 08:30 PM
"Human life is worth defending". Most of us agree. What I am curious about is the definition of human life. Some people feel their pets are human, though the courts disagree. Others are of opinion that a microcephalic individual isn't human due to the lack of any inelligence whatsoever. I am curious where you draw the line.

If you enjoyed reading about "Human is?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
Chris Rhines
July 17, 2003, 08:38 PM
If an animal, vegetable, or mineral can say to me*, "I have the rights to self-ownership and self-rule, and I demand that you respect my rights as I respect yours," then they're human enough for me.

- Chris

* - And understand what they are saying. A tape recording is not human. Neither, by this definition, are most politicians...

July 17, 2003, 08:41 PM
Interesting question. I go with the scientific approach that defines a "human being" as a "living human organism". This means having the following characteristics:

1. Living - the most common evidence of this is cell division. This is evidence of life. When cell division stops, death has ensued.

2. Human - having the complete DNA of the human species.

3. Organism - the Encarta web site defines this word as follows:
1. biology living thing: a living thing such as a plant, animal, or bacterium.

2. system of interdependent parts: a functioning system of interdependent parts that resembles a living creature.

So, to me, a human life is one that exhibits all three qualities: life, human DNA, and the interdependent parts that make up a living human being. I discount attributes such as age, intelligence, physical or mental health, etc., as these are variables that will change over time for each of us. I may be young, bright and healthy at one time, and a few decades later might be old, senile and sick - but I'm still the same human being!

Given this definition, of course, one can argue long and hard about abortion being murder (because a fetus has all of these attributes), or the sanctity of human life (when does life cease being "human"?), and so on.

July 17, 2003, 08:45 PM
Uh oh. I see an abortion debate coming...better get my two dorrar in :D

'Human Life is Worth Defending' means that I do what I can to protect myself and the people that I know and care about. Protecting society may be a contractual obligation (folks that serve in public safety, perhaps, whole 'nother debate here), subcultural one (members of the church look out for each other spiritually), etc. but at the top-down level, can still be open to abuse by the powers--corrupt police, churches divided by politics, etc. Defending human life is most efficiently done at the individual level.

Pets are property. Funny thing is I heard some blissninnies say they'd take a bullet for their pets, but they wouldn't kill a predator to save their own life....strange people, but each their own as long as they leave me alone, which unfortunately, they're not. I would have a problem with my neighbor coming on my property and kicking my dog. But not sure what I can legally do about it. "I am going to call my lawyer. He is going to arrest you. Why did she do it?? She's lying! She's lying to you!!!"

July 17, 2003, 08:55 PM
I'll comment on the 'pet' part. My cat has more personality than most "humans." She knows when I've had a bad day and a good day, and usually acts accordingly. Sometimes, my cat is the only "person" I can talk to. (Yes, she talks back. Just a different language.)

Now, would I shoot someone over my cat? Hard to say. If some BG comes into my house, and for some reason I can clearly see s/he's about to shoot my cat, well, I just might shoot. However, if I find my cat on the side of the road dead, (indoor cat, so I really don't have to worry about that) I would not hunt down the jerk who killed my cat. Well, maybe hunt him/her down, but I wouldn't shoot 'em.

Dang good question, Oleg. I'm going to ponder on that for a little bit.

July 17, 2003, 09:04 PM
I think a keyword ''sentient'' covers it quite well. ........ to feel or have feelings ..... pretty much most would say confined to homo sapiens.

When it comes to the defense aspect then much will as ever depend on threat to self ... within which framework we can in fact include non humans, as in an attack by wild animal etc.

July 17, 2003, 09:13 PM
I think a keyword ''sentient'' covers it quite well. ........ to feel or have feelings ..... pretty much most would say confined to homo sapiens. Ever see a dog get excited? Ever see a dog that's scared? Ever see a dog that's mad?

Those are feelings.

I promise I'm not with PETA, I just love animals and have oberved plenty 'o feelings in many of them. Of course, IME.

Don Gwinn
July 17, 2003, 09:20 PM
I love my dogs, but they're not human. They're not persons, either. And if you think feelings are the definition of humanity, you're on a road to deep confusion.

July 17, 2003, 09:36 PM
if you think feelings are the definition of humanity I was referring to what someone else posted.I think a keyword ''sentient'' covers it quite well. ........ to feel or have feelings ..... pretty much most would say confined to homo sapiens. From what I'm reading there, only humans show feelings. I was stating that wasn't true.

July 17, 2003, 09:37 PM
Ever see a dog get excited? Ever see a dog that's scared? Ever see a dog that's mad? Seen all that Darrin ..... sure but as far as I'm concerned they are not ''feelings'' .... no ''hurt'', no ''bitterness', no ''love'', simply instinctual animal reactions to stimuli .... reactions to reward, deprivations etc . and threats.

Dog excited? ...... yep ... association ... whether Pavlovian or not ... ''walkies''= pleasure .... food = pleasure .... = anticipatory excitment.

Dog scared? ....... again yep ... reaction to threat perhaps ... not the dog ''thinking'' .... ***!! Just a perceived threat brought on by instincts ... survival instincts .. adrenaline etc.

Dog mad? .... yep that too .. but assuming you do not mean rabid .. just plain ''angry, mad'' .... again usually a result of being ''wound up'' thru threat or a repeat of an action that previously produced pain maybe.

I'm sure these things can seem like ''feelings'' but - the necessary consciousness capability just ain't there for emotions, per se.

Anyways .. off topic, sorry. But dogs sentient .. nope sorry.:)

July 17, 2003, 09:40 PM
I love my dogs, but they're not human.
Exactly. Even if they were sentient, they would still be sentient dogs, not humans. Anything else is just anthropomorphising.

That being said, my bird dog is way closer to the front of the line of "creatures Ben would special order a hamburger, hold everything but the meat and bun, at the MacDonalds drive through" than most humans out there are.

July 17, 2003, 09:40 PM
All good. I'll still have talks with my cat. :)

July 17, 2003, 09:45 PM
My guns have feelings...they shoot lousy when I neglect them :o


July 17, 2003, 09:46 PM
I have a friend who will argue at length that human "feelings" are exactly as you described the dog's reactions.

I'll buy Preacherman's definition of "human life".
Living, human DNA and an organism. Works for me.

July 17, 2003, 11:18 PM
Okay, who had that Heinlein quote from Lazarus Long in their sig line. That pretty much defines what a human is to me.
There are a lot of two legged, naked apes out there that don't come close to being human anymore. Sometimes I think that God made 4.5 Billion souls, and when we passed that population mark the excess is out there without that which makes one human.

July 17, 2003, 11:34 PM
My definition closely resembles that of Preacher. I won't give the definition I learned and re-defined for myself from Anatomy and Physiology...his is close enough.

Agree about some "organisms" walking on two legs, having opposing digit--perhaps that "intellect" thingy is missing. Theory: Correlation between politicians and this "intellect thingy" missing...I'd say so...getting passed onto "sheeple" through osmosis...yep!

thankfully -some of us have "humoral immunity" ...

July 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
I have a friend who will argue at length that human "feelings" are exactly as you described the dog's reactions.

What, you mean slobbering all over a hamburger?::neener: :D

July 17, 2003, 11:40 PM
The following is MY opinion, based on my life experiences and formation. Countless hours of reading religious text, Science books, Robert Heinlein and the first series of Star Trek, your opinion will likely differ...

Humans are the most intelligent animal on the planet. Don't forget we are animals like it or not.

Being such doesn't give us the right to do as we wish with less intelligent animals. If you feel dogs for instance are just "property" (Recent court decisions are changing that) then what is wrong with beating up mentally retarded children for fun?

I know lower animals use tools, logic, feel fear and have dreams also.
Sadly Koko the gorilla has a larger vocabulary than many people in Congress I think.

Higher animals and lower animals, from some of the places around the world the line is too easily blurred.

I think human is more than just being a sentient creature, it's what you do with the awareness.

July 17, 2003, 11:48 PM
P95Carry wrote-

Dog excited? ...... yep ... association ... whether Pavlovian or not ... ''walkies''= pleasure .... food = pleasure .... = anticipatory excitment.

Dog scared? ....... again yep ... reaction to threat perhaps ... not the dog ''thinking'' .... ***!! Just a perceived threat brought on by instincts ... survival instincts .. adrenaline etc.

Dog mad? .... yep that too .. but assuming you do not mean rabid .. just plain ''angry, mad'' .... again usually a result of being ''wound up'' thru threat or a repeat of an action that previously produced pain maybe.

Child excited? Yep association- Daddys home= anticipatory excitment
Child scared?-Thunder does that to my Beagle also
Child mad?- Sorry sometimes you just fall down

Human emotions are very "Hardwired" also in this regard and both can be trained to react differently.


July 17, 2003, 11:52 PM
I don't think that there's really any way to detect sentience, no moreso than one can scientifically quantify the soul.

However, I think that it is possible to determine if a particular creature or species is sentient through a couple of methods:

1)Technological development. Many animals use primitive tools or build primitive structures out of instinct. That doesn't count. What would count would be verifiable improvements in technology over a period of time. In other words, generational refinements of a tool over time to increase its utility.

2)Use of and employment of fire. 'Nuf said.

As for animal rights activists...
The reason they are engaged in such activism is due to the fact that an animal is far less likely to look at them and say 'buzz off, jerk' than even the most simple of humans.

July 18, 2003, 12:01 AM
Humans are the only lifeform on earth that purposely seek to kill others of the same lifeform for a wide assortment of reasons, ranging from "to see what it feels like" to killing innocents in the belief they will be rewarded to an afterlife in heaven with a large supply of virgins. Some humans kill because they enjoy it. Some kill to force others to do what they desire. Some do it for greed or power.

The vast majority of "animals" kill for survival and they kill because of instinct, not because they awoke this morning and decided to kill a dozen of their species because they didn't like the color of their fur.

Another trait separating humans from other lifeforms is that humans alone have the capacity and ability to destroy every other lifeform on the planet, themselves included.

July 18, 2003, 12:03 AM
Ok, human life is worth saving. Unless that human happens to be one of the scum that preys on other humans. Then, if he tries to prey on me or mine, he becomes worm food. I will add that "mine" includes my cats. They are inside cats only. Thus if some scum of the earth is threatening my cats, they are in my house. My house is my castle, my last refuge. My place of safety. Violate that then you are, again, worm food. Yes, my cats are family. They talk to me, I talk to them. Are they worth putting my life on the line for? Yes. I live where I do (not the best area) because the landloards allow my cats. If I could afford my own place, then I would live in a better area. Animals may be property, but some property is worth more than others. JMHO

Having sense perception; conscious: “The living knew themselves just sentient puppets on God's stage” (T.E. Lawrence).
Experiencing sensation or feeling.

Byron Quick
July 18, 2003, 12:40 AM
Humans are the only lifeform on earth that purposely seek to kill others of the same lifeform for a wide assortment of reasons, ranging from "to see what it feels like" to killing innocents in the belief they will be rewarded to an afterlife in heaven with a large supply of virgins. Some humans kill because they enjoy it. Some kill to force others to do what they desire. Some do it for greed or power.

Murder has been observed within bands of chimpanzees. War has been observed between bands of chimpanzees. Rape has been observed both intra-band and inter-band.

Some male dolphins will have sex with anything that can't get away...including you if they catch you.

The statements quoted can be read many places in works over centuries. However, observers of animal behavior in the wild over the last fifty years have found them to be largely false. Especially in what are considered to be the "higher" mammals.

July 18, 2003, 01:10 AM
You may be correct. However, I still believe that animals that do engage in violence/rape against their own or other species are doing it because of the "survival of the fittest" instinct and not because they simply enjoy it. Given that they have no moral or legal barrier to stop this action, if they were doing it because they liked it, they would wipe out their entire band and possibly their species.

Byron Quick
July 18, 2003, 01:27 AM
Not necessarily. You've got some bully chimp that kills another one. Decides he likes it. So he does it again. And again. Smaller, weaker chimp who's smarter notes a trend. Smaller, weaker chimp happens to have a couple of smaller, weaker chimp buddies who think they might be next. They gang up and have bully chimp for lunch. Survival of the fittest happened to be: those who were fittest were those who cooperated best in emergencies. In this particular incident:D

I believe this is the Heinlein quote referred to earlier by TexasVet.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." -Robert Heinlein

Also by Heinlein:
Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.

Malone LaVeigh
July 18, 2003, 01:35 AM
Wow. I didn't think there were any classic Cartesians left after the 19th Century.

July 18, 2003, 01:49 AM
I pretty much agree with Preacherman's definition of human being. When it comes to animals, I adhere to the humans first rule. I'd risk my best dog to save a worthless human. I'd kill my best dog myself if it would insure the safety of a human of unknown worth. Although I can't come up with a circumstance where killing my dog would help, having a hierarchy established eliminates the need to think about when the time comes.

Is it harsh? Maybe, but I'm not suggesting it for anyone else.


Byron Quick
July 18, 2003, 01:54 AM
I'd risk my best dog to save a worthless human.

I wouldn't.

I'd kill my best dog myself if it would insure the safety of a human of unknown worth.

I would. But if he turned out not to be at least equal in worth to the dog, I might let my second best dog have him.

July 18, 2003, 02:36 AM
Only a human will kill you for your bad taste in music.

July 18, 2003, 03:05 AM
I would not kill a person for killing my pet, whether or not it was done with intent. I don’t put animals on the same level as humans. Lord knows I’ve killed my fair share of feral dogs and raised my fair share of livestock to be eaten.

I would however, use every available resource to have the crumb bum arrested and or locked up in a happy hotel if the act was intentional.:fire:

The one exception to this would be, if a BG killed my lab mix with the intent of getting to me or any other human member of my family. This act would earn him a .45 cal enema.:what:

Jim March
July 18, 2003, 03:16 AM
Regarding the line between human and "critter":

I've seen ferrets do things that are just...mind-boggling. Like *lie*. I kid you not, they're capable of lying. I saw one do something bad, and just as she was about to get caught, dart into bed with her sister and pretend to be asleep to come up with an "alibi" :eek:.

But the most incredible such was a video taken by a ladyfert's owner to prove what he was actually seeing her do of her own free will. This guy was breeding ferrets on an amateur basis on his farm, so this was an unusual case of a full-tilt pet female ferret fully bonded with her human owner, and with a new litter. This is NOT common. Female ferrets that are bred must be kept in outdoor light only, otherwise they'll cycle into season too soon and die. So this guy went to a lot of trouble to set up one room in his house as natural-light only, for the ferts (males too, to keep them in the same breeding cycle).

Anyways, what this guy filmed was the female ferret dragging him to her nest, and then taking his hand in her teeth (gently), moving it over the baby ferts and making up and down motions right over them. She would keep this up UNTIL he petted the babies and played with them.

First, she had communicated via gestures of her own invention. None of this was "taught", she was acting 100% of her own free will. Second, she knew that being petted was enjoyable, and wanted to make sure her babies got some. And you can also imagine the level of trust involved.

Mama only weighed about 1.5 pounds.


Other stuff: ferrets are NOT ever "food possessive/aggressive". A friend once brought his new kitten over to visit and not only did my two male ferts gently play with it, they were perfectly content to let it eat out of their food dish (ferts eat high-grade kitten formula kibble) either alone or while they were eating too. But, I've also seen video of a couple of ferrets that realized that the family German Sheperd WAS "food aggressive" so they played this hilarious game where they'd approach the dog's dish from different directions, and each time the dog tried to drive one away, the other would make a dash for the doggydinner :). They didn't actually want to EAT the dog's food, just "count coup" by stealing pieces and stashing 'em away. And when they made a score, both would happily jump around, regardless of which one succeeded in making the grab, proving that this was a true "joint venture" ganging up on the doggy :D.

I've seen ferrets move objects up against barriers so they can jump over.

I've seen them use "controlled force" against a dog that was being very rude, but not quite "committing assault". Felix didn't like being woke up and nudged all over by a Jack Russell Terrier, so he reached out and bit the dog's lip, NOT hard enough to draw blood or even make the dog yelp, just enough to get it's attention - then he let go and gave the dog a cold stare until it went away.

All this, from critters that can comfortably sleep in a large pocket. :scrutiny:

Plus they're ridiculously affectionate, will try and make friends with just about anything this side of a lizard, I could go on for days.

Oleg Volk
July 18, 2003, 10:22 AM
One of the background tangents for this question is about non-functional people. If a kid is born severely retarded, then that's decades' worth of resources which would other wise go to other kids of that same couple. It could, for instance, mean the difference between affording education for the other kids and not. Some propose that "society" take care of unwanted or forever dependent kids. Others suggest the same but via private insurance purchased against such eventualities. My question, to the medical profession and to the amature ethicists here, at which point would you pull the plug on someone who can't ever be independent or even self-aware. Nazis did away with a lot of people based on very loose definition of "non-viable", whereas some folks in the current US would like to keep everyone alive, even if the "person" has no brain at all. Where's the line...or does the person who pays determine that line?

July 18, 2003, 10:34 AM
Well it's a quality of life issue for the person. If you don't even know you exist, what does it matter if you stop exisiting?
I think it should be legal to end life/kill/terminate,(hatever term you like)
individuals who are unaware they exist.
No higher brain activity would be my basic marker.
That's if the family wishes it, not state mandated.

There would be be guidelines for those injured Vs. born damaged,how long before death allowed etc. done by a panel of doctors with no vested interest either way.

I hate to venture over here but from a practical, scientific and unemotional standpoint thats why I don't have any problem with abortion either.


Mike Irwin
July 18, 2003, 11:07 AM
Human is a highly overrated concept.

July 18, 2003, 11:21 AM
A human is what Preacher said. DNA proves it, yadda yadda. Human rights, such as that to keep and bear arms, were designed for humans. Do animals have rights? I haven't even ventured into this subject on my own yet, so I don't have a concrete position. Off-hand, I'd have to say yes. What are they? Hell, I dunno. :)

What is a person? Well, a person is defined by their personality. Animals do indeed have a personality. Just pick any two random cats and observe how differently they act. Jim's example is good.

On a personal note, I value all innocent life, and as such would be willing to defend my pets the same as my other human loved ones. If somebody comes into my house and is about to shoot my cat, I will shoot them first. Same as if they are about to shoot any other innocent human. They've proven themselves a threat to my physical well-being if they're willing to shoot my animals unprovoked, and as such should be ‘neutralized'. :D

Should we be able to pull the plug on somebody who isn't self-aware? Well, if they're truly not self-aware, does it matter? They're just a hunk of organic material going through some basic automated cycles. Do we even have the right to pull the plug on some innocent person without their consent though? Hmm... I dunno. If there is even a remote chance of recovery, then no. If it's biologically impossible to become a self-aware living thing at any point in time, yes. Same as my view on abortion I suppose. Until said fetus has any remote chance of surviving outside of the womb, it's a hunk of tissue that is the property of the mother.

Damn, I just opened up a can of worms, huh? :)

P.S. Views subject to change at any time. :p

July 18, 2003, 11:31 AM
HUMAN: An oriental fellow who lives on a small island off the coast of Great Britain.

grampster :D :p

July 18, 2003, 12:13 PM
I agree with Preacherman. As far as animals? I value my cats and cats / dogs I've had more highly than many humans I have encountered. Some clown in our area has poisoned 35 dogs (not 100 pct certain of the number). I have a few choice punishments in mind for this sob.

With regard to when to pull the plug on humans?

When I was in the boy scouts many years ago, we did a chirstmas party at a mental hospital. Talk about defective humans. Full grown adults with less IQ & common sense than I've seen in 18 month old babies. I'll never forget the retard who tried to bite my dad's hand. I've never seen a hand move so fast. These defective human are worthless, other than providing jobs for other humans.

Now, I fast forward about 6 years. Working at an amusement part, they had a program to put some of the less retarded to work. A couple were pretty bad. But one guy, I think he was 24 or 26, was oh so close to being able to function on his own. Just needed 1 or 2 more IQ points. He never could remember his locker combination / how to dial / use the combination to open it. I helped him when I was around. It was truly heartbreaking then and still is today, 25 years later. I still can see him. So close, yet so far.

Of course so call normal humans were stealing cash from the registers - I was amazed. Who really are the defective humans?

There is a time to pull the plug. Just do not give that power to Nurse Ratchet.

July 18, 2003, 12:29 PM
Perhaps the best definition of human is one that includes how an alleged human treats and considers other critters that appear or are not at the same physical or mental level the alleged human considers himself to be.

grampster :scrutiny:

Ol' Badger
July 18, 2003, 12:37 PM
Chris has a good point! But what if my Parrot said those words? Would it be sign of being human. Say if little green men landed on Earth and said those things to you, are they Human?

rock jock
July 18, 2003, 01:19 PM
Nazis did away with a lot of people based on very loose definition of "non-viable"
I think you are missing the point. It wasn't just disabled persons. The Nazis chose to adopt a definition of "human" that would accomodate their belief system and practices, essentially making them morally unaccountable for their actions. Jews and Slavs were on the extermination list, thus they were defined as "sub-human". This had the effect of making mass murder more palatable for those Nazis who were squeamish about pulling the trigger. Afterall, murdering an innocent person can be difficult for someone with any modicum of moral fiber and the Nazis could not take the chance that some of their soldiers might have moral objections to mass murder. However, if you simply define someone as non-human, then it is not murder. It may be distasteful to machinegun thousands of sub-humans, but it is certainly not murder and once that moral hurdle is overcome, it becomes no more difficult than killing thousands of cattle that have mad cow disease. You feel sorry for them but you tell yourself it is necessary for the preservation fo your country, your fellow "man", your children. It also set the stage for societal acceptance of the overt mistreatment of Jews in the early 30's.

Defining your targeted enemy as less than worthy is the first step towards genocide and/or enslavement. On an individual basis, it is the precurser to murder in every case. The Japanese did it to the Chinese and Koreans, the American Southerners did it to the blacks, the Serbs to Muslims, and yes, we are doing it today here in the U.S. Man has always justified murder and always will. In the final analysis, one can justify anything as long as there is no objective standard by which we judge and are judged.

July 18, 2003, 01:59 PM
"Man is the only animal who laughs--or needs to."

To paraphrase PJ O'Rourke: With rights come responsibilities, animals have rights when they start taking out the trash.


Ol' Badger
July 18, 2003, 03:00 PM
Do we realy want to give rights to something that tastes soooo good!

July 18, 2003, 03:47 PM
I've had this discussion before and have never found a clear answer.

There is no measure that holds up across the board: For example, if one chooses the simple DNA model, then you have to grant "humanity" to sociopaths, the brain dead, etc; who are totally without empathy or any of the other emotional, spiritual or intellectual components we think of as making up a "human."

Conversely, if we look to the emotional or intellectual components, then we'd have to grant humanity to some of the higher animals - surely, dogs are "self-aware" and display love, empathy, compassion, etc, and are at least as intelligent as a young child (anyone want to deny "humanity" to children?)

You can fall back on the spiritual definition, but that is the hardest to defend of all! It's wholly dependent on your religion or personal philosophy and can not be argued from an objective viewpoint.

I don't think there is a pat answer, but we must struggle with all of this anyway. Humans have rights and law codifies those rights, so humanity must be defined in some fashion.


July 18, 2003, 04:30 PM
I think these are very intertwined with what's "Humanity"?

If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because
we are backing our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only
logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the
same reasons.
--C. S. Lewis (novelist and essayist)

People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a
justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we
should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this
has also been done since the earliest of times.
--Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904- )

All beings seek for happiness; so let your compassion extend itself to all.
--Mahavamsa (Buddhist)

When a man has pity on all living creatures then only is he noble.
--Buddha (563? - 483? B.C.)

Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) is our first duty to them,
but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission--to be of
service to them whenever they require it... If you have men who will
exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
--Saint Francis of Assisi (mystic and preacher)

Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character;
and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot
be a good man.
--Arthur Schopenhauer (philosopher)

"As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be
no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice
cannot dwell together."
--Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man will
not himself find peace."
--Albert Schweitzer

The relationship between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans
Out of 135 criminals, including robbers and rapists, 118 admitted that
when they were children they burned, hanged and stabbed domestic animals.
--Ogonyok(1979) (Soviet anti-cruelty magazine)

Cruelty has cursed the human family for countless ages. It is almost
impossible for one to be cruel to animals and kind to humans. If
children are permitted to be cruel to their pets and other animals,
they easily learn to get the same pleasure from the misery of
fellow-humans. Such tendencies can easily lead to crime.
--Fred A.McGrand (1895- )

Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer
is: "Because the animals are like us." Ask the experimenters why it is
morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: "Because the
animals are not like us." Animal experimentation rests on a logical
--Professor Charles R.Magel (1920- )

Results from animal tests are not transferable between species, and
therefore cannot guarantee product safety for humans...In reality these
tests do not provide protection for consumers from unsafe products, but
rather they are used to protect corporations from legal liability.
--Herbert Gundersheimer, M.D., member, PCRM (Physicians Committee for
Responsible Medicine), Baltimore, Maryland, 1988

It is strange to hear people talk of Humanitarianism, who are members of
societies for the prevention of cruelty to children and animals, and who
claim to be God-loving men and women, but who, nevertheless, encourage by their patronage the killing of animals merely to gratify the cravings of
--Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish (1844-1936)

Nothing more strongly arouses our disgust than cannibalism, yet we make
the same impression on Buddhists and vegetarians, for we feed on babies,
though not our own.
--Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Suppose that tomorrow a group of beings from another planet were to land
on Earth, beings who considered themselves as superior to you as you feel
yourself to be to other animals. Would they have the right to treat you as
you treat the animals you breed, keep and kill for food?
--John Harris (1946- )

"A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food;
therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely
for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral."
--Leo Tolstoy

For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed,
he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.
--Pythagoras (6th century BC)

I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come
when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look
upon the murder of men.
--Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)

Can one regard a fellow creature as a property item, an investment, a
piece of meat, an "it," without degenerating into cruelty towards that
--Karen Davis, PhD

Oleg Volk
July 18, 2003, 05:18 PM
Ogonyok(1979) (Soviet anti-cruelty magazine)

Actually, it was a youth entertainment and propaganda magazine.

Byron Quick
July 18, 2003, 05:26 PM

Nice quotes. I've never been able to understand why "all living things" doesn't include plants. I suppose they just don't want to acknowledge that their beliefs actually require them to starve to death.

Plants have a right to life, too:rolleyes:

July 18, 2003, 05:39 PM
doesn't include plants

Give them time. Haven't you heard the latest from the PETA types? They now believe that fish feel pain and thus suffer when hooked by fishermen. Trees will soon follow.

Kind of ironic when the only thing many human/animal rights groups consider "not human" is an unborn human fetus.

July 18, 2003, 05:41 PM
Celery sticks are murder.

July 18, 2003, 05:45 PM
I guess this moves the question from "What IS human life?" to "What is the VALUE of human life?". The two are rather different...

To define human life is not difficult, scientifically. The definition I posted early in this thread is one that, in various slightly-differently-stated forms, is used by many scientists. However, defining the nature of human life in medical or scientific terms is not enough. For example, try getting a doctor or psychologist to define a concept like "love". They can go into the physiological and psychological effects of being in love, but they can't define the concept itself, as it can't be scientifically measured. Heck, they can't even define something like electricity! We use it every day, and can generate it, measure it, regulate it, etc., but there is still no clear scientific definition of what electricity actually IS.

When one tries to assign value to something, one hits a major problem - value can only be expressed in terms of something else. The value of a ham sandwich is directly related to a number of factors: what it cost in terms of its component parts, related costs such as salaries, rent of premises, kitchen equipment, etc. used to prepare it, and profit margin. All of these come together when the seller sets a price for the finished product. However, we now hit supply-and-demand laws... what if the street vendor a couple of yards away, lacking many of the overhead costs, can produce a similar ham sandwich for half the price? Which is more "valuable" to the consumer? He now measures the price of the sandwich in terms of health risk (the street vendor is somewhat more at risk), quality, size, etc., and then relates these to the value (to him) of the money in his wallet. If he's pretty wealthy, he doesn't have to worry about the cost, so he can buy the most expensive sandwich without worrying: but if he's counting pennies, obviously he goes for the cheaper alternative.

So, value is expressed as a function of production, and as a function of consumption. How do we relate these concepts to the life of a human being? Any child (healthy or not) is going to cost at least X thousand dollars to raise to adulthood. Food, clothing, shelter, education, sports and recreation, etc., all add up to a stupendous sum over the twenty-odd years that that child will be financially dependent on its parents. If huge medical bills are added to the equation, that cost may run into millions of dollars.

However, can the child's life be measured only from such a utilitarian standpoint - what it will cost? What about the intrinsic value of a human life? Is there such a thing as intrinsic value?

Obviously, being a Christian, I maintain that there is, indeed, intrinsic value in a human life, since that life is created by God in His image and likeness, and is destined to return to God. Others, who do not share this viewpoint, will doubtless disagree strongly with me. However, there is also a concept of "intrinsic value" in the world, which might be useful for a-religious discussion of this concept.

If one looks at a beautiful wilderness area (e.g. Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, etc.), one has to ask: is its beauty of importance only because it can be exploited for the purposes of tourism? In other words, if one could not bring tourists into Yellowstone Park, would it lose its value as a natural wonder, and be better used for high-rise housing development? Should the Grand Canyon be filled in, so as to make better farmland or urban areas, if its tourist potential could not be realized? Most people will immediately reject such ideas, insisting that the areas have a value in themselves, whether or not they are visited by others. In the same light: we have the mask of Tutankhamen in a museum in Egypt. Its weight in gold can be measured: the purity of that gold can be tested and quantified: and given the daily price of gold, we can thus fix a monetary value for that mask. However, is that figure (based solely on its metal content) really a true reflection of its intrinsic value? If we had the same weight of gold bars, next to the Tutankhamen mask, would we say that the value of both items was identical? I think not... I think we'd immediately say that the beauty, historical significance and archaeological rarity of the Tutankhamen mask makes it many, many times more valuable than its gold content alone would signify.

To apply this to a human life: how can we determine its intrinsic worth, when we can't see inside it? There are innumerable confirmed stories of people in long-term comas, who heard doctors and family members discussing their cases (even talking about switching off their life support systems), but could not respond or join in the discussions, or even give an indication that they were aware of their surroundings. There are many handicapped children and adults who cannot communicate, and seem almost catatonic: but how do we know what is going on in their minds? (I would say "souls", but some don't believe in them, so let's stay with the mind for now). If we can't accurately determine what the intrinsic value of that life is to the person living it, how can we presume to make a value judgement about it on their behalf?

Isn't there an intrinsic element here just like the mask of Tutankhamen? If I'm a grave-robber, I'd steal the mask, melt it down, sell the gold, and be happy. If I'm an archaeologist, I would have a completely different perspective - because I would understand value from the statue's point of view (if I can stretch a point to illustrate). I would realize that this mask is "speaking" to us of a long-forgotten dynasty, a long-lost history, and that this was far more important than the intrinsic value of the metal it was made of. In the same way, a handicapped person, no matter how badly handicapped, cannot speak for themselves, but we can't judge the value of their lives, because we can't see inside their heads to judge for ourselves.

I don't know if I've made my points clearly here... if not, sing out, and I'll try to do better!

Byron Quick
July 18, 2003, 06:08 PM
I believe in an intrinsic value of human life. I also believe that an individual, by his actions, can reduce the intrinsic value of his life to zero or even a negative value.

As a nurse, I see an ethical dilemma at times with medical treatment: are we prolonging life or prolonging suffering? With many terminal illnesses and especially with the natural process of dying due to old age, we are prolonging suffering, often at the behest of well meaning but ultimately selfish family members. By prolonging suffering, I mean medical treatment that does not give any quality of life, does not give any hope of recovery or even temporary improvement, but rather has the extension of life as its only rationale.

July 18, 2003, 06:16 PM
Good point, Byron, and I agree with you. The preservation of life as such, without any emphasis on the quality of that life, is a very important factor. However, I'd go further - the preservation of life if that life would cease without active medical intervention is the issue here. If life would continue without drastic medical intervention, I don't think that "quality of life" issues apply, since that life is self-sustaining.

July 18, 2003, 06:18 PM

I think you are expressing your own philosophy quite well, it's just that it is impossible to objectify your belief system in a fashion that would be acceptable to everyone else.
And that's the problem with the entire subject. To take a case in point - a baby might be born with only a brainstem that allows it to maintain basic life functions, but not "think". From a Christian perspective (and Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc) this child is still "human" and has a right to life.

Someone else might disagree and argue that humanity begins and ends with self-awareness, or empathy, or at a certain intellectual capacity, etc. They might argue that the family or society (if they are paying the tab) has a right to "pull the plug".

Neither opinion can be defended in a truly objective fashion since they are based on the purely subjective opinion of the observer.

My own opinion is that humanity is defined by empathy. If a creature is capable of empathetic reaction to the pain of another, then it is a "human". Many criminals don't have that empathy and (if convicted of a crime), I think we have every right to remove their freedom or even their life.
I freely admit that I can not defend my opinion with facts or data or what have you. It's just my opinion, filtered through my own understanding and prejudices.

And that's why subects like abortion, capital punishment, war, etc, will always inflame public opinion - because there will never be a quantifiable definition (or even a universal "value") on human life.


July 18, 2003, 06:41 PM
My question, to the medical profession and to the amature ethicists here, at which point would you pull the plug on someone who can't ever be independent or even self-aware.

I took some medical related courses,spent some time in an OR. Similar question was asked , my reply was not well rec'd, though partly based on my feelings, and what I actually heard from patients and family of DNR. Euthansia was also involved as far as ethics.

If your are currently drawing a breath or have drawn a breath, someday you won't. In between one funcions as one big organism, with all the characteritics. [movement,responsiveness,growth,reproduction,respiration,digestion,absorbtion,circulation,assimilation and excretion].

This organism which we call a human being has built in features, designed to protect itself from harm. Disease, enviroment, .....flight or fight...the organism will do anything to protect itself. The Brain is the last to die [see Circle of Willis] it will let everything else die to keep itself funtioning.

I went onto to mention the advancement of DNA and how we -with IBMs super computer- will very likely be able to "tweak" a gene(s) that predisposes one to cancer, althiemer's disease, cardiovasular, and endocrine defieincies. We boil down to proteins anyway.

Continuing- I was pro euthansia. I was raised as Protestant, I have Catholics, Jewish, (insert any other religions here) Athesists and Agnostic friends.

I shared real life experinces. I have seen the patient opened up from stem to stern "yep she is ate up with cancer, she is gonna die-soon" sewn up, given pain meds and the familes rememberance were her doped up, to weak to do anything, hundereds of stitches, and added financial burden to already emotional ones.

I believe this person whom I was told was very active and outgoing, full of life should NOT have had that happen to her. Let the family remember the person full of life. Let her be euthanized, and what if anything could have been used to further science or maybe bone, eye organ donation be allowed--This was her wishes, the family wanted, the law says no. I was there in the room 3 weeks later when she drew here last breath in a cold room with strangers.

I also believe in Organ donors and transplants. I've seen both sides of this. The quietist quiet I have ever-or will ever hear is when everything in an OR stops and the patient is dead. I have been there when the brain died in a young mom, I was there when her 4 year old daughter was told. Dad then explained that mommy wanted to help people...we did the harvest of organs the next night. I really think that little girl is better off remembering her mom alive and well and then giving to others versus being a vegetable suported by machines. I do know for a fact (because we did these two transplants) a little boy is very happy his mom rec'd a kidney, another man rec'd a heart, I know his family is sad for the other's family's loss--and guilty/happy for their recipt of a heart.

I have a lot of respect for the Medical persons on all levels. I do not agree with the politics, government meddling, and impositions of insurance companies. I have seen patients sent home early because beds were needed so more surgeries needed to be done...not always those of dire need, but breast implants and other cosmetic surgeries. I feel some surgeries are dictated by insurance companies...we won't do this prevenative measure, but, if you get this bad we will "allow'20K and send you home to die.

No, we discuss human rights here. I'm by definition a "human". If I am in a accident and I'm going to be a vegetable , I have on paper to pull the plug. Take my organs and the rest of me goes to science. Family opposes and well I have that right. As far as my maker, I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

I couldn't get the strength one night to get up . That 4 year old died in my arms waiting for a heart transplant that never came. The surgeon was in conference with the parents. Another family decided Not to pull the plug. A match? I don't know, from what I learned probably, but I can't go there. the surgeon came in and I guess it showed. I was reading "The Old Man and the Boy" when he died. I handed the little boy and the book to the surgeon. I got up to change out of scrubs. " You and I need to discuss this " he said. "No, the family needs you more than I ". "Yes, your right Steve, come by tommorrow, and thank you".

I just threw my clothes into my backpack, left wearing scrubs, the security guard walked me to the lot, he knew something was up...I walked in silence...I drove around for awhile...that one do that...if only a plug had been pulled...maybe...

July 18, 2003, 06:51 PM
I have given the issue some thought before, but still cant come up with a suitable definition of when human life begins. I also try not to get into conversations with that topic as one of us will walk away frustrated and flustered, at the very least.

However, my dog may just be a dog, but she is capable of things some people I know arent capable of, and some that I didnt think was possible for even humans. (if i told you some of the things she has done you would think I was absolutely nuts.) She shows tons of emotions, and shows worry and love and all kinds of stuff. I even saw her not eat until everyone was home that was supposed to be home. I love my puppy more than life itself. She is the most innocent, loving creature on the face of the earth, and loves everyone. I could go on and on about my dog, but I wont. I am getting all teary just thinking about this thread and my dog getting hurt.

I just cant imagine why someone would hurt my dog intentionally. I know that they would end up dead if they did, as I love my puppy like someone loves their first born.

July 18, 2003, 07:13 PM
"human" to me, is defined as 'the ability to make conscious decisions'.

theres a book i've been reading off and on the last couple years, "the moral animal", and the author's position is that human behavior is entirely instinctual. its used as "evidence" that we have evolved, comparing human 'instincts' to that of animals.

July 18, 2003, 07:29 PM
I think Forest Gump would agree that human is as human does.

July 18, 2003, 07:41 PM
My theory? Everything you do is for selfish reasons. Everything done to make you feel good or avoid feeling bad. Give a homeless man $5? Makes you feel good about yourself etc., even when you think it's for someone else well ,that makes you feel good.

July 18, 2003, 08:28 PM
The ego of someone willing to euthanize another person must be huge.

I am a physician (surgeon). I will do my damnedest to save your life. If I can't save your life, I will let you die as comfortably and compassionately as I can.

I will not, however, euthanize you.

To passively let someone die is much different from actively causing death.

I do not decide when people live or die. I am simply a conduit through which that deicison is passed.

July 18, 2003, 08:46 PM
The ego of someone willing to euthanize another person must be huge.

I've never looked at it that way. Good point.

Byron Quick
July 19, 2003, 03:24 AM
To passively let someone die is much different from actively causing death.

I agree completely.

For myself though...I've got a big a big enough ego to make that choice for myself. If it really goes down the tubes. I've got an anterior neurofibroma at C8. In the last ten years all it's done to me is make my little fingers twitch a bit and become numb at times. God willing, that's all it will ever do. But, in the final extreme, I have little interest in living as a quadraplegic.

July 19, 2003, 03:45 AM

How many doctor do you know with huge egos?


July 19, 2003, 09:41 AM

Yes, many doctors have large egos. But what is the point of asking that question?

Byron, I would have no problem with you euthanizing yourself if you so choose. However, asking another person to do it for you is another matter, dont you think?

It is a slippery slope we start going down when we euthanasia becomes permissable. It ultimately could become a government tool with which to control medical costs. It is cheaper to euthanize a 95 yo who is no longer a productive element of society than it is to pay his medicare bills.

Be careful with this idea... it could become very dangerous.

July 19, 2003, 09:51 AM
To passively let someone die is much different from actively causing death.

How so?

July 19, 2003, 10:20 AM
Those who think the "retarted" or those with low IQ's are less than human have a few brain cells missing themselves.

Those individuals had no choice how they were born or were victims of accidents or disease.

When the family of these individuals put them in an institution because they don't have the stomach or backbone to care for them, the individuals can revert to violent behaviour.

While most cannot communucate properly, they do feel and can reason to an extent.

How would anyone like to be abandoned in one of these rat holes?

No it's not the children of a lesser God who should be eliminated,
its those who feel they should.

July 19, 2003, 10:29 AM

First, realize that my opinions are nothing more than that; they are just my opinions, based on my own morality, which I really am not trying to force on anyone. However, as a medical provider, my morality has to be at least considered because I am asked to do things that change peoples lives forever, and I won't be compelled to do something I find morally objectionable.

Second, realize that on a frequent basis in my line of work, life and death decisions have to be made.

My goal is to reach a decision on what to do with someone that is in their best interest, and also does not conflict with the will of nature, the patient's God, and my God.

To answer your question, let me provide an example...

Imagine this situation:

A 40 yo mother of three is involved in a motor vehicle accident, and critically injured. She is placed on life support by EMTs at the scene. When she arrives at the hospital, she has multiple injuries. Treatment is begun, and she is initially stabilized. However, over the following days, her condition deteriorates, she develops pneumonia, then kidney failure, then multiple organ failure, and soon it becomes apparrent that she will not survive despite everything we do. It becomes clear that it is the will of God and nature for this lady to die, and anything else we do is in conflict with that.

Once the line is crossed where there is no chance for survival, then further medical care is futile, and will actually only prolong this lady's misery, and that of her family.

We have two theoretical courses of action.

1. We could euthanize her (understand we couldnt really because it is illegal, this is for philosophical discussion only). By that I mean we could actively clamp off her breathing tube, or give a lot of potassium, or shoot her, or cut off her head, or whatever.

2. Alternatively, we could simply withdraw support (done of course after agreement is reached with the family). We could place her on room air, turn off medications that artificially support the heart, etc, and provide comfort care only.

Now if I take option 1, and euthanize her, then I take on the role of God and nature. No man should be asked to do that, and no man is equipped to make that decision. No man should be compelled to actively kill another in this situation.

If I simply remove artificial support, then it is up to God and nature to decide whether she lives or dies. Yes, she will surely die, but it will not be actively done with my hand.

If euthanasia becomes permissible, eventually, the line between euthanasia and murder will become obscure.

July 19, 2003, 10:39 AM
OK, Lone_Gunman, here's a situation for you:

Imagine I was carried into your hospital with multiple gunshot wounds.

You assess, with your knowledge of the medical science, that I will soon die, regardless of your efforts. But what if you're wrong? Many people have been ruled doomed to die by the doctors and lived.

Example: A soldier was hauled into an Israeli hospital with a single gunshot wound. To the heart. According to any law of biology he was doomed, and medical efforts would only prolong his suffering.

The doctors struggled for his life for several months.

He is the only case of a person that lived after taking a bullet to the heart AFAIK. He has recenty come back to diving. True story.

Byron Quick
July 19, 2003, 12:21 PM
He is the only case of a person that lived after taking a bullet to the heart AFAIK.

It is actually not that rare. General Montgomery of Great Britain was shot through the heart in World War I and survived, stayed in the British Army and rose to fame (some would say infamy) in WWII.

I've seen a patient live after being stabbed in the heart. A complete the front and out the back of the heart.

Lone Gunman is not talking about someone who has suffered trauma, no matter how severe, to one organ. His example was one of complications from the original injuries...multiple organ failure. The organs are not working...they are actually dead or dying and the only thing preserving a semblance of life is artificial (and massive) support.

July 19, 2003, 01:33 PM

We operate on "hopeless" acute trauma patients quite frequently. Even people who are shot in the heart can occassionally be saved, if they live long enough to make it to the hospital.

So even if you came in with multiple GSW's, you are pretty much going to have every available resource put on you, until you die.

Situations like that though don't usually require much moral decision making in the acute situation. Acutely, you can expect everything possible to be done. It is after your initial stabilization that the situation gets murky.

Marko Kloos
July 19, 2003, 02:00 PM
I am a physician (surgeon). I will do my damnedest to save your life. If I can't save your life, I will let you die as comfortably and compassionately as I can.

I will not, however, euthanize you.

To passively let someone die is much different from actively causing death.

I do not decide when people live or die. I am simply a conduit through which that deicison is passed.

Does the person owning the body and the intellect within get to make that decision? If I am a terminal cancer patient in agony, do I have the right to decide when my life should end, and how? If I don't have that right, why not? (And more importantly, who does?)

July 19, 2003, 02:02 PM
Let it put this way: I do NOT want to get euthanized, no matter how hopeless the case would be. I would not agree to euthanizing any of my loved ones. Too many people have been medically hopeless and lived.

July 19, 2003, 02:07 PM
MicroBalrog, I totally agree with you. Don't euthanize me either please.


Marko Kloos, yes, the patient involved can certainly make a decision to end their own life, but he should not feel that he has the right to involve me in that.

My lack of participation in helping in commit suicide does not preclude him from doing it privately.

July 19, 2003, 02:12 PM
Lone Gunman, would you agree that not helping a person being attacked to defend themselves is being an accomplice to the attack?

If someone I love was ill, no matter how hopelessly, I want the doctors to do all they can to save their lives.

July 19, 2003, 02:35 PM
I dont think it would make you an accomplice to the crime, but failing to render aid is not honorable.

I understand you would want everything done for your loved one, and so would I. However, at some point, everyone dies. The question is, when that point is reached, do you want to try to artificially prolong life (and misery), when there is no chance for recovery?

I am not talking about euthanizing someone as an alternative, simply removing medical treatment that is not going to be curative, and only prolonging the inevitable.

Understand also, we are talking about a truly hopeless situation where the concensus medical opinion is there is no chance of recovery, without a direct miracle.

And yes, medical opinions are sometimes wrong. And yes, miracles do happen.

I don't have the answers, and I dont think I even want the answers.

July 19, 2003, 02:40 PM
Lone_Gunman, I really really understand the distinction you made. Almost exactly 2 yrs ago my mom was on a ventilator w/multiple system failures, no pupil reflex, etc, but heart still working. The ICU people started working on my Dad to "Sign the Papers." I read said papers and insisted on crossing out "withdraw support" while leaving "withhold additional support". That's what they did, she lasted another day. Am so glad we didn't participate in hastening anyone's death, let alone my mother's.

July 19, 2003, 03:06 PM
Just realized I've been contributing to thread drift here, from "Human is?" toward "When is/isn't it ok to kill a human?" See my post above, re bad music. What I think I meant in my first post is that only humans have the capacity to willfully behave wrongly, knowing they're doing wrong, getting a charge out of it. Call it sin, whatever. I remember reading somewhere that Ted Bundy used to systematically drill himself to extinguish what remained of his conscience.:eek: I also remember how happy, loving and purrful my cat is while doing quite horrible things to rats. (That's why I call him Felix Dzerzhinsky, he's never yet had an enemy of the people fail to spill his guts under interrogation!:D )

July 19, 2003, 03:12 PM
And yes, medical opinions are sometimes wrong. And yes, miracles do happen.

Exactly, which is why I, PERSONALLY, being an optimist, would never, ever "Sign the Papers".

Moreover, if I became ill and odds would be that I would at some stage lose consciousness and become comatose, I would leave a letter/note to my family or friend to the air of "Do not sign the papers, no matter what they say." But that's just me.

If you enjoyed reading about "Human is?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!