Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A potential human is a human

To take Frederic S. Mabbatt's example of an acorn compared to an oak (letters, Nov. 23), the acorn has not yet sprouted; it is still just a seed. Once it has sprouted, it is something new. It is no longer just an acorn seed; it is a living organism—an oak seedling. A human egg is similar to that seed. Once a human egg and sperm have fertilized, they have joined to become something new—a new, living human.

Organisms have complete life cycles. Is the oak seedling not a necessary and vital part of the life cycle of the oak? Is the moment of becoming a new human being and gestating in its mother's womb not a necessary and vital part of the lifecycle of a human? At what point do we honor an organism within its lifecycle? I choose to honor a fellow human being during the entire fullness of its lifecycle.

The danger of Mr. Mabbatt's "potential" argument is that a newborn baby, a child and an adolescent are not fully grown human beings, either, and don't enjoy the autonomy of legal adults. His argument taken to its extreme can be interpreted to say that any less than a full-grown human simply has the potential to become a person, but is not yet a person. Indeed, blacks in this country were once legally only three-fifths of a person.

And besides, Aristotle isn't my measuring stick for right and wrong, person or non-person.

Ellen Mandeville


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