Kevin Parcell


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Is there any essential part of the "human self" that confers on a person human rights? Mind? DNA? Memory? Soul? What I do?

If a person is their parts, and every part is interchangeable, is there still any part that is indispensable to being me, or to my being a person with human rights?

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    Jan 26 2012: What about that: Why don't we just act the way that makes us good persons? Not only do we want to be treated well, we want to be good persons ourselves.
    And we all know what that means.
    Just be witty and kind and feeling, the rest is empty theory.

    Laws, all of them, are only for those, who plan to cheat people and society. if you find the strength to be a good person, no law will ever cut your freedom and the question, to which kind of life form for you "have to" give rights and respect, will disappear.
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    Jan 24 2012: Hi Kevin.

    If there is a God, & we are His children then we are precious to Him & deserve ultimate respect.

    If there is no God, or we are not His children, then it's every man for himself !

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      Jan 30 2012: A timeless answer (except for the twist of being somebody else's kids :). A few years ago, the husband of a brain dead woman in Florida fought to have her plug pulled. You might recall it became politicized on account of your position being in our Constitution. The Courts figure a dead person isn't a person, and eventually ruled that the lady was dead because her brain was dead. The autopsy later revealed her brain had completely deteriorated over the years. But we are still left with the question of whether or not she had some human right violated, regardless of courts and autopsies, and perhaps more importantly if perhaps civilization depends on us striving for that "ultimate respect".
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        Jan 30 2012: That's why "Advance Medical Directives", or "Living Will" is important. It gives us the right as individuals to direct our medical situation even if we do not have the ability to verbally express our wishes.
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          Jan 31 2012: Colleen, it puzzles me why someone is legally permitted to kill themselves if they fall into a coma if they left instructions to do so. What if an individual with such an AMD induces their own coma in a botched suicide attempt?
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          Jan 31 2012: @ Kevin
          They are not allowed to legally kill themselves. They are allowed to tell people to leave them alone and allow the natural course of events to take place.
          No matter how the circumstances surrounding the enactment of the AMD occurred.
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          Jan 31 2012: Linda, then if I induce a coma and leave an AMD as a suicide note that instructs people to leave me alone...?
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          Jan 31 2012: @Kevin
          You are trying to assign morality to a legal document. It doesn't matter if there is a suicide note as long as the AMD is legally drawn up and signed.

          A suicide note has nothing to do with the AMD process at all. Any more than a love note would. It would not reverse the legality of the document which is enforceable in a court of law.

          Oh and besides, that Florida case had to do with next of kin and who had the authority for medically incapacitated decisions, the husband or the parents. It took a long time and a lot of money but they came to the same conclusion that has been around since marriage. The husband is the next of kin. If I remember, she was like 36 and had no AMD. And it was all about a feeding tube.

          So in the US, you have human rights even if you are brain-dead and your brain is deteriorated. And you can cost your decedents a lot of money.
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          Jan 31 2012: Linda, yes, that's the case. The question of who has decision-making authority to pull the plug after someone is ruled dead seems relevant to the survivors' rights. However, I don't think your conclusion is correct on the deceased's human rights - no human rights survive death in the US, and none precede birth, which isn't to say that no law addresses what others may do to the dead or unborn.

          What leads you to conclude I'm "trying to assign morality to a legal document"? I see moral questions, but I don't see that I'm addressing those.

          If I attempt self-murder and only accomplish a coma, but I've left an AMD as a suicide note that instructs that no measures be taken to save me, then it seems very strange to me that the courts would be compelled by law to permit me to die. Could the coroner rule that suicide? If I attempted to kill someone and left them in a coma, and their AMD prevented life-saving measures, could that be found to be murder?

          I'm not challenging you to give me correct answers here, I'm just asking.
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        Jan 31 2012: Kevin,
        Perhaps you can check out the AMD form on line. It might give you a better understanding of the purpose. I brought it to your attention simply because of your previous statement...

        "But we are still left with the question of whether or not she had some human right violated, regardless of courts and autopsies, and perhaps more importantly if perhaps civilization depends on us striving for that "ultimate respect".
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          Jan 31 2012: Colleen, I'm often puzzled, and consequently I often ask questions. Your attention to our problems here is very much appreciated by me.
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        Jan 31 2012: Kevin,
        Puzzles, which lead to questioning, which may lead to insight, are always my humble perception:>)
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      Feb 1 2012: Peter, re: If there is no God, or we are not His children, then it's every man for himself

      Suggest yes and no.

      Yes it is a competitive world.

      However, we still have a choice whether we just focus on ourselves or others as well.
      Suggest we have even evolved to co-operate.

      I note plenty of human groups have or are co-operating under different religious frameworks to the Judeo-Christian framework just fine. I also note many animals also co-operate within their groups.

      Perhaps you see it as a cold reality if there is no god watching over us. No loving creator.
      The reality for all living creatures is it is a competitive life.
      Perhaps I appreciate our short life on earth more compared to many theists, given I believe this is all we have - no afterlife. Our actual life is more precious. Although I suspect deep down many religious followers have doubts about the promise of an afterlife.

      If you are implying we can not choose or are not capable of respecting others if there is no loving god, then I strongly dispute this.

      Its not suddenly a free for all if we don't have scriptures and revelations telling us how to live. Humans can choose to value human life regardless of how we got here. I propose the opposite. Suggest we can work out values that improve the human condition better ourselves if we are not trapped by bronze age and medieval paradigms. Slavery, equality etc.

      Also, while we may not have a god given purpose and eternal life, my life still has meaning to me, my family etc. I can accept the paradox that our brief existence has no special purpose and yet strive to live a good life.
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        Feb 3 2012: Hi G M.

        I think an important aspect of this is our conscience. Some may say that it evolved, some may say it was programmed by God. In either case it is a sound arbiter of our morality.
        Where this breaks down is when we override our conscience, as in the Holocaust for example. The rulers decided it was ok to gas people, & fear & peer pressure overcame the conscience & better judgement of a nation. The same problem arises with things like adultery. Our conscience rebels at first, but as it is accepted by society & we continue to do it, it seems to get accepted & our conscience gives up.
        Folks with no God do value their lives, & in general try to live a good life. The trouble they have is that what constitutes a "good life" can be a bit of a moving target. Our local hospital has had a Christmas tree at Christmas for 100 years, with no I'll effects. This year one of the managers blew a gasket & had it removed citing a mixture of political correctness & health & safety. This sort of thing is bewildering to many, but is probably just a taster.
        I suppose the advantage bible folk have is that our conscience is written down & it is easier for us to " reset" if we have to. That said many bible folk go off th rails as well, our conscience can get damaged as well. My belief in a just God & eternal life does give me a different perspective, & it does affect my life. Whether you would think that a good or bad thing I don't know, but it keeps me motivated.

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    Jan 23 2012: The "essential part" which qualifies a living creature for human rights is their genotype. All biological organisms belonging to the Homo Sapien species are equal and endowed, by their Creator, with certain inalienable rights.
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      Jan 26 2012: So you need not only a deity as a moral foundation for the human rights but also biologists, that can decide which is a homo sapiens genotype and which is not. How is it possible, that these rights (that we ought to grant to every homo sapiens) can only be adressed correctly by the use of scientific method? How were we expected to give human rights to the right creatures before we had this method? And how could we ever treat people as if they didn't have these rights if these rights are inalienable?
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        Jan 26 2012: Thomas Jefferson used the word "men" in place of "all biological organisms belonging to the Homo Sapien species". We could experiment with a system which does not utilize the scientific method, particularly genetics and taxonomy, and I suspect we (humans) would, somehow, still be able to discover that we have a particular set of capabilities unique to our kind of creatures. Some would, probably, eventually give certain rights, based on belief in a common Creator, to one another and some would not. That is my answer to both your (good) questions. Thanks Mr. Muller.
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          Jan 26 2012: Genetics and taxonomy are creations of the scientific method. If your argumentation follows capabilities, there is a lot of problems waiting. A) there art plenty of species capable of learning human abilities, like use of tools or use of language. Why shouldn't the have human rights? B) How do you descide which abilities qualify for a person status and which don't? C) How do you include humans with disabilities?
          And my main question: If there were two possible ways to backup the idea of human rights, one not needing a creator and one including a creator. Which one would you prefer, and why?
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        Jan 26 2012: Mario, it looks like we have exceeded our limit of conversation. TED limits responses to 3. I have not found a way to effectively continue without going all non-sequitur. I think they want the debates to be brief and responses are limited by removing the reply button. Bummer. Thanks.
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          Jan 26 2012: Hm. Didn't know that yet.
          But thank you for sharing your thoughts :-)
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          Jan 26 2012: Edward,
          There is no limit to how many times one can reply. You just have to figure out how the reply system works. This is a reply to your comment directly above.
      • Comment deleted

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          Jan 26 2012: This is a reply to Adriaan's comment.
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        Jan 26 2012: This is a reply to Mario's level one comment above
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      Jan 26 2012: This is a reply to your original comment Edward. You see? You can get your comment in one way or another within a reasonable sequence:>)

      Oh, and we need to stay on topic....
      "Is there any essential part of the "human self" that confers on a person human rights? Mind? DNA? Memory? Soul?"

      Yes, I just "confered" on Edward the information which will allow him to use his rights, mind, DNA, memory and soul to be a continuing and effective participant on TED:>)
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        Jan 26 2012: I am flattered that you perceive me as a person of sufficient cyber skills to solve the "No Reply Button Available" dilemma. However, may I impose upon you to please add a primer to the demonstrations you have already provided? (Please include some insight into the reasoning behind deleting the REPLY button in the first place).
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          Jan 26 2012: Dear Edward,
          I remember that you e-mailed me about this challenge, and I didn't know how to explain it by e-mail, so when I saw that you still had the same concern, I thought I could demonstrate how to use the system. I don't think the reply button is ever deleted. We cannot reply to a third level comment.

          Do you see the little arrows in the upper left corner of the comments? You will see one, two or three little arrows? ok...we can reply to the original comment, and the first and second levels...not the third. When you want to reply, scroll up to the next comment where there is a "reply" opportunity, and that is where you can reply. It may not be the same person you wish to reply to, but the comment will appear in the sequence of comments.....make any sense?
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          Jan 26 2012: p.s.
          You will probably NOT see a reply opportunity in this comment, or my previous comment?
          Scroll back to my comment where there is one little arrow in the upper left corner, and you will see a reply opportunity?
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          Jan 30 2012: Why not fix the problem by adding a fifth level, etc?
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          Jan 30 2012: Hi Kevin,
          Good idea, which has been suggested to the TED administration a few times. It would be nice, and easier, to be able to reply directly to ANY comment.
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          Jan 31 2012: Speaking of structural change, the TEDCRED is a nice kind of currency, but it's weakened by lack of demurrage and no marketplace. The great cathedrals of Europe were built by demurrage because people preferred to spend their silver on building and visiting these tourist attractions, rather than see their money shaved slowly away. The modern-day equivalent is inflation-depreciation, which keeps people spending more than they might otherwise. TEDCREDS are a prestige currency (my own term), like a corner office, a civic award, or the latest gossip. If old creds die then people will want to use them before they do. Imagine if TED let members trade creds, and if traded creds started life afresh. What might such a marketplace produce? All it needs to get started is one offering, such as a discounted seat at a TED function.
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        Jan 26 2012: Hallelujah! Just scroll up until you find the person you want with a reply button and go from there.
        Thank you Colleen.
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          Jan 26 2012: Hallelujah!!!
          Well done Edward!!!

          Now that you are getting "cyber happy", remember, that when you scroll up, the next "reply" opportunity may not actually be the person you want to reply to, but the reply will fall into the sequence? Have fun with the exploration, and don't give up when there appears to be a challenge:>)
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        Jan 27 2012: Oops. I celebrated too soon. I scrool up until I find the PERSON I want with a reply button, right? How could the reply go to another person? I realize I am posing a challenge for you, sorry.
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          Jan 27 2012: Practice makes perfect Edward:>) You are not the only one challenged with the reply system....

          The reply doesn't actually go to another person. It appears in the comment thread...correct?

          When you hit reply, a blank box appears for you to write a comment....correct?
          At that point, you can see exactly where your comment will appear in the comment thread.
          If it is not where you want it to appear, simply hit "cancel" (bottom right corner) and try another "reply" in another place, that might put your comment more in line with where you want it.

          Try not to get too concerned with the system Edward. Remember, you also have the option to edit and delete the comment if you decide it is not what you intended, or not in a prefered spot in the sequence of comments:>)
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        Jan 27 2012: You are a saint young lady. I had to scroll a long way to find your reply button but I followed your teaching and voila. Now, back to the vigors of debate!
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          Jan 27 2012: Not ready for sainthood quite yet! Thanks anyway Edward:>)

          I'm lucky to have a daughter who is an electrical engineer, senior manager for DELL global services:>) Her "human self" and my "human self", have confered on each other through DNA, the ability to explore various levels of being human and using our mind and memory to create our lives. We believe it is our human right to share information with whomever possible, and that information is all interchangeable:>) Have fun Edward:>)
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    Jan 23 2012: I think there are some things really being mixed up here.

    a) a discussion about moral
    b) a discussion about identity
    c) a discussion about the self and things that affect what kind of person we are (which means, what kind of person we see ourselves and what kind of persons we are seen as)

    just my two cents (as a philosopher) about these three.

    a) human rights are no intrinsic attribute of humans or any other species or objects. Rights are not in molecules, whether they be simple or complex like DNA. Rights are GIVEN by people and societies. Therfore it is possible, that in the past and still in many parts of the world people could and can be treated as if they had no rights. Human rights are not natural law - If they were, nobody could act against them. Human societies grant rights where it is possible or good for productivity. In the descriptions of these rights usually carrying a human DNA makes you an object of these rights.

    b) A human's parts could be replaced, but every replacement of course would change the kind of person that human is, except you interchange parts without anyone (including that person) ever noticing.

    c) Whenever you make an experience, your brain adapts and your personality changes slightly. Even without special experiences you change by making habits and by increasing or decreasing some of your abilities - by (not) using them. Your law status as a person thereby normally doesn't change, but the psychological and social aspects of you change. Do you still like the same food, music, boys and girls you liked when you were in kindergarten? If not, you obviously have changed. The only thing that connects you with your earlier self/selves is physical continuity, in which at a time only some parts are replaced (metabolism) and a shrinking set of data called memory. Even the continuity of your consciousness is an illusion. Every time you wake up, you're different and already used to the new things you're able to do.
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    Feb 4 2012: What your human rights are are solely defined by where you were born.
    Your physical self, fairly basic, as a human born to this planet, do you have any right to have your feet on the ground anywhere? No, not really. For example, in the US, you have the right to have your feet planted on a patch of land you purchased and continually purchase via taxes. Else you need to move and if on public land, keep moving. In China, you have the right to have your feet anywhere until the government tells you you don't, higher risk but lower odds.

    Mentally, elementary to the rights of a thinking animal you have the rights to your thoughts. Not to speak them though. And you are likely to have at least an attempt made by your culture to shape and define them to fit you into the common larger social contexts of family, community and country. The movie Albert Nobbs is a good example of how extreme some have had to shape their outer selves to hide and protect their selves. In real life, hiding occurs in every culture for safety.
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    Feb 3 2012: Kevin, this will be my last post in yur thread - I thank yoiu for the question - it has helped me refine some things I've been thinking-on.
    PLease contemplate the answers I have been given and also consider this:
    Why do feel the need to explore these things - self and rights?
    This infers some conflict that you need to resolve.
    I would ask you to look in biology and the history of it.
    Consider that these "humans" are imbued with the gregorious factor.
    But that this factor is complicated by our vestigal mamalian functions that conflict with our gregorious factor..
    The most conflicting of these vestigal traits is the territorial factor:
    Territory = "I own".
    Territory is the primary factor of the non-social creature and has the opposite affect of the gregarious factor. It allows like creatures to get together for mating only - in all else it drives them apart.
    Territory is the meta process by which abundance is made artificially scarce - and mandates teh dissolution of "rights" and mandates competition. The territory factor operates in teh social creature to produce tribalism.
    Humanity needs to shake-off this obsolete territory factor - or, perhaps a superior creature will evolve to shake humanity off.
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      Feb 3 2012: Mitch, i appreciate you sharing your ideas here. I guess you understand that some people stop here for discussion, some for expounding, some to hear themselves think, some to practice this or that, etc.

      For my part, I like considering difficult problems with hidden assumptions because often there's good stuff there. My favorite result is awe. But it can be rare to find people thinking about these things because most of us need to believe we already understand all this stuff. Understanding as a sanctuary. This particular question about the human in human rights challenges assumptions that seem personally important to many, I guess that's why it attracts thoughtful response.
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        Feb 3 2012: Yes (he said breaking his own rule ;)
        I have gone on to consider what legitimacy lies in the gregarious and territorial factors.
        The result is rather awkward - both have good legitimacy, but each requires an entirely different set of "rights" that cannot co-exist .. but must be applied to each instance of abndancy/scarcity .. for instance - food might be abundant, but building materials scarce. .. in the rules of scarcity, equal share will result in the death of all - territory and competition are then the mechanism by which some live and some die.
        Perhaps we can apply a measure to determine when sharing threatens survival. But vested interests in uneven sharing will resist such a thing. I think your "rights" can be stated and promoted, but application of them will be a chaos that determines the extent to which they are observed - or can be observed. Ultimately it's like "justice" - you make your own or you don't get it. The accumulated positive action creates a background atmosphere that determines how easy it is to express rights or justice.
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    Feb 1 2012: IT's a good question Kevin.
    Watching he TED talks, there might be evidence that:
    1. our self consists of the difference between our Beyesian predictions and perceived(observed) deviations to those predictions.
    2. our self is ultimately anchored in a part of the hind-brain that governs the necessary consistencies that enable our biological cohesion.
    How would these observations affect "human rights".
    Putting aside the problems with applying the specific to the general - let's assume that "rights" and self have a connection through biology.
    SO then, you could say that rights are governed by the definition of self.
    THen the rights must be formulated to support the conditions under which self arises.
    One could posit the right to maintain biological consistency. Another right might be to freely observe the difference of Beysian prediction and perceived deviation.
    One could extrapolate a lot of sub-rights that proceed from these basic rights.
    In fact, when you do, you can see a lot of stuff that we already practice.
    But I have a couple of trepidations with this:
    1. The word "Rights" can invoke the dichotemy of "wrongs" that assumes that rights can be violated .. it kind of subtracts any reality from the word ..
    2. The "self-anchor" of the hind brain infers that all creatures with hind-brain have "self". And that any "right" proceeding from that would also have to include crocodiles. But crocodiles will vote to retain their right to disrupt our biological consistency (by eating us). Gladly, our capacity to make Beyesian prediction reduced the crocodile's recourse;)
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      Feb 2 2012: Thanks Mitch. I guess you mean free will defines any self, perhaps because it distinguishes it from the other? Would a human cease to have human rights if it lost its free will (including the capacity for free thought)?
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        Feb 2 2012: Hi Kevin, I also have difficulty with the word "will" and I will expand a bit on that later.
        FIrstly, the notion of "rights" that you propose seems to me to be subsidiary to the biological mechanism that causes an animal to be social. Let's call it "the gregarious factor".
        This factor propels the individual to seek others of its kind above and beyond the purpose of mating.
        The proximity of like-creatures causes some conflict in obtaining the resources required for survival. For the social animal, this requires some aspects of free recourse to become constrained. WE must share, or we must compete. I would argue that a true social animal will share rather than compete. This requires a degree of deferal of what you call "free will". I suspect what you allude to is "the least deferal for the maximum survival potential of all members of the social collective". Sounds a bit Marxian .. but it's probably not.
        But there's another entry-point to this "will" thing:
        Let's posit a thing called "absolute reality" You can call it "the universe" or "god" or "truth" - same thing. Absolute reality contains every thing and every meta-thing. And it is dynamic.
        Then there is a thing called "perception". It is the boundary between the thing and the meta-thing.
        It is the boundary of the "self".
        Perception overlays absolute reality, but, being only a small subset of absolute reality, it cannot overlay the totality. It, therefore, moves toward the local reality defined by the field of perception. It "adapts". There arises a necessary gap between perception and absolute reality. THat gap can fluctuate - and has the actual capacity to deviate significantly - even from local reality.
        I posit that your "free will" represents the shortest path between perception and reality - and is satisfied by the least measure of teh necessary gap.
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        Feb 2 2012: ... TO continue:In this representation:
        Rights = minimum constraints on those not self.
        Free Will = minimum constraint on self.
        Constraints are meta-things.
        THings cannot be created or destroyed.
        THings may be dynamically transormed - by other things or by the agency of meta-things.
        I think a lot more work has to be done on the nature of meta-things. I intuit that some rules will be discovered equally as fundamental as Newton's description of things: THe laws of symbolic reality.
        RE-reading this, I find the need to edit to add a missing observation:
        Constraint within a social context is directly proportional to scarcity.
        If there is absolute abundance, there is no need for constraint as there is no conflict in obtaining resources for survival.
        At some point, scarcity will defeat sharing and mandate competition. This is the point at which rights and free will evaporate.
        Consider - what is this thing where these "humans" contrive in meta-reality to produce artificial scarcity?
        Such an act increases the gap between perception and reality.
        How do we determine the true level of abundance?
        Ask - is this the minimum constraint required for the social collective?
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        Feb 2 2012: Hey - it just occured to me .. perhaps a whimsey,
        Wouldn't it be funny if it was discovered that dark matter and dark energy are teh total body of meta-things?

        That tickles!
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        Feb 3 2012: Arrgh! Sorry for the multiple-posts!
        So to answer your question(s):

        Q. Is there any essential part of the "human self" that confers on a person human rights? Mind? DNA? Memory? Soul? What I do?
        A. Yes - it is the gregarious factor.

        Q. If a person is their parts, and every part is interchangeable, is there still any part that is indispensable to being me, or to my being a person with human rights?
        A. Being you requires 2 things - the adaptive perceptional boundary between absolute reality and local meta-reality and a hind-brain that determines the difference between your static and dynamic function. This does not determine "rights" - rights require a social grouping of "selves" that produce a continuum of constraint which provides the environment in which "rights" operate.
        Ultimately the answer is the same - the gregarious factor.

        Does that help?
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    Feb 1 2012: Good question Kevin

    I would suggest firstly human rights are human constructs so we can come up with or accept whatever framework makes sense for us. This should encourage us rather than stop us from aspiring to a set of principles, perhaps enshrined in law, to help improve the human condition.

    So firstly we can debate and improve on what set of human rights we believe are the best for improving the human condition. Most societies and religions used to accept slavery. Now most societies don't. We can even debate how we balance them in different situation e.g. does religious freedom supersede a childs rights regarding circumcision.

    Secondly we can debate how these societal norms or rights enshrined by law apply in different scenarios.

    I would suggest there are few absolutes. Especially when we get into the complex situations. Rather their may be a continuum of balancing proposed values to a particular situation. Part of the answer might be illuminated by considering why many think human rights trump animal rights. Suggest it has something to do with the ability to suffer and also our potential.

    Suggest a soul is not necessary in order to aspire to a societal values that benefit humans and reduce suffering.

    In some cases the resources required to protect an individuals rights also needs to be considered. No individual is an island. No individuals right should be absolute e.g. if someone is shooting others, then I have no issue overriding their right to life to protect others.

    Suggest you need to look at each scenario case by case.

    Finally, I guess I'm not the first to suggest that perhaps one powerful measure on which to judge a society is on how it treats the treats the outsiders, the disadvantaged, the children, the criminals, the weak, the poor, the handicapped. Or even how it treats animals. Suggest there is a strong correlation between overall life happiness levels where the former are better treated.
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      Feb 1 2012: Thanks GM. Tomorrow, this Talk will disappear off the front page, and in a few days this discussion will close. It's nice to have a place to stop and think about these things with others, to share, to listen, and then move on. I think we mostly need to be heard a little.

      P.s. So many people seemed to enjoy this that I've extended the discussion another couple of weeks and moved it to the newest Talk.
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    Jan 31 2012: Hi Kevin, I very much like Julian Baggini's Talk. I found myself reading your question over and over, and am not sure what you are asking!!

    What Baggini suggests in his talk is that "a person is the sum of their parts" like water H2O; 2 parts Hydrogen one part Oxygen. Water is.

    He does not say that every part or any parts are inter-changeable.

    But that we and everything else is always changing, as in life is a "process".

    He beautifully illustrates his point using the " Iguazu falls " (one of the most magnificent waterfalls which is result of marriage between 2 rivers : San Antonio River + Iguazu River). "Magnificence" happens as this water tumbles over the edge of the Paraná Plateau for a distance of 200-270ft.

    He suggests to use our time to co-create a magnificent life while we can, " because unlike waterfalls, we humans actually have the capacity to channel the direction of our development for ourselves. We do have a capacity to shape ourselves".

    We are real.
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      Jan 31 2012: Hi Juliette. Very often, the ideas, questions and debates in these forums treat related areas.
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        Jan 31 2012: Please help me understand which are the areas your question is relating??
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          Jan 31 2012: The question posed for this debate is only what is stated:

          Is there any essential part of the "human self" that confers on a person human rights?

          You might answer "no". If "yes", then you might propose a "part". Some have offered that humans do not have inherent human rights. Etc.

          There are no rules here, other than civility. In fact, no one is required to answer any post.
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        Jan 31 2012: Every life form has a right to be.........Humans have human rights. Dogs, cats, parrots, all pets, working animals, have animal rights, wildlife has rights.......and that includes trees, the beach dunes and the Earth itself. I put Parrots in the pet group, though I think they have a right to be living in the wild, and their natural habitats should be preserved.
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    Jan 30 2012: No one part of the brain is "in charge" -- all is interdependent upon blood, digestion, muscle memory, other parts of the brain. And then there are the dictates of morphology -- what we do based on our size, shape, and physicality.
  • Jan 26 2012: I would assert that such a thing exists obviously-- as we (generally) do not have any difficulty clearly defining who it is to whom human rights apply.

    I would also assert that the biological distinctions are a red herring-- and only matter to the extent that they give rise to language. In other words, I am asserting that what makes us special is our ability to use language. In other words, we implicitly agree that other entities with which we can reliably use language to the degree that we have the experience of another consciousness being present is the same threshold we use to determine what "human" is for the purposes of determining where human rights should apply.

    Obviously, this was not always the case, as arbitrary distinctions between races of men have been made for the purposes of subjugating one under another-- but even the ability to do that is a function of language.
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    Jan 26 2012: I think what you say about freedom as a consequence of good action is true in a good society. I also like the idea that we receive as we give. Perhaps then we need to practice generosity and forgiveness because otherwise we are all doomed to be treated as we deserve.
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      Jan 26 2012: Genetics does not address the non-biological components of human beings, but can't we accept the definition it provides as sufficient to identify what is human and what is not? Do you suggest an alternate definition? Thanks Ms. Baker.
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        Jan 26 2012: Certainly genetics can literally define what is human or not but when you introduce the idea of inalienable 'human rights' the concept is complicated massively and must take into account extra-factors. This debate really comes to the fore in pro/anti abortion debates - at what point does a foetus (which is certainly biologically 'human') become 'a person' and therefore worthy of all the rights, including that 'to life'..
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          Jan 26 2012: Examine the DNA of a zygote. If it matches the genotype of Homo Sapien it is a human being no matter what the Roe v. Wade court ruled. The American Constitution says all humans under its protection have the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
  • Jan 22 2012: Lewis Thomas wrote a book once , the lives of a cell, in which he is even questioning the "real you" interms of cell renewal. Since more than 50% of our cells are unicellular organism ( with a very short generation time I believe in the ability to change or adapt to the environment. Your "self" is not only a few billion cells with your own DNA, there are also foreign genomes that may influence our actions.
    In addition, we know that there is phenomenon called epigenetics, the activation/inactivation of genes which occurs by methylation of the DNA. Epigenetics is not predetermined as far as I know and therefore I believe that we are able to influence our true self - more than we believe!
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      Jan 26 2012: Human beings consist of biological and non-biological components. That's the heart and soul of Man.
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      Jan 22 2012: So you reject the notion of the natural or inherent human right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for example?
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        Jan 22 2012: Inherently, yes.
        Its a positive list of ideals that we should all have at the least, but there is no reason to think that any of that is an inherent right; Human history and our evolutionary history is evident of that.
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          Jan 22 2012: Xavier, if you believe that people have no inherent right to life, property, freedom, etc, then is there moral law, or only human law?
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          Jan 22 2012: My answer to your first question is me, and to your other questions is that moral law is based on love and human law is based on fear, imo. Mark, it's difficult for me to answer your position because you don't offer an argument. I'm not criticizing that in the least, just letting you know that I don't mean to be rude.

          I do still wonder if you have an answer to my question - if we presume that human rights are an invention, as you assert, is there some point at which there isn't a human there to confer them on?