Fazale Rana and the Hand Holding Twin: Facebook Squabble

Recently, Christians have been more than a little excited by the following CNN article titled Dying Twin Holds Sister’s Hand in Sonogram. Why would they be excited by this news story? For the obvious reason that it appears to show an act of compassion or support from one twin to the other.

For example, Fazale Rana, second-in-command at the old Earth creationist organization Reasons to Believe, shared the article in a recent facebook post, to which he added his own two cents.

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Now, I happen to know that Reasons to Believe likes to think of itself as a bit more scientifically respectable than the usual young Earther crowd, so I decided to introduce a plausible naturalistic explanation for the hand-holding that did not imply a voluntary act of compassion, just to see what Fazale might say:

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To which Fazale retorted, and to the reception of many an upturned thumb:

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And so I parried thus:

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And so, finally, Fazale tells me exactly how a sonogram of a twin grasping its sibling’s hand is evidence for the claim that the fetus is a human person, despite the fact that this grasping is an involuntary reflex, a premise that Fazale is compelled by his own scientistic predisposition to accept:

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What an odd reply. Now, Fazale says that the involuntary palmar grasp reflex was really what he had been getting at all along! The reflex itself is evidence that we are dealing with a  person. Well, I must admit that I was now a little baffled. Evidence how? Chimpanzees have the same reflex, after all. Indeed, our own grasp reflex serves no real purpose, whereas in other primates, it allows newborns to cling to their mothers’ body hair. Thus, our own grasp reflex is a vestige, endowed on us by our hairier ancestors. Ironic, then, that Fazale would take this to be evidence. In any case, I felt perhaps it may have been my position that was not sufficiently clear. And so I laid it out:

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And at that point, Fazale vanished from the thread, perhaps as bored as me, or perhaps offended by my allegation of disingenuity. My objections to the use of the sonogram video as evidence for personhood ultimately fell on deaf ears.

It seems that, in reality, Fazale Rana does not need a great many reasons to believe.

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4 comments

  1. You’re right of course, the grasping proves nothing, but I do think you need to think through the (to me) concerning implications of defining a human being by their actual, as opposed to potential, ability to do certain things at any given moment in their lifespan. (Think eugenics.) Hope you’re holding up well Tiddy 🙂

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  2. I agree with Fazale that the foetus is a human being – it’s not a cow; it’s of the genus and species homo sapiens. But the hand-holding shows nothing at all. This is because very little follows from the fact that a foetus is a member of this genus. All of the rights and responsibilities that are borne by us are borne solely by moral agents. It’s probably the case that members of homo sapiens are not the only genus(geni?) to be moral agents, but the necessary condition of having rights and responsibilities is being a moral agent.

    We expect our dogs and cats to undertake certain responsibilities and award them some rights in return and punish them when they misbehave. But the concept of a foetus misbehaving and earning a punishment – or behaving well and earning a reward – is risible, specious and everything absurd. Foetuses, whether belonging to the genus homo sapiens or bovine, ovine, feline or canine, (bovis? ovis? felix? canis?) have neither responsibilities nor rights.

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  3. p.s – I think you are falling into the same trap that Fazale falls into when you presuppose that all human beings are persons… I think that this is where the argument that Fazale is probably mounting about the sanctity etc of foetusses fails

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  4. OOOps – no I see you don’t fall into that trap – but I think you need to point out to Fazale the trap – being of the genus Homo sapiens soesn’t automatically make you a person bearing rights and responsibilities – i.e. a moral agent

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