Conducting a conversation on values is a difficult task especially existential ones. One of the main difficulties in my experience lies in the contradictions at the heart of the debate over so-called Pro-Life principles. People often rely on transcendent ideas to justify the preservation and promotion of human life, such as the Sanctity of Life and the Moral Animal arguments. Yet, at the same time, these same people will often reduce humanity down to reductive biological concepts, such as Genetics, Conception, and basic Cardiovascular Function. This would seem to simplify life down to the maxim, “We are alive because we are alive.”
The issue, I tend to think, is one of passivity, i.e. we are defined by traits we do not control. The specialness of the human soul, I believe, emerges from its capacity for reciprocity, not just Golden Rule-style behavior but even the ability to arbitrarily produce harmonious give and take, as in games and casual social interactions. This is intimately entwined with human health. If the creation and nurturing of life is to have meaning, it must have social meaning.
In a nutshell, we cannot measure the value of life as if a series of individuals but as an integration of individuals into a social environment. We must consider the obligation of the individual to the social environment as well as the reverse. Most Pro-Life arguments fail this test and, I believe, leave us stuck in the untenable position of taking sides in a battle that is not a battle but becomes analogous to one when we fail to heed the essence of civilization: United we stand; divided we fall.