This is originally a reply to a post in an abortion thread on another forum but this looked like a fun playground:D For the answer to this question I think everyone should look to morality. What's morality? Morality can be thought of as a way to decide what is 'right' or correct to do, no? Rights derived from morality as well. Right are, of course definite rules for actions towards X, where X is something like "human", "animal" or citizen"are . On that note here's what I think; I actually touched on this in my post. Morailty is a human conception made to enounce acceptable actions. On what is morality based? Some would say god but I take a more philosophic view: I think morality, a human cognative tool based *completly on empathy. What's empathy and why's it the answer? Empathy is the human cognative process that relates emotional states. This preexisting concept, when understood, provides a sound(ish) basis for the commonality and discontinuity of human morals. That basis is a blend of both neurology and cognative psycology. However I could also see a more psycological support based around Analytical psycology's archetypes. This more symblic approach to cognition, and more specifically it's health/maturity is very closely tied to morality. Either way cognative processes are the key and what follows stays true. The continuities are explained through human's similar emotional systems which are based on chemical reactions to stimuli. The discrepencies are explained by the cognative nature of empathy. Differnt than corperal feeling, emotional feeling is the product of cognition. Because of the cognition's dependence on the developed brain's memory and other learned reactions it's based exclusivly on past experiences, specifically ones that had a mental effect; weather realized or otherwise. So of course they will vary from person to person especially when they have differnt viewpoints; say differnt philosophic preference... that's a biggie. A person cries when they lose something and people can relate... That's empathy. They might even cry with their loved one because they so deeply understand their feelings. How well you know a person has a hand in your ability to empathize with them because you know more about their cognative principles and may even share some of the same building blocks. Problems can also be had when empathizing for morality can be had when a person has an immature set of preceptions about the world (emotional interference you might say) or an incorrect sense of the empathee's emotions. Just because I think it will help you understand and thus lear/practice empathy based moral blending and how much I love analogies here's a fun one that also underpins the issue at hand. The Tree Hugger example: How empathy can go awray. "How would the tree 'feel'?" you say. As far as we know tree's don't have a brain and therefore cannot feel emotions. This would be an example of a person having an incorrect sense of the tree's emotional capacity:p AFAWK they don't feel emotional fear so morality does not apply and they are not a moral issue. In short something has a right to life when it can be empathized with; remember empathy is emotionally and thus cognativly dependent based. However in the tree's defence it's possible that they can 'feel' 'discomfort' thought they do not have a conciousness to be aware of it... The activity caused by a wound could, perhaps be a rough equivilant. Or perhaps the disruption of water flow tree's transfer system that ushers water and nutrients from the roots to leaves) due to a wounding. And then there's always the more utilitarian view that a tree has worth as a environment cleanser and stablizer stable. Aide from the commonly recognized ability to "breath" C0^2 and relase oxygen, rainforest (read: tree societies:p) depeletion increases (greatly) levels of water concentration around the world... even minor rainforest deforestation. So with that I do agree that trees shouldn't be killed but I would not be convinced that trees have an equal "right" to life as humans. In fact I would say from the state of trees that while they do live dynamically they are not conciously alive, which again is the key to the Moral Grail. On a non-moral sympathetic note the tree's dynamic living makes me question if a tree has more right to life than say a rock. Rocks as we know are plain and simple matter with no intrinsic chemical recations or anything of the sort. Short of following the laws we attribute to all atomic matter a rock does nothing dynamic and therefore in no way shape or form is commonly considered alive. Unless you consider matter's actions as a form of dynamic life... then you can unify the right to life of all matter; human, stone, tree or bone. Just to be safe I think a good rule of thumb should be: Don't **** with stuff unless it's ****in' win you (ie. follow the Tao:p) In short don't kill trees or unborn fetus cells unless you need to:D In fact I'd say that's the generic rule to life and alas, we humans are just terrible people:P On a more awkward note I wonder if we should consider conciousness a alternate form of life (think... soul... except purely mental/l and dependent on material world... *looks around*). That might tip the 'right to life' scale which would, I suppose, measure accoring to mental 'mass' in to human's and to varying degrees all othe animals But I degress. So because I think the basis of right and wrong is empathy which is dependent on the existance of conciousness in an unborn babe I think that one of the two agreeable options is that abortion by choice be allowed only before conciousness is developed. And the second option; offered in the case of qantifieable conciousness being shown to develop after birth OR as a concession to bible thumpers and the nearly persuasive 'potential life' arguement": Abortion is allowed only before a baby would be able to develop reasonably outside the monther's womb (even with medical help).