52 thoughts on “Hobby Lobby Lobby

    1. winstoninabox Post author

      I’m pretty sure I’d read your argument at length before, but it was great to go back and read it again. I agree with your assumptions and I love what you’ve done with the argument. The trouble with the post is that it answers the wrong question.

      The only question that needs to be answered is “Does this action, taken now, cause harm to a person?” If it does not, then there is no crime. If it does, then there is. To answer that question we need to know what is a person. This question is complicated in this case by the fact that people do not float down fully formed from the aether. How simple it would be if they did. Rather, a stage of the development process needs to be chosen. In choosing that stage we, as we do with all choices, examine the evidence. I disagree with your idea that “[the] only philosophically tenable way to pick some other point on this graph is to postulate some non-probabilistic, non-scientific, definition of what it means to be human”. Scientific evidence is the most pertinent in making that decision.

      So, to show there is a crime you need evidence to show that from conception there is not just a potential person, but a person.

      Reply
  1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    Nah. Your statement “The only question that needs to be answered is “Does this action, taken now, cause harm to a person?” is an example of what I call ‘Cro-magnon metaphysics’. It is an untenable morality. It means, for example, that you are handing me a free win on anything related to ‘Climate Change’ because morally, even if global warming will destroy humanity in a hundred years, any action taken now does not cause harm to a person. If we don’t have any moral duties towards potential indepdendent humans as individuals, we certainly can’t have any moral duties towards potential independent humans in the abstract. So let’s strip mine the hell out of this planet and generate as much nuclear waste as we can.

    Human being is the name of a process, not of a thing.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “Nah. Your statement “The only question that needs to be answered is “Does this action, taken now, cause harm to a person?” is an example of what I call ‘Cro-magnon metaphysics’. It is an untenable morality.”

      It’s not a morality, but an application of it. We can make all the morality we like and it will just be pie-in-the-sky until it is applied. No one argues that humans shouldn’t be treated in a moral way (also the environment and non-human species), but that morality only acquires any force when it is given a check against reality.

      ” It means, for example, that you are handing me a free win on anything related to ‘Climate Change’ because morally, even if global warming will destroy humanity in a hundred years, any action taken now does not cause harm to a person.”

      All this shows is the weakness of believing that one morality can fit all applications of it, which again argues my point that morality only has any force in its application. And in its application we recognize that small, seemingly insignificant actions if repeated unchecked can lead to disastrous consequences.

      Plus, in linking abortion with climate change you’re breaking your own maxim that individuals are a special case, and require a separate (although this does not mean dissimilar) morality and its subsequent applications. Which brings me to…

      Even if you don’t believe that morality without application has no force, you still have to define what is a person. Without knowing if a child, a foetus and a stick are the same or different your morality is worthless. Which brings us back to how to do that, which returns us to scientific evidence.

      I will say that my statement could use some tightening up, so I’ll add “The only pertinent question that..”

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      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        The scientific evidence is as I’ve discussed in that long post, and it points to one, and only one, plausible point to make the distinction between individuals worthy of moral consideration and potential individuals not worthy of moral consideration.

        I don’t think I’m breaking my own maxim: I don’t hold that individuals require a separate morality, I am saying that the only basis for morality is individuals. They are not a special case: they are the only case. We have no moral responsibility towards abstractions.

        How about this example, instead, if you don’t like bringing future generations into the mix. Let’s say you, being a fellow of unusually strong nerves, are deep in a dreamless sleep on a troop transport bound for an amphibious landing on Chinese-occupied Okinawa. There is a good chance that your ship will be sunk before you wake up – exactly the same, say, as a foetus at some particular stage of development has of dying naturally before entering 1st grade. I would argue that that hypothetical you is just as much a ‘potential person’ as the foetus. Killing you in your sleep is not an action that ‘does harm to a person.’

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  2. winstoninabox Post author

    “I don’t think I’m breaking my own maxim: I don’t hold that individuals require a separate morality, I am saying that the only basis for morality is individuals. They are not a special case: they are the only case. We have no moral responsibility towards abstractions.”

    I reread you article and agree. I misunderstood the point you were making.

    “The scientific evidence is as I’ve discussed in that long post, and it points to one, and only one, plausible point to make the distinction between individuals worthy of moral consideration and potential individuals not worthy of moral consideration.”

    My question is why conception is the only point. If the benevolent dictatorship wanted to argue that condoms are a very bad (or good) thing or that abstinence is the best (or worst) of all then they could just as easily move further left along X, and so the probabilistic argument could be turned to purposes the opposite of what it is trying to achieve.

    “How about this example…”

    The thing is, there are 7 billion easily understood examples of what is a person, and my unlikely courageous self falls into that. What you need is evidence of how other things which are not obviously that, are actually that. Otherwise my future flat-stomached red-shirt-wearing Star Trek self is going to have to hear about court cases over whether smashing a rock is actually murdering a person because we’re all the same matter to the replicator.

    Reply
    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      Have a look at the graph again. Moving anywhere forward or backward on the x-axis makes *no sense*.

      I’m going to draw a graph showing the relative probability of a particular individual person – let’s call her 王芳 – doing something at the extreme right hand side of the x-axis, which is time, if we keep our mitts off the process shown in the graph and do not interfere. This could be something as simple as breathing, or a more complicated thing like eating lunch, robbing a convenience store, winning a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, etc. The y-axis is a normalised arbitrary log axis showing the possibility of 王芳 doing something that we recognise as a behaviour characteristic of fully individuated human beings at time t = 1.

      Reply
      1. winstoninabox Post author

        As my reasoning is not clear or if I think I understand you, but in reality I do not, I’ll ask you to clarify why you think it makes no sense to move it forward or back.

        Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        “The y-axis is a normalised arbitrary log axis showing the possibility of 王芳 doing something that we recognise as a behaviour characteristic of fully individuated human beings at time t = 1”

        This measure of my individual darling Wang Fang doing something recognisable as a human activity has just one short window of time where it goes up by many, many, orders of magnitude. Before that point this quantity is vanishingly small: afterwards it rises slowly to certainty.

        The point is not to come up with a definition that fits the 7 billion clearly understood examples of a person, but to make a logical and scientific determination of the edge, where because of the lingering confusion caused by this concept of the ‘soul’ there is a lack of clarity in understanding.

        I am sure you use the question ‘is this action likely to cause harm to someone at a future time?’ in your day-to-day decision making. It is probably unfair of me to call a morality that does not take this into account ‘Cro-magnon’ because I am sure even our illustrious predecessors recognised and used this question.

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  3. winstoninabox Post author

    “It is probably unfair of me to call a morality that does not take this into account ‘Cro-magnon’ because I am sure even our illustrious predecessors recognised and used this question.”
    Only to the poor Cro-magnons who’ve been unfairly lumped in with me.

    “This measure of my individual darling Wang Fang doing something recognisable as a human activity has just one short window of time where it goes up by many, many, orders of magnitude. Before that point this quantity is vanishingly small: afterwards it rises slowly to certainty.”
    You don’t have to convince me about the silliness of souls, so we can move on from there.
    I understand the graph, I’m just lost as to it’s point, which seems to me to say that there is a point after which we should care. But unless that point is conception, then it doesn’t help stop abortions. And if it is conception, then what is her activity which is recognizable as human? And why couldn’t someone just choose another place earlier in time and make the same probability argument about condoms or abstinence or even abortions?

    Sorry, either I’m completely missing the point or I’m looking right through it.

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    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      I don’t see how you can both understand the graph and be lost as to its point. :/

      The graph is to show *why* we should care after a certain point in time. The reason we should care after a certain point in time (which is certainly conception) is that because after that point in time, the probability of our *individual* human being doing *any* activity which we recognise self-evidently as human *at some future time* jumps by many, many, orders of magnitude.

      I think I do have to convince you about the silliness of souls, because you don’t grasp *why* they are silly.

      They are silly because they draw an arbitrary line around things that are worthy of moral consideration that is not amenable to any experimental test. This arbitrariness has infected our culture’s whole idea of morality. Instead of seeing morality as something that can be objectively true in the same way mathematics as true, we abandon the arbitrary rules of a God and have nothing left but the fickle arbitrary rules of our peers or masters.

      The idea of the soul is why the evils of abortion and carnivory are so widespread in our civilisation. If we had never had the idea of the soul, if our culture had *grown up* with a scientific understanding of life, we would never think those things could be acceptable.

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  4. winstoninabox Post author

    “I think I do have to convince you about the silliness of souls, because you don’t grasp *why* they are silly.”

    Souls are silly in many more ways than how you show they are silly. While souls concern some people’s thinking on this issue, I’m not one of them. They’re interesting to me only from a historical perspective for this argument.

    “I don’t see how you can both understand the graph and be lost as to its point. :/”

    Because even though in some sense we both want the same outcome, we come at this from vastly different directions. Here are my two complaints with your argument.

    1. Probability is a basis which can be used to justify any conclusion. Yes, I understand that you assume only individuals matter and that future Wang Fang’s individualization begins at conception, but that level of abstraction seems no different to me than the dictatorship of the Cyberpapacy stating that God demands married couples (sex outside of marriage being a crime) not to use contraceptives so that they will receive the blessing of future Wang Chang, because if they were to use contraceptives the probability of her future self coming into existence is vanishingly small. With a different set of assumptions and armed with probabilities one could make a case for restricting or allowing anything.

    What I’m about to write seems eerily familiar to a written conversation I thought we had some time ago, so either I’ve misremembered this, or neither of us has altered our position in the interim, which suggests at best all we’ll get this time around is a clearer understanding of the other’s point of view.

    2. The “we should care at this point because of probability” argument is disingenuous to women. I think every women who has ever thought about herself and her sea in society cares more about this topic than you or I, and women who have had to face the decision of what to do about an unexpected pregnancy will have cared to a depth and a degree that neither of us will ever be able to appreciate. They may not have cared in the same way as you or I, but care they will most certainly have done. And whichever decision they made, they have done so with the knowledge that they have to live with it for the rest of their lives.

    They do all of this within a society that fails them on every level. The media over-sexualizes women from a young age even as society admonishes women for embracing a sexual life that for men denotes health and vigour. If a woman is unlucky enough to be born into a culture which has less liberal attitudes to women than ours then she may have to cover her body because of its sexuality, while also accepting a lower level of education and status. If found to have had sexual relations outside of marriage, she could be ostracised or even face death.

    But back to our culture. If a woman does become a single mother then she will probably face all new criticisms, challenges and prejudices. The idea of a single mother as a strong, independent role-model is relatively new. This double standard applies even though possibly she has been failed by her sexual partner, her family, her friends and her society when she needed support the most. Probably from the time of puberty every women has felt the double-edged sword of living in a body that is seen as a desirable commodity in that the pleasure that she can be derived from the physical is also exploitable. Women have to live with the ogling on the train, the knowledge that they are more likely to be molested, raped or murdered because they are female, and finally if they become pregnant out of wedlock, then they are to face a very different life than if they had chosen a partner who stood by them.

    So, while I understand that the point on the graph your argument identifies is really the *last* chance that we have to care about Wang Fang, the implication is that before then Wang Fang’s mother has not cared enough, and that if an abortion takes place it is because Wang Fang’s mother lacks the caring that you think is so obvious to find just by looking at a graph.

    Now, probably none of what I’ve written above alters your opinion about abortion. If an abortion is killing a baby, and killing a baby is morally wrong, then no amount of sympathizing with the condition that actual women are actually in, and how that has come about by the power of patriarchy enforced through the combination of society, education and history, will change your mind. But labelling the one person in this who needs the support of people around her when she is in the most vulnerable position as not caring enough is not going to convince me of your argument.

    Society has ills, but as always we don’t solve those ills by blaming the victim (even though in this case I believe it is being done unconsciously). But your logic looks as if it equates a women who has an abortion with a woman who puts strychnine in granny’s tea to get the inheritance – they are both murderers. Until society has a seismic shift in the way we treat women and the children who result from unexpected pregnancies, then the way we currently treat abortions takes into account as much of the problem as we can.

    You, me, and all sane people of course hope that one day this will be a world where every child is a wanted child. A world where every pregnancy is seen as a joyous occasion. But that will come about by recognizing that women with unexpected pregnancies are real people and need real support. It will not come about by picking a point on a chart based on the probability of something happening, and say, “This is where we should care.”

    YMMV.

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  5. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    I don’t see how this analysis blames the mother. My blame is firmly on the sick society that normalises this evil as an acceptable option. I come from a subculture where every pregnancy is seen as a joyous occasion and there are a great many unexpected pregnancies (me, for example). You have established this blog to attack the principal foundation axiom of that subculture. Women are the backbone of that subculture. They think that same as me about the value of human life at all stages from conception to death.

    You are free, of course, to think that my thinking is less valuable than someone else’s because of my genetics.

    Desirable outcomes will come about because people care, yes; and also because people think. Both that empathy you talk about and disapassionate thinking as embodied by that graph are necessary.

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  6. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    What’s really disingenuous, though is ignoring the fact that in most of the world abortion is a tool for the oppression of women and that the foetuses killed are disproportionately female. My example individual has the most common Chinese family name and female given name for a reason. You are in the position of one noble telling another that they have don’t understand how much it sucks to be poor, so they shouldn’t interfere with the right of peasants to sell themselves into slavery to keep from starving.

    To summarise this little journey:

    These Satanist bozos claim to have science on their side;
    I dust off a closely-reasoned argument to assert that no, they really don’t;
    You argue in response that I am a big meanie, and anyhow, I have a Y chromosome so I should STFU.

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  7. winstoninabox Post author

    “These Satanist bozos claim to have science on their side;
    I dust off a closely-reasoned argument to assert that no, they really don’t;
    You argue in response that I am a big meanie, and anyhow, I have a Y chromosome so I should STFU.”

    Just no. I did not say that you should not say your piece, and I’m saddened that you’d believe that I’d put forward such a lame argument as ‘men can’t have an opinion because this is a women’s problem’. Still, thank you for taking the time to comment when you believe that the point was so lame.

    Your closely-reasoned argument has one graph which is interpreted with “should we care?”. Those are your words. My argument stems from ‘care’ which invites personal definition and identification. I had hoped to show that there is plenty of caring going on, especially by the people who will actually have to live with the consequences directly whereas you and I will only ever deal with this in an intellectual capacity. I didn’t say your opinion was less worthy, less correct or shouldn’t be aired, but that your version of ‘care’ is never going to have the same force with a woman’s experiences in this matter. On one hand using cold, hard probability but on the other using a word that begs personal experiences weakens your argument.

    “I don’t see how this analysis blames the mother. My blame is firmly on the sick society that normalises this evil as an acceptable option.”

    While you overtly blame society, the words ‘should we care?’ gives the implication of blame on the mother. Any individual woman who chose to have an abortion has by definition not cared ehough, which is to say that if they had cared more then their babies would be alive. In other words, they are to blame. I actually thought I was pretty generous here. A less generous disagreement would have been to answer that they haven’t cared at all.

    “What’s really disingenuous, though is ignoring the fact that in most of the world abortion is a tool for the oppression of women and that the foetuses killed are disproportionately female.”

    The oppression of women is a cultural problem. Blaming abortion for foetuses killed is like blaming rocks for women who are stoned to death. Plus outlawing something always has the undesirable result of pushing it underground, such that there may well be a similar number of abortions, but they are done is in more unsafe conditions, and performed by people connected to the criminal world. That’s not to say that outlawing abortions wouldn’t have an effect, but that the only real change will come from a shift in the culture.

    Reply
    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      Hmm, so what would you have written instead of ‘should we care?’

      It just seems to me that you have no reply to my substantive argument, so you are nit-picking about words. Let’s assume for the purpose of argument we are all hermaphrodites who have access to exo-wombs, okay?

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      1. winstoninabox Post author

        “Hmm, so what would you have written instead of ‘should we care?’”

        I would recommend something much more direct which doesn’t introduce anything new into your argument. like ‘care’ does.

        “It just seems to me that you have no reply to my substantive argument, so you are nit-picking about words.”

        The words you use are important. Someone can only critic what you say, and not what you meant to say. ‘care’ is a very loaded word, especially in the context of abortion, and really does obscure on your point about probability.

        I did make a comment on agreeing that your assumption leading you to the result you want, but that someone else could bring a different set of assumptions and use the same basis of probability to get a different outcome. I felt that this was a weakness in the argument.

        Reply
  8. Marco

    I wish I had entered this discussion earlier:-(. One point I may not have made in the past is how in some parts of society abortion is seen as a window of opportunity to “turn back time” and at some level pretend like the pregnancy never happened. Essentially sociological morality takes over from the actual facts of whether it is killing or not. Through that window of opportunity, the well-being of our peers whom we know and have experience interacting with takes precedence over a future person we don’t even want to imagine. I have noted situations where a mother is “punished” her whole life for the sin that caused the pregnancy, new child and invariably poorly adjusted individual.

    Moving to the probability argument, the probability is not the same for every individual case. I perceive that it would be scientifically possible to, in the future have a one to one corresponding sperm and egg to future individual. Does that mean that all the sperms and eggs we waste by letting them die at that point are future human beings that we are killing? That is the extreme end, but certainly, a lot of currently unknown factors, both internal and external change the probability substantially between individuals.

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    1. Marco

      I lament, that as a society, we have become control freaks with when we have children. People who have trouble, but want one going to extremes to have one with their genetics, and yet multitudes, have abortions because timing is not right. It sometimes makes me wish there was a free market to match the haves with the have-nots.

      Reply
  9. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    I would recommend something much more direct which doesn’t introduce anything new into your argument. like ‘care’ does

    Nothing new is introduced into the argument. You can’t have a moral argument without some equivalent of the word ‘care’.

    someone else could bring a different set of assumptions and use the same basis of probability to get a different outcome

    What would be, just as an example, one possible set of assumptions be that would lead to a different outcome?

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    1. winstoninabox Post author

      In my previous comments I’ve addressed both how ‘care’ being *the* question that is asked is a very loaded term, and a different set of assumptions giving a different outcome. I’d prefer to use those examples than write something new.

      If you prefer to leave off for now that’s fine. As an approach which doesn’t resort to the silliness of the soul your argument is fine. But I think it has limit power with a wider audience for the reasons stated. It was in this context that I was looking at it.

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  10. Marco

    What would be, just as an example, one possible set of assumptions be that would lead to a different outcome?

    Pick me, pick me.
    The assumption that we should not “care” about whether something is considered ‘murder’ or another kind of killing, but that we have a morality enshrined in our laws that are shown to *statistically* reduce the number of abortions in those countries that have those laws.

    We should therefore care that we are not tempted to criminalise something that it is proven not to reduce the incidence of abortion. ie. criminalising abortion is a statistically poor way to reduce the incidence, therefore the morality that points to the conclusion that abortion should be criminalised should also be rejected on economic-scientific grounds. There are much more cost effective ways of reducing the incidence of abortion than pursuing the fact that it is the same as murder. By all means on an individual level we should rejoice at unexpected pregnancies and help in any way we can – positive reinforcement of a decision to just go with it despite difficulties. Other than that – education and universal health care.

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    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “We should therefore care that we are not tempted to criminalise something that it is proven not to reduce the incidence of abortion. ie. criminalising abortion is a statistically poor way to reduce the incidence, therefore the morality that points to the conclusion that abortion should be criminalised should also be rejected on economic-scientific grounds.”

      I made the same point above, but you have said it much better and much more succinct. Brevity is clarity. Or is it clarity is brevity? Whatever. I agree.

      “Other than that – education and universal health care.”

      Education. Education. Education.

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      1. Marco

        I might add that it might seem dispassionate to the unborn to decriminalise abortion on economic grounds – However there is limited money in any budget, and it is about reducing the number of abortions with the amount of money we feel is right to set aside for that purpose. Therefore it is about education and access to health services to prevent unwanted pregnancies that has had the most success. Also education about the suffering and existence of the unborn as future individuals, I suppose.

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      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        ‘Education’ as such means nothing. You can educate people into anything. If you do not educate them to agree with me, you are merely reinforcing stupid errors.

        I do not agree that criminalising an activity is a poor way to reduce the incidence of that activity. You never hear this argument trotted out about speeding, or smoking, or tax evasion.

        Abortion relies on a relatively small number of skilled technicians: if their activities are criminalised appropriately (e.g., punished by public execution) I have no doubt whatsoever that the incidence of abortion would fall dramatically.

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  11. Marco

    I really only mentioned it as a possible set of axioms that lead to a different outcome.

    I have a great deal of doubt that executing skilled technicians, whose skill makes it more safe for the mother, more lethal for the baby, for something that can be done in secret in a multitude of ways in a “slippery slope” of strategies that range from plausible deniability to bribing enough “police” to look the other way, would, even practical considerations aside, make any difference in the long term, in the real world. Maybe on another planet with more compliant species?

    I don’t even mean it as a general sense. As a rule, laws that prohibit something does reduce their incidence, but there are exceptions, and this appears to be one of them. It is plausible that drug use is another one of those things. One can keep something decriminalised while still abhorring it as a society (like tobacco) and plotting its demise cut by cut.

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    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      I I really only mentioned it as a possible set of axioms that lead to a different outcome.

      Winstoninabox’s assertion – as I understood it – was that the question of when an individual human life became sufficiently individuated to be worthy of moral concern could be answered with a probabilistic argument in a different way than I have answered it, by chosing different premises.

      The question of how an individual worthy of moral concern is most practically protected, which is what your reply addresses, is an entirely different one.

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  12. Marco

    The argument ought to be made, when there is good evidence for it. I don’t like how people say “there ought to be a law” without thought about what the results of a law would be in the real world.

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  13. winstoninabox Post author

    “‘Education’ as such means nothing. You can educate people into anything. If you do not educate them to agree with me, you are merely reinforcing stupid errors.”

    I’d be perfectly happy for you to be the educator. At least I can trust that the kids would get a good grounding in critical thinking.

    “I do not agree that criminalising an activity is a poor way to reduce the incidence of that activity. You never hear this argument trotted out about speeding, or smoking, or tax evasion.”

    When an activity is deemed illegal then it moves underground. As with having a drink in Prohibition otherwise law-abidding citizen have to deal with criminals to procur what they want. Speeding or tax evasion can be done with out the aid of another person, so that is the major difference there. I’m not sure what crime smoking is, unless you mean illegal substances, which would then likewise put the person trying to procur the drug in contact with criminals. Abortions, which require at least one other person who must also have particular skills, would definitely become unsafe activities. The women, who are already in a position of vulnerability, would be open to exploitation, both in getting the abortion, and possibly even after.

    “Abortion relies on a relatively small number of skilled technicians: if their activities are criminalised appropriately (e.g., punished by public execution) I have no doubt whatsoever that the incidence of abortion would fall dramatically.”

    And I have no doubt that the ones who remained in the business would be the worst of the worst. The most desperate of people, who already know that if they are caught they are dead, so would think nothing of slitting a woman’s throat and dumping her in the river after taking the intended payment.

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    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      My apologies, mine host – I let my troll-nature and righteous indignation take over with that comment so I am most impressed with the calm and measured tone of your reply..

      If it were universally understood and accepted by lawmakers that life becomes sufficiently individuated at conception to be worthy of moral consideration, then criminalisation would be only one part of the response. Equally important would be an undertaking that the state would take full responsibility for raising unwanted citizens, and employment of a large number of surrogate mothers for incubating these unwanted citizens so that their biological mothers would be bothered with them for as little time as possible.

      I am far too fanatical to be useful in debates about policy, expect in times of revolution, so will attempt to contain my responses in future to the more abstract aspects of moral questions.

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      1. winstoninabox Post author

        “My apologies, mine host – I let my troll-nature and righteous indignation take over with that comment so I am most impressed with the calm and measured tone of your reply..”

        I’ve not noticed any indignation or behaviour that needs an apology. But as an atheist I have no moral compass nor empathy for others, so what would I know.

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  14. Marco

    But as an atheist I have no moral compass nor empathy for others, so what would I know.

    …(confused)
    …(confused)
    …(confused)
    …(confused)

    Oh! Sarcasm!

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      1. Marco

        I believe that atheists have no moral compass, but that they base a lot of their equivalent on empathy for others. It surprised me that you would say what you said without qualification. It sounded like the opposite of what you have said in the past, so it must be the opposite of what you believe. You know, a lie that is obviously a lie?

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  15. Marco

    Winstoninabox’s assertion – as I understood it – was that the question of when an individual human life became sufficiently individuated to be worthy of moral concern could be answered with a probabilistic argument in a different way than I have answered it, by chosing different premises.

    I demonstrated this on this front. Different premises regarding “worthy of moral concern”. The premise being that if a practical outcome of having a moral concern about something leads to a mix of legislation that is counterproductive to the “ends” of reducing the moral crime in question, then we should actively decrease our moral concern for this, even if just so it doesn’t drain our existence. There is quite a strong scientific case regarding resultant legislation, albeit societies have not experimented with the mix of policies you mention – my hunch is that no country will ever, and that even getting close to the mix of policies will have similar counterproductive results. Whether “concern” can be manipulated this way- apparently so.

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    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “The premise being that if a practical outcome of having a moral concern about something leads to a mix of legislation that is counterproductive to the “ends” of reducing the moral crime in question, then we should actively decrease our moral concern for this, even if just so it doesn’t drain our existence.”

      I’m in agreement with this, although probably someone much smarter than myself will come up with a real-world example that makes a mockery of my hypocrisy. It’s my belief that on very broadly phrased questions of morality there is general agreement. It’s only when the morality is tested in application that we find it to be difficult, unwieldy or even as in this case counter-productive. Dr. Clam’s fictional society might work well work in the short term, but I too doubt that humans in our current moral state would be able to sustain. Sadly, I think it would result in his blood being hosed off the senate steps and it’s rapid dismantling shortly after.

      Reply
    2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      I agree, up to a point, about manipulating ourselves to reduce the extent to which we care (I have done this myself both by hiding from the world for extensive periods of time and intepreting random events as God telling me to chill). This does not address the point I’m curious about, which is that the probabilistic argument as I have framed it only indicates one unique point before which we have no need to worry about morality at all. The only alternative premises I can think of leading to a different unique point using the same probabilistic argument are ones that are radically incompatible with atheism. Hence I keep re-asking this question…

      Reply
  16. Marco

    The only alternative premises I can think of leading to a different unique point using the same probabilistic argument

    This is because you are assuming the probability curve is fixed and independent of the technology we may throw at it. We *assume* that miscarriages are a biological “quality control”. My hunch is that they are the biological equivalent of abortion, often rejecting perfectly viable foetuses due to some environmental or internal “stress” cues.

    I am all for biology taking responsibility for that sort of thing as I do not want the power of life or death on my shoulders. This is not where technology or modern society is taking us- neither in your fictional scenario, nor modern trends. Modern society demands more time than biology gives itself for deciding whether to abort or commit. In both, the reasons “could” be similar, disablement, or a judgement or inability to cope.

    Reply
      1. Marco

        It is a graph of probability of a pregnancy going to term. Technology may make all test tube conceptions go to term and displace natural ones. That would move the discontinuity to before conception. That would give a moral imperative to preserve every sperm and every egg, as they all represent future human beings who will want to say “don’t kill me” after they go through the automated human generator. Anyone who pulls the plug on it would be considered a mass murderer by your arguments.

        Alternatively, technology could push the discontinuity the other way, for instance augmenting the quality control inherent in miscarriages, but increasing the threshold.

        Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        That would give a moral imperative to preserve every sperm and every egg, as they all represent future human beings

        This isn’t possible without serious genetic engineering, since currently the vast majority of eggs and the vast, vast majority of sperm never get a chance to conceive. Pulling the plug on the automated human generated would then indeed be mass murder, but the prerequisites are a severe restriction on the number of gametes produced.

        I can imagine a very bad Sheri S. Tepper novel combining this idea with your second ‘pushing the discontinuity the other way’ argument, where all the children resulting from the automated human generator are put on a Boarding-School-from-Hell planet to fight for survival until they reach the age of humanity.

        Reply
      3. Marco

        since currently the vast majority of eggs and the vast, vast majority of sperm never get a chance to conceive.

        I was thinking along the lines of mad scientist with billions of sperm and eggs with enough resources to bring them to toddlerhood at least.

        Someone else decides that he is actually mad, pulls the plug as it is a mercy kill in his view none “may” survive the invasion of several planets planned for them. Mad scientist cries “genocide”.

        In some ways modern society has pushed the discontinuity the other way. Potential mothers are “intelligent agents” that make a probablistic call within an only slightly lengthened window (say three months) because as conscious humans we have more information at our disposal than our biological instincts as to whether a child is “viable”. Note that in engineering, plenty of perfectly good widgets are thrown out to be 100% sure that the ones that are left are going to last the distance.

        Reply
  17. Marco

    The question I ask against abortion in an atheist sense is this: who are we to think we know better than biology who should be given a chance to live? The question you’re asking is: why should we be given more time than biology gives itself?

    Reply
      1. Marco

        Sorry. I was really asking the opinion of one atheist’s view in a philosophical sense, given that you are not going to look at God or scriptures to give you your answer. We know only so much about the science of miscarriage. Do you find that humans taking this over consciously away from our reproductive instincts and natural body processes to be progress or dangerous territory “brave new world?”

        Reply
  18. winstoninabox Post author

    “Do you find that humans taking this over consciously away from our reproductive instincts and natural body processes to be progress or dangerous territory “brave new world?””

    It is the same progress that we have in all facets of our life, and as such we must take it into account with the morality that we make. Technology allows more infants to survive, more people to live a health life, and more people to live longer. And as the technology is only going to improve we’ve got to work out how that fits in with giving every person and the planet a fair chance.

    Reply
    1. Marco

      Fair enough. My take is that reproduction is a special case and we mess with the “natural” order of things to our own eventual detriment. Thus I lament excessive fertility treatment, societal pressure and stress regarding family planning -even the seperation of sex as a purely recreational activity, and medicalisation of reproduction, both to conceive, avoid conceiving and aborting unwanted pregnancies. I admire people who “put it in gods hands” at least a little bit and adjust for the consequences rather than fight them and reverse them. I think this still gives every person and the planet a fair chance. I don’t have “science” to back me up on this. Just a hunch that societies that keep the natural order as much as possible will thrive, while others will decline and in the long run, collapse.

      Reply

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