IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > Contributors > P. Tittle > ReproRights
Permitting Abortion and Prohibiting Prenatal Harm
P. Tittle   Mar 19, 2012   Bite-Sized Subversions  

I think abortion should be allowed.  And I think prenatal harm (especially that caused by ingesting various legal and illegal substances while pregnant) should not be allowed.  Some accuse me of hypocrisy or, more accurately, maintaining a contradictory position: either women have the right to control what happens to their bodies or they don’t.  No problem.  Women, and men, have that right except when it causes harm to someone else:  I can move my arms any way I want except straight into your face.

Ah, you may jump up and down, you said ’someone else!’  So the fetus is a person!  That’s why you’re saying prenatal harm is wrong!  So that makes abortion wrong too!  You can’t have it both ways! 

Yes I can.  The fetus can be a person and it may still be okay to abort.  Killing in self-defense is permissible; killing in mercy is permissible.  So if the pregnancy or birth poses a risk to me, I can kill the fetus.  Or if the fetus is discovered to have some awful excruciatingly painful genetic disease, I can kill it.  (I should kill it.)

Not only does being a person not mean I can’t kill it; not being a person doesn’t mean I can harm it.  It’s wrong to hurt a chipmunk, barring extenuating circumstances, because it can feel pain.

And in any case, I would argue that personhood is not all-or-nothing.  Sentience, brain activity, the ability to communicate, the capacity for rational thought, consciousness, interests — all of these attributes, typically proposed to determine personhood, exist in degrees.  So creatures can be persons in varying degrees.

And since personhood is typically established in order to establish rights, it makes sense then to assign fewer rights to ‘lesser’ persons. While there is cause for concern about the impact of such an argument on ‘disabled’ people, I believe this slippery slope should and can be avoided.  For example, if a mentally disabled adult lacks the cognitive competence to vote, that right is justifiably denied.  But it doesn’t follow that other rights, such as the right to a livelihood, also be denied.

In fact, we already assign rights according to various capacities and competencies: children, because of their lesser capacity for rational thought, and perhaps also because of their lesser interests, do not have voting rights; only a few adults, because of their superior knowledge and fine motor skills, are awarded operating room rights.  The acceptability of aborting a being with minimal personhood would not then contradict the unacceptablility of harming a being with considerably more personhood.

In fact, going back to the matter of the right to control one’s body, it might be reasonable to consider, in the case of pregnancy, that the boundaries of one’s body are somewhat elastic.  While the woman generally has the right to control her body, what is considered ‘her body’ changes through the pregnancy parallel to the changes in the personhood of the zygote/embryo/fetus: the less it is a person, the more it is her body; the more it is a person, the less it is just her body.  Thus aborting when ‘her body’ is very much just her body may be acceptable, whereas harming when it is not may not be.

In addition to rights and personhood (though personhood ‘reduces’ to rights), there is another, perhaps better, consideration: consequences.  Barring the capacity to feel pain, as long as there isn’t going to be a human being who will at some future time suffer from any prenatal harm, — that is, if the woman decides to abort the pregnancy — such harm, whether caused by the woman or some third party, isn’t a wrong.  In fact, assuming no such capacity, and given that it is has no interests or desires (which might justify pain, making it morally acceptable, as in the case of vaccination), it’s weird to even call it harm.  (Do I harm a virus when I take cold medication?  Or cancer cells when I receive chemotherapy?)

However, if there is going to be such a human being — that is, if the woman decides to continue the pregnancy and give birth — there will be an infant, a child, an adult who will suffer the consequences, which can range from vomiting, inability to sleep, reluctance to feed, diarrhea leading to shock and death, severe anemia, and excruciating pain, in the newborn, to the more permanent growth retardation, mental retardation, central nervous system abnormalities, and malformations of the kidneys, intestines, head, and spinal cord.[1]  Add to this the consequences to others, and the wrongdoing increases: the healthcare system (the rest of us) may have to pay (dearly) for newborn intensive care (Mathieu estimates the average cost of prenatal intensive care to be about $2,000/day); the education system may have to deal with one more ‘special ed’ student; chances are the welfare system will be involved (Oberman estimates the cost of lifelong care for fetal alcohol syndrome to range from $600,000 to $2.6 million ); and so on.  Thus there is no contradiction in holding that abortion is morally acceptable and prenatal harm is not: generally speaking, abortion does not lead to morally unacceptable consequences, whereas prenatal harm does.

Of course, consequences to the woman must also be considered.  For example eating a well-balanced diet is little to ask to ensure a healthy newborn, and giving up alcohol for nine months is well ‘worth’ a newborn free of mental retardation.  But staying in bed for nine months may be too much to ask just to ensure the birth is not a week premature, and giving up life-saving treatment may not be worth the mere possibility of a healthy fetus.

 

NOTES

 

[1] Madam Justice Proudfoot, “Judgement Respecting Female Infant ‘D.J.’,” in Contemporary Moral Issues, ed Wesley Cragg (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1992), pp.57-59, 58.

 


REFERENCES

 

Mathieu, Deborah.  Preventing Prenatal Harm: Should the State Intervene? (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991) p.31.  p5

Oberman, Michelle.  “Sex, Drugs, Pregnancy, and the Law: Rethinking the Problems of Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs,” Hastings Law Journal 43 (1992), pp.505-548, p.515.n.45

P. Tittle is the author of Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason (Routledge, 2011), Sh*t that Pisses Me Off (Magenta, 2011), Ethical Issues in Business: Inquiries, Cases, and Readings (Broadview, 2000), and What If...Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy (Longman, 2005). She lives in Canada, and she blogs at www.pegtittle.com.



COMMENTS

“Killing in self-defense is permissible; killing in mercy is permissible.”
I fully agree only with the first part of the sentence. Obviously we should use lethal force to prevent other subjects from causing us severe/irreversible damages. Which means that abortion should be allowed when doctors can reasonably expect the mother to suffer important physical damages or death because of her pregnancy. Every single woman should be allowed to choose.

Merciful killing does not convince me much. First of all, it sounds really “Atkion T4-ish” to me, especially when socialized health care costs are shown to persuade me that the more human parasites we mercifully kill, the more social care will be available for me/us. Even when doctors predict certain deficiencies or illnesses in the developing individual - we should be extremely careful about what we do. The use of the verb “should kill” frankly gave me the shivers. As if medical officials might impose mandatory abortions on parents. Yes, in this case, it is not only a mother’s choice - two parents are involved in the difficult decision. I suppose differences do matter. People with Down Syndrome can and do enjoy life, even with all the limits of their condition. Doctors, for example, said my daughter was a potential mongoloid, from certain echographic snapshots of the fetus. They gave us numbers and probabilities. So, me and my wife sat down, talked, and decided to keep her no matter what, and also stopped doing further exams. It was a really tough choice. Now, after some years, she is healthy - it turned out doctors were wrong. Doctors are often wrong. But even if they were right, the value of a single life, cannot be established with an algebraic sum of probable mental features. Also retarded people, deformed individuals, cripples, and alike. They all can find a rewarding level of existence. Some of the most brilliant minds in history would have probably been aborted - given an accurate prenatal diagnosis. On the other hand, there are indeed people, with other kinds of diseases, that just can’t have a decent life. So, depending on how serious is the pathology that doctors diagnose, parents should (and, sometimes, should not) be allowed to kill their developing young. But again, it would be am informed private choice, not a public medical protocol.

This slope is _very_ slippery, danger ahead.

In particular, be careful with arguments based on collective healthcare costs, they can be used to “justify” all sorts of fascist measures.

In passing, my mother used to smoke and drink a fair amount, and my health has always been good, probably better than average.

OK I’m going to come in in support of Peg on this one.

There are two things I especially like about this article: firstly its explicitly consequentialist stance (music to my ears), and secondly the explicit recognition that most of these issues that most people like to see in black and white are actually coloured in shades of grey. (

And Giulio you know what I think about slippery slope arguments. The only genuinely slippery slope I’m willing to recognise is the second law of thermodynamics. That and just about any position that isn’t determinedly consequentialist and geared towards maximising overall welfare.

Another consideration that may be relevant with regard to the “cause for concern about the impact of such an argument on ‘disabled’ people” is that no one individual is constrained (physically / biologically) to bear the entire burden of supporting them. I think this provides a strong (consequentialist) argument against deviating from the usual taboo against killing in that case.

Andre’s and Giulio’s concerns deserve, as always, to be taken seriously. There is a dystopic scenario out there, where the killing of the weak becomes cheap and easy, somewhat as in Santorum’s imaginary caricature of euthanasia in Netherlands, and which we must take care to avoid. But equally well we need to find a way to think about abortion that respects the right of women to control their own body in the ways that matter, without allowing them to damage their unborn babies through sheer neglect.

@Peter - I don’t want to live in a place where the killing of the weak becomes cheap and easy, but that is not the slippery slope I am referring to.

I am referring to a slippery slope toward an authoritarian society where arguments based on collective healthcare costs are used to reduce everyone’s personal freedom.

There used to be a principle of solidarity, now mostly forgotten, which said to tolerate the shortcomings of others in exchange for their tolerance of our own shortcomings (and everyone has some).

The elimination of personal freedom is a price that I don’t want to pay, not even for a worthy outcome. If I must choose, I prefer a world where some persons suffer damage which could have been avoided, to a world where everyone is oppressed by Big Brother from the cradle to the grave.

I would make the same choice, Giulio, but that’s just the thing: I don’t think it is a simple, black and white choice between “everyone oppressed by Big Brother from the cradle to the grave” and unbridled personal freedom.

Take tax, for example. By refusing to pay tax I could argue that I’m not directly harming anyone. But most of us accept to pay (well more or less anyway smile ) because we respect the right of societies to collectively (and democratically) decide on mandatory payment of taxes to ensure basic public services and a well-functioning state. We may be unhappy with the way governments are spending our money, but we don’t generally object to mandatory taxes _in principle_.

Then if we want to talk about healthcare, immediately the question arises who is paying for it. If the state, then choices have to be made, otherwise it’s a bottomless pit. US Republicans can talk about “death panels” all they want, but either it’s healthcare-for-the-rich-only or the state has to find another way to prioritise. Unless you can think of a better solution (in which case there should be a Nobel Prize in it for you!).

So inevitably we are obliged to use arguments based on collective healthcare costs. Refusing to do so cannot the way avoid the Big Brother scenario.

@Peter, I agree, and that’s why I propose tolerance as a guiding principle. We should tolerate the shortcomings of others in exchange for their tolerance of our own shortcomings (and everyone has some).

Of course there are some choices to make when it comes to collective healthcare costs, and these choices should also be informed by mutual tolerance. Let me think of a good example…

Here it is. In today’s sanctimonious PC witch-hunting climate, everyone knows that smokers and overweight people are are filthy subhumans, and many people think they should pay much higher insurance fees because of their higher health risks (or put in jail, or shot).

But _exactly the same_ argument can be applied to groups more loved by PC zealots. Woman get pregnant, which costs money. Gay people and some ethnic minorities have a higher risk of AIDS, and that costs money. Should we then impose higher insurance costs on women, gay people and ethnic minorities?

If we don’t learn to tolerate each other, very soon we will start shooting each other.

OK Giulio, but seriously: smoking and overeating are things you do voluntarily, being female, gay or being from an ethnic minority are not. The fairer equivalent would be to impose costs on people who’s sexual habits put them at greater risks.

Obviously I agree with your point about tolerance, and for sure there’s a lot to be said _against_ imposing higher insurance costs in case of certain habits that are believed (on the basis of sound evidence) to be unhealthy. Tolerance is one, needless complexity is another. For sure there are better ways to convince people to adopt healthy lives, if this is something we want to do.

But this touches on a point we have addressed over several threads now, but without ever really resolving, namely how far we recognise, and what we do about, the fact that our actions affects each other in very subtle and pervasive ways. It’s related to the discussion we’ve been having on gender. You want to hold a firm line on personal freedom except in case of clear, direct overt coercion/harm, but the more we know about those subtle, pervasive mechanisms by which we hurt each other the less tenable this seems to become from a utilitarian point of view.

In any case what we shouldn’t be doing, in my view, is to always warn of fascist Big Brother scenarios whenever anyone wants to regulate something. Rather we should be trying to find a reasonable balance between regulation and liberty, while ensuring as far as possible that decisions on the specifics are taken with the genuine interests of the citizens in mind, but also in a reasonably streamlined and efficient manner.

By the way, if we really want to make sure we don’t start shooting each other then we need to make our societies, and the entire global system, much more resilient, and quickly. Because the greatest risk to peace is of a collapse in those systems. And regulation has a role to play in that…even maybe a degree of PC zealotry?

Abortion is a minor issue; this is a major one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_proliferation

... besides, pro-“life” is a wedge issue.. pro-life has become a political football regardless of when one thinks life begins or what personhood is;
plus there is no connection between mercy killing and Aktion T4—the latter was in the context of the Third Reich’s totalist war machine (T4 began after the war started), and evolutionary racist theories—plus, not to forget, genocidal practices.

Pete is correct, there is too quick a tendency to assume slippery slope, to assume “fascism” is involved (Orwell wrote a ‘fascist’ is someone we don’t like, say if you don’t like a used car salesman, he becomes a ‘fascist’ in your eyes).

Again (as if it needs to be written at a site for the educated!), mercy killing is not—repeat not—connected to Aktion T4 or fascism/ national socialism.
The reason I think this concerns political football is one can tell by the platitudes used the rhetoric is for effect; it has reached saturation point and is counterproductive irrespective of the supposed merits of the dialogues.

“In today’s sanctimonious PC witch-hunting climate, everyone knows that smokers and overweight people are are filthy subhumans, and many people think they should pay much higher insurance fees because of their higher health risks (or put in jail, or shot).”

Know three in a row is overposting, but just had to respond to the above:
Giulio, perhaps a few think smokers are filthy subhumans, think they should pay much higher insurance fees or put in jail or shot. But when smokers smoke in my car or in my house, I only want to grab the cigarette and throw it in the sink or something, and if that is being a sanctimoniously PC witch-hunter, then so be it.
The more I listen to libertarians, the less I trust their judgment.. not to mistrust them personally, but their judgment. Their hearts are in the right place yet I worry about their brains. The extreme positions taken by libertarians makes me more interested in voting for the less extreme statists who—as a concrete example—attempt as Clinton did to bankrupt tobacco corporations without making tobacco illegal. Good for Clinton, bad for extremist libertarians who, I increasing surmise, exaggerate their positions for effect.

What you are really supporting is abortion in self-defence and abortions of mercy.

I agree with your conclusions, and have been contemplating a ‘scale of moral rights’ for some time. Early AI will no doubt also have severe limitations, and a morality based on a well-defined scale will be necessary to avoid exploitation of sentient beings while at the same time remove the need to give all computer programs rights.

However, I would point out that only very few abortions are performed because of a risk to the mother or because of potential deformities.

See

http://womensissues.about.com/od/reproductiverights/a/AbortionReasons.htm

The top three reasons for abortion are:

1) A ‘negative impact’ on the mother’s life. Because the woman concerned does not wish to stall her career, is underage, does not like the idea of being a mother etc.

2)Financial Instability. The woman concerned believes she cannot afford to raise a child, and cannot depend on a man who can.

3)Relationship problems. The woman concerned is single, and does not wish to raise a child alone.

I, and many others, are much less sympathetic to such ‘convenience’ abortions than we are to abortion for the reasons you gave.

“Abortion is a minor issue; this is a major one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_proliferation”

Good point Intomorrow. It’s good that we discuss a range of topics here at IEET, but we should also remind ourselves from time to time what _really_ matters.

@Intomorrow re “when smokers smoke in my car or in my house, I only want to grab the cigarette and throw it in the sink or something.”

Well said, I agree.

As a smoker with some old-fashioned good manners, I would not _even think of_ smoking in your car or your house. That would be an intolerable violation of your personal area.

I do, however, smoke in _my_ car and _my_ house, because that is _my_ personal area.

@Intomorrow
“plus there is no connection between mercy killing and Aktion T4—the latter was in the context of the Third Reich’s totalist war machine (T4 began after the war started), and evolutionary racist theories—plus, not to forget, genocidal practices.”

I really do not understand your way of reasoning here. Do you mean that an exceptional cloud of blond evil happen to land on Germany about a century ago? - and everything that happened around the thirties in those lands is so special, so functional to their Zeitgeist that we cannot even compare it with anything else?

Aktion T4 has nothing to do with any totalitarian war machine and genocidal practice. Zero. May I remind you that “Social Darwinism” was quite in fashion all over the globe? Internet is your friend, you can discover really puzzling thing about civilized, peaceful nations. For example, Norway had its own merciful suppression/sterilization program for retards and lunatics. Aktion T4 is much more well known because… well, Germany lost the war. In US, similar protocols (mass sterilization, and various eugenic medical actions) were active till the seventies. I am talking about 1970. Ask about this in Puerto Rico - where 35% of women (yes, 35%) has been mercifully sterilized against their will. No Nazi there. No Third Reich. Strange, isn’t it?

As you can see from the documents, Aktion T4 was NOTHING BUT merciful killing. If you think that such programs are a mere act of evil you miss to understand why they happened (and might still happen). The logical path behind Aktion T4 has nothing to do with genocide, and a lot to do with rational, compassionate medication. Regular doctors and nurses had to identify and report feeble-minded individuals, deformed ones, schizophrenics, and so on. Then another team of doctors - they were top doctors, they represented the cutting hedge of medical knowledge in those years - directly employed by the Aktion T4 program - had to review each of those descriptions individually, and establish weather or not the patient could improve his/her condition. And weather or not their pathology impaired their existence to the point of making it “unworthy of being lived” (lebensunwertes Leben). This is the crucial point to understand what happened. These people wanted to take good care of German citizens. If doctors said Hans could be cured - Hans was not only spared, he was going to receive a good medical treatment. Because - this is how a rational welfare system works. You do not waste resources. You used them wisely, to maximize the well-being of most people. I don’t see anything but mercy, at all levels (but one), in Aktion T4 - and all other similar programs. You could find the precise kind of calculations that Peg wrote in her article in elementary school books of Nazi Germany. Problems like - how much money we have to take from Hans, Gerit, and their kids to feed and cure an incurable idiot? Literally.

So before saying - this has nothing to do with Aktion T4 because anyway we are not in Bavaira, around 1934 - think again. They also did not know they were in Bavaria, 1934.

@Andre I’m wondering what operational conclusions we should be drawing from this. I haven’t thought about this much, yet, but I still think we should avoid resorting to “slippery slope” arguments where possible.

Ceetainly I find the idea (and, more important, historical reality) of mass sterilisation (let alone murder) of people against their will repugnant. The question for me, though, is why did this happen, and what can we learn from this (esp with regard to Peg’s article). I’m convinced we can do better than “merciful killing can never be justified”, which is the conclusion I think we’re in danger of coming to.

@Peter Wicks
“You want to hold a firm line on personal freedom except in case of clear, direct overt coercion/harm, but the more we know about those subtle, pervasive mechanisms by which we hurt each other the less tenable this seems to become from a utilitarian point of view.”

Can you please clarify? I think you nailed the very core of the problem. Yet, I would like to understand better how the utilitarian point of view supports an inflating regulatory net. I believe laws have only a negative function - that is, to block our tendencies to harm others. When I see some regulation that is supposed to bend peaceful social habits, and actively straighten our moral fiber up - well, I protest. I am not really utilitarian, I have to say. I would rather focus on tolerance, compassion, and pity, when I have to make ethical judgments. But I do not think my reaction has much to do with that. So I’d like to understand better your point there.

@Peter Wicks
” I’m convinced we can do better than “merciful killing can never be justified”“
I agree. Prenatal merciful killing should be authorized only in very, very extreme situations, when the future level of excruciating pain can be known in advance, with scientific accuracy. And if and only if both parents agree. When these two conditions are met, I believe our legislation can tolerate merciful killing. Yet, this is a bit different from what Peg was advocating. She seemed more inclined to adopt standard, prenatal medical protocols, based on health-care costs.

Thanks Andre.

First re utilitarianism, what attracts me about this ethical position is its logical coherence (I’m a mathematician by nature and by training, after all) and the fact that by definition, if applied intelligently, it leads to the best possible outcomes in terms of overall welfare. So yes to tolerance, compassion, and pity, but for me they are means to that end, rather than ends in themselves. They tend to make the world a better place. But I’m also (currently) a moral subjectivist, which means I regard ethical issues (like aesthetics) as a matter of choice, not of truth. (In fact I basically regard ethics as a branch of aesthetics.)

Now coming to your actual question, I don’t necessarily say that utilitarianism supports an inflating regulatory net, but nor do I take the strict liberal position that the only (legitimate) purpose of laws is to block our tendencies to harm others. To take a simple example, take standardisation. Ensuring that all our plugs and sockets are compatible and use the same voltage facilitates our lives and the economy dramatically. And many of these industry standards are backed up by legislation. Or you might have a law mandating the establishment of a public agency or provision of a public service, such as free-at-the-point-of-use healthcare, or subsidies for the development of renewable energy. It would be a stretch to describe the main motivation of such laws as “to block our tendencies to harm others”, but unless one is ideological opposed to this kind of thing they seem pretty sensible. And they do require laws: governments shouldn’t be allowed to do just whatever they want with our money.

Regulation that is supposed to bend peaceful social habits, and actively straighten our moral fibre: I agree we need to be careful here. But again, not because it’s a “slippery slope”, so much as because on the whole I think there are better ways (than legislation) to achieve this.

Re what Peg is advocating, my reading of her article is that she’s primarily trying to make the case that support for abortion can be made logically consistent with support for banning certain (other) forms of (behavioural) prenatal harm. What I’m not completely clear about is how far her support for abortion is supposed to extend beyond direct risk to the mother plus the kind of extreme situation you cite as justification for termination in the interests of the potential future person. Arguing from risk to health plus mercy is a long way from taking a hard pro-choice line, and I’m curious to understand better where Peg stands on this, as well as on your interpretation of what she is advocating.

@Peter re “Ensuring that all our plugs and sockets are compatible and use the same voltage facilitates our lives and the economy dramatically.”

I would reword this as “Plugs and sockets that are compatible and use the same voltage very often facilitates our lives and the economy, and therefore should be promoted.”

But this does not mean making this mandatory. I prefer having a non-standard plug than no plug. And there may be good reason for non-standard plugs (for example underwater use).

So, by all means create a standardization agency to issue “compliant with” stickers, but leave manufacturers free to make non-standard ones if that is what they want to make, and leave me free to buy one if that is what I want to buy.

Re “we should be trying to find a reasonable balance between regulation and liberty.”

Yes, this sounds like the voice of reason. But reason must be used on all sides, I have never believed in offering the other cheek. Regulators have taken too much from us in the last few decades without giving us anything worth having in return, and now it is time to take _our_ world back.

Today we live in such an idiotic mess of useless, oppressive and wasteful regulations, that many of us are becoming less and less willing to listen to reason and more and more inclined to reject all regulations. I am (theoretically) persuaded that governments are necessary, and also (reasonable, fair and efficient) laws, regulations and taxation, but more and more often I find myself admiring and supporting those who break the law and ignore regulations.

When it is too much, it is too much. As a society, we need to go on a radical diet. Or else.

“Do you mean that an exceptional cloud of blond evil happen to land on Germany about a century ago? - and everything that happened around the thirties in those lands is so special, so functional to their Zeitgeist that we cannot even compare it with anything else?”

No, but since Aktion T4 began after the war started you cannot separate T4 from WWII; your writing “Aktion T4 has nothing to do with any totalitarian war machine and genocidal practice” is probably contrarianism on your part: “Aktion T4 has nothing to do…”
Nothing whatsoever? even though T4 was instituted soon after the war started and was linked to Nazi eugenics and genocide soon afterwards (and in fact beginning concurrently) practiced in Eastern Europe on a mass scale? Read the exact dates T4 began and ended.
I have no right to judge you, all the same such as you and Giulio are too contrarian for my liking, though it is rather obvious as to your motives: you take an extreme position and hash it out.. pro-‘life’ activists do the same.

“I do, however, smoke in _my_ car and _my_ house, because that is _my_ personal area.”

And if Clinton thought _his_ personal area, invested by executive authority obtained from _his_ being voted into office legally, was to attempt to bankrupt tobacco corporations or at least to put extreme pressure on them, who is to say definitely that he was wrong?
Libertarianism btw does make sense as ideology to motivate others, however so does Marxism motivate labor and trade unions, etc. Aside from stirring up the pot—hashing things out in the marketplace of ideas—what does libertarianism do for you? the fairy tale of ‘withering away of the state’ differs little from libertarian fairy-tale.
But if you were to admit libertarianism is a game, albeit a serious game, then I would accept it completely—yet you can’t do that because such would be giving away the game! oh, well, we all tilt at windmills.

@Intimorrow re “who is to say definitely that he was wrong.”

I don’t believe in “Right” and “Wrong”, but I find it very disturbing when a government tries to prevent people from doing what they want to do in the privacy of their own homes. I am, and I will always be, against that.

These things have been tried, for example during Prohibitionism in the 30s. Of course people have ignored the regulations and continued to drink, because nobody takes that much BS, and the only result has been to enrich organized crime, which, of course, was the real objective of Prohibitionism.

Same for the current, pathetic “War on Drugs.” There is a simple way to discover the real reason of prohibitions: follow the money.

Difference:
manufacture, distribution and sale of alcohol was prohibited throughout the ‘20s—not ‘30s (if you were American you’d know that); whereas tobacco has not been prohibited from being manufactured, distributed and sold. What does an Italian living in Budapest know about America?
Now I agree with libertarians that the private sector is far more efficient than the public, however a dishonest public receives dishonest govt—in democracy, everyone gets what they deserve.
For 40 years libertarians have told me they hate the state, yet libertarians want the state to give funds and services to their own family and friends. This isn’t to write libertarians themselves are necessarily net tax receivers—however if they want the state to help their people, such is guilty conscience by association wink, they are acquiescing in statism and that is.. playing games. Virtually everyone thinks their people deserve assistance, however others do not.

@Intomorrow

Now, I don’t want to make any historical debate here, I respect your position, even if I disagree - we don’t have to pull libertarianism, tobacco, and Al Capone inside our discussion. The point is that, as I tried to tell you, similar eugenic programs were already active around the planet, before (and after) the infamous Aktion T4 took place. The mere fact the the existence of Aktion T4 appears to rest within wartime - does not really link it to that war. I am not being “contrarian”, I am just using facts to falsify your statement. Also, I would like to read about the military function of any eugenic program. It just does not make sense. How could have Hitler thought to improve his chances to win the war by throwing so much money to pay a complex eugenic machine like that? Seriously.

The real issue behind this - I think - is weather or not institutions own us and our kids. If a bureaucrat can tell my pregnant wife not to drink a glass of wine or two - because of some pseudo-scientific paper published by some partially alphabetized activist - and then he can mandate an abortion because the fetus might develop into an excessively voracious welfare consumer - then it means but one thing. That bureaucrat owns me, my wife, our kids, you, and other commoners like he can own cattle. His judgment, his ideas have value, my wife’s and mine do not. There is of course a hidden message. As long as you are submissive and productive, you will be taken care of (even if you did not even ask for so much care). But beware not to fall behind! It means that your desires, your decisions, your preferences have become irrelevant. Some people might like this pervasive, fascist enslavement, I do not doubt. But not everyone. And when authorities and law enforcements change the peaceful life of a man - because his behavioral patterns do not fit the standards prescribed by the central elite - that’s fascism in my book. And I believe it is a moral imperative to resist, possibly fight, such attempts to deprive us of the possibility of being moral agents.

@Andre re “The real issue behind this - I think - is weather or not institutions own us and our kids…. that’s fascism in my book. And I believe it is a moral imperative to resist, possibly fight, such attempts”

Well said. I totally agree.

@Intomorrow - I know that alcohol and not tobacco was banned during prohibitionism in the 20s (even Italians living in Budapest know something about American history).

I am referring to the prohibitionist attitude, and the reasons for it. The regulators banned alcohol so that their criminal friends could make more money and pay them back. The War on Drugs follows the same pattern.

Looking at Peg’s original thesis, I think you have argued the point very well. I don’t read anywhere that you suggest somehow legislating no smoking, drinking etc during pregnancy. I’m not sure how you could enforce it outside of incarceration of expectant mothers. What is effective is education. That means starting early enough that the information has time to sink it, so probably starting no later than sixth grade.

Slippery slopes are problematic. We use the idea as an argument against a lot of things that are positive developments. The reality is that anything taken to an extreme is destructive. Including as several people pointed out, regulation. I am a firm believer in minimum regulation and maximum enforcement.

In reference to “mercy” killing, I have to admit that I am uncomfortable with the idea of deciding a person’s quality of life for them. On the other hand, while the person is a fetus, the willingness of parents to live with a disability in their home is a huge factor. Having a disabled child is a huge commitment and a major contributor to marriage break ups.

This brings me to I thought’s comments on the reasons for abortions. I am not a fan of abortions of convenience. There are better methods of birth control, but as long a people are denied free and easy access to birth control it is going to be an issue. The interesting thing about each of those reasons is that if we forced the mother to carry to term, we would be creating a very bad environment for the child.

Andre, no one has yet tried to legislate (that I know of) the no alcohol during pregnancy. What I am waiting for is the inevitable lawsuit by a child against its mother for causing deliberate harm by having those couple of glasses of wine. That will be a debate worth following.

@Giulio Prisco

... grazie paisa’!

@Pastor_Alex

Check this out: http://www.alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov/Alcohol_and_Pregnancy_Legal_Significance_for_Child_Abuse_Child_Neglect.html. Notice that they are not merely talking about pregnant alcohol-dependent women, but about women with “alchool exposure” which is a very, very adaptable definition.
My mother drank gallons of beer during her pregnancy (in those time, she said, doctors were recommending it… go figure), and I feel rather fine, no FAS. Maybe they should have arrested her anyway, I don’t know. But can you really imagine anyone with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome going to a lawyer and sue mommy? Aren’t they supposed to be too “stupid” to such things?

Andre, the people aren’t necessarily stupid, but rather damaged in their ability to think ahead and inhibit bad decisions. Lawyers on the other hand would love to get their hands on this kind of case.

As I keep saying, anecdotal evidence does not trump statistics. The glad reality that you don’t appear to have been damaged by your mother’s intake of beer, does not mean that alcohol is not an issue in pregnancy.

As I said, legislation is not the answer. Proper education is. See David’s article for the sad reality of educating too late.

“If a bureaucrat can tell my pregnant wife not to drink a glass of wine or two - because of some pseudo-scientific paper published by some partially alphabetized activist - and then he can mandate an abortion because the fetus might develop into an excessively voracious welfare consumer - then it means but one thing. That bureaucrat owns me, my wife, our kids, you, and other commoners like he can own cattle.”

Two points.

Firstly, whether or not Peg is advocating anything remotely like this depends (in the absence of further clarification from her) on how we interpret “I think prenatal harm (especially that caused by ingesting various legal and illegal substances while pregnant) should not be allowed.” If she literally means that causing such harm should be illegal, then indeed some “bureaucrat” somewhere will be needed to enforce such a provision. If she is rather referring to the kind of thing Alex has in mind (e.g. civil litigation by the child)...well I suppose judges are also “bureaucrats”, in a way, but you get my point.

Secondly, I have some sympathy with the following from Intomorrow: “you and Giulio are too contrarian for my liking, though it is rather obvious as to your motives: you take an extreme position and hash it out.. pro-‘life’ activists do the same.” It’s not quite how I would have expressed it, but this does all seem very straw-mannish. We start with legislation, which would presumably be decided on via the usual (albeit flawed) democratic process and “bureaucrats” (i.e. government officials) of different kinds playing a role in interpreting and enforcing that legislation, and we end up (in Andre’s and Giulio’s minds) with said bureaucrats “telling” us what to do, OF COURSE based on pseudo-scientific claptrap (God forbid we would ever suspect bureaucrats of competently sifting evidence) and owning us lock, stock and barrel.

Not that I am completely unsympathetic to this type of reasoning. Apart from anything else, it tends to be more effective (than the kind of pedantic, measured discourse that I tend to favour myself) in pushing the debate in a preferred direction. What it doesn’t give us, however, is _precision_ about what needs to be done, and what it depends on. Which is partly why I tend to favour more pedantic, measured discourse (that and the fact that it comes more naturally to me).

By the way re plugs and sockets, Giulio if you know a case where the non-mandatory approach to standardisation actually works, tell me.

“@Intomorrow - I know that alcohol and not tobacco was banned during prohibitionism in the 20s (even Italians living in Budapest know something about American history).”

Before you, hopefully, return to the topic at hand, I know you read a great deal; so before replying you ought to read what an interlocutor writes: I wrote alcohol was prohibited in the ‘20s- not the ‘30s as you wrote (tobacco has never been prohibited in America). But the following misreading of history by Andre is what I object to:
“How could have Hitler thought to improve his chances to win the war by throwing so much money to pay a complex eugenic machine like that? Seriously.”
You do not know what Hitler was about, he wanted to win the war, but race was just as important to him and he would squander resources (e.g. railways) in following his career trajectory of killing/marginalizing as many weak/inferior people who he thought got in the way of what he thought Providence wanted.

@Pastor_Alex
“As I keep saying, anecdotal evidence does not trump statistics. The glad reality that you don’t appear to have been damaged by your mother’s intake of beer, does not mean that alcohol is not an issue in pregnancy.”
And, as I keep saying, statistics does not trump science. When someone will be able to tell me exactly how many glasses of wine it takes for a specific mother, in a given timespan, to cause FAS in her developing baby, I will be ready to accept rules that forbids alcohol to mothers. Since they do not have that kind of predictive ability, but only statistics - showing correlations post hoc, without understanding of the underlaying processes - such policies are based on almost nothing. No science, sorry. So, no right to coerce people. This is how I see it.
By the way, obviously I am not against education, and big signs on bottles showing a crossed pregnant woman.

@Peter Wicks
You are right, I got a bit carried away, and I have been also rhetorical. I repent. But I still think that democratic processes can produce regulations regarding only certain aspects of life, and only when certain conditions are met. We cannot vote about weather or not to kill a group of people, because the electoral majority dislikes them. In the same way, I think institutions cannot expect to find support when they exceed a few limited functions. When a legislator becomes an active political creator, and not only the protector of last resort, individuals will stand up to contrast it. And, according to my aesthetic-ethical view (I agree with your idea about the connection of the two), that would be just right.

@Andre I certainly agree that we should impose fairly strict limits on the role of government, but I would not restrict it to “protector of last resort”. As I said earlier, legislation is required to establish public agencies and underpin provision of public services, many of which we take for granted but cannot reasonably be considered as falling within the scope of “protector of last resort”. Even requiring companies to put crossed-out pictures of pregnant women on alcoholic drinks is hardly “protection of last resort”, yet you know as well as I do that companies will not do this unless obliged by law.

“You are right, I got a bit carried away, and I have been also rhetorical.”

This will be a rambling comment:
libertarians get a carried away and rhetorical too much, they overemphasize freedom as if freedom is the be-all and end-all (will get back to the topic).
Also some of you libertarians don’t appear to have time to read what your interlocutors are writing to you. Andre, you probably still don’t know what I meant about T4: it cannot be separated from the context of the war- the largest war ever- anymore than you can separate the Purges in the SU from Stalinism.
Mercy-killing and abortion are not comparable to T4 in any way save for remotely. Kervorkian for example was no analog to Heydrich or whomever later held ultimate police responsibility after Heydrich was assassinated. No mercy-killers or abortionists have ever done what totalist regimes have done.
I know why you get carried away and rhetorical; I hear it on the radio every day: the talkshow hosts are bright guys who know professionally and instinctively they have to make their shows more interesting or not enough listeners will tune in, then a percentage of audience share goes to someone else. Rimbaugh stays at the top of his profession by stirring the pot in sporadically saying things about “feminazis” and who-ers and sluts who get subsidized birth control at law school—it is latter day bread & circuses for the dumbed-down maddening crowd.
Plus it sells magazine subscriptions to rubes: National Review, and the Limbaugh Letter, American Spectator, etc. We chalk it up to the marketplace of ideas- yet it is more about bread and circuses, IMO.
You hold my feet to the fire and I’ll do the same for you:
it isn’t what you write or how you write it.. it is the almost-certain knowledge (one always harbors a bit of hope) that five years from now we will be going over the same old same old. And I have heard it for 40 years. Look at the archives for IEET, and going back further, a dozen or more years to WTA; further back, Extropy Chat, as well, though they have improved a great deal. There’s little of the “you are a fricking statist!” anymore.
Still, again, five-ten years from now we will be going over the same turf, because even if we want to change as much as we can under the given circumstances for each of us, our substrate, the rubes, the maddening crowd will drag us back. Mostly, they probably simply do not know what to do. As Renee Davis said,
“we have a complete inability to offer a vision for the future”,
or Davis used words identical in meaning.
You don’t know what to do; I don’t either. We are playing it by ear, making it up as we go along. Some of you via libertarianism; me with retrograde ‘futurism’; the religious with pleasant sentimentality/unpleasant neurosis. A ship of fools.

@Intomorrow
Also some of you libertarians don’t appear to have time to read what your interlocutors are writing to you. Andre, you probably still don’t know what I meant about T4: it cannot be separated from the context of the war- the largest war ever- anymore than you can separate the Purges in the SU from Stalinism.

Buddy, I understood perfectly what you meant about A-T4, and I read carefully your post. I simply do not agree with your historical analysis of Nazism. And since it was slightly off-topic, and we clearly have two different historical interpretations of German fascism - I saw no point in continuing on that track. Anyway, if it is important for you I give you my answer.

First of all, you did not seem to have explained to me why there were eugenic programs outside Germany, before and after the war. The fact that there were several eugenic programs not related to Germany and wartime clearly falsify your statements about A-T4. Yes, other programs were not named “Aktion T4”, and did not happen in Germany during wartime. But they existed, and they confirm the possibility of new episodes. When someone decides to kill/sterilize someone else for mercy, or common good, the very spirit of Aktion T4 lives on. I don’t care if the doctors involved are not blond.

“You do not know what Hitler was about, he wanted to win the war, but race was just as important to him and [...] thought got in the way of what he thought Providence wanted.” I believe that your analysis is wrong at many levels. First of all, the concept of “Providence” was totally incompatible with Nazi philosophy. I remind you that we have a series of documents clearly showing that they were anti-Christian, they wanted to restore pagan cults in Germany, and eradicate Christianity on the long run.  So, from these docs, we can conclude Providence played no role in Hitler’s imagination. Yes, there was Pan-Germanism and a certain idea of fate behind the resurrection of German powers after WWI (financial) humiliations. But there is no proof that Hitler felt like an instrument for a higher racial goal. Race was not “just as important” to him. It’s not just me saying this. We have tons of books trying to make sense of the Nazi phenomenon, and most of them recognize that its racism was merely collateral (racism is a common trait of all other modern totalitarian dictatorships, including Italian Japanese, Russian, and so on). Big investments in railroads, from a purely Keynesian perspective, are not a waste of money. Especially if you use them to transport human slaves - which produce something in exchange of almost nothing.

I won’t address your analysis of libertarianism. I respect your opinion, and I also think most libertarians are just wackos, or survivalists on steroids. However, I do believe that libertarian philosophy has its merits.

Anyway - getting back on topic - the more I think about it, the more I think Peg’s proposals are full of social Darwinism. Sorry for saying that. We have its typical healthism - “mothers must breed healthy citizens”. And its typical eugenic thrust - “unfit, costly individuals should be culled as soon as possible”. Yes, we are not dealing with a full scale Third Reich here. But, the slope is slippery.

@Peter Wicks

I am not sure that companies would simply try to hide health risks from their very clients. It is logical to assume that, companies - and especially big ones - have all the interest to avoid bad publicity and costly litigations. Obviously local legislators should NEVER establish “liability caps” - as they typically do with companies of “national interest”, like those in charge of nuclear plants.

Have you ever checked the user manual of any electrical item you might buy? It’s filled with warnings, risk disclosures and alike. There is no law that mandates them. Companies do it because they do not want to pay damages to the victims. A good, efficient juridical system can incentive wine producer to put big warning signs on every bottle. A legislator is not really necessary, both logically and empirically.

@Peter Wicks

By the way, thanks for correcting my expression of “crossed pregnant women” with a more correct “crossed-out pregnant women”. Only a satanist would buy a bottle of wine with a crossed pregnant woman on.

@Peter re “I tend to favour more pedantic, measured discourse”

So do I, I am also a brainy type.

But my brain tells me that over-regulation, over-bureaucratization, and the passive tolerance that we have developed for the gradual erosion of our personal sphere by regulators and bureaucrats, is one of the most serious problems of our Western society. They will not be happy until we become a society of sheeple.

When it comes to communicating this _very serious_ concern, I think the pedantic and measured voice of the brain is not as effective as the clear and immediate voice of the heart. The voice of the heart does not come natural to me, but I am doing my best to learn.

@Giulio I partially agree with your last para: when talking to all but the most cerebral audience, the clear and immediate voice of the heart is indeed more effective (especially when combined with belly-laugh humour and sex appeal). The thing is: IEET readership IS a mostly cerebral audience, so this blog is probably one of the relatively few places where it doesn’t work so well.

For example, you have people like me to contend with who just won’t buy the idea that regulators and bureaucrats won’t be happy until we become a society of sheeple. We’ve been over the ground many times, and it’s just not good enough to change the definition of “bureaucrat” when challenged.

Which brings me to Andre’s point about companies and bad publicity. Time and time again it has been shown - the financial fiasco being one example, BP’s negligence in the gulf of Mexico another - that industry self-regulation on its own doesn’t work. Trade associations will lobby like crazy against just about any kind of regulation that is not directly necessary for the success of the sector - I know this by personal experience trying to regulate polluting industries - but speak to CEOs of the more pro-active, enlightened companies and they will say (quietly), “Yeah, of course we want regulation. We need a level playing field and a regulatory environment that incentives good behaviour”. And that includes labelling.

That’s the real world. Like Intomorrow I believe that libertarian philosophy has its merits, but here in the real world it also has its limits, and we do harm when we stretch a philosophy beyond its proper limits.

To add to Peter’s comments. In the last few decades, as corporate taxes have decreased and regulation has decreased; all in an effort to get more corporate investment; corporate investment has actually dropped. In simple terms de-regulation hurts business rather than helping it. The important thing as Peter says is to have good regulations and to enforce them fully.

@Peter re ” IEET readership IS a mostly cerebral audience, so this blog is probably one of the relatively few places where [the language of the heart] doesn’t work so well.”

Yes, and perhaps that’s why we don’t matter much in the scheme of things. We are a nice and non-threatening salon of mild, polite, educated and mostly well meaning middle aged people, but we don’t know how to talk to the people and communicate our message clearly.

Is it really true that we don’t matter much in the scheme of things, though? I think this may be a limiting belief.

Communication with the less cerebral (as Intomorrow would say: less pointy-headed) is of course essential if we want to make real change in a short time. But if we are interested in the far future, the subtle discussions we are having here might have practical implications that go well beyond what we might believe if we just take a linear cause-effect model and look at the immediate impact we are having.

Also, don’t underestimate the multiplier effect: some slightly-less-cerebral people being attracted to the gloriously geeky conversations we have here, getting ideas, then communicating them somewhat more compellingly to some even-less-cerebral people, who then communicate them…well, you get the idea.

I find that the best approach is for each of us to figure out what we’re really, really good at (and love doing, and feel good about ourselves for doing), and focus relentlessly on that.

Very well said Peter, very well said. Just one thing perhaps, I am interested in the far future but also in the here-and-now, and I really believe that some changes are needed here-and-now, not in the far future.

I am more or less good at many things that I like doing, but not really exceptional at anything, and unable to focus relentlessly on one thing. Jack of all trades, master of none.

“And its typical eugenic thrust - ‘unfit, costly individuals should be culled as soon as possible’. Yes, we are not dealing with a full scale Third Reich here. But, the slope is slippery.”

The above is paranoid, Andre. And I’m tired of libertarians going on about bureaucrats, and Marxists harping on capitalists—nothing new for four decades! nor is it a gradual erosion of freedom, there’s always been power-freaks around us- to deny such is tantamount to romanticizing/overestimating the past.

...This is a good example of exaggerated paranoia, a comment in today’s American Spectator:

“Jack in Wi.| 3.21.12 @ 6:29AM
I can’t disagree with a word written here. This kind of untilitarianism is making Hitler look like a humanitarian. In Holland they liquidate the elderly, the babies who are defective, and even children and adults who may develop mental problems. All over the so called West we see these kinds of people pushing various forms of voluntary or even involintary euthanasia. The old in the nursing homes are next and most of the readers here know it.”

Jack in Wi. left out how Roe v Wade began the baby-killing genocide; and removing prayer in public schools has ruined the moral fiber of America for 50 years.

Now we all know. We have seen the Light; we have met the Enemy, and the Enemy is Us.
Amen.

Intomorrow is spot on. The trouble with these more rhetorical arguments is that they tend to just take us round and round in circles (see my latest exchange with casrose on Billions of Sexes Part 2).

@Giulio re “jack of all trades”: maybe that IS your “zone of genius”. Maybe you need to be in situations that require a mixture at all the things you’re good at and love doing?

In any case I don’t for a moment buy the idea that you’re not exceptional at anything. Not for one moment.

@Intomorrow
Now, I don’t want to be polemic, really. Just I do not understand why you dismiss my reasoning only because it sounds libertarian, paranoid, or whatever. As if I am guilty by association, or too irritating to be dealt with. Why don’t you address any logical/empirical problem with my arguments? You reacted after I did not answer to your (frankly untenable) interpretation of Nazism. Well, I am still waiting for you to explain my why other eugenic programs existed outside the Nazi parenthesis - since you claimed it was an exquisitely Nazi phenomenon.
You accuse me of being rhetorical - but the only counterargument I heard from you is : “you are like all those X, they just do not make sense.”, with X = libertarians, paranoids, Marxists, and any other marginal schools of thought / dysfunctional mental attitude. That’s Rhetorics 101.
Obviously, my arguments are not paranoid exaggerations, I was only commenting on the recommendations listed in the article. Aborting individuals with particular pathological profiles - means literally culling the unfit. You are free do disagree with me. You can think that doctors/mothers have all the rights to decide weather or not to kill a developing subnormal individual. But I also have the right to tell you how dangerous is to accept even a watered down version of such policies, and how morally repellent they are to my taste.

@Peter Wicks
I really did not mean to take anyone round and round in circles. I am not a troll, nor a fan logical loops. It is just a matter of which ethical principles we decide to embrace. And it is never easy. Any moral evaluation is hermeneutic in nature - so, it has some kind of circular movement. It leads somewhere only when alien moral principles start playing a role within the different ethical frameworks of the participants. So, little by little, we can understand what are our taboos, what would happen if we got rid of them, and why we cannot really get rid of some of them. Most importantly we can forecast the individual/social consequences of an alternative ethical ground. Which is the main factor to consider when we indulge in our speculations about the future. I suppose that putting merely a label on any opponent surely does not help us “breaking off the circle”.

@Andre
Interesting reflections. I agree that any moral evaluation is hermeneutic in nature, and not only that: it is ultimately a question of choice, as I keep repeating. I also share your consequentialist leanings (“Most importantly we can forecast the individual/social consequences of an alternative ethical ground”). Including, somewhat self-referentially, the pros and cons of consequentialism.

You describe “even a watered down version of…policies” that involve “culling the unfit” as “morally repellent to [your] taste”. That is an ethical/aesthetically judgement. The reason I don’t share it is that to me it still reeks of slippery-slopism.

To be honest, I sometimes indulge in rhetoric on this blog as well. I usually do so when I’m getting tired of certain position with which I disagree repeating over and over. I think that’s basically why I approved of Intomorrow’s latest comments. I really don’t have a problem with a degree of rhetorical dialogue here: apart from anything else, it makes the debate more lively. But it can end up taking us round and round in circles (or worse), if we don’t from time to time step back and switch to “pedantic and measured discourse” mode.

“@Intomorrow. Now, I don’t want to be polemic, really. Just I do not understand why you dismiss my reasoning only because it sounds libertarian, paranoid, or whatever. As if I am guilty by association, or too irritating to be dealt with. Why don’t you address any logical/empirical problem with my arguments? You reacted after I did not answer to your (frankly untenable) interpretation of Nazism. Well, I am still waiting for you to explain my why other eugenic programs existed outside the Nazi parenthesis - since you claimed it was an exquisitely Nazi phenomenon. You accuse me of being rhetorical - but the only counterargument I heard from you is : “you are like all those X, they just do not make sense.”, with X = libertarians, paranoids, Marxists, and any other marginal schools of thought / dysfunctional mental attitude. That’s Rhetorics 101.
Obviously, my arguments are not paranoid exaggerations, I was only commenting on the recommendations listed in the article. Aborting individuals with particular pathological profiles - means literally culling the unfit. You are free do disagree with me. You can think that doctors/mothers have all the rights to decide weather or not to kill a developing subnormal individual. But I also have the right to tell you how dangerous is to accept even a watered down version of such policies, and how morally repellent they are to my taste.”

Here’s another rambler, a lengthy one:
have thought on the above, but am nonplussed. Nothing against you personally, you are not the “exaggerated paranoid” I wrote of a couple days ago. In fact, justifiable paranoia does exist: for instance a woman who goes out to to a foodmart in the middle of the night is justified in being somewhat paranoid of all the strangers she encounters; say 49 out of 50 men on the street are no threat- but one man might very well be a potential threat.
You are more paranoid than she, IMO, because your fear derives from a low-probabilty threat: eugenics, “literally culling the unfit”.
The latter, “literally culling the unfit” does not make you yourself paranoid necessarily- nevertheless the meme itself is paranoid, and is a common paranoid meme. It can be almost hysterical; noit that you are hysterical, but some anti-eugenics and or ‘pro-life’ advocates can be literally hysterical at times—which indicates something wrong though usually with the meme and not the person in question. As Pete has pointed out, abortion is a legitimate issue, one that has been discussed for the 39 years since Roe v Wade.
All the same, abortion has been blown entirely out of proportion to its actual significance and for almost four decades! Plus I sense something male-dominant about the ‘pro-life’ position; the old ad-absurd joke is if men needed abortions they would be able to access Planned Parenthood at 7-11. It is a Man’s world.
Eugenics, “literally culling the unfit”, is approaching being a non-issue: such is well-nigh comparable to conspiracy theorizing. Fretting about the UN confiscating guns and gold is ludicrous at this time and for the forseeable future- albeit so is worrying (being ‘concerned’) that the unfit will be culled a la Aktion T4.
War in the Mideast and the related ‘issue’ of WMD proliferation and just plain use of existing WMDs are exponentionally more important than any future-concern you have gone into here; please keep in mind war in the Mideast and the related ‘issue’ of WMD proliferation is not merely future-tense but also present-tense.
Your concerns are not, it really goes without saying, complete non-issues as for the example coming to mind of contraception in (and out of) law school.. an asinine issue. Nevertheless, it does concern me that you are a tad dogmatic on the topic, and it makes me nervous you still cannot comprehend exactly what I wrote previously on the subject of A-T4; it is nearly shocking, it is a source of incredulity, Andre’. I have read very carefully all about the Third Reich—the Germans later scrubbed usage of the ‘Third Reich’ and called themselves National Socialists—and you are truly mistaken, very suprisingly so considering you apparently are European, or at least are bright and well-read.
I’m so nonplussed I haven’t written before this time out of a difficulty in knowing where to start.
First, Hitler did unquestionably ‘believe’ in “Providence”, all the documentation exists.
Second, the Nazis eugenics was of a higher order than anything previous to 1938- ‘45.
Third, Aktion T4 and the larger eugenics, evolutionary racial (ethnic cleansing for brevity’s sake), programmes were integral to the war and Nazism, they cannot, and your inability to get this is quite unfathomable, repeat cannot be separated from each other as components. So if you have read about Nazism then you have not read enough or have grossly misinterpreted what you did study.
Nazism, for its time, was a well-thought out, consistent conglomeration of programmes, which don’t appear on the surface to be cohesive only because Hitler kept his underlings fighting each other so they would not combine against him.
Please, read or re-read the date A- T4 commenced: it was immediately after WWII began, it was part and parcel of Nazi ideology and practice, and continued officially for a couple years, and unofficially till the end of the war.
There was nothing extrinsic about Aktion T4 to Nazism, as Stalin’s and Pol Pot’s genocides were not incidental to their respective ideologies & practices.. if you don’t get it by now then we will have to ask cooler heads—Peter or Hank for starters—to mediate—if they would want to.

@Intomorrow
Ok, I think I have been able to spot a common ground, or at least a possible way to understand each other at some level.

You wrote
“You are more paranoid than she, IMO, because your fear derives from a low-probabilty threat: eugenics, “literally culling the unfit”.” [...] “Eugenics, “literally culling the unfit”, is approaching being a non-issue: such is well-nigh comparable to conspiracy theorizing.”

You believe - and I agree absolutely - that we are not going to face eugenic programs so pervasive, well-organized, and integrated with mainstream political rhetorics like A-T4. The magnitude of A-T4 and its public celebrations - in movies, schoolbooks, and posters - is something very specific to wartime Germany. On this, we can agree. So, in the end, you link the adjective “eugenic” to those big programs. For me, “eugenic” has a much more down-to-earth meaning. When one or more individuals have the power to decide weather or not someone else’s life is worth of being lived (or being lived in fertility), I see eugenics. According to my moral taste, that’s immoral by itself, I do not need such event to be part of larger racial program. For you, if I understand correctly, such issues are not important - because anyway they happen rarely in our modern societies, with all the legal grants and the counterbalances of powers typical of developed democracies. Nevertheless, I profoundly abhor eugenics even when it happens rarely, and within our contemporary legal channels. Yes, it is a bit dogmatic. But isn’t our moral judgment supposed to dogmatic at least in its principles? I mean, if it is a principle, it is not something that can be gray or fuzzy. Your moral views, I suppose, are different. You are ready to label such programs as “evil” only when they reach a certain magnitude. I don’t think you are unprincipled because of that. Probably you have different moral principles, different ethical grounds on which you draw a line and say - this is the limit.

About the Nazi phenomenon. As I already told you - I do not think that something must be somehow related to Nazi/SS/Hitler/Himmler/Goebbels to be regarded as very evil. There are many immoral things radically incompatible with Nazism. I did not write about A-T4 to say “look, Nazis are back, they are all around us!” - I am an idiot, yes, but in more subtle ways. I could have written about past Canadian eugenic programs, for example, but they are much less known - so it would have been less effective, from a purely rhetorical perspective. Overall, I think is a bit naive to think that - since 20th-century-style fascist regimes are not going to happen again, their typical abuses are things of the past.

And anyway, I cannot share your interpretation of Nazism - from what I read, studied, and thought. I guess we just have different historical views. I was not there in the 30s/40s, so I cannot give you first hand impressions myself. I suppose we can just accept our differences, can’t we?

“For you, if I understand correctly, such issues are not important”

Less important, not “not important”; it is a matter of prioritization, I have great difficulty comprehending which priorities supersede other priorities. Yet I think the threat from WMDs far supersedes eugenics—
eugenics is way down at the bottom of my concerns, WMDs are at the top.
If eugenics is important an issue to you, then you will have to deal with it, however it has little to do with me at this time and for the forseeable future.

I thought he was with you…regarding your calling certain decisions to abort CONVENIENCE abortions:

Deciding to shop at the Freshmart instead of at the Foodland because it’s on my way to work is a decision motivated by convenience.

Deciding not to let a fertilized egg grow in my body (to become a person someone somewhere may or may not want) (a person the world may or, most likely, may not need) because I’d like to continue living my life as is has nothing to do with convenience.

If I don’t show up to work for two months (let’s say, the ninth month and one month after), I’ll lose my job.  MY JOB IS NOT A FRICKIN’ CONVENIENCE.

If I lose my job, it may take me several months to find another.  Let’s say I don’t have enough savings to live on until I find another job (financial advisors say you should have enough savings to cover you for six months, but they probably make quite a bit more than $20/hr).  I’ll have to sell my car to buy another month or two of time before I lose my house/apartment.  And, okay, it’s only a ten mile walk into town to buy food, so I guess the car is a convenience.  (And I won’t be able to afford more than I can carry back anyway.)  But how will I get up to the city for an interview?  Shall I afford the $50 return bus ticket?  A $100 taxi?  Given that my rent/mortgage is in jeopardy, I’d stick out my thumb, but people don’t stop as often as they used to; I’ll likely be late, and won’t get the job.  So I’ll lose my apt/house after all.  AND MY APT/HOUSE IS NOT A FRICKIN’ CONVENIENCE.

Deciding to have an abortion because of “financial instability,” because you “cannot afford to raise a child”—i.e, you can’t afford to buy it proper food, clothing, health care—that’s called being mature and responsible. 

Deciding to have an abortion because you don’t want to “stall your career”—are you implying that women should be available for gestation at all times?

And, oh, I love this one:  “because of a ‘negative impact’ on the mother’s life ... because she does not like the idea of being a mother, etc.”—again, and to conclude, are you implying that women should be available for gestation WHETHER THEY WANT TO BE OR NOT?

Now we are getting somewhere. You’ll notice if you visit Rightist sites, in big abortion shidoo discussions they ultimately get into children as being future contributors to the economy, taxpayers—in other words women are to be something along the lines of baby machines to produce economic ciphers (which, though one cannot always ask for consistency, isn’t spiritual of these so-called pious to begin with). Yet when women cannot afford to support their children and obtain welfare, they are told by Rightists that they must exercise personal responsibility by bootstrapping themselves and eventually getting off welfare even though it takes 18 years before the child can be on his or her own. Andre’ doesn’t comprehend this, though he does state exactly the way he thinks:

“But isn’t our moral judgment supposed to dogmatic at least in its principles? I mean, if it is a principle, it is not something that can be gray or fuzzy. Your moral views, I suppose, are different. You are ready to label such programs as ‘evil’ only when they reach a certain magnitude.”

No, I go by priorities, abortion and non-totalist eugenics are very low priorities for me. Besides, unless one were a super-genius, a Da Vinci, Newton, Einstein rolled into one, thinking about all the ramifications would drive one to distraction, possibly insanity.
(Just a few minutes ago, I met an engineering student carrying a blanket and pillow into the Engineering Building; he told me he spends up to 40 hours at a time in the building and sleeps a full night in the building when necessary. He said it was necessary to sleep in the building because not only would he be too tired to drive home, but also his head would be spinning with what he was reading and experimenting with).

@Intomorrow That soooo reminds me of my student days smile

On dogma, principles, moral views and priorities, I agree (with Andre) that any moral judgement is either going to be dogmatic or based on principles that one holds dogmatic. Like I always say, it’s a matter of choice, not of truth, but one doesn’t want to repeat that ad nauseam (far be it!).

Similarly, like any other aesthetic choice moral judgements are ultimately based on emotional reactions. Absent emotion, you’re just not going to care enough to form any moral judgement at all. Andre cares about eugenics, Intomorrow cares about priorities (and Peg cares about justice for women). I’m with Intomorrow, primarily, but that’s an aesthetic choice. Once again (*he repeats ad nauseam*) it’s a matter of choice, not of truth.

By the way in case anybody is wondering, the first six words of Peg’s latest comment refer to the author (“I thought he was with you”) of an earlier comment. I mention this only because it took me ages to figure it out! #stupidpete

@Intomorrow
I think you are too busy trying to associate me to pro-life activists, rightists, and libertarians - to realize my line of really understand the spirit of my moral recommendations. You already categorized me as a member of those groups, so you are quickly making inferences about my beliefs. But those inferences are wrong, this I can tell you with complete certitude.

The typically fascist idea that productive wombs represent the strength of functional human community - cannot possibly find a place in my moral universe. It is true, there are people out there who think that the main function of a woman is to breed enough tax-producers. Consistently, they add that women should not be allowed to opt out or interfere negatively with the breeding process; as if it is their responsibility to provide brand new workers/soldiers/mothers to their country. Every abortion of a healthy individual is a damage to the community. But these ideas lead only to one logical conclusion. Every abortion of an excessively sick individual represent a good riddance for the community. In other words, if the developing citizen is going to be more of a tax-consumer, than a tax-producer, then health officers should intervene and trash the faulty human product. This is a necessary logical consequence of pro-life reasoning based on the economic utility of human breeding.

My personal principles are completely different - and since you seem to be an intelligent and sensible interlocutor, I’d like to read what you think of them. I want to live in a place where people regard life as something sacred. I think like is indeed something sacred - in itself, within itself, and by itself. The experience of being alive has an irreducibly singular and individual value. It is absolute. It cannot be compared, aggregated, categorized, or calculated. I cannot tell you what my joys, my sorrows, my emotional and aesthetic impressions mean to me. And you are no different. Cripples, mongoloids, idiots are no different. I cannot tell, from within, from behind their eyes, weather or not their life is a burden for them, or a precious treasure. So, I would never try to violently suffocate any of the most fundamental expressions of their existences - unless, of course, they first threaten to harm mine. I will never be able to tell weather or not a certain life, even in its most original stages, is worth of being lived. This is why I oppose vehemently eugenics. I know I would really not like people to evaluate the worthiness of my life. So, I do not do it myself with others’ lives. It is just about pity and compassion in the end. In the very first post I told of my personal experience in the field, I told about my daughter. Maye that fact contributed more to my ethical judgment than any political theory I ever studied. Sorry for the long post.

Andre, I’ve been scrolling up to see how recently Intomorrow might have been associating you with pro-life activists, rightists, and libertarians, and to do so I had to scroll up to the following: “The above is paranoid, Andre. And I’m tired of libertarians going on about bureaucrats, and Marxists harping on capitalists—nothing new for four decades! nor is it a gradual erosion of freedom, there’s always been power-freaks around us- to deny such is tantamount to romanticizing/overestimating the past.” Since then he’s been doing two things: making general comments about rightists and sloppy thinking generally, and responding directly to your comments (in particular trying to understand your take on Aktion-T4). I share his distaste at the sloppy thinking demonstrated by so many rightists, libertarians, and activists generally, especially when it causes them to make a whole fuss about issues that are not particularly important for the future of humanity.

But again, that’s just me. You have had a personal experience that has generates strong feelings about a specific issue, and it is interesting to see what you are doing intellectually with those feelings. I agree with much of what you write, accept to the extent that I believe we CANNOT AVOID making the kind of judgements and comparisons that you reject, and essentially for the following reason that I cited earlier in this thread: “Then if we want to talk about healthcare, immediately the question arises who is paying for it. If the state, then choices have to be made, otherwise it’s a bottomless pit. US Republicans can talk about “death panels” all they want, but either it’s healthcare-for-the-rich-only or the state has to find another way to prioritise. Unless you can think of a better solution (in which case there should be a Nobel Prize in it for you!). So inevitably we are obliged to use arguments based on collective healthcare costs. Refusing to do so cannot [be] the way avoid the Big Brother scenario.”

I never claimed it was a small inconvenience, of the kind you give,  however it is a real choice as opposed to a forced decision due to health risks or foetal deformity.

There are always other options. The mother could accept a lower paying job, attempt to rely on friends and family, even welfare. All these options seem preferable to the killing of a foetus, particularly at a late stage in the pregnancy when it is all but indistinguishable from an already-born infant.

I would much rather quit my job and live on the poverty line than murder a newborn, so why not go to the same lengths for a baby yet to be born?

Again, I assume the pregnancy is a physically healthy one. Otherwise, I agree with your reasoning.

“There are always other options.” Indeed there are.

“The mother could accept a lower paying job, attempt to rely on friends and family, even welfare.” Indeed she could (“attempt” being the operative word).

“All these options seem preferable to the killing of a foetus…”. Why? From whose perspective? On what basis? Is this an aesthetic preference, or is it based on some kind of deeper principle? Unless you can provide some kind of answer to these question, you’re not providing a meaningful contribution to the debate.

“I would much rather quit my job and live on the poverty line than murder a newborn.” good for you. So would I, not least because murdering a newborn is illegal and associated with huge social disapproval.

If the above sounds snarky it’s in part because I think there is a kernel of a good argument here, and it’s frustrating not to see it brought out more convincingly (from the perspective of this rather cerebral, read “nerdy” if you like, commentator, i.e. myself). In the polemic “pro-choice” vs “pro-life” debate it’s easy for the pro-choicers to lose sight of the idea that killing a late-stage foetus has any moral significance at all.

But ultimately I’m somewhere between Intomorrow (“more important things to be worrying about”) and Peg (“too important an issue to be non-polemical about”). You do not have to want to lift the taboo against infanticide in order to want to allow (even perhaps, in certain cases, encourage) abortion (perhaps up to a certain stage in pregnancy).

By the way, there is a good answer to the question “so why not go to the same lengths for a baby yet to be born?”. At least when the baby has been born that’s one thing (childbirth, I understand it’s a delightful experience) out of the way. And there are plenty of would-be loving parents who would like to adopt it. So unless you see a particularly urgent need to reduce population growth (and empowering women, and getting a new Pope who doesn’t have his head up his **** may be better ways to do this) there doesn’t seem to be a terribly good reason to start killing newborn babies.

“I want to live in a place where people regard life as something sacred…”

There are spiritual intentional communities; aside from such intentional communities, though, ‘sacred life’ is water in the desert. Pre-Darwin, life was considered sacred-yet life was also more nasty short and brutish- so IMO it is has been a trade-off, we have partly abandoned ‘sacrality’, say, in pursuit of a better material life.
Here’s a quick example (so to avoid my long rambling comments): before Gutenberg’s day, an illuminated manuscript was something sacred, treasured; today a book is far less treasured, and rarely sacred.
Is life better? yes, IMO, in a vague, overall sense.

...Um, I ought to go into a bit morre detail on historical partial abandonment of sacrality. At around the beginning of the ages of science, Copernicus, Galileo, etc., were considered heretics, rebels against not necessarily God, but against what God wanted for those allegedly created in God’s image (which would make God a sort-of homo sapien, btw): us.
The Church was correct in thinking science would erode religion; but, again, life back then was more nasty short and brutish than it is today- so it was a valid trade-off.
And to be optimistic, the trade-off is becoming a win-win bargain extremely rapidly via cosmic time (a ‘blink of God’s eye’, to put it religiously);
albeit very slowly by our human clock. The last five decades seemed long to me, yet shot by at the speed of light in cosmic time.

“The mother could accept a lower paying job, attempt to rely on friends and family, even welfare” - why should she?  Why should she accept at all having her body hijacked? 

“All these options seem preferable to the killing of a foetus, particularly at a late stage in the pregnancy…” - it shouldn’t ever have to be late stage.  I swear, if men were the ones to get pregnant, there’d be a walk-in abortion clinic on every street corner.  And the technology of reversible sterilization would have been developed years ago.  Certainly long before Viagra.

It is against my aesthetic principles to kill, however I would never presume to ask a pregnant woman, or anyone else, to accept them.

I make my argument on purely pragmatic grounds. There appears to be no significant difference between a late-stage foetus and a postnatal infant, therefore to kill one is tantamount to killing the other.

Usually I detest slippery slope arguments, however if it is acceptable to kill infants we are now in the realm of killing people, and civilisation collapses or morphs into a dystopia.

Neither would be good for free thinking and different opinions, therefore we must set the bar as low as practically possible when deciding what is a valuable life, lest we all feel the consequences.

One’s own aesthetic preferences are irrelevant. When deciding the worth of another human being, one indirectly determines one’s own worth. Every individual with an interest in his own survival should prevent the destruction of human life if he is to rational.

“I swear, if men were the ones to get pregnant, there’d be a walk-in abortion clinic on every street corner.”

In that case, for men, abortionists would make house calls, Peg. Andre’ appears to be somewhat pollyannish; doesn’t get it how sacrality is medieval; and whose sacrality? a Bible is sacred to a Christian, a hypodermic syringe is sacred to a junkie smile
Some think love is Jesus Christ, some think love is a plastic dildo.
Sacredness is rebellion against capitalism, btw: one can’t commodify everything, as capitalism (and not merely neo-liberalism but all of capitalism) has done, and expect life not to be commodified—the hearts of believers are in the right place, their brains aren’t, they certainly shouldn’t live in a medieval mindset of thinking sacredness, their vision of sacrality, can be universalised.
After well over a thousand years of Church domination, Renaissance astronomers realized the earth is not at the center of “God’s Creation”—and neither are we.

..don’t mean to write Andre’ is mistaken necessarily, how can what he writes be proved or disproved? just don’t want Alex to tell us about lack of sacredness—what can we at IEET do about sacrality?: we are not conjurers!; and if Andre’ doesn’t know what to do about it, what can he expect us to do? I personally don’t like the lack of meaning in a Darwinian world, but tough you-know-what.
In the Midwest I meet Andres and Pastor Alexes all the time, what am I supposed to do? be nailed to a cross for the sins of humanity? that may be subconsciously exactly what they want.

“Sacredness is rebellion against capitalism, btw: one can’t commodify everything, as capitalism (and not merely neo-liberalism but all of capitalism) has done, and expect life not to be commodified”

Interesting comment, I’m wondering to what extent I agree. I suppose it depends what you mean by “capitalism”. One thing is clear though: we’ve been discussing fascism; one of the drivers for fascism was precisely this nostalgia for a world that capitalism was destroying.

Nostalgia = chronic separation anxiety. Perhaps this is what makes it difficult for some of us to find meaning in our lives without resorting to fascism or some kind of religious silliness (whether it’s believing that “Jesus died for our sins” or that the native Americans were actually an Israelite tribe). Or other superstition, be it astrology, homeopathy, libertarianism, worship of the free market. Of course this can be a risk for transhumanists as well: we need to try to find meaning in deciding how we want to live, and what we want to stand for, rather than in worshipping false gods.

Killing, a matter of aesthetics?  Oh my.  That’s FAR more indefensible than making it a matter of ethics. 

We’ve been killing people since forever, and yet, we have civilization.  So much for that argument.

Setting the bar as low as practically possible when deciding what is a valuable life would mean vegetarianism.

“When deciding the worth of another human being, one indirectly determines one’s own worth.”  No, one doesn’t.  Not when there are clear differences between the other human being and me.

“Every individual with an interest in his own survival should prevent the destruction of human life if he is to rational.”  No, if I have an interest in my own survival and another human life puts that clearly at risk, it is rational to ENDORSE the destruction of that other human life.

@Peg I agree with all your points except the idea that making killing a matter of aesthetics is more indefensible than making it a matter of ethics. Does this mean you are a moral realist? If you’ve been reading my comments you’ll know that I regard ethics as a branch of aesthetics.

“one of the drivers for fascism was precisely this nostalgia for a world that capitalism was destroying.”

Exactly; this is why liberal democracy, pragmatism, etc (which are admittedly vague) appear preferable to religion and Rightism. Andre’ has an overly-idealized view of ethics.. we do promote ethics yet we take ethics less seriously than much else in our lives. For instance if we took Christian ethics truly seriously rather than wearing them as more or less badges, we wouldn’t progress—it was, again, the rebellion—after 1,450 years from the crucifixion to the Renaissance—that built the modern world.
I am tired of hearing about pro- ‘life’, Jesus, and crucifixion; crucifixion is as integral to Christianity as the Resurrection- can’t have the Resurrection without the Crucifixion. It should be the law!

“I suppose it depends what you mean by ‘capitalism’ ”

Forgot to reply to the above in previous comment:
take what came before capitalism and mercantilism, late-medieval Church-influenced economics. Capitalism did destroy the nexus, the nomos built up for 15 centuries of Christendom; capitalism replaced piety—no matter how hypocritical—with “naked” (Karl Marx) self-interest, avarice. Capitalism destroyed deep religious ecstasies and personal relationships. But better IMO to die of cancer (at this time) at the age of 80 than malnutrition or tribal warfare, say, at the age of 50.
What was the average lifespan during the late medieval period?
Plus no anesthetics, antibiotics, and so forth; IMO it was a trade-off.. starting with the Renaissance and flowering violently after Darwin.
‘Course, you know all the above, Pete (and being European you have a greater feel for the middle ages). Point is, we did not waltz daintily from the middle ages into the modern world, anymore than the eons from paleolithic to the late medieval times were a Sunday school picnic on Easter Morn—progress has left a trail of blood trickling after it.
There’s something slightly ahistorical about Andre’; as if we popped out of nowhere into the modern world and now golly what do we do about ethics. And, btw, though I do not personally dislike religion, it appears religion does not like humanity much; religion is really not about this world.. it is in fact otherworldly.

“We’ve been killing people since forever, and yet, we have civilization.”

Actually we do not: life is still barbaric. When WMDs are gone, Peg, then we can begin to talk about civilization.

Intomorrow, I don’t think you can draw a simple line between capitalism and the fall of Christendom (the assumption that the world is and should be Christian). The reformation was in many ways the birth of modern capitalism. I agree that capitalism did a lot of great things for us. The problem with the present economy is that is based on a particularly virulent form of unrestrained capitalism that is a form of religion itself.

I would disagree that religion is otherworldly. Some religions for some people are otherworldly, but there are a lot of people whose religion puts them into the middle of the work for justice in this world. Religion, like everything else defies broad generalities. In the context of the real world, your last paragraph is bunk.

Yes, it is bunk because it can’t really be described without going into thousands of words.
At any rate, you make a virtue out of necessity. Now, I happen to believe religion is indispensable (which is a polite way of saying we are stuck with it) because when you look at the way men behave rather than what they say, you see they are not civilized and cf my last comment at this thread, there is thus no civilization, merely controlled, managed, barbarism.
That is where religion comes in, and I don’t reject or deny it—but do I have to like it? have to put on a phony smile when a religious person talks down to me? it always comes back to wanting to be all things to all people but knowing such is impossible.
And pure religion (save for i.e. Unitarianism) and strains of Buddhism which are philosophical rather than religious, is IMO otherworldly; so the people whose religion puts them into the middle of the work for justice in this world are in this world because they may possibly, depending on the person, be less interested in metaphysics and hence less religious. I personally do not like subject-object dualism: being “in this world but not of this world.”
One is either of this world or not.
Naturally “in this world but not of this world” is not to be taken literally, yet it is undeniably subject-object dualism. Only perhaps an astronaut can be “in this world but not of this world”.
Otherworldliness, being ethereal, might be legitimate escapism, albeit it is still subject-object dualism. Tell you the absolute truth, I don’t want to be overly religious, because I’m spaced-out enough and don’t need religion to be spacey smile

Back to Peg’s topic: I am more morbidly suspicious than cynical; would only want to hear a woman’s opinion on abortion, because a man’s opinion on the subject brings in an automatic conflict of interest.. comparable to a Ku Klux Klan member’s opinion on civil rights!

I can’t help feeling an astronaut is more likely to be “of this world but not in this world” smile

It’s an interesting debate. A quick search in Wikipedia has confirmed my suspicion re capitalism: “There is no consensus on the definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category.” So it’s difficult to know what to make of a statement like “one can’t commodity everything as capitalism…has done”.

In response to Alex I would argue that the reformation was in itself a harbinger of the fall of Christendom. Once the RC Church had lost supreme authority in Western Europe, people’s minds were free to question all sorts of things, even the concept of God himself. From Calvin and Luther to Nietzsche is but a small step.

I suppose if I were to opt for a definition of capitalism it is the idea that the primary role of the state is to ensure the smooth operation of the market. As so defined it may be difficult to distinguish it from economic liberalism, but is there another way? It’s not like there was no market in the Church-dominated era. It was just heavily regulated (by the Church), like in today’s more regulated (therefore less “capitalist”) economies. It’s a question of degree, I guess: liberalism can be thought of as a more extreme (Alex would say “virulent”) version of capitalism.

Ironically it is often the proponents of unfettered free markets that are also the most religious, especially in the US, and this also interests me from a historical perspective. Perhaps it is that the religious have clear ideas on what is to be considered “sacred” (including, for example, the human genome), and the rest can be left to the market. And compassion and charity is to be organised voluntarily, through the Church and good Christian fellowship, no need for the state to intervene. For the less religious, other ways need to be found to avoid the commodification of everything. That may lead you to fascism, or to communism, or to more benign ideologies such as social democracy, or to extreme capitalism (the market itself becomes God), or to sex, drugs and rock’n'roll. One might be more suspicious of market-induced commodification, because one is less secure in one’s sense of the sacred.

“I can’t help feeling an astronaut is more likely to be ‘of this world but not in this world’ ”

There you go, religion is spacey!
However, the religious are generally shrewd and not spacey—even though their religion may be spacey—esp. when it comes to collecting from offering baskets funds donated by those in the congregation who need the money more than the clergy do smile (is there a penalty for writing that?). Will write on miscreants in church soup kitchens at Alex’s thread right after this.
Commodification doesn’t bother me because I’ve given up on social progress, which apparently occurs in spite of ourselves

“I guess: liberalism can be thought of as a more extreme (Alex would say ‘virulent’) version of capitalism.”

Sakharov answered the question as to what Sovietism was by replying. ‘it is a more extreme form of capitalism’; meaning, one can infer, that Soviet Communism was survival of the fittest for those fit enough to withstand the rigors of a totalist system.

Its amazing how nearly every thread at IEET ends up debating Christianity and US Politics?

What is this article about again?

Why is there only men debating the ethics of abortion here? What do men know of women’s thoughts, feelings and bodies?

Agreed, for once:

“a man’s opinion on [abortion] brings in an automatic conflict of interest.. comparable to a Ku Klux Klan member’s opinion on civil rights!

Indeed! Now hands up.. Who chased all the women from IEET?

Hank? What you been doin?

“What do men know of women’s thoughts, feelings and bodies?”
What they tell us, and what we discern through observation, imagination and empathy.

“Why is there only men debating the ethics of abortion here?”
Well Peg is hanging in there, kinda, and casrose made a spirited contribution to the gender debates. Hasn’t joined in this one so far, though (casrose?).
Anyway it’s an interesting question, but I hope you’re not suggesting that men (should) have nothing to say on the matter.

“Its amazing how nearly every thread at IEET ends up debating Christianity and US Politics?”
Also a fair point (point, CygnusX1, not question, these question marks really have to go!). Do you think this is what is driving women (and possibly others) away? I’m genuinely curious. I know that Peg has cited off-topic discussion before as a disincentive to remain engaged in debates.

Re “What do men know of women’s thoughts, feelings and bodies?”

Similarly, what do women know of men’s thoughts, feelings and bodies?

Then, perhaps we should move to two different planets, men on mars and women on venus.

Or perhaps we could just cut the crap and try to live well on this planet.

If you are genuinely curious, then yes, I do think it is driving commentators away?

Also it is rather disrespectful to the author if their articles are continually hijacked by politics and religion. And I believe that many simply just don’t bother to contribute anymore, albeit, from time to time only?

Hank seems to have done his best to correct this and encourage more women and diverse readership, and there was a period when the contributions from women did increase, but seems IEET is back to being discussed by a handful of middle class white dudes, (like myself), who rant too much about religion and politics?

I would say that the goal for IEET would be to encourage as many commentators and as much article feedback as possible, that serves a wide demographic of opinion, both male and female? The purpose is as a progressive “think tank” to spread awareness and debate after all?

And the best way to do this? is to at least focus on the argument proposed by the author?

@ Giulio.. “Cut the crap” - precisely my point!

@ Peg.. apologies for hijacking your article with my rant, but felt the need to comment as it appears your whole point regarding prenatal harm had been lost and swallowed into oblivion.

@CygnusX1 Yes I was genuinely curious, and I think this is an issue with discussing.

Personally I neither intend (myself) nor perceive (in others) any disrespect for authors when the comment threads here drift off-topic. It’s something that I enjoy, including in response to my own articles, and I think (within limits) it adds to the quality of the debate.

I agree that IEET should aim to encourage a wide demographic of opinion, but it would imp be a pity if this was achieved at the expense of putting a straitjacket on the discussions here.

@Giulio re “cutting the crap”, the problem with this is that one person’s “crap” is another person’s strongly held belief. Hence the need for careful, measured, sometimes even pedantic discourse, in order to parse what is truly “crap” (that is to say logically incoherent or misinformed) from what is merely objectionable to some people.

“And the best way to do this? is to at least focus on the argument proposed by the author?”

Tell it to Andre’:
scroll up to see what was the first comment to this piece. Who wrote it?

re “would only want to hear a woman’s opinion on abortion, because a man’s opinion on the subject brings in an automatic conflict of interest…”

That’s the problem.  Why should it bring in an automatic conflict of interest??  You don’t need to be a woman!!  I have never been a paraplegic and yet I can imagine quite well and in great detail how my life would change should I be hit by a car this afternoon and end up paralyzed from the waist down.  Why can’t men IMAGINE - take the time and think it through - what it would be like if they were to find out, this afternoon, that they were pregnant???

“You don’t need to be a woman!! I have never been a paraplegic and yet I can imagine quite well and in great detail how my life would change should I be hit by a car this afternoon and end up paralyzed from the waist down.”

Well, yes and no. I can _imagine_ what it would be like as well, but how accurate or meaningful my imaginations might be is another matter. To have any real insight I would need to get to know people in that position, and make an effort to understand and empathise. And this is not always something that comes naturally to people, whatever “gender”. (Although some might say women are on the whole better at it than men.) (And some of them might say this at least partly has a genetic cause.) (They might be wrong an that, of course, on either or both counts.) (Or they might be right. Who knows? Beats me.)

I think it’s an excuse.  ‘Oh well, I’m not a woman, so…’  If more men took the time and made the effort to imagine exactly what it would be like, perhaps they wouldn’t be so self-righteous about fetal rights.

You are right.
But there’s an old joke about it: the wife says she wants a man who is a real man yet understanding. And her husband, Butch, replies,

“you find a guy like that, and I’ll take him for myself.

It’s not only men who get self-righteous about these things, Peg.

I don’t agree that it’s an excuse. It is sometimes _used_ as an excuse, yes, I’ll give you that. But it can also be a sign of humility and self-awareness. I really would not want to presume to know what it’s like to be pregnant any more than I would want to presume to know what it’s like to be paraplegic. I agree that we must make the effort to empathise, but we also need to be realistic about how accurate the insights we obtain as a result are likely to be.

IEET NOTICE: MORE WOMEN REQUIRED HERE!

If your thoughts and opinions are inextricably tied to your sex, then yes, I guess.  Certainly our life experiences affect our opinions, and in our society, living in a female body is a noticeably different experience than living in a male body, typically, but I object to the one-thinks-with-one’s-uterus implication.  As Peter noted, it’s not only men who get self-righteous about these things.  And a lack of imagination cuts across gender.

You know “they” say that it is mans envy of a woman’s ability to create life and a baby, that drives him to create machines? - that’s why he spends so much time in the garden shed?

The natural extension of this is trans-humanism and the creation of A.I?

There is one question to ask Andre’, for instance, or perhaps someone else who holds similar views:
‘do you advocate the overturning of Roe v Wade?’
I asked a blogger named Veronica a year or two ago, but she declined to answer, so wont ask the same question again—however would like to because it isn’t merely a nebulous philosophical question but also a discrete legal question that has a yes or no reply involved.
Now one could say they want to alter the law, but that is a ‘yes’ answer because it means striking down the law as it stands now in order to alter it. In other words, abortion would remain legal to an ‘alterer’, albeit restrictions on abortion would be added.

My answer is: Roe v Wade should be left as is.

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