Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Ask me some detailed questions about the bathtub curve view of life! Where are these contradictions you see? I believe that as the health resources available to distribute will always be finite, they should be preferentially directed towards the middle of the bathtub curve. However, I am adamantly opposed to both active euthanasia and active infanticide/abortion. Show me the contradictions- I hunger and thirst for a self-consistent Weltanschauung!

My traditional thoughts were that people vehemently against first tri-mester abortions in particular, were also people who would mourn as much for a miscarriage as for an accidental death of a baby. This seemed to be the case for Kylie, and a number of other anti-abortionists I know of. This goes along with my perception of people who have a one life / one value mentality will view abortion and active euthanasia as murder. You speak about health resources - but what about police resources. I assure you that if more police resources were put to assessing whether certain deaths in hospital were suspicious or not regardless of how close to death the people were anyway, a lot more would be found to be murder perpetrated by the doctors or family members. This is where my "slippery slope" argument comes in. As more police resources are put in to police abortion laws and euthanasia laws, the more pressure is placed on the people involved to demonstrate that the deaths were imminent, or the costs of keeping them alive were too much for what the life was worth etc. As far as abortion is concerned, once the convenient legal line of birth is gone, certainly some suspicious miscarriages may well be charged as murder - Now that would give a new meaning to the term "miscarriage of justice". In moral-religious terms it is quite simple - Sins take you away from God and could result in eternal damnation. On this life however, the uncertainties of evidence of various kinds and the relative prevalence of natural deaths make that slope on the left of the bathtub very slippery indeed in terms of enforcement. The question is : Is there not a contradiction between your one life/one value view on the unborn on the definition of murder and the way you think resources both health and police resources should be allocated?

I will mount a spirited attack on the separation of Church and State just as soon as you provide a definition of it. It is good to remember that the Christian Roman Empire lasted until the sack of Constantinople in 1452- i.e., more than a thousand years. And religion and the state were inextricably entwined during every minute of the 3000-year reign of the Pharaoahs...

My definition of Separation of Church and state is the principle (enshrined in USA's constitution for instance) that the laws of the "Church" as in any moral edicts or by-laws given in any registered religious organisation are independent of the laws of the country. It also means that the head of state cannot also be a head of a religious organisation. This does not mean that just because murder is disallowed with Christians that this law cannot be also a law of the country, but that the country's law is independently defined, judged and policed from any christian institutions. Although Australia does not seem to have this enshrined in the constitution, the principle is well known, and is argued at great length when, for instance the GG is/was also the head of a Church. I agree that where there wasn't an alternative in the past history, in the examples you mention for instance, long and stable Theocracies did thrive - but in modern history, from whence the principle first surfaced, how have countries that disavowed the principle thrived compared to ones that didn't?

1 comment:

Dr. Clam said...

I think I shall begin by saying that ‘One life, one value’ is an oversimplification of something that is very complicated.
We have a moral duty not to kill things that say ‘don’t kill me’, or, things that can convey an equivalent emotional attachment to life without words, or, things that on the balance of probabilities will be able to do one of those two things if just leave them alone for some period of time. That I have from the Prophets; and I have avoided much casuistical hairsplitting by becoming a vegetarian.

However, not all of these lives are of equal value. I would claim that Daisy is more valuable than Skippy. I would suggest that humans are generally worth more than sheep. I would say that, other things being equal, a young person with their life ahead of them is of more value than an old codger. In the same way, being infected with old-fashioned memes from mediaeval times, I would probably say a woman was worth more than a man. I would say that Marco, for instance, is incontrevertibly worth more than a dropkick like Bilal Skaf. I would say- and here we get back to the bathtub curve at last- that someone who has in the natural course of things a 60% chance of being alive a year from now is of less value than someone who has a 98% chance, other things being equal. Whether the 60% person is an old geezer or was conceived a short time ago is immaterial. Does this seem like a reasonably self-consistent view?

Now, surely it is reasonable for someone to support the status quo on euthanasia- to be strongly opposed to legalisation or decriminalisation of such activity, but not investigate every suspicious death in hospital with the same vigour as we would for a suspicious death of someone in the prime of their life? If you don’t think this is reasonable, and are advocating some marked change in the status quo, please say so! By the same token, it should be reasonable to criminalise abortion, yet not necessarily investigate every miscarriage as a possible murder (or 2/3 of a murder, if we want to start quantifying things...).

Note that we do keep an eye out for and prosecute people who help other people knock off their relatives at the old end of the curve; they are the real villains. I would certainly not say that the people who chose abortion or euthanasia for their relatives necessarily merit damnation: we cannot say what extremities brought them to their decision. Those who persuade them to such a decision, those who smooth the path, those who provide the moral climate that makes such things seem normal- they are the ones who should be shot like rabid dogs.
Legalisation, or decriminalisation, of any activity leads to normalisation. If it is not forbidden to knock grandfather over the head, it may as well be compulsory. This is why we should not only forbid abortion, but immediately legislate to bring back the stoning of adulterers.

Have I addressed your objection? Or have I gotten lost? :) I shall end on another optimistic Brave New World note...

At both ends, technology can be expected to minimise the requirement to spend large sums in law enforcement. Once it is cheap and easy for grandfather to have a full and happy virtual reality life as a head in a tank, there will be less incentive to knock him over the head. Once it is cheap and easy to have your unborn child removed as soon as you find out about her, so the Mahdi can raise her in a tank and bring her up to be one of his Fedayeen, there will be no incentive to court death and prosecution by pursuing an illegal abortion.