Sunday, October 14, 2007

Johnny- guest blogger: the value of life

Starhawk said, "From what you have posted, I am led to believe that you believe potential life has no value. If that is the case, I will have a hard time "getting" you". Life must have some sort of intrinsic value Starhawk, a topic, and being questioned on a topic, like this is a great opportunity to really gather your thoughts on things. I hope you didn't take my comments as having a go directly at you. The "getting" bit didn't mean anything other than I wasn't sure whether you were equating murder with abortion with the way you made that argument is all. The little ditty from Monty Python was actually aimed at globs "before conception" rubbish.

Having said that I still stand by what I have said and I do not believe that there is any intrinsic value to life whatsoever...I do believe life has value but it is strictly an extrinsic value. I believe life grows in value with the person.

Starhawk said, "I do not have children; I would very much like to someday. I know I am not financially or emotionally ready to have kids. No matter how much a part of me wishes to be a parent, it would not be good for them or for me right now. If I did unintentionally get a woman pregnant in the near future (which would be a feat given my lack of dating lately) I would wish to see the child to term. Right or wrong, it would put me too close to fatherhood for me to turn away from the opportunity. I'd just try to get my act together as well as I could."

Starhawk, I have been doing what Fiery has accused Richard of and that is arguing from deeply thought about philosophical standpoints especially re the use of words such as intrinsic and extrinsic but when it comes down to real life I am like you and I think most rational people are. It's ridiculous to me to think that if you legalize something like abortion then all of a sudden abortion will become "hip" and everyone will want one, same goes for euthanasia.

I have been in exactly the situation you have just described Starhawk and did exactly what you said you would do. It put me too close to fatherhood for me to turn away the opportunity and really there was no reason for us not to have our child, we both value life as most normal human beings do. Now I have a wonderful rational beautiful 11 year old whose life I now value more than my own.

It raises an interesting point too, as far as value goes. Intrinsically means that the life itself is valuable for no other reason than it being life (I believe the only intrinsic value that might be attributed to life is that it is a more perfect state to exist than to not exist I don't think that has anything to do with value though).

We talk about potential in life but potential can swing both ways people have the potential to be good yes but what about the potential for bad...was Hitler's life "valuable" or would the world have been better if he was terminated before birth? Is a doctors life more valuable than a bum's life? Is the life of someone suffering from an incurable disease that causes great stress and pain to that someone more valuable than ending the suffering?


Fiery said...

Richard said...
Another nice post from Johnny. At its end he asks:
"Is a doctors life more valuable than a bum's life?"

Doesn't that question presume
1) a judgment independent of human judgment, or,
2) a judgment attempting to value a person according to the good of the collective?

And, don't both get used to oppose abortion?

In the latter version I have often heard the fantasy suggestion that one should not abort a fetus because it might be the next Einstein. Of course another Einstein is presumed to be good for humanity as a whole, so the mother should sacrifice twenty years of her own life for the collective sake of humanity.

The good of the Collective was the rationalization of Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Guevera etc. It's a dangerous notion, however innocently expressed (as I think Johnny is doing here).

If the bum is my best friend suffering some terrible financial failure that was not his fault, then he is a value to ME. He may also be a value to HIMSELF. You may choose the doctor, the bum and I may not.

We each must choose such things purely according to our most rational values, and except for speech, leave others alone to choose. No laws should require that any one act against his choice.

Therefore, the choice to end suffering is the sufferer's. Ending his life may be the rational thing to do and therefore he should be free to do so. His life is his and his alone. It would not be euthanasia, but rational suicide. Since many people commit suicide due to severe irrationality, any assisted suicides should also include an impartial medical judgment by which those assisting the suicide cannot be held responsible for causing a wrongful death.

No such medical judgment is needed for abortion... it just does not apply.

October 14, 2007 11:38 AM

Starhawk said...

Actually that's just the points I wanted to discuss with ya Johnny :) I figured a new thread would be the best avenue for the discourse, and here you go and started one while I wasn't looking. I did at first take your response to my post personally. That is primarily due to my lack of experience with blogs and as soon as I'd had a day or two to think about it, I realized my error. I apologize if my response felt as though I should be thily,umping my finger into your chest... Actually I spent the last few minutes reading over some of your previous responses to other issues and I respect, if not agree with, your style and your points. I think I've gotten a grasp on my rampaging ego and will no longer be suspecting people of disliking me personally, till they tell me otherwise.

I do believe that life has intrinsic value, though that value is small when looked at early on. I agree that life is a more perfect state than non-existence, but I believe that does give it value, even if when compared to other considerations it makes that value small in comparison.

I place value on the life of a rabbit. When I'm driving I will swerve out of the way to preserve that rabbit. The only reason I have to do that is for the sake of the rabbit's life. I clean off the cab's I drive at the end of my shift anyways; that wouldn't make a difference. Just being alive does, by my view, give some small degree of worth. When I do unintentionally hit a rabbit, I don't cry or get upset about it, I go on with my day. Though it does posses a small degree of value, that value is not worth mourning over.

I do agree that life grows in value with the person. At the same time, life's value can decrease in value. There have been people in our history that, provided those sources of history can be trusted, I would feel less hitting them with my cab than the rabbit. But saying that

If Hitler had been adopted to a loving and rational family... go even as far as to say he had been adopted in another country... history would be very different.

Starhawk said...

Haha!! Well, the "Enter" key is the wrong thing to hit when you're signing in to preview what you've typed...

The bit on Hitler was more food for thought than any point I was making. I have a hard time believing you are destined to be "good" or "evil" from birth.

Oh and bum's and doctor's value?!?!

I have been closer to being a bum, than I have ever been to being a doctor and I place a considerable amount of value on my life despite that. I have met doctor's that have made me shy away from the medical profession except when no other option presents itself. I have also met bum's with more wisdom in their left pinkie than I could ever hope to attain. One's professional advancement is not a basis for one's value.

Johnny said...

Firstly my dear Fiery I thank you for honouring me in this way it means a lot to me. I apologise for not posting sooner I sat down the first time and just stared at the screen for what seemed an eternity and couldn't put anything. Thank you also Richard for your kind words I was always going to put something Starhawk has helped give me some momentum. I think this covers the presumptions you raise to my questions, at least I hope so.
I think I've gotten a grasp on my rampaging ego and will no longer be suspecting people of disliking me personally, till they tell me otherwise.
No apologies necessary starhawk, I do exactly the same. Also I have the added disadvantage of having a course or vulgar posting style but what the fuck that's just me I will always clarify if I didn't mean to offend.....yes tellmeimreg I mean to offend you because you offend me with your bigotted irrational stance. The funniest shit you fundies spout is when you say as soon as I say something about religion you atheists become irrational get a fucking dictionary and look up rational and then look up reason and then look up faith!!
I digress, for me too there is value in pretty much all life. Ask Fiery I find it hard to kill a bug. I believe that humans are a natural part of Earth's ecosystem and as such have no more value or right to life than any other animal. And we are almost universally guilty of species bias starting with obviously ourselves -don't get me wrong personally because I am a human I value human life over other animal life...well in most cases... You talk about a rabbit being run over even a bird is something I would try not to hit but what about the bugs on your windscreen the big fat hairy spider on the wall that you want rid of. I guess with the bugs its not practical to our own lives to be distraught over killing them so we devalue them. Spiders are dangerous so again devalue and their lives seem so inconsequential but if you saw someone killing a cat well their lives seem to have more value they are companions and moreover they're cute....all human placed value.
To me saying intrisic value implies there is an intrinsic valuer ie god.
I think the value of life is relative to the valuer. It is purely a human notion... no animals value life in the way we do, maybe they value their own life but in a non-thinking way ie avoiding things that may cause death.
If Hitler had been adopted to a loving and rational family... go even as far as to say he had been adopted in another country... history would be very different.
Yes Starhawk presicely. Richard postulated that I asked those questions innocently and I did in the sense that I was just following my thoughts to a rational conclusion about how or what value we place on human lives. I am glad you said something about history, I was not innocent in the sense of knowing what my thoughts are though.
For those who suffered and died as a result of Hitler I don't doubt it would have been better if he had not existed 2 points-
This can only be known in hindsight....that's what history is.
One cannot second guess causality. The chaotic nature of causality means that we can never really know the full outcome of any of our actions....yes stopping Hitler would have save the lives of millions but I could imagine aa scenario whereby two people came together because of Hitlers regime that may not have had there been no Hitler and they have a child who grows up and has a child who does the same and their child discovers the cure for cancer therby saving the lives of millions... do you get what I mean this is just freeforming off the top of my head!
Bum and Doctor I meant purely in their conceptual forms... ie doctor - hippocrates finding cures for the good of man
Bum- Conciously doesn't give a fuck about their life or anyones
maybe I should have said anarchist or terrorist but I didn't think they were exactly what I meant...I am not sure.

Starhawk said...

I've actually read a good book that compares how much value we humans place on things based on relative cuteness. Cows are acceptable to eat whereas horses are not. Shooting pheasant for game is fine, many children would squeal in terror if you shot a squirrel though. I can't remember the name of the book for the life of me, but there were some interesting points in it on how breaking these societal trappings would help progress our society...

And though it may be unfair to the spider; they freak me the hell out. They get squashed if they're in my house, I'm a tyrant to bug-kind.

Fiery said...

Starhawk, Dennis Leary in No Cure for Cancer explored that exact idea- animal cuteness and their intrinsic value. I distinctly remember him kicking the tuna back into the net but rescuing the cute dolphins.

Starhawk said...

Huh, haven't seen that one in a while. I'll have to see if I have it buried in my pile of comedian bits. Dennis Leary is da bomb.

Fiery said...

With all this tossing around of the words intrinsic and extrinsic, they’ve rather blurred to me so I don’t know what they mean anymore.

Intrinsic- belonging to the essential nature of a thing, internal
Extrinsic- not inherent or essential, originating from the outside, external

As I look back and proofread this, I see that I didn’t use either definition. I am however leaving them up like a public service announcement for others, like me, who don’t walk around with a dictionary stuffed in their head (like some blokes I know).

Johnny does indeed refuse to kill bugs, greets them in fact. “Hello little moth, sitting on my keyboard.” He’s been known to give the little bugger *snerk* a ride on his hyphen key. --------- wheeee------- Yeah. That was a silly conversation. lol. Too much stout for that Aussie.

Me- I’m more of the “Ewwwww there’s a centipede in the shower with me!!!!! Get me a shoe and a paper towel- RIGHT NOW!!!!!” Happened last night in fact. Luckily my beautiful, brave daughter rescued her poor Mum, standing their shivering and pointing and saying, “I can’t see without my glasses, is that a hairball or a centipede.” Then when stooping over a bit and getting an ear full of water… right into the plea for help.

So- as for bugs and their life value. I appreciate that spiders eat other bugs. But I don’t want either one in my house. Ever! (Eva! lol. Thanks a lot Johnny, now I can’t even type it properly because I can hear you saying “eva” in my head). Spiders can do their business down in my crawl space under the house. I don’t go there, that’s where they can hang out and eat all the lovely little gnats that they want. But if they enter MY domain: swat, swipe, trash. I imagine the bees feel rather the same way when their hives are disturbed, so I say, “fair’s fair”. ;-)

As for other animals- I think it takes a sad and twisted individual to enjoy tormenting another creature for example….. ah hell, I’m not listing the ways people can be cruel to animals. I started, but it’s a repugnant subject and I don’t feel like dwelling on it, or editing those thoughts 4 times so they read properly. If you torture an animal, you are a sick and twisted individual. Period. Stay away from me and mine.

As for animals and cars- I will only swerve to miss an animal a little bit, I’ll honk the hell out of the horn though, BEEEP BEEEP!!!!! And yell, like that will make a difference, “MOVE YOU STUPID PHEASANT”. Ohhhhh. That reminds me. Hit a pheasant once. It was a female. Want to know how I knew in a split second it was female? It happened too fast to check the tail feathers. Because when she hit my windshield she left egg yolk behind, yellow gobs of it. *gack* poor thing. That happened about 15 years ago, and I still feel a bit bad about it. At least so that I feel a ping of regret when I remember it. But, that being said, I won’t put myself or my family in danger to miss an animal, if it’s a choice between me or them, it’s me. And that’s the way it should be.

Johnny said, "Spiders are dangerous so again devalue and their lives seem so inconsequential”. I disagree. I think, because spiders ARE dangerous, that it isn’t that we devalue their lives, but rather that we value our lives MORE. I don’t think the worth of a spider actually changes in that equation. Hairy huntsmen in the outback, go your hardest mate. Hair huntsmen in my house and I’m calling for help, and not the trap and release variety.

Animals “value” their lives only on an instinctual level, survival. All animals instinctively do whatever they can to survive. Humans do not. Humans do not instinctively know how to do hardly anything to survive. We must be taught. And every day it is a choice that we make to survive. Sometimes people choose not to survive: anorexia, bulimia, self-harmers, suicide, compulsive eating, smoking too much, most of the over-indulgences that we partake in. But it would be a rare and highly unusual event to observe similar behaviors in animals in the wild. And I would bet they would be animals responding to highly unnatural conditions. I know some birds will compulsively groom (self-harm) themselves to the point of plucking all their feathers. Where have people observed that behavior? Birds locked in cages. Not a natural condition.

The Hitler example poses an interesting dilemma. Because of what he did, I’m sure there are people who met that normally wouldn’t have. Children were born, maybe opportunities arose, that only happened because of the situation HE created.

That being acknowledged, would the world have been a better place had he never been born? Absolutely. Who knows the incalculable value of the human lives that he destroyed? The next Mozart, the next Ayn Rand, the next George Washington, the next Leonardo da Vinci, all might have been lost in the 6 MILLION+ that he snuffed from existence. All the subsequent generations who will never be born because of one man and his hideous vision of racial purity.

I wonder if it isn’t so much that plants and animals lives have “no value” or “less value” in comparison, but rather that they have a “different” value than human lives.

Richard said...

I don't know how I missed all these comments, but they are pretty great. I don't get why my comment ended up being posted by fiery. Did I do something incorrectly... like put it with the wrong post link? I can't remember.

Johnny wrote:
I believe that humans are a natural part of Earth's ecosystem
and as such have no more value or right to life than any other animal.
Fiery has very gently suggested this is not the case. I agree with her but I am much more emphatic.

MY value is above every other animal and human, because I want to live MY life happily, to the fullest, in every way I can manage.
There is nothing whatsoever in the Universe that has the power or the Right to change that fact.

So what could change that? Only the 55 mph freight train about to hit my child or the love of my life. Then I'd rather die trying to save her, than knowing I watched her die for the rest of my life. My life happiness would be forever wrecked.

This also means my child and love are more important to me than all other humans, and should always get the higher investment from me, materially and spiritually. Next come humans who are a more general value to me, first friends and business acquaintances, then strangers. Productive, honest strangers make my world a better place. They all have more value to me than animals of any kind, but after them various animals have greater value to me than other animals. My dog beats a wild deer, but any Korean who wants to eat dog meat can go right ahead... because dogs are animals not humans. Humans are as different from animals as animals are from plants, even though all three groups have a great many physiological and intellectual (Heh!) similarities.

And we are almost universally guilty of species bias starting with obviously ourselves -don't get me wrong personally because I am a human I value human life over other animal life...well in most cases...

So, depending on the weight you give that last sentence, I either agree with you whole heartedly, or disagree whole heartedly.

I also want to suggest that the Hitler thing is a bit of a red herring (a distracting argument that doesn't fit or belong). It is essentially an arbitrary claim because anything one does can lead to different consequences. The better our rational knowledge of reality is, the better we can predict those consequences and make better choices.

This leads to a comment by Johnny that is widely stated but brutally false:
One cannot second guess causality. The chaotic nature of causality means that we can never really know the full outcome of any of our actions...

If that were remotely true none, absolutely none, of the modern technology we use could be replied upon. Yet here we are clicking keyboard letters, and lo and behold, the letter we click appears on the screen. That is the Nature of Causality, it is absolute. The problem is only one of grasping causal relationships, of understanding the nature of the things in the Universe. Once we grasp it we can use it reliably... click Send, and consider EVERYTHING that happens from the structures and physics that produce the power to your home, the electronics and coding that make your computer work, the way all its respective parts are created from raw materials, the electronics that send the message, and the mind that reads it at the other end, half the World away. If you see the reliability, the non-chaos, of causality in those things, think of the vastly more complex web of absolute causalities that keep your body functioning!

Chaos is only that which we do not or cannot follow. You cannot follow the path of a single piece of pea-gravel flying through the debris of an exploding building, but it is still obeying every Natural Law of Causality that applies to it. With some complex things, like a Lottery gamble, we have to hope for the best. But that is not the norm. Some gambles are the toss of a coin, but if we learn to weight the coin we get control in varying degrees.

Identity (Aristotle's A is A) and Causality (the Law of Identity applied to action) are the two primary Metaphysical laws of the Universe. Without them, a stick can be a snake at the same time, Moses's bush can burn and not be consumed. Everything in our lives becomes unreliable... and we will need God!

It is the ideas of religion and today's pop-philosophies that blinker millions to really rather obvious facts of reality. Reality is all around us, right in their faces, yet philosophically they fail or refuse to see it.