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  • Debate Proposal For Starlight: Infantcide

    Dear Starlight: Since you have brought up and apparently believe in infanticide apparently through the age of three, and I obviously do not, I propose that you formally defend said belief. I will of course take the opposing side which is against infanticide. One twist. Instead of using religion or anti religion or propositions that involve whether or not God Exists or does not, we will use a secular debate which comes from biology and developmental psychology. You must use widely accepted resources from theories of development, anatomy and physiology. No wikipedia, no plagarism. If for example you use Erikson's theories of psychosocial stages you must credit him for the work, and give a link or book page.
    A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
    George Bernard Shaw

  • #2
    I'm not a fan of formal debates, and I don't feel this topic is at all important, so no. Your suggested debate criteria that would require me to provide technical information from a variety of fields that I am not an expert in and have little interest in, is likewise off-putting.

    I'm not a woman, so the question of to have an abortion will never be my choice. My country's politics are settled and pro-choice on the matter, so I have no quarrel with them. And I have zero political power or influence, so no ability to change laws anyway. The entire topic is a discussion I have only a small passing interest in as a hypothetical philosophical exercise, and I find the utter obsession that people on TWeb have with the topic to be bizarre. If you are looking to read more detailed arguments for my general sort of position, then I believe people like Peter Singer have set out their arguments on this topic more thoroughly and at greater length elsewhere.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Starlight View Post
      I'm not a fan of formal debates, and I don't feel this topic is at all important, so no. Your suggested debate criteria that would require me to provide technical information from a variety of fields that I am not an expert in and have little interest in, is likewise off-putting.

      I'm not a woman, so the question of to have an abortion will never be my choice. My country's politics are settled and pro-choice on the matter, so I have no quarrel with them. And I have zero political power or influence, so no ability to change laws anyway. The entire topic is a discussion I have only a small passing interest in as a hypothetical philosophical exercise, and I find the utter obsession that people on TWeb have with the topic to be bizarre. If you are looking to read more detailed arguments for my general sort of position, then I believe people like Peter Singer have set out their arguments on this topic more thoroughly and at greater length elsewhere.
      I am challenging it from a standpoint of if you think it should be legal to kill someone all components of it should at least be studied thoroughly. From this I can best gather you have not studied but rather decided something because it sounded good. Not that it followed any sound knowledge of human development, psychological biological or otherwise. Btw if you propose a hot topic you should be prepared to say why. Instead you shove it off to a philosopher. Allowing someone to draw your conclusion for you shows a lack of ability to reason well.
      A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
      George Bernard Shaw

      Comment


      • #4
        I would not say I "propose a hot topic", rather that many of the residents of TWeb appear to be obsessed with this topic to an extent that they have managed to get me (someone who doesn't care about the topic) to give my opinion. I consider my view normal, insofar as the only two of my friends I have ever discussed the topic with also hold the same view (one with a PhD in psychology), and high-profile philosophers and bioethicists have expounded such views in journals. I consider the people with zealously-held pro-life views here on TWeb to be the ones holding abnormal views, and they would be a tiny minority in my county. My views are the result of my own philosophical reasoning about morality, not on minute details of biological development which I consider irrelevant to the topic, and not a result of adherence to the views of any particular other person.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Starlight View Post
          I would not say I "propose a hot topic", rather that many of the residents of TWeb appear to be obsessed with this topic to an extent that they have managed to get me (someone who doesn't care about the topic) to give my opinion. I consider my view normal, insofar as the only two of my friends I have ever discussed the topic with also hold the same view (one with a PhD in psychology), and high-profile philosophers and bioethicists have expounded such views in journals. I consider the people with zealously-held pro-life views here on TWeb to be the ones holding abnormal views, and they would be a tiny minority in my county. My views are the result of my own philosophical reasoning about morality, not on minute details of biological development which I consider irrelevant to the topic, and not a result of adherence to the views of any particular other person.
          Your views are not normal by a long stretch. Not in the US, and I'm fairly certain not in New Zealand either.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Adrift View Post
            Your views are not normal by a long stretch.
            What proportion of pre-Christian cultures would you say tolerated infanticide? Anthropologists I've read have given answers along the lines of "the vast majority of them". But you seem to have strong opinions in general about the cultural and moral practices of non-Christian cultures, so perhaps you can supply a different answer?

            I find it hard to take seriously the implied claim that a practice that occurred in the vast majority of cultures throughout known history was "not normal".
            Last edited by Starlight; 06-15-2016, 09:58 PM.

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            • #7
              The biological and psychological development of humans are very relevant yet you called biology irrelevant. Lets start with that. Why is biology irrelevant when it ciomes to infanticide? What about biology is not related to your point of view? Its got a whole lot to do with mine I can list it in detail from fetal formation in utero through birth it contributes chunks of my opinion.
              A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
              George Bernard Shaw

              Comment


              • #8
                At this point Catholicity, you're not going to cover ground with him that hasn't already been covered. I think the opinion he has is extreme (to say the least) but it's one he has come to via the influence of other authorities, where he didn't fact-check their opinions for himself. I think he's going to have to come to a change of philosophy on his own - which I think is already happening. You need to give him some time to think the information that's been presented this week over. I know when I changed a few climate change skeptics minds they had to be talked to one on one, and then have time to process it all.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                  What proportion of pre-Christian cultures would you say tolerated infanticide? Anthropologists I've read have given answers along the lines of "the vast majority of them". But you seem to have strong opinions in general about the cultural and moral practices of non-Christian cultures, so perhaps you can supply a different answer?

                  I find it hard to take seriously the implied claim that a practice that occurred in the vast majority of cultures throughout known history was "not normal".
                  Pre-Christian cultures? What in the world are you talking about? Unless you're communing with the ancient dead when you say that you think it's normal because you have two friends who also believe that infanticide is okay, then it should be obvious that the context is what modern people in the US and NZ think is normal. Your views about post-birth abortion are NOT in line with the norm in these nations, nor in the rest of the Western world. On your bizarro definition of "normal", owning slaves is normal, castration is normal, pederasty is normal. Are these things normal in modern day New Zealand?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Catholicity View Post
                    The biological and psychological development of humans are very relevant yet you called biology irrelevant. Lets start with that. Why is biology irrelevant when it ciomes to infanticide? What about biology is not related to your point of view? Its got a whole lot to do with mine I can list it in detail from fetal formation in utero through birth it contributes chunks of my opinion.
                    They're not relevant to all people. Certainly some do base their opinions on biology and psychology, but it's safe to say most don't possess that sort of knowledge. The lack doesn't stop them from having an opinion.
                    I'm not here anymore.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Catholicity View Post
                      Dear Starlight: Since you have brought up and apparently believe in infanticide apparently through the age of three, and I obviously do not, I propose that you formally defend said belief. I will of course take the opposing side which is against infanticide. One twist. Instead of using religion or anti religion or propositions that involve whether or not God Exists or does not, we will use a secular debate which comes from biology and developmental psychology. You must use widely accepted resources from theories of development, anatomy and physiology. No wikipedia, no plagarism. If for example you use Erikson's theories of psychosocial stages you must credit him for the work, and give a link or book page.
                      Did I miss something? Did Starlight actually say somewhere that he is in favor of infanticide up to the age of three? I highly doubt it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Catholicity View Post
                        Why is biology irrelevant when it comes to infanticide?
                        Because from a moral standpoint I believe only two questions are relevant: Is the entity conscious? And, to what extent does the entity possess all the higher brain functions present in adult humans? Let me explain my general views on morality, and how they impact how I consider abortion...

                        In my view of morality, morality is about the actions taken by beings who posses consciousness and higher mental capabilities towards other beings who posses consciousness and higher mental capabilities, and the extent to which those actions are intended as harmful or beneficial. Entities become morally relevant only when they first develop a consciousness, because only such beings posses the capacity to suffer or experience harm. I believe we have a moral duty to minimize harm to such beings. Thus killing or harming any animal, insect, human infant, etc is morally wrong, whereas doing the same to a plant or a rock is not wrong because those entities do not possess consciousness and cannot experience suffering.

                        While science is still far from fully determining what constitutes "consciousness", I choose to assume for the purposes of this discussion that consciousness arises from or is connected to normal brain function, and that a being that is 'brain dead' lacks consciousness.

                        A consequence of this view is that a developing embryo lacks moral relevance until it develops a brain and that brain beings to function. I hold no particular opinion about exactly when that begins to happen, nor do I overly care as I will discuss shortly, but I am informed by scientifically minded people that fetal EEG readings show normal brain function at about the 25 weeks stage, so I am happy with the idea that that might be about the point at which the fetus gains consciousness. I am not particularly interested in debating the biology of that or having any arguments over whether it occurs at some other number of weeks.

                        So, just as I would regard killing a fly or a cow to be morally wrong actions since they constitute harm to conscious beings, so too would I regard the killing of a 30 week fetus. Just as I would regard turning a computer off, or chopping down a tree, as being acts of no moral relevance since they harm no conscious beings, so too would I regard the killing of a 1 week old fetus.

                        Next important moral concept: I believe there are degrees of harm. Conscious beings can experience different levels of pain, suffering etc. More suffering is worse than less suffering. So when harm is done, more harm is morally worse than less harm. Rape is worse than stealing an apple, etc. Our society sets different penalties for different crimes accordingly.

                        Next important moral concept: Human actions tend to have multiple consequences, and any action we take can simultaneously help one person and harm another. So it is possible that an action, eg stealing an apple to feed one's starving family, can involve intentional harms and intentional goods simultaneously. Such actions exist in a moral grey area since they contain components that are right and components that are wrong. We should generally try to do the least possible harm and the most possible good.

                        As a result of these beliefs, I sometimes kill flies. Where possible I let them out the window, but if their buzzing is sufficiently annoying (a small harm) and their disease-spreading possibility (a small harm) is taken into account, then I feel justified, albeit bad about it due to the moral wrong of killing them, in killing the fly (a small harm). It's one of those moral grey areas where there's trade-offs and I make the call.

                        Likewise with meat-eating. I eat meat, but I am unhappy about the moral wrong involved in the harm of killing the animals. I do go out of my way to ensure that I buy free-range eggs, to ensure insofar as I can that the animals are not being mistreated. I like to think the cows I eat generally have a happy life grazing in the fields that they wouldn't otherwise have had.

                        I note that our society is generally prepared to kill flies for annoying us, and cows because we want to eat them, but not adult humans who annoy us. Next important moral concept: Harm done to a conscious being is more morally serious if the being has more sophisticated mental functions. An ant, we might assume, possess almost no higher mental functions, so treating it well is really not that morally important. A bird possesses a few higher mental functions, and so our laws regarding the treatment of birds, and punishments for treating them wrongly are stricter. Particularly intelligent animals, like dolphins, chimpanzees, dogs etc posses many higher mental functions, and so many legal systems around the world are beginning to extend increased protections to these sorts of animals, characterizing them as "non-human persons" meaning they are entitled to many of the same legal protections from harm that human people have. And at the top of the moral hierarchy are fully-developed humans, who posses the full suite of higher mental functions from language to logic to reasoning to memory etc.

                        It follows that as the brain of the fetus/infant develops, it gradually ascends in moral status along the sliding scale from the level of "ant"/"fly" through "dog"/"dophin" up to "fully-developed human" as its brain develops. Thus, after the 25 week (or whatever) cut-off where brain activity begins and the fetus becomes morally relevant, the killing of it would be morally wrong in the same way that killing a fly would be morally wrong - a small harm. Such an act could be justified if it were done to prevent some other small harm, eg if it were annoying the mother. As its brain developed further over the weeks and months, killing it becomes more and more wrong, and increasingly good moral reasons would be needed to justify its death. (eg the discovery that it possessed a serious medical defect that would cause it to suffer throughout its life)

                        An interesting feature of human biology, I am told, is that because humans walk upright, unlike most other mammals, the birth canal is narrower and as a result human babies get their heads squashed and squeezed during birth in a way other mammals don't. I am told this would cause serious brain damage to a fully developed brain, and that it appears that for this reason the vast majority of higher brain functions in humans begin their development after birth. Thus whereas most baby mammals are able to walk, forage, and generally act like members of their species from the very day of their birth due to brain development in the womb, human babies by contrast can initially do very very little.

                        Regardless of the reasons for it, I understand that human babies do not exceed the IQ of animals until approximately the 2-3 year mark. A typical 2 year-old child has roughly the same level of intelligence as a dog. Most adults I have talked to, their earliest memories are from when they were about 3 years of age. This is approximately the time when children start to talk coherently. According to my friends who have studied psychology, about this age is where the infant's brain is completing the major process of development and wiring that began at birth, and now resembles an adult brain in all major respects and functions.

                        Thus, at some point around the time of age 3 or so (again, I honestly barely care about the exact point, and if you were to tell me that new science revised that figure down to 1 or up to 4, I would shrug and say "okay"), the developing infant has reached the moral level of being a full human person, due to its now fully-developed mental functions. Thus any actions taken to harm it are fully as wrong as actions taken to harm an adult human, and any moral justification for harming it after this time would therefore need to be as compelling as would justify harming an adult human. eg voluntary euthanasia to prevent extreme pain and suffering or somesuch.

                        It follows that my overall view on abortion/infanticide is as follows:
                        - Under ~25 weeks or so, there is no brain function and thus no consciousness, thus the fetus does not have moral relevance, and thus any action can be freely taken to kill it. Such acts do not register on the scale of morality, because like chopping down a tree, they involve no harm to a entity possessing consciousness or higher mental functions.
                        - After ~25 weeks or so, the fetus is apparently a conscious being, and therefore any action taken to kill it involves harm to a conscious being and is therefore a moral wrong. Such action would need to be morally justified by some other harm being prevented or good gained. While still close to 25 weeks, "because the mother wants to" is pretty much a good enough reason, just like killing a fly because its buzzing is annoying us is a good enough reason. However, as the fetus further develops its mental capabilities, the requirements for the moral justification of doing so likewise develops.
                        - By 3 years or so, it is a conscious being with fully developed human mental capabilities, and the requirements for the moral justifications of harming it have maxed out at adult-human levels.

                        As a result, I feel I can see why so many societies in history who practiced infanticide saw it as justified. If, for example, their community was facing a famine and there was not enough food to go around, it would be the action of least-harm to kill an infant rather than have one of the adults starve to death. And I am okay with the idea of our society having laws allowing for infanticide in cases where there is sufficient moral justification for it - such as what the Netherlands currently does in cases where parents and doctors agree to actively end the infant's life in cases where the child is born with extreme medical problems that would lead to extreme suffering.

                        Anyway, I hope that answers your question of why I consider the details of the biology largely irrelevant. While the location of the first cut-off of "at what stage of development does consciousness begins?" is an interesting philosophical question, it turns out not to actually matter much since even after consciousness has begun the fetus is still ranking down around "fly" on the morality-scale due to its incredibly limited cognitive functions, and thus can still be harmed for almost any reason, so any argument over exactly when this occurs is largely irrelevant. Likewise at the other end of the development, since there is a moral continuum between near-developed-human and fully-developed-human brain functions, the infant does not suddenly go from "freely killable" to "totally unkillable, it would absolutely be murder" at any point along the post-birth development scale, so no amount of science is going to supply us with an exact point where its killing suddenly becomes impermissible.
                        Last edited by Starlight; 06-16-2016, 12:34 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JimL View Post
                          Did Starlight actually say somewhere that he is in favor of infanticide up to the age of three? I highly doubt it.
                          I think that the killing of a fetus becomes wrong at about 25 weeks or so (but not very wrong, and so relatively easily morally justifiable if some other good is achieved through doing so), and gets progressively more and more wrong as time passes, and maxes out about the age of 3 where it is as wrong as the killing of an adult by that point. (See my above post for arduous detail)

                          Originally posted by Sea of red View Post
                          You need to give him some time to think the information that's been presented this week over.
                          No, because we largely or completely seem to agree on the first third or so of my post above (that harm to conscious beings is a moral wrong, and thus that harming fetuses over ~25 weeks is a moral wrong), but I keep asking you about the premises in the later parts of it (whether you consider harms to humans worse than harms to animals and why, and whether you think different levels of brain-development provide a rationale for making moral distinctions) and you keep not answering it.

                          The only way I can make sense of your position is that you hold to absolute right and wrong with no shades of grey allowed, think that a moral good can never justify a moral harm, and think that conscious animals are every bit as morally important as conscious humans. And that set of premises doesn't strike me as acceptable, not merely because I don't agree with any of them, but because it would seem to lead to absurd consequences... like being prosecuted for murder and getting life in prison for killing a fly. But when I've asked you about this (several times now) you haven't answered.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Carrikature View Post
                            They're not relevant to all people. Certainly some do base their opinions on biology and psychology, but it's safe to say most don't possess that sort of knowledge. The lack doesn't stop them from having an opinion.
                            Consider this conversation:

                            A: "I believe murder is morally wrong."
                            B: "Are you a neurosurgeon? What's your understanding of the details of the process of brain death?"
                            A: "I have no clue, and it's irrelevant. I believe murder to be morally wrong for philosophical reasons. The details of the current science on brain death do not interest me."
                            B: "What an ignorant person having opinions on a topic you know nothing about."
                            A: ~rolls eyes at how much B is missing the point~

                            A is pretty much me in this discussion. I'm saying the scientific details don't interest me and are beside the point as to why something is philosophically/morally right or wrong.
                            Last edited by Starlight; 06-16-2016, 12:20 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                              No, because we largely or completely seem to agree on the first third or so of my post above (that harm to conscious beings is a moral wrong, and thus that harming fetuses over ~25 weeks is a moral wrong), but I keep asking you about the premises in the later parts of it (whether you consider harms to humans worse than harms to animals and why, and whether you think different levels of brain-development provide a rationale for making moral distinctions) and you keep not answering it.

                              The only way I can make sense of your position is that you hold to absolute right and wrong with no shades of grey allowed, think that a moral good can never justify a moral harm, and think that conscious animals are every bit as morally important as conscious humans. And that set of premises doesn't strike me as acceptable, not merely because I don't agree with any of them, but because it would seem to lead to absurd consequences... like being prosecuted for murder and getting life in prison for killing a fly. But when I've asked you about this (several times now) you haven't answered.
                              We can pretty easily identify kind and seek to preserve all humans as being of the same kind. Brain development isn't a relevant factor.
                              I'm not here anymore.

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