Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Logical Morality

There was a time when I considered myself a very religious person. Right now I would consider myself to be more of a confused person. In my time as a dedicated Christian I noticed something about many of the moral stances a Christian might take. I found that generally they can all be justified on a logical basis with a root in human rights. Being the logical minded fellow that I am it was typical that I would not truly embrace a moral stance unless I could justify it rationally. That always made more sense to me than ‘the bible says so.’

As an example I will start with the hot topic of abortion. This usually gets people fired up: ‘Pro-life’ vs. ‘Pro-Choice’. I will let you know right off that I do not agree with abortion so there could be bias in my argument. However, I have done my best to eliminate that. As I mentioned before we need to declare our human rights. This is similar to our Bill of Rights; the right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness… that kind of stuff. The major right applicable to this argument is the right to life. It is a difficult one to argue against. I am going to state it as this: All humans have the right to life. Simple.

As far as the abortion argument is concerned we need to determine if the mother is violating the right to life of the unborn child. This comes down to whether or not the unborn is considered a human or in other words, if it is granted the right to life. Since we all can agree that a child which was recently born is alive and has the right to life, we will start there. The first question is if the act of being born makes you ‘alive.’ I think it is difficult to think that a child which is moments from coming into the world is not alive and one who has been birthed is alive. Additionally there have been several murder trials were a late term unborn child was considered a murder victim. This brings us into the womb.

Now, one would need to decide at what point you become human or alive in the womb. This is a difficult question and I am not going to attempt to answer it. My thought is that we just don’t know. What determines life anyways? Because I consider the violation of the right to life to be major abuse I would prefer to avoid it at all costs (when in doubt avoid violating someone’s rights.) Thus we should define life at its least common denominator. In this case it would be after conception.

This is certainly debatable, but in the end we are just a collection of cells. Whether we are bazillions or two makes little difference to me, they are still human cells. If at some point in time someone presented a logical argument for the point which life begins I would be happy to consider it.

There are many counter arguments to the pro-life stance. One which I would like to quickly address is the woman’s right to choose. To be honest I think it is silly. Nobody has an ultimate right to choose as they will; there are other people’s rights to consider. Additionally we have other choices to make, such as the choice to have sex. This brings up the case of the raped girl caring the child of her assailant. This is a difficult topic, to be fair it is rare compared to normal situations of abortion. This is one situation where the right of life of the unborn could be weighed against other considerations. However I still have to hope that the right to life stands above other rights and that it is always given careful consideration.

In the end this become complicated and I guess my moral of the story is that we should take a more logical, thought out approach to our morality and maybe we can all come to agreements on some of these hot topics. If anything the defining of clearer questions (such as when does life begin?) produces more productive arguments, allowing for real progress.

P.S. To humor myself I may write up a few more logical thoughts for other moral decisions.


mcc1789 said...

You state your premise as follows: all humans have the right to life. However, you do not support this with logic or evidence. It may be unknown to you, but many ethical philosophers argue that "human rights" as such are invalid. This is not to say I necessarily agree with them, but it is something to consider.

Additionally, if we accept "all humans have the right to life" as valid does this mean someone that takes human life, including via abortion, cannot be put to death? In other words, is the right to life morally inalienable, it should never be taken away deliberately, no matter what circumstances, even self-defense or defense of others?

Why do only humans have the right to life in your scenario? What precludes other living organisms from being protected in the same way? I know that many pro-life theorists do not regard the issue of whether someone is "human" or even "alive" as the sole or even relevant criteria in their stance. Rather, they define it regarding when the fetus is a "person."

If you wish to err on the side of human life, and state this is after conception, when does it occur exactly? This has very implications for many types of contraception, along with drug abortifacients taken soon after conception occurs. How soon are we to protect the zygote and later fetus against abortion? Does the right to life incur at conception, which by itselt must prevent the morning after pill, for one? If not then, when? How many days, weeks or months?

As to the right to choose, I know of no pro-choice proponent that feels this is unlimited. However, they generally feel people should be able to control their bodies, within and without. Obviously pro-life advocates distinguish this from the developing fetus.

I hope you will consider these observations and it will add to your understanding of this issue.

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Morality, like language, is an invented structure for conserving and communicating order. And morality is learned, like language, by mimicking and remembering.