Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vocab Malone on abortion and personhood, part 2

Vocab Malone has posted a second set of arguments, addressing more directly the argument that some sort of capacity for sentience is a proper criterion for personhood.

He begins with a few quotations, none of which address the question of personhood. The first, from Millard Erickson, says that abortion involves "the taking of a human life." That's correct. The second, from Jerome Lejeune, says that abortion "kills a member of our species." That's also correct. The third, from R.C. Sproul, says, "abortion-on-demand is evil, no one has the moral right to choose it. If it is an offense against life, the government must not permit it." This doesn't actually follow, if one thinks that it is possible to morally use lethal force in self-defense, in war time, and as a form of legal punishment. As it happens, Sproul does think that it is legitimate for governments to engage in just war and capital punishment. I'm not certain how he reconciles his views on those topics with the quoted statement, but I suspect he says that these forms of taking human life do not constitute "an offense against life" and are not evil.

Vocab gives four arguments that he says he's seen used to argue for the moral legitimacy of abortion:
  1. Sentience makes a person and the unborn are not sentient
  2. Size makes a person and the unborn are too small
  3. Viability makes a person and the unborn are not viable on their own
  4. Wantedness makes a person and the unborn are not wanted
#1 is essentially my position. #3 is close to the U.S. Supreme Court's position, but I don't think it's quite accurate. #2 and #4 strike me as completely implausible.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states may not prohibit abortion for any reason prior to viability, the time at which a fetus can survive on its own independently of the mother (including with artificial assistance), or after viability when abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. The point of viability is something that has shifted as technology has improved, and could potentially become completely meaningless, so I don't see it as a plausible ethical criterion.

So what does Vocab think is wrong with #1? He writes: "A component of this argument is it implies the pro-life position is weak because abortion is not cruel because the fetus cannot feel pain. Does this mean if I am unconscious or sleeping, I have lost my personhood?"

This response misconstrues my position. Sentience is significant not just because it involves the possibility of actual perceptions at a given time, but because it allows for the sort of being that can have beliefs, desires, intentions, and interests. The absence of such a capacity entails that a being cannot have beliefs, desires, intentions, and interests. This doesn't mean we cease to have those things when we are temporarily unconscious. When I sleep, I may not be conscious of the external world (though I sometimes do perceive external stimuli in lucid dreams), but I still have the capacity for such conscious awareness, and continue to maintain beliefs, desires, intentions and have interests. A better objection to my position would be a case where I sustain some kind of brain damage which puts me into a persistent vegetative state, yet there is still some possibility of recovery. In my opinion, the only way I would have some possibility of recovery and be the same person would be if I continued to have beliefs, desires, and intentions represented in my brain even in the persistent vegetative state. If those were all lost, and biological recovery were still possible--say, through some therapy made possibly by embryonic stem cells transplanted into my brain, which ironically, Vocab's view would likely make unethical--the person who would then come into being would be starting over afresh as a new person.

Vocab quotes Scott Rae observing that a person who has their legs cut off is harmed even if they feel no pain in the process, and even if their legs are not useful for locomotion. That is no objection to my position--I agree that there is harm there, because it is done to a person in conflict with their beliefs, desires, intentions, and interests, without their consent.

Next, Vocab says that a fetus is "sensitive to touch at ten weeks and eleven weeks" and "most certainly does feel pain" by the third month. I believe it is a mistake to conflate "sensitive to touch" with "experiences sensations." Reflexive actions don't identify experiences. Further, I haven't identified the ability to experience sensations with personhood, since I've already observed that animals can experience pain, but don't think that necessarily entails the immorality of killing animals for food or other reasons (though I do think it probably entails a moral requirement for humane treatment).

Vocab goes on to complain that a "developmental view, in which the basic thesis is humans become persons by some ability they acquire and not by the kind of entity they already are" is rarely "defend[ed] ... with any rigor" and asks "Who says they get to lay out the qualification for personhood?" Regarding the first point, Vocab's view is also one which attributes a right to life at a particular point, when two living haploid cells, a sperm and an egg, meet. He's defended this by reference to two features, (1) that at this point there is a complete set of DNA and (2) left to itself, it will (if all goes well) develop into what we all would agree is a human being. (1) is clearly insufficient, since any somatic cell sloughed off a person's skin has that property as well, and (2) only carries any persuasive weight from its appeal to future status rather than present. His subsequent question seems to assume that arguments for a view of personhood are dependent upon a claim to authority or power, rather than for their own intuitive force--and I think that's just mistaken.

He then asks, "Shouldn't a civilized and ethical society desire to err on the side of life?" In the way this is written, I can't agree--for the cycle of life requires death. I do agree that we should err on the side of protecting persons and treating humanely creatures that can experience pain, but that gives no reason to think the boundary line is where Vocab draws it.

He writes that "It is an artificial and arbitrary distinction with no scientific grounding. One more reason the human/person distinction is artificial is because I have never met a person who is not a human, nor have I ever met a human who is not a person. Is this even possible?" I disagree completely with this description. The question of sentient capacities is one with very strong scientific grounding, though we are uncertain of exactly where the boundary is. The fact that Vocab only recognizes humans as a clear-cut case of persons on earth today just shows that he isn't taking seriously the ideas that some other contemporary species (such as chimpanzees, dolphins, and whales) might meet reasonable criteria of personhood, some past species (Neandertal) probably did meet reasonable criteria of personhood, and extraterrestrial intelligent life might meet reasonable criteria of personhood. Suppose for a moment that we found out that a subset of human beings turned out to be a different species, incapable of interbreeding with the rest of us. It's a consequence of Vocab's view that this subset would not be persons. My intuition is completely to the contrary--creatures that are like us to the extent that they have beliefs, desires, intentions, and interests are persons, regardless of their biological makeup.

Vocab's final argument is his strongest, which is that my view has the potential consequence that some forms of infanticide and euthanasia--namely, those in cases where the conditions for personhood are not met--may be ethical. This is correct, presuming that personhood is the only justification for not permitting killing. I suggest that there are at least two other possibilities. One is just a recognition of the epistemic limits of determining personhood--that is, I believe, a reason for erring on the side of caution, and setting legal limits outside the boundaries of personhood. Another is a consequentialist argument about public policy considerations, which also argues for erring on the side of caution. While policies of permissible infanticide have been not been uncommon in history, they raise possibilities for brutalization or desensitization of the killer, among other negative consequences that go beyond the immediate act. This is itself a possible argument against abortions of fetuses that have recognizable human form.

Early on in this post, Vocab wrote "It's not as if there is a strong consensus, anyway." On the contrary, I think there is virtually no support for Vocab's view in history, from religion, from philosophy, or from science. In the United States, complete bans on abortion only became common after the Civil War, with the first post-quickening abortion prohibitions starting earlier, in the 1820s.

I don't think Vocab has come anywhere near making his case. He's not addressed many of the points I brought up in my prior post, and though he cited Judith Jarvis Thomson, he hasn't addressed the case of a conflict between two rights-holders, where one is dependent upon the other, which her violinist example brings up in an argument for the moral permissibility of abortion even if the fetus is counted as a person. Nor has he addressed the harm to non-actualized twins, or the case of cloned human beings who might develop without the process of fertilization (though I suspect he would identify them as persons at either the point of nuclear transfer or electric shock, and would probably have some reason for calling the process itself unethical). His view entails that IUDs, morning-after pills, in vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem cell research are immoral. His view suggests that if a building containing frozen embryos and small children were on fire, one should not give any preference to rescuing the children over the embryos. His view entails that a particular genetic makeup, rather than features like having beliefs, desires, intentions, and interests, is what's relevant to personhood. His view doesn't make sense of the idea of non-human persons.

I see no plausibility to the idea that fertilization is a morally relevant event or that having a particular genetic makeup is the morally important part of being a person.

UPDATE (December 14, 2009): Corrected sentence about U.S. abortion laws and added reference link to Wikipedia.

UPDATE: It should be noted that Vocab misconstrues Peter Singer's position on the relative worth of humans and animals; Singer speaks for himself on the subject on an episode of the Ethics Bites podcast:

Nigel: And it’s interesting that many of your critics focus on descriptions of a situation where you’re playing off a human being who’s less than a person, against an animal which is a person.

Peter: I think that’s a tactic. Maybe it’s quite an effective tactic with some audiences. They try and say that animals in some circumstances deserve more consideration than humans do. It’s accurate that there are some situations, though I think they are quite rare ones, where that would be true, where the human was so intellectually disabled or incapable of understanding things where you would want to give preference to the non-human animal; it would have greater interest in going on living or not suffering in a certain way. But it’s really completely irrelevant to the vast majority of cases in which we are interfering with animals, that is where we’re producing them for food where obviously they’re suffering, and it’s not at all necessary for me to say that somehow they have the same let alone a superior status to humans to point to the fact that we’re inflicting unnecessary suffering on them, and that should be enough to make it wrong given that we’re not doing this in order to save human lives but just because we like to eat a certain kind of food.

I also think Vocab errs in claiming that PETA is being more consistent in holding animals above humans--that is not a consequence of my or their position, and I believe they are more concerned with publicity than consistency, as they euthanize adoptable animals by the thousands.

UPDATE (January 3, 2010): A story from the Sunday Times today argues that "dolphins should be treated as 'non-human persons'":
Dolphins have long been recognised as among the most intelligent of animals but many researchers had placed them below chimps, which some studies have found can reach the intelligence levels of three-year-old children. Recently, however, a series of behavioural studies has suggested that dolphins, especially species such as the bottlenose, could be the brighter of the two. The studies show how dolphins have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self and can think about the future.

It has also become clear that they are “cultural” animals, meaning that new types of behaviour can quickly be picked up by one dolphin from another.

In one study, Diana Reiss, professor of psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, showed that bottlenose dolphins could recognise themselves in a mirror and use it to inspect various parts of their bodies, an ability that had been thought limited to humans and great apes.

In another, she found that captive animals also had the ability to learn a rudimentary symbol-based language.

Other research has shown dolphins can solve difficult problems, while those living in the wild co-operate in ways that imply complex social structures and a high level of emotional sophistication.

Continue to part three.

20 comments:

critter said...

Can anyone get a forced birther to admit that even a wanted pregnancy can cause great pain/death/complications to both fetus and bearer?

Jim Lippard said...

What's the definition of a "forced birther"? Someone who argues that there are no acceptable cases of abortion?

That's an unreasonable position even if we were to (erroneously) grant that personhood started at conception, for the reason you suggest--there are cases, though rare, where there are competing rights to life and abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother or to avoid great risk to the life of the mother.

On the other hand, I think it's also an unreasonable position to hold that there are no circumstances under which abortion would be unethical (e.g., circumstances under which there has clearly been consent to pregnancy, the fetus is brought nearly to term, and then aborted for whim or convenience; or the sort of example in jokes by Sarah Silverman and Doug Stanhope).

joel hanes said...

Jim, it's my impression that almost all of the hundred thousand or so late-term abortions performed in the US each year are peformed exactly because "there are competing rights to life and abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother or to avoid great risk to the life of the mother".

I would rephrase critter's observation: one of the striking features of the abortion arguments is the nearly complete absence of any consideration for the health, the well-being, or rights of the prospective mother in the statements made by abortion opponents.

joel hanes
tenured grad student, University of Ediacara
SP4, a.r.s 1985

vocab malone/jm rieser said...

The Alan Guttmacher Institute collected questionnaires from almost 2,000 women in 1987. 420 were pregnant for at least 16 weeks. Here are the reasons why they didn't do it earlier:

71% "didn't recognize she was pregnant/misjudged gestation"
48% "hard to make arrangements for abortion"
33% "afraid to tell her partner/parents"
24% "took time to decide to have an abortion"
8% "waited for her relationship to change
8% "someone pressured her not to have an abortion"
6% "Something changed after she became pregnant"
6% "didn't know timing is important"
5% "didn't know she could get an abortion"
2% "fetal problem diagnosed late in pregnancy"
11% Other

SOURCE: Aida Torres & Jacqueline Darroch Forrest, "Why Do Women Have Abortions", Family Planning Perspectives, 20 (4) Jul/Aug 1988, pp 169-176
ONLINE: http://www.holysmoke.org/fem/fem0543.htm

I would rephrase Joel Hane's observation: one of the striking features of the abortion arguments is the nearly complete absence of any consideration for the health, the well-being, or rights of the child in the statements made by abortion proponents.

joel hanes said...

Vocab Malone and I appear to be talking past each other.

Let me refute Malone's closing contention by directly addressing the rights of the "child" : I do not consider a first-trimester embryo a person in any sense. If I were forced to draw a line between pregnancies in which only the woman's wishes are important, and those pregnancies in which the rights of the fetus must be considered, I would choose viability ex utero. Because this cannot be determined ahead of time, I would put the earliest boundary of personhood at the beginning of the third trimester. This seems to me to be the balancing point between the rights and welfare of the woman, who is absolutely and inarguably a person, and those of the fetus, who is arguably a person in some senses. (I myself reserve the world "child" for the product of live birth.)

In my earlier post, I was talking only about the most ethically problematic abortions, those performed during the third trimester, when most of us agree that the right-to-life claims of the fetus must be considered. Almost all of these late-term abortions are performed because continuing the pregnancy threatens the life or the continued good health of the mother. My implied point is that such abortions are not so very unusual, and that any ethical structure or policy that hopes to work in the real world must acknowledge and justly deal with these cases.

Malone's Gutmacher data comprises over fifteen hundred first-trimester and over four hundred second-trimester abortion recipients. It is thus completely irrelevant to my claims about the reasons for third-trimester abortions, claims which Malone does not address. These difficult medical and ethical cases are no respecter of (female) persons; I sincerely hope that no woman in Malone's family ever has to deal with a fetus that is anacephalic or dies in utero during the third trimester, but most women who find themselves in this position are not there because they're feckless -- most of them wanted the child that will now never be, and are doubly devastated by grief and by the prospect of the abortion.

I note that even in his reply, Malone devotes zero words to considerations of the life, the health, or the rights of the pregnant worman.

critter said...

I note that even in his reply, Malone devotes zero words to considerations of the life, the health, or the rights of the pregnant woman.

That's because he doesn't think there are any.

A 3 month fetus is not a 'child'.
A fetus bearer is not a 'mother'.

vocab malone/jm rieser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vocab malone/jm rieser said...

Jim –

Although #2 (“wantedness makes a person and the unborn are not wanted”) may strike you as “completely implausible,” others do not share your view. Read excerpts from the comments that have been coming in as we discuss this.

One is from Alan, who talked about a bioethics prof he had who taugh that “… lack of being wanted by the mother is sufficient reason to allow abortion. The big problem this raises is whether infanticide of a, say, six month old by both parents should be treated equivalent of first degree murder... .”

Statements like this are why sometimes it is useful to employ slippery slope arguments. Statements like this are also incredibly selfish, to say the least.

Another person, Eamon Knight, said. “Thus, if a woman is pregnant, she can have an abortion. But if she intends to carry the pregnancy to term, she assumes a duty to maintain her own health, obtain good nutrition, abstain from substance abuse, retain medical help, make provision for infant care (or adoption if she intends to give it up), etc.”

Once again, an argument based on wantedness. Question: what if the mother keeps on changing her mind? Is she allowed to binge drink one week when she decides she doesn’t want the baby and then if she changes her mind the next week, all the sudden she now has a duty to the baby simply because now it is “wanted”? What about the following week and on? Or is it a decision where you have to make a once and for all judgment and stick with it? What if she changes her mind again one day before her due date? Would you then deprive her of her “right” to abort?

On infanticide, I found your response to be somewhat scary:

“While policies of permissible
infanticide have been not been uncommon in history, they raise possibilities for brutalization or desensitization of the killer, among other negative consequences that go beyond the immediate act.”

It almost sounds as if you don’t think it’s a big deal and your reason for rejecting it is due to possible effects on the killer (good word choice, by the way) - not due to the definite effects on the murdered!

I also found it ironic you objected to the man with the bum legs having them amputated “because it is done to a person in conflict with their beliefs, desires, intentions, and interests, without their consent.” As one who defends the pro-life position, all I can is “My sentiments exactly!”

Towards the end, you wrote this: [Vocab’s] view doesn't make sense of the idea of non-human persons.” True; that is because the idea of non-human persons is non-sense.

vM!

PS – I hope I can do a more extended treatment of your review later, if solely to answer the charge of misrepresenting Dr. Singer.

vocab malone/jm rieser said...

Jim –

It seems as if on principle you would agree with Singer’s concept of speciesism. I gather that from this paragraph:

“…ethical distinctions should be
based on morally relevant features, and I don't believe species membership is any more relevant in and of itself to being the holder of rights or of being the object of duties than is race or gender.”

Am I to take you as saying that there is nothing unique about the human as opposed to other “animals”? If so, this is interesting because at the end of your second review, you said you believe PETA is “more concerned with publicity than consistency, as they euthanize adoptable animals by the thousands.”

Unless I am misreading you, would not your position entail that there are indeed instances when it is morally acceptable to kill a deformed human but not morally acceptable to kill a normal animal – say, a chimp or a dolphin? If so, you are in line with Singer.

Read these quoutes from the FAQ section of his web site:
=============
Q. You have been quoted as saying: "Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all." Is that quote accurate?

A. It is accurate, but can be misleading if read without an understanding of what I mean by the term “person” (which is discussed in Practical Ethics, from which that quotation is taken). I use the term "person" to refer to a being who is capable of anticipating the future, of having wants and desires for the future. As I have said in answer to the previous question, I think that it is generally a greater wrong to kill such a being than it is to kill a being that has no sense of existing over time. Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents. Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment. That will often ensure that the baby dies. My view is different from this, only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life-support – which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection - but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely."
====

This is part one of a longer response ...

vM!

vocab malone/jm rieser said...

Jim, this is part 2 of the Singer convo ...

I am not saying you are saying exactly what Singer is saying but then again, you may be. I guess I am looking for some clarity because it seems as if the anthropological road you are traveling down would lead straight to Singer’s conclusions.

As a side note, Singer’s statements are crystal clear and make me a bit mystified as to why you said this “Vocab misconstrues Peter Singer's position on the relative worth of humans and animals.”

Sorry about the forthcoming long quote by Singer but I see no other way for people to see for themselves. This is from the FAQ section of his web site again:

===
Q. I’ve read that you think humans and animals are equal. Do you really believe that a human being is no more valuable than an animal?

A. I argued in the opening chapter of Animal Liberation that humans and animals are equal in the sense that the fact that a being is human does not mean that we should give the interests of that being preference over the similar interests of other beings. That would be speciesism, and wrong for the same reasons that racism and sexism are wrong. Pain is equally bad, if it is felt by a human being or a mouse. We should treat beings as individuals, rather than as members of a species. But that doesn’t mean that all individuals are equally valuable – see my answer to the next question for more details.

Q. If you had to save either a human being or a mouse from a fire, with no time to save them both, wouldn’t you save the human being?

A. Yes, in almost all cases I would save the human being. But not because the human being is human, that is, a member of the species Homo sapiens. Species membership alone isn't morally significant, but equal consideration for similar interests allows different consideration for different interests.

... So normally, the death of a human being is a greater loss to the human than the death of a mouse is to the mouse – for the human, it cuts off plans for the distant future, for example, but not in the case of the mouse. And we can add to that the greater extent of grief and distress that, in most cases, the family of the human being will experience, as compared with the family of the mouse (although we should not forget that animals, especially mammals and birds, can have close ties to their offspring and mates). That’s why, in general, it would be right to save the human, and not the mouse, from the burning building, if one could not save both. But this depends on the qualities and characteristics that the human being has. If, for example, the human being had suffered brain damage so severe as to be in an irreversible state of unconsciousness, then it might not be better to save the human.

Q: Is it true that you have said that an experiment on 100 monkeys could be justified if it helped thousands of people recover from Parkinson's disease?

A: ... In Animal Liberation I propose asking experimenters who use animals if they would be prepared to carry out their experiments on human beings at a similar mental level — say, those born with irreversible brain damage. Experimenters who consider their work justified because of the benefits it brings should declare whether they consider such experiments justifiable. If they do not, they should be asked to explain why they think that benefits to a large number of human beings can outweigh harming animals, but cannot outweigh inflicting similar harm on humans. In my view, this belief is evidence of speciesism.
===
All I can say is "!!!"
vM!

Jim Lippard said...

My infanticide point was that there are further reasons to prohibit infanticide *even if* infants don't meet conditions of personhood.

I'm not sure why you agree with me about the reasons why it is wrong to cut off the man's bum legs, since the characteristics appealed to for why it is wrong are all characteristics which zygotes lack. There are no such analogous reasons for a zygote; an argument against aborting zygotes needs a different source of reason. What is it?

You say the idea of nonhuman persons is nonsense. So you would think it acceptable to use an intelligent nonhuman species as slave labor, to kill them for food, and so forth, even if they were beings with as rich a mental life, language, and culture as our own? That those features wouldn't qualify them as persons?

vocab malone/jm rieser said...

joel hanes said...
"I note that even in his reply, Malone devotes zero words to considerations of the life, the health, or the rights of the pregnant woman."

critter said...
"That's because he doesn't think there are any."

To Critter:
How do you know this? Does it follow that if I think the unborn are people (many of which are female persons, by the way) and should be valued as such, that I don't think women have any rights?

How exactly do you get from there to here?

Critter said...
"A 3 month fetus is not a 'child'. A fetus bearer is not a 'mother'."

I'll be sure to tell that to the next mom, oops, I meant "fetus bearer" I see.

vM!

Jim Lippard said...

(This comment was originally from December 18, 2009 1:07 PM; moved to be on the right post.)

"Am I to take you as saying that there is nothing unique about the human as opposed to other “animals”?"

No, that's not my position. We have a complexity of language and culture that no other creature on this planet has, so far as we know. There may be other creatures in the universe which have those capacities, and we've learned that some animals have some rudimentary sorts of language capacity that we may not have found the limits of yet. But note that these unique features are things that zygotes have no capacity for or ability to participate in.

"Unless I am misreading you, would not your position entail that there are indeed instances when it is morally acceptable to kill a deformed human but not morally acceptable to kill a normal animal – say, a chimp or a dolphin? If so, you are in line with Singer.""

I agree with Singer that there are such cases, but those cases don't turn on personhood or "deformity." I think it's morally wrong to intentionally kill healthy, non-threatening chimps and dolphins, given their level of intelligence and awareness, even if it may fall somewhat shy of personhood (I'm undecided on that). That doesn't entail putting humans as a class above or equal to them, though if they qualify as persons that would be grounds for equal treatment in some respects.

vocab malone/jm rieser said...

Jim,

On the dolphins article, did you know the researchers also argue it's immoral to keep dolphins in
"amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing." If this is true, is it unethical to go to the San Diego Zoo or Sea World?

I would follow G.K. CHESTERTON in Pt.1 Ch.1 of
THE EVERLASTING MAN and I quote:

It must surely strike him as strange that men so remote from him should be so near, and that beasts so near to him should be so remote. To his simplicity it must seem at least odd that he could not find any trace of the beginning of any arts among any animals. That is the simplest lesson to learn in the cavern of the colored pictures; only it is too simple to be learnt. It is the simple truth that man does differ from the brutes in kind and not in degree; and the proof of it is here; that it sounds like a truism to say that the most primitive man drew a picture of a monkey and that it sounds like a joke to say that the most intelligent monkey drew a picture of a man. Something of division and disproportion has appeared; and it is unique. Art is the signature of man.

(bold mine) ...
Vm!

Jim Lippard said...

I think there's a very strong case to be made that Sea World's captivity and performances of dolphins and killer whales are unethical. That doesn't necessarily mean everything they do is unethical or that everything zoos do is unethical, but I think when it comes to treatment of dolphins, whales, elephants, and chimps, there's probably a lot of abuse out there that future generations will condemn as barbarities of our times.

As for animals and representational art, there's some evidence that elephants are capable of it.

vocab malone/jm rieser said...

Jim said -
“there's probably a lot of abuse out there that future generations will condemn as barbarities of our times.”

Jim, this is how I feel about abortion …

vm

Jim Lippard said...

I suspect there may be future methods of birth control that will have the potential of eliminating unwanted pregnancies. That may not completely eliminate abortion, but it could potentially greatly reduce it.

vocab malone/jm rieser said...

Jim said-
I think there's a very strong case to be made that Sea World's captivity and performances of dolphins and killer whales are unethical.
and
... I think when it comes to treatment of dolphins, whales, elephants, and chimps, there's probably a lot of abuse out there that future generations will condemn as barbarities of our times.

I have just a few questions about this. When a dolphin is caught and inadvertently killed in a tuna net, do you think it is exploitation for animal rights activists to talk about it and show videos of it? What about a sea otter who died from the Exxon Valdez oil spill? Do you think it was humane for the media to put images of their deaths on the front page of the paper?

I am curious what you think about this ...

vm

Jim Lippard said...

Vocab wrote: "I have just a few questions about this. When a dolphin is caught and inadvertently killed in a tuna net, do you think it is exploitation for animal rights activists to talk about it and show videos of it? What about a sea otter who died from the Exxon Valdez oil spill? Do you think it was humane for the media to put images of their deaths on the front page of the paper?"

In the broad sense of "exploitation," yes, these are cases of making use of these animal deaths to promote a cause. But as that cause is an attempt to prevent or reduce further such deaths, and I don't see any obvious harm to either the animals or to people in the use of such images or descriptions of such incidents, I don't think it's "exploitation" with a negative connotation.

Did you want to draw a parallel to images used by abortion protesters? I think it's similar, and even more similar if you compare abortion images to images of animal experimentation or cruelty used by groups like PETA. Some people argue that use of such images in both cases is offensive, but there's no right not to be offended.

Jim Lippard said...

Oh, one more comment on images--my only objections to the use of horrendous images in a protest would be where either (a) the content of the images is misrepresented, such as has been alleged about staged animal experimentation photos by PETA and the portrayal of late-term abortion photos as typical of early-term abortions, (b) where there is a case of copyright infringement or invasion of privacy (some kind of ownership or interest right in the image that is being infringed or violated), or (c) where the physical signs are being used to obstruct traffic, violate other people's immediate personal space or property rights, etc.