Archive for June, 2009


A post I recently made to , which I don’t feel like losing should the moderators there delete it:

I’m a selfish bastard. If a Hell exists, I’m almost certainly a Hell-damned sinner.

(How’s /that/ for an opening? 🙂 ) Feel free to call me by those terms whenever you like, and I won’t take significant offence. (Well, unless you plan on using ‘bastard’ in the literal sense, which is a statement of fact that’s demonstrably false.)

Several people here have argued that abortion is arguably moral because fetuses do not count as persons (or they do not possess souls, or the equivalent). I think we can all agree that /if/ fetuses aren’t persons and lack souls then it’s no more immoral to abort them than it is to, say, slaughter a cow. However, given that that ‘if’ isn’t something anyone’s going to be able to convince anyone else to change their minds about, so the argument keeps going ’round and round.

I’m going to offer a rather different argument: that /even if/ a fetus is a person or has a soul, abortions would /still/ be arguably moral, and attempting to block them is more immoral than allowing them.

A real moral-ethical system isn’t just a list of “shoulds” and “should nots” – such systems are goal-oriented, with each should [not] being part of how someone is most likely going to be able to achieve that goal. With that given, a mother should seek abortion; a pro-lifer should picket clincis; an abortion doctor should do his job; and, yes, a shooter should kill doctors… /if/ those actions advance their ethical system’s goals. What /this/ does for the general argument is move it from discussing individual cases and mere ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’t’s, to what the actual ethical goal the person is trying to achieve is.

When people’s ethical goals conflict each other… then various social problems arise. If one person’s goal is to serve their god by following the tenets of a certain holy text, while someone else’s goal is the same but with a /different/ holy text, then wherever those texts disagree, each will believe the other is behaving unethically.

However… looking at various ethical systems, it’s possible to realize that, in nearly all cases, there are certain large-scale goals shared in common. For example, if every living human were to die, nearly everyone’s larger goals would be unachievable; thus, there’s a good deal of consensus that killing off humanity is a bad idea. On a somewhat smaller scale, it’s in just about everyone’s long-term best rational self-interest to live in a society where they don’t have to fear being killed, stolen from, or have promises made to them broken; thus, most people can agree to help encourage a society which discourages murder, theft, and broken contracts. This sort of cross-ethical-system general agreement doesn’t have to do with anyone’s particular ultimate goals, merely how they can all benefit by helping each other to try to achieve whatever those goals are… and, when done right, is what’s referred to by the term ‘secularism’.

And now, I bring this seeming meandering post around to the first line, as well as the general topic of this thread. One of my longer-term goals is to continue living for at least a few thousand years, or die trying. The only feasible way for that to happen is for technology to continue progress, and for me to continue to enjoy the benefits of that society, such as discouragement of anyone who feels like trying to kill me. The question finally becomes, for me, does legalized abortion encourage or discourage my long-term survival and prosperity? This requires an examination of the evidence of similar societies where abortion is legal or illegal – including comparing past versions of my society to the present.

From this purely functionalistic point of view, those societies where abortion is legal seem, to me, to also be better societies to live in. Of course, correlation doesn’t imply causation; but the correlation /is/ there, and whatever the actual cause is, it seems in my long-term best rational self-interest to be on the pro-choice side of things.

Now, I always try to keep my believes in proportion to the actual evidence, so if anyone can offer sufficient evidence how /my/ life would improve by re-illegalizing abortion, I’m perfectly willing to change my mind. (Note, however, that it would take a significantly greater amount of evidence to get me to change my mind that the supernatural exists, such as non-brain-based minds, souls, or the afterlife, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change my mind on /that/ topic simply via forum posts, so if you want to change my mind about abortion, your time would probably be best spent focussed on the physical, material world.)

So… how /would/ my life by improved by making abortions illegal?