Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Sorest Loser: The Culture of Life

It's easy to poke fun at the seeming inconsistencies of those who purport to defend "The Culture of Life". Intensely passionate about life at the margins, they are relatively indifferent to life between the margins. One would think that someone committed to a culture of life would be equally concerned about life in all of its stages and manifestations, but in practice the only lives of note are those of the human vegetable, the embryo, and the fetus. They will march and pray for every aborted fetus or discarded embryo, but they will barely lift a finger for a child without health insurance. It seems they lose interest in the child the second she's born, and they don't regain their interest unless she winds up in a persistent vegetative state. Clearly, this is a peculiar point of view.

But it is not necessarily inconsistent. Defenders of the culture of life will tell you that they are guided by one simple principle: all human life is equally valuable. Or, more precisely, that all innocent human life is equally valuable. This principle puts embryos and human vegetables morally on a par with normal children and adults. On this view, killing embryos is just as wrong as killing children.

There are at least three objections to this view:
(1) One can deny that embryos, fetuses, and human vegetables count as human.
(2) One can argue that accepting this principle commits one to fight for universal health care just as vigorously as one fights against abortion.
(3) One can reject the inherent equality of all innocent human lives.

(1) is fruitless. (2) is an interesting approach and might succeed, but I prefer (3). I think it's demonstrably false that all innocent human life is equally valuable. To see this, consider a simple thought experiment. Suppose that you had the power to determine whether the next 100 fetuses to be born would be born normal or crippled (suppose they'll be born without arms). Suppose that, if you push button A, they'll all be born normal and healthy. If you push button B, they'll all be born without legs. Now, if you genuinely believe that all innocent human life is equally valuable, then you should be indifferent between pushing A or B -- essentially, you should flip a coin. But clearly no sane person could be indifferent in this situation. It would be monstrous to flip a coin. Anyone who would seriously consider pushing B is so gripped by a dogma that he's beyond the reach of rational argument.

The right thing to do is to push A, and that reveals the absurdity of believing that all human life is equally valuable. And without that principle, the Culture of Life doesn't have a leg to stand on.

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The Sorest Loser provides political therapy for the masses and can sometimes be found lurking here.

1 comment:

CmdrSue said...

Fascinating.