Friday, October 20, 2017

Five embryos or one five-year-old?

There's a pro-abortion thought-experiment making the rounds. If a prolifer had to choose between rescuing a 5-year-old child from burning building or five embryos, which would he opt for? The purpose of this dilemma is to expose the "hypocrisy" of the prolifer. If he'd save the child, then he doesn't really believe what he says about life beginning at conception. 

I think these two philosophers say most of what needs to be said in response to that thought-experiment:

But I'd like to make a few additional points:

i) All things being equal, it's better to save more lives than fewer lives. However, that's not an absolute consideration. Christian ethics is incompatible with raw consequentialism. Take the classic hypothetical case: should you euthanize a healthy person to harvest his organs in order to save the lives of five patients? It wouldn't be hypocritical for a Christian to let the five patients die rather than euthanize a healthy patient to supply them with life-saving organ transplants. While comparative numbers can be a relevant consideration, the issue has greater moral complexity. Comparative numbers are not necessarily a sufficient consideration. 

ii) Dennis Prager often refers to surveys in which some pet owners say that given a choice, they'd save their pet dog rather than save a stranger. That, however, is hardly a good argument for valuing the lives of animals above human life. By the same token, even if (ex hypothesi), prolifers were hypocritical on this issue, that does nothing to disprove the prolife position. 

iii) Humans are wired to aid a child in distress. From a Christian standpoint, God endowed us with that instinct. If it came down to a child who's right in front of you or five frozen embryos, it's only natural for you to opt for the child. The status of the embryonic humans, while genuine, is more abstract, more intellectual.

It's analogous to bombing the enemy at 30,000 feet rather than hand-to-hand combat. Or how we take the death of someone we know more personally than the death of someone we read about in the newspaper. That's not a question of who's more human. It's just that we're designed to respond to something more immediate.

iv) By the same token, it's duplicitous to put people in real or hypothetical situations where they have to make a snap decision, then blame them for making a snap decision. They didn't have the leisure time to engage in philosophical analysis. Moreover, they were not in a situation where they could exercise serene critical detachment. 

1 comment:

  1. Ben Shapiro had a very good response: