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My response to this week’s challenge:
Throughout my life I’ve always heard people use the same argument to show that animals aren’t equal in value to humans. They say that if my sister and my 27 cats were stuck in a burning building, I’d choose to save my sister. from this, it looks like another argument is needed.
Kyle, I think in the case of the “which would you save–animal or human?” dilemma, the point is usually more about which should you save, and why. In other words, it’s used not to prove that humans are more valuable, but instead, it’s used to teach the moral lesson of how you should treat humans in comparison to animals because humans are more valuable. It’s because human beings are more valuable that you ought to save the human being first.
I usually hear this illustration used with pets versus strangers, and it’s used to show that our emotional response doesn’t always match the correct moral response. That is, kids want to save their pets, but they ought to save the stranger. So in that sense, the animal/human illustration actually backs up an important idea in the embryo/toddler illustration. That is, our immediate, emotional reaction doesn’t necessarily reflect the value of the parties involved.
I don’t feel like I was very clear, so I hope you can make sense of that!
No worries. I understand it perfectly.
Our emotions do not always match our morals. <—That is a very good point, Amy.
There would be no dilemma if you didn’t believe the embryos were humans with a right to life. <—That is a very good point, Alan.
The video had 4 arguments. I checked them all out below.
>> Argument 1. Suppose I chose to save my daughter, rather than her 5 class mates. This doesn’t mean that my daughter has more intrinsic value as a human?
Well you’ve changed the question of course. The purpose of the thought experiment is to eliminate all other contingencies, and see how the prolifer responds. If you make one of the subjects a member of your family, you’ve changed the question.
* Would you save the Queen of England, or ten members of the Royal Guard?
* Would you trade five pawns for one Knight?
* Would you save 5 cancer patients, or 10 alcoholics?
* Would you save the president, or his 5 secret service men?
These questions are quite different than the burning IVF scenario. Which only has ONE (I repeat ONE) point of difference — 8 months of age.
>> Argument 2. Embryos have a lower probability of survival.
Of course you’ve changed the question again. You need to assume an equal probability of achieving adulthood for all parties involved.
>> Argument 3. The fact that the dilemma exists, proves the prolifer indeed does think the embryos are valuable.
Even many pro-choicers think that developing humans are valuable to some extent. But you think that developing humans are EQUALLY AS VALUABLE as toddlers. Yet you’re not answering the question as if you ACTUALLY believe that.
>> Argument 4. Even if the thought experiment succeeds, all it does is illustrate I’m a hypocrite.
This is true.
It illustrates that your actions are not congruous with your words. But you are a member of the prolife movement and you are actively working to change the behavior and beliefs of 150 million women.
But in answering the “Burning IVF Lab Thought Experiment” in this fashion, you are telling all the women of
“I think all you women should treat embryos as if they were EQUALLY AS VALUABLE as toddlers! Of course, I (Alan) don’t personally do that… But, hey, that doesn’t mean YOU shouldn’t!”
“Do as I say! Not as I do!!!!!!!”
Of course, that’s not gonna cut it in the political arena.
[…] Alan Shlemon over at the STR blog had an interesting response to the classic burning IVF lab thought experiment. Alan discusses the Buning IVF Lab Thought Experiment. […]
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