People have been swarming me the past couple of weeks to make a formal statement about my opinions on these issues. Many rely on me to give them the most objective answer to difficult questions like these. I will attempt to give the people what they want, and go through the logical options for whether one should support or oppose each of these.
Let me start with gun control. This is a weird one because in the US we usually see the leftward ideologies calling for more control on the business and less control of the individual, like the case with drugs, abortion, and marriage. Gun ownership is one of few cases where an individual liberty is opposed by the left and supported by the right.
Usually I found myself in the past leaning more leftward on most issues, but like all issues, I am forced to go through the logic and arguments of all sides and come to the conclusion that I think must be right.
Now a few real world examples could point one in either direction. For the side against control, I’ve seen Switzerland used as an example. They say that there’s a firearm for nearly every person in Switzerland, and everyone is taught how to properly use it. As a result, we see a highly independent people with very little to fear from threats within or without.
On the other hand I’ve seen Australia used as an example of the opposite side. According to some, Australia used to have a mass-shooting rate similar to that of the current US. This stopped abruptly and permanently when a ban on firearms was introduced, leading to a reduction in firearm deaths.
It seemed to me that the issue was shaping up to be one of individual rights vs. societal utility. It could be the case that x number of people would be murdered by firearms, and y number of people would prevent loss of life and property with firearms.
If that were the case, then if x > y, as my personal research would lead me to believe, then society as a whole would benefit from a ban on firearms. However, one must consider that for each case of person y, who would now be injured or trespassed against because of the now lack of adequate personal defense, the society that removed that personal defense is now directly responsible for that injury.
So the issue translates to “what is better, to directly hurt some, which indirectly saves more, or to do nothing at all?”
A hypothetical that reflects the same question I’ve seen presented in the past is as follows: “You are the leader of a society with 10 people you are responsible for. 9 of the people are infected with a disease that will surely kill them. The blood of the 10th person contains genetic information needed to produce a cure, but to get it, you must kill the person. What do you do?”
It’s one of those question that doesn’t really have a right answer. Even when a person believes they’ve found the correct choice, one could represent the problem with different circumstances to make them reconsider. If they wouldn’t kill the one to save the nine, would they do it if the nine was actually 1,000? How about 1,000,000? Similarly, if they would kill the one, would they still do it if the nine were actually just two? Or if the nine were criminals and the one were innocent?
Then comes my personal, individual tendencies of thought on the matter. Whenever I hear of the possibility of a complete ban of firearms, the thought that always involuntarily pops into my head is “well I’d get one from the black market anyway. Even if I didn’t think I really needed it. The law would never find out, they would never have a reason to search my belongings.” Even with the current restrictions, I have in the past entertained the thought of some day obtaining a firearm with features that would make it illegal.
I’m sure the vast majority of society would be okay with Sally Sue owning pepper spray to ward off a potential rapist. At the same time that same society would be starkly against Sally Sue owning a ballistic missile to protect her home from foreign invasion. So we know that most of us can agree on a “too far” in either direction, the only problem is hashing out where that “just right” is with regards to weapons.
In the end, I don’t believe there is a definite right on this one, it puts the well being of the society against the personal rights of the individual. For me, the sweet spot lies somewhere in the gray middle. So I guess I couldn’t say I’m definitely for or against, but I am against the extremes of both sides.
That brings me to abortion. I’ve had a lot of opposing viewpoints shared with me by nature of the position I grew up in: that being, a very liberal state with a lot of friends and neighbors telling me one thing, and a very conservative religious family telling me something else. To come to a proper conclusion, I have to approach the issue as an objective machine, free of emotion and past influences.
Nearly all of society agrees that murder, the killing of another human, is wrong, by virtue of either societal utility, personal morals, or divine law. I’ll use that stance as a given. The act of masturbation is seen as okay, and even healthy to some, while immoral and depraved to others; but even to those against it, it is not seen as the equivalent of murder. So I will use as a given that this is not a definite wrong.
We know that each sperm x in a males body has the potential to create a human life, yet the act of masturbation ends that potential definitely for that sperm x. Going further, of all the thousands of sperm used per ejaculation, at most just one (usually) ever ends up forming into human life. The sperm themselves are designed to be so numerous that most of them die off. From this we can glean the statement that while to end a human life is wrong, to prevent biological matter that could have been a human life from becoming human life is not wrong or at least not equivalent.
So the argument becomes “at what point of time does the biological matter created by a human or set of humans become not their biological matter but a separate human entirely?” If I were a machine looking at humans, it would be hard to tell. We are just carbon-based matter constantly rebuilding itself larger and splitting into pieces, like a slime mold.
As one lacking belief in a religious system, there can be no definitive answer from an authority on life. Based on that, it’s possible for the correct answer to be any random point x between the sperm cell alone and the fully formed human capable of living outside the parent. Since the answer could be any point, we must consider all points simultaneously. If the answer is true for any one point but not another, then we cannot hold it as true.
In the past I had heard viewpoints that state that the fetus can be considered human when it is capable of feeling pain, or when the brain is formed. These are immediately off the table for me due to failing the “at any point” rule.
Since we don’t know for sure whether the fetus is considered biological matter belonging to the individual or a separate entity, we must consider the morals of both possibilities.
If it is simply biological matter, then one must treat it the same as any other biological matter. That being, if we condone, for example, removing a mole, or cutting off one’s own toe (if one so desires), then we must consider abortion acceptable as well.
If it is not simply biological matter, but another human entirely, then we must treat it the same as if it were any other human entirely. Well we can’t simply murder another human when we please. At the same time, we aren’t responsible for personally keeping alive any other human. So if Sally Sue came over and decided that she wanted to receive her sustenance from my belly button, it is within my rights to either allow it or disallow it. If I disallowed it and Sally Sue did not receive another form of sustenance, whether by choice or not, I would not be held accountable for her death.
One could make the argument, “the only possible way for the fetus to live is by absorbing the nutrients of the mother, and it did not choose to be created.” This is true, and to think about this we have to use a somewhat nonsensical example but it does hold up in this case: vampires. One does not choose to become a vampire (in most cases), yet the need to drink the blood of humans still exists, or the vampire itself will die. In this scenario we assume that human blood is the only type that will work. Is it then the responsibility of the nearby humans to consent to this blood drinking, in order for the vampire to live? If the answer is “no,” then one cannot also obligate one human to provide sustenance for another.
Going further, one may then say “while the pregnant woman has not responsibility to personally provide sustenance to the fetus, she is still not within her rights to kill it.” That’s true, as in the earlier example while I was within my rights to refuse Sally Sue from my sustenance, I still did not have the right to shoot her in the head at my whim.
But what does this imply? A pregnant woman may remove the fetus at any time, and allow it a chance to live on its own? In most cases, removing a fetus mean certain death anyway. Furthermore the act of removing the fetus would in most cases necessarily put the woman herself in harm’s way, which she is not obligated to do.
This is where it gets even more bizarre. Could I say to a vampire “well I’m not obligated to provide you my blood, but I also can’t morally kill you, and removing your fangs from my neck would actually put my self in danger. So I’m just going to walk through this garlic field, and you’re free to stay with me or go.” If that is acceptable, it must necessarily also be acceptable for a woman to say to her fetus “well I’m not obligated to provide you my nutrients, but I can’t kill you, and removing you would put me in harm’s way, so I’m just going to relax in this spa for a few hours, and you are free to stay or go,” or “I’m just going to inject my own self with these certain chemicals, and you can stay and be dissolved or go and do whatever you like,” which is just abortion itself. For each option regarding what to classify a fetus as, the flow of moral logic leads to allowing abortion.
Issues like this, where the potential consequences might mean murder, usually call for an observation of human rights rather than utilitarianism. But to cover all bases, one should look at utilitarianism as well. From a utilitarianism perspective, it doesn’t matter where life formally begins, we just have to view the total well-being of the society with and without abortion.
When abortion is illegal, according to my own research, we see a rise in births to mothers who are unprepared for, or do not desire, children, especially those in low income communities. From this we get a number of things: parents who now have to sacrifice or post-pone plans of education or greater employment in order to care for a child, children who grow up resentful of a society that wasn’t prepared to take care of them, and a greater stress on the resources of a species that is stripping the planet bare already.
As a society and a species we are not hurting for more people. We do have many economies throughout the world that are dependent on an ever-expanding consumer base, but this is not sustainable eternally; Eventually we will reach the leveling out of the population.
Then we have to address the problem of if abortion were made illegal, it would not end the practice, instead it would create a booming black market for it. Sometimes a black market is just an inevitable consequence of the best possible choice, but in this case, it does a lot more harm than it’s worth. The main difference, in my opinion, between the black market of abortions vs say the black market of hard drugs for example, is that if those hard drugs were legalized, there is still no way to make them safe. You can’t, for instance, somehow make heroin a lot safer in a legal market by allowing medical professionals to administer it. It definitely would eliminate diseases transferred by shared needles, the dangers of dealing with a black market itself, and the possibility that it was mixed with some even more dangerous filler, but the drug itself would still be as damaging to a person had they got it illegally. Whereas an over-the-table abortion conducted by a trained medical professional is aeons safer.
Not only is is safer, but it is more definite. One of the main problems with back-alley abortions is that if they fail, the fetus may still grow but be irreversibly damaged. From a moral perspective there’s certainly nothing wrong with a physically or mentally handicapped person, but from a strictly utilitarian perspective, looking at it as a computer evaluating a society, it is undesirable compared to an alternative.
As a final thought, once one comes to the conclusion that one is not obligated towards a child until it is fully birthed as a separate life form with the capability to live without directly being connected to the mother, one must, in the virtue of fairness, apply the same standard to males. This means that just as the mother has the choice to step out of the responsibility for the child’s life by getting the abortion, so too must the father be able to void himself of the responsibility.
Most would agree that the male aborting would have to be somewhat different than the way the female does. One can not just force the female to get the abortion, which would be against the right of the female in both viewpoints of the fetus classification. If one were to consider the fetus biological matter belonging to the female, then to remove it against her will would be the same as removing a limb. If one considers the fetus to be a separate human entity, then to remove it against her will would be the same as preventing her from taking care of any random human by force.
The only practical choice we are left with is to allow the female to opt out of the parenting process by use of the abortion itself, and to allow both the female and the male the option to legally opt-out of the parenting process at any point up until the birth itself, an abortion in practicality.