Abortion – Do You Value the Life of a Human Above that of an Animal?

Occasionally we spot an insect in the house and need to get rid of it. My usual approach to these situations is to scoop it onto a piece of paper and throw it out of the house. Sometimes though there’s no option but to squish it and I feel horribly guilty. It preys on my mind for quite a while afterwards.

Once we had to lay mice traps and I had to get rid of them once they were caught. I was told to just throw the traps away with the mice still in them, but this struck me as pretty cruel. The animal would die a lingering death from starvation, exposure or something worse. So I gave them a quick death by summary execution outside. This is more painful for me, but I tell myself it’s the least I can do.

Isn't all life the same?

Isn’t all life the same?

My question is – does everyone feel this way?

I try my best to avoid killing anything. While this may strike one as a good thing, the corollary is that I treat all life equally – human or animal. Given a choice to kill a random human and a random dog, I would flip a coin. Given a choice between a dog I know and a random human, I would always choose the dog.

So two things are odd in me. First, I have a problem killing spiders, ants, insects etc…which many may view as a good thing. But second, my value for human life doesn’t seem to be the same as that held for it by others. Many individuals I have seen place human life at a higher value than all other forms of life – even when the life in question is no better than a bunch of cells as in a fetus.

People will happily eat eggs, chickens, and cows and yet raise hell when a woman wants to have an abortion of a fetus that is just a few days old and is clearly nothing more than a bunch of cells! I agree that there is a time limit above which a fetus can qualify as human in the later stages of pregnancy. But before that, even insects like ants and mosquitoes have more consciousness and life. The hypocrisy of those who claim abortion violates the “sanctity of life” and who eat animal products or kill mosquitoes or cockroaches takes my breath away.

A common argument put forward to support the idea that a human life is inherently more valuable than an animal one is that we humans are capable of higher thinking and consciousness. That’s true. We do have this greater ability. But animals have many things we humans do not. Some can fly, some can run fast, others have stunning eyesight, smell, hearing etc. When it comes to raw abilities, humans are actually pretty lacking. Our progress and development is because we’re able to share knowledge and build upon what others have done before us.

Also if mental capability and quality are reasons to place humans on a pedestal, what of those individuals who are mentally retarded, old people with Alzheimer’s, and children? Last I checked, all such people are given the same rights as the rest of us. Shouldn’t we given them fewer rights in line with the animals because of their reduced mental capacity? But that doesn’t happen and it’s hypocritical.

It’s “speciesism” nothing more. The idea that your species is special for no other reason than that you belong to it. You might pull the religious card and say that the bible or whatever puts humans on a higher footing with animals. But if the bible is proof of the existence of god, then superman comics prove the existence of superman :). Let’s not bring god into this.

So what do you think? What would you do if you had to pick between your pet’s life and a random human stranger’s life?

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Comments

  1. Purple Cloud says:

    “The concept of being able to move in response to pain is an evolutionary feature and obviously doesn’t apply to those who’re born with something wrong in their bodies. They are not representative of the species and it’s a little absurd that you’re using them as examples.”

    Great ! Now since it is obvious that you forget everything once you have written it, I would like to remind you of what you stated in your post “Are plants really alive?”

    When someone pointed out :- “I think by “life” you refer to a collective of living things, (i.e. the human race, dinosaurs, plankton) and not an individual. ”

    You replied :- “No, I’m actually talking about individuals here. Like I said, in a technical sense I believe that each organism is a separate “race” in and of itself so the distinction between a race and an individual is moot – they’re the same thing. ”

    So, how come we suddenly start talking about representing the species which was outrightly dismissed earlier by you ?

    Once again using your above statement :- “The concept of being able to move in response to pain is an evolutionary feature and obviously doesn’t apply to those who’re born with something wrong in their bodies.” against what you wrote in the post “Are plants really alive?”.

    Where you wrote :- “Well, one of the necessary conditions for life (according to our textbooks) is reproduction. Meaning that if an entity cannot reproduce, it’s not alive. Well, what of humans who are sterile – or who choose to not have kids? It’s no good saying that humans as a species can reproduce. Because in a strict sense, each person is a separate species in themselves since the genes are slightly different.”

    So aren’t sterile humans examples of those “born with something wrong with their bodies” ???

    Here you want something to be representative of the species, but there you consider each person as a separate specie. Strange !

    “Babies can indeed move parts of their bodies away from pain. Who cares if their entire body shifts position?”

    What if some painful stimulus is applied to the baby’s trunk (chest or abdomen) ? What use will the movement of arms and legs provide in such a situation ?

    “Also, you’ve again moved away from your main point and gone into irrelevances. The initial question you raised was whether or not I was suggesting that infanticide should be legalized.”

    Nothing that I’ve stated seems irrelevant to me except it shows contradicting statements made by you. I’m only questioning why according to you infanticide should not be legalized since, by your own logic, an infant fits into the category of a non-living.

    Reply

    • In reply to Purple Cloud

      There is no contradiction here. Most people are able to understand my point without having each and every word spelled out to them. Since you’re not able to do that, here it is:

      So, how come we suddenly start talking about representing the species which was outrightly dismissed earlier by you ?

      We are talking about successful species. If we view a disabled person as a new species (which actually they are), then they are not evolutionarily successful and will die out for that reason. In the wild, an animal born disabled will never propagate or procreate.

      This is not something I should have to spell out to you. It’s understood. I have neither the time nor the inclination to lead people by the hand. They should make some effort themselves to fill in the gaps.

      We are only talking about successful individuals who are healthy enough to survive. Aka survival of the fittest.

      You previous point about a robot made the same mistake. I shouldn’t have to specifically say “robots are not included”. It’s understood because they are not the product of evolution. Please try not to waste me time by not doing attempting to grasp the essence of my argument.

      “What if some painful stimulus is applied to the baby’s trunk (chest or abdomen) ? What use will the movement of arms and legs provide in such a situation ?”

      It will not sit still either. It’ll definitely try to move away. Again, please fill in the blanks yourself without asking for a helping hand. It’s not difficult.

      Reply

      • Purple Cloud says:

        In reply to bhagwad

        “We are talking about successful species.”

        Now, where does the thing about ‘succesful’ species come in. I thought we were discussing about what comprises life.

        “We are only talking about successful individuals who are healthy enough to survive. Aka survival of the fittest.

        You previous point about a robot made the same mistake. I shouldn’t have to specifically say “robots are not included”. It’s understood because they are not the product of evolution.”

        Then how do you exclude plants from the process of evolution and survival of the fittest ?

        “It will not sit still either. It’ll definitely try to move away.”

        How does not sitting still and ‘trying’ to move away help anyone to escape pain ? You are simply avoiding my question.

        Somewhere in the discussion here you have clearly stated that :- “What are the true essential features of life? Consciousness and/or the ability to feel pain. That is what really matters.”

        And you have also clearly stated that only those organisms are capable of perceiving pain who are capable of moving away from pain too. Otherwise pain is useless for those who cannot move away to escape it. So those who cannot move away cannot be said to perceive pain. (example, plants)

        So, since an newborn infant cannot move away from pain (how much may he ‘try’) we cannot expect him to perceive pain since pain sensation will be useless for him. (I’m using nothing but your own logic)

        NOWHERE are we suggesting that a newborn is disabled otherwise. (As we do not see other newborns who can actually move away from pain)

        So how do you prove that a newborn infant is a living organism ? If you can prove it in any other way without taking pain and consciousness into consideration, your previous arguments turn invalid.

        I have filled the blanks for you !

        Reply

      • In reply to Purple Cloud

        “Now, where does the thing about ‘succesful’ species come in. I thought we were discussing about what comprises life.”

        Please read what I wrote about grasping the broader context.

        “How does not sitting still and ‘trying’ to move away help anyone to escape pain ? You are simply avoiding my question.”

        Please read what I wrote about grasping the broader context.

        It may be helpful if you show this to someone else and let them explain it to you. I’m tired.

        Reply

  2. Purple Cloud says:

    It seems that “grasping the broader context” is the new synonym for “I don’t have an answer”. Specially in circumstances where you find yourself tied and twisted in your own contradicting statements you made earlier.

    You couldn’t back your statement about consciousness and/or the ability to feel pain being the essential features of life when I simply asked you to apply it to a case of a newborn infant.

    Since you failed to prove how pain is usefull to a newborn as he cannot move away from it even after throwing about its arms and legs, your logic of pain being usefull only in motile organisms stands invalid.

    Secondly, I wonder about the criteria you will use to assess the consciousness of a newborn. Maybe you will talk to the baby and wait for him to answer. If not then I don’t know how will you go about proving that a newborn is conscious by way of exercising his ‘choice’. Again something that you associate with consciousness. Maybe you will offer him different types of food and expect him to choose.

    If one goes by your logic of life, even a plant sapling is capable enough to derive its nutrition from the soil. How do you expect a newborn to derive its nutrition all by himself ? Oh wait ! You will probably argue that a newborn actually ‘chooses’ to lie on the cot and expects to be fed.

    Since your logic of consciousness and pain being the essential features of life doesn’t hold true for newborn infants, I was expecting you to approve of infanticide. That was just the limited context I wanted to convey for you to grasp.

    But I don’t expect you to grasp these limited contexts and answer my questions as you now complain of being tired.

    Though I hope that you don’t get tired of writing and debating according to your views and logic which provides a lot of genuine humor to many people. Specially since you so seriously try to justify your thoughts. The fact that your logics change with each post you write adds to the humor.

    P S : I’m not expecting a reply from you on this since I do not want to tire you out any further.

    Reply

    • In reply to Purple Cloud

      My posts are generally written from the point of view of a reasonable person who doesn’t need to have everything spelled out for them. I’m sorry, but I’m not your teacher to lead you by the hand.

      You’ll just have to make do with the limited information I choose to put out and draw whatever conclusions you want from that.

      Reply

      • Purple Cloud says:

        In reply to bhagwad

        I guess I don’t come across as a reasonable person through my comments here and actually am rather disappointed at your refusal to lead me by the hand. But I think you would be generous enough to clarify some of your statements to unreasonable persons like me for our own understanding.

        I was just going through your post “Dilemmas of a liberal” where you had stated in response to someone that :-

        “History has shown that govt. and court intervention does indeed change attitudes.

        A great deal of what is “progressive” these days has come about due to govt. intervention thereby preventing the unnecessary suffering and discrimination against millions of people.”

        “But when an overwhelming majority of people think/feel a certain way (like untouchability) then society will never “correct” without an external imposition that at least lays down concrete rules for what is good/bad.

        In that case, it becomes critical to have “good” prescriptive laws.”

        So, what I concluded from the above statements (do let me know if I’m wrong) is that,

        1. You consider untouchability bad.
        2. You think govt./courts should lay down concrete laws against what is bad (in fact tha is what you stated).

        But in a comment somewhere in this post, you stated :- “Who is the government to tell people “You must like boys!””

        Thus, I’m urged to question that,
        1. How can the govt. tell someone that untouchability is bad ?
        2. Isn’t a person’s right to dislike someone not being affected if he is not allowed to “not touch” someone ? Can the govt. tell people “you must like (and touch) everyone” ?
        3. How is something like untouchability affect someone physically ? If not, then why should an individual not be allowed to practice discrimination and untouchability even if millions of people are affected since you also stated that

        “I only have a responsibility to myself – not to “society”.”

        So, on one hand you are welcoming the govt. and courts to lay down laws about what is good or bad (morally, like in case of untouchability) while on the other hand you are questioning the govt. on making laws based on morals (like in case of female feticide).

        I hope there is not just a broader context to whatever limited I have stated above.

        Reply

  3. Purple Cloud says:

    I just returned to add that even a fetus displays the property of moving its arms and legs about when given an external stimulation. Just like the example of movements in a newborn you gave.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_movement

    So, how does a fetus suddenly become altogether different when it comes out of its mother’s body ?

    Because if a newborn can be considered alive because it “can very much move as well as give ample signs that they have sensation”, then why shouldn’t a fetus who also can move as well as give ample signs that it has sensations be considered alive ?

    Am I missing some blanks here ?

    Reply

    • Entertained reader says:

      In reply to Purple Cloud

      It has been extremely funny how the author of this article just dodges any logical argument. I must admit, his evasive techniques are truly a skill to be envied. Also, well done Purple Cloud.

      Reply

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