Should infanticide be allowed in cases of severe disabilities?

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In summary, the conversation discusses the controversial topic of infanticide and whether it is morally justifiable in cases where a newborn is born with severe disabilities or a life that is deemed not worth living. Philosopher Peter Singer argues that the same principle of terminating a life applies up to 28 days after birth in these cases. The participants in the conversation disagree on whether or not this is morally acceptable, with one arguing that it goes against natural instincts and the other arguing that it is unnatural to allow an unfit individual to continue living. The topic is also tied to the larger debate on the morality of abortion, with the issue of viability being a determining factor in the discussion. Ultimately, there is no clear answer and individuals must use their own personal logic
  • #36
a4mula said:
when a man is born that is undeniably not equal, do we not have an obligation to strip him of these rights, and ultimately of life?

No, who has given you this right? God?

a4mula said:
That's our obligation, that's our duty.

You cannot disavow equal morality in one sentence and argue with duty ethics in the next.

a4mula said:
Animals do not exhibit morality.

 
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  • #37
re: the hippo video (posted twice). The "morality" here is nothing but inference. There could be other explanations for the behavior.
 
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  • #38
a4mula said:
Animals do not exhibit morality. Is it moral to eat your young? Is it moral to leave one of your pack behind that's been injured? Animals exibit survival instincts, something that we left by the wayside a long time ago. We've allowed compassion to dictate what is illogical and unreasonable.

I'm not sure where this is going? It seems all you've done here is choose traits from various species in the animal kingdom that would be reprehensible to modern society. You could just of easily chosen traits from the animal kingdom that are desirable. I don't think it would be very difficult to find behaviours in the animal kingdom that emulate any moral or immoral actions that humans may take. So, besides selection bias, what is your point?

I would say that morals are the survival instincts of a reasoning being that exists within a society. They are what determines right and wrong. If we want to live in isolation like spiders then we should emulate their behaviours and eat our young. If we want to live in packs like wolves we should emulate their behaviours and leave the injured to die. If we want to live in a human civilization we should live like moral human beings. Would we be more reasonable or rational to live like spiders or wolves? That sort of behaviour doesn't seem compatable with the long gestation, slow maturing, extreme vulnerability of a single child. Most other animals with similar traits also exhibit what could be described as compassionate child raising behaviours.

As humans we aren't so different from animals. We just aren't suited as a species to the traits that you would like us to be. You can be sure that if we had no food there would be people who would eat babies. They would live and others would die. If we were nomadic pack hunters and had to follow our food you can be sure that the entire pack isn't going to starve for one individual. That one would die and the fit would live. But we live in a civilization that can grow it's own food and raise animals. We have doctors to keep people healthy. We have technology to make physical tasks easier and to entertain us. We have art and science and philosophy and culture. We have all these things because we are reasoning, rational beings. If survival isn't threatened then there is no need to resort to those extreme 'animalistic' behaviours. We are able to care for the weak and the sick and so we do. When we are in a position where we can't then guess who will go first?.

Whether the glass is half full or half empty, it would be a waste to just pour it out.
 
  • #39
Huckleberry said:
I'm not sure where this is going? It seems all you've done here is choose traits from various species in the animal kingdom that would be reprehensible to modern society. You could just of easily chosen traits from the animal kingdom that are desirable. I don't think it would be very difficult to find behaviours in the animal kingdom that emulate any moral or immoral actions that humans may take. So, besides selection bias, what is your point?

I would say that morals are the survival instincts of a reasoning being that exists within a society. They are what determines right and wrong. If we want to live in isolation like spiders then we should emulate their behaviours and eat our young. If we want to live in packs like wolves we should emulate their behaviours and leave the injured to die. If we want to live in a human civilization we should live like moral human beings. Would we be more reasonable or rational to live like spiders or wolves? That sort of behaviour doesn't seem compatable with the long gestation, slow maturing, extreme vulnerability of a single child. Most other animals with similar traits also exhibit what could be described as compassionate child raising behaviours.

As humans we aren't so different from animals. We just aren't suited as a species to the traits that you would like us to be. You can be sure that if we had no food there would be people who would eat babies. They would live and others would die. If we were nomadic pack hunters and had to follow our food you can be sure that the entire pack isn't going to starve for one individual. That one would die and the fit would live. But we live in a civilization that can grow it's own food and raise animals. We have doctors to keep people healthy. We have technology to make physical tasks easier and to entertain us. We have art and science and philosophy and culture. We have all these things because we are reasoning, rational beings. If survival isn't threatened then there is no need to resort to those extreme 'animalistic' behaviours. We are able to care for the weak and the sick and so we do. When we are in a position where we can't then guess who will go first?.

Whether the glass is half full or half empty, it would be a waste to just pour it out.

This is a discussion where we contemplate the morality of killing infants. I wouldn't say that selecting that aspect of the animal kingdom could be construed as selective biases. We are animals so I'm not really sure why a difference need be made. There are many examples of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide" within our own species. In each and every case I see no morale contradictions. There is this concept floating around that human life is special. I see nothing that indicates this. We place more value on individual life then we do on the collective good. You go on to state that if 'survivors' aren't threatened then why resort to this behavior. In each example given in the wiki article there were measures of threat. Nobody here is calling for the unneeded killing just for the sake of death. All I'm merely stating is that preserving life, for the sake of life is unjustified.

Morality is merely a basis of relative judgement of actions. It determines only how we view events from our own personal spectrum of biasness. There is nothing universally 'right' or 'wrong' about morality.
 
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  • #40
superwolf said:
No, who has given you this right? God?
You cannot disavow equal morality in one sentence and argue with duty ethics in the next.

I was going to leave all previous discussion on the table and try to start anew. I did however want to address this one particular question however since it was brought up twice and was grossly misinterpreted.

Unarguably Unequal
Defined: Any person born that would be unable to have a self-sustained life.

Is it not our responsibility to ensure not only the continuation, but also the improvement of our species? When a choice to allow someone that is unarguably unequal to continue their existence we have placed that individual life above that of all others. We have placed it above the continuation and improvement of our species. We have harnessed the energy of others to ensure that said life is allowed.

As far as displacing morals while supporting an ethical view, it has merit. While I'm still not a firm believer in any ethical existence at least ethics are a code of conduct decided by a group of people instead of merely an individual. Closer to Truth in numbers.
 
  • #41
a4mula said:
This is a discussion where we contemplate the morality of killing infants. I wouldn't say that selecting that aspect of the animal kingdom could be construed as selective biases. We are animals so I'm not really sure why a difference need be made. There are many examples of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide" within our own species. In each and every case I see no morale contradictions. There is this concept floating around that human life is special. I see nothing that indicates this. We place more value on individual life then we do on the collective good. You go on to state that if 'survivors' aren't threatened then why resort to this behavior. In each example given in the wiki article there were measures of threat. Nobody here is calling for the unneeded killing just for the sake of death. All I'm merely stating is that preserving life, for the sake of life is unjustified.

Morality is merely a basis of relative judgement of actions. It determines only how we view events from our own personal spectrum of biasness. There is nothing universally 'right' or 'wrong' about morality.

What I was saying is that you hand-picked examples that suit your premise. It would be just as easy to hand-pick examples that oppose your premise. In fact, among animals that have similar patterns of birth and growth to humans there are more examples that mirror our own behaviour. You have intentionally selected ones that do not. I believe your appeal to animal behaviour is biased.

Nobody here is calling for the unneeded killing just for the sake of death. All I'm merely stating is that preserving life, for the sake of life is unjustified.
I will respectfully disagree. I find life to be a worthy thing to preserve for its own sake whenever possible. I think it is a fundamental principle of civilization.

Yes, what we know of morality is relative. I agree with that. Whether it is founded on universal principles or not is a topic for another thread, one that will get locked quickly.
 
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  • #42
Huckleberry said:
In fact, among animals that have similar patterns of birth and growth to humans there are more examples that mirror our own behaviour. You have intentionally selected ones that do not. I believe your appeal to animal behaviour is biased.

I'd love to see the evidence of this fact. It's been shown time and again that even the most advanced mammals (dolphins, primates, pigs) do indeed practice forms of infanticide from direct killing to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runt" neglect.

I'm not trying to be derisive here, I'd honestly like some evidence of non-human animals that cater to malformed or diseased offspring. Preferrably I'd like to see evidence that shows a trend of this behavior consistently. Exceptions to rules are just that.
 
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  • #43
a4mula said:
I'd love to see the evidence of this fact. It's been shown time and again that even the most advanced mammals (dolphins, primates, pigs) do indeed practice forms of infanticide from direct killing to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runt" neglect.

I'm not trying to be derisive here, I'd honestly like some evidence of non-human animals that cater to malformed or diseased offspring. Preferrably I'd like to see evidence that shows a trend of this behavior consistently. Exceptions to rules are just that.

Humans have practiced, and still do practice, infanticide. This is generally a matter of whether or not the mother is capable of taking care of its children and far more common in communities where the mother is less likely to receive help in taking care of the children. Animals rarely have the advantage of being capable of taking care of offspring with a low survival rate. I've been trying to find information on infanticide among domesticated animals since they do not face the same survival pressures but have not had much success. In a vetrinary article there was only one mention of infanticide in connection to tomcats but this was in regards to the general practice which does not necessarily involved sickness or deformation of the offspring. Most of the articles I have found are regarding general infanticide and few relate specifically to domestic breeds of animals.

At any rate though humans are just as "immoral" as animals when under survival pressures. And I still do not see how taking care of deformed or sick children is detrimental to the evolution of humans.
 
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  • #44
TheStatutoryApe said:
At any rate though humans are just as "immoral" as animals when under survival pressures. And I still do not see how taking care of deformed or sick children is detrimental to the evolution of humans.

It's not. Allowing them to breed however is, assuming their issues are genetic in nature.

Again this is just one aspect of the overall detriment that is posed by nurturing those that are incapable of self-sustenance.

This is quite the hard-lined stance. I don't expect many to agree. What I would hope however is that people at least consider the cost at which we as a society and species pay to support anyone that cannot or will not provide for themselves. Once that is considered I ask why? Is it merely for the sake of preserving life, or is it because we've been sold into a belief of moral wrongdoing? If it's the latter then I believe we need to step back and reaccess the situation.
 
  • #45
TheStatutoryApe said:
Humans have practiced, and still do practice, infanticide...
I hope 'committed' is the right word there, not practiced. At least in this society infanticide is not acceptable, it is murder. I thought that statement would be pedantic, but after reading this thread so far, maybe not.
 
  • #46
a4mula said:
It's not. Allowing them to breed however is, assuming their issues are genetic in nature.

Really? So now we have 'good' and 'bad' genes eh? What happens if those very genes enable that person to have an advantage e.g. he looses the use of his legs but his intelligence is far above the normal human. Do we not allow this person to breed? How do you even know that their condition will be dominant?
 
  • #47
a4mula said:
You're misrepresenting Capitalism. Capitalism is strictly an economic policy. If you'd like to converse about our Republic and the the laws that are dictated by our social policy then Capitalism plays no role at all.
I wasn't talking about capitalism in that quote.
There's no such thing. That's such a leap in logic that I really don't even know how to approach it. Moral Equality is an oxymoron. Each man determines his own morals. Each society will have vastly different morals. Human rights are based on the concept that all men are created equal.
Ironic, because I don't know how to respond to that! What you describe is just plain historically wrong. It is historical fact that the morality that we use is based on what I said it is! What you describe is complete moral relativism and quite obviously is impossible since if it were applied as you suggest, we could have no laws.

You said earlier that law has superceded morality. That's incorrect too: law is based on morality. That's also straightforward historical fact. These ideas you have, you are just pulling them out of the air - they have little basis in reality.
Yet when a man is born that is undeniably not equal, do we not have an obligation to strip him of these rights, and ultimately of life? That's our obligation, that's our duty. It's expressed over and over in the animal kingdom, yet we allow compassion to corrupt sensibility.
I don't know of any mammals that act as you describe, but even if they did, it wouldn't matter: morality is a human construct and our morality is beyond that of (stricter than) animals. Some animals behave in ways that fit our morality and though it probably has a rational basis, they have never been able to ask the question and develop the morality.
Animals do not exhibit morality. Is it moral to eat your young? Is it moral to leave one of your pack behind that's been injured?
Those are survival instincts that may or may not be moral depending on the situation. Certainly, if caring for a weaker member of a group could endanger the rest of the group, it is morally correct to abandon that member of the group.
Animals exibit survival instincts, something that we left by the wayside a long time ago.
Those survival instincts often follow a similar logic as our morality (such as in the example I just gave). I submit that that is not a coincidence.
We've allowed compassion to dictate what is illogical and unreasonable.
That's an illogical/self-contradictory thing to say! Logic should be devoid of emotion, essentially by definition. Or is that what you are trying to say? If it is, it is still wrong.
I fail to see how you attribute scientific advancement to morality.
I was showing the result - the correlation, not the actual connection, but the connections are blindingly simple. The morality of people and their governments practiced in many places was openly hostile to freedom and education. Forced slavery and subjegation were commonplace. These societies had lower standards of living precisely because the laws of the time (the morality) enforced a lower standard of living on the poor. This enforced lower standard of living included enforced ignorance, which had the secondary effect of helping to prevent scientific advancement.
 
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  • #48
a4mula said:
I'd love to see the evidence of this fact. It's been shown time and again that even the most advanced mammals (dolphins, primates, pigs) do indeed practice forms of infanticide from direct killing to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runt" neglect.
There is a big difference between direct killing and runt neglect. Note, in particular, that "runt neglect" is usually (always?) associated with a litter of animals. More intelligent/higher mammals tend to only have one offspring and I suspect there is a causal relationship between that fact and the fact that development in higher mammals requires much more direct parental care.

Note also that you don't draw a distinction between reasons for infanticide. Afaik, more advanced animals that practice infanticide don't do it to improve the makeup of their family. It is done mostly by males for sexual selection reasons: to ensure that it is their offspring who survive. That goes along with rape and is a trait now removed from our morality. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~phyl/anthro/infant.html
 
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  • #49
a4mula said:
Unarguably Unequal
Defined: Any person born that would be unable to have a self-sustained life.
Noted...
Is it not our responsibility to ensure not only the continuation, but also the improvement of our species?
No individual has either responsibility - why would they?
When a choice to allow someone that is unarguably unequal to continue their existence we have placed that individual life above that of all others.
Certainly not - to keep a disabled person alive does not kill anyone else. What we do is place that individual life above the financial freedom of everyone else.
We have placed it above the continuation and improvement of our species. We have harnessed the energy of others to ensure that said life is allowed.
Could you show me somewhere in any government document where it says that people have those responsibilities?
 
  • #50
The question for me upon consideration of a proposed society that would advocate infanticide or any other -cide derived from an overdose of Nietzsche, is not whether the effect on the gene pool of future generations is worthwhile, but rather why would such a society/species be worth preserving? In such a case give it back to the reptiles I say, they're equally amoral.
 
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  • #51
a4mula said:
Unarguably Unequal
Defined: Any person born that would be unable to have a self-sustained life...
1) No infant or toddler can self-sustain life, and if you mean upon achieving a later age, then 2) the planet can only support a population a small fraction of its current size consisting of people acting utterly self-sufficiently. At the current world population the vast majority of us survive and thrive only by depending on one another in some form.
 
  • #52
a4mula said:
I'd love to see the evidence of this fact. It's been shown time and again that even the most advanced mammals (dolphins, primates, pigs) do indeed practice forms of infanticide from direct killing to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runt" neglect.

I'm not trying to be derisive here, I'd honestly like some evidence of non-human animals that cater to malformed or diseased offspring. Preferrably I'd like to see evidence that shows a trend of this behavior consistently. Exceptions to rules are just that.

I'm not saying humans don't commit infanticide. I'm saying humans have different social structure, biology and survival pressures. It shapes our evolution in ways that are different than other animals. If we were placed in a similar situation to those animals you would see many of the same behaviours. Your argument for infanticide suggests that we live like animals. What you are really after is the absence of morals. I think I understand why you would have such an opinion, but it isn't based on rational thought or logic.

Based on your examples this would be an equally acceptable way for humans to live. A woman gets a new boyfriend and he comes over to kill all her offspring. After mating she should chew his head off and give birth to a litter of babies. It's certainly possible for us to arrange that, but I don't think it's beneficial to our evolution. For my next trick I'm going to make an oak tree grow apples because it's more natural for the oak tree, and I'm hungry.

You see compassion as a weakness. I see it as a strength. More accurately, because a person has the ability to be compassionate to others it means they can provide more than they require for their own survival, or the survival of the many is more important than the individual. I don't believe compassion is a weakness.
 
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  • #53
a4mula said:
It's not. Allowing them to breed however is, assuming their issues are genetic in nature.

Again this is just one aspect of the overall detriment that is posed by nurturing those that are incapable of self-sustenance.

This is quite the hard-lined stance. I don't expect many to agree. What I would hope however is that people at least consider the cost at which we as a society and species pay to support anyone that cannot or will not provide for themselves. Once that is considered I ask why? Is it merely for the sake of preserving life, or is it because we've been sold into a belief of moral wrongdoing? If it's the latter then I believe we need to step back and reaccess the situation.
What do you believe is the likelihood that any person with a severe genetic debilitation, such that they take from society without direct contribution, is going to reproduce? Few such people survive childhood and even fewer still are capable of taking part in society to such a degree that they are likely to reproduce. And even if they do their children could easily turn out perfectly normal and capable of contributing to society. Do you have any stats that could show us just how much these genes are polluting the pool? Since people are more likely to keep children that are disabled do you think maybe that having one such child will be enough for them and they will be less likely to have more? Generally in human and animal groupings the deformed and sick children would be killed and then the parents would have yet more children. This would seem more likely to perpetuate the defective genes.

I would also echo Huck's opinion that compassion can be a strength. The more people are capable of caring for others the stronger our community will be. I think its fairly obvious that one of our primary strengths as a species is our capacity to form ever larger and stronger communities. This is why I asked if you could point out where you see that these tings have hindered human evolution, that is actual real world examples with statistics and such that show we have slowed or been hindered in our progress, because you really need to prove that the possible disadvantages out weigh the possible advantages. Simply asserting it as a disadvantage is not enough.

mheslep said:
I hope 'committed' is the right word there, not practiced. At least in this society infanticide is not acceptable, it is murder. I thought that statement would be pedantic, but after reading this thread so far, maybe not.

I used the term to indicate an action that is taken with regularity among a group or groups. To use the word "commit" may make the actions seem as isolated incidents as opposed to something that is commonly done. While infanticide may not be "practiced" (but rather "commited") here in the US or other similar countries there are those places where it would be more aptly described as a "practice".
 
  • #54
empathy and compassion are necessary attributes for human society. People that lack these attributes are called sociopaths and they impose far greater costs on society than those unable to care for themselves. Any rationally designed euthanasia program would first start with them. Moreover people who advocate murdering disabled people based upon some sense of duty to natural selection are not only sociopaths but plain stupid and should be moved to the front of the line
 
  • #55
From a societal perspective.

In a program of enforced infanticide one must consider the possibility that potentially beneficial genetic traits will be culled from the gene pool.

The definition of a genetic advantage might change as our species evolves.
 

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