Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

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Cradarc
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Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Cradarc » Sat May 30, 2015 4:18 am UTC

I just watched Kingsman: The Secret Service and it got me thinking: Is it ever ethical to cull humans?

Edited Scenario:
An extremely infectious and deadly disease is sweeping across $Country. Nobody has any clue how to cure/prevent it or even slow it down. People are dying after suddenly developing agonizing symptoms. Many of those who attempt to study the disease end up catching it despite all manners of safety precautions. The government has closed it's borders to quarantine the disease, but experts estimate it could leak into the rest of the region within a couple weeks. Once it breaks out, there's no telling how fast it can spread across the entire world.

Some countries are pushing to have $Country nuked. Assume it is a reasonably small and remote enough country, and a sufficiently well planned tactical military action that this isn't an inherently a dumb idea ... and, and and ...

oh wait


From below:

HungryHobo wrote:But I think this can be generalised even more into "is it morally acceptable to intentionally choose to kill some number of innocent people in order to prevent the deaths of a far larger number of innocent people later"


Given where we are, let's focus on HungryHobo's version of the question. I'd rather we not spend time picking apart the contrived scenario and all it's geopolitical sideshows. Original included below as a lark, but leave it be.

Spoiler:
Scenario:
An extremely infectious and deadly disease is sweeping across Israel. Nobody has any clue how to cure/prevent it or even slow it down. People are dying within 24 hours after suddenly developing agonizing symptoms. Many of those who attempt to study the disease end up catching it despite all manners of safety precautions. The Israeli government has closed it's borders to quarantine the disease, but experts estimate it could leak into Africa and the rest of the Middle-East within a couple weeks. Once it breaks out of Israel, there's no telling how fast it can spread across the entire world.

Some countries are pushing to have Israel nuked. The epicenter will be crippled and there would be a much greater chance for humanity's survival. Israel is a small patch of land, and just a few bombs would do the trick. The radiation would kill off the disease and prevent it from spreading out of the region. It's estimated that the disease could kill Israel's entire population within a month anyways.
The Iranian government is in favor of this course of action. China and Russia also voice their support. However, the U.S and it's Western Allies are threatening retaliation.

Should Israel be nuked?

(Israel was chosen due to its ties to the West and its small size and well-protected borders. Would it make a difference if the nation in question was North Korea or El Savador?)


OP: These elaborately spun hypothetical don't set the stage for a discussion, they distract from the Serious Business bit with unending tangents. Your question is simple and doesn't need the rest of this junk heaped on top. In fact, it could use some real context -- like the point about Hiroshima/Nagasaki made below. Either way, asking the same question across multiple threads with new toppings doesn't make it a new question. Hobo has given this one some worth, but for the second time: Stop it. No more "Can I kill this person to save that one?" threads. Between this (large scale) and Trolley (small scale), you're done.
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Quercus » Sat May 30, 2015 7:51 am UTC

A disease with that high a mortality and that rapid an onset of symptoms would burn itself out before killing anything like the entire population of Israel (one of the reasons the recent Ebola outbreak was/is so serious is ironically that the strain involved is significantly less deadly than most previous strains, allowing it to spread more effectively). Your scenario is just not epidemiologically realistic. In fact nuking the country would probably create a far more serious public health problem than this disease outbreak (breakdown of infrastructure leading to increased spread of this and other diseases among survivors).

"Is it ever ethical to cull humans?" (by which I presume you mean "kill a significant number of humans in one go, for one reason"), because the word "cull" usually applies to only non-human animals by definition) is potentially an interesting moral question, but this scenario isn't a good way of exploring it. "Is war ever ethical?" seems like a reasonable place to start, but we probably already have a thread on that.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby HungryHobo » Sat May 30, 2015 9:15 am UTC

Your scenario has another problem: such situations do sort of come up time to time though with much less deadly diseases but which would lead to millions of deaths if they spread and there's the same option available.
There have been cases where whole hospitals have been quarantined for fear of particular diseases spreading.

Burning the hospital works if it's the only situation of it's type that will ever come up but once you have iterated situations it gets harder. If people know that places where a deadly disease breaks out get nuked people will work very hard to cover everything up which is likely to make the situation worse.

But I think this can be generalised even more into "is it morally acceptable to intentionally choose to kill some number of innocent people in order to prevent the deaths of a far larger number of innocent people later"

Views on this have some odd properties, for one people view future cases much more harshly than past examples.
Sometimes the same person who will defend the US using nukes against cities full of civilians in WW2 on the semi-utilitarian basis that millions more civilians would have died in the case of an invasion will turn around and take a deontological position on similar proposed actions in the present or future.
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Azrael » Sat May 30, 2015 2:22 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:But I think this can be generalised even more into "is it morally acceptable to intentionally choose to kill some number of innocent people in order to prevent the deaths of a far larger number of innocent people later"


Yes, this. OP edited.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby elasto » Sat May 30, 2015 4:12 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:But I think this can be generalised even more into "is it morally acceptable to intentionally choose to kill some number of innocent people in order to prevent the deaths of a far larger number of innocent people later"

Which is not all that different to "is it morally acceptable to intentionally choose to kill some number of innocent people in order to prevent the deaths of a far larger number of innocent people right now?" - which we've already discussed extensively.

Really, the only difference is that the further you push the deaths into the future, the more likely something will intervene to render the logic you used to justify the killings flawed. The only reason these scenarios are so ethically confusing is that there is a presumption of certainty of outcome. Pushing the deaths into the future makes that assumption even less plausible.

Views on this have some odd properties, for one people view future cases much more harshly than past examples.
Sometimes the same person who will defend the US using nukes against cities full of civilians in WW2 on the semi-utilitarian basis that millions more civilians would have died in the case of an invasion will turn around and take a deontological position on similar proposed actions in the present or future.

I think there is a rationale to this: We know the outcome of past events. We can't know the outcome of a future one.

Even though we should logically consider past events in probabilistic terms, because we know what outcome actually resulted we tend to discount that other outcomes could also have done so. If the US nuking Japan had resulted in their civilians becoming far more united and resolved and actually extended the war, it would have been viewed in quite different terms than it generally is today. (Even assuming the nukes did shorten the war; Let's not get into the specifics of that...)

Unlike with past events, future events have no choice but to be viewed in probabilistic terms though, making the ethics a lot less clear cut.

I think there's another factor also: With past events there's a risk of logic along the lines of: "We did X; We are the good guys; Therefore X was justified", which is less easy to fool oneself with with a hypothetical future event than a concrete past one.

Maybe there's an element of that going on for those saying the US government's recent torture of innocents was justified (whereas other countries torturing US citizens could never be, they'd think) I don't know.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby morriswalters » Sat May 30, 2015 5:52 pm UTC

It always shakes out as "us" against "them". Obama does something like this every time he approves a drone strike and we risk the collateral damage they cause. We cull whoever to prevent a hazard to "us". Unsurprisingly the people being culled(them) don't seem to like it much.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby elasto » Sat May 30, 2015 6:30 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:It always shakes out as "us" against "them". Obama does something like this every time he approves a drone strike and we risk the collateral damage they cause. We cull whoever to prevent a hazard to "us". Unsurprisingly the people being culled(them) don't seem to like it much.

Not really.

With our other classic examples, the innocent person is integral - eg. pushing the fat man in front of the tram, or harvesting a hospital visitor's organs. Without the presence of the innocent party the plan wouldn't work at all.

With drone strikes, self-defence in a home invasion, warfare etc., innocent people being put at risk directly worsens the outcome; The ideal result is to have zero collateral damage - not just ethically but pragmatically.

Destroying a country to prevent a disease spreading falls into the latter category, not the former - and is illogical for the reasons Quercus outlined.
Last edited by elasto on Sat May 30, 2015 6:37 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Cradarc » Sat May 30, 2015 6:36 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:But I think this can be generalised even more into "is it morally acceptable to intentionally choose to kill some number of innocent people in order to prevent the deaths of a far larger number of innocent people later".

I really don't like it when people reduce my post to a single fundamental question then say "It's equivalent to the Trolley Problem!" Ethics isn't mathematics. We can't simply strip away the context and emotional baggage from a problem and still be answering the same problem. IMO, it's much more interesting to examine problems from various perspective rather than coming to a "solution" and moving on.

Here's what the generalization left out:
1. The death of more innocent people is uncertain. Everything is estimated. Research is still being done, despite there being a lack of progress so far.
2. The people being targeted are a distinct group. It's not just a city, but an entire country with a distinct demographic.
3. The enemy is nature. If the disease kills someone, who is to blame? It's as amoral as cancer or HIV killing someone. Bombing, however, is clearly a human-human conflict.
4. The nation who's fate is being discussed can take part in the decision making process! I expected people to bring that up immediately, but it looks like we are more intent on being offended. Nobody seems to care that Israel's stance on the issue was not provided. I think that would play a large role in the decision making process.
5. Hope. Philosophical discussions that avoid concepts like hope is very restrictive. Yes, this forum is about objective discussions, but nothing in philosophy is truly objective ("Humans are just a bunch of atoms. End of discussion.").
Can we not objectively discuss hope? Is it immoral to hold onto a small chance of survival in favor of avoiding something one believes is wrong?
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby elasto » Sat May 30, 2015 6:43 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Here's what the generalization left out:
...

The generalization is all there is to discuss though; With the specific scenario you outlined, bombing is not rational and Quercus and HungryHobo already explained why:

1) Diseases that kill in hours burn themselves out (it's diseases with long incubation periods that are deadlier - like HIV)
2) If you bomb a country, the next country in which that disease rears its head won't tell anyone and it'll spread throughout the world - just like if you were to kill a hospital visitor for their organs, noone would visit that hospital again...

[3) If you were to plan to bomb the specific country you mentioned, due to its vast intelligence network it'd find out ahead of time and release the border controls...]

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Cradarc » Sat May 30, 2015 7:13 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Diseases that kill in hours burn themselves out (it's diseases with long incubation periods that are deadlier - like HIV)

It kills in hours after showing symptoms. That doesn't mean it can't be transmitted before then.

elasto wrote:If you bomb a country, the next country in which that disease rears its head won't tell anyone and it'll spread throughout the world - just like if you were to kill a hospital visitor for their organs, noone would visit that hospital again...

That is a good point. The question is, why aren't they being carried into the generalization?

Instead of beating the dead horse:
"is it morally acceptable to intentionally choose to kill some number of innocent people in order to prevent the deaths of a far larger number of innocent people later"

We can discuss:
1. To what extent can past ethical decisions be used as precedents for future dilemmas?
2. What is the appropriate to consider when making ethical decisions that could have socio-political ramifications extending beyond the direct consequences?
3. What is the role of consent (and what is considered consent) when it comes to the taking of innocent lives?
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby elasto » Sat May 30, 2015 7:20 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:It kills in hours after showing symptoms. That doesn't mean it can't be transmitted before then.

Yes, but the point is that bombing isn't the solution either way:
- If it has a short incubation period, bombing has no advantage over quarantine - in fact it's likely to make people break the quarantine
- If it has a long incubation period, it's sufficiently likely to have already spread outside the country as to make bombing pointless

1. To what extent can past ethical decisions be used as precedents for future dilemmas?

Not sure why ethical decisions are special here. Every decision can be informed by previous outcomes; No course of action should be set in stone.

What is the appropriate to consider when making ethical decisions that could have socio-political ramifications extending beyond the direct consequences?

Everything that has a bearing on the long-term outcome should be considered, on a case by case basis. Again, this applies to all decisions, not just nominally ethical ones. (I'm not sure purely ethical decisions exist outside of hypotheticals.)

What is the role of consent (and what is considered consent) when it comes to the taking of innocent lives?

Innocent lives should never be taken unless it is unavoidable. Consent being obtained doesn't really change this.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby ObsessoMom » Sat May 30, 2015 8:21 pm UTC

Is it ethical to help someone fine-tune scenarios in which killing people might be morally acceptable, without questioning why that someone seems so disturbingly obsessed with the notion?

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Azrael » Sat May 30, 2015 9:13 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:We can discuss:
1. To what extent can past ethical decisions be used as precedents for future dilemmas?
2. What is the appropriate to consider when making ethical decisions that could have socio-political ramifications extending beyond the direct consequences?
3. What is the role of consent (and what is considered consent) when it comes to the taking of innocent lives?


Yes, look at all those things that you can discuss!

Instead, what are you focused on?

Cradarc wrote:...It kills in hours after showing symptoms. That doesn't mean it can't be transmitted before then



I won't say it again: this forum is not the place for creating, refining and rehashing an endlessly complex -- and overall irrelevant -- hypothetical.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 01, 2015 5:52 pm UTC

Quercus wrote:"Is it ever ethical to cull humans?" (by which I presume you mean "kill a significant number of humans in one go, for one reason"), because the word "cull" usually applies to only non-human animals by definition) is potentially an interesting moral question, but this scenario isn't a good way of exploring it. "Is war ever ethical?" seems like a reasonable place to start, but we probably already have a thread on that.


Generally speaking, we should be avoiding getting into this situation in the first place. In the case of disease, there are almost certainly superior options to nukes. So, we should use those.

But killing significant numbers of people can be moral. That's what war is, really, like you say. And while we'd all like to avoid it, we are not quite there yet. Yeah, not every target of war can be guaranteed to have some moral guilt associated with him/her, but you do the best you can, and since surrender to anyone who threatens violence isn't a solution, the best available option for minimizing death/risk will have to suffice.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby cphite » Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:42 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:I just watched Kingsman: The Secret Service and it got me thinking: Is it ever ethical to cull humans?


It depends. Maybe the director and the writers... but for the most part, the cast and crew work with what they're given and cannot be held fully responsible.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Azrael » Tue Jun 02, 2015 2:14 am UTC

Image

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jun 02, 2015 3:57 pm UTC

cphite wrote:
Cradarc wrote:I just watched Kingsman: The Secret Service and it got me thinking: Is it ever ethical to cull humans?


It depends. Maybe the director and the writers... but for the most part, the cast and crew work with what they're given and cannot be held fully responsible.


Ya'll did realize he was the BAD guy, right? Just saying....

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby dg61 » Thu Jun 04, 2015 2:22 pm UTC

Didn't the issue with this actually crop up to a lesser extent during the Ebola epidemic? Ebola hospitals developed a reputation for being death-traps*, so people started trying to hide cases for as long as possible to avoid said death-traps and the epidemic got much worse as all efforts at quarantine procedure broke down.

*Which by itself says volumes since Western hospitals had a higher survival rate and there is a relatively simple treatment protocol for Ebola that can reduce deaths quite substantially.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Angua » Thu Jun 04, 2015 2:30 pm UTC

Western hospitals were also treating Western patients who tended to be in much better shape going in (well nourished, no coinfections with malaria/HIV, etc). The 'death trap' perception was more down to a) not understanding that ebola does have a high mortality, b) the fact that once your relative went in, you often couldn't see them again until they were cured (if they died then you wouldn't even get back a body), and 3) a distrust of the medical profession in general - there were a lot of rumours about ebola not being real, that it was the doctors killing people, etc. The newer specialist ebola centres did things like having open mesh fences that were the required spacing apart so patients/people who were quarantined could come out and see their families if they were well enough which did a lot to help rebuild trust.

So, no, I don't think this issue came up at all. People weren't being culled in the slightest.
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Quercus » Thu Jun 04, 2015 2:55 pm UTC

Angua wrote:Western hospitals were also treating Western patients who tended to be in much better shape going in (well nourished, no coinfections with malaria/HIV, etc). The 'death trap' perception was more down to a) not understanding that ebola does have a high mortality, b) the fact that once your relative went in, you often couldn't see them again until they were cured (if they died then you wouldn't even get back a body), and 3) a distrust of the medical profession in general - there were a lot of rumours about ebola not being real, that it was the doctors killing people, etc. The newer specialist ebola centres did things like having open mesh fences that were the required spacing apart so patients/people who were quarantined could come out and see their families if they were well enough which did a lot to help rebuild trust.

Western hospitals also had a much lower patient volume and better access to the very limited quantities of experimental drugs.

So, no, I don't think this issue came up at all. People weren't being culled in the slightest.

My reading of dg61's post was that they were talking about was the perception of culling (thereby illustrating why doing it for real would be a terrible idea), rather than actual culling. I could be wrong though.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jun 04, 2015 3:42 pm UTC

It's hard to find to real-life examples of trolley scenarios. Kill these people and those will live, and vice versa, no further complications.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby dg61 » Thu Jun 04, 2015 3:52 pm UTC

Correct, I was referring to the perception of the hospitals a a death trap(not even necessarily culling) discouraging people from seeking treatment. The line about western patients was mostly just to point out that there was a grain of truth in that the treatment was probably not as good as a state-of-the art Ebola isolation unit on CDC premises and that generally speaking the poor medical infrastructure in West Africa is probably partly to blame for the high death rates(not just lack of trust in doctors but also the fact that there were fewer doctors and fewer trained nurses, less available medical equipment, less capacity to create ad hoc treatment facilities, and so on). By comparison, nuking a country with a disease outbreak is just going to make the next one worse since people will proceed to do all they can to conceal it until it becomes fully unmanageable. As it is it's not unusual for countries to try to hide or downplay disease outbreaks for fear of negative effects on the economy, tourism, public prestige, and so on.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:15 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:It's hard to find to real-life examples of trolley scenarios. Kill these people and those will live, and vice versa, no further complications.


And if you *did* find real life trolley situations, it would certainly be better to prevent them up front, rather than grabbing popcorn and watching horrible decision-making.

Dammit, I think I just found a script for a new reality tv show.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Cradarc » Thu Jun 04, 2015 11:53 pm UTC

For any philosophical question, it's more interesting when we wonder why people respond the way they do. We've already agreed that killing under the given context is wrong, but why? Does consent make it better? Does plurality agreement make it better? Does the victims being are part of a particular ethnic group make it worse? Does the victims being humans make it worse (versus say cows or chimpanzees)?

ex.
We seem to take much less issue when it comes to culling badgers, yet the morality of human culling is a no-brainer. If we can kill badgers when they pose a significant risk to our health, why can't we kill other humans for the same reason? Scientifically, there is little distinction between taking the life of an animal and taking the life of a human.
Calling me a psychopath or a PETA nut (of which I am neither) doesn't actually answer the question. All it does is show that social pressure plays role in a person's judgment of situations. Surely there is something other than social pressure at work when considering the morality of culling.
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby elasto » Fri Jun 05, 2015 12:15 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:If we can kill badgers when they pose a significant risk to our health, why can't we kill other humans for the same reason? Scientifically, there is little distinction between taking the life of an animal and taking the life of a human.

???

Human beings are conscious and self-aware. There's a huge difference between taking the life of an animal and a human, even in purely scientific terms...

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jun 05, 2015 2:32 am UTC

Surely you jest? Badgers can't shoot back. That is the practical reason. We have had two major cullings in the Twentieth Century. They were called world wars. We reduced the world population by, give or take, depending on whose lies you believe, between 20 and 60 million in the second. Including the detonation of two nuclear devices. No badgers were involved.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby ucim » Fri Jun 05, 2015 3:01 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:We seem to take much less issue when it comes to culling badgers [...] there is little distinction between taking the life of an animal and taking the life of a human.
There is a sliding scale, otherwise killing ants and swishing mouthwash would be morally reprehensible. That sliding scale is one of "more like me...less like me", where "like me" can take several parameters, including sentience, cladistics, and empathy.

This is also why people tend to save their daughter even if ten strangers die as a result.

Is this something you have actually not considered?

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Cradarc » Fri Jun 05, 2015 3:27 am UTC

Elasto,
I really want to rebut you, but it might be too much of a tangent for Azrael's liking. Instead, can you consider this question:
Does the victims being humans make it worse (versus say cows or chimpanzees)?

Suppose instead it's a very large population of chimpanzees that have the disease. Would it change the moral underpinnings of the choice?

Morriswalters,
So the only reason it's morally wrong to kill those people is because of future consequences?
If for some reason, you were given the ability to kill with the guarantee that no one will lash back, will you not hesitate to take someone's life given that you know they are a negative influence on society?

Ucim,
It is totally something I have considered. But is it moral? What if two people's "scale" disagree when discussing the fate of a third?
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby ucim » Fri Jun 05, 2015 4:40 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:It is totally something I have considered. But is it moral? What if two people's "scale" disagree when discussing the fate of a third?
Then you would be wrong, of course, and I would be right. :)

Kidding aside, you seem to be looking for an absolute measure of morality. There isn't one. People can disagree on morals the same way they disagree on the aesthetics of art, the taste of anchovies, the value of freedom, or the meaningfulness of life. That is why there is such a diminishing return on these trolley questions.

Morality is in some sense a measure of what people value. Different people value different things, in no small measure because of the things that make them different. One person may have grown up in a loving family, another may have had kin that despised them and made no bones about it, and a third may have had no family and wish they had one. When it comes to choosing between their hypothetical (or even real) sister and a tin can full of strangers, this will play into their decisionmaking. It's' what makes people human; it's what makes them worth being around - worth taking risks with - worth exposing oneself to.

Discussing moral questions while divorcing it from differences between people and their personal histories (whence these morals arise) is sterile, and will not yield much useful insight.

I value being around people... people with whom I can develop meaningful relationships, and part of a meaningful relationship is that they would choose me over somebody else just because they also value this relationship, trolley be damned.

You seem to be looking at it from the POV of people being a valuable thing. I think that's a mistake. It is the relationships with people that is the valuable thing. Try looking at your questions from that POV; there may be insight to be had.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby elasto » Fri Jun 05, 2015 1:32 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Elasto,
I really want to rebut you, but it might be too much of a tangent for Azrael's liking. Instead, can you consider this question:
Does the victims being humans make it worse (versus say cows or chimpanzees)?

Suppose instead it's a very large population of chimpanzees that have the disease. Would it change the moral underpinnings of the choice?

In my opinion it would. As ucim puts it, it's a sliding scale: We should treat chimpanzees more humanely than we would treat a mouse, and should treat a mouse more humanely than we would treat an ant.

How many chimpanzees would have to die for it to be worse than one human being dying? I don't know. But it would be a lot. Perhaps even all of them. I would without hesitation kill all mice to save one human being though. It's possibly a question for another thread...

On the other hand, when super-AI evolve that have a greater degree of consciousness and depth of emotion than humans have, how many human beings would have to die before it would be worse than one super-AI dying - assuming all were innocent and decent beings of course? Gosh. That's an even harder question......

Coming back towards this thread a little more though, I can't really better the eloquence of ucim's last post. There is much insight there. In particular:

ucim wrote:You seem to be looking at it from the POV of people being a valuable thing. I think that's a mistake. It is the relationships with people that is the valuable thing. Try looking at your questions from that POV; there may be insight to be had.

This would explain why, for example, people get outraged over the thought of strangers in China eating dogs, but the same people probably give little thought to eating pigs, which are also highly social animals of not dissimilar intelligence.

It's less that people value dogs over pigs, and more that they value their relationships with dogs over pigs.

It's why if someone was cruel to a family pet, people would be outraged - and feel similar emotions to if someone was cruel to an actual family member. Because, in many ways, the relationship is equivalent, even though the species is not.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jun 05, 2015 4:21 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
Cradarc wrote:Elasto,
I really want to rebut you, but it might be too much of a tangent for Azrael's liking. Instead, can you consider this question:
Does the victims being humans make it worse (versus say cows or chimpanzees)?

Suppose instead it's a very large population of chimpanzees that have the disease. Would it change the moral underpinnings of the choice?

In my opinion it would. As ucim puts it, it's a sliding scale: We should treat chimpanzees more humanely than we would treat a mouse, and should treat a mouse more humanely than we would treat an ant.

How many chimpanzees would have to die for it to be worse than one human being dying? I don't know. But it would be a lot. Perhaps even all of them. I would without hesitation kill all mice to save one human being though. It's possibly a question for another thread...


Depends on the person.

It's why if someone was cruel to a family pet, people would be outraged - and feel similar emotions to if someone was cruel to an actual family member. Because, in many ways, the relationship is equivalent, even though the species is not.


Yup. I'd choose my hedgehog's well being over many a person's. Pets are essentially family. The fact that they aren't human isn't all that important in the end.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Cradarc » Sat Jun 06, 2015 3:57 am UTC

ucim wrote:It is the relationships with people that is the valuable thing. Try looking at your questions from that POV; there may be insight to be had.

I have. In fact, I wanted people to think about this:
Cradarc wrote:(Israel was chosen due to its ties to the West and its small size and well-protected borders. Would it make a difference if the nation in question was North Korea or El Savador?)

But apparently that is against forum policies. We are only allowed to talk about generics here, things with objective answers.

I think there's value in talking about different points of views even if there is mutual understanding that an objective one does not exist. The goal is to get people (including myself) thinking about the complexity and nuances in our personal moral values and those of others.

Back to the topic:
So we've agreed that everyone has a sliding scale when it comes to evaluating the lives of others. How is it then that society as a whole has embraced certain aspects of this sliding scale but rejected others?
It's okay if someone thinks chimps are inferior, but not okay if he/she thinks people from Israel/North Korea/El Savador are inferior. Not only do we have a sliding scale about morality, we also appear to have a sliding scale about meta-morality.
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby ucim » Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:21 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Not only do we have a sliding scale about morality, we also appear to have a sliding scale about meta-morality.
Yes, pretty much everything is on a sliding scale, with a movable do.

Cradarc wrote:We are only allowed to talk about generics here, things with objective answers.
I think the idea is that we're not supposed to be deliberately and provocatively offensive when the same point can be made other ways. This is in general a good rule, because it helps prevent an otherwise serious discussion from getting emotionally derailed. You say you want the focus to be on how our relationship with {fill-in} affects our judgment, but the discussion would most likely turn into one about the actual merits of {fill-in}, which is besides the point. See how the "Orthodox Jewdaism/sexism" thread dances around that border.

Cradarc wrote:It's okay if someone thinks chimps are inferior, but not okay if he/she thinks people from Israel/North Korea/El Savador are inferior.
Again, you are framing it as being about {chimps} or {people from <fill-in>}. Try reframing the question to be about the responder's relationship with {fill-in}. Granted, the question is harder to word, but isn't that what you said you wanted to discuss in the first place?

And the question isn't even "is it ok...?". It's more like "What is it about what you value that leads you to make {judgment about something}? For that, you absolutely need to ask a "What do you value?" question, because you and I may well value different things, leading to different judgments. It's not the judgments that are interesting.

So... you first.
What is it that you value that leads you to ask these questions in the first place?
What is it that you value that leads you to frame them in absolutes?

Jose
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Cradarc » Sun Jun 07, 2015 3:30 am UTC

ucim wrote:What is it that you value that leads you to ask these questions in the first place?
What is it that you value that leads you to frame them in absolutes?

I ask these questions not because I'm struggling with moral quandaries but because I seek intellectual stimulus. I like to see how people think and understand different perspectives.
I see morality in absolutes. If somebody is doing something wrong, they are doing something wrong, even if they are convinced that they are doing the right thing. The "sliding scale" is a matter of perception, not morality itself. Subjectivity is merely the lack of consensus.

I frame my question in absolutes because they should be absolutes to each individual responding to them. Why would you feel a need to speak for someone else? Say what you know is the right answer and describe why it's obvious. If somebody disagrees, it would be an opportunity to look into their thought process.
A person has no firm stance on a moral issue only if:
a) They have never thought about it before. In which case, they will need some time to think it through.
b) They are too influenced by social pressure to settle on a decision.
c) They have become so accustomed to thinking in different perspectives that they see their own convictions with no more validity than those of someone else.
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby Puppyclaws » Sun Jun 07, 2015 3:50 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:A person has no firm stance on a moral issue only if:
a) They have never thought about it before. In which case, they will need some time to think it through.
b) They are too influenced by social pressure to settle on a decision.
c) They have become so accustomed to thinking in different perspectives that they see their own convictions with no more validity than those of someone else.


I reject your reality.

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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby ucim » Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:50 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:I see morality in absolutes. If somebody is doing something wrong, they are doing something wrong, even if they are convinced that they are doing the right thing.


You are wrong, even if you are convinced that you are right.

Morality is about what you value. Different people will value different things because they grew up with different experiences, and those experiences shape who that person is. To say that everybody should value (for example) personal freedom over family relationships (or v.v.) is just asinine. The idea smacks of cold blood.

I do not value cold blood.

Therefore, I completely reject your statements and the horse they rode in on.

Jose
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Re: Under what circumstances can humans be culled?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Jun 07, 2015 5:47 am UTC

I have created a thread for discussing the objectivity (or lack thereof) of morality.
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Not even sporange.


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