a question about the value of human life

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10 May 2015 05:15 #191462 by LuCrae Jiddu
Replied by LuCrae Jiddu on topic a question about the value of human life
Science is as blind as justice. I'm not sure why the inclusion of eradication was necessary for colonization. These, to me, are mutually exclusive issues: 1) does science give reason for not eradicating 99% (or 95%) of Earth's population. 2) If at all possible, should humanity attempt to colonize the solar system and beyond.

As for your first question. Ethically? No, again science is as blind as justice. As a question on the sustainability of humanity with such great loss, I don't know. It would be a difficult, yet, perhaps an interesting question to answer; though, I hope we are never faced with such a dilemma.

And the second. Yes, we should explore and colonize as quickly as possible.

More so, I'm interested in why the question is posed. Other than philosophical debate, I see no reward from musing over the idea of 6.3 billion deaths. Seems a great disturbance in the force would be felt, to say the least.

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10 May 2015 05:42 - 10 May 2015 05:43 #191464 by OB1Shinobi
i am considering the possibility that it is religious thought alone which holds human life as valuable

and that a purely scientific society would likely result in a small number of people having the power and the motive to kill off the rest of the planet

and no real argument or reason not to

and that this is not a smart thing to do

to promote a world view which allows for the justification of mass genocide

and also provides the means of accomplising it

that seems a bad idea to me

someone has recently suggested to me that it was religions promotion of the idea of truth as holy

and as sacred in ts own right and for its own sake

which lead to the scientific method to begin with

and that regardless of whether we can see a logic in promoting the idea that humanity is valuable

we should not at all promote the idea that it ISNT

because this will eventually result in mass murder on a global scale (as opposed to a national or regional scale)

it would very likely be only a matter of time

quite a few very intelligent people have made the case that we have come very very close to this already, a la the cold war

and it might be that there would be no way to avoid it under the condition of science itself as the sole arbiter of truth in human civilization

i understand that there may be no way to avoid it anyway

what i am wondering is if there is any reason to think that it would not be an inevitable outcome within a global society which existed under a purely scientific banner

i started this thread to explore these ideas

so far the results are not hopeful

People are complicated.
Last edit: 10 May 2015 05:43 by OB1Shinobi.

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10 May 2015 05:45 - 10 May 2015 05:47 #191465 by Locksley
I have found strength where one does not look for it: in simple, mild, and pleasant people, without the least desire to ruleā€”and, conversely, the desire to rule has often appeared to me a sign of inward weakness: they fear their own slave soul and shroud it in a royal cloak (in the end, they still become the slaves of their followers, their fame, etc.) The powerful natures dominate, it is a necessity, they need not lift one finger. Even if, during their lifetime, they bury themselves in a garden house!

Funny, I've been thinking about Nietzche, and what his actual thoughts on 'Will to Power' were. And then this pops up.


So no, science doesn't provide any direct, ethical reason. There are ethical constraints within the scientific community - at least traditionally - but that doesn't necessarily arise from science as much as it does from society, parents; the environment - and also to some extent possibly innate, at least in terms of emotions.

There does seem to be something more at work 'behind the scenes' in terms of why the question was asked, but as this is the internet and subtext is not necessarily easy to read - especially given the varieties of personal text-based grammar in use among various members of the www community - it cannot be assumed. The question itself is not innately "scientific" however, and would perhaps have been better served within the "philosophy" section. Because that's what this is - a philosophical brain game, designed partially to evoke an emotional response and partially to expand logical thought.

So let's see - we'll ignore the reiteration because it doesn't really seem to make any sense in connection to the first - or rather, it's an extraneous addition. The original did just fine.

f a man has the power to kill off 99% of the human population and place himself as supreme emperor of the remaining [population] - and devote the majority of the remaining workforce to ensuring the colonization of space...and the majority of the rest of his personal time to having as many children as [possible], does science offer any reason that he should NOT do it?


Alright, so to rephrase:


(1) Is genocide morally wrong?

(2) If so, why?

(3) What makes you think so?


Well, in order to answer this I'd suggest that we need to start way back along the road, somewhere around the question: "what is morality". I mean we're looking at this issue and trying to decide basically if there is some sort of underlying reason why killing people is wrong, or if it's solely the product of environment - jumping back to the early point about ulterior motives, the idea that there needs to be a social construct to train morality would seem to be the actual central argument in the lining. I'm frankly not entirely certain that that is incorrect - however that does not in any way mean that the social construct need be a religion or any form of spiritual organization, it could well be any code of social conduct implemented in the populace at the youngest possible age. This view sees it as simply social conditioning. It's also still missing something fundamental, which I still feel can be best considered by trying to figure out the root cause of the dilemma itself: morality (what is right and what is wrong). We can argue that a social construct is what gives the individuals in a society their general moral guidelines, but that society could just as easily be raised to believe that genocide is dandy as it could to believe that all life deserves to live.


Scientifically speaking I really think Connor said it already though - science is apathetic to people's personal beliefs. It simply does what it does, damn personal opinion. Which is one of the reasons why it's such a powerful tool.
Last edit: 10 May 2015 05:47 by Locksley.
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10 May 2015 06:06 - 10 May 2015 06:31 #191467 by OB1Shinobi
thank you for your response and the time it required

i have no idea how people interpret my words

i am explaining myself as well as i am able

the proposition i am working with is that science provides the means and ability to kill off pretty much everyone

without offering any reason not to

in fact i wonder if it is not eventually scientifically justifiable to do exactly that if you find yourself in the positon to be the one who makes the determination of who lives and who doesnt

and again, if this is the logical result, or at least A logical result- is it not a really good idea to acknowledge this and to counter it as soon as possible?

i would think "yes"

(EDIT - when i say "result" here i mean "result of a global civilization which promotes our current science as the only relevant/reliable source of truth)

it seemed to me when i wanted to get the conversation going that to present it as "hey this is what i think is true" was less polite and less interactive than "hey heres a question, who has an answer?"

i would actually be just as happy if someone could make a compelling case that i am missing something in my logic

because in this particular instance i would prefer to find the theory i am entertaining to be proven wrong

so far it seems not to be the case

(EDIT also, this is not MY theory- it is A theory which i have encountered and am exploring)

People are complicated.
Last edit: 10 May 2015 06:31 by OB1Shinobi.
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10 May 2015 07:56 #191470 by Locksley

OB1Shinobi wrote: thank you for your response and the time it required

i have no idea how people interpret my words


You're welcome. :)
As for interpretations - that's the point I made in my post - they're easily mistaken on the internet. Because of the medium, a post in forum "A" takes with it the whole slew of experiences people have had with the poster in forum "B", "C", and "D". It's a bad habit honestly, because it devalues the conversation and places it below the supposed personal status's of the individuals discussing it. That said, I think it's of supreme importance to be aware of how one interprets other people's communication, and of equal importance for one to assess how their communication might be interpreted by others. Understanding that solves a lot of hassles before they start. :side:

But anyway... sorry for the weird formatting in the last post by the way. I really hate that we can't edit posts here.

it seemed to me when i wanted to get the conversation going that to present it as "hey this is what i think is true" was less polite and less interactive than "hey heres a question, who has an answer?"


Yes, much better. You know what they say about opinions. ;) Besides, posing a question shows that you're earnestly working towards some sort of understanding, yes? That's good - it means that you really want to find flaws in this particular line of reasoning, and you're looking for input. All good in my book.

i would actually be just as happy if someone could make a compelling case that i am missing something in my logic

because in this particular instance i would prefer to find the theory i am entertaining to be proven wrong

so far it seems not to be the case


However this isn't quite true, or quite fair - I think. Not fair in the sense of unfair to the participants in the discussion, but unfair to the weight of the discussion itself. Connor's point was valid - if a bit wryly acerbic - but there's nothing wrong with a little humor! I did however try to make the point in my post that, in order to even begin to find a reasonable footing, I feel we need to step back a long way away and actually reassess our opinions on this topic from the ground up.

See, the fact of the matter is that this is not a new discussion - in the course of human history. We're talking now in terms of so-called global extinction (a relatively new phenomena in itself, true enough), but really it boils down to the much simpler standard question of "what is morality", which is what I was trying to get at. Another piece of the question might be "just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should: is this correct?" Because the real point here is that science is a system of thought, analysis, deconstruction, and observation - it is a tool, and like any tool can be misused. That is not a point in contention I think - surely Oppenheimer would agree with me. But the question you seem to be raising sounds suspiciously like "it's science's fault", which is another question that needs solitary consideration before connecting it to the whole. The aforementioned noted scientist and many of his colleges battled with this same moral conundrum after the fruits of their work killed over 220,0000 people over fifty years ago.

"Does the scientist obsessed with the pure act of discovery immoral if he uses science to create something which another person might use for ill ends?" What sort of moral responsibility does a scientist have to his work? Opinions on this varies greatly from person to person, because it's not an issue set within the core of science, but rather within the individual scientist and the society in which (s)he lives.

and again, if this is the logical result, or at least A logical result- is it not a really good idea to acknowledge this and to counter it as soon as possible?

i would think "yes"


Fair enough, but again it's not a simple answer. I'm relatively certain it's not too difficult to see now that it's not science itself, as a system of approaching the observation and understanding of the universe, which is responsible - or even capable of being responsible - for the problem. Rather this is a social discussion - when brought into the terms of real-world consideration. Else it's a matter of philosophic debate. In either case I believe that the best way to go about understanding the subject is through careful deconstruction of the subject, by first figuring out what our terminology means, why it exists, and what it stands for.

Sidenote: I remember reading a really interesting essay on the topic of the word "genocide" a while back that was arguing that the term isn't well-defined enough to be used. A counter argument that came up in an article written by a biology professor was that the term encompasses a subject that otherwise has no match in the vocabulary... that we needed a word which could encompass such a large and abstract idea as "the death of a people".


Point is, it's not a simple discussion, and there will be no simple answers - especially not on an online forum. Conversation might be sparked, which is always good, but it wouldn't make sense to expect an "answer" to a subject this complex, vague, and (at least on an emotional level) troubling. Certainly not before a discussion has even had the chance to begin.

So, either we find a new place to start the discussion, or we could go with my previous question and see where that takes us - without forgetting the reason we started discussing it in the first place (which forums actually make easier! :laugh: )

From earlier:

I'd suggest that we need to start way back along the road, somewhere around the question: "what is morality"

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10 May 2015 08:01 - 10 May 2015 08:03 #191471 by Locksley

OB1Shinobi wrote: i am considering the possibility that it is religious thought alone which holds human life as valuable


It was clear from the beginning that there was more to the argument, which is fine, but this topic really belonged in the philosophy section, and it would have been better to lead with the whole point you were trying to make from the beginning. If you want an honest discussion, the topic needs to be as clearly defined as you can make it, and if you don't want an honest discussion I just wasted an hour of my life typing at my keyboard - c'est la vie.

Edit: everything in my above post stands however. The discussion cannot be disappointing until we've actually had a discussion.
Last edit: 10 May 2015 08:03 by Locksley.
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10 May 2015 09:36 #191476 by Gisteron
No structure of thought is so failure-proof that it would stop everyone from massacring the entire planet. Science, while demanding a few moral standards relevant to productive scientific work, is not strictly in the business of dictating or indeed even suggesting morals. All it can do is inform us about some of the short and long term consequences of our actions. This seems like too little at first; however, this is more than we get from anything else and arguably the most we even can get. The question "why be moral at all?" is one that has been troubling moral philosophers in ages now and seems ever more to be an insoluble one. Why indeed?
To say that life in general or human life in particular is inherently valuable or sacred really doesn't help. It is a label with no content. What does it mean that it is valuable or sacred? And, even granting that we understand what this means, the question of "why should we care?" remains as solid as it was before and we can confidently go on and murder everyone with no reason not to.
Even under divine command theory, at best one could say that one should follow the deities will either because axiomatically one should or because deviating from it bears undesirable consequences. Why we should avoid those or why there is anything good about the commands remains unanswered. Equally unanswered remains why we should care what is good and what isn't.
Other deontological models fail for similar reasons. If they are internally consistent, they still lack justification from outside.
Consequentionalist frameworks tend not to bother much with ultimate justification either, but given a few basic precepts they can in principle lead to fleshed out models of various applicability, though one soon ventures ouside of consequentionalism, depending on how complicated it gets.
Virtue ethics likewise tell you nothing about why you should care to try for their definition of a good life, they just assert what it takes and sometimes why they think so.
Science can at best claim to be a consequentionalist's best tool. It tries to learn what will happen given starting points, but whether you care and to what extent and what goals you pursue and why is completely outside of it.

They are at best outside of all moral thought, current and past, aided or not aided by knowledge, and at worst addressed in a rude equivalent of "coz we said so, that's why". The difference with science is that unlike arm-chair philosophy, it can demonstrate some correspondence to the reality we happen to live in. That is not to say that philosophy in general or moral thought in particular are overall inferior - far from it! Rather science has the disadvantage of being restricted to the world it can operate in and for this reason tries to do within it as accurate as it can, thus creating an advantage to compensate for the limitation the advantage spawns from.

Better to leave questions unanswered than answers unquestioned
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10 May 2015 14:53 #191494 by LuCrae Jiddu
Replied by LuCrae Jiddu on topic a question about the value of human life
Stating your question as it has morphed, I read:

Does science hold an ethical (moral) foundation? And, if not, do we rely solely on religion for said ethics?

Am I closure to the heart of your question? If I am I would answer your question by say, No science holds no inherent moral basis as it is a means of gaining knowledge; a tool for aquirment of the intangible. As well, I would agree with Locksley that any ethical basis within science is a manifestation of the culture utilizing the application.

However, with that said, I also do not see myth (religion) as the foundation of human morality;as it too is a tool. A tool utilized for the application of moral understanding. Ethics and morality seem to have evolved into the collective as a means of understanding the individual's role within a greater society. What is morality was one of the first philosophical debates and continues to this day, as evidenced in this discussion. It seems to have derived from our need for understanding why we are here; and thereby how we may utilize this manifestation.

I too am interested in why and how, but do not see a need for religion or science to direct my morality as much as reason and logic.

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10 May 2015 15:49 #191498 by CryojenX
Replied by CryojenX on topic a question about the value of human life
It is questions such as this that have convinced me of the amorality, and thus incomplete nature of science as a tool for good.

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10 May 2015 17:03 - 10 May 2015 17:07 #191501 by Khaos
Replied by Khaos on topic a question about the value of human life

i am considering the possibility that it is religious thought alone which holds human life as valuable


Hmm, your conclusion that it is religion that holds life as sacred or of value is only as true as the people under whatever religion... Well, you certainly have a selective memory in regards to history...

Given how much death has happened in the name of religion, despite all it teaches about sacredness of life and being a good person, it is strange how science is the one on the block for what it does and doesnt give.

Religion creates and us and them mentality.

By its very nature, if you state this and this is good, and that, and that, is sin, well, lets look at history and you will see how sacred an religion holds the value of life and how it teaches more that might makes right then being a god person does.

Science on the other hand makes no claims to make you a better person from the outset, and so there is no deception.

It is available to all, and so, it only creates and us and them mentality through a religious lens, and monetary one sometimes.

f a man has the power to kill off 99% of the human population and place himself as supreme emperor of the remaining [population] - and devote the majority of the remaining workforce to ensuring the colonization of space...and the majority of the rest of his personal time to having as many children as [possible], does science offer any reason that he should NOT do it?



Hmm, except for the colonization of space, this scenario has been played out by the religious plently. Perhaps not killing 99% of the population, but certainly a good number of it,( in some regards 99%, or a whole culture) and then enslaving the rest and then having lots of kids, and while science may not provide adequate reasons NOT to do it, religion has provided man with plenty of reason to do it.

Science has shown us many things in regards to environment and other factors in which our destructive behavior is not helpful.

Not based on some arbitrary notions of good or bad, but continued existence, or not.



Last edit: 10 May 2015 17:07 by Khaos.

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