Friday, November 26, 2010

Not an engineering problem

A Columbia professor considers the problem of sick or otherwise expensive infants.

The killing of a newborn (neonaticide) is an act that we all instinctively abhor, and, under most circumstances, this revulsion is appropriate. The basic reason we feel this way is that we have in mind images of our own children, or grandchildren, or those of friends or relatives at that stage of life. Obviously the defective newborn situation discussed above is rather different. The above-mentioned cases of child-mothers call for further thought. The key point is that, in such cases, the mother does not want the infant. Assume that, as is usual in such cases, neither does the father. What kind of future would lie ahead for newborns whose parents do not want them?

Our prisons are filled with such people. While there are, indeed, many examples of wonderful people, living fulfilling lives, despite having grown up in miserable circumstances with uncaring, or missing, parents, they are the exceptions, illustrating the remarkable resiliency of humans. Many more victims of such conditions find little happiness, and often inflict a great deal of misery on others thru criminal behavior.

Yes, let's kill all of the people who statistically will be problems. No point in putting any effort into making the world a better place, it's cheaper to kill them.

And of course the usual swipe at religion towards the end, about how I shouldn't impose my religious morality that we should spend money on trying to care for sick children. Alas, the good doctor doesn't consider that it is only my religious morality that prevents me from proposing death for those who hold such opinions. But such is all you can expect when you base a morality around the idea that

The absence of a strong, well enforced, and well known law against killing people would cause painful, well justified, anxiety among all who are capable of understanding that their lives are not protected.

Anxiety. Sounds like a good base to build a society around, people's anxiety. Somehow he does carve out an exemption later for people who become senile or otherwise mentally incapacitated, though he doesn't get around to explaining where that fits in your system. Nor how this interacts with the fact that adults might place themselves in the position of the unfortunate children in this drama and wish to protect some past version of themselves from harm. Not a Rawlsian, then, which is probably a good thing since he tends to make not much sense after a while.

He was a good digital logic professor at any rate.

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