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Morals and Technology I

By kraant in News
Tue May 09, 2000 at 04:32:29 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

There have been lots of comments in the mp3 threads that morality has to adapt to technology, assuming that adaptation of morals to advancing technology is not only inevitable but right. And it makes me wonder how far people are willing to challenge themselves in keeping this consistent with their views on other controversial topics.

If there is one major area where morality has patently failed to keep up with advances of technology it is Bioethics...


Advances in technology have not only created a morning after pill and assisted reproductive technology but have even raised the possibility of human cloning in a world that is still having trouble dealing with abortion. Even the seemingly morally straight-forward use of the morning after pill generates flak.

This isn't to say that the liberal side of the debate is not without it's faults. Because, excepting a few brave individuals like Peter Singer, they are forced by their squeamishness to hold a very schizophrenic worldview.

As it happened with Peter Singer, anyone who dares point to out that if you accept the morality of a pro-choice stance, it is hard to argue against the euthanisation of young children, the retarded and senile elderly, without resorting to convoluted mental gymanastics; in other words sophistry.

Part of the problem is that deciding when the killing of a person is justifiable and when it is not is very arbitrary. Some say it is justifiable up to the first trimester, others say it is justifiable up to birth itself. This arbitrariness is necessary because only a definition of sanctioned killing restricted to an arbitrary time frame well in advance of the possibility of birth, or restricted only to the unborn, can avoid viewing the aforementioned young children as having no real right to life.

Not just that, but quite often the same people who believe in pro-choice still get squeemish about the thought of cloning individual organs as spare parts, or performing experiments on foetuses. To be honest I have never understood this, I mean if they are worthless enough to have no right to life then why not at least use them to contribute to humanity's greater good after their death?

Personally, I think that the western world is currently undergoing the ethical equivalent of a paradigm shift, advances in technology and changes in culture have resulted in the proverbial rug being pulled out from underneath everyone's basic assumptions on morality. But a lot of people are still pretending it hasn't happened, or adding parts of the new reality ad-hoc to their worldview without refactoring the rest of their world to fit with it.

Sooner or later something is going to break... It's a question of what breaks first.

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Morals and Technology I | 47 comments (47 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
This should be interesting. 8^)= ... (4.20 / 5) (#11)
by genehack on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:32:23 PM EST

genehack voted 1 on this story.

This should be interesting. 8^)=

If I may, let me attempt to alter the debate somewhat by restating one of your opinions:

You said: Part of the problem is that deciding when the killing of a person is j ustifiable and when it is not is very arbitrary.

I would argue instead that The Unwritten Rules(TM) say that killing of a person is never justifiable, but the killing of non-people is. Currently, The Written Rules(TM) say you become a person after the first trimester, and remain a person until you die, unless you do something Really Bad, in which case your person-hood is revoked, and then it's okay to kill you.

I'm not claiming that these are good or fair rules, just attempting to state them clearly so we can all be on the same page when we start to talk...

Re: This should be interesting. 8^)=... (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by fluffy grue on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:58:28 PM EST

Unfortunately, a lot of people (and legal precedents) seem to think that being non-normal also makes you a non-person. For example, transsexuals have absolutely no legal protection against discrimination due to gender, which is just plain ass-backwards (correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't transsexuality just atypical gender?). Until recently, homosexuality, participating in cunningulus or fellatio, and having sex in anything other than the missionary position were listed in medical texts as dire mental problems. Society has a long way to go before it can start defining when a non-person can be killed, since it technically has ME listed as a non-person simply for not being an XY chromosomal male who's happy to be an XY chromosomal male.

Myself, I feel that abortion within the first trimester or when the mother is endangered is justified, because at that point, the fetus really can't be considered a separate entity; aside from a couple of medical flukes which the pro-lifers love to cling to, a 3-month-old fetus really can't survive on its own. After that point, everyone has the right to live, provided they haven't stolen that right from someone else. To me, only murder proven beyond a shadow of a doubt and then some is worthy of becoming a non-person. Otherwise, euthanasia of those who have already been born is unjustifiable. I don't see any "mental gymnastics" taking place here, either.

That said, I do think that a lot of people should be mandatorially spayed or neutered. There is absolutely no value in certain people breeding; if they really want a child and can prove that they can handle one, then they can always adopt. (And hey, if I were selected for manatory neutering for some reason, I certainly won't have an issue with that, but then again, I'm weird and want it anyway. :)


--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: This should be interesting. 8^)=... (2.00 / 2) (#23)
by genehack on Tue May 09, 2000 at 06:23:20 PM EST

Society has a long way to go before it can start defining when a non-person can be killed

Actually, no, we're pretty much already defining that, and have been since the dawn of time. I'll agree with you that we're doing a piss-poor job of it, and that we need to improve, but the defining is going to happen anyway. Doesn't make it right, by any means, but that's the way it works.

I'll also go ahead and quibble on the provided they haven't stolen that right from someone else provision, because I think there are acts that stop short of killing another person that are still heinous enough to warrant death. Extreme child abuse. Extreme hate crimes (insert 'racial cleansing rapes' here). The front page story in the Washington Post yesterday about Palestinian men who think it's justifiable to maim their wives' faces if they suspect them of an affair would make the list. (I'm not talking about a little cut here; the woman in question had her eyes gouged out and her nose and ears cut off.) The non-people capable of those things are dangerous to real people; caging them is expensive, and dangerous for the cagers -- what other solution do you see?

[ Parent ]

Re: This should be interesting. 8^)=... (none / 0) (#28)
by fluffy grue on Tue May 09, 2000 at 10:01:42 PM EST

Well, what I was getting at with having a long way to go before defining when a non-person may be killed was because society's definition of when someone is a non-person really, really sucks. Again, I'd be classified as a non-person by MANY people out there simply because my sex and gender don't match and, specifically, my gender isn't in one of the two prescribed buckets. Sounds like you agree with me though.

In any case, 'robbing someone of their life' can be taken to mean as something short of murder. All of the things you listed *definitely* count as such in my book.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: This should be interesting. 8^)=... (none / 0) (#31)
by kraant on Tue May 09, 2000 at 11:27:03 PM EST

I would argue instead that The Unwritten Rules(TM) say that killing of a person is never justifiable, but the killing of non-people is. Currently, The Written Rules(TM) say you become a person after the first trimester, and remain a person until you die, unless you do something Really Bad, in which case your person-hood is revoked, and then it's okay to kill you.

Heh Yet again TWIAVBP strikes again *g*

Keep in mind I'm from Australia where the death penalty is viewed as something totaly and utterly wrong. And therefore never used.

This is the same place which recently had a transport flying over a hostile countries airspace with 2 unarmed fighters as escort :P (and narrowly avoided an incident)

... Yes we are insane

daniel - who is impressed and happy about how mature the level of discussion has been so far :)
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

Re: This should be interesting. 8^)=... (none / 0) (#35)
by genehack on Wed May 10, 2000 at 06:49:53 AM EST

TWIAVBP strikes again

Wha? Expand that there acronym, if you don't mind.

This is the same place which recently had a transport flying over a hostile countries airspace with 2 unarmed fighters as escort

What was the thinking behind that stunningly brillant idea? "Well, those fighters look mighty scary -- that should cut it" "Right!"

[ Parent ]

Many many people belive many many s... (1.00 / 1) (#1)
by Nyarlathotep on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:44:45 PM EST

Nyarlathotep voted -1 on this story.

Many many people belive many many stupid things. If technology can disrupt/marginalize these stupid beliefs then we wil all be better off. The only problem with Technology is when government or companies have exclusive control over it since they have the power to introduce it in a manor which achives their social goals.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!

Re: Many many people belive many many s... (none / 0) (#36)
by CodeWright on Wed May 10, 2000 at 07:56:07 AM EST

Once again, I have to agree with Nyarlathotep

Nanotech and braintaping will go a long way towards changing (marginalizing? obsoleting?) stupid beliefs.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Rounding up and sideways from "conf... (none / 0) (#2)
by marlowe on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:47:13 PM EST

marlowe voted 1 on this story.

Rounding up and sideways from "conflicted". Even though it's gonna turn into a flamewar, this has got to be aired. And anyway, what does it mean for a change in morality to be "right"? When I try to parse that, it loops back on itself.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

Nice and political. A good way to r... (none / 0) (#4)
by End on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:54:51 PM EST

End voted -1 on this story.

Nice and political. A good way to rile things up on a slow day, perhaps. There's no paradigm shift going on here, just things going from bad to worse, like they always do at the tail-end of a nation's life-cycle.

-JD

This is an interesting topic, and i... (none / 0) (#12)
by Qtmstr on Tue May 09, 2000 at 01:13:30 PM EST

Qtmstr voted 1 on this story.

This is an interesting topic, and it would be nice to discuss this.


Kuro5hin delenda est!

Ugh. No abortion trolling, *please*... (none / 0) (#8)
by Decklin Foster on Tue May 09, 2000 at 01:45:13 PM EST

Decklin Foster voted -1 on this story.

Ugh. No abortion trolling, *please*.

Anyone who hasn't read "Brave New W... (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by Anonymous Zero on Tue May 09, 2000 at 02:24:59 PM EST

Anonymous Zero voted 1 on this story.

Anyone who hasn't read "Brave New World" by now should. In this sci-fi futurist novel written in the 1920's, the author Huxley foresee a future where all of the populace is addicted to "soma" a drug which basically numbs everyone and keeps them orderly as citizens in a environment swimming with ethical dilemma. Huxleys predictions where amazingly accurate... soma does exist today and everyone is addicted to it. Soma numbs our perspectives, keeps us happy, entertains us, forms our opinions for us, and we are all hopelessly addicted to it... we call it "television".

Re: Anyone who hasn't read (none / 0) (#13)
by Paul Dunne on Tue May 09, 2000 at 04:45:19 PM EST

TV -- just say no.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: Anyone who hasn't read (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by rusty on Tue May 09, 2000 at 04:52:29 PM EST

Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own A Television. ;-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Anyone who hasn't read (none / 0) (#15)
by Paul Dunne on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:13:50 PM EST

I am that man! Er, except that although I don't own a telly, my girlfriend owns THREE, which I guess compensates somewhat. Oh, well....
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: Anyone who hasn't read (none / 0) (#16)
by analog on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:25:09 PM EST

Umm, I don't want to step on anybody's toes here, but doesn't that seem to say something about your compatibility...?

Yes, the preceding comment comes from analog, who hates both television and conspiracy theories, and whose wife is hopelessly addicted to the X Files...

[ Parent ]

Re: Anyone who hasn't read (none / 0) (#17)
by Paul Dunne on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:27:01 PM EST

Didn't you just answer your own question?!
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: Anyone who hasn't read (none / 0) (#19)
by analog on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:53:47 PM EST

Why yes, I did... obviously, though, I'm not nearly as amusing as I think I am... ;)

[ Parent ]
I can certainly agree that it's tou... (4.70 / 3) (#9)
by Rasputin on Tue May 09, 2000 at 02:26:29 PM EST

Rasputin voted 1 on this story.

I can certainly agree that it's tough not to be a Sophist, especially when trying to be a moral relativist ;).

For those of us who make decisions based on rational thought AND personal experience, it's almost impossible not to have a few unpopular opinions. Experience is probably the most important part of forming consistent opinions. I could (as an example) tell you about my thoughts on humanitarian aid, but it sounds heartless and cruel unless you were with me in Rwanda during the civil war/genocide.

Should be an amusing discussion piece here.
Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

Damn straight. Wise people have bee... (none / 0) (#3)
by inspire on Tue May 09, 2000 at 03:35:59 PM EST

inspire voted 1 on this story.

Damn straight. Wise people have been warning against technological solutions to social problems for a long time.
--
What is the helix?

Hmm, a number of interesting refere... (none / 0) (#6)
by pvg on Tue May 09, 2000 at 03:55:24 PM EST

pvg voted -1 on this story.

Hmm, a number of interesting references, high on unsubstantiated editorialization, no clear common thread. Worth discussing, needs a rewrite (and perhaps a narrowing of focus?)

Absolutely. We're still living in ... (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by gandalf_grey on Tue May 09, 2000 at 04:31:09 PM EST

gandalf_grey voted 1 on this story.

Absolutely. We're still living in a society based (mostly) on religious doctrine. As that dogma slowly fades into the background, do we require some other basis for morality to replace it? Or is morality a fiction? Or will the laws of man and majority dictate what is moral? Difficult questions all.

Re: Absolutely. We're still living in ... (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by warpeightbot on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:54:41 PM EST

Morality: A set of rules someone wrote in some book somewhere.
Ethics: Guidelines based on the consequences of actions in the current situation.

Obviously morals, being finite and usually not up to date, cannot deal with all the situations that present themselves in the modern world. The thinking individual must resort to ethics, evaluating each situation as it comes up and determining the consequences using the best available information, then deciding if s/he can deal with those consequences.

Forcing someone's morals on another person without their permission is a violation of ethics.



[ Parent ]

Re: Absolutely. We're still living in ... (none / 0) (#38)
by gaudior on Wed May 10, 2000 at 10:56:43 AM EST

Obviously morals, being finite and usually not up to date

The point for those of us who have an absolute worldview, is that you cannot have morality, or ethics, without a POV outside our own frame of reference. Any discussion of morality absent an external, absolute standard of right and wrong is moot.

Whether people like it or not, all discussion of morality and ethics comes back to your fundamental worldview. Either there is an outside, absolute TRUTH to base our ethics on, or there is nothing, and all beliefs are equally valid. In a relativist worldview, nothing can be said to be good, or bad.

Best to all...

[ Parent ]

So there is no such thing as grey (3.00 / 1) (#41)
by error 404 on Wed May 10, 2000 at 06:00:04 PM EST

There is a constant claim of the excluded middle: either you have access to an absolute outside frame of reference (let's not be PC - that means God) or you are a relativist with no right or wrong.

My experience differs.

Religion is rarely a guide for ethics. It is most often a rationalization after the decision has been made. Same way with logic.

People want to do what they want to do, and build an ethic to support their desires, and if it is convenient, religion is used as one of the excuses.

On the other hand, most people, regardless of worldview, want to be part of a group (tribe, city, stamp-collecing club, whatever) where they can have their stuff (hence stealing is wrong) be in a family or at least a pair-bond (and here you get the marriage rules) and not have to watch their back all the time (so killing within your own tribe is strictly regulated). In short, people want rules that make it possible to live a good life with others.

These desires (not worldviews) lead to a set of rules that is fairly consistant from group to group. There are details (insider trading, whether the fork goes on the left or right of the plate) that are only right or wrong in relation to the particular oddities of each group, but the basics are, well basic. Unregulated intentional injuring of members of your own group is wrong everywhere, whether God exists or not. Theft - violating the property transfer protocols of the group - is wrong everywhere, although the specifics of the protocols vary.

If ethics were really derived from worldviews, ethics would be as varied as worldviews, and they aren't, except in the smaller details. Desires are mostly a result of being a particular kind of organism, and so are pretty similar among groups of that kind of organism.

In order to have a meaningful system of ethics, an individual has to be able to go beyond his or her own POV, but theat POV does not have to be absolute, nor does it have to go beyond nature.

"By their fruits shall ye know them." That is a statement from an absolute outside point of view. And it directs those who follow that point of view to use a local frame of reference as a guide.

..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]
Re: So there is no such thing as grey (none / 0) (#46)
by gaudior on Thu May 11, 2000 at 10:32:22 AM EST

"By their fruits shall ye know them." That is a statement from an absolute outside point of view. And it directs those who follow that point of view to use a local frame of reference as a guide.

This is a statement from an outside frame of reference. But the direction is to compare the 'fruits' to the outside frame of reference, not the local.

nor does it have to go beyond nature

God is not beyond nature. The POV must be anchored in something absolute, or else there is no objective standard for judging right from wrong. The fact that most of the world's societies hold very close agreement on ethical issues speaks clearly to the existance of an absolute standard. The Bible calls this "the law of God, written on Man's heart". Jungians might consider it the collective consciousness.

There certainly is room for grey areas in ethics and morality, even within a God-based worldview. There is nothing inconsistent with, say, my view that abortion is homocide, and that capital punishment is an appropriate measure for some crimes. Nor is my conviction about abortion completely absolute. If a pregnant woman is in mortal danger, because of the pregnancy, or some other medical condition, AND she has other dependant children, then abortion of the unborn baby may be an acceptable consequence of the treatment needed to save her life.

This has gotten deeper than I had wanted to go.



[ Parent ]

Re: Absolutely. We're still living in ... (none / 0) (#43)
by scheme on Thu May 11, 2000 at 12:40:31 AM EST

Absolutely. We're still living in a society based (mostly) on religious doctrine. As that dogma slowly fades into the background, do we require some other basis for morality to replace it?

I don't think you can fairly say that religious doctrine is dogma without acknowledging that the an atheistic alternative is also dogmatic. Both sides take it as a matter of faith that there is a God/gods/deities or that there isn't. There really isn't any evidence for either side.

I would also disagree that the religous thought is fading. Although it may seem that way, I think the number of people belong to a religion is steady.

As to your questions, there will be some form of morality because society could not really function without it. Nothing was wrong or right then you could not do anything that requires trusting a stranger. The morals that may replace ones we have now may be different but they will just as powerful.


"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --Albert Einstein


[ Parent ]
Good use of hypertext, but the disc... (1.00 / 1) (#7)
by YellowBook on Tue May 09, 2000 at 04:32:29 PM EST

YellowBook voted 1 on this story.

Good use of hypertext, but the discussion could be more in-depth.

Re: Morals and Technology I (3.20 / 6) (#18)
by mattc on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:42:37 PM EST

Cloning challenges the religious beliefs of billions of people who think there is a 'soul.' It is for this reason that it is so opposed. To atheists, and perhaps some non-soul-believing religious groups, it is no big deal -- but you have to keep in mind -- people who believe these religions really believe them -- they base their whole lives around what is to us a bunch of nonsense. They aren't going to change their views just because science proves they are wrong (until their leaders can devise an alternate explanation).

There are some other reasons people oppose cloning, mainly because they misunderstand what cloning is. Cloning is not like star trek or something where they make a duplicate that is instantly an adult.. the clone has to grow up just like any other baby animal. Cloning will not make perfect duplicates of people. Memory won't be carried over to the clone of course, and there is the whole nature vs nuture thing you have to take into consideration -- a major part of who someone is is from the environment they grew up in. A cloned human would not behave in the exact same manner as his or her original, simply because they would have different experiences growing up, even if they grow up in the same family. It is like identical twins.

As for the abortion debate.. well, it is an old one, and I don't think we can solve it here today :-)

Nature/nuture (was Re: Morals and Technology I) (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by genehack on Tue May 09, 2000 at 06:07:19 PM EST

there is the whole nature vs nuture thing you have to take into consideration

Actually, if we just toss any ethical consideration aside for the moment (Ohh -- it's like being a large corporation -- I feel so, so, so free!), cloning allows us the opportunity to solve the nature/nuture debate, once and for all. All we have to do is generate some fetuses (in vitro fertilization, natch, and we need to have quite a few, so as to get a good representation of parental genotypes), and then clone them before implantation.

Bingo -- implant them in a wide range of potential mothers (across all socioeconomic ranges, all behavioral ranges, etc.), making sure to keep very careful and complete records of who goes where, and then sit back for 30 to 50 years. Once you've got good data on how Rusty#1 turned out differently than Rusty#2, and Rusty#N, extrapolate and generalize. Problem solved.

[ Parent ]

Re: Nature/nuture (was Re: Morals and Technology I (none / 0) (#27)
by bobsquatch on Tue May 09, 2000 at 09:29:42 PM EST

cloning allows us the opportunity to solve the nature/nuture debate, once and for all.

You don't really need cloning; you can study orphaned identical twins raised in different homes. If you can find enough of them, that is...



[ Parent ]

Re: Nature/nuture (was Re: Morals and Technology I (none / 0) (#29)
by genehack on Tue May 09, 2000 at 10:11:29 PM EST

cloning allows us the opportunity to solve the nature/nuture debate, once and for all.

You don't really need cloning; you can study orphaned identical twins raised in different homes. If you can find enough of them, that is...

That's a big if. 8^)=

[ Parent ]

Re: Nature/nuture (was Re: Morals and Technology I (none / 0) (#33)
by rusty on Wed May 10, 2000 at 12:24:04 AM EST

On a more important note, you just raised the specter of multiple me's in the same world, which has totally given me the creeps. I'll get no sleep tonight thinking about more than one me running around, thank you very much!

;-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Nature/nuture (was Re: Morals and Technology I (none / 0) (#40)
by teach1 on Wed May 10, 2000 at 04:10:01 PM EST

Please - one Rusty was quite enough thanks. :-)

[ Parent ]
Re: Morals and Technology I (none / 0) (#24)
by Emilio on Tue May 09, 2000 at 06:24:11 PM EST

Cloning challenges the religious beliefs of billions of people who think there is a 'soul.' It is for this reason that it is so opposed. To atheists, and perhaps some non-soul-believing religious groups, it is no big deal -- but you have to keep in mind -- people who believe these religions really believe them -- they base their whole lives around what is to us a bunch of nonsense. They aren't going to change their views just because science proves they are wrong (until their leaders can devise an alternate explanation).

I doubt most that most people will be spiritually troubled by the existence of clones any more than they are by the existence of twins, triplets, etc. I know itís not the same thing, but for most peopleÖ ? Iím not up on all the dogmas, but isnít the soul independent of the body? Then why do clones matter at all in that aspect? More likely than not, I think you are simplifying the argument against cloning to a religious one so you can pass it off based on your own personal beliefs.


(until their leaders can devise an alternate explanation).

You act as if the same thing doesnít happen all the time in science. How many different theories have been tried and thrown away with time? Most religions donít claim to have all the answers. (Now here is where people will say otherwise, but can they show where most of these religions claim to have the answers?)

Anyway, I donít mean to start a religious argument, but some people like to simplify all of religion to how they want to see it just so that they can pass it off.

[ Parent ]
Re: Morals and Technology I (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by bgdarnel on Tue May 09, 2000 at 10:45:54 PM EST

I doubt most that most people will be spiritually troubled by the existence of clones any more than they are by the existence of twins, triplets, etc.
I think that the spiritual trouble with clones comes from people who believe that a new soul is instantiated and bound to the body when the egg is fertilized. This belief entails the belief that abortion is wrong at any stage of pregnancy as well as the belief that cloning cannot produce (sprititually) normal humans (since fertilization does not take place). Depending on the particular belief system, they may worry that the clones would have no conscience, or conversely that people would have no scruples about mistreating these "sub-human" clones. OTOH, if a human were to be successfully cloned, these beliefs would at least have to be reformulated, and the majority of people don't want to have to think about that possibility.

It is, as you say, entirely possible to believe in the existence of the soul without this conflict arising - for instance, if you believe that the soul is instantiated not at the time of fertilization, but at some later point in development (say, when the fetus begins to show neural activity)

There are, however, rational ethical arguments against cloning - you can't just toss all its critics in the "misinformed" or "religious zealot" bins. For example, suppose we perfect the cloning process. What practical applications will it have? As a method of procreation, it is inferior to the old-fashioned way. Does this mean that clones will always be scientific curiosities? What about the temptation to do what genehack mentioned and use cloning to create identical test subjects? Is it ethical to develop a technology whose potential for harm outweighs its potential for good (I'm not saying this is the case for cloning, just that one could argue the point)? Tremendously harmful technologies have certainly developed in the past, but they have virtually always been motivated by some greater goal. What goal does cloning help us reach?

[ Parent ]

Re: Morals and Technology I (none / 0) (#39)
by mattc on Wed May 10, 2000 at 11:14:45 AM EST

What goal does cloning help us reach?

That is a good point -- beyond figuring out the "nature vs nuture" argument I'm not sure what purpose it serves besides showing that it can be done.

[ Parent ]

Re: Morals and Technology I (none / 0) (#37)
by CodeWright on Wed May 10, 2000 at 08:09:06 AM EST

Cloning will not make perfect duplicates of people

Absolutely right -- cloning is _exactly_ the process of creating a time delayed twin sibling -- if you want a bit for bit copy, you need a nanobot disassembly/assembly copy.... then you can have perfect copies of the same person running around. :)



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
God is generous. (none / 0) (#47)
by jabber on Thu May 11, 2000 at 11:08:25 AM EST

I don't know if the core of the opposition to cloning stems from the belief in a soul.

Rather, it seems to me that people who believe in souls also implicitly believe in a one-to-one mapping of soul to DNA. It's odd, since the beliefs are rooted well before the concept (discovery) of DNA, but still... It seems implied in faith that a soul is meant for a naturally created (conceived) body. I don't understand why man-made is necessarily 'un-natural'. I take exception to that and claim a variation of Pascal's Gambit.

Pascal postulated that there either is a God or there isn't. If there is a God, and we act in accordance to scripture, then we go to Heaven. If there is a God and we act contrary to God's Law, then we go to Hell. If there is no God and we act in accordance to scripture, then we are good people and others benefit. If there is no God and we act contrary to the Bible then we hurt others.

I'm not sure why, but this resonates with me on the subject of cloning. If there is a God, then we can assume God is generous, and will put a unique soul into the clone... If there isn't a God then we're all just meat, and the clone will have a life anyway. That which happens after life is outside reason, and Pascal's Gambit tells us to just be good to each other for goodness sake. :)

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Re: Morals and Technology I (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by Nio Spartan on Tue May 09, 2000 at 06:34:23 PM EST

Great topic, definately!

Two questions which are never addressed in these matters are economics and social status; as "advanced" as we may feel by innovations in technology, there are still social castes we impose upon ourselves and each other.

Added with supply & demand issues for basic necessities of life (which *never* seem to go away, in spite of all intentions), rifts between peoples, even in domestic context, will only increase over time. A perfect example being the isolation of lower-income families in rural areas, as opposed to more "savvy" regions like silicon valley/alley, Redmond, etc.

...So Spake Nio Spartan.
What does courage mean? You can't program it. -Hugo Pratt
"Hate" crimes (3.50 / 4) (#26)
by Dr.Dubious DDQ on Tue May 09, 2000 at 08:32:19 PM EST

This isn't exactly a "technological" issue, but someone mentioned the concept and it struck a nerve...

The notion of treating "hate" crimes as separate from "regular" crimes bothers me greatly.

Having a separate category of "hate" crime does two Really Bad things (IMO, obviously) - Firstly, it seems to imply that some people's lives and rights are worth more than others. If one light-skinned person approaches a dark-skinned person, provokes a fight with racial epithets, then kills that person, it'll be called a "hate crime", and subject to "extra bonus punishments". If, on the other hand, the light-skinned person approaches another light-skinned person, provokes a fight with a non-racial epithet (or any other epithet on the "things it's not extra illegal to mention as insults" list), then kills that person, it's not a "hate crime" and therefore the punishment is less. This implies, in this case, that the light-skinned person's life was worth more than the dark-skinned person's life. (And before anybody gets the wrong idea, you can reverse the situation in regards to skin color and the result is the same).

Most importantly, though, it CRIMINALIZES THOUGHTS. (Okay, maybe many would argue [myself included] that many times 'hating something' isn't much of a 'thought', but still...). What "hate crime" legislation does, in effect, is say "if you commit THIS act against someone else, you get x years in prison. If you thought bad things about that person, you get an additional y years".

A murder is a murder. A rape is a rape. A beating is a beating. I would feel no better about being shot for my shoes than I would about being shot for my skin color.
If I kidnap someone, torture them for weeks, rape them repeatedly, then slice them into tiny pieces and eat them raw, does it really MATTER if I "hated" them or not?

"Given the pace of technology, I propose we leave math to the machines and go play outside." -- Calvin
Re: Morals and Technology I (none / 0) (#32)
by typhatix on Tue May 09, 2000 at 11:45:12 PM EST

When any new technology is unleashed it cannot be bitterly opposed but instead imbraced to lead it into the right direction (nuclear power, mp3s, etc). The idea that because it is new it is RIGHT or because it is different and/or conflicting to existing views makes it WRONG is rediculous. The thing that must be kept in mind, no matter how aweful you see it, is that someone else will disagree and once the knowledge of it is out there, you cannot stop them from doing it.

On a side note, anyone else see this article turn from a question into an anti-abortion rant?

Morals and Killings (none / 0) (#34)
by bricius on Wed May 10, 2000 at 05:25:45 AM EST

    Part of the problem is that deciding when the killing of a person is justifiable and when it is not is very arbitrary. Some say it is justifiable up to the first trimester, others say ...
What?
I think that the killing of a person is never justifiable at all! The discussion you are referring is about deciding when an agglomerate of cellules is to be considered a person on his own, and therefore not killable.

Re: Morals and Killings (none / 0) (#42)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed May 10, 2000 at 11:22:55 PM EST

"Not killable?" Don't make me laugh.

On the other points, I think you're a little off base. What you say is partly true, esp. at the state level. At the federal level though, it's more a question of a woman's right to control what happens to her body. If she wants a 3rd trimester abortion, federal court precedant says okay, regardless of whether the fetus is viable outside the womb.

Why do I make this point? Because it has *nothing* to do with when a mass of cells is considered a person. Look at the counterexample. First, ask any doctor or medical student the following--the fetus is definitely viable (in fact, with a very high survival rate) from early in the 3rd trimester given current medical technologies (even earlier, but we won't bother with that here). If that same fetus was born premature, outside the body, and the mother decided to kill it and did so, she woud be held for murder.

Same number of cells, same time in the development process--outside the womb, murder. Inside the womb, late abortion.

[ Parent ]
Re: Morals and Technology I (none / 0) (#44)
by Alhazred on Thu May 11, 2000 at 09:54:02 AM EST

Read the Minnesota twin studies. They have studied litterally 1000's of twins seperated at birth.

The only flaw with the studies is that they rely on volunteers to contact them, which means the only twins that have been seperated that they can study are ones who rediscovered each other by themselves. This does argue that the sample is biased, but even so there are some pretty incredible parallels at times, like naming their children the same names, marrying spouses who are extremely similar, same jobs, etc.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
Re: Morals and Technology I (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by Alhazred on Thu May 11, 2000 at 10:08:04 AM EST

That line of reasoning just does not hold up at all.

Ethics, as another poster on this thread pointed out can and do spring from the necessities of social interaction. One might posit the existence of an absolute right and wrong, but since we have no evidence for it and no way of recognizing it if we DID see it, the point is moot.

Psychological research has in fact pretty well concluded that people are BORN with a certain moral/ethical substrate hardwired in. That is even the youngest children almost uniformly express statements similar to the golden rule, and will insist that equal division of a cake is "fair", etc. Their cultural/religious upbringing determines exactly which things they consider fair or equitable of course, and the quality of the ethical training we give them determines whether or not an individual will ACTUALIZE their beliefs (IE, will they accept that they SHOULD be ethical and judge themselves based on their ethical behaviour).

Now we can assume this hardwiring was put there by God. Or we can assume that evolution favored ethical individuals. Personally I feel these two views are largely equivalent. The Universe that is our home is vast, complex, and subtle. Whether the work of a God or simply natural law operating blindly, it has shaped us. Wisdom would seem to point towards honoring our ethical instincts, and compassion being one of them it tells me to let others do the same whenever possible. It matters not how they explain WHY they are right. Faith and trust are the glue that holds us all together.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
Morals and Technology I | 47 comments (47 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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