Re: rights for late-term and yet unborn human beings...

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Sat Jan 22 2000 - 09:51:33 MST

On Fri, 21 Jan 2000, john grigg wrote:

> Isn't a late-term fetus (last trimester) to be honest a... baby? Semantics
> are used to make something appear not so human and so more easily disposed
> of.

Its a semenatic issue. The collection of information contained in
a late-term fetus (leaving aside the question of information growth
due to the experience of the parents), probably falls into the category
of semi-easily reproducible. On the other hand the information
contained in a 2 year old is many many orders of magnitude above this.

Instead of pushing the valuation back towards the younger end of the
spectrum, it is probably much more rational to push it *ahead*
to the older end of the spectrum (though this flies in the face
of the emotional ties that soft wet cuddly babies generate).

I'd suspect that the first year or so of life is primarily involved
in neural outgrowth laying the foundation for the huge pattern
accumulation that is occurs in the 1-3 y.o. stage. Once you have in place
the foundation for locomotion and speech recognition and production
then the rate of accumulation of difficult-to-reproduce information
goes up substantially (as would rational valuations on the proto-human).

> I remember reading about a controversial philosophy professor who has put
> forward the idea that children up to a certain time after birth should be
> under "probation" as to whether or not they are allowed to live by the
> parents. There have been protests at the college that recently hired him to
> try to kick him out.

Irrational people know no limits. Seems like a reasonable and logical
strategy to me. Though it depends what he uses to judge the "probation"
period. Past problems with gene defects (that might provide a rationale
due to the "poor investment") will soon be correctable. So the question
is how do you decide who has a right to life and who doesn't??

[Oh the thought police are going to get me for that comment...]

> Of course ancient cultures like the Spartans and also I believe the Vikings
> did this. But they were warrior societies that wanted only the fit to
> survive to produce the best fighters and parents.

I believe the current investment in Western countries for raising
children to adulthood is running around $500K. For that price those
babies had better be giving you a *lot* of emotional "stroking".
If you can't get that stroking (from a retarded or autistic child
for example), then the only rationalization is compassion. As the
state of the world shows, compassion is a limited resource and
people should look a little more closely at how they allocate theirs.

[Please don't flame me for the above, I have a huge amount of compassion
but I tend to allocate mine towards humanity in general rather than
specific instances of humanity.]


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