Re: Interview with the Bioethicist

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Wed Feb 09 2000 - 09:28:10 MST

On Wed, 9 Feb 2000, Damien Broderick wrote:

> > I had discussed saving the information conent of aborted fetuses.
> May you kill an identical twin, with impunity, on the above grounds?
> Abominable! Absurd!
I don't consider it to be a "twin" until it begins to accumulate a unique
information set (after birth). Before that it is a collection of cells
with a unique (or semi-unique in the case of a identical twin fetuses)
genetic program that depending on the length of time in the womb and the
environment there *may* contain some interesting developmental history.
The quantity of unique information that would eventually be "important"
in the developmental path of the future individual is probably fairly
small relative to the genomic information. [In those cases where
the developmental process is significantly impacted (i.e. there is
an increase in information content due to divergence from the natural
developmental program), the consequences are generally negative
(e.g. thalidomide babies).]

No, I do not believe this information specific approach would justify
killing one of a pair of twins. It simply may be used to *minimize* the
loss of information involved with an abortion. You could extend
this argument, that I as an SI, might dissassemble you, Damien,
carefully recording the position of all of the molecules so that I
could later reassemble you (to speak at the 1000th anniversary party of
the publication of The Spike). There is no *loss* of Damien
in this, there is only the loss of the free expression of Damien's
conscious *will* for a period of time. Since you may argue
that a fetus doesn't have a "conscious will" this loss does not
occur in the case of an abortion.

> On the other hand, the puzzle I proposed in LAST MORTAL GENERATION has
> never received an answer from god-botherers, to my knowledge. Squish two or
> three early embryos together in vitro, and they form a single moasaic
> individual. [snip]
Hmmm, I don't remember seeing this discussion in LMG.
Could I have missed it or is it in an updated edition?


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