Re: POL: Abortion-neutral

Tim Hruby (
Tue, 16 Mar 1999 19:35:19 -0500

At 5:21 PM -0600 3/16/99, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

> Tim Hruby wrote:
> >
> > Thinking that a moral and poltical debate can be resolved by an item of
> > technical knowledge misses a great deal of the richness of human
> Yes, but it's *incorrect* human psychology. I mean, the old debate
> about whether the Earth went around the Sun incorporated the same overly
> "rich" psychology. I know perfectly well that the abortion debate
> represents ancient religious principles, overcompensation for centuries
> of hideous injustice, decades of partisanship, rationalization, fuzzy
> thinking, refusal to admit error, general hatred, and miscellaneous
> bickering. To perdition with it! If it can't be resolved by techical
> knowledge, I'm not interested.

You don't have to be interested. I agree with you -- I'm not interested in getting either myself or Extropianism into the morality-of-abortion debate.

But, unlike your example of orbital motion, knowledge of moral "right and wrong" is not currently empirical, and probably never will be. Empirical knowledge explains (subject to revision, if you follow the scientific method), but it doesn't guide. It is likely that the best empiricism will ever come up with is outcome-optimizing strategies for action when faced with a moral question. But empirical knowledge can't tell you which optimized outcome to prefer. For example, do I permit ten "innocents" to die to save my neck? That is a "moral" question that empirical knowledge will probably never be able to help you with.

Empiricism doesn't make other forms of knowledge and experience "incorrect." Your personal bias in favor of empirical knowledge is just that, a personal bias. It is not the totality of human experience. The "richness" of human psychology and experience is broader than empirical knowledge. It is probably a rationally maximizing decision, based on your personal utility function, to choose to limit and specialize yourself within the general and diverse "richness" of human experience, but it is an unjustified conceit (i.e., one lacking an empirical basis) to assume that those who choose other specializations, who have other interests, or who have other utility functions are "incorrect."