Probability of becoming a human being as the moral indicator

post by 098799 · 2010-12-25T15:16:37.989Z · score: 0 (7 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 49 comments

Writing articles in English seems harder than I thought. I'd appreciate anybody correcting all the spelling mistakes I've made, for this post to become readable.


I had a long discussion with a Christian friend of mine about abortion. We both agreed to the statement that killing human beings is morally bad. Now, the definition of a human being came up.

We again agreed that the moment of birth can't be considered as the beginning of a human simply because there are children born prematurely and fully functional. Yet, the chance of survival decreases as we go back in time.

Now, he (obviously) stated that since we have only one significant moment in fetus' life -- namely fertilization -- this should be regarded as the moment from which we should care for the fetus as much as we care for the already born baby, which bans abortion alltogether. I disagreed. But then I'd begun to think about the topic a little more.

So the fetus is in no means a fully functional human being but neither is a patient in a coma. Both lack the crucial feature that distinguish us from any other animal, namely our thinking. The chances of the awakening of a comma patient decrease in time, I believe we may plot something-like-exponential decay for this. Now, I would strongly oppose the procedure of letting a coma patient die when the chances of his awakening are, say, greater than 10%, that's for sure. But a fetus few days or weeks after conception has nowadays certainly greater chances of becoming a fully functional human than 10%.

Here's where I think my argumentation is flawed. I'd definitely not kill a coma patient (not fully human being since not thinking) whose chances of becoming a human are 10% but I'd definitely kill a fetus (also not thinking and not living on his own), whose chances of becoming a human being are greater than 10%.

So is it ok to judge our action by considering how big percentage of a human being are we switching off? It seems logical, but the consequences are strange.

Obviously there are other arguments in favour of abortion like the fetus not having functional nervous system, being dependant on his parents and so on. But there's still this one feature: probability of becoming a human being.

49 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Nisan · 2010-12-25T18:43:06.720Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

We both agreed to the statement that killing human beings is morally bad. Now, the definition of a human being came up.

Ah, careful. If you've already decided that killing human beings is morally bad, you must already have a partial definition of "human being" in mind: A thing is a human being only if killing it is morally bad. Now in order to establish that a fetus is a human being, you need to first establish that killing it is morally bad.

Better to not worry about the definition of "human being" at all. Decide what makes killing adults bad, and see if it applies to fetuses. You're basically doing this already when you consider the coma patient. It would be good to make sure your friend is on the same page.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-25T23:46:14.610Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's a very good point you've just made. There are always problems when you take a commonly shared but not precise belief and try to build upon it a coherent structure.

Yet, question stands, since a fetus and a coma patient are both distant from a typical adult individual.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-12-25T16:00:44.384Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

a comma patient

"coma"

We again agreed that the moment of birth can't be considered as the beginning of a human simply because there are children born prematurely and fully functional.

One argument for setting the demarcation point at the moment of birth, rather than some arbitrary point in the fetus's cognitive development, is to adopt the ideology that women are not incubators; that they have moral control over their own bodies; and that so long as the fetus is inside the womb, no third party has any right to demand that the fetus be brought to term.

I don't know whether this argument is morally compelling, but I think that it is a big mistake to ignore it completely. You can't focus exclusively on the probability of becoming human and/or history of once having been human. You also need to consider just how much sacrifice you are demanding of a person. We don't compel people to donate kidneys - perhaps we also shouldn't compel them to serve as incubators.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-25T20:07:18.955Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One argument for setting the demarcation point at the moment of birth, rather than some arbitrary point in the fetus's cognitive development, is to adopt the ideology that women are not incubators; that they have moral control over their own bodies; and that so long as the fetus is inside the womb, no third party has any right to demand that the fetus be brought to term.

Wouldn't this argument mean that once artificial uterus's are developed abortion should become illegal? A woman could terminate the pregnancy but would not have the right to terminate the life of the fetus.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-25T17:11:52.758Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We have to agree that a fetus is not a part of a woman's body but a standalone organism. It's backed up by our current knowledge of biology, I think. For example the fetus has different set of DNA.

Now, we want to save human lives, right? Can we let women decide about life and death of creatures inside their wombs even one day before the date of birth? The fetus is fully functional at the time and we should protect it just like the one day old newborn. No real difference here. That's the reasoning suggesting we cannot chose the moment of birth as a demarcation point.

Women have rights to control their own bodies, but not other human beings, which fetuses are.

Generally speaking the argument that we should weight the potential gain of a new life vs. the parents sacrifice + the missery that unwanted child and it's parents endure is the most meaningful I've found, but I'd like to focus on the part where we don't want a human life to perish and how is the fetus case different from comatose one.

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2010-12-25T17:31:34.686Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Perplexed wasn't concerned about the moral rights of the kidney. Under your theory, why aren't you you responsible for donating your kidney to someone who will die without it? If you're not, then why are you responsible for hosting the placenta the fetus needs to survive?

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-12-26T12:12:06.913Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Before posting, please research discussions of the same topic on the blog and link to them, if they are of adequate quality. Previous post on the topic:

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-12-27T05:32:29.597Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

We both agreed to the statement that killing human beings is morally bad. Now, the definition of a human being came up.

As a general guideline, if you're arguing morality, and you find yourself arguing definitions, you've taken a wrong turn.

Ethical arguments that hinge on definitions are almost always the result of trying to set the threshold for some simple, hard-and-fast binary "yes/no" rule.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-30T15:21:45.451Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I think I understand it now, after reading your latest article and some other posts. Thanks.

comment by HonoreDB · 2010-12-25T16:44:45.107Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Killing a comatose human frustrates the human's past desire to live.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-25T17:12:41.428Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

One might respond that killing a fetus frustrates the human's future desire to live.

comment by AlexMennen · 2010-12-27T20:26:02.229Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Satisfying the desires of actual people is hard enough without trying to satisfy the desires of possible people.

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2010-12-25T17:21:37.297Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Only one of those existed; the other's existence is dependent on your decision.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-25T17:37:28.222Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, you're right; yet what really matters? The desire or the life itself? How many times more does the latter matter? Are past desires the only discriminatory factor between the two situations presented?

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2010-12-25T18:39:19.821Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The desire. We have no moral imperative to keep self-aware being alive if those beings are indifferent to their own survival. "Life itself" has perhaps an aesthetic value, but no other, and no moral weight in and of itself. Any other value is derived from the value that those living themselves have.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-25T23:32:09.406Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds ok. But the fetus is almost certain to have the desire to live when he develops. Isn't killing the fetus robbing him of that opportunity?

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2010-12-25T23:58:13.019Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I thought this is what we just resolved! The fetus only has that desire if he or she grows to be an adult!

Let's postulate a child in world A. World A never existed, because in world B, the real world, I destroyed the spermatozoon that fertilized that child. Another spermatozoon takes its place, and a different child was born. Did I commit murder? I hardly think so, even though there is a potential child that was never born, that had it been born it would have wished me preserve the conditions that allowed its birth.

If I did commit murder, then I must also have caused a death in World A, by preventing (through inaction) the birth of the child that could only have existed in World B.

The hypothetical entities that do not yet exist do not get to clamor for their own existence!

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-26T00:34:20.964Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I reluctantly agree. It seems that I need a little bit more time to process it, but I suppose you're right.

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2010-12-25T21:17:32.242Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Here's where I think my argumentation is flaved. I'd definitely not kill a coma patient (not fully human being since not thinking) whose chances of becoming a human are 10% but I'd definitely kill a fetus (also not thinking and not living on his own), whose chances of becoming a human being are greater than 10%.

So is it ok to judge our action by considering how big percentage of a human being are we switching off? It seems logical, but the consequences are strange.

Check your utility function. For any given moral dilemma, the answer is always in your utility function. Or in your preference structure to be pedantic (i.e., utility functions are certain types of preference structures. Your preference structure may or may not be a utility function.)

The abortion debate is largely one big example of a disguised query. Everyone agrees that killing humans unecessarily is wrong, then they argue over whether a fetus is a human. But all of the normativity is built into this magical word, "human." Both sides are asking "is a fetus human?" and this is the WRONG question to ask. The right question is "how much do we value a fetus?"

Furthemore, there's no reason, a priori, to assume that all of the value of a fetus/baby comes at childbirth or at conception. Looking for a point in time where something discontinuous happens to the fetus in order to determine when it obtains all of it's value needs justification in itself. It assumes away the possibility of a continuously increasing value of the fetus (in time). This may or may not be a safe assumption, but in order to really know, you need to discover your own preferences. Personally, I think it's more likely to be a (relatively) continuous function in between conception and childbirth with discontinuous jumps at those two points. There is something special about both conception and childbirth that induces a sharp increase in the value of the fetus, but there's a slower, steadier increase along the way from conception to childbirth as well. There may be a few more discontinuities as well, e.g. when the heart starts beating or the brain begins to control the body.

As for the difference between the fetus and a coma patient, consider biting the bullet that you just do value coma patients more than fetuses. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. Someone else might exclaim that your morally depraved, but that's what their utility function says, not yours.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-26T00:28:33.313Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ok. It finally seems that we were arguing over words only.

What I originally tried to do was exactly to create a utility function but I wrongly connected it to "being a human in x%". Since there's one big feature that distinguishes humans from other living things, namely thinking, I tried to connect the case of not-thinking but someday-will-be-thinking-if-we-let-him-grow fetus with not-thinking but someday-maybe-will-be-thinking-if-awakens coma patient and compare the probabilities of both somedays actually happening.

I suppose I simplified the situation too much.

comment by prase · 2010-12-25T22:21:37.346Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Writing, not Writting; English, not english; Christian, not christian; flawed, not flaved; one "comma" still survives uncorrected.

I'd definitely not kill a coma patient (not fully human being since not thinking) whose chances of becoming a human are 10% but I'd definitely kill a fetus (also not thinking and not living on his own), whose chances of becoming a human being are greater than 10%.

I am pretty certain that I would kill a coma patient in some circumstances. If a person was expected to either kill a coma patient, or let the patient use the person's organs for nine months, I would not condemn the person for whatever decision she made.

Also note that most defenders of abortion agree that abortion is not fully acceptable during the last months of pregnancy. I certainly don't accept that there must be a single significant moment when the being's moral status is suddenly switched from nothing to full person. I don't have a definite opinion about what makes killing a person bad, but I am pretty sure that killing a morula is morally neutral.

From legal point of view, it may be necessary to define a single moment when a person gains protection against being killed, but there is no reason why this should coincide with some significant biological event. People are legally able to drink and drive and vote at the age of 18, when nothing biologically significant happens. What's wrong with abortion being legal up to third month of pregnancy or so? In fact, in many countries this is how it actually works.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-26T00:05:10.537Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for correcting.

Ok, you said that killing a morula is morally neutral, but after some time and development killing it definitely is wrong. There has to be a function that assigns moral evil of killing it through the time. The point of this article is to wonder whether this function is correlated with the fetus' probability of becoming a fully functional human being since it seems reasonable to me.

comment by prase · 2010-12-26T14:36:27.920Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It is clearly correlated, since the probability of the fetus' survival increases as it develops, as the evilness of killing does. However I don't think the probability of becoming a fully functional human is what determines the moral condemnation of killing. To illustrate my intuition, consider:

  • Babies are clearly not fully functional humans. I doubt we can acknowledge full functionality earlier than in age when humans are capable of reproduction. In Sierra Leone a newborn baby has a 26% chance of dying before age of five, and probably further non-trivial chances of dying until puberty. If the probability argument holds, killing a one year old child in Sierra Leone would be about 30% less evil than killing an adult. Yet many people hold that killing children is actually worse than killing adults.

  • Imagine a world where after conception the embryo had almost 100% probability of survival until adulthood. Would that mean that killing a morula in such hypothetical world would equal a full-fledged murder?

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-26T15:02:49.704Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Those are certainly valid points you've just made. I think there's not much to defend from my original statement when you consider Matt Simpson's reply.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-25T21:47:48.092Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My .0002 babies:

  • Yes, I think it makes sense to judge our actions by their expected results, even though expected results like "shutting off life support for this coma patient leads to .1 fewer lives than keeping it on" are sometimes difficult to think clearly about.

  • If futures with more human beings in them are better by your moral lights than futures with fewer human beings in them, then it similarly makes sense to judge your actions by the expected number of human beings they cause to exist in the world, all else being equal.

  • More specifically, given the above it makes sense for the chances of a particular organism becoming a human being if allowed to survive to contribute to your moral valuation of allowing that organism to survive, all else being equal.

  • If the "more human beings => better" term in your moral equation is sufficiently strongly weighted so as to overpower the contribution of other terms, then you can delete the phrase "all else being equal" above. I don't actually know anyone for whom this is true.

  • Even given that moral weighting, it doesn't follow that "killing human beings is morally bad." For example, if the expected result of killing George is that .1 more lives are saved than if we let George live, there's at least a coherent moral argument for killing George. If 1000 more lives are saved, it's even an emotionally compelling argument.

  • Again, it makes sense to me to judge actions in terms of the moral value of their expected results. In fact, that's pretty much the only way it makes sense to me to judge actions. That means I consider questions like "is choosing to become pregnant good/bad?" or "is choosing to teminate a pregnancy good/bad?" or "is killing George good/bad?" somewhat ill-formed... "good" and "bad" properly apply to the expected results of an action (and even then, only relative to the results of other actions), not to the action itself. When talking about a specific action the difference doesn't matter too much; we take the action as standing for its expected results by metonymy. When talking about a class of actions it starts to matter more.

  • It's probably obvious by now that I'm a moral consequentialist. A deontologist (I know there's at least one on LW) would disagree with most of my reasoning above.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-26T00:15:38.071Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do we accept the view that "less human beings => worse"? If not, then why not kill people on sight? The only alternatives are "less human beings => better" and "less human beings => indifferent". Obviously one can claim the latter but it seems counterintuitive to me. Also, the sentence "less human beings => worse" seems logically connected with "more human beings => better".

I'm not quite sure if I understand your post correctly. Do you want me not to judge single separated action but considering all the alternatives and choosing the best one?

I fail to see any further consequeces of an action of "terminating a pregnancy" than "the pregnancy is terminated".

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-26T05:19:49.788Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do we accept the view that "less human beings => worse"?

I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't accept this view. For example, I can easily imagine a future with N humans that I would happily choose over a different future with 2N humans, or 2^N humans.

In other words, there are many aspects of the future that I consider more important than how many human beings it holds.

If not, then why not kill people on sight?

You seem to be suggesting that the only reason not to kill people is because I want to maximize the number of humans in the world, so if I don't want that it follows that I must have no reason not to kill people. That seems pretty bizarre to me.

Anyway, I suspect the primary reason I don't kill people is squeamishness. Other reasons include fear of punishment and the belief that I can't reliably predict the consequences of them dying, and in some cases the belief that most likely consequences of them dying are bad ones.

I'd think better of myself if that last one were the primary reason, but I'm fairly certain it isn't.

The only alternatives are "less human beings => better" and "less human beings => indifferent".

And also "less human beings => better or worse, it depends on other things."

Do you want me not to judge single separated action but considering all the alternatives and choosing the best one?

I don't think anyone can consider all the alternatives, but yes, I'd certainly recommend choosing the best of the alternatives you're able to consider. I wouldn't have thought this controversial?

I fail to see any further consequences of an action of "terminating a pregnancy" than "the pregnancy is terminated".

I suspect I don't understand what you mean to express, here. Can you contrast this with an action for which you are able to see downstream consequences?

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-26T12:51:08.403Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I might seem short-sighted but I see a huge difference between the generic "human lives" and "human dies". Of course I might reconsider when faced with the consequences of extending life of this exact human being, but generally, as a first approximation, I'm choosing his life over death. This is probably the point were we disagree. You refuse to provide any answer to this question without any further knowledge and I have a predefined answer which can be modified only in extreme cases.

Consider keeping a violent dictator of some small country in Africa alive. It's consequences are not only "one man stays alive" but most certainly also "many thousands of other men die". This might make me choose his death over life.

The worse part is I can't really say what happens after he dies (because maybe just some of his fellows take his place).

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-26T16:43:21.247Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Re: the violent dictator... as I said initially: "If 1000 more lives are saved, it's even an emotionally compelling argument."

Killing a Bad Person to save a thousand Innocent People is a relatively easy emotional equation, and that's as true of me as it is for you.

As for the point where we disagree... I'm not certain we do disagree, actually.

If you're asking me about a particular human whose fate is singularly brought to my attention, does it live or die, I almost undoubtedly let it live as long as that doesn't cost very much to me or anyone I care about, or even if it does if the human is someone I happen know and like.

I don't think we disagree on this point.

But if you ask me whether "less humans" is better or worse in general, which is what I thought you were asking about, I understand that to be a different question.

I am, right this moment, not raising a child. I'm not even siring one to be raised by others. In fact, I haven't done either of those things in my life (as far as I know) and am very unlikely to in the future. I know that this results in fewer humans compared to a lifestyle of siring as many children as possible.

If "less humans => worse", it follows that I'm choosing to make the world worse.

As I've said, I don't believe that, so that doesn't bother me. You seem to be claiming that you do believe that (as you say, without the need for any additional knowledge about the situation), so it seems to follow that you believe I'm making the world worse and that I should be siring as many children as possible.

Do you in fact believe that?

My guess is that you don't, and that we don't actually disagree as much as you seem to think we do.

I think the appearance of disagreement is in part because you're switching the question around (from "is fewer humans worse?" to "would I let a human die, given a salient choice?") in mid-conversation, and comparing my answer to the first question to your answer to the second question.

That might be a deliberate "bait and switch", but my intuition is that you're doing that because the question switches around in your own head as you think about it. Of course I don't know for sure, but that's a pretty common thing people do when thinking about emotionally difficult questions.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-27T00:07:00.529Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like your reasoning. I think it clarified my outlook on the issue a lot. Thanks for taking time to over and over explain your view to a less rigorous thinker.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-27T00:12:03.463Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You are entirely welcome.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-25T20:05:12.173Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Here's where I think my argumentation is flaved. I'd definitely not kill a coma patient (not fully human being since not thinking) whose chances of becoming a human are 10% but I'd definitely kill a fetus (also not thinking and not living on his own), whose chances of becoming a human being are greater than 10%.

This will sound horrible and get me downvoted. But not all human lives are worth exactly the same.

It would be wrong for me to kill an adult amnesia patient with no hope of recovery but I'd consider it less wrong than killing the same person sans amnesia.

When you kill the 10% chance of awaking patient you also kill all the experiences he has already had as well as the ones he will have. When you kill the 10% chance fetus you just kill the ones he will have.

I think the "will have" in both cases is not certain to happen due to other reasosn. The has had bit is certain.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-26T00:30:54.663Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How do I exactly kill someone's past experiences? He already had them! What I can deprive someone of is only the future, isn't it?

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-26T10:21:46.396Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You can deprive him of a future where he is aware of his past experiences. Seems worse than depriving someone of a future where he dosen't have any recollection of past experiences.

comment by DanielLC · 2010-12-26T02:39:29.221Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's generally assumed that they're going to die eventually. If only experiences of people who will live forever matter, nothing matters.

comment by Emile · 2010-12-25T22:36:03.734Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So is it ok to judge our action by considering how big percentage of a human being are we switching off? It seems logical, but the consequences are strange.

That, along with "intelligence" or "ability to feel pain" seems like an ad-hoc rule for moral value that may or may not correspond to the criterion of moral worth we actually use. The problem with coming up with rules like that is that once you become attached to it (by say talking about it in public, debating about it), you start extrapolating it to areas not covered by our intuitions.

I don't know what the moral indicator, but I see different people coming up with different simple moral indicators, and view that the same way I see people coming up with different religions: at most one of those can be true.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-25T23:59:38.767Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'll try not to stick to wrong views of mine if that's what you suggest. In fact this thread is basically a way for me to get my weird opinions straight.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-12-25T20:16:06.602Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to see a really... unusual... argument on the topic of abortion, you could look at the views of David Benatar, who has argued the position that it is wrong not to abort fetuses.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-25T23:54:53.725Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I read one of his articles but I still don't see why shouldn't we just kill people according to this logic...

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-26T04:56:50.832Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like you've come up with a moral argument that you can't find flaws in that you're rejecting because of the conclusions it leads you to.

comment by DanielLC · 2010-12-26T02:32:08.185Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is killing a human more bad than creating one is good? If not, everything else is irrelevant.

What exactly constitutes "becoming a human", or "killing" for that matter? An egg has a high chance of becoming a human if it's fertilized. Would refraining from fertilizing it be killing?

On the other hand, little if any of you is actually made of the original fetus. Does that mean that the fetus itself won't become a person? It's mostly food and water that becomes them.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-26T12:37:09.294Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As of an example with an egg I have an easy answer. The probability of an egg becoming a human is much much lower without fertilization. Few hundreds eggs are being released throughout a woman's life but she has only few children, so following the logic of moral consequences being correlated to killing a certain percentage of a human being, killing an egg would be 100 times less bad than killing a fetus.

The latter argument seems to be from different topic. Every cell of my body is being replaced throughout a period of approximately 6 years. Does it mean I'm not myself anymore?

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-12-27T05:29:59.393Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As of an example with an egg I have an easy answer. The probability of an egg becoming a human is much much lower without fertilization.

I don't think you're answering the question DanielLC wanted to ask. I think the question is more like this: If you refrain from fertilizing an egg (say, in some random woman walking by on the street), isn't that as bad as committing murder?

comment by DanielLC · 2010-12-30T00:47:25.366Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I meant that there's some chance the egg will be fertilized, and if you prevent that from happening, are you killing it?

Granted, the probability decreases gradually until the egg is ejected or whatever it does, but you could make an abortion method that works the same way. You continuously do something that's harmful to the fetus. The probability of it surviving decreases gradually.

comment by Nornagest · 2010-12-27T05:51:27.882Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I'm following this, it'd be a few percent as bad as murder -- the odds of attempted fertilization successfully leading to a new human are not all that great. But that still implies that skipping twenty or so opportunities to attempt fertilization (assuming no externalities) is equivalent to killing one adult human, which is a fairly bizarre conclusion to come to.

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-27T11:57:39.424Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I never intended to state exactly that. Oh well, at least now I don't. I suppose TheOtherDave covered the argument "less human => wrong" extensively in the other comment.

comment by DanielLC · 2010-12-27T03:20:58.410Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think there's a given egg that will be fertilized of you conceive at a given time. It's pretty unlikely that even this egg will become human, but it's still significant.

Suppose that the girl finds out that the condom broke. The probability of that egg getting fertilized just increased dramatically. It still probably won't happen, but now the probability is even higher.

comment by Emile · 2010-12-25T22:37:29.216Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Here's where I think my argumentation is flaved.

"Flawed", not "flaved". (Are you Chinese by any chance?)

comment by 098799 · 2010-12-25T23:32:30.921Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Polish.