Frequent commenter AD Graham on the Abolitionist Society blog left some interesting comments on a post that deals with the question of the justifiability of aborting babies that have Downs Syndrome.
They begin here.
With respect to AD Graham's system here:
my system takes into account is whether a decision a) is done with consideration of utilitarian consequences and b) is done with reasonable consideration of the relevant information.
I have a few objections. How much is reasonable? Does his system define it? If so, is that not circular? If not, how is his system helpful?
How is it possible to define the good/bad value of the consequences without a circular appeal to his ethical system?
the goal of utilitarian ethics is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain in order to obtain lives with more pleasure than pain.
How does he know that maximising pleasure and minimising pain are good things?
if a disease is awful enough to preclude any possibility of a pleasurable life
How does anyone have any "relevant information", as he put it, about the future of a given human being? Citing averages and previous occurrences does nothing to inform us about the future.
While Down syndrome children do not live a life of anguish, they may still be candidates for abortion in a utilitarian system
Candidates for abortion. He makes it sound like they're lining up to sign up to be forcibly dismembered.
Speaking for myself, I don't appreciate his treating me like I'm a child. I recommend he tell it like it is so we can all be assured he is actually giving this issue the consideration it merits.
Utilitarian ethics require the practitioner
I pause here to note that "utilitarian ethics" don't 'require' anything. They have no authority; one can choose to accept them as DESCRIPTIVE...or not. Without any consequence.
Contrast that with the God of the universe creating all that exists, with moral laws and their due punishments in place and clearly communicated to mankind. All that, versus AD Graham and his sort of obscure ethical hypothesising, talking about 'requirements' without authority.
While giving birth to a baby with Down does not harm anyone, it does curb the parents ability to care for others.
A naked assertion, bereft of argument.
And even with an argument, AD Graham would still need to let us know how he knows that's a bad thing. How he measures pain and pleasure such that we can know they're being maximised and minimised. What instrumentation he uses to perform the analysis. How he makes sure his analyses have statistical significance.
Yes, that would require omniscience, so that puts him in a difficult spot. How can he know that he has sufficient relevant information so as to enable him to perform the "reasonable consideration" he recommends?
People with Down’s are not able to reciprocate this level of care.
A cold, heartless statement if ever there were one. AD Graham has committed a Freudian slip. It's doubtful whether he really cares about maximising pleasure/minimising pain. He really just wants it to be OK to put people to death that he thinks it's OK to put to death. Where is his detailed analysis of the question to demonstrate that he's got this nailed down?
I am saying that they are not able to provide support to the lives of others in the same way.
AD Graham needs to clarify here. How does he know that reciprocation of love and help must be of exactly the same kind? What is his argument to that effect? Does he consistently apply this argumentation to all other arenas, not just Downs syndrome people?
people with Down syndrome often provide an inefficient benefit to society
It should be coming clear to anyone that AD Graham has a very physicalistic view of the value of people. People have value insofar as they can do tasks that AD Graham finds valuable.
What's to stop AD Graham from taking that even further and attempting to create the ubermensch, the perfect superman? I mean, if it's ethically justified, we shouldn't even ask "why not?"; we should do it. By his ethic, why would we not be led to precisely that conclusion? Is not efficient benefit to society a virtue? If one is not efficient, AD Graham says other more efficient benefiters are justified in killing them.
(i)f the opportunity arose in which one could painlessly terminate this life in favor of a more efficient life
Another example demonstrating that AD Graham is so far not engaging the topic seriously enough.
1) A huge number, if not the majority, if not the vast majority, of abortions are performed without anesthesia.
2) And they're carried out in violent ways. We put dogs down with sedative injections. Human babies get their heads ripped off by scissors, or their skin scalded by chemical weapons.
3) Even if anesthesia were applied, how could we know that it worked on the babies? We can't ask them. Probably better off not killing them, no?
4) Since abortions are very, very rarely painless, wouldn't that mean that killing 53 million babies would be MAXIMISING PAIN? And that AD Graham should thus be an abolitionist?
How does AD Graham know that the pain of the death of the child does not outweigh the avoidance of pain from his life lived with Downs?
Does AD Graham take into account the large number of women who experience difficult psychological and emotional problems post-abortion b/c of their abortions in judging his maximise pleasure/minimise pain matrix? How, where, and when?