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“Does the climate crisis violate the rights of those yet to be born?”

“Does the climate crisis violate the rights of those yet to be born?” asks Astra Taylor in the Guardian.

She seems to think the answer is “yes”, but fails to make much of a case. The article is full of non-sequiturs like grumbling that the fact that “high-frequency trading means stocks are bought and sold within nanoseconds” somehow means that capitalism “lacks the attention span required for survival.”

However the purpose of this post was not to complain about Astra Taylor complaining that computers work fast. My far more urgent task in making this post was to make the obvious snarky point before someone at the Guardian notices and changes that headline. I think I’m just in time:

If capitalistic inattention to the climate crisis violates the rights of the unborn, does being aborted not violate their rights even more?

*

I had some rather more considered thoughts about what obligation, if any, people have to sacrifice their own interests in deference to those of others in this post from a few years ago, “Thinking aloud on a mountainside”. The second half discusses abortion.

58 comments to “Does the climate crisis violate the rights of those yet to be born?”

  • Mr Ed

    Sorry I missed something. Wasn’t Prince Harry, that well-known Old Etonian and prominent scholar saying something about limiting his family to 2 children the other day? I thought that people being born at all was bad for the environment, so isn’t this a good thing?

    After all, the bastards had the cheek to be born and to hurt the environment, who cares about their rights?

    In terms of quick decisions, I did some back of the envelope sums once that indicated that femto-chemistry operates so fast, that the jump between the timescale of the reactions that it measures is in the same order of magnitude from its timeframe to the time it takes to poach an egg (at sea level, unsalted water), as is the magnitude of the difference in time from poaching an egg to the age of the Earth.

  • Another example of how living in the bubble hurts them – and experiencing cognitive diversity helps us. The most obvious questions don’t occur, leaving them open to frequent self-owns (albeit not always on this scale 🙂 ).

    If not merely the unborn but the un-conceived (if I conceive Astra’s meaning correctly) were to have rights, then the right to be born is not easily excluded from any such list, but rather an essential precondition of their having any others.

    On the other hand, this is a logical extension of the Greta phenomenon. As poster children for climate alarmism get younger and younger, the infant phenomenon becomes the foetal phenomenon and then the gleam-in-Astra’s-boyfriend’s-eye phenomenon.

  • William H. Stoddard

    That question would be less ambiguous as “does being aborted not violate their rights even more?” In the current wording, it made me think for a second that it was suggesting a right to be aborted: I parsed it as “does not-being-aborted” and had to think carefully to get “does-not being aborted.” I suppose that might be a British usage that we don’t have in California. . . .

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    William H. Stoddard,

    You’re right. I’ll change it to “Does being aborted not violate their rights even more?”. In ordinary conversation I would have said, “Doesn’t being aborted violate their rights even more?” When I wrote “Does not” instead of “Doesn’t” I had some thought of being more formal, but all I managed to do was make it ambiguous.

  • Jacob

    Even more clearly: if the unborn have rights doesn’t abortion violate those rights? The assumption of abortion advocates is that until born the fetus has no rights – that is: person-hood starts at birth – so “those yet to be born” have no rights.

    Logical consistency isn’t required as long as you hold the correct beliefs. That is a special attribute of correct thinking.

    She’ll reply of course that she meant the rights of those that WILL be born in the future, that is – the rights they will posses once they are born. It’s all for the children.

    Interesting question: Do future generations have rights?

  • Gavin Longmuir

    If we are going to talk about the “Right To Be Conceived” implied by this discussion of the rights of the unborn, then I find myself in a bit of confusion. Does this imply that we can go to the UN and complain that our rights were infringed when we were conceived by the wrong parents? I put dibs on Bill & Melinda Gates! 🙂

    Perhaps the solution to this kind of nonsense is to bring the link between Rights & Responsibilities back into focus. What are the Responsibilities of those yet to be born? For example, are they obliged to pay off the unsustainable debts that our Political Classes are running up so gleefully?

    Getting even further down the rabbit hole — if the Unborn do indeed have the ‘Responsibility’ to pay off the National Debts run up by us who have already been born, then in justice should they not have some corresponding ‘Rights’?

  • Jacob

    The left are consistent at least in this: they invent a myriad of new “rights” like the right of an “honorable” existence (i.e. welfare checks), the “right” to education, health care etc.
    By diluting the concept of “right” they render it meaningless – which, of course is their purpose in the first place. (A right is what we – the political elite – give you).

    Now they invented a new “right” – the right of future generations – of which they (i.e. the left) is the one and only authorized and plenipotentiary representative. They can’t be voted out of power because they represent an infinite constituency: the FUTURE generations!

  • Runcie Balspune

    Taylor is, of course, only concerned with the “rights” of those born in developed nations.

    Those unfortunates destined to be born in poorer parts of the world are already having their rights trampled by the consistent denial of life-saving, life-preserving and life-prolonging technology that could be made widely available today, driven mainly by the false narrative of a climate catastrophe, the wonky science of attitudes such as anti-GMO, and the continued insistence that capitalism wont ever solve poverty (present historical evidence notwithstanding) and so shouldn’t be practiced in their country.

    Just getting paid for writing made-up cr*p, and sitting in an office and/or home powered by unlimited electricity with functional toilets and clean water, never having to worry when the next plate of food will arrive and always secure that a hospital is but a short life-giving distance away where your illness or accident can be immediately remedied, all makes you forget that a large proportion of the world does not have access to these basic “luxuries”, none of which are powered by emissions-free fairy dust, and, given the choice of spending trillions delaying the inevitable temperature rise by a few years and providing just one of the afore mentioned amenities, how would Taylor think the poorest would choose?

    Of course, that doesn’t really matter because they don’t have rights and misguided bigots like Taylor will make their choices for them.

  • Kevin B

    To tackle Ms Taylor’s proposition as I think she means it:

    The climate is going to change*. That’s what climate does. Nothing we’re attempting to do now will stop the climate changing. Not the Climate Change Act, not the Paris Accords, nothing we can conceivably cobble together in the future, nothing will stop the climate changing.

    Therefore. we will have to adapt to climate change.

    Adaptation is far easier for societies with greater wealth. Abundant, affordable, available, reliable energy is a large and proven input to wealth creation but things like the CCA and Paris seem designed to limit wealth creation**.

    So, it seems that scrapping all the stupid things we’re doing to limit wealth creation and going all out on encouraging it, especially in those places where energy supply is limited, would do far more good for our unborn descendants than wasting our resources on trying to do the impossible.

    *It is also worth pointing out that temperatures can go down as well as up.

    **The conspiracy theorists among us my say deliberately designed to destroy wealth creation.

  • CaptDMO

    “Does the climate crisis….”
    Sweetie, let me mansplain. There is no climate crisis.
    You’ve been lied to, and failed to follow up.
    “Violate the rights of those yet to be born?”
    Oh my, you’re too stupid to listen to.

  • Stonyground

    It really is hugely important to emphasise that there is no climate crisis. The astronomical amounts of public money being wasted on this non problem is a scandal, possibly the biggest scandal in history.

    I don’t think that it is too tinfoil hat to suggest that those on the left are deliberately trying to ruin us. Socialism is a hard sell these days given its proven track record of unmitigated failure. It is even harder to push when the vast majority of people are relatively prosperous. Whenever socialism has managed to take off in the past it has been because the status quo was even worse. So they need to bring us to such a state of ruin that we would see the likes of Corbyn as an improvement.

  • neonsnake

    If capitalistic inattention to the climate crisis violates the rights of the unborn, does being aborted not violate their rights even more?

    If we say that, then the converse is also true of course.

    In the context of the argument, it’s irrelevant whether we believe in AGW, obviously.

    This is the whole argument of the pro-lifer – you can’t be pro-life only up until a child is born, and then let them inherit a world that we’ve screwed up.

    (Again – the AGW argument is irrelevant to this point in principle)

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Neonsnake — I would love to sample what you are drinking this evening. 🙂 Or, to put it differently, I cannot follow your logic.

    The converse of the statement you quoted might be written: The unborn have no right against being aborted; equally, the unborn have no right to inherit a hypothetical planet where the climate never changes.

    In essence, the converse of both elements of the statement you quote is that the unborn have no rights. (How this applies to the unconceived could be a separate discussion).

    None of this sounds like the whole argument of any pro-lifer I have ever talked with — or even part of their argument. There is no correlation between being pro-life and believing in Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. The pro-life argument I am familiar with is that the fetus at some stage pre-birth becomes a human life, to be treated with the same respect as any other human life. Personally, I have never heard anyone argue that being pro-life means one has to devote oneself to making the world into which children are born be a better place.

    Or maybe I am completely missing your point. In which case, I apologize for being slow.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Or, to put it differently, I cannot follow your logic.”

    The converse is that if you stand for the right to life of the aborted, then you must also therefore logically stand for the rights of those future generations not yet conceived. By pointing out the equivalence of the green argument to the anti-abortion argument, we concede the equivalence of the anti-abortion argument to the green argument.

    Hence the song.

    I’ve evidently been drinking the same stuff!

    PS. For guidance on the converse, inverse, and contrapositive, see here. 🙂

  • neonsnake

    I’ve evidently been drinking the same stuff!

    A more than reasonable Malbec?

    There is no correlation between being pro-life and believing in Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    How odd.

    Then why bring it up in the OP?

    Is it *gasp* identity politics?

  • bobby b

    “This is the whole argument of the pro-lifer – you can’t be pro-life only up until a child is born, and then let them inherit a world that we’ve screwed up.”

    Which is why it’s so convenient to our argument that the world – the entire Earth – is demonstrably cleaner, richer, better-fed, less war-like, safer, more careful of non-powerful people’s rights and comfort, and quite a bit more fun and entertaining than it has ever been. Actual pollution is down, as is crime, hunger, fighting, disease . . .

    We’ve screwed up nothing. We’ve made it better for following generations. We’re leaving our kids a veritable Disneyland – so long as progressives don’t manage to screw everything up in their search for reasons to be in charge.

    But if you want to hold us responsible for changes in climate caused primarily by solar activity, well, mea culpa.

  • bobby b

    “Then why bring it up in the OP?”

    So that she can point out that a hysterical sweeping statement of first principle – of a belief that we owe much fealty to the coming generations – is easily shown to be a pretense, because the same group refuses to apply that thinking to another situation involving coming generations. They use it only when convenient.

    How can you argue that we must buy into AGW and limit our own lives now because we owe a duty to do so to coming generations when you easily dismiss our duty to not outright kill those coming – indeed, already begun – lives?

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Here is a quote I’ve always liked, though I forget who first said it. ‘Why should we do anything for posterity? After all, what has posterity ever done for us?’

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV: “… if you stand for the right to life of the aborted, then you must also therefore logically stand for the rights of those future generations not yet conceived.”

    Sorry, there is no logic in that statement whatsoever. The basic pro-life position is that the fetus at some point becomes an individual real human being; hence aborting a fetus is morally the same as killing a young child. The abortionist position is that the fetus does not become a human being until its feet are out of the birth canal; hence aborting a fetus is at the same moral level as drowning an unwanted kitten. The disagreement is over when someone becomes a human being.

    When we introduce the concept of those who have not yet been conceived, both pro-lifers and abortionists could agree that those unconceived people do not exist — they are definitely not real individual human beings. And it is tough to get those two groups to agree on anything!

    There is no logical connection between the unborn and the unconceived. They are chalk and cheese. Maybe the world looks different after a glass of Malbec than it does after a bottle of Corona, but logic is still logic. 🙂

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Bobby: “We’ve screwed up nothing. We’ve made it better for following generations. We’re leaving our kids a veritable Disneyland …”

    You are totally correct that we are leaving following generations the potential for a much better life than the bulk of humanity has ever experienced — except for one thing: we are also leaving them truly horrendous debts that politicians have run up in our name — debts that we will never pay off.

    Last time I checked for the US, the combination of National Debt plus unfunded liabilities amounted to $1,700,000 for each single one of us taxpayers — and we are adding to it year by year. The inevitable consequences will be Weimar or worse.

    But the Beautiful People want to ignore this real problem, and instead focus on an already disproved hypothesis about Anthropogenic Global Warming. Maybe they are trying to distract us from what is really going on?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Natalie,

    “Thinking Aloud” was an excellent, excellent posting. It also generated a great discussion, and the two postings preceding it led the way. Persons might wish to review all three.

    . . .
    Gavin,

    There is no logical connection between the unborn and the unconceived.

    Give that man a cigar! (No, don’t. I hate cigars. Would you like an apple, Gavin? 😀 )

    Speaking of chalk. How many future kiddies might be eddified if we used the White Cliffs of Dover to make blackboard chalk?

    (I don’t know the word “anachronism.”)

  • Mark

    “The unborn”

    Are who exactly. The next generation or those people who, a thousand years from now, will be living in deep space 9?

    With rights go responsibilities. If, for example, the political class grants you the “right” of universal healthcare how can they ensure enough people accept the responsibility of training as medics etc?

    So how do they ensure the unborn of 2150 leave a good world for the unborn of 2250?

    Yep, controlling every penny, every thought, regulating everything. Rewrite history.

    I’m sure they even know what sort of safespaces generations yet to be will need.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    ‘Anachronism’ means you hate time and time-keepers, and deliberately try to invent things before they are due. The differential Engine, by Babbage, is one example.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “There is no logical connection between the unborn and the unconceived. They are chalk and cheese.”

    But then the first statement, that this is the converse of, would thereby fall too, right?

    Future generations are *actual* people. Aborted fetuses never get to be people. So the former have rights and the latter don’t. Logic is indeed still logic.

  • Julie near Chicago

    But Nicholas, should it not rather go like this:

    An-: “no,” “not,” “without,” “lacking,” e.g. an-archy; hence also “against”

    A-: as above, hence also “uncertain,” “lacking” = lack of interest in, unconcern with; e.g. a-gnostic, unknowing

    -Chronism: Following the doctrines of Timeism

    So, an An-A-Chronism is a doctrine that is against being unconcerned with time, its doctrines, or its meaning. I suppose one who hates time and timekeepers fits the definition, since “hate” is an active, or positive, attitude; although it seems to more natural to take the word as referring to lovers of time (though possibly not of those who keep time).

    Perhaps we should collaborate to write a posting on this confusing but important topic.

    –Or, of course, we could simply chuckle at your wit and go to sleep happy (“invent things before they are due,” i.e. before humanity becomes sensible enough to squish them like bugs before they proliferate, as in certain political or politicized doctrines). 😀

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Sorry, Nullius, but future generations are not actual people. If a meteorite wiped out all life on Earth tomorrow, they would never actually exist. All we really have, and can be certain about, is now.
    Julie, let us hear from other people first. Maybe Anachronism has more meanings than we yet know, so long as we survive tomorrow’s meteorite.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Piffle, Nicholas. It’s not tomorrow’s meteorite I’m worried about, nor even the dreadful Category 15 hurricanes that are going to hit us tomorrow onaccounta Thungor Worming. What worries me is that if we don’t get this “anachronism” business sorted out along with many many other English-language messes, the children –if there are any– of 3020 will have no idea of how to speak grammatical Eengress.

    And I worry about Brexit (not a funny — I really am pretty sure our cousins across the seas should Just Do It), and I worry about what craziness the Dims are gonna pull next, and I worry about the Young Miss and her beloved because that’s my job as a Mom. And about the Grandkitty. And whether the eggs and chocolate will hold out until next week’s shopping trip.

    You’re right. There’s too much to worry about to write the paper, er, posting just now….

  • Rob

    This from the people who worship Keynes and his “in the long run we are all dead”.

    Those yet to be born should be given the vote, and to overcome the obvious logistical difficulties the casting of their votes should rest in the hands of an independent government agency, e.g. like the Supreme Court or the Leveson Enquiry, so completely free from any political bias.

    Thus we can become what we have always dreamed to be – the ultimate Progressive Democracy.

  • Julie near Chicago (October 2, 2019 at 7:06 am), I agree with your analysis of anachronism.

    achronism: not in temporal order, e.g. Brutus’ remark, “Caesar, tis strucken eight” after he heard the shadow tapping on the sundial’s VIII, (thus also relating to) being ignorant of, or indifferent to violating, the temporal order.

    anachronism: a violation of the temporal order, (thus also relating to) regarding such exceptions as violations, e.g. being amused or offended by that line in Shakespeare’s play instead of not noticing it.

    An example is Nullius in Verba (October 2, 2019 at 6:58 am) just before:

    Future generations are *actual* people.

    No, future generations will be actual people – if those future generations exist. That which some demand be called foetus and others call baby indisputably already is (one and/or the other and/or both). The as-yet unconceived are not – but may in future be.

  • Y. Knott

    Leftists – quite prepared to kill an unborn child, but not prepared to kill a convicted murderer.

    ” – Yeah, but that’s DIFFERENT.”

  • Ian Bennett

    ‘Why should we do anything for posterity? After all, what has posterity ever done for us?’

    I was talking with a friend about the recent death of a mutual friend, and asked if he would be going to the funeral.

    “Why should I?” he asked, “He won’t be going to mine.”

  • William H. Stoddard

    An-: “no,” “not,” “without,” “lacking,” e.g. an-archy; hence also “against”

    A-: as above, hence also “uncertain,” “lacking” = lack of interest in, unconcern with; e.g. a-gnostic, unknowing

    -Chronism: Following the doctrines of Timeism

    achronism: not in temporal order, e.g. Brutus’ remark, “Caesar, tis strucken eight” after he heard the shadow tapping on the sundial’s VIII, (thus also relating to) being ignorant of, or indifferent to violating, the temporal order.

    anachronism: a violation of the temporal order, (thus also relating to) regarding such exceptions as violations, e.g. being amused or offended by that line in Shakespeare’s play instead of not noticing it.

    If you guys are serious, then no, that’s wrong. It’s ana “up” + chronizo “to take time” + ismos “a state or process of” [a nominalizing suffix]: usually taken as putting something at an incorrect time. Treating “an” as a negative prefix is false etymology, like treating the “in” in inflammable as a negative prefix rather than an intensifier.

  • Frank S

    The aborting of children is the key point here, when one wishes to consider rights of those who will be conceived in the future and subsequently denied their life by deliberate intervention. But I would like to reinforce another point made in the comments. There is no evidence of a climate crisis, nor are there convincing arguments that we have the ability to predict one developing in the near future. For back-up, see this letter to the UN from hundreds of well-qualified observers: https://clintel.nl/prominent-scientists-warn-un-secretary-general-guterres/ Their letter begins ”There is no climate emergency.
    A global network of 500 scientists and professionals has prepared this urgent message. Climate science should be less political, while climate policies should be more scientific. Scientists should openly address the uncertainties and exaggerations in their predictions of global warming, while politicians should dispassionately count the real benefits as well as the imagined costs of adaptation to global warming, and the real costs as well as the imagined benefits of mitigation.’

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV stated: “Aborted fetuses never get to be people.”

    That is an interesting statement from a logical perspective. The implicit premise is that an entity does not become a human being until it escapes from its mother’s womb. Some people might find that premise to be controversial. The statement is not logic — it is a value judgment.

    Interestingly, people who start with the opposite premise that the entity is a human being while still in its mother’s womb also tend to be strongly in favor of contraception, since that avoids the moral issue of whether the entity scheduled for abortion is a human being or an unwanted kitten. But by being strongly in favor of contraception, they are denying the unconceived the opportunity ever to be conceived — which other people could then assert is a violation of the rights of the unconceived.

    Thus, one might conclude (logically) that those who are in favor of the rights of the unborn are diametrically opposed to the rights of the unconceived.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “That which some demand be called foetus and others call baby indisputably already is (one and/or the other and/or both).”

    Clearly it’s disputable! People dispute it.

    Q. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    A. The egg *is* a chicken! Indisputably!

    “The statement is not logic — it is a value judgment.”

    It’s a choice of definition.

    But the rest of your argument is interesting!

    “No, future generations will be actual people – if those future generations exist.”

    The future already exists. At least, if you believe in special relativity it does.

  • Peter melia

    There is no “climate crisis”, there is simply, as observed, a change in the weather. Sooner or later, the weather change will change again, and so on. Unborn children, have the right to be born and then the right to life, and then to die naturally, not otherwise. Ok. So, humans have rights but weather or climate just happens.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    They call it special relativity because it is for ‘special’ people. The rest of us get alone with ordinary time, generally speaking.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Good point, Nicholas. :>))

  • Lee Moore

    Natalie is failing to appreciate that rights only exist in their social context, whch is to say, they are conditional on the ends they serve. Good end – fettering capitalists – got the right. Bad end – fettering women – don’t got the right. The fundamental question is Who Whom ? Who gets to knock whom flat ? That’s all there is.

    Y’all will have spotted that I have been reading this excellent piece on leninthink

    https://newcriterion.com/issues/2019/10/leninthink

    which, sadly, has snuck behind a paywall since I read it.

    Reading through it, it made instant sense of virtually everything wacky the lefties are up to. Lenin was a postmodernist – he just got there first. The arguments are not supposed to make sense or be consistent. It’s simply a question of whether the argument is useful, today, this morning. Tomorrow the opposite argument might come in handy. The purpose of argument, of discussion, of everyhting, is simply to smash the enemy. Stop looking for consistency – that is a bourgeois concept.

    Lots of lefty writers and puffers will not be aware that they are Leninists, they have simply absorbed it by osmosis from the zeitgeist.

    Time for a new zeitgeist IMHO. This one’s getting stale, a century on.

  • William H. Stoddard (October 2, 2019 at 12:50 pm) interesting point. I will discuss with my local ancient Greek expert and get back to you.

  • “That which some demand be called foetus and others call baby indisputably already is (one and/or the other and/or both).”

    Clearly it’s disputable! People dispute it. (Nullius in Verba, October 2, 2019 at 5:06 pm)

    You appear to have misunderstood. My “and/or’s” fully covered the disputed point. What is not disputable (except in Sir Humphrey Appleby’s sense) is the existence in the present tense of that whose abortability is morally disputed.

    The future already exists. At least, if you believe in special relativity it does.

    All the determining data of a four-dimensional space-time (in general relativity, never mind special) is freely specifiable on a three-dimensional light-cone (and is less-freely but fully specifiable on any space-like surface). Thus belief in relativity, special and/or general, and belief in an already-existent future are also freely-specifiable, as one might put it.

    (Of course, to say the future exists would be to undermine Astra’s claim in another sense. If existence is singular and the future already exists, what moral value has any action of ours? If every future exists in some many-worlds hypothesis, Astra’s ‘rights of the unborn” will be violated in some as surely as they will be protected in others. This offers a rabbit hole of fun but impractical speculation.)

  • NIV stated: “Aborted fetuses never get to be people.”

    The implicit premise is that an entity does not become a human being until it escapes from its mother’s womb. … The statement is not logic — it is a value judgment. (Gavin Longmuir, October 2, 2019 at 4:26 pm)

    Your point is indisputable, save in Sir Humphrey Appleby’s sense of that word, but I note that further meaningful discussion will hardly be possible if Nullius (as would seem from a later reply) chooses to dispute it. Of course, this thread is already getting long (enough? 🙂 ) by Samizdatan standards.

    Interestingly, people who start with the opposite premise that the entity is a human being while still in its mother’s womb also tend to be strongly in favor of contraception, since that avoids the moral issue of whether the entity scheduled for abortion is a human being or an unwanted kitten.

    That was not the traditional Catholic position: they regarded both contraception and abortion as undesirable, albeit the latter much more than the former (as seems consistent). Although I see jokes about “Is the Pope catholic?” these days, it is news to me if that position has formally changed.

  • Fraser Orr

    The implicit premise is that an entity does not become a human being until it escapes from its mother’s womb. … The statement is not logic — it is a value judgment. (Gavin Longmuir, October 2, 2019 at 4:26 pm)

    A lot of the challenge with the abortion issue is that people think that what Gavin says here is not true, that the resident of a uterus absolutely, indisputably is a baby, or absolutely indisputably is not. Given these are axiomatic moral principles for the two groups then no reconciliation on this policy can ever be found.

    It is the delusion that morality is somehow absolute, given from on high, a law of the universe. But there is absolutely no evidence to support such a belief. All the data I have seen indicates that morality is just an evolved moral code that societies have formulated over time.

    In the context of the life of children one must remember that in many societies in the past it has been considered perfectly legitimate, perhaps even a moral imperative, to leave some of the “exited the birth canal” babies to be exposed on hillsides to die. Moreover, from memory it was Roman law that a father had the right to kill his child at any time (including in adulthood.)

    Which is to say the idea that these principles are absolute doesn’t at all match the historical record of human societies. One does not get to simply assume ones conclusions.

    It is part of the betrayal of our philosophy manifest in the 20th century, when all the promise of perfectly constructed philosophical edifices was wrecked by such traitors and Godel or Plank, Bohr and Heisenberg, or Turing. Men who stole from us the absolute certainty the 19th century mathematics and physics had promised us, and replaced it with a sort of philosophical mush of stochastic processes and unfounded but self consistent systems. That moral certainty that the Victorians found in their Bibles has also been blown away by undermining ideas which dared to question the absolutism and certainty that had previously been promised, and left us with that most horrible of ideas that morality is, largely, a collective opinion.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “You appear to have misunderstood. My “and/or’s” fully covered the disputed point. What is not disputable (except in Sir Humphrey Appleby’s sense) is the existence in the present tense of that whose abortability is morally disputed.”

    Suppose I argued that almost all the atoms of which you or I are made date back to some titanic stellar explosion billions of years ago. In this sense, all past generations still exist, and all future generations already exist, scattered among the atoms of the world. Every combination of egg and sperm currently sat in gonads everywhere, each pair a potential future person, exist today. Every set of two eggs and two sperm is a potential grandchild. And the eggs and sperm exist today. Virtually all the genes that will lay out the blueprint for future people exist today, scattered among their ancestors. Does each cell of your body, from which an entire person can be cloned, constitute a person? Does my dinner have rights, given that in a few hours it’s going to become me? Do my hair and fingernails have rights? What exactly are we talking about here, that has ‘rights’?

    The issue is that there are no sharp lines of division between what is ‘person’ and ‘not a person’. In the sense of mass/energy, everything that will exist already exists, so we’re apparently not talking about that. In terms of ‘the potential to become a person’, we apparently don’t include eggs and sperm, or hamburgers, or randomly selected genes, or exploding stars. What *is* this thing we’re talking about, and in what sense does it ‘exist’? Is it anything more than a convenient conceptual simplification invented by a finite brain too limited to model a world without sharp boundaries?

    “Your point is indisputable, save in Sir Humphrey Appleby’s sense of that word, but I note that further meaningful discussion will hardly be possible if Nullius (as would seem from a later reply) chooses to dispute it.”

    🙂

    “All the determining data of a four-dimensional space-time (in general relativity, never mind special) is freely specifiable on a three-dimensional light-cone (and is less-freely but fully specifiable on any space-like surface). Thus belief in relativity, special and/or general, and belief in an already-existent future are also freely-specifiable, as one might put it.”

    Indeed. But I was thinking of the simpler claim, that for observers in relative motion, each one’s past overlaps with the other one’s future. If you turn around and walk the other way, some of what was the past becomes the future. Perhaps it would be more precise to say that if the past and present exist, then so must the future.

    And if you were to propose the past light cone as the boundary of existence/non-existence instead, I ask, whose light cone?

    “If existence is singular and the future already exists, what moral value has any action of ours?”

    It’s an interesting question! I’d dispute that moral responsibility is incompatible with determinism. (Whether in a singular or many-worlds universe.) But some other time…

  • for observers in relative motion, each one’s past overlaps with the other one’s future.

    I’m reminded of the ‘Mr Tomkins in Wonderland’ book. IIRC (my copy has gone walkies), at one point Mr Tomkins is acquitted of murder by showing he was space-like separated from the incident, though the policeman tries to show his guilt precisely by such relativistic future/past reasoning. He could be acquitted of a charge of abortion in the same way. (But I’d agree that, as you say above after your remark about determinism versus free-will, ‘some other time’ could be better for further discussion when this far into a long thread.)

    Fraser Orr, I’m not easily able to reconcile the various parts of your comment (October 3, 2019 at 4:58 pm).

    “… All the data I have seen indicates that morality is just an evolved moral code that societies have formulated over time. … … … and left us with that most horrible of ideas that morality is, largely, a collective opinion.

    Is this a deeply tragic view of the human condition, or are you seeing a difference between “just an evolved moral code that societies have formulated” and “largely, a collective opinion” ?

    (I note that, from the point of view of demonstrating that Natalie is right – i.e. that Astra’s argument contradicts her woke position on abortion – I don’t suppose it matters, so please feel free to echo Nullius and myself re ‘some other time’.)

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall Kilmartin
    “… All the data I have seen indicates that morality is just an evolved moral code that societies have formulated over time. … … … and left us with that most horrible of ideas that morality is, largely, a collective opinion.

    Is this a deeply tragic view of the human condition, or are you seeing a difference between “just an evolved moral code that societies have formulated” and “largely, a collective opinion” ?

    I think they mean the same thing, our opinion, and certainly our collective opinion is a product of our cultural evolution. As to whether it is tragic, I’d suggest we focus on “is” rather than “ought”. And FWIW, “tragic” is a moral judgement which is equally evolved. To me I find this truth rather liberating.

    (I note that, from the point of view of demonstrating that Natalie is right – i.e. that Astra’s argument contradicts her woke position on abortion – I don’t suppose it matters, so please feel free to echo Nullius and myself re ‘some other time’.)

    Regarding Natalie’s contention, yes, she plainly highlights a gross contradiction in Astra’s point of view. But in fairness to Astra, I think such contradictions should not be a surprise. Since morality is evolved it, like all evolved systems, is a messy set of compromises, and cul-de-sacs that are hard to get out of, often filled with vestigial nonsense. And with morality in particular, more so than biological evolution, it is also deliberately manipulated by powerful forces for various nefarious purposes.

    Which isn’t to say that Natalie doesn’t have a point. It is through contrasts like this that the aforementioned moral evolution takes place I suppose. Though, in truth, erudite and convincing though Natalie may be, I think her influence on Astra is probably negligibly small.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Sigh….

    Even so late in the day, I guess I should explain myself on “anachronism.”

    1. In my comment of October 2, 2019 at 2:29 am, inspired by Gavin’s remark that a claimed logical similarity between “future generations” and the aborted was as the logical similarity between chalk and cheese, I was inspired to write,

    Speaking of chalk. How many future kiddies might be eddified if we used the White Cliffs of Dovher to make blackboard chalk?

    (I don’t know the word “anachronism.”)

    It seems I misjudged the readership’s ability at mind-reading. The anachronism lies in the fact that I imply that in the future, chalk and the blackboard will be used, ignoring such advances as the current marker and whiteboard as well as electronic methods of communication. The parenthetical remark was thus intended to poke fun at my example.

    Oddly enough, I do know perfectly well what “anachronism” means, even without excursions into etymology.

    2. Nicholas, on October 2, 2019 at 5:54 am, then made what I took as being one of his joking remarks:

    ‘Anachronism’ means you hate time and time-keepers, and deliberately try to invent things before they are due.

    3. On October 2, 2019 at 7:06 am, I responded to Nicholas’ comment. Since this is Samizdata and this is a discussion of a political issue, I mentally sort of distorted it into the idea that “inventing things before they are due” would include “certain political or politicized doctrines,” which would be invented and entertained “before they were due” to be “squished like bugs before they proliferate,” i.e. when humanity becomes sufficiently sensible.

    4. In that comment I preceded the point of this “pre-due” remark with the invention of what I intended to be a plausible-looking spoof-etymology of the word “anachronism” (which I’d previously said I didn’t know — which was the basis of the joke). I was aware that this is not the usual etymology (pace, William), but based on my (very little) actual knowledge of etymology I did think there was a slight chance it had a tidbit of actual merit.

    (I was encouraged when Niall took the idea seriously. It made me feel brighter than usual, because by me Niall is on the ultra-short-shortlist of the very shiniest of lights hereabouts. He’s smart, he knows how to use — and recognize! — logic; and he’s knowledgeable in various fields. Besides all that, he’s a word-and-language maven and has also written an excellent poem. What more could a girl want! *grin* Thanks, Niall!)

    5. William, on October 2, 2019 at 12:50 pm, brought this saga to the ground with a clanking thud! by presenting what he says is the correct etymology. I have no cause to disbelieve him, and, as Niall says subsequently, I too will have to look into that. And thanks to you too, William, for the info.

    6. So why is it that every time I want leave a comment as simple as “Thanks for the memories” I have to spend 6 hours researching in the cyberstacks!

    .

    From one POV, this entire ms. is highly unnecessary. Still, I’d like people to know that my foolishness grew out of what I guess is a rather obscure sense of humour rather than outright pig-ignorance (of which, sigh, I have a good supply).

    Thank you all for attending. 🙂

  • Agammamon

    Do those not yet conceived even have rights?

    I’m not sure that this is a road these people want to go down.

    1. A lot of her fellow travelers have been pushing for abortion to be legal *past* birth.

    2. If the un-conceived have rights, then not only does this mean that abortion is in a sticky situation but that the very concept of being able to freely use birth control is under attack.

    ‘Every sperm is sacred’ was meant to be satire.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzVHjg3AqIQ

  • Fraser Orr

    @Agammamon
    1. A lot of her fellow travelers have been pushing for abortion to be legal *past* birth.

    FWIW, as I pointed out above (or if I didn’t, I meant to) abortion *after* birth is not at all unprecedented in human history. The Spartans, for example, were renowned for the practice.

  • bobby b

    I always told my kids, from Day One, that I retained my paternal right to choose until their 18th birthday.

    They knew that I was joking.

    Mostly.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Anachronism once more.

    anachronism (n.) [my boldface — this source also comes up with “against,” but for the entire prefix ana- :]

    1640s, “an error in computing time or finding dates,” from Latin anachronismus, from Greek anakhronismos, from anakhronizein “refer to wrong time,” from ana “against” (see ana-) + khronos “time” (see chrono-). Meaning “something out of harmony with a specified time” is first recorded 1816.

    — The Online Etymology Dictionary, at
    https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=anachronism

    .

    Reviews and reputation

    The Online Etymology Dictionary has been referenced by Oxford University’s “Arts and Humanities Community Resource” catalog as “an excellent tool for those seeking the origins of words”[7] and cited in the Chicago Tribune as one of the “best resources for finding just the right word”.[8] It is cited in academic work as a useful, though not definitive, reference for etymology.[9][10][11] In addition, it has been used as a data source for quantitative scholarly research.[12][13]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_Etymology_Dictionary

    Somewhere, the Great Foot comes clean and rather endearingly (to my mind) tells us that the science (in the older meaning of “knowledge”) is far from settled in etymology generally, and likely never will be.

    .

    An anachronism (from the Greek ἀνά ana, “against” and χρόνος khronos, “time”) is a chronological inconsistency in some arrangement….

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anachronism , which also discusses variations on “chronisms” (my term), e.g. Parachronism and Prochronism; and more.

    .

    Of interest also, while we’re at it: The Foot on Cronus and Chronos. Read at the peril of becoming confused. *grin*

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cronus

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronos

    So to whatever extent the The Online Etymology Dictionary’s theory is correct, it agrees with me as to the “against” interpretation of the prefix of “anachronism.” ( “Timeism,” on the other hand, is the doctrine about time that I made up for purposes of the joke.)

    . . .

    I see, William, that while The Online Etymology Dictionary gives “against” as one possible interpretation of ana-, it also gives “up” as another.

    You say tomahto, I say tomato, to misquote Jimmy Durante. But I don’t see why we have to call the whole thing off, so to speak. 😀

    I must say I’m happy to see that you too come out in a rash at the assumption so many people seem to make that the prefix in- necessarily signals a negative. When I see “warning, flammable” I think Wot the ‘eck is that? The Flammifer of Westernesse is all I can think of. Yet we have so many words where in- means “inside [of].” Inhabit, f’rinstance, and aninside itself.

    Niall, does your local Greek expert go for “against,” “up,” or something else?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh dear, I forgot, too many links. Never mind, comment awaiting Probable Cause hearing will doubtless be set free sooner or later.

  • Lee Moore

    Fraser : Since morality is evolved it, like all evolved systems, is a messy set of compromises, and cul-de-sacs that are hard to get out of, often filled with vestigial nonsense

    Not sure “compromise” is the right concept here. It’s more in the nature of a switch, which you want to be able to go either way, according to circumstances. So you want some bits of your moral code, inc evolutionary wiring, to yell “Kill him !” and other bits with other wiring to yell “Save him !”

    Which way you pull the switch depends on the circumstances, but when you’ve pulled it, you want all sorts of justifications (self and public) to rapidly come on stream. Hence it’s no surprise if you have conflicting moral views floating about in there. One day you’ll need to pull the switch the other way and you’re going to need those other justifications to come rapidly on stream.

    As the great evolutionary psychologist said “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

  • Julie near Chicago (October 4, 2019 at 7:59 am), I will be meeting my ancient-Greek-knowing friend this Sunday, but IIUC, your sources defend the ‘ana’ prefix as against the ‘an’ and ‘a’, so it would seem William H. Stoddard (October 2, 2019 at 12:50 pm) was right about that. The word ‘achronal’ exists (used in relativity of a spacelike surface) and the word ‘achronism’ (a timeless state) also exists but it looks like anachronism existed long before either of them were coined.

    In short, I was being anachronistic in thinking that ‘anachronism’ derived from a combination of ‘an’ and ‘achronism’ rather than ‘achronism’ being a word suggested by the already-existing ‘anachronistism’. 🙂 (Thanks to WIlliam Stoddard for correcting me.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, Niall, I wish that everyone could grasp that breaking down ana- into { an- + a- } was supposed to be a spoof “etymology” in the first place, and distinctly not a couple of “guesses.”

    But per the Dictionary I cited above, “against” does cover the overall meaning of the ana- prefix, and so does “up.” So my spoof does reach a conclusion which is argued to be correct, although not by viewing an- and a- as separate prefixes with one following the other*; as does William’s alternative of “up,” which is given as the second sense in the exact same entry in that dictionary, and ignoring the “Timeism” crack.

    *This sort of analysis might be seen as rather like counting sheep by counting the number of legs jumping the fence and dividing by four, except that the latter, no matter how arithmetically sound, is getting there by unnecessarily complex analysis.

    I do hope that people are willing to accept “timeism” as part of the joke.

  • Paul Marks

    As James Lovelock “the Gaia Man” has often pointed out – the massive expansion of NUCLEAR POWER is the only practical way to really greatly reduce C02 emissions.

    It is not “capitalism” that has prevented making nuclear power both cheaper and safer over the decades – it is government regulations that have prevented this. It is government regulations that have strangled innovation in the nuclear industry and kept it stuck in old expensive (and less safe) designs. And the “Greens” who have supported this strangulation – every step of the way.

  • I consulted my local ancient-Greek expert. She says the prefix in anachronism is ‘ana’ (no ‘an’ + ‘a’) and the ‘ana’ is ‘against’, not ‘up’ (the latter would typically be written/pronounced ‘ano’ in this context).

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, yes, but … but … but — It was on the Internet!

    Thanks. 😉

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