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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Abortion and animal rights: the post that gets me pipe-bombed

Okay, so physics and philosophy isn't the most exciting thing in the world. Let's talk abortion! I just saw this video that asks abortion protesters whether women who have illegal abortions should go to jail. Most said something along the lines of that women who have abortions are "punished enough".

It's an important question, and has actually changed my mind: from a purely social-pragmatic standpoint, it seems clear that abortion has to be legal. Nobody is prepared to let poor people die on the street, so medical care must be socialized. Nobody is prepared to send desperate women to jail (except for one person in the video), so abortion must be legalized. Makes sense to me.

But I'm pretty terrible at political issues and often flip sides (or do what my brother, an army language/diplomacy officer with an economics degree, tells me). On the abortion issue I've always just stayed out of it - as a man, it's not my place to presume how women perceive life in their bodies, or how their psychology works (lord help us), or anything else about them for that matter. Ethically, I still feel that way - it's not my place to judge. But law must be pragmatic, not necessarily "moral".

But you didn't ask how I felt scientifically: in this sense I think that if it's okay to kill great apes, it's okay to kill fetuses and infants up to three months (or was it years? I can't remember the research) old or so, depending on when they reach a measurable state of self-awareness.

The point is that it's NOT okay to kill great apes, dolphins, elephants, or any other higher animal with demonstrable self-awareness. As said before, I think there may be a measurable phase transition of self-awareness, at which point we must step back and stop invasive testing.

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