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« Motivating Pro-lifers (Video) | Main | What's Wrong with This? »

May 08, 2012



>> "schwarzenegger finds that a clone has taken over his life. But, spoiler alert, it turns out that he himself is the clone, and the person he thought had taken over his life is the original.)
Now, imagine that you are standing over Schwarzenegger's clone moments before it wakes up for the first time. Thus far it has had no conscious experiences at all. But, under the right circumstances, it would have those experiences."

Funny thing, this also happened in Star Trek.

And when Riker discovered his sleeping clone, he shot it. And the clone cringed in pain and died.


>> "The issue is the potentiality of having consciousness under the right circumstances"

every atom has the potential to be a human

what level of potential is required before WisdomLover is ok with killing the construct?

You don't think squashing ovums is murder. So assumedly they don't have enough potential?


I don't see where the clone aspect even comes into it. What's the difference between being such a clone and being in a dreamless sleep - aside from the 'discontinuous jump'?



It's the same thing with the $2 million as it was with being shot in one's sleep.

The possibility that you might keep my money for yourself is something I'm separately concerned about - just like my fear of falling asleep in a world where I can legally be killed in my sleep is separate from my actually being killed while asleep.

In both cases, I never knew what hit me. I experience no nothing bad at that time. Still, I'd never choose to set the world up to work that way. Nobody would.

The 5DE doesn't worry about being killed in his sleep, or having his money stolen unbeknownst to him. He doesn't and can't worry about anything. He is not the sort of thing to worry.


But the worrying isn't relevant. You're not worried either, so it doesn't matter that the unborn human being's not worried. I'm not asking about your subjective feelings and fears. The question is, does he have something objectively valuable (his entire life) that someone is going to take from him. He's the exact same kind of being as you, and is in possession of the same kind of life you have, he just hasn't experienced as much of it yet as you have.

So I ask again, do you truly believe that if someone had killed you while you were in the womb, you would have lost nothing, just because you weren't worried about it? Or would something objectively valuable (your entire life) have been stolen from you?


Right. Every collection of the requisite chemicals has the potential of being conscious. I suppose it's even true that every collection of protons, neutrons and electrons of roughly neutral total charge and sufficient mass has the potential of being conscious.

So yes, it's a matter of how much potential is the right amount. At least, it is given the truest kernel of Ben's position.

It's no argument at all against that position that it becomes a line-drawing exercise. Perhaps the morality of the situation is determined by correctly drawing a line. So what?

Life is full of categories that apply vaguely. How many hairs do you have to be short in order to count as bald? How many pounds do you have to be in order to be fat. It's absurd to say that there's no important difference between Nicole Ritchie and Dom DeLouise and that the difference is that one is fat and the other isn't.

As I said in the earlier post, there are two thresholds with very bright outlines regarding the potentiality for consciousness: fertilization and implantation. The potentiality for consciousness goes up like a step-function when those two events occur. At virtually every other phase of development, you are talking about a very gradual increase.


The sleeping clone is not like a regular sleeping person in the one area where Ben draws his distinction. And it is everything like your 5DE.

To wit, the sleeping clone has never actually been only has a significant potentiality for becoming so (if not destroyed). The normal sleeping person has actually been conscious.


>> "So yes, it's a matter of how much potential is the right amount."

so is this "right amount" a sum that objectively exists?

e.g. as a discovered property of the cosmos--like the distance light travels in a given time interval.

Or, is this "right amount" just the kind of value that stands as a (useful but made up) abstraction.

e.g. Are you and Amy merely proving a personal preference of how you think everyone should organize matter in the cosmos.


"so is this "right amount" a sum that objectively exists?"

Is it an objective fact that Dom DeLouise is fat and Nicole Ritchie isn't?

The Slippery Slope fallacy is called a fallacy for a reason you know.


BTW, I remember the episode where Riker murdered his clone. As I recall, his reasoning for why he was allowed to do it was that it was his tissue. An argument that, if sound, would have allowed him to kill the clone long after the clone was awake and had lived many productive years.

The argument was, of course, not sound. And it was murder.

Generally, when the writers of Star Trek stray into 'philosophy', they bungle the matter in a pretty childish way. That's why the only episodes really worth watching are the ones about the crew's efforts to avoid being killed by a malevolent enemy. Most of the Borg episodes fall into that category. (Almost) everyone, no matter how absurd their other views, can work out whatever 'philosophical' difficulties arise in that case.

>> "Is it an objective fact that Dom DeLouise is fat and Nicole Ritchie isn't?"

if you have discovered the objectively true Body Fat Percentile that delineates fat people from non-fat people, then type it here.

Once you do that, then we can divide the cosmos into fat people and non-fat people.

If you neglect this step, or if you fail to agree on a metric with your opposing party (me), then you're merely stating your opinion on the matter.

Which would be like telling me your favorite ice cream.


I don't see a huge difference between stasis and prior dreamless slumber. Is it that if it's just slumber, there's a chance that you could accidentally wake the clone up while killing it?

Honestly, what if the sleeping clone were the clone of an enemy and would have the enemy's consciousness once awake. So you go to the clone chamber, hatred in your heart, and gun in hand to kill this re-incarnation of your hated enemy.

Would it be murder if the shot woke the clone up long enough for it to have experiences, but not murder if not? So a fatal gutshot and you're guilty of murder, but a fatal headshot and you're only guilty of being a bad role model? are so biting a bullet.

As for this bit about being comfortable with the laundry list ethics. If I read you right, you are saying that killing a human being that falls short in just the way that the pre-born human falls short, i.e. both lack consciousness, might not be OK, but killing the pre-born human is still OK.

If that is what you are saying, then aren't you just saying that the important criterion isn't consciousness after all?


Well it's like I said to Amy---personally, I think the moral issue here really does have to do with whether a human has yet had any experiences. But while I'm willing to defend this position, in the end you really don't have to be convinced of it. Even if my position is incorrect, it doesn't follow that therefore my OTHER position about unborn humans not always having the right to life is also incorrect. The latter does not depend on the former.

But as I said, I am nevertheless willing to defend my position on nonexperience. So let's talk about that.

You say you don't see a huge difference between stasis and prior dreamless slumber (complete with breathing and heart beating). Well you don't really need to see any difference exactly. Do you not simply intuit a difference? That is, after all, what we are inquiring after---what our intuitions have to say on the matter.

My intuition doesn't flag killing the stasis clone. Does yours? On the other hand it does flag killing the dreamlessly sleeping clone---but then only conflictingly, and not to a convincing degree. So I don't deny that I'm biting something of an intuition bullet there, but I'm also not lying when I assure you it's not much of one.

You ask:

Would it be murder if the shot woke the clone up long enough for it to have experiences, but not murder if not? So a fatal gutshot and you're guilty of murder, but a fatal headshot and you're only guilty of being a bad role model?

Yes, I think that sounds about right. I don't know, maybe it strikes you as somewhat absurd, but then keep in mind that we strayed into the realm of absurdity as soon as we started talking about sleeping clones!



Thanks for clearing up what you mean by "rights".

"I understand "rights" to be freedoms and/or privileges granted to or won by conscious beings."

I think this is kind of the crux of the problem with our conversation here. I think that a right is something that is obligatory to provide to the one that qualifies for that right. It is in effect an appropriated entitlement to the individual in question and not just a privilege that might be contingent on other things, which things if taken away, would then deny that individual that right. The right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness being inalienable rights of a human being on the merit of what he intrinsically is which trait is not the kind of thing that can be removed from that individual without his suffering the loss of that trait through death. Only in the case of a properly justified death penalty, can the individual be appropriately denied the fundamental human rights accrued to all human beings in virtue of what they are by definition.


What's the difference between the clone in stasis and the sleeping clone? Is it just a function of how easy it is to wake them up? I don't get it at all, and I'm utterly befuddled about how you could have different views on the two cases.

The point of the sleeping clone example was to isolate the one criterion that you claimed was the essential difference between pre-born humans and sleeping adult humans: to wit the fact that one has had experiences and the other hasn't.

The sleeping clone thought experiment isn't absurd at all. It precisely focuses our attention on that criterion. The only difference between the sleeping adult human and the sleeping clone is precisely that the one satisfies your criterion and the other does not. Otherwise, the sleeping clone is incredibly close to our ordinary experience of human beings. I'm not imagining some being with super-powers or who lives in the EM fields of a micro-chip. I'm talking a bout a genetically human being very much like the hundreds and hundreds of adult humans you've already met. So much like them that it's virtually impossible to tell the difference.

To underscore this, let's take the thought experiment in a somewhat different direction. In the Schwarzenegger movie they added a McGuffin where the clones had spots under their eyelids. Let's suppose that our clone doesn't have that. Let's even suppose that part of the process of creating the clone includes the addition of distinguishing scars, the replication of various surgeries and so on. Let's further suppose that the original person is put to sleep in order to perform the final process of extracting the brain state that will be impressed upon the clone. The two typically wake up at about the same time.

Now, a lab technician, expressing his puckish sense of humor decides in one case that he will remove both patients from the consciousness transfer apparatus and place them, identically dressed, in identical hospital beds in the same room. As a final step, he calls in several other individuals to randomly roll the beds around in the room. In the end, no one knows who started out in which bed.

There is now no one on earth who knows which is the sleeping clone and which is the sleeping original. Even if both were allowed to wake up, no one would know. Not even the original would know. Sure he would remember going in to have his consciousness transferred into the clone. But the clone would remember it just the same.

Now, suppose you come upon these two slumbering entities and you decide to shoot one of them in the head. Do you have the perfect defense that, for all anyone knows, you shot the sleeping clone?


I'm not sure your definition is incompatible with mine. Anyway, I don't think there are such things as "unalienable" rights. IMO, Jefferson got that bit wrong.



Well I think it's absurd in the sense of being far-fetched and fantastic. That is, of course, the same sense in which I think your complaint about waking the clone at the moment of being shot is absurd. If we consider that these concerns are legitimate, then I don't see any problem with being careful about the method in which we kill the clone. Nor do I see any problem with addressing potential loopholes in our legal system (such as you describe in your latest comment).

I guess you just have different intuitions than I do about the clones. It seems to me natural to suppose that they do not have the same rights as the rest of us (or indeed any rights) until such time that they have been mentally activated. I don't feel like I'm "biting the bullet" at all in the case of stasis clones, and in the case of dreamlessly sleeping clones my conflicting intuitions can be chalked up the fact that all the sleeping adult human bodies in my experience are never inactivated clones, but rather conscious beings already endowed with rights. So the example is just not convincing to me.

And if you really do have different intuitions, okay, but that doesn't mean much for the rights of unborn humans. You are free to hold that I am mistaken about the general criteria for human rights, but that doesn't mean fetuses have rights. You will need an independent argument for that, and I don't see that one is available to you.



I think you are mistaken about the general criterion for human rights and that the sleeping clone thought experiments more-or-less prove that. I think that whether or not you feel the lead against your teeth (and I take you at your word when you say that you don't) you are biting the bullet big time.

I've also done quite a bit more than simply attack your criterion. I also gave a competing criterion for human rights that gets all the sleeping clone cases right. To wit, that human rights are given in proportion to the potentiality for full cognitive function. Sleeping clones have no fewer rights than any other sleeping person on that ground. And we might even choose to save a sleeping clone's life over the life of a 'normal' person if, for example, the 'normal' person were suffering through the final stages of a fatal disease while the prospects for a full life for the clone were high.

This criterion also accords substantial if not full human rights to post-fertilization human beings.

Ben, since I don't have a way to contact you (I encourage you to leave an email address when you comment--we only use it if we need to), I just want to let you know I'll be posting some of your comments (and one or two from Ron) from here and discussing them next Tuesday as part of my blog post on the understanding of rights that you share with many atheists. I'm not including your name (it's not for the purpose of singling you out--just to get an example of the view), but I'll link back to here.


You say, "Wouldn't you be more inclined to offer rights ..." Inclined to offer rights. You claim the right to "offer" or withhold rights of others based on your inclination. As as African American who grew up in the segregated South, you can't imagine how chilling that idea is to me.

It should be chilling to everybody.

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