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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Amazing, really

People want a Utopia, but Utopia cannot exist because of people. Here's part of the problem: people are ignorant and enjoy being thus.

For example: What is "wrong?" Why is murder "wrong?" It's amazing how many people have no explanation... they consider things to be "wrong" because they just are. It's wrong because you shouldn't do it.

Assuming the existence of a God who created the universe, could He kill with impunity? Would it be "wrong" for him to take human form, cut some throats, and vanish? I sense your outrage. God wouldn't do such a thing! Why not? Because it's wrong! But it wouldn't BE wrong if He did it, so why wouldn't He?

"Wrong" can be defined many ways. I see three logical ways of defining it, but there may be more. The problem is, without a God, they are all relative. They are all pragmatic moral codes that serve a purpose, not absolute right and wrong in themselves.

That's fine, say the atheists. Perhaps. If moral codes are designed pragmatically, and it would benefit me to break one, then shouldn't I? Put this way, aren't moral codes just rules of behavior we feel somewhat strongly about, like covering one's mouth while coughing?

I follow an absolute moral code based on the simple premise that "things are Wrong because God says so." That's a fine definition, assuming God, but the first practical problem is which holy text to believe. The next practical problem is the vague generality or incompleteness of the texts. I can't find "p2p file sharing" anywhere in Numbers.

Therefore I, and presumably many others, have a second system, which I call an ethical system to distinguish it from the moral system. Ethical systems are ALL relative and based on some set of axioms. Bear in mind that this is my definition. I suppose that someone reaching different conclusions would have no need for two systems; they would say that some ethical systems are absolute, because those systems assume a God; I have classified those as moral systems for my own personal reflection.

So what is "wrong?" Well, I gave one definition a while back as:

Something is wrong if the individual doing it doesn't want his act to be known to others.

That's based on evolutionary psychology and should mirror the "conscience" fairly closely. Then there is the "God says so" rationale above.

Returning to my hypothetical question- and this will be interesting to the atheists too- "If God kills someone for no reason, is it wrong?" I don't think so. Under neither of the standards I put forward is it wrong. Under Rights ethics it is okay because He would theoretically own the humans, and under Utilitarianism.. well.. you can't argue with God, right?

So here's the next question. If I create a human clone, is it wrong for me to kill it? Of course it is!!! But why? I own it.. I created it. I have all the property rights of God. Presumably I have a good reason, so Utilitarianism doesn't apply. I don't feel bad about killing her. Let's make this more fun and say it's a fully functioning adult human clone. The only moral code that would make killing her "wrong" would be the religious one. Would it?

The most nebulous part of rights ethics is determing who gets rights. A fetus? A child? A 20 year old man has no legal right to put alcohol in his own body, even if he makes it himself from corn. A ten year old has no liberty, property, or right to pursue happiness or a better education. Why should my clone have any rights? Even if she does, well... That's just a relative ethical system.

Ah ha! you say. But it is clearly covered by Christianity. Thou shalt not murder. Cease thine sophistry at once, knave. God would not want you to kill her. Really? Are you sure? Why would God care if I made a clone and then killed it? Does this not fall a little outside the realm of bronze age theology? If the zygote is made synthetically, which is within the realm of theory, what claim does He have on it moreso than on a rock? There's no copyright on human DNA.

So what's wrong with harvesting her organs?

In this case I think it would be immoral to mistreat a clone. Oh well.

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