PDA

View Full Version : Radical conservationists: Are individual human lives expendable? Why?


Skald the Rhymer
09-03-2011, 01:45 PM
In another thread, this post appears:

More seriously, the 'abnormality' of depression is socially constructed and does not in itself create an exception to human rights theory.

Now, as a radical conservationist, I see individual human life as expendable, but depressives don't really use so many more resources than anyone else.

And depressives, if they gain coping mechanisms, may in some cases be better able to deal with huge failure than those without depressive episodes in their pasts. This is useful in certain high-powered careers. Optimists are good at getting elected to high office, but bad at dealing with Really Bad Stuff, because, well, they're optimists. They can't tell it's really bad until they get broken.

I would like to ask foolsguinea -- or any other radical conservationists on the board, if such there be --to expand on this position, if y'all are willing.

foolsguinea
09-03-2011, 02:00 PM
Well, situationally expendable.

It's a function of moral hierarchies.

Life has value. The life of an individual has value on a lesser rank than the life of a kind or category of life.

Individuals, whose genes are still in the population though they are gone < genetic variations that give us kinds of individuals < genera and filled ecological niches

To kill one man, or a million, if it can be done without diminishing the human genome--while an atrocity all else being equal--is preferable to destroying some part of the genome of, say, the fig. Just as killing a billion individual mosquitoes is preferable to losing, say, the nappy-hair gene in humans.

Now, it may be that human beings decide that nappy hair isn't worth saving, & future exemplars of our species all end up with relatively unkinked hair. And that's not the worst thing in the world. But it's a loss. And losing part of the genome of a potentially useful crop plant or ecologically significant predator might be a bigger deal.

PSXer
09-03-2011, 02:58 PM
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.

Mosier
09-03-2011, 03:02 PM
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.

That's not the argument presented, though. Foolsguinea stated he would trade a million human lives to preserve a section of the fig genome. I don't think he'd actually push the button himself if it was really on the line, though.

Qin Shi Huangdi
09-03-2011, 03:54 PM
So saving a plant species from extinction is more important than the lives of a million human beings? You have just as much of a fucked up morality as Hitler or Stalin except in this case it is in the name of the Environment rather than that of the Reich or the Revolution.

Hopefully this is an extreme minority view

Chronos
09-03-2011, 03:58 PM
Clearly, individual human lives are expendable, with or without a conservationist viewpoint on it. Every one of us is going to die, and it's not going to be the end of the world. Nobody really likes to talk about that, but I didn't realize there was anyone who would argue against the point.

Qin Shi Huangdi
09-03-2011, 04:18 PM
Clearly, individual human lives are expendable, with or without a conservationist viewpoint on it. Every one of us is going to die, and it's not going to be the end of the world. Nobody really likes to talk about that, but I didn't realize there was anyone who would argue against the point.

Only if the thing at stake is more human lives.

foolsguinea
09-03-2011, 05:22 PM
So saving a plant species from extinction is more important than the lives of a million human beings? You have just as much of a fucked up morality as Hitler or Stalin except in this case it is in the name of the Environment rather than that of the Reich or the Revolution.

Hopefully this is an extreme minority viewLet's say it's a variety of food crop, particularly well-adapted to a given environment, that could exist in its present form for 10 million years, & whose descendants could exist for 100 million years.

Versus 10 million human beings who will die in 100 years, & whose long-term effect on the human population approaches nil in about 300 years.

What's the cost to quality of life, for those millions of years, from losing the first? from losing the second?

Now, I figure you're a Young Earth Creationist, & deny my major. But that argument is much simpler. The fig genome is part of God's design for the earth. To eliminate part of it is to take part of his work, tear it off, wad it up, & throw it away. To sin against the will of God and expression of his imagination. I can accept killing someone if it is to stop that. I can accept killing a lot of someones.

But then, I've actually read the book of Exodus.

Mijin
09-03-2011, 06:02 PM
Let's say it's a variety of food crop, particularly well-adapted to a given environment, that could exist in its present form for 10 million years, & whose descendants could exist for 100 million years.

Versus 10 million human beings who will die in 100 years, & whose long-term effect on the human population approaches nil in about 300 years.

What's the cost to quality of life, for those millions of years, from losing the first? from losing the second?

Firstly, the duration is pretty irrelevant. I don't think anyone subscribes to the philosophy that duration necessarily equates to value, except when comparing like for like entities.
A yoghurt pot might be around longer than me, if it ends up in a landfill. It still has less value to me than my life.

For the second point, that more lives might be saved as a result; this is a "greater good" argument.
But it's one based on initiating, causing, an evil thing to happen now, to try to prevent a greater evil later.
And this is morally reprehensible: it's the kind of reasoning that tyrants use. "If we allow dissent, the state could tear itself apart, and millions could starve. Therefore it's for the greater good that we kill dissenters".

Der Trihs
09-03-2011, 06:50 PM
It's also an argument that requires the power of prophecy to even be valid on its own terms. The fact is, you don't know what's going to happen in hundred years, much less a million. You don't know that that crop won't go extinct in another century for another reason. You don't know that in a few hundred years we won't all be uploaded into robot bodies or living off replicators and not need crops of any kind. And for all you know, letting those millions of people die will through a series of later consequences lead to a world war that kills off the entire planet; so by saving that crop and condemning those people, you've destroyed the whole biosphere.

Without the ability to accurately predict it, you can't make moral choices based on what will happen in the far future. You don't have the knowledge to base those choices on.

monstro
09-03-2011, 08:26 PM
Well, situationally expendable.

It's a function of moral hierarchies.

Life has value. The life of an individual has value on a lesser rank than the life of a kind or category of life.

Individuals, whose genes are still in the population though they are gone < genetic variations that give us kinds of individuals < genera and filled ecological niches

To kill one man, or a million, if it can be done without diminishing the human genome--while an atrocity all else being equal--is preferable to destroying some part of the genome of, say, the fig. Just as killing a billion individual mosquitoes is preferable to losing, say, the nappy-hair gene in humans.

Now, it may be that human beings decide that nappy hair isn't worth saving, & future exemplars of our species all end up with relatively unkinked hair. And that's not the worst thing in the world. But it's a loss. And losing part of the genome of a potentially useful crop plant or ecologically significant predator might be a bigger deal.


If I take your argument to its logical end, all of us are indispensible simply because our individual genomes are unique. Because no one has the same gene combinations that any other individual has. For instance, I have mutations somewhere in my genome that no one else has. Perhaps they are deleterious, perhaps they are beneficial, most likely they are neutral. Or perhaps the fireworks don't begin until they are combined with someone else's genes. If you take me out, who knows what possibilities the population is missing out on?

Millions of years ago, a proto-human possessed a mutation that allowed for upright walking. A single individual. Would you say that this person was "expendable"? What about their parents or grandparents?

I think we all share the same potential for carrying uniquely wonderful mutations and gene combinations that we don't even know anything about yet. And I don't think all genomes are created equal or need to be preserved all in the name of preserving biodiversity. I can believe both of these things and not feel conflicted. Because fact is, nature is full of redundancies and things will not automatically fall apart if diversity is lessened. There is a tipping point where it will, but once we get to the point of having to kill people to avoid it, then I think we're kind of too late.

Beware of Doug
09-03-2011, 08:37 PM
Maybe society would be stronger if, now and then, we offed some individuals just for the sake of being individuals. What do they add to humanity's basic, physical wellbeing and survivability?

Never mind nonsense like hope and joy and inspiration that individuals bring - if we're gonna strengthen the race, we've gotta beyond that crap anyway.

Bryan Ekers
09-03-2011, 09:38 PM
<nah>

Babale
09-03-2011, 10:40 PM
Maybe society would be stronger if, now and then, we offed some individuals just for the sake of being individuals. What do they add to humanity's basic, physical wellbeing and survivability?

Never mind nonsense like hope and joy and inspiration that individuals bring - if we're gonna strengthen the race, we've gotta beyond that crap anyway.

What? The entire point of human exsistance is hope and joy and all that crap. If humans branch out and conquer every inch of the universe but give up all this emotional "crap" what possible value is there for their continued existance?

Qin Shi Huangdi
09-03-2011, 11:53 PM
Let's say it's a variety of food crop, particularly well-adapted to a given environment, that could exist in its present form for 10 million years, & whose descendants could exist for 100 million years.

Versus 10 million human beings who will die in 100 years, & whose long-term effect on the human population approaches nil in about 300 years.

What's the cost to quality of life, for those millions of years, from losing the first? from losing the second?

Now, I figure you're a Young Earth Creationist, & deny my major. But that argument is much simpler. The fig genome is part of God's design for the earth. To eliminate part of it is to take part of his work, tear it off, wad it up, & throw it away. To sin against the will of God and expression of his imagination. I can accept killing someone if it is to stop that. I can accept killing a lot of someones.

But then, I've actually read the book of Exodus.

First of all for the record I am not a Young Earth Creationist. I am more or less certain the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and evolution occurred largely as described by biological scientists to-day. I consider myself an evolutionary creationist.

But to the main point: at the rate genetic technology is advancing, many new and hardy breeds of crops are being developed and we can expect it to keep going on and secondly if the crop is necessary for food like the various varieties of say the potato it will not be allowed to go extinct barring major disaster. Indeed under human ingenuity many new crops have been developed.

And Stalinist logic works very much the same way: considering all the proles who would starve to death in the next few thousand years without the la revolucion what's a few million dead now?

Der Trihs
09-03-2011, 11:57 PM
And Stalinist logic works very much the same way: considering all the proles who would starve to death in the next few thousand years without the la revolucion what's a few million dead now?And so does Christian logic; what matters the suffering or pleasure that exists now when there's an eternity in Heaven or Hell ahead? If you kill millions now but save one soul from Hell you've saved them from an eternity of torture, and therefore done an infinite amount of good; far outweighing those millions of people you killed.

Qin Shi Huangdi
09-04-2011, 12:00 AM
And so does Christian logic; what matters the suffering or pleasure that exists now when there's an eternity in Heaven or Hell ahead? If you kill millions now but save one soul from Hell you've saved them from an eternity of torture, and therefore done an infinite amount of good; far outweighing those millions of people you killed.

Arguably something some of the more violent Inquisitors believed but logically belief out of fear or torture is not real belief nor is it in the spirit of Christ but this is rather offtopic.

Der Trihs
09-04-2011, 12:03 AM
Arguably something some of the more violent Inquisitors believed but logically belief out of fear or torture is not real belief nor is it in the spirit of Christ but this is rather offtopic.I've heard variations on that argument from plenty of believers. And you brought up Stalin, who is just as "off topic".

heathen earthling
09-04-2011, 12:11 AM
Well, situationally expendable.

It's a function of moral hierarchies.

Life has value. The life of an individual has value on a lesser rank than the life of a kind or category of life.

Individuals, whose genes are still in the population though they are gone < genetic variations that give us kinds of individuals < genera and filled ecological niches

...Just as killing a billion individual mosquitoes is preferable to losing, say, the nappy-hair gene in humans.

What if those billion mosquitoes are the only examples of their genus?

Does your moral hierarchy take into account whether the organism in question generally causes happiness or suffering to other beings?

monstro
09-04-2011, 12:40 AM
Does your moral hierarchy take into account whether the organism in question generally causes happiness or suffering to other beings?

There isn't a single organism that another organism doesn't benefit from. As much as I hate them (don't we all?), mosquitos provide food to other organisms...organisms who provide food to organisms who then find their way to our dinner plates (to be self-centered about it).

However, that doesn't mean that if we exterminated mosquitos, the world would automatically collapse. Some or many individual ecosystems might, but ecosystems usually aren't that unstable. Take away the mosquito and out goes the minnows that feeds on their larvae. Or maybe they shift to some other larvae that would have normally been displaced by the mosquito and the ecosystem just shifts but still functions.

We're much better off protecting habitats than individual species. Preserving habitat is much more pragmatic than saving organisms just for the sake of it.

Asympotically fat
09-04-2011, 04:18 AM
So saving a plant species from extinction is more important than the lives of a million human beings? You have just as much of a fucked up morality as Hitler or Stalin except in this case it is in the name of the Environment rather than that of the Reich or the Revolution.

Hopefully this is an extreme minority view

Never thoguht I'd say this, but I wholeheartedly agree with you. The only people who are 'expendable' in my books are the likes of foolsguinea.

Mijin
09-04-2011, 04:51 AM
And Stalinist logic works very much the same way: considering all the proles who would starve to death in the next few thousand years without the la revolucion what's a few million dead now?

And you brought up Stalin, who is just as "off topic".


I think it was aimed at me.
I didn't mention stalin, but I gave the example of an official in a totalitarian state genuinely believing (or at least thinking there is a good chance) that killing dissenters would ultimately save lives.

It doesn't matter whether the official is correct in this belief for the example to be relevant. Only that he believes it.
In the case of the "food crop" argument, we don't know whether that species of fig is going to be a key food crop, let alone that it will directly save the lives of more than 10 million people.

Initiating an evil on the basis of what you think might happen in the future is evil, end of.

Acid Lamp
09-04-2011, 07:07 AM
The problem with radical conservationism is that is denies the most basic tenets of the continuance of life; change. Habitats, species, and their various demographics all change over time. Species arise and go extinct. Climate changes and habitats shift. In time, speciation happens again. Conservation is only valuable to us in that it preserves a viable habitat for a large enough variety of life to sustain both the ecosystem and human life. There is no inherent value to preserving any given species merely for the sake of preservation itself.

hocuspocusfocus
09-04-2011, 07:11 AM
a distinction between right and wrong;
a system of morality according to a particular philosophy, religion, culture

It's a function of moral hierarchies.
Life has value. The life of an individual has value on a lesser rank than the life of a kind or category of life.

This is classic Marxism pure and simple. First articulated by Karl Marx, Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans collectively produce the necessities of life. The collective has more value than the individual.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.
Is an apt statement of "radical conservationists" who obviously believe that

the Human species must survive
That species diversity is essential to human survival.
The individual is expendable in order to achieve A. & B.
The points are not in evidence nor do I concede them.

We live in a country which requires the "consent of the governed" from which Jefferson and other Founders conceived "individual" sovereignty. This means the RIGHTS of the individual outweigh the RIGHTS of the many.

As "independent, sovereign entities" with "unalienable rights" the individual does not have the "positive" right of receiving his needs filled. He has only the "negative" rights of being left alone, and having that right protected by the government.

Any government that operates by the "needs" principle is a tyranny.

I will not become a fools guinea pig.

Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can face anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman


Without the ability to accurately predict it, you can't make moral choices based on what will happen in the far future. You don't have the knowledge to base those choices on.
Well stated coping mechanism, with the fear that you might be one of the few, to return to the goo, and we would miss you!
90% of all the species that have lived on the planet were extinct millions of years before you arrived on the scene.
But don't step on that cockroach, it may be someones grandmother, or become the progenitor of a future arachnid galactic empire.

Alessan
09-04-2011, 08:39 AM
Life has value.

"Value" is a human concept, and has no objective meaning whatsoever. The universe certainly doesn't care whether or not its atoms are arranged in the form of what we call "life".

Der Trihs
09-04-2011, 09:58 AM
Well stated coping mechanism, with the fear that you might be one of the few, to return to the goo, and we would miss you!It's not a "coping mechanism". It's a simple fact; we don't have the ability to make detailed, long range predictions like that. Not for good purposes, not for bad ones; we just can't do it at all.

"Value" is a human concept, and has no objective meaning whatsoever. The universe certainly doesn't care whether or not its atoms are arranged in the form of what we call "life".And? We are discussing human actions and choices here. And the fact that the universe doesn't care just means that it has no opinion to take into consideration; we get to define "values" because nothing else is.

LonesomePolecat
09-04-2011, 02:33 PM
I've heard variations on that argument from plenty of believers. Really? Because I haven't, and I dare say I've known at least as many believers as you. And you brought up Stalin, who is just as "off topic". On the contrary, whenever the conversation is about killing millions of people in the name of some alleged social good, it's always appropriate to bring up Stalin. And Mao and Pol Pot as well.

Der Trihs
09-04-2011, 07:01 PM
Really? Because I haven't, and I dare say I've known at least as many believers as you.Then you haven't been paying attention, "suffering and death in the present don't matter because we're going to live eternally in the afterlife" is a pretty standard argument made by people trying to defend God from accusations of being evil or uncaring. Including on this board.

On the contrary, whenever the conversation is about killing millions of people in the name of some alleged social good, it's always appropriate to bring up Stalin. And Mao and Pol Pot as well.And Christianity, and Islam, and Hinduism, and Aztecism*, and pretty much every religion around at one point or another. But this thread is about "radical conservationists", not religions and not communists (even assuming the two are actually separate things).

*Or whatever the heck their religion was called.

The Tao's Revenge
09-04-2011, 07:18 PM
"Value" is a human concept, and has no objective meaning whatsoever. The universe certainly doesn't care whether or not its atoms are arranged in the form of what we call "life".

Well if life has no objective meaning than logically Hitler, Stalin, and other mass murders simply rearranged some atoms.

Nothing wrong with that, correct? If not please objectively demonstrate why mass murder is wrong. If you can't then maybe objective meaning doesn't have much to do with moral meanings

Der Trihs
09-04-2011, 07:34 PM
Nothing wrong with that, correct? If not please objectively demonstrate why mass murder is wrong. If you can't then maybe objective meaning doesn't have much to do with moral meaningsOr if it does, who cares? If there is some "objective morality" and it says that mass murder or rape or torture are OK, then screw "objective morality". People assume that an "objective morality" would be a good thing; in reality being objective (and therefore not based on human opinions, needs or desires) there would be no reason to assume that it agreed with their morality in any way.

gonzomax
09-04-2011, 07:51 PM
Healthcare to the poor is expendable if it takes money from the rich. That should give you a clue how much the poor matter.
Medicare, dump it. old people don't make enough money for the bosses. They are not worth having medical help. Let them croak.
Iraqi and Afghanistani lives are collateral damage. Not really people at all. Kids, men , women and old people just get in the way.
Torturing possible terrorists? No problem. If you torture and jail a few innocents, no matter.

foolsguinea
09-04-2011, 08:27 PM
Without the ability to accurately predict it, you can't make moral choices based on what will happen in the far future. You don't have the knowledge to base those choices on.You're making an epistemological argument against consequentialism, but consequentialism is axiomatic to me, so you won't get very far.

1) I can make educated guesses, and some outcomes really are more likely than others.
1a) Plants don't just spontanenously go extinct for no reason after several million years.
1b) If you're really arguing from total we-can't-knowism (agnosticism, skepticism, evs), then what's the point of morality? At all times our decisions choose between one opportunity or another, one life or another. So by your logic, why shouldn't I just kill everyone I don't like? I can't know that they're not really as smelly, evil, and dangerous as my chimpish instincts tell me. And I have to follow my instincts in the absence of higher knowledge, which according to you is impossible.

2) It was a thought experiment, a hypothetical involving an outrageously high level of information & an unusually specific conflict, as a way of bringing the principle into relief.A yoghurt pot might be around longer than me, if it ends up in a landfill. It still has less value to me than my life.You can't base a standard of morality on your subjective valuation of your life, and expect anyone else to care. You think you're so wonderful, Beware of Doug thinks he's worthless, & I think you're about the same. Mr Hitler would think you were in his way. Whose subjective opinion means anything objective?

foolsguinea
09-04-2011, 08:39 PM
Never thoguht I'd say this, but I wholeheartedly agree with you. The only people who are 'expendable' in my books are the likes of foolsguinea.Unluckily for the future of life on this rock, yours is the dominant opinion. We've already seen what simple humanism does to quality of life per human. And mathematically, we can easily see that there are limits to our resource base. Your point of view should be shelved until someone invents a warp drive (that is, forever). Unfortunately, it will empty our oceans of fish & wreck the world. No one wants to admit we're over carrying capacity already but the crazies and the depressives. But we are, and you will live to see your grandchildren turn to cannibalism out of lack of other options.

Don't expect me to humor your stupid unsustainable beliefs.

The Tao's Revenge
09-04-2011, 08:52 PM
You can't base a standard of morality on your subjective valuation of your life, and expect anyone else to care. You think you're so wonderful, Beware of Doug thinks he's worthless, & I think you're about the same. Mr Hitler would think you were in his way. Whose subjective opinion means anything objective?


Can you objectively define"I'm experiencing seeing the color blue" such that someone who hasn't seen anything blue could be made to understand it's meaning?

If not, then objective meaning isn't demonstrated to describe everything that has meaning.

Do on to others as you'd have them do on to you sounds like a pretty good standard. Compassion is another similar one. Societies that value compassion tend to be nicer places to live based on poverty, health, safety, and happiness levels.

People generally agree on the value of healthy, safety, and happiness. If nothing else, out of enlightened self interest.

The Tao's Revenge
09-04-2011, 09:09 PM
No one wants to admit we're over carrying capacity already but the crazies and the depressives. But we are, and you will live to see your grandchildren turn to cannibalism out of lack of other options.

You know maybe if an opinion is just shared primarily among the crazy, maybe that says something about the quality of the opinion.

They made similar predictions before the invention of modern agricultural methods. Further in the developed world fertility decreases. Therefor population growth isn't long term trend. The solution to depleted oceans, is farm raising fish. The solution to crop failure is better farming methods. The solution to technological troubles isn't mass cullings and reverting to hunter gathers until an asteroid takes us out, but environmentally sustainable energy production and cleaning up industrial methods.

For starters, if nothing else, we're making our first tentative steps into cheaper access to space (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipOne). There's a giant fusion reactor up there that can give us all the energy we want to power our tractors, or even skyscrapers of hydroponics.

Getting it is just a large engineering problem.

monstro
09-04-2011, 09:39 PM
If we were over carrying capacity, we'd be seeing an overall decline in our population numbers. We may be approaching K. We may be at K. But we haven't surpassed it.

Conservation biology does not need people lacking an understanding of basic ecology to represent it.

Der Trihs
09-04-2011, 09:55 PM
1a) Plants don't just spontanenously go extinct for no reason after several million years.They have reasons for it, but they do go extinct.


1b) If you're really arguing from total we-can't-knowism (agnosticism, skepticism, evs), then what's the point of morality? At all times our decisions choose between one opportunity or another, one life or another. So by your logic, why shouldn't I just kill everyone I don't like? I can't know that they're not really as smelly, evil, and dangerous as my chimpish instincts tell me. And I have to follow my instincts in the absence of higher knowledge, which according to you is impossible.That's not what I was saying at all. I was pointing out that we can't just dismiss killing people as having no long term consequences since we have no way of knowing what those long term consequences are. And while some outcomes are more predictable that others, the long term consequences of killing people is highly unpredictable; we aren't talking about orbital mechanics here.

2) It was a thought experiment, a hypothetical involving an outrageously high level of information & an unusually specific conflict, as a way of bringing the principle into relief.It was like the "would you torture someone to stop a nuke from going off" scenario; an extreme and highly implausible scenario designed to screw with people's judgment and produce a desired response that wouldn't work in the real world.


You can't base a standard of morality on your subjective valuation of your life, and expect anyone else to care. Of course you can. I and most people consider our lives to be of value, so we collectively decide to treat them as of being of value.

Mijin
09-05-2011, 04:19 AM
You can't base a standard of morality on your subjective valuation of your life, and expect anyone else to care. You think you're so wonderful, Beware of Doug thinks he's worthless, & I think you're about the same. Mr Hitler would think you were in his way. Whose subjective opinion means anything objective?

You've missed the point so badly there that you're now arguing my point, for me.

I was arguing against the idea that there is inherent value in duration; that something around for 1 million years is necessarily more important than a different entity around for only 100 years, for example.

My position is that there is no inherent value in anything; value is a human concept and we can completely differ in what we value.
However, it is far from arbitrary; it's really the product of our instincts / dispositions, plus the (dynamic) influence of society.

And people can be convinced to value something. If I show you that controlling an open file in chess can be the key to victory, you may start to value open files when you didn't before.

The position that a species of fig has greater value than millions of human lives is not one that is instinctive to us, it's not currently endorsed by society, and I have not heard a good argument for why I should value a species so highly.

Kobal2
09-05-2011, 05:19 AM
And Stalinist logic works very much the same way: considering all the proles who would starve to death in the next few thousand years without the la revolucion what's a few million dead now?

<pointless nitpick>la is Spanish for "the". Don't be redundant, comrade Qin, or you will be shot for squandering the precious verbal resources of the Rodina !</pn>