Humans have more right to live than baiji dolphins [part 2]

The problem I have with this formulation is that takes away any grounds for opposing the crimes of a tyranny. For example, in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan women who sought education were sometimes stoned to death. They had no legal right not to be - the law was very clear. Equally, they had no practical remedy - the Taliban death squads were powerful, ruthless and much better armed. So according to the formulation espoused above, they had no right not to be stoned to death.

And yet, I’m completely convinced that **DSYoungEsq ** and **Bricker ** feel that when these women were stoned to death, a great wrong was done to them. I’d be interested to hear what they think that wrong was as it doesn’t, on the face of it, seem to involve any violation of these women’s rights. They had no rights.

(Just to be completely clear: I’m not suggesting for a second that **DSYoungEsq ** and **Bricker ** find the stoning of women to death to be anything other than utterly abhorrent. It just looks like there’s an inconsistency between that moral instinct and their conception of rights as only existing where they can be enforced.)

Stick to law. Ecology is too complex for you.

I wrote a story once in which a woman who had done some terrible things (censorship, imprisoning people for consensual sex, forcing women to have babies agaisnt their will, that sort of thing) is punished by being stripped of her civil rights by a judge, then released. NO jail time, no punishment by the judge of any kind, other than the loss of her civil rights. But that means she can legally be imprisoned, raped, beaten, enslaved, etc., by anyone. And she is.

Point being, rights do have to be enforced to be meaningful. However, I find the bland assertion that rights do not exist outside of law troubling. My suspicion is that rights exist whether granted or not (like Australia) but it is so much in the interest of the wealthy and powerful to deny them to the less wealthy and powerful that it is very hard to get them recognized. Imagine, for example, how many rights Americans would have if we had to justify them to a fellow like Bricker. I imagine they could be counted on the fingers of one foot. The wealthy and powerful can hire guys like Bricker by the truckload (sorry Bricker, you know it’s true). And if that doesn’t work, there’s always violence – look at the Taliban already cited, or in the US, the way the wealthy hired goons to beat, kill and intimidate workers when unions were succeeding in the US.

Your argument seems to rest on the idea that if “a great wrong” was done to them, it must have been done in violation of their “rights.”

While I know it’s tempting to say that right and wrong are opposite concepts, and that this proves the point, that’s an example of equivocation. In this context, “rights” does not mean “that which is not wrong.” Yes, a great wrong was done to those women. Nonetheless, in their circumstances, assuming you’re representing Taliban-ish law correctly, they had no legal remedy, and it’s not correct to say they had a “right” not to be stoned to death. They didn’t.

If they did, one presumes they would have exercised it.

This is not a rebuttal remarkable for either its detail or its cogency.

Not that having a right, even one enshrined in law, is of much help when faced with an oppressive society. Simply having a right means nothing if it’s not enforced.

Lack of detail aside, it is absolutely true, however.

“Pre-existing” in what sense? The founders clearly thought of that in a religious sense (“endowed by their Creator…”), but what of us atheists? I take a completely material view of the world and accept that our morality is a result of our evolutionary heritage. And evolution is all about… variation. We expect most humans to share pretty much the same morality, but for there to be some variation, too. Morality and society evolved together and cannot be separated.

As my high school debate teacher was fond of endlessly repeating: “A gratuitous assertion may be, equally gratuitously, denied.” This was his way of reminding us that any argument we advanced must be butressed by supporting facts.

And, hey, look! Here we are in Great DEBATES.

The conclusion is left as an exercise for the reader.

Correct. Kind of my point, actually.

Ah. Apologies, then.

That’s not true, though. A right tells me what I should or should not do: it provides guidance.

I may choose to ignore a right, of course. And if I ignore your right (for example) to not be harangued by a lunatic as you walk down the street, then it’s true that that right isn’t doing you much good (since it’s not a legally recognized right, you can’t go to a cop and ask for the loony to be silenced).

The thing is, though, I do recognize your right to a peaceful walk, and I don’t harangue you as you walk around. So that right DOES do you a world of good, because I DO recognize it. So do most other folks.

Rights don’t need guns behind them in order to function in that regard.


But then the discussion of rights becomes somewhat meaningless. “I have a right to eat dinner in a public place and not have to watch disgusting displays of public affection!” Do you? Maybe. Depends on what the restaurant manager thinks.

If the means exist to enforce your exercise of the right, then it’s a right. If not, then it’s you making a statemant and hoping some large hairy individual doesn’t prove you wrong.

Yeah. I can’t understand Lefty’s point. Are you saying we do have a right to walk down the street and not be harangued by lunatics, LHoD? Because I don’t think we do… What you’re talking about sounds more like a social convention.

Not so much a social convention as a moral code. You’ve claimed that morality and evolution are inextricably tied together. I don’t believe that’s true: I believe that something may be objectively the right thing to do, never mind what we’ve evolved to believe. As I said last December, I’m not a moral relativist in this regard.

Given that belief, it makes sense to talk about moral rights as a phenomenon distinct from legal rights. The right not to be harangued is not the best example, but I wanted something trivial to demonstrate that not all rights are huge, nor are all rights recognized by the government.


OK, I can go with moral code. I don’t think there’s a significance difference between the two.

How do you objectively determine what those things are? “Good” implies a standard, and unless you invoke a deity or something, then the standard isn’t necessarily going to be the same for all of us. In fact, I’m almost certain your standard is different from mine.

OK, say I agree that there is something called a “moral right”. What difference does it make when I do, in fact, get harangued by a lunatic? Which, btw, happens quite frequently.

I do.

Yours is probably different from mine. There is a code out there, I believe, that is objectively correct. I’m lousy at figuring out how to find that one; this is something that, for all moral objectivists, ultimately comes down to some degree of faith. THat may be the end of the conversation, I admit; nevertheless, it’s where I stand on morality.

Again, the difference it makes is that you get harangued far less often. That’s like saying, “There’s a law against murder. What difference does it make when I do, in fact, get murdered?”


Odd bump. Did a Baiji dolphin rights case just get handed down from the Supreme Court, thus renewing the debate? :smiley:

I think it’s just a matter of semantics. I really don’t care what it’s called.

Faith in what? Are you talking about religious faith? If not, then (and I don’t mean to be snarky) that’s just hand waving, and I guess our conversation would end. Actually, I guess it is the end of the conversation either way, because I don’t believe in God.

The difference, to society, is that the murderer can be locked up and prevented from murdering again. But murder is not a good example. Let’s look at theft. If someone steals from me, I have the opportunity to get my stuff back through the legal process. If someone rams my car, I can get that person to pay for the car to be fixed.

I don’t.

It is probably as close as I get to religious faith, yes. As I said, I recognize that it may be the end of the conversation.

Why not look at murder? There’s a law against murder, but its only value to you is deterrent: if you’re murdered, it makes no difference to you whether the murderer is picked up. A moral code is exactly the same thing.