Sunday, June 19, 2005

On the road to the Emerald City...

Now, when you have the cosmic o’erweening arrogance of a Dr Clam, you naturally assume that anyone who disagrees with you has simply misunderstood your position. The venerable Marco has outlined our points of difference on abortion, but his statements of my positions on these points look so much like straw men that I think that I need to restate them again. I recognise that I have tended to muddle things up by making rash statements out of hubris- for example, on the separation of Church and State- and then defending them just to see if I can. Our two main points of difference on abortion are not of this kind, however. They are my grounds for optimism that this particular atrocity will come to an end, and hence my excuse for not doing anything about it.

I am not at all sanguine about ‘education’ as a grounds for optimism. ‘Education’ is a value-neutral thing; you can educate children to be good Nazis, or good disciples of the Squid God, or whatever. I do not yet see any trend in our educational institutions back towards absolute truth and absolute morality. Without these, we will continue to do what is most convenient for us, and no matter how educated we are our education will be inferior to that of a Pathan tribesman.

My hopefulness about the role of advancing technology for keeping the very young alive, which Marco summarises as ‘artificial wombs’ is based on their psychological impact, not on the assumption that they will necessarily be widely used.
Today, the only choice is between getting rid of something, or putting up with it at great personal cost. In the future, my argument is that the choice will in principle be between getting rid of something and killing it, or getting rid of something and letting it live. I think this has to make a difference. Like ultrasound, I see the role of ‘artificial wombs’ as primarily ‘educational’. To make an analogy: Our response to news of a new plague in Africa in the 21st century is qualitatively different from our response to news of a new plague in Africa in the 19th century because, in principle, we can now do something about it, whether or not we actually do. This technology might not make a difference, of course; since I first outlined my grounds for optimism, I have learned a lot about how non-self-evident the things I assumed to be self-evident were...

My hopefulness about demographic change would remain even if there was no immigration at all. I challenge Marco to look at all the people he knew in high school, and consider which ones now have children. It is not a matter of ‘Westerners’ not reproducing themselves and being replaced by righteous foreigners; it is a matter of ‘liberal’ people, wherever Western culture and technology spreads, not reproducing themselves and being replaced by more ‘conservative’ people. This is my core point about demography.

It is disingenuous to say that demographic change is unimportant, because immigrants from Islamo-catholic countries will be poor and hence necessarily have a high abortion rate. They probably will; but economics is not everything. I would argue that they will have a lower abortion rate than people of an equivalent socio-economic status raised without the benefit of absolute truth or absolute morality. I think this will make a difference. The ideals that we pay lip service to are important.


Marco said...

It's funny how you mention liberal and conservative as opposites, since I consider myself as both. I see that point however, I have some contrarian political views. I think about the people I knew in high school - lets see, the more conservative ones did go ahead and have children. The intelligent liberal ones went and tried careers instead. The less intelligent liberals didn't have children either, but that was almost certainly due to abortion. The ironic thing about your demographic argument is that without abortion as an option, we'd be breeding less intelligent liberals, and the rest of the population would be paying for it. This is almost certainly what was happening in Italy in the 60's.
I think it might be constructive to say in our own words what we think the other believes in regard to abortion, and where we think it comes closest to being contradictory.

Dr. Clam said...

What do I think you believe in regard to abortion? I should think the answer is obvious! I believe you believe exactly the same as me, only you don't realise it yet! ;)