Believing human life has inherent value and murder

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Believing human life has inherent value and murder

Postby torcant » Mon Sep 22, 2008 6:40 am

I think believing that human life has inherent value, may make someone less likely to kill. While listening to NP 7.18, I thought of this example:

Suppose that someone is about to shoot the last specimen of an animal species that's on the verge of extinction and the only way to stop this guy is to kill him.

I think in such a case the one who doesn't believe in the inherent value will be less likely to hesitate and more likely to kill. (Of course, this is not necessarily a negative argument)

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Postby GizmoIscariot » Mon Sep 22, 2008 4:17 pm

This depends on perhaps the persons value of the animal. If you value human life nil and animal life less than nil, then in a supposed numbers game than it would still be unjustified to kill the guy.

Its an interesting thought experiment. I think perhaps a more interesting one might be substitute the animal for another human that has the cure to say cancer. But the guy with the gun is now a baby/kid who doesn't understand that its a real gun and if shoots the doctor than the cure will be lost (obviously this would not happen as in general a single person is not going to be the only one with such information, but for the sake of discussion lets assume that).

Would you be justified killing the kid even though he has his whole life in front of him and is unaware the danger he is putting the other person, or do you let him continue to play and see if he puts the gun down first.

Not sure the point, just thought it interesting ;p
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Re: Believing human life has inherent value and murder

Postby Cephus » Mon Sep 22, 2008 4:45 pm

torcant wrote:Suppose that someone is about to shoot the last specimen of an animal species that's on the verge of extinction and the only way to stop this guy is to kill him.


At that point, what difference does it make whether he kills the animal or not? The species is already extinct, one specimen of a species cannot breed and there isn't enough genetic variability to make a difference even if it could. Either the animal is already housed in a gene bank somewhere, at which point the animal's continued existence is irrelevant, or it's the last of it's kind and the species will go extinct no matter what you do.
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Postby ChristOnIce » Mon Sep 22, 2008 7:09 pm

Your scenario is completely irrelevant and unfounded.

If I place no inherent value on life, you are not logically justified in making any assertion regarding the probability of my actions.

In your situation, one of the determining factors is the ratio of the value of human life to the value of animal life. Knowing only one variable will not provide this ratio.

One of the values could be extremely high or extremely low. However, despite our intuitive sense of probability, the extremes do not lend any information regarding the other value.

"Hating people a bit" does not make "hating animals a lot" more or less likely.

With human interaction as discussed on the show, the determining factor is benefit to the harm. Misanthropy doesn't even give you a full variable here. All it does is state one of many components of an overall variable. This overall variable, even if complete, is still useless without the ratio. As such, you cannot make any logical assertion regarding the probability of actions. You have an unknown portion of 1/2 of the information you need.
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Postby dromedaryhump1 » Tue Sep 23, 2008 12:51 am

Gizmo asks:
Would you be justified killing the kid even though he has his whole life in front of him and is unaware the danger he is putting the other person, or do you let him continue to play and see if he puts the gun down first.


That kid's whole life, versus the avoidance of suffering and extended lives of millions and millions? Seems like a no brainer to me, his lack of awareness / innocence isn't even an issue. Of course, your scenario alllows all kinds of alternatives that could avoid having to kill the kid outright, ...like braining him with a bat after distracting him with a Tickle Me Elmo doll..

There are any number of scenarios one can invent that would justify the killing of an innocent(s) for a much greater good.
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Postby 7od » Tue Sep 23, 2008 11:02 pm

i think the problem in the discussion on the non-prophets, was that they were really having 2 different discussions, smashed into one. on the one hand, they were discussion valuing human life (generic), and on the other hand valuing specific individuals lives.

scenario 1: a person is put in a room with a button and told that if they push that button a human will die.

now two different sets of people are put into the room, one is indifferent to human life, and the other thinks human life has positive value. (lets assume the test subjects do not doubt what they are told)

scenario 2: a person is put in a room with a button and told that if they push that button, a man who is going to murder their parents is going to die.

again, two different sets of people are put into the room, one is indifferent to human life (and let's assume that includes family), and the other thinks human life has positive value. (again, lets assume the test subjects do not doubt what they are told)

i would argue that in scenario 1, those who value human life will press the button less, and in scenario 2 those who do not value human life will press the button less (their numbers should stay roughly the same between the two scenarios)
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Postby ChristOnIce » Wed Sep 24, 2008 3:29 am

7od, your postulations are absurd and completely unsubstantiated.

You are basing your scenario on the notion that misanthropy increases likelihood of malevolence in an effort to demonstrate that misanthropy increases likelihood of malevolence. Your argument is perfectly circular.
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Postby 7od » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:18 am

ChristOnIce wrote:You are basing your scenario on the notion that misanthropy increases likelihood of malevolence in an effort to demonstrate that misanthropy increases likelihood of malevolence. Your argument is perfectly circular.


i'm not making a statement about misanthropy (in the second scenario i suggested that those who didn't value life would be less likely to push the button). i'm suggesting that putting a value on all human life is not equivilant to putting value on a specific persons life in terms of whether or not they are likely to kill someone else.

i'm not trying to demonstrate anything. i'm putting forth a scenario, and giving my opinion on what i think the results would be. by all means, feel free to disagree, and let me know why.
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Postby Legato » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:43 am

This entire idea is based on a presupposition of what "value" even means. Someone once said, "Everything is worth what its buyer will pay for it," and accurately illustrates the wholly subjective nature of the idea of value. To me in very generalized terms;

Are humans valuable in any intrinsic universal way? Definitely not.

Are humans valuable to me as companions and brothers\sisters in species? Definitely so.

Do I value any single (non-psychopathic) human more than any single animal? You betcha.

Do I value humans more than the entire Earth? Absolutely.

Do I think humans "deserve" the value I place on them? Absolutely not.
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Postby 7od » Wed Sep 24, 2008 5:06 am

i agree the value we put on people is subjective. but i don't think it's arbitrary (not that you were saying it was) to place value on people. the average human places positive value on other human beings because our species evolved by working together as a group. and even though today we like to think of ourselves as independent, we are largely reliant on the rest of our society to do the vast majority of tasks we take for granted. if i didn't live in a society, i'd be off hunting my dinner right now, not rambling on a forum on my computer. that being said, the question still remains whether or not placing value on human life actually is a productive way to prevent harm to human life. in my opinion, a general sense of empathy would be productive, where as simply having a high value for those close to you would not necessarily.

Do I value humans more than the entire Earth? Absolutely


i think i'd go with the earth. just from a gut reaction, if you told me i had to chose between being the last human on earth, or flying away from an exploding earth on a spaceship with x amount of human beings, i'd go with the earth. but that's me.
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Postby ChristOnIce » Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:06 am

7od wrote:
i'm not making a statement about misanthropy (in the second scenario i suggested that those who didn't value life would be less likely to push the button). i'm suggesting that putting a value on all human life is not equivilant to putting value on a specific persons life in terms of whether or not they are likely to kill someone else.

i'm not trying to demonstrate anything. i'm putting forth a scenario, and giving my opinion on what i think the results would be. by all means, feel free to disagree, and let me know why.


You are stating a belief without saying why you believe it, though. Why do you draw the conclusions you do? What evidence do you have to support the outcomes that you predict?
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Postby donnyton » Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:29 pm

Aren't we missing something?

Whether you believe human life has inherent value has little effect on whether human life has value. No matter what people say about equality or religion, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who finds the life of their mailman more valuable than the life of their child. Even if Christians were found to be less murderous it would be because of their fear of punishment of hell, not because how much they value life.
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Postby ChristOnIce » Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:42 am

I think we all generally agree that weighted values can lead to action. The argument isn't over net value, but inherent value specifically. That doesn't necessarily refer to any transcendent intrinsic value.

Russell's original point regarded those who place no value on human life, so arguing the differential values would be somewhat moot.
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