Quick Roundup 464

Monday, September 07, 2009

What Really Matters

With great word economy, Isaac Schrodinger makes a point it took me two posts to make.

Where the Libertarians Go Wrong, Part 5064

Vox Populi, by jumping (via Isaac Schrodinger) into the abortion debate half-cocked with a faulty definition of "human" really does turn out to be vox Dei!

There is not a single pro-abortion argument that stands up to science and reason. Every single one is not only spurious, but easily demonstrated to be spurious. It is not necessary to bring religious arguments into the debate to conclusively settle the matter in favor of the pro-life position, in fact, the Bible-based arguments against abortion are, in my opinion, weaker than the rational and scientific arguments.
A search of the whole post and comments yielded only a single passing reference to Ayn Rand, whom some libertarians are fond of quoting when it's expedient. Since the expedient often is neither moral nor practical, I find that I shall have to quote her myself, as she is either being forgotten or expediently ignored here:
An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).

Abortion is a moral right--which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body? ("Of Living Death," The Objectivist, Oct. 1968, 6.)
And there's lots more on the subject where the above came from.

What am I doing here?

Yep. Usually, I don't post on Labor Day since we often leave town for it, but when it was time to make plans this year, we thought we were going to be out of town again within a couple of weeks, and I have too much on my plate to be skipping out that often.

But I will make something tasty this evening from this massive selection of Cajun recipes Mom sent me last week. Some of these might be out, since I'd have to special order something from Cajun Grocer, but I should be able to manage something like a jambalaya. That link to Cajun Grocer I wrote down as soon as I could upon passing a billboard in Cajun Country a couple of years ago, after Match Day for Mrs. Van Horn.

That finger was just a taste...

I almost forgot that a supporter of physician slavery recently demonstrated the depth of his concern for his fellow man by biting off the finger of someone who happened to be standing near a counter-demonstration.

Interestingly, the AP was sure to point out the fact that Medicare paid for the victim's finger to be reattached, but said nothing about a story from the day before describing how one National Health "Service" instructs its physicians to speed certain patients along towards their deaths.

Numb Beef, or Numb Skulls?

When a moral argument -- in this case, for individual rights -- is needed, there is no substitute for a moral argument -- no amount of brilliance or misdirected effort will suffice. Here's a case in point.

On the one hand, it is scientifically interesting that there may soon be genetically engineered cattle that cannot feel pain. On the other hand, this effort, to work around a dishonest objection to eating meat, is doomed to fail, as the article itself notes is already happening and for reasons already outlined by Keith Lockitch not too long ago in his editorial, "It Isn't Easy Being Green."

There will be nothing but caterwauling about how "unsafe" and "unethical" it would be to use these animals (which we don't need anyway -- normal cattle make excellent food), and continued efforts to sacrifice legitimate individual rights on the altar of fictitious animal "rights." In the meantime, behold the waste of talent, time, and money being spent to appease these irrationalists.

Update: Darren Cauthon notes in the comments that this is, so far, just an idea that is being floated.

Clarification: The article also mentions another method of "farming" beef, which could be down the pike. This other method would be to raise muscle tissue rather than whole animals. This would reduce costs and is actually a good idea for that reason. That said, I think attempting to justify it on the grounds that it prevents animals from feeling pain is a bad idea, for the same reason that I am objecting to the "pain-free" cattle.

-- CAV


: Added an update and a clarification to final section.


Mo said...

talk about irrationality with respect to abortion. the best argument for it is the philosophical one and the one that ayn rand talked about: actuality vs potentiality.

I've heard of "state rights" as another argument against abortion. Another one is "brain waves" and "genetic/DNA makeup". Very subjective and miss the point.

Gus Van Horn said...

Of the three "arguments" against abortion you cite, the first is absurd since only individuals have rights (and all powers of the government, at whatever level derive from (and are properly used only to protect) those rights. The last two are, like Vox Dei's, are based on improper definitions of the word, "man.".

The question of abortion is a moral question, and one cannot answer it without philosophy.

Darren said...

In regards to the pain-free cows, I remember a question posed to Leonard Peikoff in the "Introducing Objectivism" class hosted at aynrand.org. A student asked him if the government should contribute funds to end diseases like AIDS. In his response, Leonard Peikoff stated that the worst thing you can do to problems as big as AIDS is to put government backing behind it, because doing so would only create a bureaucracy of pointless work and research by individuals who are only concerned with increasing the number of published papers so that they can continue to move up the bureaucracy.

I found and looked over the published paper the article mentions, and this smells just like what Peikoff was talking about. It was just one paper titled "Knocking Out Pain in Livestock: Can Technology Succeed Where Morality has Stalled?" and was written by a vegetarian professor at some university who was just posing an idea.

So, if it's any consolation, this doesn't look like much is being wasted on this silly idea -- yet.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for checking into that. It is a small consolation, and partially because I would hardly be surprised to see that very idea become the basis for actual research.

And then, of course, there's no shortage of other harebrained ideas that will be funded...

madmax said...


Ayn Rand argued against abortion only in the first trimester. She gave no definitive answer (to my knowledge) about later term abortions. I wish she had. So, I wonder if it is appropriate to say that Objectivism has a position on it. Objectivists can argue for it, as I do, but I'm pretty certain that Rand never made the pro-abortion-through-all-three-trimesters argument in writing the way Peikoff has.

Also, as far as the anti-abortion arguments go, I notice that there are far more secular opponents of abortion now than ever before. Their arguments are all of the biological variety, i.e. they argue that science shows that the infant is human therefore it has rights. The Objectivist approach to abortion is totally dependent on our epistemology and is therefore a very different type of defense than other pro-abortionists make. In fact, I have come to believe that the abortion battle really is a battle of applied epistemology and that both mystics and materialists argue so strongly for their anti-abortion positions because deep down they know that they are arguing for their whole philosophical/epistemological framework. I think that's why this one issue is so explosive.

Gus Van Horn said...


I think you meant to say, "Ayn Rand argued for abortion only in the first trimester."

As far as the Objectivist argument being about epistemology, I'd say that that is reflective of the definition of the concept "man" it holds.

But, yes, I think that people from both basic types of irrationalist camps do get in a froth because, as you say, that question is not really what t6he fight is about.


Kim said...

I hadn't thought about cow-less beef being about animal rights. I always had considered like farming. Using technology to increase the availability and affordability of food. In this case, food that can be grown as muscle without incurring all of the cost of supporting the nonessential biological overhead of the organs we do not consume.

And perhaps even making the meat more geared toward what consumers want: perhaps less fat or more tender.

Gus Van Horn said...

The proposal here that I'm addressing is that cattle be made not to feel pain, for which the only reason would be to placate animal "rights" activists.

True, some might justify artificially-grown muscle on the same grounds, but I have also understood the primary motivation for that line of work to be cost-effectiveness, which is a legitimate goal.

I hasten to add, though, that regardless of the justification, that if either of these alternate sources of meat saw the light of day, the Greens would find an excuse to condemn them regardless of how safe or nutritious they turned out to be.

madmax said...


Yes, my mistake. I of course meant to use the word for.