You may well wonder what application of my philosophy to the "great issues of the day" would yield. I shall not leave you in the dark. Here is what application of my philosophy produces in answer to the significant debates of our time:
There is no doubt at all that abortion rights is the most hotly debated point in our time. It should NOT
be, but it is. It has become a "litmus test" for whether you are an
advocate of "traditional family values" or "the new morality." If you
are against the abortionists, then the reactionary forces assume that
you are on their side for the majority of issues which concern them; if
you favor a woman's right to choose, those same forces assume that you
are against them on most issues. But in reality, those reactionary
forces are fighting a battle which they lost in the eighteenth century
when the Industrial Revolution began. Mankind is no more likely to
return to the "traditional family values" of the old rural-agricultural
civilizations than it is likely to toss all of technology into a sea of
So, the "great abortion debate" is not really a debate at all; it is a choosing up of sides in a sort of a classless class war. As reactionaries are wont to do, they react against change; but as is true for virtually all reactionaries, the change has already occurred, you cannot roll the clock back, and the only thing left for the reactionaries to gain peace is for them to all die off.
The decision of the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade is a brilliant solution to a problem which is, at its base, unresolvable. Each side in the alleged debate is absolutely correct at their end of the scale. On the day before a baby would be born naturally, it is indistinguishable from an already born baby, and thus we ought to prohibit abortion to the same extent that we would prohibit the murder of the child after it has been born.73 On the days after a child is conceived, when it consists of one, or two, or four, or eight cells, there is simply no way that anyone would define that child as a human being; it is nothing more than a group of cells which may or may not become a human being some day, depending on more variables than you can shake a stick at. The middle ground is ill defined, although I am certain the Court could see that the trend was for technology to advance, and for it to gradually become possible for science to sustain life outside of the mother's womb at earlier and earlier ages. So, with absolutely no place for the Court to draw a nice clean dividing line down the middle, the Court chose to draw two totally arbitrary lines in the sand, dividing the human gestation period into three equal parts, called trimesters. During the first, abortion was the woman's right. During the last, the state could prohibit it, according to any law the state wished to enact.
During the middle period, the Court could not decide that which science was still debating, so the Justices elected to leave that period within the realm of science, requiring that any woman wishing an abortion during that period must obtain the consent of her doctor. I am certain that the reasoning for this is that the Court felt it could rely upon the doctor's oath to become the protector of unborn children should science declare these middle term fetuses to be almost live children.
Given the way in which the debate was framed, all of the greatest minds which we could apply to this problem could devise no better solution. Only if you alter one or more of the basic underlying values could you move the result significantly in one direction or the other. If you would be willing to return to the Roman system of allowing parents to kill their children at will, then a woman would have an absolute right to abortion at any time, and we would have no argument at all. If you would be willing to return to the old Western system where a woman is property, and the production of many children is a very valuable attribute, then the issue of her right to choose would never come up (because she would have no rights at all), and the issue of abortion would never come up (because the potential child is a valuable piece of property, just like any other farm animal). Not too many years in the future, we should be able to develop an artificial womb, and then society could elect to keep all of the discarded children, solving the matter for both the mother who does not wish to be bothered and for society as a whole, whose group conscience seemingly cannot allow any potential child to go unborn.74
But, as Will Durant points out, the basis of the anti-abortion position is the old need of the rural-agricultural population for lots of children.75 He goes on to relate how the Industrial Revolution altered this equation forever, and thus a new morality has arisen among our population. "Lots of children" is no longer a desirable goal. In fact, one of the main public health activities of governments around the world today is to preach against the having of too many babies. While it may be the subject of a lengthy debate as to what is the upper population limit of this planet, it is not subject to debate at all that we are rapidly approaching that limit, unless we slow down the birth rate of our global citizenry. There are only three ways to limit the birth rate: 1) limits on sexual contact; 2) contraception; and 3) abortion. Thus, abortion becomes the population control mechanism of last resort, and this is a natural consequence of the Industrial Revolution.
Public opinion polls show that our citizens are not as generally stupid as we will sometimes make them out to be. The right of a woman to seek an abortion is favored by wide margins in every poll taken. Why? Because our values have changed! Exactly as Will Durant explains, the change in economic circumstances, the liberation of women, and all of the other forces unleashed by the Industrial Revolution have combined to yield a knowledge that 1) we have too many children anyway; and 2) early abortion is a most direct option to limit the number of children which we have. When you also throw into the mix the desire of today's "liberated women" to be free of the responsibilities of child care, and the desire of today's men to still have sex at will, but without the consequences of supporting the resulting children unless they choose to do so, it is a wonder that you do not get an even greater percentage in favor of a woman's right to choose.
From the scientific side, we should not forget that each child recapitulates our evolution in the womb. We have no qualms about allowing people to kill organisms which we perceive as "small pests," such as rats and mice. When a developing fetus is in its reptilian stage in the womb, why cannot we treat it as we would any reptile? The last I heard, nobody would think of throwing somebody in jail for injuring some common snake or lizard. Again, these would be perceived more as "pests." In my view, it is only when a fetus develops to mammalian specifications that the state might have some right to prevent an abortion.
So, with all of that said, what does my philosophy say about abortion? Well, it seems to me as a consequence of the above public opinion polls that the vast majority of people will be happier if abortion remains as an option which is available if a woman chooses to use it as early as possible in her pregnancy. So, the Supreme Court edict to women in Roe v. Wade seems as valid today and for the future as it did to the Justices who wrote it: have the right, but use it early. No other conclusion is possible, given our current value system, at least as expressed by my philosophy.
b. Gay Rights
issue of the day is how far should society go in granting equal rights
to gays and lesbians? This one seems a lot more obvious because it
involves adult humans.76
Are these humans entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness" to the same degree that the rest of us are? They are? Case
My opinion is that those who cannot tolerate gays and lesbians in our society ought to get behind a program to stop creating them.77 So long as our society continues to create gay and lesbian individuals, they have the same right to pursue their own happiness as any of the rest of us. Should they be allowed to marry? Why not? Society gives certain advantages to committed couples as an incentive for them to marry. If the gays and lesbians would be happier as married couples, then by all means allow it. Give them any rights which two equivalent heterosexuals would have, without limitation. If a lesbian wants to have children, fine, let her have them. It is up to her to figure out how to get pregnant. But our society places no real limits on getting heterosexual girls pregnant. Why should lesbians be any different? There is no reason, and thus there should be no bias in our system against a woman merely because she is a lesbian.
But I am against so-called "affirmative action" programs for reasons which are explained below, so I would never go so far as to advocate anything more than equal treatment under the law. Let sexual orientation be irrelevant to anything other than the personal happiness of each individual. That is, in any case, the only realm in which sexual orientation has any real meaning.
The fact that my own sexual orientation is strongly heterosexual, and that I abhor even the thought of homosexuality, does not give me any right at all to advocate that gays and lesbians be persecuted. Their existence in this world does not impinge upon my own personal happiness to a sufficient degree to give me the right to advocate the removal of their right to happiness in their own private existence.78 This is the conclusion which is mandated by my own personal ethical philosophy, which is based upon Utility.
c. Affirmative Action
affirmative rights above, in my discussion of gays and lesbians. The
recent Supreme Court decision on this issue resonates perfectly with my
own ethical values. Most people desire a "level playing field" for any
competition. Affirmative action takes the playing field and skews it
one way or another.
If we say that it is morally wrong to discriminate against any people, then it is just as morally wrong to discriminate in favor of anyone. We tend to view this as "cheating." It removes happiness from all of us, or at least those of us who choose to compete on the now skewed playing field in question. Even those in whose favor the system is biased as a result of affirmative action actually lose happiness to some degree. They will each be haunted by that nagging doubt: am I good, or was it just affirmative action?
As the Supreme Court decision noted, there can be times where the equities of the situation mandate affirmative action, but those situations should be far more narrowly construed than we have been doing up until now. Do what is equitable, and no more.
73 Mind you, the killing of one's own children has not been universally condemned down through history. The old Roman patriarchs had an absolute right to kill their own sons, for whatever reason pleased them. Women were of even lesser concern. So, the present abortion debate would never have been possible within the value system cherished by ancient Rome.
74 We should not forget that a large part of what this debate is about is the lack of healthy while babies for adoption. If you wanted such a baby, and you had a choice between paying a surrogate mother the going rate of $10,000 or instead forcing some otherwise pregnant woman to carry a child to term which she would otherwise abort, which would YOU choose?
75 See The Mansions of Philosophy, 1929, pages 114-117.
76 There is, as yet, no scientific basis to believe that sexual orientation has any manifestations before puberty. Since post puberty humans are all "adults" in my vocabulary, there simply cannot be a gay or lesbian individual who is not an "adult."
77 As I state elsewhere, pending scientific evidence to the contrary, gays and lesbians exhibit learned behavior patterns. Thus, they are made, not born. Also elsewhere, I show HOW they are made and propose an actual program to stop making them.
78 I make an exception to this statement for the members of Queer Nation who have a philosophy of being as offensive as possible to straight people. This is their political statement, and it has nothing at all to do with their own happiness. Accordingly, those individuals are subject to the rules of politics, as opposed to the rules of ethics.
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