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Roderick

Is having children immoral?

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I thought your question arose from the question whether life is worth living, hardships and all.

Nappi provided an answer to that question, which is "uh, yes," and I think that sounds like a pretty good answer because the things people say and do overwhelmingly suggest that even when their life isn't super awesome they still prefer it over nonexistence.

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I think that's the clear answer Rodi was looking for.

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Reviving this because a friend on Facebook posted this article:

Wanted: 'Adventurous woman' to give birth to Neanderthal man - Harvard professor seeks mother for cloned cave baby

Basically they got some Neanderthal DNA and want to clone one. My friend's response is this:

This is so stupid and I hope this is stopped. Why bring some poor soul into the world when no one has no idea what to with him/her The child would be an experiment and a side show exhibit its entire life.

I thought that was an interesting comment, since the first two sentences could be taken out of context and applied to any pregnancy you find distasteful (maybe a celebrity teen pregnancy?). Hell, take the whole comment and you simply might be talking about anything that hasn't been done before. I could see one of my local bigots making the same comment about a same-sex couple arranging a surrogate pregnancy (not that that's a totally new thing but it's not common, especially in these parts).

This reply caught my attention:

Not like we already struggle with other kinds of diversity. You know, like race, sex, gender, religion, and things of that sort. Let's see what happens when we through another species into the mix. MWAHAHAHAHAHA. Morons.

So the argument against having a Neanderthal child is preemptive eugenics? That's interesting.

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Indeed. That actually makes me think of how some people born with birth defects are very vocally opposed to screening for such birth defects. I believe the reasoning is that to do so undermines their humanity. It's obviously a very complicated issue, but a very direct thing that can be drawn from it is that people can have a very strong desire for life regardless of all manner of difficulties (or, conversely, a lack of both the former and the latter). To say that we shouldn't have children because the world is shitty seems like someone imposing their gloomy world-view on the entire species.

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Ok, yea, cool.

So when are we bringing back the dinosaurs?!

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Um, maybe it's just me, but giving birth to a genetically engineered baby of a species that is 1. not actually human and 2. went extinct eons ago, is not only scientifically unethical, but also incredibly immoral, since you're purposefully creating an intelligent life (some might argue more intelligent than human life) to study as a science project.

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That was my thought as well. Although, if his/her privacy and right to choose is remain untarnished, maybe. (Realizing I'm speaking from a place of privilege here) But the simple fact that he/she would differ quite a bit might make the former impossible.

Another problem I had:

Prof Church added: 'Neanderthals might think differently than we do. We know that they had a larger cranial size. They could even be more intelligent than us.

Since when does cranial size have anything to do with intelligence? I mean, he did say "could ", but it still rubbed me the wrong way. Or did I not pay attention and cranial size is related to intelligence. What if the bite of a Neanderthal turns humans into zombies? What then, huh? Where will we be then!?

Meanwhile, 30 years into the future:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1i0fQWDSU4

PS. bring on the chicken raptors.

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not actually human

That sounds suspiciously similar to the 19th century style of racism that literally classified non-European races as "subhuman". Whether a neanderthal qualifies as a human is a bit of a fuzzy line, but a neanderthal, regardless of whether her genetic parents are still alive or went extinct millennia ago, is still a person.

Anyway.

you're purposefully creating an intelligent life (some might argue more intelligent than human life) to study as a science project.

I reckon you're assuming he'd be born just to be studied. Isn't that jumping to conclusions a bit? Personally, I don't begrudge my parents or call them unethical because I'm just an accident (I'm not, but bear with me). I'm happy to exist. My life isn't defined by whatever thought went through my parents head when they were screwing 22 1/2 years ago.

If you have anything to be concerned about, it's if, after he's born and being raised, he's not treated with the same personal dignity any person deserves. If you find this immoral, that' s just an emotional reaction. it's not invalid, but it's not wrong just because it rustles your jimmies.

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That sounds suspiciously similar to the 19th century style of racism that literally classified non-European races as "subhuman". Whether a neanderthal qualifies as a human is a bit of a fuzzy line, but a neanderthal, regardless of whether her genetic parents are still alive or went extinct millennia ago, is still a person.

???? Um, ok?

Neanderthals are classified either as a subspecies of Homo sapiens (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or as a separate species of the same genus (Homo neanderthalensis).

So yeah, not homo sapien sapien. But sure, call that racist.

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There is a distinction in philosophy between "human," which describes a member of the species homo sapiens, and "person," which typically describes an individual with their own agency who therefore deserves respect and moral treatment. But most people assume that any human deserves respect as an individual (and thus any human is a person) and ONLY humans deserve respect as individuals (and thus any non-homo sapiens creature is not a person). So racist people would say that people of a certain race were "subhuman" in order to suggest that they don't deserve the same treatment that humans deserve, namely, treatment as a person.

So when you call a neanderthal "not actually human," you are correct about the biology, but you may be incorrect about whether they are persons. In fact I think it's pretty clear that neanderthals are persons (notice that this also provides a counterexample to the idea that only humans are persons). Since Luftmensch has in mind the racist people who called others "subhuman" not based on biology but based on a desire to call them "not persons," he was worried that you were equating personhood and membership in the human species, which is an erroneous assumption.

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I said that neanderthals aren't human because they're not human. I never once said that they weren't 'persons' or entitled to the same treatment and respect that homo sapiens sapiens are. I can see how calling something 'not human,' could be interpreted as a racially charged phrase, but in this case, I thought it was fine, because neanderthals are literally a separate species from humans and therefore not human.

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Um, maybe it's just me, but giving birth to a genetically engineered baby of a species that is 1. not actually human and 2. went extinct eons ago, is not only scientifically unethical, but also incredibly immoral, since you're purposefully creating an intelligent life (some might argue more intelligent than human life) to study as a science project.

Completely agree.

(Also, wtf Luftmensch? Was that an attempt to troll or what?)

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(Also, wtf Luftmensch? Was that an attempt to troll or what?)

Nope. I just think the assumption that a Neanderthal isn't "human" stinks heavily of old-timey race taxonomy. Go back a half-dozen decades and you'll find people testifying to congress that mixed-race couples are immoral in the same way and for the same reason as bestiality. I'm saying that A.) your personal judgment on whether someone qualifies as human has no bearing on their right to live and that B.) it's not your business what a woman decides to grow in her uterus.

Taxonomy is not an exact science. There aren't clear sharp breaks in speciation. Sometimes we draw a speciation lines simply because two populations never mate in the wild (even if they produce viable offspring by artificial fertilization), sometimes the lines are so fuzzy people debate it for decades (I think people still argue over whether wolves and domesticated dogs are the same species). Taxonomy is so flexible and imprecise that it can and has been used to justify political ends.

If a neanderthal was born, grew up acting like a more-or-less typical human, had healthy relationships with other humans, and could have children with other humans, then there would be no reason to consider neanderthals non-humans. All we have now to base our taxonomy on is fossils that are about as different from the average European H. s. sapiens as a typical Mbenga is from an average Maasai.

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I think it's pretty clear that the world would look upon this person as an interesting experiment, but it's doubtful if it would turn into the Truman Show (let alone creepy thrillers about government facilities, or worse, Twins). We were mildly interested in Dolly the sheep too, but that waned. Of course, Dolly didn't impose all those nasty little questions about the nature of humanity that some folks are bound to become deeply conflicted by. I wouldn't rule out idiots/zealots/hardcore speciesists to attempt an assassination.

From the scientific perspective, this experiment is so incredibly interesting. If we can guarantee a more or less "normal", i.e. dignified with choices, life for this person, I don't think it would be immoral to do it. Though I think there is a lot of sense to the concern that a neanderthal will have little defence against modern diseases. It might be a sickly thing that needs to be kept in a bubble all its life.

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(Also, wtf Luftmensch? Was that an attempt to troll or what?)

I think getting a reaction is pretty interesting. Frankly, I will try to be a little controversial if I think I can learn something. Not a fan of flame wars, but I don't mind magnifying my opinion if I think it'll get a thoughtful response.

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