Return of the Scourge, Part II
In the previous part of this series, I addressed empirical objections that Ord anticipated. Now I will respond to his anticipated philosophical objections. See here and here for the first two parts in this series.
It’s not clear how he arrives at his number of 90 million, but he has not even made an argument for how many people would have to die before we should halt all other issues and try and solve this one issue, alone. Ord’s Conclusion simply doesn’t follow. To reiterate, the fact that embryos die naturally does not justify our killing them intentionally. So even if pro-life people were inconsistent by failing to end miscarriages, it would not justify elective abortion. (Plus, there is no reason to count the death of embryos in our average lifespan since, having survived until birth, dying as an embryo, which has dangers that are far different than the ones we encounter outside the womb, is no longer a threat to anybody.)
Considering that most unborn human beings who “spontaneously abort” do so before a woman even discovers she’s pregnant, I’m not sure Ord’s thought experiment even makes logical sense. Just how would Ord expect pro-life scientists and doctors to save these microscopic embryos? He would likely reply that it’s our problem and not his, but it may not even be possible to save these embryos. The fact that they die naturally does not give us an obligation to save every last one of them, though I would agree that we have an obligation to save as many as we can.
Just a note: I am not arguing that because many (??) zygotes spontaneously abort, that means induced abortion is ok. I'm just reading your argument and this jumped out at me.
"That does not prove that the unborn are not as intrinsically valuable as older humans, it just proves that society places a greater priority on saving lives that would be lost to other ailments and disasters."
If the unborn are instrinsically as valuable as older humans, *why* does society place a great priority on saving older humans? If we have a duty to save as many lives as possible, why do efforts to save zygotes seem to lag behind saving older humans…insofar as that there is rarely any *research* done in an attempt to see how possible it may be to save spontaneously aborting zygotes, and much fewer actions taken?
Because there's a difference between intrinsic value and instrumental value. All human beings have equal intrinsic value. Intrinsic value is the value something has as an ends unto itself. All human beings are valuable by virtue of the kind of thing they are. So it is just as wrong for me to kill a child as it is to kill an adult, and just as wrong to kill a human embryo as it is to kill a toddler.
Instrumental value is the value placed on something as a means to an end. Money has instrumental value because we use it to get us things we want or need. So people have different instrumental value to society — Bill Gates has greater instrumental value to society than I do, or than a homeless person. But it is equally wrong to kill Bill Gates and a homeless person.
So while natural embryo loss is a tragedy, it is not devastating to society like the deaths of older people, who contribute to society, is. We need to save all the unborn human beings that we can, but we can't do it to the detriment of finding cures for other things like cancer and AIDS.
Who sets the limit on what that intrinsic value is?
"people who were pro-choice up until the unborn becomes human"
What exactly does this mean?