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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » You, and me, and baby makes . . . 14! (Page 0)

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Author Topic: You, and me, and baby makes . . . 14!
Jhai
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dkw, the only point I've made explicit my credentials was here:
quote:

And I've taught graduate students in the social science (economics, too, which is about as statistically sound a social science as you can get), if you want to just randomly assert authority in a field.

which, as you may gather, is making the point that credentials don't matter that much at all. As far as teaching students or knowing anything about research studies - well, it's easy enough to see that the first is merely used as a point to make clear my opinion on the scholarship shown, and the second is an opinion. I'm not saying "I have a degree in such and such field, therefore I know a lot about research studies". I'm saying "I don't find your research studies good" by way of example. The only real place I can find where I've gone into specifics about research (beyond just opinion) is in this quote:
quote:
I think it's possible to have a well-created study, but I personally wouldn't trust one until I read the actual article myself, and saw that the statistical analysis took care of confounding variables, that the instruments used were appropriate, that the data that was analyzed was gathered appropriately, etc, etc.
which, again, is little more than a statement about what I personally would need to see to find a study credible.

Rabbit, I believe we've had run-ins before on ethics and reasoning, and I don't remember forming a favorable impression of you in the subjects. And yes, I'm well aware of your credentials.

As I was not making an argument, but expressing an opinion, I don't see where ad hominem comes into the picture. As far as being productive, well, I've already mentioned I know (and knew) it wasn't polite.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Rabbit, I believe we've had run-ins before on ethics and reasoning, and I don't remember forming a favorable impression of you in the subjects. And yes, I'm well aware of your credentials.
And I could say the same for you. But at least when I have the audacity to insult your rhetoric, I have the integrity to provide a clear example of your flawed reasoning.
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Jhai
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[Confused] I've just pointed out how it wasn't flawed reasoning, as I wasn't making an argument based on the comment. And, again, I'm just stating my opinion that I don't find your opinion on reasoning and ethics to be particularly meaningful to me. Do you back up all of your opinions with citations?

It wasn't meant as a "ooh, look everyone, Rabbit had bad reasoning skills and here's why" argument. It was a response to you more along the lines of:
A. You said X about subject Y
B. I have reason to doubt your opinion on all matters pertaining to subject Y.
C. Implicit (You know point B)
D. Therefore, I am not going to find your statement of X very credible, and you know why.

If you want some citation for point B, I can find one, but as it was a response to you, and you were part of the conversation (s?) where we had the disagreements, I'm not sure what the point it.

Edit: and, really, "audacity to insult your rhetoric"? It doesn't take any audacity to insult anyone. From your wording, I get the feeling that you think this is a Big, Important Argument we're having here, but from my side, it's, uh, really not.

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dkw
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Jhai, you've studied philosophy of language. What would you say is the illocutionary force of repeatedly comparing Annie to students you've taught, or to what you would expect to see from a student you were teaching?
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scifibum
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I have no history with you, Jhai. But I see "I'd be ashamed to be your teacher" as a pointedly hurtful comment. You can criticize poor reasoning without that kind of insult.

Note that I do not think that Annie has done a good job of justifying her opinions. The following comment neatly illustrates the problem:

quote:
There's bias inherent in every researcher's motives. What you call cherry-picking I call finding research to support their claims.

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Jhai
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I've actually not studied philosophy language in any formal sense, and I think you're talking about the subject of rhetoric, anyways.

The only reason I've ended up repeatedly comparing Annie to students I've taught (or, rather, my expectations for students I've taught) was in response to others who were, in turn, responding to the original comment. Frankly, I don't really care about Annie or her studies - it's not like I keep popping into the thread saying "you know what, everyone - Annie is a really bad graduate student!" All I'm doing is standing behind my original remark, which I continue to think is true.

scifibum, a statement is only as hurtful as you allow it to be. If it helps, it wasn't meant as a "hurtful comment", and I personally (and most of my friends IRL) wouldn't take it as such.

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scifibum
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OK, just want you to be aware that others perceive an intent to hurt.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Annie:
I'm now going to respectfully bow out of the discussion. I have a lot of reading I'm supposed to get done by Friday and I don't have time to keep checking this thread. Thank you to those of you who were willing to debate respectfully with me.

Annie, do I have any hope whatsoever that you have any intent to answer my questions, or should I move on and assume that my critique stands?
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Jhai
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Edit: addressed to scifibum

I do appreciate your remark, and as I've mentioned earlier, I will consider such remarks in the future. I already realized that I have a much, much thicker skin than the vast majority of people posting here, but the shocker is that apparently the vast majority of people I regularly associate with also have a much thicker skin than the denizens of Hatrack. I suppose the two populations aren't all that alike, though - for example, I can't think of one person I hang out with IRL who attends church.

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scifibum
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Jhai, another explanation is that online communication strips much of the nuance from conversation. We can only imagine the tone of your voice.
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Teshi
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I have no sources. It's either my own experience or things I've picked up in an undergrad history degree or stuff I've picked up from the world.

I think I've posted a long thing here before against the vast array of non one-female one-male 'parents' who have raised children in the past.

Prior to the decline of deaths in childbirth, mothers so often died in childbirth that children were often without a mother from a very early age. The reverse was also often true. Children grew up with caregivers of various kinds.

In the medieval era, young children were often raised in monasteries which were, of course, often all male or all female.

This aside from situations where younger children were mostly surrounded by female nursemaids and mother. Father was a face at evening dinners until children reached a certain age. What about cultures where the men were away for lengthy periods? Did anyone bemoan the families lacking fathers in the World Wars in this way? Did we get a generation of boys unable to relate to men?

The balanced male/female couple in which the father has equal influence is a modern construct. Given loving, caring people surrounding them children manage in all kinds of environments, provided they are stimulating and consistent.

You line adults up and try to divide them by their parents without knowing their actual status, you will end up with a mixed bag.

On the flip side, I think that being shipped between homes from a young age is often but not always detrimental. I think that children who spend a lot of time in crappy day care are getting shafted but this is equally the province of two-parent families as the single parent. Lots of single parents have other people around to help them out.

But then, some mothers and fathers are simply crappy parents, even if they spend time in the same room as their kid. Perhaps they have little experience. Perhaps they actively dislike being parents. Perhaps they approach it far too scientifically because it's the only way they know how. Perhaps the kid was a total mistake.

One thing you can say about gay and lesbian parents is that it's almost never a surprise.

I care more about the quality of the parenting rather than the form the parents take.

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dkw
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quote:
Originally posted by Jhai:
I've actually not studied philosophy language in any formal sense, and I think you're talking about the subject of rhetoric, anyways.

You're dodging the question. You have not, to my recollection, ever mentioned studying rhetoric, but you have mentioned philosophy of language. I believe that someone who has studied philosophy at the level you have implied should be aware of the concept of illocutionary force and able to answer my question.
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Jhai
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I'm not dodging the question - my answer was in the second paragraph. To be more explicit: whatever the illocutionary force of repeatedly discussing the issue, any discussion stemming from the original comment was made in response to others.

Suppose John Doe says, "Man, that was a dumb movie - I went to see it with my BIL, the movie director, and we both hated it," off-hand during a group conversation. Then the other people in the conversation repeatedly question this comment, and try to discredit it, and argue against it, etc, etc, and John defends his original remark as warranted. "No, I did really think it was a dumb movie, and so did my BIL." "Yes, I saw it with him and we talked afterwards and both thought it was dumb." "Yes, I know you liked it; nonetheless, he told me he found it bad..."

After an hour of such back-and-forth, would it reasonable to say, "Jeez, John, you shouldn't use the credentials of your BIL the movie director as an argument for how dumb the movie is! No, I know you weren't making an argument of how good the movie was based simply on your BIL's status as a movie director, but don't you know the illocutionary force of such a conversation?"?

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kmbboots
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Wait...the guy who directed the movie thought it was a dumb movie? That does not speak well for it.
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Jhai
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No, the BIL is just a movie director who watched some random (bad) movie not of his own making.
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dkw
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quote:
Originally posted by Jhai:
I'm not dodging the question - my answer was in the second paragraph. To be more explicit: whatever the illocutionary force of repeatedly discussing the issue . . .

That was not the question. The question was about repeatedly positioning yourself as the teacher and Annie as the student.

I have noticed the same changes as rivka in the last few months. I actually wondered if it were time to congratulate you on an academic milestone, because you're showing a lot of the classic signs of "new PhD syndrome." At any rate, it might be worth considering that the difference between the reactions you get here and among your real life friends might have less to do with relative skin thicknesses and more to do with whether you treat your friends as peers.

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Jhai
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I wasn't positioning her as a student to my "teacher status". If it makes you feel better, whenever I was a student in discussion-based classrooms I had no difficulty in telling other students when they were showing poor reasoning or research skills either. That sort of attitude, was, in fact, encouraged by many of my professors - in my senior philosophy seminar, for instance, we were each assigned a peer's paper which we were expected to tear apart in the next class session.

Peers, if anything, get a worse treatment from me. They should know better.

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El JT de Spang
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If this recent attitude was encouraged by your professors, then I'd be ashamed to be your teacher.
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Jhai
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Cool beans.
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Kama
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ooh, ooh, I went to the varsity too!
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scifibum
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OK, so the evidence about what kinds of parenting is optimal is mixed. However, the evidence that poverty is strongly correlated with various poor outcomes - such as criminal activity - is pretty solid.

Regardless - do we want to get in the business of telling people who gets to make babies?

Aside from living in a glass house in that regard - I'm not an optimal parent, probably will never even be particularly close - I think it'd be a bad idea. I don't want extra forces causing humanity to breed selectively for the most compliant, most conformed outcomes. (At best we'd be less interesting, at worst we are ripe for totalitarianism.)

Rather, I think we should try and figure out which ways people can adapt to avoid things we generally agree are bad, such as going to jail, not having financial resources, and being in a bad mood all the time. Don't prevent the poor from having kids, but try to help them not to be poor any more. Don't tell the lesbians "no sperm for you!", but educate ourselves so we know whether there are any particular concerns with a two mommies household.

I don't think we need to limit our choices so much as to understand the implications of them. It's easy to see that this generally works: people act in self interest, and in the interests of those close to them, so when there's disagreement about benefit, we need study, not proscription, at least when it comes to able adults.

And remember you're not permanently safe from the whims of the majority just because you currently belong to it.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Jhai:
I wasn't positioning her as a student to my "teacher status".

Jhai, You said

quote:
Wow. I'd be embarrassed to admit to being your teacher in any sort of science field.
and I can't see any logical way to interpret that statement other than that you were positioning her as a student to your teacher status. Furthermore, that comment came before most of the other responses to Annie's post so your seeking to justify it by saying

quote:
The only reason I've ended up repeatedly comparing Annie to students I've taught (or, rather, my expectations for students I've taught) was in response to others who were, in turn, responding to the original comment.
falls flat. Anyone reading this thread can see that it is factually and verifiably incorrect.

Then you claimed that this was not a personal attack. Get real Jhai. I can't believe that someone with the credentials you claim could make that argument with a straight face.

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Jhai
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Another logical interpretation: the first quote you use is about status, not actual student-to-teacher relationships. Thus, I am saying that I do not believe I am "better" than her because I hold "teacher status" while she holds "student status". You see how this is different from the other two?

One is a comment on status, two & three are comments on hypothetical situations. Pay closer attention to my word choice next time.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Annie:
quote:
First, they are coming from a website that opposes same-sex marriage, which means that they are likely only going to have articles that support their view point.
Whereas, if you were making an argument here that same-sex marriage was a good idea, you would only cite articles that support your viewpoint.
Yes, if you were making that argument. Of course, you're making an argument, and only citing other people who are also making that argument. None of your links is actually to a single study, (as far as I can tell) only statements and discussions of other studies- and none of them appear to be from peer-reviewed journals themselves.

If you're actually using this stuff as a basis for any of your own "research," I'm startled.

And you've provided us with a bibliography... someone *else's* bibliography. Have you read these works? Do you know the data they present? It's really kind of irresponsible to post them as if they are representative of your viewpoint. They may not be.

It would be very easy for you, if you are at a University, to log onto JSTOR and generate a bibliography of actual studies you have actually read. You wouldn't have to provide stable links. Many people here have ways of accessing online databases. Because, really, so far what you've contributed is almost worse than when you weren't providing any sources. At least then we could pretend that if the sources did exist, they would be reliable or relevant.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
Regardless - do we want to get in the business of telling people who gets to make babies?

Apparently, her answer is not only yes, but she wants it arbitrarily limited, out of a fundamental assumption that it's okay to discriminate based on being single or lesbian, but not on other factors like being poor, which turns the whole sociological justification (not yet rendered) lopsided.
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scifibum
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I'm just glad there isn't a smell test.
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Samprimary
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You say that and I think "Well, y'see, I smell lahk keystone light and chew, an' th missus smells lahk chesterfields an' cat poo, but, y'see, wahr in a tra-dis-nul family strutcher. So, w'all good fer ten mer kids."
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Annie
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quote:
Apparently, her answer is not only yes, but she wants it arbitrarily limited, out of a fundamental assumption that it's okay to discriminate based on being single or lesbian, but not on other factors like being poor, which turns the whole sociological justification (not yet rendered) lopsided.
Please do not put words in my mouth.

I am legitimately busy with schoolwork, I already wasted too much time on this thread this morning, and I'm not interested in continuing a discussion in such a hostile atmosphere.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Annie:
Please do not put words in my mouth.

I am legitimately busy with schoolwork, I already wasted too much time on this thread this morning, and I'm not interested in continuing a discussion in such a hostile atmosphere.

I'm not putting words in your mouth. That's a straightforward interpretation of the extent of your position so rendered. If you don't want to correct it, then, fine.

But I'm somewhat disappointed that the actions of others are what you are going to use to decide not to address my points, since they're really rather pointed and necessary critiques of your position.

So rendered.

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DDDaysh
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Liz B, I really liked your post. I share many of Belle's concerns about large families (though to many people, 4 kids IS a large family). I grew up in a family of 6, and it was not the fairy tale of love and team work that many people seem to want to portray. There were many days where it was pretty hellish, and every last one of us (except maybe one) has suffered some not-insignificant emotional scars from some of the negative aspects. On the other hand, there were many positive aspects, and in the end, I think large families are still wonderful in many ways.

That being said, even parents with the best of intentions end up sometimes raising children or families in situations they themselves do not consider idea. I'm a single mother of only one son who works full time an hour away and goes to school part time. My son also has a half sibling he only gets to see every couple of weeks. There is almost NOTHING about the family dynamics my son has that I am happy with. This is NOT the situation in which I think children should be raised - yet I'm doing it the best I can, and I think that my son is doing ok too.

I have real concerns about my son being raised as an only child and missing out on almost every aspect of a sibling relationship. On the other hand, I could never, in good conscience, bring another baby into this world given my circumstances. I honestly believe it is unfair to never give a kid a chance at a "normal" life. I am, however, considering adopting a child from foster care. My son wants a sibling, I have more love to give, and many foster children never get a chance at any family at all, so half a set of parents is better than none! Even with all these considerations, I am still waiting until I am out of school because I realize that more than money children need their parent's time.

I am not suggesting that any laws be passed regulating who can and cannot have a child. There are some laws I'd like to see revised (such as those banning mentally handicapped people from receiving sterilization procedures if they consent) but the truth is there is no practical and fair way to do it. However, I do have real concerns that people honestly believe that "all families are equal".

Some people seem to think that if two parents can handle four kids, then it's just as easy for a single parent to handle two kids - but that's just not true. I'm not sure exactly how much having both a mother AND a father matters, but I definitely think that having TWO parents is a big deal. Heck, there was a reason that grandparents often lived with families in the "good ole days" and it didn't all have to do with poverty, lack of space, and no nursing homes. Kids need a variety of adults they can count on for love and support. No adult is perfect, and there will be times when an argument or punishment from an adult will hurt the child. That child needs to have at least one other person to turn to for validation in those circumstances. I don't mean validation as in telling the child he/she is right, but validation in the fact that the child is still a person worthy of love. (Remember grandpappy in the first chapter of 7th son).

Thus, while single parent families can work, I do shiver at the thought of actually encouraging them to exist. There are legal hoops that a person must jump through to adopt a child. I do not understand why equally stringent hoops should not be placed on a person wishing to undergo fertility treatments. After all, isn't the end result essentially the same?

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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by DDDaysh:

Thus, while single parent families can work, I do shiver at the thought of actually encouraging them to exist. There are legal hoops that a person must jump through to adopt a child. I do not understand why equally stringent hoops should not be placed on a person wishing to undergo fertility treatments. After all, isn't the end result essentially the same?

This is an interesting question, and I'm not sure if the answer is as simple as it should be. The rules for adopting a child are put in place to protect children who *already exist* and to help place them in loving homes. Fertility treatments create new babies and those babies are biologically and legally the responsibility of the mothers who bear them. There is a real knee-jerk reaction involved when you try to get into the business of regulating reproduction. I'm one of the people who has such a reaction, though I understand the practical concerns you've put forth. It might be fairer to stop a child from being brought into existence if that existence would be unpleasant and/or make others' existence unpleasant, and certainly easier than dealing with it after they are born and potentially shuffled through the foster system, and yet who gets to say who's a good parent and who is not?
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kmbboots
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I just want to say that there is an enormous and critical difference between being pissed off at irresponsible parents and thinking that society or the government should have a say in who can have children by whatever means.
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Jhai
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quote:
Originally posted by Christine:
This is an interesting question, and I'm not sure if the answer is as simple as it should be. The rules for adopting a child are put in place to protect children who *already exist* and to help place them in loving homes. Fertility treatments create new babies and those babies are biologically and legally the responsibility of the mothers who bear them. There is a real knee-jerk reaction involved when you try to get into the business of regulating reproduction. I'm one of the people who has such a reaction, though I understand the practical concerns you've put forth. It might be fairer to stop a child from being brought into existence if that existence would be unpleasant and/or make others' existence unpleasant, and certainly easier than dealing with it after they are born and potentially shuffled through the foster system, and yet who gets to say who's a good parent and who is not?

It's very difficult to make a case based upon happiness/utility alone that it is better to not exist at than to exist even if you're disadvantaged - it's called the non-identity problem in philosophy. The only cases which are legitimately/seriously argued are things like children born with Tay-Sachs disease. There are other ways you can argue about the morality of conceiving a child that will be disadvantaged, but harm to the child-to-be-conceived is a tough one. (We once had a debate case on this issue concerning a child who had been conceived with the sperm of a family with a long history of deafness - it was a pair of lesbian Deaf women who already had one other artificially-conceived Deaf child. They wanted another child, and the wanted the child to be deaf if at all possible.)
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
I just want to say that there is an enormous and critical difference between being pissed off at irresponsible parents and thinking that society or the government should have a say in who can have children by whatever means.

there should prolly be exceptions in the case of people who are mentally ill in certain ways or people who've run afoul of the law involving their care of children but yes, for the most part. 'legislating fertility' is a horrific sounding idea which has no place outside of a dystopic future where it is necessitated by horrific events.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Jhai:
We once had a debate case on this issue concerning a child who had been conceived with the sperm of a family with a long history of deafness - it was a pair of lesbian Deaf women who already had one other artificially-conceived Deaf child. They wanted another child, and the wanted the child to be deaf if at all possible.

I'm failing to see how this could possibly be a debate. I can see arguments for why it might be ethical to want a child even though there was a high probability or even certainty that the child would be deaf. I can understand that a deaf life can be worth living and that there are valuable things in deaf culture. But actively seeking to make a deaf child seems to me to cross a line into the clearly unethical zone. In my mind, I can't see a difference between deliberately passing on a genetic defect to a child, performing a procedure during pregnancy with the intention of creating a birth defect and poking the child's ears out with a nail at birth.

I am very curious to know what arguments there are on the other side of this issue.

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scholarette
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I know a lot of deaf people do not consider deafness a defect. I know that some members of the deaf community also argued against hearing parents getting their child the occular implant along similar lines. One of the profs I know works in that field and says that the amount of hostility he gets from the deaf community is shocking.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
... In my mind, I can't see a difference between deliberately passing on a genetic defect to a child, performing a procedure during pregnancy with the intention of creating a birth defect and poking the child's ears out with a nail at birth.

Theoretically, its slightly different. For example, if you use some form of genetic screening to screen for fertilized eggs that are deaf then you're not really poking out the child's ears as much as you're choosing to have a child thats deaf. (I mean conversely, if we screen against a disease, we don't really think of that as "upgrading" the child at birth)

That aspect of the theory aside though, I'm still not a fan.

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Jhai
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Theoretically, it's very different.

The problem is that you can't point to an entity that is harmed by the decision to go with "defective sperm", so to speak. There isn't a child being harmed, because the child that is born because of the choice to go with that specific sperm would not have been born had the choice been otherwise. Some other individual would have been born.

So in the case of the Deaf family, they did end up having a male boy who was completely deaf in one ear and nearly completely deaf in the other. Let's call him Mike. Mike would not have been born if his mothers had chosen other sperm. He hasn't been harmed by their choice - that choice is what gave him life. If Mike's parents had chosen to go with the sperm of a man whose family didn't have a genetic tendency to be deaf, then some other kid - call her Linda - would have been born. Now, I suppose you could say that Linda was harmed by the parents' decision - but we aren't typically in habit of saying that you're harming all potential children by not giving birth to them. It'd be a hard case to make.

Then there's the part of whether being deaf is really a defect. As scholarette noted, the Deaf community typically doesn't see it as a defect - differently-abled, not defective. I don't agree with that stance, but you do have to argue against it. So the first third of my case was just focused on making it clear why being born deaf was an actual defect, rather than like being born with brown eyes rather than hazel. The second third was talking about the non-identity problem, and why harm couldn't be a principle used to argue against the mothers' choice. Then the final part was putting forth an argument for why it was still the morally-wrong choice on deontological lines. That's also a difficult case to make as you don't want to go with a principle that's too strong - one that would require, for instance, people with any genetic problem to not have children.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Then there's the part of whether being deaf is really a defect.
The answer is "yes" and the 'deaf community' is sometimes very weird about their differently-abledness, sometimes balking when doctors recommend fixing their hearing as children.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Then there's the part of whether being deaf is really a defect.
The answer is "yes" and the 'deaf community' is sometimes very weird about their differently-abledness, sometimes balking when doctors recommend fixing their hearing as children.
Agreed. Some segments of the deaf community are strongly opposed to cochlear implants. They have been known to ostracize deaf people who receive the implants and oppose giving implants to children. I find their attitudes highly unethical.
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Jhai
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I don't disagree, but it's still an argument that must be laid to rest before proceeding further. There are some arguments, as I recall, that initially sound plausible (access to a unique culture & language, sharpening of other senses, discrimination is less than what, say, a black person faces, etc), but they ultimately fail.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
The problem is that you can't point to an entity that is harmed by the decision to go with "defective sperm", so to speak. There isn't a child being harmed, because the child that is born because of the choice to go with that specific sperm would not have been born had the choice been otherwise. Some other individual would have been born.
I have difficulty with this distinction. I know too much biochemistry to see a genetic defect as fundamentally distinct from a developmental defect. Our individuality is at least as much determined by chemical signals that regulate gene expression in the womb as it is by genes. Scientifically the distinction just isn't there to say that a change in the genome means you are a different person but a change in conditions in the womb does not. Yes, if you used a different sperm, a different person would have been born. But if you'd changed conditions in the womb to prevent proper development of the ears, a different person would have been born as well. Some of the key traits that define us as individuals (like gender) are as much controlled by the hormonal environment in the womb as they are by genetics.

I can't see any clear difference to distinguish between deliberately selecting a genetic defect in a child and deliberately inducing a defect in the womb.

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Jhai
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If you have a fetus, and you do something to it, you've changed an entity. If you don't have a fetus yet, then there's no entity to change. In one case you can point to an entity and say "you've harmed this entity". In another case, there's no thing or person that has been harmed.

How can you cause harm to a thing that doesn't exist?

Note: in the case of your last sentence, you can certainly talk about motivation of the actors, and whether an action is right or not. My initial comment was not about that - it was about whether the action caused harm or not. Many ethicists like to fall back on some sort of harm principle to show that an action was wrong - this case is one where you cannot do so.

Upthread I linked to a section in a philosophical article on this issue. If you read it (just the "non-identity problem" section), I think you will understand the issue better.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
If you have a fetus, and you do something to it, you've changed an entity. If you don't have a fetus yet, then there's no entity to change. In one case you can point to an entity and say "you've harmed this entity". In another case, there's no thing or person that has been harmed.

How can you cause harm to a thing that doesn't exist?

I fully understand that argument and the problem it creates for ethicists. Unfortunately, I think it leads to a very irrational conclusion.

Biochemically, If I knock out a gene so that it simply is never present in an entity or use chemical means to completely suppress expression of a gene -- I end up with exactly the same out come, yet you would say the first one does not harm because no entity existed when I knocked out the gene but in the second case the entity already exist and so it can be harmed. But from a scientific perspective, the two acts are performed for the exact same reason and have identical outcomes.

What I'm saying is that an ethical theory is deeply flawed if that theory leads to the conclusion that one of two acts is ethical and the other not, when the two acts are performed with the same intent and have exactly the same outcome. I find that conclusion irrational and evidence of a serious limitation in the ethical theory.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Upthread I linked to a section in a philosophical article on this issue. If you read it (just the "non-identity problem" section), I think you will understand the issue better.
Jhai, I am very familiar with the non-identity problem. My problem is not lack of familiarity or understanding. I think that this philosophical model is unsound because it leads to irrational and contradictory results. It may be useful in some cases, but has severe limitations.

I believe we've had this discussion before. I know I've had it with more credentialed ethicists than you, two of whom understood and accepted my point as a valid concern.

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Jhai
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But the two acts you speak of don't have anything close to the same outcome, because the individuals are very different. In one case you have "healthy" sperm combining with an egg to create an embryo, and then you alter the embryo - in the other you have "deaf" sperm combing with an egg to create an embryo. Even if you end up with two deaf babies from this experiment, you've used different sperm and two different individuals have resulted from the experiment.

The first individual could reasonably inquire: "Why did you perform that gene therapy in the womb that caused me to be born deaf? If you hadn't have done that, I would have been just the same as now, but with ears."

The second individual cannot reasonably say a similar thing.

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Jhai
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*shrug* If you don't want to discuss it, then that's fine. If we've discussed it before, you must not have persuaded me that your reasoning was valid, since I don't think your biochemical example fits the constraints of the case.

And, frankly, I don't care what sort of ethicists you've talked to about this issue, and whether or not they've agreed with you. I think a lot of philosophers are wrong on a lot of things. The wrongness of other philosophers is probably the only thing philosophers can agree on.

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The Rabbit
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Jhai, ou don't actually understand what I'm proposing. Consider the following throught experiment.

1. We take an egg and a sperm and knock out a gene critical for hearing in each gamete. Then we allow the gametes to fuse to form an embryo.

2. We select an egg and sperm which we know to be identical to some other egg and sperm in every way except that they have lost the hearing gene through some natural process. Then we allow the gametes to fuse to form an embryo.

3. We select an egg and sperm, allow them to fuse to form an embryo and then chemically suppress expression of the hearing gene.

All three options are performed for the exact same reason and have the identical outcome. An ethical theory that would conclude that 1 or 2 was ethical, but three was not in my mind is seriously flawed.

Now I know that none of these scenarios is exactly what was done. But I think that ethically it is very difficult to distinguish between option 2 and what these women did. While its true that they did not have the technology needed to select a sperm that was genetically identical in all respects except the defective hearing gene, it seems evident that that their intent and the outcome are identical to option 2. Their reason for selecting the sperm donor was so that they would have a high probability of having a deaf child. The only difference I see between that and option 2 is the technology that was available to them.

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Jhai
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(I'll reply when I get a chance. Things just got hairy at work.)
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scholarette
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How about the married heterosexual couple who wish to take their sperm and eggs, fuse them and then use genetic testing to eliminate all the non deaf embryos?
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