Pro life thought experiment


True, but that is a part of reality…


Bravo Bravo Bravo…


I would rescue the child. The Child is easier to move than the unconscious pregnant woman.


True - also the child is the one crying.


I am so glad I was raised by a mother that has a background in biology. This is something I’m always known to be true because of this. I’m not sure I understand the logic behind the question being asked.


Run Forrest Run!!!


Satire… for now.


Part of the problem is that the term “right to life” means that human beings have the right to not be murdered.

Let’s propose a counter–thought experiment: there are two people i the fertility clinic storage room. One is a crying 5-year-old, the other other is a serial murderer who ate his victims after killing them, who is chained to a rolling cart because he is so murderous they can’t let him lose.

Oh, you would save the child? Then you must be one of those awful people who is not against capital punishment…


The situation as given is probably unreal. Do fertility clinics really store embryos by the thousands in jugs that people can just cart around?

Aren’t embryos kept alive by being frozen, and wouldn’t they die if removed from the cold?

Here is a description of how embryos are stored. They have to be in liquid nitrogen at colder than -300°F, so they are stored in tanks where that temp is maintained. So “rescuing” an embryo, or a few, might possibly be feasible, because once thawed, they could be implanted, but rescuing a 1000 seems like would be more than one trip, in which case the child could easily be rescued as well.


The term ‘right to life’ is often distorted by those who oppose reproductive freedom. The right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of their own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)


Would you like to explain how such conclusion was reached?

I am not completely sure I understand what you wrote, but it seems to be complete nonsense. For example, “enjoyment of their own life” seems to be pretty irrelevant to “right to life”, even if its meaning was slightly distorted. Also, it looks like nothing in this definition would make murder a violation of “right to life” - and in that case, in what way is that supposed to be a right to life?


People generally credit the author when they quote someone.

And I don’t think Ayn Rand has any authority to narrowly define something which already has a meaning.


Behold I have given you rest for your mind. If you had picked the child then you would be normal and not a straight up heartless fool. The point of this experiment is that both options are bad. So in response we don’t concentrate on the options but in fact the motives. The whole point of being pro-life is that you value embyros just as much as a child. So when having to pick you choose which you relate to the most. In this case it is the child. Because we can not remember our time in womb and how embyros looks disgusting we are more likely to pick the human child. Also this “thought experiment” is just a renamed trolly problem. So for a sci-fi writer this guy really isn’t that creative.


By the time I fully understood my choices and evaluated all the alternatives and drew the careful moral balance involved, the building would have burned to the ground and the child and the 1000 embryos would have all died. Probably me too, standing in a hallway trying to decide what to do.


So, the other day, as I was in the car listening to EWTN radio, I tuned into the Catholic Answers program with Barbara McGuigan as host. During the program, they mentioned this thought experiment, and she dismissed it as nonsensical.

(I noticed that an online article from the Foreign Affairs site took the same tack, claiming that these kinds of problems are unhelpful. I disagree: Barbara and the Foreign Affairs columnist are misunderstanding the goal of the thought experiment. It doesn’t exist to prepare us to make real-life decisions; it exists only to probe our deeply-held beliefs and help us understand the moral principles which we believe we hold.)

Nevertheless, as I was listening, I came up with a response. (I didn’t feel like calling it in, though: I decided I’d rather share it here, with you.) Now… this response doesn’t answer the question, per se. Rather, since the framing of the question is meant to tug at utilitarianist tendencies, I thought of a re-framing of the question to force a utilitarianist pro-abortion advocate to reconsider the dilemma s/he proposes to us:

Each of the embryos (or, perhaps, more realistically, every 10 or 20 embryos) represents a couple who has invested significant time and expense (perhaps in the range of $15-30K or more) in getting pregnant. In addition, they represent the hopes and dreams of a couple who wants to have a child. Therefore, this means that 1000 embryos translates to about 100 couples, with an investment of upwards of $3 million.
On the other hand, a single five-year-old represents the hopes and dreams of only one couple. Estimates of the cost of raising a child vary, but we can use $12.5K / year as a reasonable estimate. Therefore, the parents of the five-year-old have ‘invested’ around $63K in him.

Therefore, the choice can be represented as follows:

  • the five-year-old represents a single couple and their investment of less than $100K
  • the embryos represent 100 couples and an investment of $3 million.

Given these figures, which would you save? (If you believe in utilitarianism – that is, “the greatest good for the greatest number of people” – then you must answer “I’d save the embryos”. (After all, it helps the greatest number of couples, and preserves the greater financial investment in their offspring.) Otherwise, as the author of the original dilemma so coyly states, “you know what you’re conceding by saying that…” :wink: )


This is where I agree with you 100 percent. :slight_smile: Now let’s see the rest.

It is fun to create new and new scenarios with somewhat modified setups. But let’s put some “flesh” on your skeleton scenario. The one “5 years old” represents a winning lottery ticket, worth “X” dollars. The “one thousand embryos” represent 1000 potential winning tickets, but currently they are just pieces of paper. Which one is more “valuable”, one actual winner, or 1000 possible winners?

One more remark, I don’t think that you correctly represent “utilitarianism” - in other words it is NOT a linear function, if you know what I mean. :slight_smile: But that could be a different conversation.


This is a bad thought experiment in relation to the abortion debate, because we are not intentionally killing embryos here.

Choosing the infant over the embryos is addressing a different dimension of justice than what abortion critics are addressing. This is quite easy to see if I tweak the senario a little: let’s make the choice between two infants instead. As you can see, this has nothing to with the inherent value of human life, but how we need to practical approach choosing between two different human lives.

Finally, the very existence of those embryos in such a state is an abomination. The whole situation just cries out for God to rectify.

Christi pax.


Except that embryos are not potential human life, they are each a human being as much as the 5-year-old; they are just in a different stage of life.


In that case all we have to do is remove both the 5 years old and the embryos and allow them the “freedom” to grow into adults. After all they are both “humans” and they are “alive”. There is no real difference… says you. :slight_smile:


I think I’d say that it’s not a ‘new’ scenario – it’s the same scenario, from a different perspective!

And, your distinction between ‘winning’ and ‘potentially winning’ is the real battleground here: the person who proposes this dilemma sees the embryos as “potential humans”, while the pro-life person to whom s/he proposes it sees the embryos as “actual humans”.

Nevertheless, that’s why I’m not asking the pro-abortion person to discuss the value of the embryos, but rather, the harm to the adults affected by this decision. :wink:

Maybe not linear, but certainly “greatest good for greatest number of people”, right? That’s classic utilitarianism. :man_shrugging:

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