RE: [Fwd: RE: [Fwd: RE: [Fwd: RE: Darwinism/Compassion]]]

From: Adrian Teo (
Date: Tue Feb 26 2002 - 11:57:31 EST

  • Next message: Woodward Norm Civ WRALC/TIEDM: "RE: Fwd: ???? ????????????(??) ????"

    Hello Dave,

    -----Original Message-----
    From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. []
    Sent: Monday, February 25, 2002 11:52 AM
    Subject: Re: [Fwd: RE: [Fwd: RE: [Fwd: RE: Darwinism/Compassion]]]

    On Mon, 25 Feb 2002 10:30:22 -0800 Adrian Teo <> writes:
    I think you are misunderstanding Lucy. She is not advocating euthanasia. She
    is rather noting that the effects of actions need to be considered. You have
    called this "consequentialism" and consider it wicked. But I note it as a
    sensible approach. For a simple illustration, I note the current medical
    approach to prostate cancer among seniors. It can certainly be treated
    surgically, with chemo or with radiation--x-ray or implantation. But now
    doctors usually refrain from treatment, for they recognize that most of
    these cancers are so slow growing that the patient will succumb to something
    else long before the cancer becomes a danger. They do watch to be certain
    that the cancer is not one of the relatively few that grow rapidly, but they
    no longer rush to excision as they once did. They view the consequences.>>>

    AT: I recognize that I may be misunderstanding Lucy, but as far as I can
    tell, she has never accused me of that, which leads me to assume that I am

    Let me clarify. Your example of prostate cancer patients seems to me to be
    quite different in character from Lucy's. In both cases, I agree that the
    underlying principle (which is consequentialist) is to do the lesser evil.
    Consequentialists treat this as the single basic moral principle, often
    without consideration for other principles that may be significant also. In
    your case, not treating is preferred because it minimizes the risk of side
    effects of treatment, and the patient in not in any immediate danger of
    dying. In Lucy's case, not providing food is preferred because it minimizes
    the risk of the side/unintended effects of intervention also, but the people
    in question are in dire need, or they will actually die of starvation.

    My approach is to apply another important principle, that one can never do
    evil to bring about good (or to minimize a greater evil). Non-intervention
    may not be inherently evil, but it is evil when one is well aware that
    non-intervention leads to immediate, preventable harm. I cannot choose not
    to intervene when I see a child being attacked a knife-wielding person just
    because I decide that the consequence would be that both I and the child
    would get stabbed. Sure, in this case, I could look for alternative
    interventions (like running to get help), but in Lucy's case, what are the
    alternatives when people are starving to death? So, in the absence of viable
    alternative intervention options, I am obligated to work to prevent

    <<<Lucy is saying that we need to consider the consequences of our
    "remedies" for social ills. Had we done so earlier, the problems produced by
    liberal welfare provisions would have been avoided. We would have recognized
    the problems of closing down institutions for the mentally ill and avoided a
    great deal of homelessness. A look at consequences will recognize that the
    rapid increase in population in third-world countries makes it impossible to
    raise capital rapidly enough to maintain their standard of living, let alone
    raise it. Further, the end will be famine, for there is no possibility of
    distributing enough food to the exponentially growing populations. What will
    produce new problems or exacerbate current difficulties needs to be
    considered. In other words, the way we look ahead in planning our lives
    needs also to be applied in our stewardship of the earth and its

    AT: I agree with your basic principle of applying reasoned foresight and
    planning ahead. But we are also required to prevent any immediate harm from
    befalling anyone (within our capactity of course). I can never do evil (or
    allow preventable evil) to fulfill the moral law.

    <<<It looks to me as though your substitute for Lucy's view is
    sentimentalism. You are determined that you not only do not want to cause
    immediate pain but you also want to do away with any current pain, even
    through the long term results will be greater pain. This is like saying, "I
    won't let them inoculate my child because the injection makes him cry. I can
    add to the diagnosis of your problem myopia and tunnel vision.>>>

    AT: I don't think I am advocating sentimentalism. My principle is not
    avoidance of pain at all cost, but avoidance of evil. My disagreement with
    Lucy was over the issue of whether human death is evil. If it is (as I have
    argued), then we need to work to prevent it from occurring (if preventable).
    Of course, Lucy has argued that death is not evil, which I think is
    inconsistent with orthodox Christian understanding (but that is not to say
    that Lucy is not a Christian).

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Feb 26 2002 - 11:58:30 EST