I wanted to make sure I had my statistics correct before I wrote this. The statistics are incomplete and some are incorrect. I will, then, just go with the instincts I have and you can sort them out.
The most important issue I have is the definition of “life.” When does life begin? Does it have to be sentient life? Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Taken by most activists, that means the capacity to feel pain. If the nerves are established when the endodermic system is in place, and the baby can hear at 11 weeks, does that mean that the brain is working? How does this creature know what pain is? Is pain the only thing that separates sentient and non-sentient creatures?
How about at the end of life? We consider a person dead when the brain stops functioning, but we can keep the organs alive long enough to provide transplants. But organs are not “alive” in the sense that they are sentient. At what point did we have to define life for humans? It seems that you must define life in order to determine whether it is being taken or not. If you dig up a carrot, and it doesn’t have pain, then you have not murdered the carrot. If you catch a fish, and it does have pain, you have murdered the fish. If you injure a mosquito, does it feel pain? If it does, then slapping a mosquito is murdering the mosquito. If you stomp on a cockroach…well, somethings you just have to do.
Humans, like all predators, are carnivores. Humans, like bears, are also omnivores, but bears cannot live on berries and plants alone. Bears and other carnivores, unlike humans, do not identify with their prey. We have the capacity to take life, and cook it medium rare and add barbecue sauce. But we blanch when someone suggests that we kill Bambi. Other predators kill prey to eat, but have been known to kill members of their own species. It appears that it is for protection of territory, rather than for personal gain, fun or amusement. Chimpanzees send out border patrols for that reason–so they don’t get caught alone. As humans, though, we weigh the value of a life. Does this person’s life have more value than the ring he’s wearing? Is this person’s life more important than the thing I want: his wife, his fortune, his car, his position, his power. Is this person’s life an annoyance or inconvenience to me and my lifestyle? Does the value of this person’s life depend on whether his uniform differs from mine? Does this person’s beliefs make him less valuable? Everything is skewed in our advanced society, and it tends to make people feel that our society is less advanced than the animals we see as prey or as interesting exhibits in the zoos.
Life is an unusual phenomenon. At this point, as much as we speculate, we have no solid proof that there is life anywhere else in the universe. The heat source, the sun, must be within a small range of distance from the planet or Venus or Mars would have life. The sun would also have to be stable, not close to another system, not within the grasp of a black hole, and have a long enough life so that it wouldn’t blow up just when life was starting to get going. Our moon is a very unusual satellite–it is too big for our planet and it affects the tides and provides more light at night than a normal sized moon. Some believe the tides are a critical factor in the formation of life on a planet. The climate must be just right, and the creatures must be able to synthesize the resources around it to survive. (What if we were a photosynthetic life form? We would get all our energy from the sun and our skin would have photosynthetic properties. We would have to stick our feet into the dirt every once in a while to suck up the nutrients. Mmmm that’s great dirt mom! Can I have seconds?) The planet would have to be relatively free of collisions from other orbiting items such as asteroids, comets, and other planets in the same solar system. It would have to be a certain size with magnetic fields (indicating an iron core) to protect the creatures from dangerous radiation from the sun. There would have to be a temperature maintenance system that would keep the range of temperature on the planet fairly constant such as a planet with 70% of the surface covered with water. There would have to be breathable air. These unusual combinations of circumstances allow plant and animal life to exist on earth.
Human life is very unusual. We have a conscience. It’s funny that we apply that human concept onto animals. Why else would we say “Bad Dog!” We live in societies. Other forms of life live in societies as well: elephants, wolves, apes and primates, lions, herd animals. The goal of each society is to
- preserve the society,
- protect its resources,
- define its territory, and
- profit its members.
I believe that humans now, especially in developed countries, do not concern themselves with the society or the town or the neighborhood or even the family. They are individuals that happen to live next to each other. What one does has no impact on anyone but himself. Our goals are different.
- self value at the top of the scale,
- followed by (perhaps) family members,
- possibly friends,
- maybe neighbors,
- sometimes the town,
- rarely the state, and
- definitely last, the country.
Very few people consider the damage to the community that we cause when we break the societal rules set by the community. Devaluing life because it isn’t even on the scale we measure against inexorably damages the society. This is why we have to define life: so we can take it without tweaking our conscience and explain it away as it not being technically alive. We have put consequences to actions as separate and unrelated. Having sex tends to result in babies. Just because you can’t see the baby doesn’t mean it isn’t the result of two copulating humans. Having protected sex with someone with whom you have no intention of having a baby is putting sexual pleasure for yourself ahead of the consequences…self value is 1st. Having protected sex with someone with whom you wouldn’t mind having a baby is a coin flip. (One of my children was conceived when I was still nursing and hadn’t begun menstruating, and my husband was using a condom with spermicidal gel. It was a 1/1,000,000 chance, but he was conceived anyway.) Having unprotected sex is a dice roll. The consequences is a baby. When it is considered ‘alive’ is irrelevant. We, as enlightened beings, with unprecedented medical acumen, huge resources available, a society capable of amazing love and unimaginable cruelty, need to put the needs of the society before our own in order to preserve our society. It is never in the society’s best interest to murder the unwanted members just because they’re inconvenient. Where would it stop? Unwanted fetuses, unwanted children, unwanted mentally or physically handicapped, unwanted homeless, unwanted criminals, unwanted Republicans or Democrats, unwanted religions. The concept is the same. Life is Precious.