Villagers with torches

I had an odd experience recently. I was invited to a dinner at a nice restaurant, part of an awards event, with a number of fellow scientists – scientists from a variety of fields. It was the sort of thing where everybody puts on a jacket and tie or the equivalent.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about the evening until the moment when somebody heard me quietly conferring with the waiter about what vegan options there were. At that point one of my tablemates picked up on the fact that I was ordering vegan, and the next thing I knew it was the topic of conversation.

At first the questions were friendly, although it sort of weirded me out that what I eat would become such a focus of discussion. When asked why I was eating vegan, I explained that I would just as soon not cause suffering if I could avoid it. Soon the conversation became markedly less friendly, although the tone was always polite. There was a lot of focus on scallops. “Why don’t you eat scallops?” “Do you think scallops would mind?” And I remember thinking how strange it was that somebody would want me to eat scallops, just to make them feel better about what I eat.

At some point I realized that my simply being there, an outed vegan, was creating a kind of dissonance at the table, and it probably wouldn’t matter what I said. Eventually I managed to steer the topic of conversation to something else. But I was left with an odd feeling by the aggressiveness of it all. I hadn’t questioned anybody else’s eating choices. I was just sitting there minding my own business and trying to have dinner, and suddenly people I didn’t even know were trying to talk me into changing my ethical beliefs.

I feld a bit like a well meaning Frankenstein monster who had foolishly wandered out of the castle and into town, prompting the villagers to dutifully pick up their torches and give chase. Except that these particular villagers were fellow scientists.

Thinking about it afterward I was struck by some particular questions raised by the experience. If I had given one of a number of culturally acceptable non-answers, nobody would have thought to question anything I might say. For example, I could simply have said: “Of the eight sacred Sutras of the Patanjali, the first is Yama, which teaches to do no harm to one’s fellow creatures.” This would have identified me as a Buddhist, which would have protected me.

In other words, if you say you are doing something for religious reasons, unless you’re going around killing people or trying to have sex with their underage children, then you get a free pass. “Oh, you’re a Buddhist,” would be a typical response, whereupon everybody would nod thoughtfully and respectfully, while wondering whether they can still score tickets to the Dalai Lama’s talk next month.

And yet if I had said that, I wouldn’t have been giving a more substantive explanation – I would just have been adding that I’m a member of a recognized group. And so it occurs to me that we are putting ourselves in a kind of danger when we build our ethics from individually thought-through conviction. Identifying yourself with a large and powerful spiritual tribe, such as “Christian” or “Buddhist” or “Southern Baptist” confers upon you a measure of protection from angry villagers with torches.

The situation is somewhat analogous to the way large corporations like IBM, Microsoft and Apple accumulate patent portfolios. Because they have each built these extensive Intellectual Property shields around themselves, they don’t need to worry about getting sued by each other. But if you, dear reader, try to go up against any of these giants as an individual inventor with nothing but one clever patent to your name, they can shut you down like a book.

What I’m talking about here is not one specific ethical choice, but rather any ethical choice that has led you to wander away from received wisdom after you’ve worked some things through in your head. If you don’t have an army to back you up, you’re not always going to have an easy time of it.

But I don’t care, I prefer doing things this way. And I’m not about to let a few pesky torches keep me out of yonder village.

36 Responses to “Villagers with torches”

  1. sally says:

    my comment is sort of the same as the benjamin button one. each generation spends a tremendous amount of energy on denial of the human condition. so, you being vegan and saying you are, raises awareness to the fact that there are big issues with how meat is raised,slayed and processed, which, people don’t really want to think about because they are at dinner and they are in denial about said meat because they like it.

    so even though you are suble, your vegan choice, reminds people of what they aren’t and even though you don’t intend to offend, they are offended.

    the side topic of branding (pardon my pun here) yourself with a label from a group that has sort of negotiated a “group rate” for vegan behavior–lets them know that you have made some choice in a context that they aren’t and thus, can remain in denial.

    but here you are at the table with them. a scientist like them. an educated person like them. making an ethical moral choice that they are not wanting to think about or make for themselves…

    see where i’m going here?

  2. troy says:

    I am intrigued that the same reasons that you cite for being vegan, don’t also make you pro-life.

  3. Dagmar says:

    This reminds me of several years, when we had my friend Martina visiting for New Years Eve dinner, who actually has been eating vegan too. My partner and me always loved the challenge to provide a seven course dinner that is completely vegan. Since we did not want just to leave things out, but come up with courses that are simply vegan. Martina loved this, because it felt good for her that she wasn’t the outsider that simply got the meal without eggs, milk, meat, ….

    But back to your topic ‘I would just as soon not cause suffering if I could avoid it’. To me the question is where do you draw the line and I might ask you about this some time. Not because you eat vegan, just because I would be interested in a clear and straight argument about this ‘avoid suffering’. I would ask you, do you really think you avoid suffering with this? How do you define suffering? I would ask you if you avoid zoos too, where most of the animals suffer a lot, just for the fun of us humans?
    I would ask you which form of agriculture is ok for you, which is not?

    I believe that the major problem is that most of the people have no idea where their food comes from and the only form for them to know a cattle is a burger from… or a steak. They don’t know anything about the processes behind and they don’t want to know.
    Do we actually need to eat things that need to be flown around the world to end up on our tables?

    I guess we would end up with a funny discussion about agriculture, intensive mass animal farming, slaughtering and so on.

    I believe that there is simply a difference between two answers you could have given, to the why question…
    You could have said, I just don’t like to eat…., but your answer – to avoid suffering – has had a moral ‘corner’ and said something like, me, Ken Perlin, I avoid suffering and you, you don’t.

    And the normal reaction to this, is the question, do you really think so? Do you really believe this? Why do you believe this?
    So I don’t really wonder that your eating habits ended up as a major topic during the dinner.

    Concerning the patent stuff, you are wrong, if you as a small inventor can afford to file a patent, you can sue even the big ones. The problem is actually the first step – to file a patent-, that costs you a lot of money and energy. And the problem are actually the companies that buy patents from universities e.g. for the only reason to make money with suing small companies and not to develop anything. The next problem are business patents, software patents and the question if stuff like this, is actually an invention in the sense that it is really something new.

    You are invited to discuss (with love and passion for the argument) all this in depth some time at a vegan dinner (cooked with love and passion :-)) at my house.

  4. admin says:

    Wow, lots of discussion here!

    Yes Sally, I see your point. If I had been identified as religious, that group of people could have concluded: “This has nothing to do with me”. But because I was coming to my conclusions as a scientist, it introduced a kind of dissonance.

    Yes Troy, of course I am pro-life. We are all pro-life, aren’t we?

    Dagmar, once I was asked a question I answered it truthfully. I wasn’t even particularly interested in starting the discussion. I am certainly far from perfect, and I am very aware that others have turned ethical corners that I haven’t turned (or am even yet aware of), and I don’t think I’m better than anybody. But if someone asks me a question, it doesn’t seem right to avoid giving a straight answer. “Do you really believe this?” seems like a particularly ingenuous response to my answer. It’s not a secret what happens to cows and pigs and chickens in this country – the level of suffering is downright astonishing.

    Have you noticed that this all works only one way? If I were to do the equivalent of what those people did – challenge meat eaters while they are eating about what food they put in their mouth (which I do not do) – it would have been seen as extremely rude and disruptive, not as dinner table conversation. But it seems to be considered ok for exactly that to be done to me – even though I am simply giving a truthful answer when asked a direct question.

    No, I don’t go to zoos anymore, and I know a number of meat eaters who don’t either, precisely because they are aware of the suffering of its inhabitants.

    Yes, a lone patent holder can sometimes prevail against a corporation – after spending a very large amount of time and money – but two corporations can use their defensive patents to bargain to a mutual compromise, and usually do, well before things get to that point. Sorry I wasn’t clear about that.

    The dinner invite sounds lovely. :-)

  5. Ben Kanegson says:

    As an individual who follows his own, non labeled and non sanctioned dietary rules, I will echo what Sally says. We all grew up knowing “Babe” and “Bambi”, and a lot of us have/had pets, so we all know with certainty that other animals feel fear and pain just as we do; so a cognitive dissonance must be created and harbored by the mainstream for them to ignore their support of systematic slaughter. Academics are uniquely trained to manipulate their own minds,

    When you publicly ,though quietly, face reality and make choices accordingly, you challenge the self serving (no pun intended) illusions of those around you. If you call it a religious belief, you remove yourself, and thereby them, from any position of individual responsibility.

    If there are 20 other people at the table, and even one of those begins to question his own programming, then the annoyance you might endure is more than balanced by the good you do. But I understand that’s not at all the motivation; simply exercising one’s own freedom of choice is its own reward.

    Invention, because you are doing something differently from the way it has been done before, is an act of rebellion. Not all just rebellions are successful.
    But you can always decide what to put in your own body.

  6. troy says:

    in a previous post, you declared that you were pro-abortion… I guess that was the source of the confusion…

  7. admin says:

    Troy, you switched topics from life to abortion. OK, then, are you talking about an individual just about to be born, or are you talking about a small cluster of cells formed just after sex? Or are you inviting me to have a metaphysical discussion? I don’t particularly go for metaphysics, as you know since you’ve been reading this blog. Although I really like Monty Python’s rendition of “Every Sperm is Sacred”.

  8. Dagmar says:

    The Sarah Palin in me and why I don’t cook with this carrot…

    To discover ‘The Sarah Palin’ in me wasn’t really an nice thing for me as one can guess. But like her, I don’t hesitate to slaughter an animal with my own hands. I am not raised in the country, but my father has been and so when we visited friends, it was pretty clear that the sweet Susi, the pig I was feeding, will end up on our table one time and taste great.
    I remember my mother telling me that after she spent the first night at the house of her mother in law, she started screaming as she looked out of the window and saw pigs hanging out there cut in halfs. :-)
    So maybe I just don’t have a romantic view of ‘Bambi’, when it comes to animals.
    I only prefer to buy meat that I know with name and at least in my country that is possible.
    On the other hand I would never touch genetically engineered vegetables, since I actually do not know what changes (suffering) they bring to the environment and to myself. So I don’t cook with this carrot. :-)
    So I am with Ben here, you can always decide what to put in your own body. But I would extend this a little and say you can decide, if you take some care and some interest about the food you eat.
    What makes me a little sad is that I read that it is usual in the US right now to built flats without kitchens and I ask myself what happens to a culture that loses the ability to cook. And I am not talking about putting some convenience food into a microwave. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Ken, I can tell you from my own experience the one way direction works the other way around just in the same way. During my time at university I ‘belonged’ to a group of people who were eating vegetarian. They even had an own food cooperation and bought their food directly from the farmer, you can’t imagine what I as a meat eater had to listen to. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Even today when I am invited to the house of my father in law (not official – Mike you know how I mean it:-)), who happens to be a vegetarian it is still the same.

    Some people are polite and tolerant, some aren’t. I think that is what you experienced at the dinner. You were in a way different and ‘not normal’ (that one is again for Troy :-)) to them, but they listened to you and your opinion seemed to be important to them. Otherwise they would have just ignored your eating habits and the answer to the question.
    And hey, you made them all think and talk about food. As Ben said, that is a good thing.

    I believe you, when you say you just gave an honest answer to a question, that you didn’t intend to make them feel bad about their own eating habits. But at the very same moment, when you say – I want to avoid suffering – the only way to answer for them to this would have been, I don’t care if animals suffer.
    When we talk about this in rhetorics, we call it IGA (insecurity-guilt- anxiety) syndrome, it describes sentences and statements that leave your partner in a conversation without a good way out.

  9. admin says:

    Dagmar, my answer in response to a direct question was simply true, not an IGA ploy. The person who asked the question – by choosing to ask it – was taking responsibility for the possibility that he might receive a truthful answer.

    There are people who give away all their wealth because they don’t want to be the cause of suffering in others. Most of us don’t, which doesn’t make us bad people. If were to have a conversation with someone who has taken a vow of poverty, I would hope that I wouldn’t try to talk them out of their convictions as a way to justify my own more materialistic lifestyle.

    I don’t eat meat because I don’t want to be the cause of suffering in others. That’s a true statement about me, and about my relationship to my life. It’s not a statement about you, any more than your not cooking with that carrot is a statement about me. When you bring up the carrot, and give your reasons for not cooking with it, that doesn’t make you IGA – it makes you honest. If I were to become defensive about every choice somebody makes that is different from the choices that I make, I would go crazy.

  10. sally says:

    “I donโ€™t eat meat because I donโ€™t want to be the cause of suffering in others. Thatโ€™s a true statement about me, and about my relationship to my life.”

    Apparently, your not eating meat at that dinner was the cause of suffering for many of the scientists at your table. Social suffering. :-p

  11. admin says:

    Having actually been there, I can report that it was more of a source of entertainment for them.

    But my crimes are even worse than that, Sally. By eating with my left hand I caused social suffering for the right-handed people at the table who think it’s wrong to eat with the left hand. And by not hiding the fact that I am from a Jewish background I caused suffering for people who are antisemitic.

    I realize now that going through life being who I actually am is a terrible crime, and that I have caused untold suffering in others. I am contrite. In the future I shall endeavor to eat using only my right hand, and I’ll make sure to cut out all the Woody Allen jokes.

    But what are we going to do about those nasty people who don’t drink alcohol, the non-smokers, the people who don’t take drugs or use any swear words? They cause suffering for others around the table every day. Perhaps we can pass some laws to protect ourselves from them.

    ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. troy says:

    I don’t think it’s really a metaphysical discussion as much as a discussion of limits and sums…

    This kinda goes back to the comment earlier about the fundamental theorem of calculus…

    A mathematician walks into a bar and orders a beer.
    Another mathematician walks in and orders half a beer.
    Another walks in and orders a quarter of a beer…

    The bartender says, “ok, enough… let me just bring you two beers…”

    So, here’s my question… We all agree that it’s inapropriate to abort a full term child… Well, how about half way between conception and birth? Well, how about half way between that? At what time does it matter?

    I don’t know. You don’t know. So, why take the chance… As a Vegan that made the choice to limit pain and suffering caused by your actions, I’d think you’d see this the same way…

    Not a criticism, Just a thought…

  13. admin says:

    Troy, I see your point. The problem with us being able to come to agreement on this issue is that we seem to have different core starting points for where the value is in human life. I’m not saying that I am right and you are wrong – I’m just pointing out that we begin with different starting assumptions.

    My ethics is entirely focused on consideration of individuals here on the earth now – fellow beings in this world that possess thoughts and emotions, experience pain and pleasure. At some point during human gestation such a being emerges. As you point out, that doesn’t happen at any one moment, but rather over a continuum of time.

    But none of that particular consideration pertains to the cluster of cells that forms right after fertilization. The reason I don’t eat eggs has nothing to do with any reverence for an egg, fertilized or not, but is connected to my dismay at the pervasive practice of killing of sentient individuals – the unwanted male chicks.

    You are talking about future individuals, and I respect that this is serious to you. I am aware that there is a battle over who decides what individuals with minds and feelings will exist in the future, and that people on all sides of this battle are quite serious. The Catholic Church takes things further than you do in asserting that every time a man and woman use birth control they are subverting God’s right to create a new human life.

    What I meant by “metaphysical” is the focus on possible future individuals as oppose to the ones on this earth now. Once you start talking about consideration of possible future individuals, then there are other debates to be had, such as whether a State ever has the right to perform forced fertilization for its own purposes. These are hard questions, and I happen to be very conservative (in the real sense of that word) in my thinking – I consider only individuals who exist now. So I don’t dismiss your point, and I understand that it’s a serious point, but I happen to come down on the other side of it.

  14. troy says:

    not to belabor, but, what is your core starting point? When does it matter?

    ps. I appologize if belabor is not actually a word…

  15. admin says:

    Belabor is indeed an excellent word, and it describes what we’ll be doing if we keep this up much longer. :-)

    I don’t understand your question. My starting point for what? When does what matter?

  16. Dagmar says:

    Ken, I only tried to show the other side of the cup – nothing else. That funny sender – reciever problem that comes with communication for free. I tried to show, what happens, if you belong to a group, but you are different at one point.
    And since I am pro life and pro choice, there was no at all a judgement in it. :-)

    @ Troy
    I have a wish for you, I wish you that you will never have to decide between the life of your wife and an unborn child. And if you ever get in a situation like this, I wish for you, it will be in a society where you have the possiblity to make your decision with free of any pressure only bound to your own conscience.

  17. admin says:

    Oh Dagmar, please don’t worry about it. I was just enjoying getting into discussing the issue. I agree completely with your point that people react very strongly when you seem to have strayed from “their” group. That’s a real phenomenon all by itself, and it’s great that you point it out.

    I’ve learned quite a bit from this on-line discussion. For example, in a similar situation in the future, I will be more likely to make it clear that my food choices are in part a form of political theatre, in protest of the brutalities of an industry. That would allow people to relate this to some other issue that they have protested (thereby addressing the unintentional IGA problem), and it should help steer the focus away from me and toward the issues I’ve been addressing – which can then lead to discussion of other issues that matter to the other people around the table. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. troy says:

    Ken,

    I was referring to the opening of your previous response:

    “Troy, I see your point. The problem with us being able to come to agreement on this issue is that we seem to have different core starting points for where the value is in human life. ”

    You keep referring to how strongly people react to their beliefs that come from other camps, this is not fanaticsm, just scientific exploration. I’m really not a very emotional person.

    @Dagmar Some times bad things happen, like getting hit by a bus. Choosing between mother and child is tough. Like choosing between conjoined twins… One may have to be sacrificed for the other, but, you do everything that you can to try to save both.

    My root question, is whether one has the right to make an existential choice for another. This is couple with the fact that none of us know when it matters… Arguably, we are all just a bunch of cells clumped together.

    I don’t agree with the whole teenage pregnancy/rape/etc. issues for a very simple reason… If you found out today that your mother was raped by Hitler, would that change who you are now? Would that make you less of a person today? Would it take away your right to exist? Should your mother have aborted you?

    Like I said, bad things happen… but that doesn’t take away your core rights. Sometimes people get hit by busses.

    Just for the record, I’m not Catholic, Mormon, Christian, Jewish, Moslem, or Buddhist. Probably about as anti-religious as you can get.

    And Ken, it’s all in the interest of exploration. I find some of the most controversial subjects are the most interesting to explore. I’m not trying to be devisive, just to understand conflicting thoughts by smart people that think differently.

  19. admin says:

    Whoa Troy, I never said you were being divisive, I never called you a fanatic, and I never said you were being emotional. I don’t think any of those things about you. Go back and read my previous response. Everything you are now asking is there. By “starting point” I didn’t mean a point in time or of gestational development, I meant a point of basic premises upon which logical arguments are built. Sorry I didn’t make that more clear.

    One thing you say that I don’t agree with is “Arguably, we are just a bunch of cells clumped together.” I don’t think that is even arguably true. As Descartes said “Cogito ergo sum.” We cannot deny the existence of our own thoughts and emotions, whatever our metaphysics may be. My “starting point” is consideration of any being now on the planet that exhibits thoughts and emotions.

    My ethics are concerned with here/now/today individuals, not potentially/possibly/future individuals. The logic of your paragraph that starts with “I don’t agree with the whole…” – in which you create an equivalence between a potential/future human and an already existing human – suggests to me that you may be coming at this from such a fundamentally different starting point that my focus on the here and now might simply be meaningless to you.

    And as you say, that’s ok – not everybody has to agree on everything. It’s good to talk these things out. :-)

  20. troy says:

    Ken,

    I really miss the old MRL days… :) It wasn’t normally political, but, there was always something interesting to talk about.

    In any case, I agree with the here/now/today… What I think we disagree with is what here/now/today means.

    As per my earlier response… There is, at some point in time, a difference in potential and actual. And neither one of us can say exactly when that is.

  21. Dagmar says:

    @ Troy

    I would leave it to my mother and her decision. And I would not even think of telling any other woman, what to do in the situation of an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy. I wouldn’t make her to give birth, I would leave it to her own choice, since I believe that she, and only she is the one to make a responsible and free decision for her life and for the new life without any pressure.

    I think we both agree that the woman herself is the best person to know, what is the right way and we should support any decision she has made, or?

  22. sally says:

    My problem with this discussion is that you are all male giving opinions about what to do — when it is the female who is the one that gets pregnant.

    All of this speculating happens OUTSIDE of your bodies.

    Dagmar has the right idea here–defer to the woman.

  23. troy says:

    Sally,

    I didn’t realize that the female got pregnant on her own…

    I still believe, that the inconvenience of a female does not outweigh the existential right of the individual.

  24. sally says:

    troy,

    the female doesn’t get pregnant on her own, but the male’s choice in the game happens at intercourse.

    as for the other–my philosophy is that if you’re dependent on a host, the host gets to call the shots.

    in this case, the “individual” is dependent on the “host” (the female.)

    my opinion, obviously. yours varies. but as a male, you are one further step removed from the experience.

  25. admin says:

    Sally, as Dagmar pointed out, you are also outside the body of the other woman. You are no more qualified to tell her what to do with her body than I am – you and I are equally unqualified to tell her what to do, whatever our gender.

    It is not “the female” who gets pregnant – it is a specific female – an individual. I find it unfortunate that you invoke my gender as a way to dismiss anything I might say, or any empathy I might have for another individual. That’s like disqualifying white people from working for civil rights, straight people from working against homophobia, or non-jews from battling antisemitism.

  26. sally says:

    i’m not dismissing your gender–i’m suggesting that unless one really is the one who is pregnant, one can’t get in on the discussion. its up to the “host” in my opinion.

    none of us are pregnant.

    so therefore none of us can really say.

    i don’t have any need to tell another woman what to do with her body. its her body, its her decision. end of story.

    i’m not invoking your gender to dismiss it–but to point out that the only people that were getting into the discussion about this, were male.

    it might behoove you to actually ask my intent before deciding what i mean and becoming offended.

  27. admin says:

    I wasn’t offended – but I was surprised.

    In fact you did, quite pointedly, invoke my gender to dismiss it. Your exact words, upon singling out my gender, were: “All of this speculating happens OUTSIDE of your bodies.”

    Keep in mind that I didn’t start the abortion discussion. Troy asked me a direct question and I gave him an answer. In fact he had to ask me twice before I would even respond to his question on this topic.

    While not at all offended, I do find myself loving your use of the word “behoove”. I’m going to try to use that word more often!

  28. sally says:

    in your opinion, i invoked your gender to dismiss it.

    my point in saying that is that men are one step removed from the process because they lack the capacity to experience pregnancy.

    one step removed doesn’t mean one can’t have opinions, but one will never *really* understand unless one experiences the condition first hand.

  29. Dagmar says:

    @ Troy
    Did I get something wrong here, or do you call being raped or an unwanted pregnancy an inconvenience?!
    Well I am at loss for words.

    Troy, don’t get me wrong, I understood quite well that the mental and/or physical health of a woman and her right to decide over her own body does mean nothing to you, but the life of an unborn child all.

    But again, calling being raped or an unwanted pregnancy an inconvenience?!

    Oh, yes Troy, you can argue you didn’t mean it like this. What you call inconvenience, is only the giving of birth itself and the raising of a child a woman did not want, right? And yes, the woman does not even need to raise the child, she can give it free to be adopted!

    You just don’t care what this can mean to a woman and her mental and/or physical health. You don’t even seem to care what an unhappy mother does mean to a child, since it depends solely on the child how lucky it will be in it’s future life. Not being loved must not mean anything, right?

    But wait a minute, metal health, doesn’t having an abortion give depressions? No it doesn’t as long as the decision is made free and the abortion itself done by a qualified doctor and there is no need to hide it, at least not from close persons, since an abortion has still to hidden from society.

    Is the decision for an abortion easy? Nobody ever said that, but at times it is less bad, for the mother and in the end for the unborn child.

    And this not easy, but heavy decision should be left to the woman herself.

    That doesn’t mean a woman can not seek external help in this decision, discuss this with a loving and understanding partner. But all this should be free from pressure.

    @Sally
    I actually would neither call a woman a host, nor do I think that the man, the partner is only a sperm donor and his part in the ‘game’ ends with intercourse itself.
    But what I would expect from the man is, that he will support (no pressure in any direction) the woman in this difficult situation not depending on the decision she finally makes.
    Just believing that the woman is able to make the best decision for herself and the unborn child, putting in and taking care for all aspects of this difficult decision.

    @ Troy
    Let’s have a beer together some time. :-)

  30. admin says:

    Wow, parallel discussions here. Cool! :-)

    I think that the distinction Sally is making, which seems to be questioning not a man’s right to have an opinion about abortion, but rather the relevance of that opinion, is fraught with pitfalls.

    Here are two of them: (1) Not every woman can conceive of a child. Should we classify all such women and men together in one group? (2) Wouldn’t it arguably be valid for a woman who has gotten pregnant to make a similar argument against women who have not gotten pregnant? That woman could argue that a theoretical pregnancy is not the same as an actual one experienced.

    I think we create more problems than we solve when we start to go down this path. For example, I don’t think I would tell two women who are discussing male testicular cancer that they shouldn’t be “giving opinions about what to do” because they are “one step removed from the process.” My starting assumption would be that they are having the conversation because they are really concerned about the well being of people they love.

    My view on it is that I find it unfortunate (as I said originally) when we start to shade the value of opinions along those kinds of lines. I think that examining qualifications at the door, so to speak, makes it harder for people to talk to each other about topics that are already hard enough to talk about.

  31. troy says:

    @Sally

    Host? Funny, sounds like a scene from the movie Alien…

    Maybe the word “dependant” would be better… Maybe we should all be allowed to abort our dependants… I got a bunch of them on my tax returns…

    Also, not to be nitpicky… but, I also found your patent sexism somewhat offensive…

    But, since we’re talking about sex… I do think that I should have the right to decide whether my child is aborted or not. Equality! :) If put in that situation, I would do anything in my power from having my baby aborted. I would fight this with just as much fervor as if someone was trying to kill one of my children. I don’t care who the “host” is.

    @Dagmar

    the Rape part was more closely related to “getting hit by a bus”. As I said in that earlier post, “sometimes bad things happen”.

    But, after that bad thing happens… it is still a difference in an order of magnitude as to who experiences the most harm. So, I don’t think “inconvenience” was misplaced. I’d argue that a child raised by a person other than its mother is better off alive than aborted… “The Dead only know one thing: is it’s better to be alive” – Private Pyle

    Also, I love beer… I’d love to join you. I’ll be in New York in 2 weeks… gimme a call. (I do have to warn you that I’m opinionated and vocal though… I think Sally would probably label me as passive aggressive as well… Expecially after a couple of beers. :)

    @Ken

    I think the argument about the barren woman was poignant and correct. Don’t every judge me or dismiss me simply because I am a man… Maybe because I am a redneck but, that’s a completely different argument…

    Also Ken, I didn’t ask twice to stir up a debate… I wasn’t sure if you understood the question the first time. I don’t discount you for your reasons of being a Vegan. Actually, you gave me one of the best explanations you could, and I understand… Really… It just didn’t make sense, to me, in conjunction with your previously stated opinion on the right to life.

  32. troy says:

    Disclaimer: I do have some command of english grammar. Sometimes it just escapes me when I type too fast…

    @dagmar sorry, I didn’t give specifics: troy@yahoo.com and I’m in NY Jan 14-18. But, I have an event Saturday Evening at OK Harris in SOHO… Gotta have art in your life… :)

  33. admin says:

    This has been a really great discussion – I’ve learned a lot from everyone. But I’d like to suggest that rather than get in any “last shots” and risk some sort of flame war – which wouldn’t do anyone any good – we just leave it at this. I for one have learned a lot from this debate, and I’d like to ask, having heard each others’ opinions, that we agree to disagree and let it go at this point.

    Although Troy, to be accurate, I don’t think the word “passive” enters anywhere into it when describing you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  34. troy says:

    I’m sorry if that seemed like last shots or flames… (funny, I haven’t used the term “flame” since my NYU days).

    Really it wasn’t intended.

    On another note- the Chargers won against the Colts tonight! If you watched it on TV, I was the one with the big gut painted blue and yellow…

  35. troy says:

    BTW, I wish my blog was as lively as yours… :)

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