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Imposing on other cultures





Indi
Let’s start with a fairly non-controversial (I hope) idea: parents should not be allowed to murder their children, including through inaction or deliberate negligence, and religious beliefs or traditional cultural practices are not an excuse.

That is, I hope, a pretty obvious minimal moral standard that should be universal. When someone opts to become the parent of a child, they take on the responsibility to protect and nurture the child until the child is capable of taking care of themselves. Care for that child trumps any religious, social, or cultural obligations the parents have.

Most civilized countries have already accepted that moral standard – a few are struggling with it, but are still mostly on board and coming around quickly. There are still cases that go all the way up to the high courts, where some idiot parents want to assert some religious or cultural right to let their child die for stupid reasons, usually involving religious beliefs – like Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to allow life-saving blood transfusions for their child, or kids dying of simple infections because their parents tried faith healing rather than modern medicine – but they are becoming rarer and rarer as the parents keep losing, and the child’s rights are protected. Much more rarely there are cases of dangerous or stupid traditional cultural practices that endanger children; those have almost become extinct in civilized countries – I can’t even think of one in recent memory (other than routine infant male circumcision, but that’s arguably a more religious thing everywhere except the US).

So I hope we’re all agreed that, no matter the reason, parents do not have the right to let their children be harmed or die for their own religious or cultural beliefs. Virtually all civilized countries are on board with this idea already.

Now comes the tricky part.

Suppose a new culture was discovered – one that had existed for thousands of years and that has its own beliefs and practices that are a very important part of its identity. Now, history has shown that when a more advanced civilization comes in contact with a less advanced one, and tries to “improve” the lot of the other... bad things happen. The list of examples is extensive, and usually appalling – advanced cultures have often taken it upon themselves to stomp down the parts of the other culture they don’t like, sometimes quite forcefully, and either completely replace or just simply destroy the unique culture and identity of the less advanced one. The effects of those historical crimes is often horrific – sometimes justifiably referred to as cultural genocide – and we’re still feeling the effects of them today.

Obviously we’ve learned a lot, and advanced from our imperialistic, ignorantly superior days. (Well, some of us, anyway.) So we’re not exactly going to do what our ancestors did and just declare the entire population of a culture “savages” then sweep in and kidnap their children to be raised “civilly” – which really just means “in our culture, not theirs”. We’re not going to initiate programs to destroy their traditional forms of art, or their stories and histories, or try to eradicate their language... all things we’ve done in the past. We’re not just going to swoop in and tell them our ways are “better”, then force them to get with the program.

However....

Suppose that less advanced culture rejected modern medicine, and instead opted to treat problems with chanting, the laying on of hands, or herbs (which have been proven in rigorous testing to have no benefit). Naturally the mortality rate – especially for young children – will be quite a bit a higher than in the advanced culture.

Now what should the advanced culture do?

Should they step in and impose their own rules on the other culture – which has always been disastrous historically – and force them to abandon their cultural practices and identity, and use real medicine? How would that “we know better” attitude be any different from the imperialistic attitudes of the past, where advanced cultures simply steamrolled over less advanced ones, and overwrote their traditional practices, culture, and identity with their own?

Or, should they leave the less advanced culture to their own devices – to live their own way, according to their traditional rules. Of course, that means standing on the sidelines and just watching as a lot of kids die unnecessarily.

Historically, the decision has pretty much always been to just step in, because the advanced culture “knows better”. But, as I pointed out... that has been disastrous. How would stepping in for this reason be different from all the times advanced cultures have stepped in and ****** things up in the past? And no, the answer is not “this time we have science on our side”... that was the argument made historically, too. And they were quite often right – how many cultures do you know that, after a more advanced culture stepped in and yanked them out of their own traditions, history, and culture, went back? Almost never – at most they simply recovered a few characteristics and they use them as self-conscious affectations while still living a more or less modern life. Yet it’s still inarguable that enormous damage was done, and considerable resentment remains.

In fact, it’s probably and even likely that the other culture is quite well aware that modern medicine will almost certainly do a better job of curing their medical problems than the traditional way... yet they still insist on doing it “their way”.

So the situation is: Two cultures are living together. Culture A has embraced science and medicine, and the moral notion that parents don’t have the right to let their child die or suffer for religious, cultural, or traditional reasons. Culture B is living according to their traditional rules, rejecting modern trappings to live they way they have for millennia. Naturally, the infant mortality rate of Culture B is notably higher than for Culture A. Culture A has the power to easily enforce whatever they desire over Culture B, but being aware of how badly that’s worked out historically, they don’t want to do that – they want to leave all other cultures to their own unique way of doing things, even if they find it bizarre or unpleasant, because vive la différence, and because they know they don’t have the right to impose their own preferences and habits on others. But... there’s that infant mortality rate. This is not an abstract problem or one of mere preference; kids are dying, when they could easily be saved. Should Culture A really sit back and let the kids of Culture B die even though they have both the power to help them, and the moral and scientific knowledge that they should? Or should they ignore the lessons of history and step in to impose their own standards on Culture B?
deanhills
If Culture A is as sorted out as you say about saving children at all costs, no exceptions allowed or tolerated, I can't see how they could allow Culture B to opt out of the rule. Culture is about people and a society that can be pretty unforgiving when it gets to treatment of children that is seen as less than humane. I'd say the only solution available is for Culture A to enforce its rules with regard to treatment of children on Culture B as a basic non-negotiable rule for all cultures.
Indi
deanhills wrote:
If Culture A is as sorted out as you say about saving children at all costs, no exceptions allowed or tolerated, I can't see how they could allow Culture B to opt out of the rule.

Why would Culture B be subject to Culture A's rules? Is Germany subject to Canada's rules? Is Australia subject to Venezuela's rules? Culture A's rules are Culture A's rules - they can't just arbitrarily enforce them on other cultures. That's just blatant imperialism.

But at the same time, Culture A has this rule for a reason. It's not mere cultural preference, it is based on fundamental, universal principles of morality that everyone should share - and it is backed up with empirical knowledge that cannot be denied or ignored. The rule that people have a right to life that no one else's rights can ever infringe on (except their own right to life) is fundamental, and medical science is frankly undeniable - it's not perfectly effective, but there is nothing even remotely close to being nearly as effective. And the people whose rights are being infringed in this case cannot possibly defend themselves.

So at the very least, Culture A will obviously speak out against Culture B's laws. The question is, should they do more? Should they risk becoming imperialist - despite all the tragedy that's caused in the past - and violate Culture B's sovereignty to save the lives of kids they technically have no jurisdiction over? Or should they remember the horrible mistakes of history, and respect Culture A's sovereignty, doing nothing and leaving those kids to die?
deanhills
Indi wrote:
deanhills wrote:
If Culture A is as sorted out as you say about saving children at all costs, no exceptions allowed or tolerated, I can't see how they could allow Culture B to opt out of the rule.

Why would Culture B be subject to Culture A's rules? Is Germany subject to Canada's rules? Is Australia subject to Venezuela's rules? Culture A's rules are Culture A's rules - they can't just arbitrarily enforce them on other cultures. That's just blatant imperialism.

Those are countries however and we are discussing cultures. Cultures A and B could be prevalent in any of the countries you mentioned. Chances are that given A's stance on doing everything it can to safeguard the interests of children, particularly medically, that there would be a greater chance for the values of A to be dominant in those countries and a greater chance they would be enacted into laws of the Governments of those countries. Governments would make laws that would be universally imposed on both Cultures A and B.
LxGoodies
hi Indi,

Indi wrote:
So at the very least, Culture A will obviously speak out against Culture B's laws. The question is, should they do more? Should they risk becoming imperialist - despite all the tragedy that's caused in the past - and violate Culture B's sovereignty to save the lives of kids they technically have no jurisdiction over? Or should they remember the horrible mistakes of history, and respect Culture A's sovereignty, doing nothing and leaving those kids to die?


Your dilemma reminds me of certain rural areas in the Netherlands, the inhabitants not allowing their children to be protected against trivial child disease like meazles, pocks and polio. Although these people are well aware of the danger, as well as the existance of modern medicine, refuse to protect their children. The basis of this bizarre habit, which is kept until this day, is the Calvinist belief that humans do not decide about life, death or suffering. Including the suffering of children. Now.. I do share your concern, that "culture A" imposing modern scientific insights and measures on "culture B" could work out disastrous, but I don't see any other way to protect these children.. and the other children they get into contact with in school.. so medical treatment should be imposed in that case and (especially) trivial preventive measures like vaccination should be obligatory. Despite the archaic believes of Culture B that opposes progress. And despite the fact that such laws would be framed by you as imperialistic.

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poliomyelitis
Indi
deanhills wrote:
Those are countries however and we are discussing cultures.

There is no difference in this context.

LxGoodies wrote:
Your dilemma reminds me of certain rural areas in the Netherlands, the inhabitants not allowing their children to be protected against trivial child disease like meazles, pocks and polio.

Actually, what inspired it was a pair of cases in Canada recently. Both cases are more or less identical, but one actually made it to court.

The cases involve kids who were diagnosed with terminal diseases - in the case of the one who went to court, leukaemia. In both cases, the disease is totally treatable with modern medicine; conservative estimates of success for the one that went to court were 90-95%. Without treatment, the survival rate is 0% (no one's ever heard of anyone who's survived more than 5 years). Being Canada, treatment is free, so that's not a problem either. There should have been no problem.

However, in both cases, the child's mothers opted to pull the children out of chemotherapy and rely on "alternative medicine" (in one case, it's clearly just a smokescreen for faith-healing, but in the one that went to court it appears the mother really does mean "alternative medicine"). Again, normally there should have been no problem: Canadian law puts the child's life above the parents' beliefs (it puts anyone's life over anyone else's beliefs), so Child Services would have stepped in and forced the parents to get treatment for the child. Under normal circumstances, both kids would be getting chemo now, and to hell with the parents - let 'em stew; the children would live and have the option of being grateful for that or joining the parents in being pissed off about it later in life.

But there was a catch: both families were aboriginal.

The Canadian Constitution was rewritten in 1982 - the first section, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was actually a groundbreaking document; many other countries have since adopted its style. When it was rewritten, one of the things they decided to do was give more freedom, rights, and autonomy to aboriginal bands: the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. This was actually a remarkable move. Canada is actually not a single nation, it's a federation: the federation consists of ten provinces, the federal government itself (which owns the three territorites), and - often forgotten - the over 600 aboriginal bands who signed treaties with the Queen (to this day, most aboriginal band governments prefer not to deal with the Parliament, but to go right to the Queen). The aboriginal bands have a fair amount of autonomy and independence, and the 1982 constitution codified that even further.

As you can imagine, relations between the rest of Canada and aboriginals haven't always been friendly. There were some nasty, violent confrontations in the 1980s, actually - like the Oka Crisis right near where my mother grew up - but even before then there was a concerted effort toward "cultural genocide". Basically, for many years, aboriginal children were kidnapped from their parents, and forced to attend "residential schools", where they lived and slaved (and were horrifically abused), and forbidden from practising any of their traditional rituals or even speaking their native languages. Christianity was forced down their throats to stamp out their traditional religions. We still don't know how many died. At *least* thousands.

The 1982 constitution, and the subsequent jurisdiction since, was a conscious attempt to not only repair the broken relationship between the federal government and the aboriginal bands, but also to give the aboriginal bands more power so they wouldn't be open to such abuses again in the future. And it has been wonderful - aboriginal bands have successfully fought the federal government to protect their territories from exploitation, like running oil pipelines.

But in this case, things went sideways.

The mother who went to court claimed that she was treating her child with "traditional aboriginal medicine" (it later turned out that that wasn't quite true, but that's beside the point). And because it is a traditional aboriginal practice, it is absolutely protected under Canadian law - the same law that was created to protect aboriginals from having their traditions stomped on by outsiders again.

So basically, the dilemma in this thread was the same dilemma the judge faced. On the one hand: a dying child. On the other: a culture whose traditions have been stomped on by Canada before, with horrifying consequences.

The judge ruled in favour of the mother. He actually pointed out that we have a horrible history of trampling over aboriginal rights, with terrible consequences, and that the law created to prevent that exists for a damn good reason. (Also note that her entire community rallied around her - this was a big deal. Aboriginal all across Canada supported the mother.)

Others have argued that the judge erred. The mother's right to live by her traditions is not in question, but Canadian law has always given priority to right to life over right to beliefs and practices.

So basically, this thread is asking whether you agree with the judge, the mother, and aboriginals across Canada... or not.
LxGoodies
Interesting dilemma indeed,

Indi wrote:
So basically, the dilemma in this thread was the same dilemma the judge faced. On the one hand: a dying child. On the other: a culture whose traditions have been stomped on by Canada before, with horrifying consequences.

The judge ruled in favour of the mother. He actually pointed out that we have a horrible history of trampling over aboriginal rights, with terrible consequences, and that the law created to prevent that exists for a damn good reason. (Also note that her entire community rallied around her - this was a big deal. Aboriginal all across Canada supported the mother.)

Others have argued that the judge erred. The mother's right to live by her traditions is not in question, but Canadian law has always given priority to right to life over right to beliefs and practices.

So basically, this thread is asking whether you agree with the judge, the mother, and aboriginals across Canada... or not.

We don't have aboriginals in the Netherlands. On the other hand, we do have these fundamentalist groups and freedom of religion - a very ancient (1576 - 1579) constitutional right here - .. it dictates non-interference, because parents are responsible for their children's uprising. As a consequence, no Dutch judge would be able to impose treatment or vaccination. He would come to the same conclusion. Moreover, article 1 of our constitution states people cannot be discriminated. So in such cases, children with infectuous disease are free to attend school or go to child care.

Now.. when I would be a politician, I would take a stand to refine that law a bit. To be precise, I would propose to extend the constitutional freedom of religion with ".. except in cases the law would impose medical treatment in order to protect minors from harm". Your example of stealing children to raise them up differently would not be possible if the law would be changed as such. It only applies to medical issues. When the state officer can provide proof to the judge that modern medical science can solve the problem, appropriate treatment could be imposed.

IMHO this is also about children's rights. Children (minors) did not ask to be born into any culture, or religion. In the future, they can choose for themselves, when they leave their home and go study and/or live on their own. I would give them a chance to do so.
SpaceInvader75
Quote:
It's not mere cultural preference, it is based on fundamental, universal principles of morality that everyone should share


How do we know this? I'm not saying I'm for killing children, but if we want to start that debate, then at what point should abortion be illegal? Most of you that have had discussions with me know that I'm not a conservative so I may not be against abortion; that is not my point. At what point should abortion be illegal (if you are "pro-choice")?If abortion should be legal until the last day before the baby is born (I know it's not, I'm just asking if it should be then what would be the difference between aborting a fetus one day and killing a baby the next day)? And if you're "pro-life" does that mean that sperm contain life and if you masturbate are you killing life? I know both of those points might sound absurd, but my point is there is no universal morality.

Are you sure that there are fundamental, universal principles of morality, or is that in fact your argument?

I would go so far as to ad that not only is morality subjective "rights" are subjective as well, probably in the context of your culture. My opinion is that culture determines this, and you are generally limited to your culture. Even if you claim that there is a "Universal right" it doesn't matter if you're right or not, if you are in the minority. And sometimes it doesn't even matter if you're in the majority, but I would argue this is more of a political than a cultural problem.
Indi
LxGoodies wrote:
On the other hand, we do have these fundamentalist groups and freedom of religion - a very ancient (1576 - 1579) constitutional right here - .. it dictates non-interference, because parents are responsible for their children's uprising.

That idea i absolutely do not agree with. It is well-evidenced - and plain "common sense" - that not all parents live up to their responsibilities of raising their kids. If a parent fails to live up to their responsibility to raise a child, they should be stripped of that privilege. Children are not toys owned by their parents, to be used and abused in whatever way amuses the parent.

LxGoodies wrote:
Now.. when I would be a politician, I would take a stand to refine that law a bit. To be precise, I would propose to extend the constitutional freedom of religion with ".. except in cases the law would impose medical treatment in order to protect minors from harm". Your example of stealing children to raise them up differently would not be possible if the law would be changed as such. It only applies to medical issues. When the state officer can provide proof to the judge that modern medical science can solve the problem, appropriate treatment could be imposed.

I would say that's a little too narrow - there are many ways a bad parent could seriously threaten or harm a child that don't necessarily boil down to needing medical treatment.

I also think it is a mistake to start talking about "children's rights" as if it's a special thing. Rights are rights are rights are rights - everyone has them, and everyone has the same ones, no special cases, no exceptions.

Besides, you don't even need to be so specific anyway. Just protect the fundamental rights of EVERYBODY, and be smart about resolving cases where rights clash, and the problem will be automatically taken care of.

That's how it should work, and that's how it does work here in Canada... but for one little catch.

The way the Canadian Charter works is it lists a set of fundamental rights that all people have - including children. It doesn't prioritize those rights; when rights clash, the courts decide which one gets priority.

One of those fundamental rights is right to life (which includes health, of course) - in practice, the courts have prioritized that is the most fundamental right of all. That means anyone's right to life takes precedence over anyone else's right to practice their beliefs... always, for everyone, no exceptions.

With just that, children are already automatically protected from evil parents. You don't need a special law for the medical treatment of minors. Just by default, if a parent is failing to live up to their responsibility to keep the child alive (and healthy), they cannot argue that their own right to practice their beliefs makes that okay. Because the child's right to life (and health) trumps the parent's right to believe and practice their beliefs.

That's the only law you need to protect kids. If that was the only law we had here in Canada, those aboriginal kids with cancer would be in treatment right now. But, there's that catch.

The catch is that Canada has an older law that was specifically set up to override the Charter. That law gives aboriginals... and only aboriginals... the right to practice their traditions, and the government and judiciary of Canada can't do a thing to stop them. Even - it seems, if the current ruling holds (and it might not) - if that means the death of the children in their care.

But of course, that older law was made for a damn good reason... that reason being that in the past, Canada did horrible, horrible things to aboriginals, all in the name of "civilizing" them. All of these horrible things were justified as "helping" the aboriginals... we now know they weren't helping at all, but at the time, people sincerely believed they were doing them a favour by taking them away from their "backward" tribes and raising them in "modern civilization". That law was created to protect the aboriginals from any future evil done, even by good, well-meaning people who just want to help.

That's why - even though the people that want to save those children are good, well-meaning people who just want to help - the law is protecting the aboriginals from them. Which means, the children will die.

And that's the situation that lead to the question in this topic:
  • On the one hand, children who will die if we don't intervene.
  • On the other, a long, sordid history that shows intervening - usually by good people for well-intentioned reasons - causes horrific damage, telling us that intervening is pretty much always a dangerous, destructive idea.
Are we no different from the people who intervened in the past - the ones who, just like us, thought they were doing good, but ultimately did horrible harm? If we are different, how or why?

SpaceInvader75 wrote:
How do we know this?

You're asking how we know that rights are universal. The answer is long, and has been repeated dozens of times on these forums. It's also in the stickies. Because the question of relative-vs-objective morality has been done to death, and because there are virtually no philosophers who take the idea of relative or subjective morality or rights seriously, i'm not going to reopen that debate here yet again.

If you're interested in raising the question again, i say feel free - but not here. Make another thread for it. Here we're just going to accept the near-universal philosophical consensus that morality and rights are universal (we'll avoid the question of exactly what kind of universal), so we don't get hung up on that yet again.

SpaceInvader75 wrote:
I'm not saying I'm for killing children, but if we want to start that debate, then at what point should abortion be illegal? Most of you that have had discussions with me know that I'm not a conservative so I may not be against abortion; that is not my point. At what point should abortion be illegal (if you are "pro-choice")?If abortion should be legal until the last day before the baby is born (I know it's not, I'm just asking if it should be then what would be the difference between aborting a fetus one day and killing a baby the next day)? And if you're "pro-life" does that mean that sperm contain life and if you masturbate are you killing life? I know both of those points might sound absurd, but my point is there is no universal morality.

Well, this is a little off topic, but it is not a hard problem. Your point that there is no universal morality seems to boil down to: you don't know a way to universally decide these questions, therefore there is none. I think the flaw in the logic there is obvious.

So how does one answer these quesions universally? It's not really that hard. It all comes down to the right to life of persons and non-persons (and potential persons). (Which should be obvious, because all the questions are about killing things.)

The reason abortion must be allowed is because of bodily autonomy... which is part of the right to life itself, one of the most fundamental of all human rights (because your life in inextricably tied to your body - you can't possibly own your life if you don't own your body). The woman carrying the baby has the absolute right of control of her own body. Absolute. Everyone has that right, by the way - it's why i can't use your body to grow bacterial spores without your consent, for example, and why i can't use you for food-safety experiments without your consent. Having absolute control over your own body means you can do whatever you want to it - even damage or destroy it (ie, kill yourself), if you wish - and use it or not use it for whatever you please, including supporting another life form (the baby). If the mother decides she doesn't want to host another organism, that is her decision, and her decision alone... if that means the hosted organism will die without her support, that's too bad for them; it's ultimately her body and her choice, not theirs.

The "problem" appears to be that you have two people who both have the right to life - the mother and the baby. The reason i put "problem" in quotes is because it's not really a problem, because you're not really dealing with two people. You're dealing with one person, and one potential person. So that's it. We're done. There's only one person here - the mother - and she has absolute right to control her own body (including whether or not there's a baby growing in it). There's nothing else to discuss.

The baby is not a person, not in the womb, and not even - technically - after birth. The baby is a potential person. It won't become an actual person until it can think and take responsibility for itself. A potential person is very important, of course - all persons were once potential persons - and potential persons do get special rights and protections... but potential persons are not equal to actual persons.

So there's the first half of the solution: abortion is okay right up to the instant that baby leaves the mother's body. Until that happens, the mother has absolute right to decide what happens to her own body. The foetus inside will have to accept whatever she chooses - even if she chooses abortion. All that bullshit about trimesters and foetal heartbeats is just that: bullshit. The woman has the right to end the pregnancy at any point during the pregnancy. It's her body.

At the moment the baby leaves the mother's body, it is no longer in her zone of control. Due to bodily autonomy, the mother has absolute freedom to do whatever she wants with her own body - even the freedom to destroy it and kill herself if she wants - so so long as the baby is dependent on the mother's body, the baby is totally subject to the mother's wishes. But the moment the baby leaves her body, the decisions she makes about her own body no longer affect the baby.

Which means she doesn't have the implicit right to kill the baby. The baby is still not a person, but it is a potential person, and thus it gets special protections to maximize the possibility of becoming a full person. One of those protections is protection from wanton murder, of course. So the mother can't kill the baby the day after it was born.

The key difference is that when the baby is in the womb, you have the balance of a person's (the mother's) right to life, and a potential person's right to life... the person (the mother) wins automatically. Thus, abortion is okay. When the baby is separate from the mother, now you have to balance a person's (the mother's) freedom to do as she pleases against a potential person's right to life... the right to life trumps the right to do as you please (for everything, not just persons or potential persons). Thus, baby murder is not okay.

I would even go a step further and say that when we're accepting the mother's wishes and carrying out the abortion, we should still strive - if at all possible - to save the foetus. It's still a potential person, after all - we still have an obligation to try and save it, if reasonably possible. If it were possible to transplant the foetus to a willing host mother, or to grow it in a vat or something, i would say we have an obligation to do that. Just because the mother doesn't want it inside her anymore doesn't mean it has to die. If the mother wants it out of her, it's effin' out - no questions, period... but if we can save it and raise it into a person without her, we should. That, however, is science fiction speculation, because today we really can't practically save the foetus if the woman wants to abort it, which is unfortunate.

As for sperm (and eggs and stem cells, etc. - really, anything that could potentially, through some kind of intervention, become a person), they're not even potential persons. They're potential potential persons... which is nothing, really. They're just the same as any other kind of life, from a moral standpoint. As with all life, that means it is wrong to kill them if you can reasonably avoid it - it would be morally wrong to jack off just for the fun of killing sperm (or anything)... but i'm not aware of any way you can reasonably avoid the casualties that arise from an average ejaculation. Even if you could theoretically capture all the sperm and preserve them, they're still only going to live a couple days, roughly the same as if they hadn't been ejaculated - and they won't know the difference anyway (they have no awareness of time, pain, or anything, really). I see no moral problem.

So, in summary:
  • Abortion is always permissible - right up to the moment the baby is born. The mother's right to life and bodily autonomy are absolute. The baby is just a potential person, the mother is an actual person; no contest.
  • At the moment of birth, the baby is no longer subject to the mother's bodily autonomy - if she decides to get rid of it, it is no longer a decision about her own body (or, put another way: the decisions the mother makes about her own body, which she has the absolute right to make, no longer affect the baby). At the moment of birth, the baby has all rights that all potential persons do, one of which is the right to life. So a "post natal abortion" - ie, killing the baby after it's born - is not okay.
  • As foetuses are potential persons, every reasonable attempt should be made to save them, even if the mother doesn't want them. That's currently technologically impossible, but in the future it might be possible, in which case if a woman wants an abortion, and if it's reasonably safe, the foetus should be removed from her alive and placed somewhere else to continue growing.
  • It's okay to masturbate. Fire away.


SpaceInvader75 wrote:
I would go so far as to ad that not only is morality subjective "rights" are subjective as well, probably in the context of your culture. My opinion is that culture determines this, and you are generally limited to your culture. Even if you claim that there is a "Universal right" it doesn't matter if you're right or not, if you are in the minority. And sometimes it doesn't even matter if you're in the majority, but I would argue this is more of a political than a cultural problem.

Relative morality - including cultural relativity - is a dead end, philosophically. You won't find more than a handful of philosophers today who take it seriously, if that.

I am most certainly not in the minority when i say that. Every single human rights document ever written assumes universal rights. Every... single... one. The most important human rights document in the world - the United Nations declaration - is specifically called the UNIVERSAL Human Rights Declaration. You will not find one single human rights document in all of history that says "well, we believe we have X, Y, and Z rights, but you're free to disagree!". It is simply accepted as a matter of fact among people who know about rights and freedoms that they are indeed universal.

The fact that we disagree on some aspects of how to determine what falls under rights or which rights exist also does not prove that rights are a matter of opinion or culture. Similarly, the fact that scientists disagree on whether gravitons exist (or whether gravity is a product of spacetime itself) does not prove that the existence of gravitons is a matter of opinion or culture. All it proves is that our current understanding of rights (and gravity) is incomplete, which no one denies.

I will agree that among non-philosophers - among "the common people" - relative morality is probably the majority opinion. However, other things that are the majority opinion among "the common people" are astrology, creationism, ghosts, and that there is something peculiarly sinister about the number 13. What i'm saying is that "the common people" are stupid. We don't take the opinion of "the common people" seriously when we ask whether the speed of light is universal, and we don't take their opinion seriously when we ask whether rights are universal.

(I would also point out that the whole idea of your culture determining morality is a little silly. What is my culture? I was born in Toronto to a mother from Québec and a father from Barbados, but i left Toronto as an infant to go the Caribbean where i grew up until i was a teenager and could choose on my own to come to Hamilton. So... what's my culture? Toronto's, Québec's, Barbados's, Hamilton's, or the Lesser Antilles'? If you decide that my culture is Hamilton's, then does that mean i can go to Barbados and do things that are illegal there but legal in Hamilton? Or does it mean that if rape were allowed in Barbados i could bring someone from Hamilton there, rape them, then bring them back to Hamilton, and it would all be a-okay? These kinds of absurdities are why no philosopher takes cultural moral relativity seriously.)

You can find much more detail about this in the stickies, and if you're still unconvinced, you can always make a thread.
LxGoodies
Indi wrote:
LxGoodies wrote:

On the other hand, we do have these fundamentalist groups and freedom of religion - a very ancient (1576 - 1579) constitutional right here - .. it dictates non-interference, because parents are responsible for their children's uprising.


That idea i absolutely do not agree with. It is well-evidenced - and plain "common sense" - that not all parents live up to their responsibilities of raising their kids. If a parent fails to live up to their responsibility to raise a child, they should be stripped of that privilege. Children are not toys owned by their parents, to be used and abused in whatever way amuses the parent.

You're entitled to disagree with Dutch constitution Indi, but religious freedom is the "little catch" in the situation here. Why is your Canadian "little catch" any different from ours ? You say you don't agree with the Dutch constitution and parents should be stripped of the privilege to raise kids.. "when a parent fails to live up to their responsibility to raise a child". Stating it in such a broad and general way would dismantle it entirely.. we may as well abolish the constitutional article altogether.. While religious freedom is at the very core of the Dutch state.. and older than any other constitutional right (see my links)

Your Canadian judge could not intervene and the child died. Because of the "one little catch". In the case of Canada, this "catch" involves aboriginals (or Indigenous peoples), who have certain (old) rights preventing the rest of Canada from interfering with them. I do agree with that old rule, for exactly the same reasons you agree with it. And for the same reason I support religious and cultural freedom in my country. Because in the past, nasty things happened.

But I would change Canadian law in exactly the same direction, if I were a Canadian politician.. there should be an exception to "the catch" when children's health is considered. Children should be protected from harm inflicted by any cultural habit of their parents. Irrespective of their ethnicity.

Indi wrote:
I also think it is a mistake to start talking about "children's rights" as if it's a special thing. Rights are rights are rights are rights

I called that a "childs right" because it is a human right that cannot be applied to adults who can choose to live a culture. You can't force an adult to take cancer treatment.

Indi wrote:
The law is protecting the aboriginals from them. Which means, the children will die.

And that's the situation that lead to the question in this topic:

On the one hand, children who will die if we don't intervene.
On the other, a long, sordid history that shows intervening - usually by good people for

well-intentioned reasons - causes horrific damage, telling us that intervening is pretty much always a dangerous, destructive idea.

Are we no different from the people who intervened in the past - the ones who, just like us, thought they were doing good, but ultimately did horrible harm? If we are different, how or why?

I think 21th century people are different. Slavery was abolished 150 years ago. Why are you so afraid that any exception to this "catch" would result in renewed imperialism of one people over another people ? In fact the same reasoning is used by the fundamentalists here, who view any interference as suppression of their cultural identity. Only the years are different. In Canada, the protective arrangement was made in1867, in the Nederlands it originates from 1579, as a statement directed to the Spanish king to stop imprisoning and beheading protestants.
Indi
LxGoodies wrote:
Why is your Canadian "little catch" any different from ours ?

When and where did i say - or even imply - that it was any different? You mentioned something in your constitution that i consider to be a flaw, so i said so... and then went on to explain what i see as the flaw in my own constitution.

Geez, you have a chip on your shoulder. Why are so determined to read every single little thing i write as personally insulting you?

LxGoodies wrote:
I called that a "childs right" because it is a human right that cannot be applied to adults who can choose to live a culture. You can't force an adult to take cancer treatment.

I don't think that's a meaningful distinction. Rights are rights are rights - it doesn't matter what culture you're in or whether you chose to be in it. There is one universal set of rights for all people, children or adult - breaking them into adult and child rights is a mistake.

In this case, the one universal rule is that you cannot force anyone to get treatment that they do not consent to. The only reason there appears to be a "difference" between children and adults is that children can never consent. Thus it is the responsibility of others to reason about what is best for the child, and give or refuse consent on their behalf.

But here's the important thing: that is not specific to children. Anyone who is unable to give consent requires someone else to take on the responsibility to reason about what is best for them. That applies to children, sure, but it also applies to adults in a coma or who are otherwise unable to give consent on their own.

You don't need special rules for children, and making special rules for children is a mistake because you just open the door to all kinds of exceptions and qualifications. For example, your law mentions medical treatment for children... but utterly ignores seniors who have dementia and cannot consent for themselves, or adults who are unconscious or mentally or psychologically unable to consent for themselves. If you make a special law for children, you need to make special laws for all those people, too, and you'll always risk leaving someone out.

So don't play that game. The one, universal rule already works, and it works universally... for everyone... in every situation. That universal rule is the right to life and bodily autonomy: You cannot violate a person's right to life and bodily autonomy (which includes giving medical treatment, among many other things) without that person's consent, and if that person cannot give consent, someone who is considering that person's well-being as the highest priority must act as an agent on their behalf.

That's all you need. No need for "children's rights" or other special cases. One set of rights for all people, regardless of age, gender, culture, or whatever else. Don't start playing the game where you give special rights or consideration to certain groups.

LxGoodies wrote:
I think 21th century people are different. Slavery was abolished 150 years ago. Why are you so afraid that any exception to this "catch" would result in renewed imperialism of one people over another people ? In fact the same reasoning is used by the fundamentalists here, who view any interference as suppression of their cultural identity. Only the years are different. In Canada, the protective arrangement was made in1867, in the Nederlands it originates from 1579, as a statement directed to the Spanish king to stop imprisoning and beheading protestants.

20th century people thought they were different, too. So did 19th century people. They considered themselves to be quite scientifically and socially advanced. They sincerely believed that they were smart enough to know what's best for the aboriginals, even if the aboriginals disagree. Look how well that turned out.

You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that i'm talking about crimes that were done back in the late 1800s... that the horrific mistakes i'm talking about were committed generations ago but we know better now.

That system i talked about - the one where aboriginal kids were kidnapped from their parents and taken to residential schools, where they were forced to forget their traditional languages and beliefs and forced to learn English and French and adopt Christianity... that wasn't from the 19th century. That system only ended IN 1996. Less than 20 years ago.

Also, you are mistaken about the constitutional protections for aboriginals. The constitution in 1867 is not the one that extended protections to aboriginals. That's the one that said "screw aboriginals" and gave full power to the Canadian government to rule over them. Look, it's right in your own link:

Quote:
Section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 gives the federal parliament exclusive power to legislate in matters related to "Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.[3] " Under this power, that legislative body has enacted the Indian Act, First Nations Land Management Act, Indian Oil and Gas Act, and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act.[4]

The Department of Indian Affairs, by the way, is what created the system of residential schools i mentioned above.

The constitutional change that created the protection of aboriginal rights is from 1982:

Quote:
Part II of the Constitution Act, 1982, recognizes Aboriginal treaty and land rights, with section 35 being particularly important. Section 35's recognition of Aboriginal rights refers to an ancient source of Aboriginal rights in custom.[5]

That last bit there is actually the cause of the current dilemma. As you can see, it's part of the 1982 constitution, not the 1867 one.

What i'm saying is, this isn't ancient history. This isn't a case where people generations ago did some stupid things, but we're far more advanced than they were. Some of the people in power today were the same people in power when some of the atrocities i mentioned were actually happening. The realization that non-aboriginals are simply not wise enough to lord over aboriginals is only around 30 years old, and it was a lesson that was hard in the learning, with enormous cost (mostly to aborginals, unfortunately). But we did learn that lesson, finally, 30 years ago.

Now we are being challenged to see what we really did learn. Should we abandon the lesson we thought we finally learned 30 years ago and intervene? Should we accept the lesson and not intervene? Or, is there a third possibility: should we modify the lesson we learned with new wisdom? If so, what wisdom?
LxGoodies
Ah thx for pointing out about 1982, I just took the link I could find, associating 1867 with the abolishment of slavery. Apparently laws had to be adjusted in Canada much later to really protect these people. To be honest I find it a disgrace for Canada, that such a law was implemented that late ! The exception better be stated accurately then, because your law is so recent.

Indi wrote:
When and where did i say - or even imply - that it was any different? You mentioned something in your constitution that i consider to be a flaw, so i said so... and then went on to explain what i see as the flaw in my own constitution.

I don't understand this. Flaw ? You seem to defend this 1982 law. Is it not constitutional ? what do you mean when you talk about lessons, what lessons,
Quote:
Now we are being challenged to see what we really did learn. Should we abandon the lesson we thought we finally learned 30 years ago and intervene? Should we accept the lesson and not intervene?

Not at any cost, no ! You're talking about a child with Leukemia, with a survival chance of 95% when treated properly en 0% when not treated. Intervention is needed IHMO. I actually wonder why this "loving mother" does not consent in the first place. Why a lengthy legal procedure, when the life of her child can be saved ?

Or do you regard my trust in regular medical science as cultural bias ?
SpaceInvader75
I think you misunderstood my point about "you" being in the minority, however. I was using the word "you" to mean anyone, and the point I was making was that even if there is a "universal morality" there are countless examples in history and right now, how it is violated every day, even by nations that have "universal rights documents". Of course, I suppose that is also off the subject.

Anyway, there is something else I have a question about:

"Suppose that less advanced culture rejected modern medicine, and instead opted to treat problems with chanting, the laying on of hands, or herbs (which have been proven in rigorous testing to have no benefit). Naturally the mortality rate – especially for young children – will be quite a bit a higher than in the advanced culture."

What do you mean by "herbs"? Are you saying that plants have no medicinal value?
Indi
LxGoodies wrote:
Apparently laws had to be adjusted in Canada much later to really protect these people. To be honest I find it a disgrace for Canada, that such a law was implemented that late !

^_^; Dude, your attempts to provoke a fight might be more effective if you did a little bit of homework first, so you didn't come off as so laughably ignorant.

For the record, it shouldn't be all that surprising that Canada had to write its own laws in 1982... because Canada didn't exist as a fully independent country before then. Before 1982, Canada's laws were still being written in the United Kingdom. ALL of Canada's laws are technically from 1982, dude ^_^;... any laws older than that (ie, laws from colonial days) have to be hoisted into the modern Canadian legal structure if and only if they are still applicable. Canada didn't dick around and leave aboriginals unprotected under the law for hundreds of years; Canada gave them full and strong legal protections in the very first set of laws it wrote, which was in 1982 (and then went and made those protections even stronger in the very first amendment to the Constitution, in 1983).

(Technically it's a little more complicated than that. The UK granted Canada independence in 1931 (mostly as a gesture of thanks to Canada's heroism and sacrifice in WW1 - the UK used Canadians as meat shields in WW1, with predictably disastrous results, but the Canadians didn't complain, and after the war were rewarded with independence), but Canada didn't actually get around to properly setting itself up as an independent country right away... because, ya know, there was a rather big war brewing at about the time in the mid-1930s. For the next 50 years, even though Canada was theoretically independent, the UK parliament was still really in charge.

After the war, Canada started building up its own independent legal structure and its own set of laws - like its Bill of Rights in 1960 and the Human Rights Act in 1977. It did it slowly and over time because partly because it was trying to balance the wants and needs of a dozen provinces and several hundred aboriginal tribes, and partly because it didn't want to screw up and write a bad law into the constitution that it would be stuck with for hundreds of years (the 1960 Bill of Rights was more or less copied verbatim into the Charter, for example, but things like property rights got dropped, and better wording to protect women's equality was added). Really, it was experimenting with designing a 21st century constitution - it was trying to set the model for the future, rather than an echo of the past, and the concept of human rights was really still a new thing at the time.

After ~30 years of preparation, the final ties were cut in the 1982 act... called The Canada Act, because it literally created the independent Canada. The Canada Act basically first states that Canada will no longer be subject to any British parliamentary laws, then includes the 1982 Constitution Act, which created the Canadian constition, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (Obviously I'm simplifying, because what the Constitution Act actually did was more technically called "patriation", not creation - it hoists a lot of the old stuff into the new system rather than rewriting everything from scratch, and to avoid nullifying ancient treaties and such.))


The issues of this topic really boil down to the balance between two parts of the Canadian Constitution: Part 1 - The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is sections 1-34), and Part 2 - Rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (section 35). Part 1 (The Charter) is what protects children from parents who want to murder them for reasons that are religious or just plain ignorant. Part 2 is what protects aboriginals and their cultural traditions from well-meaning but dangerous interference from non-aboriginals. The cases of the aboriginal children with cancer mean that these two laws conflict. One must be given precedence - do we protect a child, or do we protect entire cultures (several hundreds of them, in fact)?

Of course, this isn't really something specific to the Canadian Constitution - so you're just wasting your efforts trying to pick a fight over it. It's a universal problem: On the one hand, we are morally obligated to help people who cannot help themselves... like children under the thumb of dangerous parents. On the other, we are morally obligated to respect the freedom of other people... like the freedom of people living in a different culture to live their way, even if we think it's weird, and even if we disagree with it (so long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of anyone else, of course). Somehow those two obligations have to be balanced. So... how?

SpaceInvader75 wrote:
... the point I was making was that even if there is a "universal morality" there are countless examples in history and right now, how it is violated every day, even by nations that have "universal rights documents". Of course, I suppose that is also off the subject.

It is, but like i said, if you really care, you're free to make a topic about it.

For the record, the short answer is: if you seriously believe that the fact that people had moral laws that were wrong (or had ones that were right that they then ignored) means moral laws are not universal, then you must also believe that the fact that people had mathematical laws wrong (or had ones that were right but ignored them in favour of poor estimates) means that mathematics is culturally relative. Or even shorter: just because someone, somewhere was wrong about a universal law once upon a time (or was right about it but then just ignored it), doesn't make that law non-universal.

SpaceInvader75 wrote:
Anyway, there is something else I have a question about:

"Suppose that less advanced culture rejected modern medicine, and instead opted to treat problems with chanting, the laying on of hands, or herbs (which have been proven in rigorous testing to have no benefit). Naturally the mortality rate – especially for young children – will be quite a bit a higher than in the advanced culture."

What do you mean by "herbs"? Are you saying that plants have no medicinal value?

I mean exactly what i wrote. I explicitly said, in the parentheses, that i was specifically referring to herbs that have been proven ineffective... NOT herbs that actually have a medicinal effect.

(The reason i mentioned herbs at all is because the specific cases i was referring to - the two girls with leukaemia - are about people who are trying to cure marrow cancer with crap like dandelion tea. Now dandelion tea may have some medicinal benefits, like reducing inflammation and acting as a laxative, etc. ... but it is utterly ineffective at curing leukaemia. You'd better off simply praying, because while prayer is equally useless, at least it's free.)
LxGoodies
Indi wrote:
The issues of this topic really boil down to the balance between two parts of the Canadian Constitution: Part 1 - The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is sections 1-34), and Part 2 - Rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (section 35). Part 1 (The Charter) is what protects children from parents who want to murder them for reasons that are religious or just plain ignorant. Part 2 is what protects aboriginals and their cultural traditions from well-meaning but dangerous interference from non-aboriginals. The cases of the aboriginal children with cancer mean that these two laws conflict. One must be given precedence - do we protect a child, or do we protect entire cultures (several hundreds of them, in fact)?

Of course, this isn't really something specific to the Canadian Constitution - so you're just wasting your efforts trying to pick a fight over it. It's a universal problem: On the one hand, we are morally obligated to help people who cannot help themselves... like children under the thumb of dangerous parents. On the other, we are morally obligated to respect the freedom of other people... like the freedom of people living in a different culture to live their way, even if we think it's weird, and even if we disagree with it (so long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of anyone else, of course). Somehow those two obligations have to be balanced. So... how?

I would'nt dare fight with you over Canadian law Indi Laughing that would get me in trouble like before.

You ask interesting questions.. but same time, implicitly, you seem to provide an answer yourself, that is "no", religious and cultural rights need not to be protected, because it's "religous or plain ignorant" (quote you). And "yes", aboriginals ought to be protected because we don't want imperialism and although well-meant, it is dangerous to interfere. You support Part (2) not Part (1)

I don't think this dilemma of yours is so difficult to resolve, when you regard human rights as the basis for law, that is the human rights of these children.

In short: I don't see any actual difference between your Part (1) and (2), as far as children and dangerous parents are concerned. The only difference is, Part (1) refers to immaterial habits - religion, culture - and (2) has to do with ethnic differences and recognition of the rights of an autonomous, aboriginal group in your country.

Of course it is very noble to defend either one of these rights, however I feel that the rights of children should prevail. So I fully respect - and support - any principal choice Canada makes irt to aboriginals and their autonomy (wo am I do judge) but when medical treatment is considered, I would say no to (1) and (2) and the law should be changed accordingly.
Indi
LxGoodies wrote:
You ask interesting questions.. but same time, implicitly, you seem to provide an answer yourself, that is "no", religious and cultural rights need not to be protected, because it's "religous or plain ignorant" (quote you).

I keep telling you - and many others - that you are reading far more into what i write than what i actually write... and this is a crystal clear case of it. Because not only did i never once say, or even imply, that religious or cultural rights shouldn't be protected... that is actually the exact opposite of what i believe.

How did you get it so wrong? Simple: you assumed things about me and my beliefs. You assume you know what i'm like and what i believe based on some hazy caricature of me you have in your head. Well, here's the hard proof that your caricature of me is completely fabricated by you.

I do absolutely believe that religious beliefs and practices are plain ignorant - that's actually what i said, many times, so you don't need to guess. However, just because some belief or practice is mind-numbingly stupid, that doesn't mean it should be made illegal. There are plenty of things that i think are so weird or so stupid they make my head hurt, but so long as they're not interfering with anyone else's rights, they shouldn't be censored or banned or controlled in any way.

The only reason banning comes up in this issue is because it's about the lives of innocent people. Everyone should have the freedom to practice whatever wacky beliefs they have... but not if it's going to kill someone else who didn't choose to be part of your wacky beliefs.

The dilemma you think you see is not actually the dilemma that exists in my mind. The dilemma that exists in my mind is whether it's right for one nation to unilaterally decide what's best for another nation. For example, what if Canada decided they'd had it up to here with the US's terrible social structure, and they swooped in and forced the US to implement universal health care and a progressive tax system and so on - and to hell with what Americans actually want. That would be wrong, right? I think clearly so - if adult Americans decide they want to live in a country where a sudden hospital trip can ruin them, and if they want to let the mega rich run rampant over them, that's their choice. We can think it's really, really stupid, but if they chose it, they chose it, and they should face the consequences of that choice.

So clearly simply deciding that another nation is "doing it wrong" and going in and forcing them to do it your way is wrong. However, what if that other nation is "doing it wrong" in a way that is killing children? Is it still wrong to storm in and force them to do it our way? And if it's not wrong, what are the limits?
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