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Old 18th April 2019, 05:52 PM   #81
W.D.Clinger
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Human value is not a system of formal logic. I don't agree that it can be reduced to a mathematical equation.
I agree that some people are unable to apply logic to such questions.
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Old 18th April 2019, 06:05 PM   #82
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Originally Posted by W.D.Clinger View Post
I agree that some people are unable to apply logic to such questions.
Logic is entirely the wrong tool to answer the question of human value.

ETA: And your math only works because you presupposed the model that makes the math work, and then declared that must be the operative model of human value. People don't actually think about human value in terms of mathematical models.

I could see maybe taking the time to learn how people think about the value of human life, and then try to work out the practical implications of that sentiment when crafting public policy, in logical or economic terms. But you can't simply declare a model up front, and then claim that you've proven that valuing human life logically means wanting less of it.

Last edited by theprestige; 18th April 2019 at 06:16 PM.
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Old 18th April 2019, 06:18 PM   #83
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Originally Posted by W.D.Clinger View Post
I agree that some people are unable to apply logic to such questions.
Also, why does this have to be personal for you? I disagree with your argument, and you come back with this crap.
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Old 18th April 2019, 07:01 PM   #84
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Originally Posted by W.D.Clinger View Post
I agree that some people are unable to apply logic to such questions.
This is not a good response. In addition to the unnecessary implicit insult, itís not even relevant. Values ultimately depend on axioms, which cannot be derived by logic.
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Old 18th April 2019, 07:09 PM   #85
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Logic is entirely the wrong tool to answer the question of human value.

ETA: And your math only works because you presupposed the model that makes the math work, and then declared that must be the operative model of human value. People don't actually think about human value in terms of mathematical models.

I could see maybe taking the time to learn how people think about the value of human life, and then try to work out the practical implications of that sentiment when crafting public policy, in logical or economic terms. But you can't simply declare a model up front, and then claim that you've proven that valuing human life logically means wanting less of it.
Actually, youíre missing the greatest irony here: itís hard to make a mathematical model for valuing human life which doesnít lead to the conclusion that we should maximize the population, even if that reduces the average quality of life. This is sometimes referred to as the repugnant conclusion.
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Old 18th April 2019, 07:14 PM   #86
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I think Clinger makes the point that it's a complex problem and simply maximizing human population is not a practical solution to that problem. But it's still a problem of how to get the most sustainable human life value out of a system, given the assumption that human life has intrinsic value. You're still trying to figure out how to get as many humans as possible, up to the limit of maximum possible human life value.
Do you at least agree that the IF THEN statement you made doesnít necessarily hold?
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Old 18th April 2019, 07:18 PM   #87
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
This is not a good response. In addition to the unnecessary implicit insult, itís not even relevant. Values ultimately depend on axioms, which cannot be derived by logic.
Sure, but logic can be applied to those axioms, which both you and theprestige seemed to be doing. I donít think anyone so far has been attempting to argue for any particular set of axioms, rather the discussion has mostly been centered around the implications of some axioms. See for instance the if/then statement made by theprestige.
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Old 18th April 2019, 07:26 PM   #88
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
Actually, youíre missing the greatest irony here: itís hard to make a mathematical model for valuing human life which doesnít lead to the conclusion that we should maximize the population, even if that reduces the average quality of life. This is sometimes referred to as the repugnant conclusion.
If there are 10 billion people and the average life has a value of 1 in whatever units we are using and a new person lowers the value of everyone elseís life (by making it more miserable) by 10-9 units, then the total value goes down when you add a new person.

I donít think thatís particularly contrived, though I also donít think thereís any good way of looking at the current state of the world in which that would apply. Is it reasonable to consider such a model might apply with populations one or more orders of magnitude higher than today? I think that depends on other factors, like the technological environment we find ourselves in.
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Old 18th April 2019, 07:40 PM   #89
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Human value is not a system of formal logic. I don't agree that it can be reduced to a mathematical equation.
Originally Posted by W.D.Clinger View Post
I agree that some people are unable to apply logic to such questions.
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Logic is entirely the wrong tool to answer the question of human value.
So say you.

Having offered no evidence for your assertion, your claim could be dismissed without evidence or argument.

If we were to examine evidence that bears on your claim, we would find considerable support of the proposition that abandoning logic seldom improves the quality of arguments or thought. When logic and other tools of rational thought are explicitly abandoned, as in some religious arguments, irrationality thrives.

Logic is a tool we can use to check the quality of our arguments and to guard against over-reliance on our own prejudices and bigotry.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
ETA: And your math only works because you presupposed the model that makes the math work, and then declared that must be the operative model of human value.
I declared no such thing.

I used math, in the form of a model whose specifics were (deliberately) implausible but whose general form (with tragedy at the extremes, but positive value between those extremes) is hard to argue against.

I note that no one has tried to argue against that general form of model. To argue against that general form of model, someone would have to argue for at least one of these two positions: (1) that a population of 1 person is better than a population of, say 1 billion; (2) that a population that implies 100 humans per square meter of the earth's surface is better than a population of 1 billion.

I also note that the general form of that model implies, as a matter of logic and mathematics, that everyone who is unable or unwilling to argue against the general form of that model must either (1) abandon the tools provided by logic and mathematics or (2) agree that some finite bound on the global population of humans is better than the extrema (1 or 510 trillion).

I will also express my non-surprise that some people prefer to abandon the tools provided by logic and mathematics whenever those tools lead to conclusions that differ from the conclusions they fervently desire. We see that in thread after thread, in every subforum I have read.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
People don't actually think about human value in terms of mathematical models.
It is certainly true that most people don't think about anything in terms of mathematical models.

How most people think is not, however, a reliable guide to best practice.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I could see maybe taking the time to learn how people think about the value of human life, and then try to work out the practical implications of that sentiment when crafting public policy, in logical or economic terms. But you can't simply declare a model up front, and then claim that you've proven that valuing human life logically means wanting less of it.
I am happy to see you have not accused me of doing the thing I highlighted.

What I have done is to point out that the only ways to escape the conclusion that, at some point, increasing human population does not increase the value of human life, either collectively or individually, are (1) to argue that a population of 510 trillion is better than a population of, say, 10 billion or (2) to abandon logic and mathematics as aids to rational thought.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Also, why does this have to be personal for you? I disagree with your argument, and you come back with this crap.
It seems to me that the only way you can interpret what I have said in this thread as some kind of "personal" attack is for you to classify yourself as someone who rejects logic and/or mathematics and/or rational thinking when those aids to thought become inconvenient.

ETA:
Just to clarify: When I say "trillion", I mean 1012. There are 510 trillion square meters of earth's surface, including the oceans, so a human population of 510 trillion corresponds to one human per square meter. Speaking only for myself, I believe one human per square meter would diminish the collective value of all human life compared to the current situation, but those who believe they would be comfortable with 100 humans per square meter can do the math. Had I multiplied by 100 in the post above, I'd have had to look up the common name for 1015 (quadrillion), which I didn't bother to do until after posting the above.

I apologize for stating so much math in this spoiler, and hope that math has not offended anyone who wasn't already looking to be offended.

Last edited by W.D.Clinger; 18th April 2019 at 07:58 PM. Reason: added spoiler at end
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Old 18th April 2019, 07:42 PM   #90
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Do you at least agree that the IF THEN statement you made doesn’t necessarily hold?
Sure. I've already said it's not a linear equation, nor a system of formal logic.

I think my If-Then statement is a lot closer to how people actually think about the value of human life than W. D. Clinger's arbitrary model, but that's about it. I'm open to other arguments.

But like Ziggurat said, ultimately the question reduces to the axioms you hold. If Clinger's model reflects how *she* feels about human value, that's fine. I trust her math, and would expect nothing less than that she advocate for public policy that reflects her axioms and follows from her calculations.

Maybe you have different axioms and thus reason to a different set of policies.

This doesn't need to be a game of gotcha. We can simply say what we believe, and what we reason from our beliefs, and discuss the topic on that basis. If you have some idea about human value that doesn't lead to the conclusion that more humans are desirable, let's hear it.
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Old 18th April 2019, 07:44 PM   #91
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
If there are 10 billion people and the average life has a value of 1 in whatever units we are using and a new person lowers the value of everyone else’s life (by making it more miserable) by 10-9 units, then the total value goes down when you add a new person.
What if adding a new person doesn't lower the value of everyone else?
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Old 18th April 2019, 08:11 PM   #92
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I must be a terrible misanthrope because I lost the plot when it was posited that human life has value. I don't go around proclaiming it to be worthless, and I probably don't believe that, but I don't see it as a given.

There's a theory that the key to sustainability is to modernize developing nations, eliminating the perceived need to have 15 children to ensure that a few survive to take care of you in your old age.

Completely arbitrarily, 1 billion, back to 1800 levels, sounds good. But I'm sure the planet can support many more than that.
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Old 18th April 2019, 09:49 PM   #93
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
IF
human life is intrinsically valuable

THEN
more human life is desirable

THEREFORE
we should seek the maximum possible human population that can be sustained with the available resources
If human life has intrinsic value it follows that:

ALL life has intrinsic value.

THEN
more life is desirable

THEREFORE
we should seek the best balance that can be sustained with the available resources.

All of this talk about maximizing-human-numbers-screw-the-rest is a stupid human centric point of view. I just don't hold with the belief that we are 'special' and all of 'creation' is here for us to dominate and exploit. I wish we as a species could get past this might makes right mentality.

Originally Posted by Ziggurat
Actually, you’re missing the greatest irony here: it’s hard to make a mathematical model for valuing human life which doesn’t lead to the conclusion that we should maximize the population, even if that reduces the average quality of life.
The model is faulty because it tries to maximize the total amount of happiness instead of the happiness of the individual.
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Old 18th April 2019, 10:12 PM   #94
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post
All of this talk about maximizing human numbers screw the rest of the planet is a stupid human centric point of view.
We are humans. Our view should be human-centric.

Quote:
Maybe the problem is that the model is faulty because it tries to maximize the total amount of happiness instead of the happiness of the actual people involved.
Why is that wrong?
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Old 18th April 2019, 10:44 PM   #95
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All life has intrinsic value.
People will be less happy.
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Old 19th April 2019, 01:55 AM   #96
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post



All life has intrinsic value.
People will be less happy.
Life has intrinsic value, but that doesn't mean their are no exceptions.

Guinea worm
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Old 19th April 2019, 02:37 AM   #97
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There are no exceptions.
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Old 19th April 2019, 04:32 AM   #98
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post
There are no exceptions.
I just gave you one. It has no value all. A parasite to humans but providing no benefit to any form of life, or biological process. No value. Even mosquitoes that plague us have value as food for other species and part of trophic chains that clearly are both intrinsically valuable and extrinsically valuable. The guinea worm has none of that.
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Old 19th April 2019, 05:06 AM   #99
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That's just your opinion.
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Old 19th April 2019, 05:24 AM   #100
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Originally Posted by Red Baron Farms View Post
I just gave you one. It has no value all. A parasite to humans but providing no benefit to any form of life, or biological process. No value. Even mosquitoes that plague us have value as food for other species and part of trophic chains that clearly are both intrinsically valuable and extrinsically valuable. The guinea worm has none of that.
Ah, but their mothers love them

What net benefit do humans bring to the rest of the living world? For every domestic pet that has its life extended and improved in various ways there are a thousand plants and animals that have their lives cut short.
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Old 19th April 2019, 05:38 AM   #101
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Originally Posted by Red Baron Farms View Post
I just gave you one. It has no value all. A parasite to humans but providing no benefit to any form of life, or biological process. No value. Even mosquitoes that plague us have value as food for other species and part of trophic chains that clearly are both intrinsically valuable and extrinsically valuable. The guinea worm has none of that.
The guinea worm has no value to humans and we wish that it would not exist. But it does have value (so to speak) in the local ecosystems. At the minimum, we know that guinea worm larvae are food for Cyclops copepods. They are a key component in the life cycle of the guinea worm. If guinea worms are absent then copepods are missing a particular source of food.

So you are wrong and they are like a mosquito. We hate them but they are consumed by other organisms and are part of the trophic chain.

I don't think that there is any organism that is not part of a trophic web or ecology.
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Old 19th April 2019, 05:50 AM   #102
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
The guinea worm has no value to humans and we wish that it would not exist. But it does have value (so to speak) in the local ecosystems. At the minimum, we know that guinea worm larvae are food for Cyclops copepods. They are a key component in the life cycle of the guinea worm. If guinea worms are absent then copepods are missing a particular source of food.

So you are wrong and they are like a mosquito. We hate them but they are consumed by other organisms and are part of the trophic chain.

I don't think that there is any organism that is not part of a trophic web or ecology.
But do the copepods actually digest the eggs? It's a similar story with tapeworms, where the animal consuming the eggs can't digest them and is likely to develop cysts.

If so, the guinea worm is not really part of a food chain.
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Old 19th April 2019, 05:59 AM   #103
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
But do the copepods actually digest the eggs?
The copepods consume the larvae not the eggs. I haven't found information about digestion of the larvae, or the "fate" of larvae that never enter a mammalian host.

But look, how can it be possible that they are not part of a trophic web? Even if bacteria end up consuming a dead guinea worm larva then you have an ecology.
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Old 19th April 2019, 06:12 AM   #104
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
The guinea worm has no value to humans and we wish that it would not exist. But it does have value (so to speak) in the local ecosystems. At the minimum, we know that guinea worm larvae are food for Cyclops copepods. They are a key component in the life cycle of the guinea worm. If guinea worms are absent then copepods are missing a particular source of food.

So you are wrong and they are like a mosquito. We hate them but they are consumed by other organisms and are part of the trophic chain.

I don't think that there is any organism that is not part of a trophic web or ecology.
absolutely not. They are not food for copepods. True the copepods eat them, but instead of being food, they are immune to being digested by the copepods.

The Guinea worms truly are the exception. No value....unless maybe one proclaims they have some educational extrinsic value as an example of the exception of the rule! That's a pretty big stretch
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Old 19th April 2019, 06:15 AM   #105
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What other organisms consume guinea worm eggs and larvae besides the Cyclops copepods?
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Old 19th April 2019, 06:47 AM   #106
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We know that female guinea worms expel thousands of larvae into water. So then what is the fate of the thousands of larvae that do not end up parasitizing a mammalian host by way of the Cyclops copepod? Well, they become part of the trophic web or trophic chain. This has to be true unless the guinea worm is somehow immortal or non organic or cannot decompose or be digested within any organism at all.
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Old 19th April 2019, 07:35 AM   #107
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
The guinea worm has no value to humans and we wish that it would not exist. But it does have value (so to speak) in the local ecosystems. At the minimum, we know that guinea worm larvae are food for Cyclops copepods.
Are they the only food for Cyclops copepods? I suspect they aren't, that they are easily replaceable as a food source. So while it may be true that they have a role in the ecosystem ("value" isn't a good word here), I'm pretty sure that role isn't necessary for the stability of the rest of the system.
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Old 19th April 2019, 07:56 AM   #108
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
Are they the only food for Cyclops copepods? I suspect they aren't, that they are easily replaceable as a food source. So while it may be true that they have a role in the ecosystem ("value" isn't a good word here), I'm pretty sure that role isn't necessary for the stability of the rest of the system.
It is not likely that they are the only food for this copepod, and of course that must be true if they cannot be digested by this copepod.

But the criteria (and what I am arguing against) is not based on critical necessity. I'm arguing against what Red Baron Farms said - that this guinea worm is really a unique one-of-a-kind organism which is completely outside of a trophic chain/web. Re-read what he is claiming about the guinea worm if you need a refresher.
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Old 19th April 2019, 08:22 AM   #109
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
That should be the thing, but the problem is that even with the high standards of living that result in low birth rates, a shrinking population is pretty bad for the economy, so I don't know what that would do.
Yes that is a concern how does a capitalist global system work with a shrinking number of customers? I've seen suggestions that fewer wealthier people will buy more than lots more poor people. Some others suggestions that 'repurposing' large amount of habitations might become an 'industry'. Not sure how that would work....
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Old 19th April 2019, 08:35 AM   #110
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
But the criteria (and what I am arguing against) is not based on critical necessity. I'm arguing against what Red Baron Farms said - that this guinea worm is really a unique one-of-a-kind organism which is completely outside of a trophic chain/web. Re-read what he is claiming about the guinea worm if you need a refresher.
I get that, and I agree. I just think it's secondary to his real interest, which is basically that the world would be a better place without them. For a lot of pests, completely eliminating them would have negative consequences, but for a few (including certain species of mosquito), their total elimination wouldn't lead to anything bad for us.
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Old 19th April 2019, 10:02 AM   #111
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Sounds to me like you are asking about the earths carrying-capacity. This is a fairly well studied area of Ecology. There exist models that attempt to answer this question.

The amount of people is but one of the many variables you have to account for to estimate carrying-capacity.

Some other variables are resources such as water, food, & non/renewable raw materials like timber, minerals, etc. Nonrenewable raw materials have finite quantities on earth. If every human was forced to become a vegetarian than earth could support more people.

There is also the variable of lifestyle to consider. If every human consumed as much as the average American, the earth could not sustain our current global population. This lifestyle factor is called Ecological footprint in Environment Studies.

The range of the earths carrying-capacity is theorized to be between 2 - 10 billion. Until you decide on the parameters above, you won't be able to narrow-down the carrying-capacity of your ideal earth.
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Old 19th April 2019, 11:04 AM   #112
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
What if adding a new person doesn't lower the value of everyone else?
Then adding new people will increase the total value. I wasnít objecting to the idea that that could be true, only that it necessarily is true given that human life has value, which you seemed to be arguing.
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Old 19th April 2019, 12:03 PM   #113
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post
If human life has intrinsic value it follows that:

ALL life has intrinsic value.

THEN
more life is desirable

THEREFORE
we should seek the best balance that can be sustained with the available resources.
Sounds good. Your If-Then is a bit of a non sequitur for me, but your Therefore does seem to follow reasonably from it. If that's how you think about the value of life, then I'd certainly expect you to advocate policies that reflect that.

---

It does raise some interesting questions about what "the best balance" means, though.

Fumigating a house, for example. Gets rid of the termites, preserves the structure for humans, seems like a pretty good balance all around. Except for all the termites who lost their lives in this suburban holocaust. But normally people don't care much about the termites.

Do you care about the termites? Is the mass slaughter of termites to accommodate humans "the best balance", assuming that all life has value? Are termites and humans of equal value? Or are some animals really more equal than others, in your eyes?

And if termites have "life value", but we think nothing of massacring them whenever they inconvenience us, why do we get so upset when someone treats human "life value" the same way?

And how do you figure the life value of termites, anyway? Is one termite equal to one human? Or is it based on biomass - ten stone of termites is as valuable as ten stone of human? Or is it more about utility - these particular termites are a pain in my ass, and therefore have no value at all compared to me and mine? But that gets us into very "interesting" moral territory regarding the context-dependent usefulness of various humans.

Last edited by theprestige; 19th April 2019 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 19th April 2019, 12:09 PM   #114
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Then adding new people will increase the total value. I wasnít objecting to the idea that that could be true, only that it necessarily is true given that human life has value, which you seemed to be arguing.
Ah. I'm not arguing that it's necessarily true. I'm saying that's one framework for thinking about it. We can take a particular framework and examine its implications. We can even apply logic to reason from that framework to specific policies and actions. But as Ziggurat pointed out, ultimately it comes down to what axioms you actually believe in at the start of the exercise.

If you don't believe that more humans are more valuable than less humans, then you probably won't be much interested in policies aimed at maximizing the number of humans.

Similarly, if you don't believe that individual human value is a function of the total number of humans, then Clinger's math might not mean much to you at all, policy-wise.
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Old 19th April 2019, 12:19 PM   #115
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Sure, but I think your axioms are happening at a higher level than is entirely reasonable. I would suggest that we should start with individual human lives having value that is dependent upon their experiences and then reason from there.
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Old 19th April 2019, 12:22 PM   #116
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Originally Posted by ServiceSoon View Post
Sounds to me like you are asking about the earths carrying-capacity. This is a fairly well studied area of Ecology. There exist models that attempt to answer this question.

The amount of people is but one of the many variables you have to account for to estimate carrying-capacity.

Some other variables are resources such as water, food, & non/renewable raw materials like timber, minerals, etc. Nonrenewable raw materials have finite quantities on earth. If every human was forced to become a vegetarian than earth could support more people.

There is also the variable of lifestyle to consider. If every human consumed as much as the average American, the earth could not sustain our current global population. This lifestyle factor is called Ecological footprint in Environment Studies.

The range of the Earths carrying-capacity is theorized to be between 2 - 10 billion. Until you decide on the parameters above, you won't be able to narrow-down the carrying-capacity of your ideal earth.
Consumption is only 1/2 the equation. This is flawed because production methods have everything to do with whether consumption is negative or positive.

A prime example that addresses the main carrying capacity limiter is food production. And since we passed the wild carrying capacity of the earth long ago, this has everything to do with agriculture.

But Agriculture doesn't have just one production method any more than energy has one production method. So the carrying capacity can be either much higher or much lower depending on production methods every bit as importantly as consumption levels.

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ďYes, agriculture done improperly can definitely be a problem, but agriculture done in a proper way is an important solution to environmental issues including climate change, water issues, and biodiversity.Ē-Rattan Lal
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Old 19th April 2019, 02:32 PM   #117
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Originally Posted by Red Baron Farms View Post
Life has intrinsic value, but that doesn't mean their are no exceptions.

Guinea worm
Parasites like these and worse (from the human point of view) are one of the reasons safe drinking water is seen as so important for developing countries. You cut mortality, bring up economic standards and create a social safety net so that having lots of children is less important. You may even improve a nation's IQ by reducing exposure to hazardous material.

It surprises me that in my lifetime desalinization hasn't become a trivial issue.

There have been advances though.
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Old 19th April 2019, 02:34 PM   #118
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
We are humans. Our view should be human-centric.
I just don't get that "should."
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Old 19th April 2019, 03:30 PM   #119
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Sure, but I think your axioms are happening at a higher level than is entirely reasonable. I would suggest that we should start with individual human lives having value that is dependent upon their experiences and then reason from there.
I'm not sure we need to go all the way back to first principles. But be my guest, if that's where you think the conversation needs to start.
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Old 19th April 2019, 03:39 PM   #120
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
I just don't get that "should."
It's one of those axiom things.

Where do you think the human view of the world should be centered?

Me? I'm a humanist. Man is the measure of all things, for the simple reason that man is the one doing the measuring.

Maybe you feel differently. Maybe you feel there's some arbiter of value that has higher authority than you. But what is that arbiter? God? But you don't believe in God. The government? But you dissent from the government all the time. The masses? You dissent from the masses, too.

Even if you decide that the elephant has agency, and sets its own value, it's still you doing the deciding. If you undecide, what can the elephant do about it? It is the man, not the elephant, that has the final say about the ivory trade.
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