Local man thinks he won the abortion debate with pure logic
I'm pro-choice, but I do have to laugh every time someone on the internet thinks they're such a brain genius that they've logically solved an intractable moral debate about law, bodily autonomy, the emergence of consciousness and the definition of life. Surely anyone who claims to have a foolproof response to a topic that touches on all four of those issues is somewhat deluded.
Patrick S. Tomlinson is a science fiction author and popular Tweeter, who tens of thousands of Twitter users and countless online media publications seem to believe has logically refuted the pro-life position on abortion. I don't suppose I have to tell you that Twitter mobs and viral news are often not equipped to handle a serious philosophical debate of any kind. That should be obvious.
So, let's see his argument, which he claims NO ONE has answered honestly in ten years. Yeah, I'm sure that's how we think of all our arguments: "No one has ever actually won this argument with me!" Everyone surely thinks that of themselves.
Okay, so we're in a room with a five-year-old and a pile of embryos, and need to choose to save one.
Folks, that's it. That's the entire essence of the argument. 1,000 embryos are not as 'human' as a real person because you would have to save the five-year-old child. Right? Well, no, actually, not at all. You can set up any binary mock-trolley logic problem you want, you're never going to get honest holistic answers to deep questions through the damn trolley problem.
You know the trolley problem, right?
It looks like this:
The trolley will hit five people if you do nothing. If you move the lever, the trolley will hit one person, but you are now a murderer. The only correct solution, indeed, is to move the lever and kill one person rather than the five. You have to admit - the lives of five people are objectively worth more than the life of one. Right?
But what if the five people were all convicted murderers? What if the one person was the President? (Whether you love him or hate him). What if your wife is the one person, and the five people are all strangers? What if your infant son is the one person, and the five people are all criminals?
Clearly, this is an intense problem with no clear solution - just like the abortion debate.
Whether or not someone picks the five-year-old child over 1,000 embryos addresses only one narrow point of the problem of abortion. The other problems, for anyone who is willing to think about them, include:
The question of whether something that is going to be alive should already be counted as life. After all, what is the value of the potential of life? If a cluster of cells in the womb will become alive, are they fundamentally different from non-living matter?
That question alone drives serious doubt into Tomlinson's 'epic brain genius' master storm of philosophical domination. The other problems, of course, include: When does consciousness first begin? (no one knows)
If a fetus does not have the right to life, does someone in a vegetative coma?
Even if you save the small child, none of these other questions actually get answered. Here's the thing about real thinking: one single logical argument is never enough to fully nail down a foolproof position. It always takes a holistic approach to thinking, not one single thought experiment. All of the 'foolproof thought experiments' throughout philosophy have been seriously contested and have never been settled since their inception.
What this author did was set up a trolley game and then prove himself right. What he did not do was address any of the serious questions surrounding abortion.
I don't know, as someone who reads more than social media feeds, I just find the arrogance of people utterly staggering when they are so convinced on such a slippery topic. Please, don't get your philosophy from social media feeds. Ever. You will look foolish.