Monday, September 24, 2012

Our Moral Obligation to Future Generations

If you are like me, you have probably noticed that the "pro-life" religious people seem to apply their principles in an inconsistent manner.  They claim to care about the "child" so much that they feel they can interfere and override the decisions even of the woman who has to carry it to term in her own body, but the second after the baby is born he or she suddenly becomes no concern of theirs.

In addition, they claim it's god's will whether or not a child is conceived, but nothing else about the life or death of the child is god's will apparently because they have no objections to other forms of medical intervention.

These sorts of inconsistencies (among other things) reveal their actual motivations.  They are actually motivated by their disapproval of notions of pleasure and permissiveness.  They would rather see the entire world suffer and die than appear to give permission for people to experience pleasure.  (This is yet another inconsistency and is the basic inconsistency that underlies the others.  They are not actually pro-life so much as anti-pleasure.  This motivation is also revealed by the alacrity with which they accuse those who disagree with them of being merely licentious libertines.)

Recently it occurred to me to investigate their opinions concerning the spaying and neutering of pets because the situation is analogous to that of humans.  Such procedures constitute artificial birth control (and sometimes abortion, if the female is pregnant at the time of the procedure.)  There is little doubt, however, that such procedures are necessary.  Without some form of birth control, too many domestic animals will be born and a great deal of suffering on their part will result from this overpopulation.

In fact, the Church is quite adamant about the duties of human pet owners in this regard:

"Millions of cats and dogs to which homes are not available must be destroyed each year in the United States. Additional millions roam the country, homeless, uncared for and unwanted by anyone. Spaying of owned female dogs and cats, as a means of preventing the suffering caused by breeding additional unwanted animals, while millions of dogs and cats are without homes or care, is recognized by Catholic humanitarians as not only morally permissible but urgently indicated."  See:

Of course, the religious will excuse this by saying that god gave man dominion over the animals and that animals don't have souls.  It is this second argument that reveals the religious nature of their stance against birth control.  To their minds, a soul is created (or otherwise implanted) in a human fetus at the moment of conception.  Thus, regardless of the age or development of the fetus, it is, according to their religious beliefs, a human being.

They have recognized that this argument carries little weight with those who are not convinced of the existence of souls and thus have tried to focus on the fetus's potential to develop into a human being, but that argument is merely a post hoc rationalization.  It is an argument that was created in an effort to win the public relations battle with the general public, which does not share their religious beliefs.

The "potential human being" argument has been somewhat successful.  Today, one even finds non-believers who have come to oppose abortion because of it. 

But, let's return to the attitude of the religious toward birth control for animals.  The feeling that so many people have for their pets caused many to treat them as quasi-human beings and oppose their sterilization.  The National Catholic Society for Animal Welfare (now the Society for Animal Rights) had to issue a statement concerning the spaying of animals. It says:

"Catholic humanitarians often are asked whether the church approves of spaying animals to prevent their reproduction. Catholic doctrine does not forbid the control or prevention of animal breeding. Animals are not moral persons; they do not have intellect and will. Therefore, there can be no moral imputability in limiting or preventing the breeding of unwanted animals."
One Catholic Priest puts it this way:

"Neutering or sterilizing pets should be seen as part of the respect and care we owe them as stewards of the resources of the universe entrusted us by God. This wealth is given in trust, and 'cannot be separated from respect [for] moral obligations, including those toward generations to come'."
This statement causes me to want to ask why the moral obligation toward generations to come doesn't also require us to control the human population as well as the animal population.  After all, the world's population has already exceeded our ability to feed it using traditional means, and the evidence that the size of the human population presents a grave danger to our ecosystem is overwhelming.  If our ecosystem collapses, billions of people will die.  If resources become too scarce, we could see more world wars but this time with nuclear weapons.  It is even possible that homo sapiens might become extinct.

So, if you are looking for a bon mot to throw into the thought processes a "pro-life" religious person, ask him or her why overpopulation doesn't violate our moral obligation toward generations to come.

You can even  point out that the situation is dire enough that the moral obligation we are violating by overpopulating the planet may be to our own children and not some vague, distant generation to come.

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