The Moral Question

Gallup has an interesting poll up asking people about moral issues. They’ve been asked if they consider certain things — fur coats, the death penalty, abortion — to be morally wrong or morally acceptable.

I found the idea fascinating and went down the list of issues. There are some drawbacks to this sort of poll, of course. The principle issue is that moral dilemmas are not always so black-and-white. By this, I don’t mean moral relativism (or, more accurately, amoralism). What I mean is that many issues are more complicated than “morally acceptable” or “morally wrong”. Sometimes, doing something morally wrong is necessary. War is morally wrong, but is sometimes necessary. And sometimes something that is morally wrong in one circumstance is morally acceptable in another.

It’s also an important point that, for most people, “morally wrong” is not the same as “should be illegal”. Many more people think abortion is wrong than think it should be illegal. Same with adultery, homosexuality, gambling and porn.

Anyway, I thought I’d list the moral issues and my thoughts. Hopefully, this will get a flame war started.

  • Doctor-assisted suicide: While I’m somewhat torn on this one, I prefer to keep doctors out of the suicide business. So count this as morally wrong although I’m not sure it should be illegal.
  • Abortion: While I’m pro-choice, I think abortion itself is wrong with the exception of life of the mother or severe abnormality.
  • Having a baby outside of marriage: This is one of those depends things. Most of the time, I think it’s wrong. But if it’s a committed gay couple who can’t get married for technical reasons, I’m fine. If it’s a woman who got pregnant by a worthless man, I don’t think marriage is necessarily a good idea. Marriage is a good proxy for having a good child-rearing environment, but it’s still only a proxy. I’d focus on the latter rather than the former. I’d much rather have a single mother or a gay couple who invest the time and love needed to raise a child than a married couple who don’t give a shit. It’s neglect or walking away from responsibilities that’s morally wrong.
  • Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur: I don’t have problem with this although I’m not a fur person. PETA members in the audience may throw paint at their computer screen if they prefer.
  • Gay or lesbian relations: No problems. I actually think honest homosexuality is morally superior to the closet.
  • Medical testing on animals: not only do I not have a problem with this, I think it’s highly moral. And my friends whose health depends on insulin developed from animal experiments or blood transfusion preserved by chemicals tested on animals would agree. Penn and Teller’s Bullshit episode on this is one of their best and really captures the passion we should all have on this issue.
  • Pre-marital sex: no problems. Frankly, I think the 36% saying it’s wrong are engaged in wishful thinking.
  • Cloning animals: I don’t have a problem with this being done in a research context. For commercial purpose, I think the technology is still too new and too poorly understood. I’m willing to reconsider that position as events warrant. And I do think their oughtta be a law.
  • Stem cell research: again, torn. I don’t like restricting science but I don’t like creating a market for human embryos either. I kind of admired the way President Bush seemed to honestly struggle with the issue.
  • Gambling: morally acceptable if it’s in reasonable amounts. I have no problem with an office Final Four pool. Someone blowing their kid’s college fund in Vegas is a different story. As far as legality goes, it be should be legal for anyone over 18. The federal ban on internet gambling was a terrible idea.
  • Porn: no problems as long as it involves adults. Given the plunging rates of sexual violence during the rise of internet porn and the removal of stigmas against oral sex, I’d almost say this was morally right. I know at least one therapist who had some success in couples counseling by recommending married people watch porn together to stimulate their physical life.
  • The death penalty: too complicated to get into now. My main problems with the death penalty are practical.
  • Divorce: this depends on the situation. Most of the time, I don’t have an issue. I think its actually a good thing if there’s abuse involved. If there are kids involved, that changes the moral calculus considerably.
  • Suicide: for someone suffering from a debilitating disease or condition, I could see this being acceptable. For anyone else, I think it’s immoral (and selfish). Self-sacrifice however, such as in war or a sinking ship, is highly moral. It may, in fact, be the highest morality.
  • Cloning humans: for now, both immoral and illegal. I consider cloning technology to be too primitive for ethical use on humans. If we get to the stage where we can clone a lung to replace a cancerous one, then it becomes moral.
  • Polygamy: I think it’s immoral but I’m a bit dubious on keeping it illegal.
  • Adultery: mostly immoral. However, I don’t have a lot of problems with people who have open marriages or “an understanding” if that’s their thing. While I think monogamy is the moral standard, I tend to think we have a somewhat romanticized view of it.

For the general populace, the largest splits were on four issues: suicide, polygamy, adultery and cloning. I’m no sure what to read into that.

The other interesting thing about the poll was the cross-tabs. They’re not exactly unexpected, but interesting. Republicans, as you would expect, are far more morally opposed to abortion, euthanasia and illigitimacy than independents or democrats. But the age splits are also interesting — the young are far less opposed to premarital sex, porn or homosexuality than the elderly, but less accepting of animal testing and the death penalty. Whether that’s a youthful preference for fucking over killing or a seismic shift in societal attitudes, I don’t know.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    I don’t have an issue with any of it really. Quite frankly, what someone else does in their private life is not my concern as long as it does not infringe upon me or in some way harm others.

    I’ve yet to hear a good, rational, reasonable argument against cloning – lot’s of emotional ones, even more that are the product of watching too many bad movies.

    And I’m all for the death penalty – provided that they’ve actually done their job and caught the right person (Texas, I’m looking at you). Taking child molesters, serial killers and assorted scum that popped somebody in the middle of robbing a liquor store out back for a quick double-tap to the back the head is the very definition of justice.

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  2. AlexInCT

    I don’t have an issue with any of it really. Quite frankly, what someone else does in their private life is not my concern as long as it does not infringe upon me or in some way harm others.

    I would like to clarify that this also means that it costs me nothing. The left tends to believe that the fact that these things cost tax payers money shouldn’t be considered as infringement, but I certainly find that to be the worst kind of them all.

    I’ve yet to hear a good, rational, reasonable argument against cloning – lot’s of emotional ones, even more that are the product of watching too many bad movies.

    Property rights.

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  3. Rann

    I think worrying about the personal rights of clones is a perfectly valid worry. Just because it’s been the subject of a few episodes of Twilight Zone or whatever doesn’t mean it’s not something that needs to be discussed.

    The question of how we would treat a clone is an important one. Are they a fully-fledged person with their own rights, or are they “spare parts” sitting around waiting, even if they can walk and talk? Or, further than that, what is the legality/moral standpoint of developing a clone but using some sort of procedure early on in the development to render it braindead and just keep it on artificial life support to avoid the whole “walking and talking” issue re: your spare parts?

    The fact of the matter is that humans created via artificial means would require some special precedent in law to keep them from being abused. The law would have to state that they have equal human rights to a natural-born human and that abusing them would be the same as abusing a child. The law would also have to state where they fell within family obligations and inheritance… are they the offspring or the sibling of their genetic donor?

    In essence, an argument against human cloning is that we don’t currently have laws protecting human clones. As silly as it sounds, I think human rights for clones might actually have to come before the clones really exist… to ensure that when and if they do exist, they already have human rights. Anything else is just irresponsible bordering on monstrous.

    (Incidentally, I read an article awhile back positing the idea that if there was ever a successful human clone brought to fruition, we probably wouldn’t hear about it until 10-20 years after the fact… being that something that can walk, talk, and defend its own right to live is at far less risk than something that can be abstracted into being just a “thing”.)

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  4. Seattle Outcast

    Cloning a person for spare parts I don’t have a problem with, providing that the clone has never achieved awareness. Otherwise it would be no different than hauling someone off the streets and turning them into spare parts.

    I would think that it would easier and cheaper to just clone the body part in need, but who knows how it will work out.

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    Neither do i, and there could be a very big fringe benefits, if just parts, can be grown at a accelerated rate!
    Imagine Huge racks of Pork ribs, giant tender grown Ribeyes…. and so on.

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  6. loserlame

    I had access to porn from age 13 and came into manhood in sexually enlightened Germany.

    And as soon as my US phone company offered Internet in the mid- 90s I got a modem and almost immediately checked out porn sites, did adultfiriendfinder, etc. I even found my ex over the Web, too.

    What strikes me about porn today are the sheer numbers of child-accessible material available, but also how old-fashioned – how American – it all still is.

    Films are still titled in manly ways “skank ho’s spread them wide” “huge member tears up bitch snatch” Its still a manly man’s domain, and its still as vulgar and crude as ever.

    Wheres the enlightenment sex experts promised would ensue if sex were treated as “natural””? What say the women? Getting satisfied?

    Doctor-assisted suicide/suicide: I’ve heard that life/death situations can lead to divorce and a host of other situations that result from the opinions and morals of your handlers, as you may not be wholly cognizant of everything going on around you all the time.

    Second-timers, folks who suffer relapses, and such, should be allowed to (help) let nature take its course and spare their handlers undue, prolonged anguish and hefty medical bills

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  7. loserlame

    I take it all back. The Pope agrees with me, so the enlightened Euros (a majority, thank Allah, or whoever) are apparently living right, after all:

    ZAGREB, Croatia – Pope Benedict XVI denounced the “disintegration” of family life in Europe on Sunday and called for couples to make a commitment to marry and have children, not just live together, as he reaffirmed traditional Catholic family values during his second and final day in Croatia.
    He urged parents to affirm the inviolability of life from conception to natural death — Vatican-speak for opposition to abortion, saying “Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood!” He also urged them to back legislation that supports families “in the task of giving birth to children and educating them.”
    Monsignor Valter Zupan, in charge of family issues in the Croatian bishops’ conference, said Europe had been founded on deeply Christian values about marriage between man and woman, but that these values were being threatened by trends that favor “different types of living together which don’t have any foundation in European culture.”

    It seems like only 30 years ago my Kraut peers were denouncing Americans’ shallow views on abortion (“use condoms, already. you lazy murderous bastards), marriage and commitment (its far “easier” and cheaper to divorce in the US), but, due to the high cost of living, slyly agreed to share apartments and financial responsibilities without marrying.

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