Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Some People Are Reluctant to Think Quantitatively

Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn (recently mentioned by Megan McArdle), demonstrated his limited quantitative skills by comparing mice and elephants:

To believe this, one really has to ignore just about every aspect of human life. If human life is so sacred, why not protest avoidable poverty, tens of thousands of unnecessary infant deaths due to lack of water purification that costs pennies? Why not work to support anti-malaria measures that would save milliions of sacred human lives? Why not work to end war or to protect children from environmental contaminants that kill thousands every year? Why not oppose capital punishment that kills innocents or long prison sentences for victimless crimes?
Okay. He mentioned one elephant (malaria). On the other hand, his allies are more likely to oppose insecticides than our allies.

I won't more than mention that the industrial development that produces the “environmental contaminants” just might help end “avoidable poverty” and enable more people to afford the pennies needed for water purification.

As for his last supposedly-unanswerable question:

On the other hand, if it's simply being a Homo sapiens that makes life sacred, why is a three week old fetus more deserving of our concern than a three year old child in Guatemala – or one living in poverty within miles of where you're reading this now?
The child in Guatemala is more likely to survive without my help.

As for Sex at Dawn, I suspect it won't make any more sense.


Anonymous Dave M said...

Does anyone even assert that life is "sacred"? People use that term, but I'm pretty sure they just mean that the value of life is very high, but still finite.

3:26 PM  

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