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"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles
Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, 1841

Thoughts on Life and Ethics
Updated: 06/23/2021

It seems to me that all sentient beings start out with a desire to live, to retain and expand life. Because of tragedy, pain, lack of fulfillment or hopelessness some lose this desire and even cross over the line to desire the cessation of their "life," but this is clearly the result of evil, and many–most even–that experience great evil still retain the desire to live.

The dimension of desire

Desire/need in general (and specifically this desire for existence) is one of the more primary things, along with a fuller range of volition (see below) and intellectual/spiritual dimensions, that separate homo sapiens from any kind of machine no matter how complex or programmed. A more extensive range of desire/need, intellectual/spiritual dimensions and volition also distinguishes human beings/homo sapiens from the animals, which are considered to be of less value partially because of this.  In other words, desire/need is absolutely a major part of, and necessary to, human life.

Life versus biological functionality

There is, or should be, a clear distinction made between "life" and biological functionality. Biological functionality only derives its value from "life," and when life is absent, biological functionality loses its value. This is being said in a different or partial way in the first paragraph above.

We make decisions based on this principle every day. When we use mouthwash in the morning we destroy many biologically functioning units with impunity. We poison pests and vermin–wasps, ants, roaches, mice, rats, etc.–with psychological or emotional impunity. When we sit down to eat a chicken dinner, unless we are hypocrites or are being insensitive, we are perforce deciding that the loss of the chicken's biological functionality is not as valuable as the sustenance of or enhancement to our own lives.

When a homo sapiens demonstrates that he is devoid of the ultimate spiritual elements that define humans or humaneness, such as love, caring, and compassion, and simultaneously wreaks or threatens to wreak havoc or evil, we as a society decide to eliminate (sometimes kill, not to put too fine of a point on it) that threat or source. It was Bonhoeffer, a noted German theologian and noted humanitarian and pacifist who, when he finally understood the extent and ramifications of the evil being promulgated by Hitler, decided to renounce his conscientious objector/pacifism stance and then became involved in a plot to kill the dictator.

All of the above implies that "life" should be defined primarily in terms of spiritual elements and secondarily in terms of the materialistic. In my mind the material structure and its functionality are just elements necessary to life; are the matrix upon which life is imposed. However the fulfillment of materialistic desire/needs has a lot to do with the sustenance and enhancement of life, and the bottom line is that there is no life apart from some material structure or body and satisfaction of its needs. A body is essentially a vessel for the spiritual and an interface unit to the materialistic realm. I cannot imagine, nor would I desire, any kind of life that would not have an interface to the material realm of reality. The physical or material realm is part of the medium of the creative process, and I am quite used to it also being a source of pleasure and enjoyment and quite insistent that it remain contributing to such.

A simple equation-definition for life might be:

Life = Desire x satisfaction x need x Fulfillment x Health x total of
(Purpose + Success + Happiness + Ecstasy + Joy + Love + Freedom, etc.)

where any one of these terms being zero means that life is zero also.

Ethical Context of Life

Before anything specific can be said about ethics, we need to be reminded of the ethical context in which we live. In a reality where there is no evil, ethical decisions are made between what is good and what is better. In a reality where there is evil, most times ethical decisions are made between the lesser of two evils, where even the right ethical decision can be easily decried by the simplistic as having evil results.

Enlightened self interest versus selfishness

One very important ethical distinction has to be made between enlightened self interest versus selfishness. The selfish person is one that doesn't care to see the greater context or picture, and is not enlightened about how to share instead of take or compete.

Homo Sapiens versus Human Beings

Do we not need to come to terms with the distinction between a homo sapiens and a human being? All human beings are homo sapiens but not all homo sapiens are human beings. The term homo sapiens is a zoological designation for a certain species of animal (I'm an animal, but not just an animal), whereas a truly HUMAN being or humane and noble being clearly has some finer or more sacred dimensions than some mere homo sapiens have. Homo Sapiens are born, but Human Beings are further nurtured and cultured into being so!

An extreme case is that some homo sapiens are born with just a minimal brain stem that supports biological functionality for a while, and apart from a miracle have no potential to develop into a human being. Other cases are less clear, but the line must be drawn somewhere. This does not mean that a human being has license to treat a homo sapiens with contempt or a demeaning manner, because part of being a human being means that one would treat any other sentient and conscious entity in the most constructive manner called for. As for Philosopher Kings, that is another matter!

Abortion

As far as the abortion (termination of biological functionality of an embryo or a fetus) moral issue goes, the "life value" of the form would seem to be related to the nurture investment made by other humans, and also related to the ramifications of whatever circumstances exist for that particular situation. Some socio/familial circumstances are such that most probably not enough of spiritual nurture investment will be made to engender a contributing member of society. The mother and hopefully the father up until birth have certainly made an ongoing and cumulatively greater physical nurture investment, but there is no clear-cut spiritual nurture investment made until after birth when the communication capability is more advanced. When the foundation is laid for them, and inspiration, ideas, purpose, values, etc. begin to be instilled, and when the finer, higher, more sacred qualities and potentials begin to be stimulated and awakened and developed is the point when serious spiritual nurture investment takes place.

In an ideal world there would be no such troubling issue, no dilemma, no line would need to be drawn in general or in particular cases. When the line IS drawn by the mother and those that support and perform, and the decision is made to terminate the life form, they are not necessarily acting coldly, callously, selfishly, or unethically. In the final analysis should we not favor erring on the side of freedom of choice by the mother, since even in our modern society, the mother performs the role of taking on the greatest nurture investment? I know that abortion is not the preferred way to control population, but this whole issue does stand in the context of an over-burgeoning population on the Earth–in my mind a threat to even my own future well-being as well as the future well-being of my own son.

Abdication of Ethics Responsibility

Many people would like to duck or avoid taking any role in making life and death decisions, but that is insipid and cowardly. If these decisions are not made in the best spirit by intelligent, informed, ethical humans, the outcome will just be some mindless default most probably not the best. God is NOT involved in picking up the slack in our ethical courage.

The question was asked, "Does God value some souls (individuals) above others?"  The question deserves a careful answer. First of all in my thinking, "God" is a corporate entity or agency and consequently its primary interest and caring would be for the corporate family comprised of the human race. This agency doesn't relish being in the individual evaluation business although temporarily forced to be by circumstances. Probably only insofar as one or a group of individuals were (temporarily) more important to the welfare of the corporate or potential corporate being would God value and/or protect them above others.

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