Friday, December 17, 2010

Analogy of the winning lottery ticket

 A parable by Zsolt:
So here's a question for you. Let's suppose you have a lottery ticket with ALL the winning numbers for the prize of, say, 100 million dollars.  Someone who knows it was the winning ticket steals it from you. Would you be as upset and offended as if the thief stole the money itself? Or more? Or less? Certainly no sane and honest person can answer 'less'. In fact many would answer 'more' since if they get the money at least they have the hope to use some of it before it's stolen. Stealing the ticket does not even give a chance for that. If you observe the situation you will see that stealing the ticket is morally the same (or worse) as stealing the money because the lottery ticket INEVITABLY yields money once you present it to the treasury/bank.
   Now let's look at a slightly modified version of the above. You still have the winning ticket but you have NO money and this ticket is your only option to get money EVER. Furthermore someone else (called, say, X) has the task to take the ticket to the treasury and claim your money for it (which is yours of course). However, while going to the treasury X makes up his/her mind maybe saying "I have better things to do" or whatever. So instead X burns up your ticket. As in the first scenario, thus eliminating your ticket is morally the SAME as stealing your money (or even worse). Again, it is so because the winning ticket is INEVITABLY cashed in as money at the treasury. And it is especially serious since it was your only hope to get money EVER. Of course even if X does intend to go all the way, and cash in the ticket at the treasury, something unforeseen could happen, e.g. a big hurricane could rip out the ticket from X's hand and shred it to a million pieces. So one can say it's not a 100% sure that one can actually cash in the ticket. All that doesn't matter with respect to its INEVITABLE worth in case claiming at the treasury. And thus this uncertainty doesn't matter if X intentionally burns the ticket up. If X intentionally destroys it X is morally at least as responsible as if stealing the money. The only situation in which the action chosen by X does result in the loss of the ticket BUT X remains morally clean is if on the way to the treasury there is a road block (say a big fire on the way) with only two ways forward and NO OTHER path towards the treasury. The alternatives must be: 1. one path on which it is virtually CERTAIN that both X and the ticket will be destroyed; 2. another path which will leave X alive but will destroy the ticket in his/her hand. If X does still intend to go to the treasury but chooses the 2nd path then X is morally not responsible for loosing the ticket (and thus your money) because, again, X did intend to go forward, and loosing it, though was foreseen, was not intended.
   So now for those who don't see it yet let's explain how the analogy applies to pregnancy and abortion. The winning lottery ticket is the foetus; the money is the born baby; cashing in the ticket at the treasury is birth; 'X' stands for the mother; taking the ticket to the treasury is pregnancy; burning the ticket is abortion; and stealing the money is infanticide (killing the born baby). Importantly, to establish equivalence between abortion and burning the ticket NOTHING ELSE is required than the INEVITABILITY that links lottery ticket to money or foetus to born baby. That is, the lottery ticket INEVITABLY yields cash once claimed and a foetus INEVITABLY results in a human baby once born. There are NO ALTERNATIVES for the outcome!!!! Thus if burning the ticket is the same (or worse) as stealing the money then abortion is the SAME (or worse) as killing the born human baby.
   Observe that it doesn't matter here what one believes about the humanity or viability of the foetus at any given stage of pregnancy. It's OK if one thinks it's just a piece of gorilla dung one minute prior to delivery. It's irrelevant for the moral outcome. Consequently it also doesn't matter when during pregnancy abortion occurs just as burning up the lottery ticket at any point on the road is the same with regard to its ultimate outcome.
  It is also clear that on this moral outcome it has no bearing that the probability of reaching the treasury (i.e. actually giving birth) may be less than 100% due to outside circumstances! That is, such as a storm could destroy the ticket, a disease could kill the foetus resulting in spontaneous abortion but these events have NO BEARING on the moral outcome of intentionally burning up the ticket (aborting the pregnancy). The illustrated only situation with a morally righteous action resulting in the loss of the ticket (the road block situation) corresponds to the situation when the continuation of the pregnancy poses virtually CERTAIN death for both mother and foetus. And even then the ONLY morally right way out is to try to save the life of the mother WITHOUT intending to harm the foetus even though the saving action (perhaps foreseeably) results in ending its existence. Killing the foetus in order to save the mother, however, is the SAME as leaving the road to the treasury in face of the road block and thus giving up the task, i.e. it's still the same as stealing the money (killing a born baby).

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