The Instigator
curious18
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
XimenBao
Con (against)
Winning
13 Points

Human life should be preserved as much as possible

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
XimenBao
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/6/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,758 times Debate No: 11075
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (14)
Votes (3)

 

curious18

Pro

Yay, my first debate. So, I believe that human life should always be preserved unless that preservation of an individual is going to cost more human lives (this must be proven, not simply believed).
XimenBao

Con

I welcome Pro to DDO and hope she has an enjoyable first debate.

I do not raise objections to the majority of Pro's OP, I agree that human life should always be preserved unless that preservation of an individual is going to cost more human lives.

The point of disagreement is whether that utilitarian practice should be employed at the point of belief or the point of proof.

Believing is done in measures of degrees and even mathematics, the field usually held as the bastion of proof, cannot always prove it's propositions[1]. We can never know with absolute certainty what results preserving life will result in. As that knowledge is required by Pro for her decision criteria, we can never realize the goals set forward of maximizing the preservation of life.

In order to maximize the preservation of human life, the goal of both Pro and myself, Pro's judgment criterion of proof must be discarded in favor of an appropriate level of belief.

[1]http://www.google.com...
Debate Round No. 1
curious18

Pro

Obviously, if dealing in legal matters, such as murder and whether or not to use the death penalty, the legal definition of a word should be used. This would be used in cases like murder or in trying war criminals, since they also go before a judge. The legal definition of the word Proof is, "The establishment of a fact by the use of evidence..." (1)

This also means that outside of a court of law that a different definition could be used. In those, outside of a court of law, cases, I agree with CON that proof would require almost absolute knowledge of a situation which cannot be achieved, unless one is right there at the incident. This would imply, under my belief, that taking matters into your own hands and killing someone yourself, is practically never okay. Really, the only time would be in the case where you are at a place where someone is currently in the process of killing, like at a school shooting or something.

If we simply say that you only need "reasonable belief" as an individual, that leaves open a loophole for vigilante justice.

(1) http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com...
XimenBao

Con

My opponent has said that different definitions of "proof" should be used based on whether the context is inside or outside a courtroom. Inside the courtroom, Pro accepts the definition of ""The establishment of a fact by the use of evidence." Outside the courtroom, Pro has accepted the definition of proof as requiring "almost absolute knowledge of a situation."

This distinction is acceptable to me and I will continue the argument using these definitions. Specifically, I will argue that my 'reasonable belief' standard still has superior solvency compared to Pro's proof standard, even with the revised definitions.

To do so I will first cede the courtroom debate, as it is not relevant to my argument. Now we have moved to discussion of cases outside the courtroom.

Before progressing further, I would remind the voters that the voting issue is which standard is more likely to reach the goal of preserving the most human lives. This is the sole criteria for voting, as I have agreed with Pro that "Life should ALWAYS be preserved UNLESS that preservation of an individual is going to cost more human lives." The converse of this proposition is that lives should not be preserved if that preservation will cost more human lives. In the context Pro has placed this in, death penalty cases and "killing someone yourself", "lives should not be preserved" means not only letting individuals die, but taking an active role in those deaths.

I will use three approaches to make my argument: lifeboat ethics, domestic abuse cases, and the invasion of Poland.

Lifeboat ethics:

Lifeboat ethics was a term coined by Garrett Hardin in an article discussing global carrying capacity [1], but the metaphor will serve in this argument as well.

Imagine that a ship has sunk, and that a single lifeboat was launched prior to the sinking. In this lifeboat are 50 people. They have no information about when (or if) rescue will arrive. There is room for 10 more people in the lifeboat, but taking more will exceed the safety margins of the boat design and incur an unquantifiable risk of swamping.

Those in the lifeboat now have to make a choice. How many, if any, swimmers should they take on board? Under Pro's standard requiring "almost absolute knowledge", the lifeboat must be filled with as many swimmers as possible before they are almost absolutely sure that one more would result in the boat sinking.

The problem is obvious, the boat in this situation is much more likely to sink and kill everyone than in a scenario where ten or less swimmers were taken on board. Under the reasonable belief standard, the problem is avoided. It is reasonable to believe that taking on swimmers beyond the safety margins of the lifeboat would kill everyone, even lacking almost absolute knowledge of the fact. This means that it is more likely that they would survive and maximize the preservation of human life, meaning that the reasonable belief standard is superior in achieving that goal.

Domestic abuse:

If you are a woman with a child whose husband displays all the traits of a spouse killer [2], there is no way to reach a standard of almost absolute knowledge that he will try to kill you. Even though you know that if you leave him that is the time he is most likely to kill you [3], even though you know there is a trend towards murder-suicides in such cases which include the children [4], even though you know that if you make it out "half of the homicides of female spouses and partners were committed by men after separation from batterers[5]", you still can't approach absolute knowledge.

In fact, the chances are, you've been abused before. Are you really going to be able to tell that THIS time the beating will end with you dead, or will you survive to get hauled to the ER again? Is he going to take it out on your kid when he's done with you? Approaching absolute knowledge is impossible here, but it's certainly possible to develop a reasonable belief that your life and the life of your child is in danger and that killing your abuser would preserve your two lives at the cost of his one.

As a standard, almost absolute knowledge doesn't preserve the mother and child, but reasonable belief does.

Poland:

Consider the history of the German invasion of Poland in 1939 [6]. Hitler's strategy was to make peace with Britain and France after capturing Poland. This failed as Britain was willing to declare war and France didn't have to act alone. However, if were are to look at this from the standpoint of our competing standards, Britain and France could only have done so under a reasonable belief standard, not a almost absolute knowledge standard. While Hitler's history of lies and aggression were strong evidence that his territorial expansion would continue until stopped and that he presented a threat to millions of human lives, it did not approach the standard of absolute knowledge that he posed such a threat. Only a reasonable belief was justified. In fact, if England and France had acted on such a reasonable belief after Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia, it is possible that worst parts of WWII could have been avoided, preserving many more millions of lives.

Summation:

From the lifeboat example we see that an absolute knowledge standard can cause risk to rise and cause a threat to life preservation.

From the domestic abuse argument we see that sometimes we have to trust to reasonable beliefs of individuals as almost absolute knowledge can't respond to threats as a reasonable standard can.

From the Poland argument we see that responding to a reasonable belief without waiting to approach absolute knowledge can save millions of lives, clearly showing that this is the best standard for acting to preserve life.

[1]http://www.garretthardinsociety.org...
[2]http://abcnews.go.com...
[3]http://emedicine.medscape.com...
[4]http://d.yimg.com...
[5]http://www.aardvarc.org...
[6]http://www.bbc.co.uk...
Debate Round No. 2
curious18

Pro

I will go ahead and show how each example is either, not a part of reality or actually goes with my arguement better.

"Imagine that a ship has sunk, and that a single lifeboat was launched prior to the sinking. In this lifeboat are 50 people. They have no information about when (or if) rescue will arrive. There is room for 10 more people in the lifeboat, but taking more will exceed the safety margins of the boat design and incur an unquantifiable risk of swamping."

The laws of physics that apply in this situation are buoyancy and area. The life boat is not limited to 50 people by the laws of nature. It has a limit to how many pounds of weight it can hold, buoyancy [1]. And how many square feet of people it can hold, area. CON has said that there is room for 10 more people, so we can assume that there area for the people. And a single individual can look at the water line on the side of the boat to see if the boat can hold more weight. If the side of the boat is only an inch above the water, one would KNOW that the boat cannot hold more weight. If the side of the boat is a foot or two above the water, one would KNOW that the boat could hold some more weight and allow more people in.

"If you are a woman with a child whose husband displays all the traits of a spouse killer, there is no way to reach a standard of almost absolute knowledge that he will try to kill you. Even though you know that if you leave him that is the time he is most likely to kill you, even though you know there is a trend towards murder-suicides in such cases which include the children, even though you know that if you make it out "half of the homicides of female spouses and partners were committed by men after separation from batterers", you still can't approach absolute knowledge."

Your two options in these cases are not "stay and die" or "kill your husband." Infact, just about every source on what to do about domestic violence says to leave to a place where they can't get you and file charges and get a restraining order (1)(2). You can even get a new social security number to help protect yourself (3). That being said, that safest thing to do is to leave. If you choose to defend yourself, your only legal protection is if you kill in self defense during an actual attack, which poses more risks as in the heat of the moment, he may end up getting the gun. If you kill him 4 days after he hits you, then you can very likely go to jail.

"Consider the history of the German invasion of Poland in 1939 [6]. Hitler's strategy was to make peace with Britain and France after capturing Poland. This failed as Britain was willing to declare war and France didn't have to act alone. However, if were are to look at this from the standpoint of our competing standards, Britain and France could only have done so under a reasonable belief standard, not a almost absolute knowledge standard."

In war, the number of lives that could be lost can never be truely measured. How many lives would be lost if the Allies didn't enter the war could not be known, and how many lives would be lost if the Allies did enter the war could not be known. However, what could be done is to look at two options, go to war and not go to war. And try to find the cost of lives. If option A is go to war, and we know that it will cost X +/- A lives, and option B is don't go to war, and we know that it will cost Y +/- B lives. We can then choose the option that best preserves human life. So for example if going to war would cost 100,000 - 5,000,000 lives, and not going would cost 10,000,000 - 20,000,000, then we know that going will save more then not going, even if we don't know the exact numbers.

But these would all be done before going and so they can never be accurate. So rather then applying this to the entire war effort, it should be applied to individual cases within the war, like should we try to take this town? Or should we bomb this factory? Or should we slow down our push to allow troops to rest and get resupplied? And even then, we don't know how many troops are going to fall to take a town, but we can still apply the weighing 2 options so that we can KNOW which option WILL cost more human lives.

(1) http://www.soundvision.com...
(2) http://lesbianlife.about.com...
(3) http://www.socialsecurity.gov...
XimenBao

Con

In Round three Pro has addressed the details of each of my examples, but not the point each was making. However, even to the extent they were addressed, they were not truly challenged. Key details were changed or omitted which caused the efforts at refutation to fail. This round will consist of addressing each of these attempts in some depth and affirming the ways in which my arguments demonstrate a reasonable belief standard to be superior to an absolute knowledge standard in matters of ending life to preserve greater amounts of human life.

Lifeboat argument.

The point of this hypothetical scenario is to show that relying on an absolute knowledge standard can lead to loss of life rather than the preservation of life. This happens when you act to preserve life in the short term by increasing a greater future risk to life. When the increments of that risk increase are unknown or unknowable, the absolute knowledge standard means that you must preserve life in the short term until any further increase is certain to cause great loss of life. By stopping at that point, of moving from great likelihood to certainty, you have still created a situation where there is a great likelihood that your actions will cause the greater loss of life.

This principle was illustrated in the lifeboat example. If you are not absolutely sure that pulling another swimmer into the boat will lead to everyone's death, you must do it. However, before you reach that point, you will have overloaded the boat to the point that the likelihood of it swamping and ending everyone's life has become very likely.

Pro's response to this is to deny that the risk increase increment is unknown, and that it is a simple matter of physics to determine whether pulling another person into the boat is safe or not.

This approach does not work for the following three reasons:

1. The proposed ability to analyze risk is unrealistic in this scenario. Lifeboats are not considered safe when loaded with ("allowed a capacity" of) a number of people beyond which they where tested for [1]. This is because safety considerations go beyond weight displacement affecting how low in the water the boat rides, and includes structural integrity, balance, and ability to handle rough weather. Including more people than the safety guidelines allow would "risk disaster" [2] if a storm came up. Even without a storm, an overcrowded small boat of Haitian refugees had to be rescued when their overcrowded boat began to teeter on the verge of overturning before being rescued by a passing coast guard vessel [3]. Please note that there is a picture on the accompanying link that shows more than a foot of the hull of the endangered vessel was above water, emphasizing that Pro's safety analysis was incomplete.

I find it insufficiently supported that the members of our hypothetical lifeboat would be able to weigh all the relevant factors and come up with an exact analysis of incremental risk per swimmer picked up so that they could reach near-absolute knowledge of acceptable risk. Since the only objection Pro raised is that the lifeboat users would be capable of such a feat of analysis, my argument stands. A reasonable belief standard allows for the preservation of life of the members of the lifeboat crew, while the absolute knowledge standard would force them to overburden their craft until disaster was imminent, imperiling both their own lives and those they attempted to save.

2. Pro's argument is implicitly self-defeating. By creating clearcut situations where water is inches from the top of the boat and situations where water is a foot from the top of the boat, Pro implicitly accepts that there is a grey area in between those water levels where the risk cannot be accurately assessed. While I disagree as to where even those brightlines, should be, the acceptable of the grey area is all that is needed to defend my argument.

3. Pro does not address the underlying principle summed up at the end of last round and expressed in more detail here. While she still has the opportunity to do so, given that it is only now being fully fleshed out, she will need to for her objections to move beyond nitpicking the hypothetical.

Domestic Abuse:

The domestic abuse scenario involved a scenario where the abuser was attacking a woman with a capacity to defend herself by killing him. The majority of Pro's response did not address this scenario. Only one line did: "If you choose to defend yourself, your only legal protection is if you kill in self defense during an actual attack, which poses more risks as in the heat of the moment, he may end up getting the gun."

This is unsourced, does not allow for the fact that their are other means of self-defense than firearms, and does not allow for a situation where a woman would be able to apply lethal self-defense successfully.

It also does not address the underlying point that there are situations that absolute knowledge is a standard often unobtainable, at least within a relevant time frame, and that immediate threats require an individual to use the reasonable belief standard.

I also note that Pro is introducing extraneous impacts that are irrelevant to the debate. Legal consequences such as jail time are irrelevant as the only criteria we are using is whether life preservation is maximized.

Poland:

The point is to look at large scale application of the standard, which emphasizes the point made in the domestic abuse example about immediacy and further develops the idea that working with the best reasoning and information available is better than striving for knowledge we cannot obtain.

Pro uses a similar approach to this example as in the lifeboat example. She suggests that we can somehow determine how many lives would be lost by going to war versus not going to war, within a margin of error that still allows accuracy. This assertion is unsupported and should be dismissed.

Pro also makes an unsupported assertion that we should only apply the calculus to individual actions within the war and an unsupported assertion that we can be sure of which of those smaller actions will preserve the most life. The insufficiency of the argumentation is shown most clearly when Pro admits that "even then, we don't know how many troops are going to fall to take a town." If you don't know how many people will die during a given action, then it's impossible to come close to absolute knowledge about if that unknown number is greater or less than a second, equally unknown number.

My point stands. Hitler was poised to invade Poland. If Britain and France had used a reasonable belief standard, they could have struck earlier and prevented the German blitzkrieg from gaining momentum, ending the war sooner and saving more lives. This was a reasonable belief at the time. Churchill saw this and promoted it, knowing that ceding Czechoslovakia was only giving Hitler time, confidence, and domestic support [4]. If they had used an absolute knowledge standard, they might never have acted.

There is also the issue of the Holocaust. The American and British governments had enough information to know that Birkenau and Auschwitz were death camps. Had they acted under a reasonable belief standard, they could have bombed the rail lines leading to the camps and disrupted their operations, saving millions of lives [5,6]. However, they information they had was not "complete, nor wholly accurate [7]" meaning that they could not have acted were they to to operate under an absolute knowledge standard.

Summary:
I do not believe that Pro has substantially addressed the relevant issues raised in my arguments nor expanded at all on the virtues of her own standard. At this time the balance of argumentation favors reasonable belief over absolute knowledge as a standard for maximizing the preservation of life.

Cites in Comments
Debate Round No. 3
curious18

Pro

curious18 forfeited this round.
XimenBao

Con

My opponent has forfeited her round. I hope she enjoyed the time she was able to spend on the debate and wish her the best of luck in her future debates.

Please extend all my previous arguments.

Per the guidelines on this website, a forfeit is a valid voting consideration: "Forfeiting a round destroys your credibility and makes it less likely that voters will vote for you.[1]"

[1] http://www.debate.org......
Debate Round No. 4
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by curious18 7 years ago
curious18
Sorry about missing the last round, I have a hard time getting online during weekdays. Just want to let you know it wasn't an intentional skipout.
Posted by XimenBao 7 years ago
XimenBao
I'm sure there are several :)

And probably a few counters to those as well.
Posted by Ore_Ele 7 years ago
Ore_Ele
I know at least 1 argument that shots this down, but I won't say it, for sake of the debate.
Posted by XimenBao 7 years ago
XimenBao
Well, you may have a point, but it ended up not mattering.
Posted by Kinesis 7 years ago
Kinesis
Yes, but if what the instigator presented can be interpreted in a number of ways, then their opponent should use the definition that most naturally represents what the instigator is trying to say. Otherwise, we get stupid debates where nothing of interest is said because both debaters are debating different resolutions.
Posted by XimenBao 7 years ago
XimenBao
Debates are supposed to be about what is said, not what the debater may have meant to have said.

"Semantics" handwaving is just that.
Posted by Kinesis 7 years ago
Kinesis
There are a large variety of ways to negate a resolution, curious. I would just advise you to state what you really meant by 'proof' in the first round, then hopefully Con will cede the definition and you can start debating for real. If not, then the debate will devolve into semantics.
Posted by curious18 7 years ago
curious18
What happened, somebody took the debate, then didn't do anything with it. shouldn't it be a forfeited round instead?
Posted by Ore_Ele 7 years ago
Ore_Ele
I'd debate, though I mostly agree with her. Though, if no one takes it by tomorrow, I will.
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Vote Placed by Ore_Ele 7 years ago
Ore_Ele
curious18XimenBaoTied
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Vote Placed by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
curious18XimenBaoTied
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Vote Placed by XimenBao 7 years ago
XimenBao
curious18XimenBaoTied
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