The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

burning building: test tube babies v. 6 yr old girl - saving girl inconsistent w prolife message

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/31/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,261 times Debate No: 55827
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (1)




there is a burning building. you only are able to save a box of test tube babies with at least ten inside, or you can save a six year old girl. which is morally the right thing to do?

i would say save the girl.

i define prolife here. someone who is prolife at all points of pregnancy, where they think the laws should pretty much reflect that by mostly outlawing abortion..... should to be consistent save the test tubes.

how would it be consistent for them to save the girl?


I thank Pro for the opportunity to debate this topic. I look forward to an interesting debate.


First Argument

I believe this to be a straight forward argument. The argument put forward by Pro is that you have to do the greatest possible good otherwise you've been immoral.

If we look at the classic trolley problem where a runaway mine trolley is heading towards a group of 10 miners (to stay in keeping with the debate). Now you can divert the trolley to another line where there is one person. If you do nothing the 10 will die. If you divert the trolley one will die.

In this example both choices are actually moral. If you let the trolley kill the 10, you chose not to intervene and let events take their course. As both outcomes resulted in death, there is no obligation to save the 10 vs. the 1. Now it may seem callous, but it is not immoral to not intervene just as it is permissible to let someone die of natural causes. If you choose to intervene then it is still moral because while you do not intend the death of the single person you are saving a greater number of people by intervening.

Now this is similar except that you essentially have 2 carts an you only have time to divert one of them. A good deed cannot become a bad deed because a percieved greater deed could have been done. You have an obligation to save one of the two groups, which one you choose is an equivalent moral action.

Second Argument

If you are truly Pro-Life you further believe that In-Vitro Fertilization in also wrong. Catholic theology (which is the most Pro-Life theology) states that it is immoral to create life in this manner. They further believe that it is immoral to implant eggs fertilized from this process. Thus an accidental death in fire would provide a natural and ethical death to the frozen fertilized eggs in storage. The six year old girl would likely have a long fruitful life in front of her. Thus it could be argued that saving the 6 year old girl may actually be the more ethical of the two choices.


While this was a breif round (my apologies - time slipped away), I have shown two reasons why saving the little girl is consistent with the Pro-Life messge, thus refuting the argument.
Debate Round No. 1


i would not agree that not acting is a moral choice. in the trolly dilemma and otherwise. it's still a choice with alterantives that you could have taken that would have saved many lives.

i do not believe that catholic theology forbids implantation if it is only to save the conceived. if it's part of an overall scheme to do in vitro fertiliazation, then yes it's forbidden.

not taking catholic stuff as the end all be all, you still have the moral point that the eggs could have been fertilzied and saved. this is the greatest good, if you are prolife as defined.
also, you are still making a judgment call that one person saved for a lifetime, is worth ten saved for a short span. i think most would agree that the lifetime persons would be saved, but it doesn't necessarily force itself to that conclucsion. this is akin to people wanting to use our resources to save younger people in health care debates, and let the older ones die. i'm not saying it's right or wrong, but it's still a judgment call.

i htink the main point though, is that the eggs could and for the sake of argument would probably survive if implanted. thus, catholic stuff aside, if you are prolife, you have no choice but to go for the eggs.

if your only arguemnt is that implatation is immoral, you are for sure an extreme outlier for prolife folks. aside from you, then, everyone else should agree with what i'm sayng.



1. Catholicism on Embryos

While it has not been doctinally stated, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed serious moral reservations about implanting fertilized eggs in Dignitatis Personae. [1]

2. Misunderstandings

Pro seems to not fully understand that the Pro-Life position is one of respecting life from conception to natrual death. Thus one is not always obligated to prolong someone's life.

Additionally, Pro does not seem to appreciate the difference between doing good and avoiding evil. If I choose to do one morally good act instead of another equivalent morally good act I haven't done something evil. The person who saves 1 instead of 10 hasn't done anything wrong.

This is because Pro doesn't seem to appreciate the difference between justified and obligated. Is the person justified in doing A or B? Yes. Are they morally obligated to do B over A? No. That goes for the trolley problem as well. You can say that morally you are justified in diverting the trolley so that only one dies instead of 10. However, that does not mean that you are obligated to do so.

Have you given blood recently? If not are you guilty of the death of someone who might have lived if you had given blood? One is morally justified in giving blood. One is not morally obligated to do so.

3. 1 or 10

Now back to the specifics of this case:

• There is a fire.
• I know that I have time to save one of two parties.
• I have absolute surety that if I save one of the two my own life will not be in danger (this places an obligation on me to act)
• If I save either one I cannot make it to the other one in time to save them.

If we go back to the trolley question we can get clarification on this:

If I pull the switch 1 dies instead of 10, however I didn't want even the 1 to die and it wasn't his death that caused the 10 to live. - Morally permissible.

If I don't pull the switch and 10 die instead of the 1, I didn't want the 10 to die, and I did nothing to cause the 10 to die. I was under no obligation to pull the switch because my actions would result in the death of a person - even if unintentionally.

So in both cases I have made a moral decision, even if the outcomes are different.

Now in the case we are looking at, only indecision results in the maximum number of deaths. Thus any action that I take reduces the number of deaths. Thus any action that I take is morally licit as I do not cause the death of either the embryos or the little girl by choosing one over the otehr. I've always made a choice to save life.

Debate Round No. 2


while it is stated that implatation is immoral, it is referring to the idea of doing implation as an overall procedure to produce kids purposefully. i would suppose it wouldn't be immoral to the catholic church to implant them only to save them if they are already created.

i would argue that one is morally obgliated to give blood. i do so. i think others should too, at least enough time to ensure the supply is decently stocked as it usually is. so yes no acting is a choice. i still argue.

con doesnt really even address the morality of saving the embryos irregardless of what teh cahtolic church teaches. i assume he must be a catholic and won't accept other positions. but, most noncatholic christians are not against embryonic implantation. if this is morally permissible, and you think the embryos will die otherwise, you have an obligation to save the most amount of people.
i suppose we can refer to the trolly dilemma. not acting is an atrocious and i dare say vile act. you have an obligation to save the ten people. i'm sure God would be merciful to you for doing what you thought was right, but yuou are not right, if you dont save them. likewise, at least for them to be consistent, they would be obligated to save the testtubes. (playing devil's advocate as i do not have absolute beliefs regarding the personhood of the testtube fetuses)

con's wasn't much of an opponent cause he seems to be inherently against implanting zygotes or whatever. i may have to screen those types in the next debate. i only am looking to debate consistency of prolife folks, who could allow for implantation, but would choose to save the girl instead.



I wish to thank Pro for a lively debate. I always find her debate topics interesting and I am glad to have had the pleasure of this debate with her.

I also wish to apologize to Pro and the readers, as I accidentally hit submit instead of check spelling on the previous Round. This provided a somewhat incomplete argument in the previous round.


Pro seems to have an issue with Catholicism being used in this debate. I would venture to say that the Catholic Church is easily the most visible proponent of the Pro-life movement. With people in the Pro-Choice movement using slogans like, "keep your rosaries off my ovaries" it obvious that they recognize the Catholic Church as a primary opponent.

Thus, if I can show that Catholic teaching (which is consistent in Pro-Life philosophy and theology) can show that there is an inconsistency then I have shown that the decision to save the girl is consistent with the Pro-Life message. As such, I contend that the Catholic Church's serious moral reservations against implanting already fertilized eggs is valid in the context of this debate.

As previously noted, the trolley problem is about determining what is morally permissible, not what is morally obligatory. I had mentioned giving blood as example in my previous round because I had just returned from doing so at our local clinic. And while it is arguably a moral good (unless maybe your a Jehovah's Witness - different argument there), giving blood is not an explicit moral obligation, it is merely morally permissible with a relatively small sacrifice in order to achieve a substantial good.

As previously noted, if the person does not act everyone dies. Thus, either of the two proposed actions is a moral good. Now, one can argue that one action may be morally superior to the others, but that does not mean that, like giving blood, one is morally obligated to perform the greatest possible action.

Should the person save the girl, instead of the embryos, they have not committed a moral evil because they did not actually cause the death of anyone. They made a choice to save life when life was endangered. In stressful moments people have a variety of reasons for the choices they make. To make one of two morally permissible choices is not evil and is thus not inconsistent with the Pro-Life message.


I believe that I have clearly shown that one can be consistent in their Pro-Life stance and save the little girl instead of the frozen embryos. While there were other arguments based on circumstances that could have been made, I believe that the arguments that I did make stayed within the debate parameters that Pro was desiring.

I must admit that I'm slightly disappointed that Pro has viewed me as "not much of an opponent", as I believe that I'm one of the most Pro-Life debaters on this site. I tried not to use semantics and to debate this straight-on in the manner that Pro laid the debate out in the resolution and Round 1.

I once again thank Pro for an lively debate, and I thank all readers of this debate for their interest in this debate and hope that they take the time to vote and provide us feedback on our two stances.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Thanks for the debate dairygirl! I love many of your debate topics. Keep up the good work.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
I accounted for that in my argument.
Posted by Crescendo 7 years ago
It's several test tubes compared to one child.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Thanks to Sojourner for taking the time to vote.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Whoops! I hit submit accidentally,.. oh well it was close enough...
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Okie-dokie. I'll get an argument out tonight.
Posted by dairygirl4u2c 7 years ago
argue from the get go.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
Are you looking for counter-arguments in the first round, or acceptance only?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Sojourner 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct to Con for Pro's attack on him as, "Not much of an opponent" S&G to Con as Pro seemed unable to capitalize the first word in any sentence. Arguments to Con as he clearly put forth the notion that both choices are consistent with the pro-file position and that there is no moral obligation to save one set over the other. He further articulated the difference between justified and obligated. In the end, Pro was looking to debate the consistency of a pro-life world view. That is exactly what she got, and she didn't know how to respond.

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