Topic: Learning and the RU-486 Derivative Option

I heard a rumor and I don't know if its true. But it makes for an interesting starting point for a SKIL Dinner discussion. The rumor is that some derivative of the drug RU-486 has the capability of making a woman who just gave birth (that has a unique set of hormones active) permanently infertile. (Hormone injections, distribution limited by law, can briefly reverse infertility). Assume further that this derivative of RU-486 can be easily and cheaply administered by adding it to a water supply. In summary putting this drug in the water supply implements a one child per family program.

This is a discussion about how different thinking and learning processes affect the above choice in behavior and not a discussion about what you would do and why. The discussion is what kind of thinking process would find this implementation inappropriate. What kind of thinking process would find this implementation appropriate.

Thinking process not moral code is the focus of the dinner. We will assume that whatever moral code the decision maker uses to guide behavior it resulted from his or her thinking process. That is, the moral code of an individual is the conjoint result of all inputs weighted by the individual's thinking processes.

Consider some rudimentary examples. Assume that an individual would prefer not to take another human life. The culture's moral code suggests human sacrifices. It suggests capital punishment. It suggests killing is allowed in self defense. Killing is allowed in group defense. Killing is allowed in group sanctioned aggression. Even with each of these cultural inputs, the individual can still think through the issues and not perform killing behaviors. Or he or she can go along with the culture's dictates. There are deadly consequences either way.

OK back to the RU-486 drug in the water supply option. At first glance the act (preventing a person from having a second child) seems to be an unprovoked act of violence against her or him. However, if one's thinking is robust enough to show that having a second child will result in the death of a future person, then the act of having a second child could be thought of as an act of aggression to be confronted with an act to prevent it.

It is obvious that if a person was turned into a zombie and did not realize that his acts were hurtful, then it would be OK to restrain him or her against his or her will. Isn't the RU-486 proposal about the same thing. A person has the second child partly because the resulting death caused by the act of facilitating the life of a second child is absent from their view of consequences or within their view but undervalued.

In this reference, the appropriateness of the RU-486 derivative decision, depends on if the individual has adequate thinking processes to see and value the individuals who will be killed by the act of having a second child.

Rabbit island refocus ( Product of the the Feb 9th dinner)

1000 rabbits live on an island with no predators. The island is covered with grass which the rabbits eat. The rabbit population is growing and when it reaches 10,000 the community will eat the grass to the ground. The roots will be weakened and the rains will wash the soil into the surrounding sea. No more grass will grow leaving a rocky island unfit to support any rabbits.

Learning's role.

The rabbit's procreation behavior is controlled by genetic drives. To my knowledge rabbits do not learn from experience, transmission or inference. Now replace the rabbits with human beings whose procreation behavior can be changed by learning in these three domains.

First humans can learn that the population is growing from direct experience of crowding. They can calculate how fast it is growing if data is taken over time. They can even predict the size of the population at future points in time. They can calculate the carrying capacity of the food supply and recognize how many people can be fed continuously without interruption. They may have some experience with erosion and may be able to extrapolate the implication of over grazing. And finally they may be able to connect population growth to a catastrophic failure of life support before it happens. They can focus on technological fixes. They can even connect population growth to procreative behaviors. And maybe procreative behaviors to harm experienced by those who live in the future during those catastrophic events. If all this learning happens there is a chance that the injuries due in the future to human beings can influence procreation.

The focus of the discussion is the development in cognition that supports each link in this learning chain. Since I suggest that this learning chain never gets completed by most of us, we are not going to get, or let ourselves be, sterilized based on advise of other human beings. Each of us must come to an understanding, that not getting sterilized is harmful to things that we have learned to give value.

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