If you are in favor of abortion, then would you eat a fetus?

If you are in favor of abortion, then would you eat a fetus?

There are thorny issues that do not have a single answer. In which we will hardly reach a consensus (not an agreement for coexistence). In which arbitrary lines are established and not unambiguous truths . In which the moral intuition is so powerful that not only reason can be alluded to.

Abortion is one of those issues . For those who are in favor, the pros and cons are balanced; or perhaps it is established that there is a line in which we can consider a conglomerate of cells a person (for example, a pro-abortionist is not in favor of killing children, only fetuses). For those who are against it, however, moral intuition weighs more: there are untouchable issues, even if they do not respond to methodical reasoning.

Foundation of Holiness

We all have moral intuitions . We consider that there are things that are right or wrong regardless of whether they are rational, practical or explainable. For example, if we see a nurse tenderly caressing a patient in a coma while doing her work, we will intuitively consider that this nurse is good at her profession, she implies, is morally trustworthy. And we will maintain that even if we know for sure that the patient is not feeling anything, that is: it does not matter if the nurse caresses him or not to carry out his work correctly. And yet … we like the nurse to behave this way.

This is just a borderline example to elucidate how our moral intuitions work . An HBO series, The Terror , in fact reveals the two moral positions that can be taken when faced with a problem: the ideal or the consequentialist. In the series, we see how a group of people must walk hundreds of kilometers of barren landscape with hardly any provisions. The ideal considers that there are untouchable moral values, even if they carry a problem: we must carry the wounded or sick even if that means that the march slows down and, in the end, everyone dies. The consequentialist believes that one must survive at all costs and does not hesitate to leave the injured or sick behind (or even agree to eat their bodies) in order to achieve the maximum good for the maximum number of people.

The ideal is likely to end up dead, as will all those who follow it. The consequentialist will surely end up alive, and also a part of those who were not injured or sick. What world do we prefer? There is no correct answer. Depending on our answer, we will tend to have more developed moral intuitions in one way or another. Suffice it to say that the protagonist of The Terror is the ideal, and the consequentialist is the villain. The protagonist simply affirms at one point in the series that he prefers to die being human than survive being inhuman.

That is, for idealists the common good (obtained from a rational calculation) is not the most important thing, but the values ​​that sustain their coexistence with others (obtained from moral intuitions).

These moral insights that build untouchable values, removed from deep rational scrutiny, have been designated by New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt , author of The Mind of the Just , as the "foundation of Holiness."

Foundation of Holiness

According to Haidt, the foundation of Holiness allows us to develop the psychology of the sacred, in the sense that we give important values ​​to things that objectively do not have them:

Why do people so naturally treat objects (flags, crosses), places (Mecca, a battlefield related to the birth of their nation), people (saints, heroes) and principles (freedom, brotherhood, equality) as if they had an infinite value?

According to Haidt, this happens because of moral intuitions based on the foundation of Holiness . The psychology of the sacred promotes that if someone desecrates one of the sacred pillars that sustains the community, the reaction is emotional, collective and punitive.

Also the foundation of Holiness inclines us to consider the human body something more than a piece of meat or an object, and that a human life is extraordinarily valuable, regardless of who it is, and even if it is only one. This happens regardless of whether we believe in God or not : we all tend, to a greater or lesser extent, to consider that some things, actions and people are noble, pure and high, and others are dirty and profane and produce moral disgust.

What is certain is that conservative people, especially religious conservatives, tend to speak more about the Sanctity of life foundation. They tend to see a body more as something to be preserved and not just a machine to be optimized or something that we can dispose of at our discretion for our fun.

This does not mean that conservatives are better people (in fact, there are more believers in prisons than atheists, percentage-wise). It just means that they have a different worldview. That they feel things differently. That they reject aspects that others consider perfectly wise.

To consider that the human body is something more than a piece of meat is an illusion, it is not reality, because all of us are pieces of meat, groups of cells, with as much value per se as a table or a tree. That we consider the human being something special or different (and not an octopus or a bacterium) is only a consensus based largely on the foundation of Holiness .

Some, however, have this foundation more present than others. Others degrade it so that their other ideas are not contradictory with their political ideology, the fashion or philosophical trend they have adopted, their social reputation or any other factor that constitutes our ideological pack, that is, the image that we build of ourselves to live in community, and also to look in the mirror without feeling horror.

That is, someone who believes in the soul, for example, finds it less difficult to consider a human body as something special; someone who doesn’t believe in it has to do more cognitive contortions to reach the same conclusion. The soul probably doesn’t exist (there is no scientific proof for it), but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that believing in something intangible can more easily come to assume other adjacent ideas, also intangible, and vice versa.

Most controversies on bioethical issues are based on the degree of foundation of Holiness that we harbor, because we all have it to some extent: that is why those who are in favor of abortion will probably prefer not to see too many details of the process, or they would not admit to eating a grilled fetus, despite the promise that this meat is highly nutritious and does not constitute a single person (yet).

Our moral intuitions are arbitrarily shaped by the cultural interactions in which we must thrive. Some are not more valuable than the others in absolute values . There is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on how far we want to go in our analysis. Everything is a mixture of reason, scientific data, intuitions and coexistence. It is not a culture war between believers and atheists, between conservatives and religious. It’s just a natural tension between those who consider the last Star Wars movie a good movie and those who consider it not at all. A good tension so that we never take anything for granted and can live intellectually galvanized.