the pures

by rachel yong

Deliberation #1561


PREMISE: What has been taught, has, as a matter of course, been that the realization of the extinction of an animal species demonstrates that a human action has been taken that is an objective moral Wrong.

POINT OF ABOLISHMENT: The treatment of extinction as a moral matter

ARGUMENT: Extinction is a fact of nature and not a matter of morality.

Let us begin with the base case of an extremely common species – the ant – and consider the following. There are NA (Alive) number of ants still in existence in the world. One ant from this population crosses your path. Unbeknownst to you, there is a rock hanging over the ant's path that will surely crush the ant if it falls. Let's assume you observe this situation at TO (Observation). The period of time in which you have to consider your course of action, or Time of Morality TM, is TD – TO where TD represents Time of Death. In this window of time, it is in your power to save the ant’s life by removing the rock, thereby, theoretically, extending the existence of the entire ant species.

Here are the situations in which we argue that any action taken within TM cannot rationally be considered a moral Wrong:

  1. A) If you do not observe the rock
  2. B) If removing the rock would risk death to one’s self
  3. C) If TM is too short a time for you to remove the rock

CASE A) You do not observe the rock.

As established in Deliberation #62, for an act or decision to be considered a question of Morality, the actor must be cognizant of the factors making the situation a moral one.

By that definition, if the actor in this situation is not even aware that a rock is about to fall on the ant and kill it, it is not a question of morality. Likewise, we can extend this metaphor to the extinction of the ant species.

Let us reduce NALIVE by 1, and each time re-imagine this situation, until NALIVE = 1. Though there is now only one ant left in the world, it still cannot be said that you are now an immoral human for choosing NOT to save the ant's life. There are two reasons for this:

  • Your limited frame of reference does not permit you to know that there is only one ant left in the world.
  • There is no logical value for NALIVE at which your behavior can switch from a moral Indifference to a moral Wrong.

CASE B) Removing the rock would risk death to one’s self

As established in Deliberation #1271, there is no moral order of animal species, humans included. All human lives, and thusly, species, are considered equal.

As such, if removing the rock would risk death to one’s self, it would be then risking the extinction of one’s own species, which would then also invoke the question of morality.

CASE C) TM is too short a time for you to remove the rock

Now let’s consider what it means for TM to be ‘too short a time’ to remove the rock. For your decision within TM to be considered a moral decision, TM must be greater than 0.

As we see below, for TM to be greater than 0, (TD – TO) must be greater than TA (Action), meaning you must have enough time between observation and the ant's impending death to take the action and remove the rock.

TM = (TD – TO) – TA

To be generous, let’s assume TA = 0. Meaning, as soon as you decide to take the action, the action is instantaneous. You should see, however, that even in this case, there is still an element out of your control, TO. If TO = TD -.0001 of a second, is that considered enough time to make a decision? Let alone a moral one? As you increase TO by fractions of a second, you can see that it is impossible to define a TM greater than 0 at which you can pinpoint when TM becomes a moral decision. Thus, it is not only the case that if TM = 0, your decision is clearly not a moral reflection, but it is impossible to prove a TM at which it does become a moral reflection.

Thus CASE C is in fact the only case needed to prove that there is no TM at which your decision made within TM can be proven to be a moral one.

LASTLY Contrast the above Cases in which you fail to prevent the death of the ant to a case in which you actually attempt to EXTEND the life of an ant crossing your path, by perhaps securing it in an environment with ample food and mating opportunities. Interference, as acknowledged in Deliberation #1277, requires consent, and as an animal is not able to provide consent, becomes a moral Indifference.

DEFENSE: Extinction is not a fact of nature, it is a result of human interference. Matters of morality are indicated by the uni-directionality of consequence, and extinction is uni-directional.

As established in Deliberation #979, matters of morality are indicated by the uni-directionality of consequence.

  • Consider the situation where a parent asks you a question. It is not a tenable option not to respond. However you respond, it cannot be undone. This is where truth and lie telling is defined. Speaking the truth is a moral matter, and it is a moral Right.
  • Consider your presence among other humans. If you walk from right to left past a person, you face no consequence by walking back left to right past them again. Walking among other humans is NOT a moral matter.
  • Consider if you engage in an act of violence against another being, that act cannot be retrieved. Violent acts against other beings ARE matters of morality.

Extinction, is of uni-directional consequence. It is, like other matters of morality, a state that cannot be reversed, regardless of whether it is a moral Right or moral Wrong.


The ARGUMENT put forward is not sufficient to support the POINT OF ABOLISHMENT. The DEFENSE is sufficient: Extinction should continue to be treated as a matter of morality.


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