Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Choices and Effects

Recently I wrote a post about my views on abortion. There were a number of comments with various views on it. But a discussion with a friend of mine about that post led to a question of how much an individual's choice would affect the society as a whole. He asked how can a parent be sure that the embryo that they are destroying cannot grow up to be one of the scientists that make breakthrough inventions? How can the parents know what will happen in future? In truth, you can never be sure of the future. That is what makes life interesting to live through. If we knew how things would turn out, there would be nothing to look forward to and we would be bored soon.But, how to decide if a path chosen by you would affect the society and by how much?

I am very pro-freedom. I feel that everyone should be allowed to choose their paths in life than being affected by others and the rules as long as it doesn't affect the society much. True, any choice taken by an individual will have rippling effects on the society. But this is true for ANY choice and not just the choice wanted by the individual. Allowing and denying a choice path to an individual depends on the severity of the rippling effects and time difference between the action and the results. So, if a person's choice is not severe not time-sensitive, why not let the person do it as they wish rather than forcing them to do it by rules?

For example, say I decide to buy a car. I have a choice of electric, non-electric and hybrid. Say I'm very conscious of the environment and the world and hence decide to go electric. However, though electric cars have lesser impact on the environment, they don't have a zero impact. Also, they cost more and I have to come up with more cash to cover it. That leads to my giving up some comforts till I get the money or if I can't wait till then, I have to find someone who can loan me money. That brings in another person and his/her views on the whole issue. Also come in the parameters of performance, usage possibilities, etc.

Say, I don't care much about the environment and want the maximum bang for the buck. Then I go in for the non-electric choice. This, as predicted, has a higher impact on the environment but hurts my pocket less and gives better performance. Third case is when I am trying to find a balance between caring for my pocket and the environment. But for it, I need to pay more money again.

None of these three choices that I have before me have a zero impact on the environment. So, any choice I take, I affect the environment, adversely or not. So, my choosing any of these choices finally doesn't make a big difference. If adding one more non-electric car would cause the world to disintegrate(hope that situation never arises), then my buying a non-electric car would have far severe effects than getting a hybrid car. Also, say buying an electric car would help me recuperate my costs in lesser time than buying a hybrid. Then an electric car would be more attractive.

So, I would say that every choice has both good and bad in it. All man can do is to choose the least-negatively-impacting and most-positively-impacting choice and move on with life. That is the only impact of man's intelligence in this whole system. That is where rational thought and wisdom come into picture. There is also where a person starts thinking of himself(remember, my electric car choice when I could get back money faster? I did it more because it helped me as an individual rather than the love for environment) and other forces like fear, greed, etc. come into picture. But even under the best of circumstances, one day this world would end, right? We would just be reducing the speed of destruction instead of accelerating it and giving Mother Earth a chance to recuperate from some of the damage caused by us. Do you think it is possible to stop Earth's destruction?


Arun said...

good post.

with all due probablities and randomness the child could equally turn into a terrorist or a pain to the society as much he can become a scientist.

but in the case you discussed earlier, its more stress on the parents than on the child, bcos the child has been living with whatever defects since birth. this sounds like a cruel statement but most ppl born with defects maynot be as unhappy as others think. in fact, i would say they are just about equally happy as other healthy children. only that thier expectations would be different(probably low), but happiness wise, i dont think so. its like being born to a bad parents leading miserable/poor lives. the kid already got used it. again it sounds like a cruel statement to make. on the other hand, its a different ballgame altogether for the parents. thier lives would be hit for thier rest of the life.

anyway, almost all choices we make is going to affect the society, from as simple as whether you decide to eat out or at home today. so i wouldnt worry too much abt it. yeah like you say, just do whatever you like without causing a pain to others.
however i feel abortion doesnt come into this picture as legalising it will affect other ppl's choices.
this is similar to legalising drugs or say walking naked on the road. i mean its your choice and you are aware of the dangers, right?
there has to be some regulation and freedom going in parallel and only rules can draw fixed lines to avoid any ambiguity or abuse. ofcourse different ppl would have different arguments on where to draw the line and will always piss somebody off. some countries will be conservative, some liberal so on. so they have to constantly keep revisiting the rules based on time and people in that country alone.

yeah its possible to stop earth's destruction(rather it can never be destroyed), i mean its just going to evolve into some other form. afterall earth is just subtance and energy.

alpine path said...

Arun, your comment about a kid born with defects and his/her parents is very true. I think every human being tries to find some way to be atleast minimally happy. Otherwise, living day in and day out would become a problem and a daunting task. What do everyone live for, if not happiness in one form or other?
But, abortion, drugs and walking naked, if done by the person after rational thought(he thinks about the risks and returns), should not be stopped just by the rules, right? Imagine if someone asks you to try opium just once and they'll give you $1 billion that you need for your kid's operation. I'm sure most people wouldn't mind giving it a shot even though using drugs is legally prohibited. Even though this is an extreme example, my point is that a person who has rational behavior should be free to take choices of his own as long as it doesn't hurt others and not be stopped by rules. For general public, rules would help. But as the society becomes more and more rational and responsible, lesser and lesser rules should be there.