[extropy-chat] frozen in fire

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Sat Jan 20 22:57:57 UTC 2007

Damien Broderick wrote:
> At 10:56 PM 1/20/2007 +0100, Anders wrote:
>>Ah, kids are such ethical problems! Trolleys
>>running down branching tracks, brains in jars and frozen embryos in
>>burning IVF labs are so much more manageable!
> That last one caught my attention. Is this a current ethicsbiz
> gedanken? How many frozen embryos would you need to "save" at the
> cost of your own life? Are you morally obliged to perish in the fire
> if you can throw out (to safety) no more than one poor shivering
> blastocyst, which probably won't implant successfully anyway given
> current tech? If not, how many do you need to save? I like this reductio.

It is a popular gedanken among our gang of bioliberal thinkers. For
obvious reasons it is not popular among the defenders of stem cell rights
and similar things. The usual statement is something along the lines of
"If the clinic is burning, should you save a dewar with a few hundred
frozen fertilized embryos or a child?" A bunch of variants appear in
Matthew Liao's latest paper, where the child might also be irrevocably
dying due to smoke poisoning, the child might be yours, or one of the
embryos might be your own last chance of having a child.

I really think the Gedankenclinic should have invested in a better
sprinkler system!

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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