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Person 1: Even a worm is more complex than a human embryo. Person 2 (our hero): True enough. Which would you say is more “complex”: a newborn infant or an adult African elephant?

Complexity Does Not Determine Worth

We chose an African elephant because African elephants are pretty “complex” animals. For example, they have more neurons than even adult humans. And yet, thankfully, most people agree that elephants don’t deserve more rights than infants. We’re not saying animals like African elephants are worthless. Animal abuse is wrong, and elephants should not be mistreated. We’re just saying animals don’t have the exact same moral status as humans. For example, it’s sometimes appropriate to test medical products on animals before humans.

“Complexity” isn’t what ultimately matters. Even among equally valuable adult humans, there’s some variation in “complexity”.

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Person 1: If I showed you human and rat embryos, you couldn’t even tell the difference. Person 2 (our hero): True, but only because the naked eye can’t see the important differences. Fortunately, our value doesn’t depend on our appearance.Person 1 (our hero): You and I equally deserve the right to life. So do all our friends. What do we have in common that makes us equal? Person 2: We all have brains. Person 1 (our hero): Hm. If that were the right explanation, mice would deserve the same right to life as us.Our hero: Racism, sexism, and homophobia are wrong because they devalue people based on superficial qualities. We’re all members of the human species, so we’re all equally valuable. Fetuses are members of the human species, too.Person 1: Why do you even care about the fetus? Person 2 (our hero): If the fetus is growing, it must be alive. If it has human parents, it must be human. And living humans, or human beings like you and me, are valuable, aren’t they?
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