Monday, January 5, 2009

New Ways of Thinking: What Is The Value Of A Human Life?

“Life is cheap!” This metaphorical expression is a colloquialism meaning an apparent disregard for human life; people's lives have little value so if they die it is not important. This perception is supported by examples set by the state in their unreserved willingness to go to war, to inflict capital punishment, in other examples set like Katrina, and in our attitude and complete disregard for others who we consider to be economically, socially, or racially lower-ranking than us.

“How do you value your life? Would you put a higher price on the guy next door or the guy halfway across the world? Who would be the person you’d save from the burning building? As a nation what countries are we chosing [choosing] to rescue from the burning building? Have 9/11, The Tsunami, Katrina, the ongoing carnage in Iraq and Darfur changed the way you value life– yours or anyone else’s?” The Value of a Life,, with Christopher Lydon

‘What is a life worth?’ is an age-old question but it is one that is answered every day, in subtle ways; from the headlines in the New York Times to the obits in the back …”

We most often place a monetary value on life. What is the economic value of life’s current and future personal consumption in goods and services; what is the dollar value placed on human life based on one’s probability of longevity or value of income loss due to a death in a family? Sometimes we ask: what is the most cost-effective way to die, or to kill (except in war where it never seems to cost too much)?

Is a human life only worth the sum of material cost that it would take to make life? According to Arthur Porges, in 1985, it is “$1.98; that is the value of all the chemicals in the human body.”

So, does human life have value? To answer that question one needs to understand the meaning of life -- Its essence.

To further this discussion, my definition of God – what my perception is when I use that symbol -- is important.

God is the internal and external stuff of energy and force that makes everything and anything possible. God can only be described in human terms because all things are determined in the particular entity, the particular dimension in which humans have come into being.

When the word God is referred to in this writing, it should not be taken in any religious sense or perception of that word. God is the energy, force, effect, or a manifestation or an aspect beyond which we do not have current knowledge, but influences all life beyond that which is known.

The essence of human life lies in its most important feature: the reverence for a single, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, transcendent God. The God I speak of is the stuff that we do not have the knowledge to explain – another reality. It is the cause of all that is existential and brought into being, governs it, and is responsible for it in the dimension of existence that we symbolically refer to as human: that god is you as an individual and is us collectively.

Life does have a purpose: our evolution. That evolution is not only biological, but it is collective human experience leading to greater knowledge gained in this dimension utilized in preparing for the world to come, and to lead life into its future. Its purpose is directed toward good, moral, and ethical ways. If the elementary meaning of evolution includes best practices for survival of the species, then evil, immoral or unethical ways are not supported.

We are the reason for existence. It is obvious to me that without the entity of human life there would be no existence. If all of the life on earth were to become extinct, would what we symbolically call the universe, any God, or any religious text exist – Torah, Koran, or Bible; would there be a thing called religion; would 2 + 2 = 4; would there be material things; would there be an economy? Would anything that one could identify exist? The answer is a very affirmative, NO!

Would a tree fall in the Amazon make a noise if a sentient form of life was not there to hear it; would it have fallen; would anything exist if a life of this dimension was not there to perceive or interpret it and give meaning? The answer, again, is NO!

This writing would not exist if I did not cause it to happen.

When human life is taken before its time, or any life is taken before its time, it deprives our evolution from whatever that life’s experiences might contribute to our advancement of knowledge, to society, or our worth to mankind. When we sanction the taking of life, we are saying its okay to kill under certain circumstances (of course, to kill in the protection of ones own life, when no other option is available, is always an acceptable circumstance). We are setting an unacceptable example for others.

When a one human takes the life of another, not only in that act do we deprive the world of any micro or macro contributions she/he might have made to humankind, but we take from that human the two things that all people, and of which especially Americans hold dear: a theft of his\her property, and of his\her very freedom.

The meaning of life lies in attaining the highest form of knowledge and providing the ways and means, techniques, and forums for advancing it. We need to teach the value of life, and learn from life -- we need to learn from each other. That’s not possible if we continue to kill each other, and continue to foremostly perceive value only in dollars and cents.

World Peace will not be possible until all people understand that all life has meaningful intrinsic human value, by which I mean intrinsic value beyond material and economic value in-and-of itself.