Social Question

dionysus's avatar

Do you believe that all people are equal?

Asked by dionysus (21points) March 25th, 2011

I’m not talking about “equality of rights” here. What I am talking about is whether or not you believe all people are of equal value, worthiness of life, and ability.

I’ve noticed that our society places a great deal of emphasis on the idea that “all are created equal”, but is this so?

Certainly there are people with a greater intellectual aptitude than others, there are also stronger and more physically fit individuals. There are men and women with a strength of will, moral fortitude, and capacity for benevolence and progress, self-discipline and creativity, that far surpasses the more common people. These people constantly perservere through difficult times, forge new paths and define greatness.

In contrast, there are people who live rather mediocre and mundane lives. Who never challenge themselves or achieve anything in their lives. They simply live, day in and day out, the common life. Now I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong in that, but it does cause one to posit that there is perhaps a gradation of rank in human culture.

Furthermore, this idea becomes even more apparent when you look at the lowest, most base members of our society; people such as rapist, murderers, and drug addicts.

So do you think all people are equal? Of equal worth and value to the human species?

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30 Answers

harple's avatar

Ooh, have you read Brave New World? (Aldous Huxley)... If not, you’d find it very interesting…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

People are not equal in all things. That’s not what people mean by saying ‘all are equal’. When people say ‘all are equal’, they do mean rights, not abilities. Oh, and yes, I do believe all people are equal.

josie's avatar

No. All people are equal to the extent that they are sovereign as individuals, have values in commen as living things and as specific living things, Homo sapien.
But in every endeavor, some people are more able than others.
Wrong use of the word equal at that point.

stump's avatar

Equal in dignity. Of course people are not equal in ability.

YoBob's avatar

Do all people have the same aptitudes and abilities? Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.

However, from a more philosophical point of view the phrase “all men are created equal” means that all people regardless of physical and mental aptitudes, race, color, creed, or philosophy enjoy the same rights and protection under the law.

We also, in America, at least make an attempt to offer equal opportunity. However, it is very important to understand that equal opportunity does not equate to equal outcome. In order to “succeed” (whatever the heck that means) one must utilize the opportunities available to them.

stump's avatar

When you start talking about ‘equal in worth or value’ you beg the question ‘To whom?’ In the eyes of God I believe all people are equal; equal in worth or value as well as dignity. But as far as ‘rank in human culture’ then no, some people are clearly of very little value and others of great value, to whomever happens to be at the top. Right now in Lybia, Gaddafi’s life is consider to be worth thousands of the lives of his citizens, at least by his supporters. But anyone who has lived through a garbageman’s strike knows that ‘rank in human culture’ is bullsh*t.

josie's avatar

I always thought in America, a favorable outcome was a right. Did you learn that in public school?

flutherother's avatar

The value of a human being is that they are a human being. To that extent we are all equal.

As Robert Burns put it “The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, The man’s the gowd for a’ that.”
Or Robert Louis Stevenson “It is but a lying cant that would represent the merchant and the banker as people disinterestedly toiling for mankind, and then most useful when absorbed in their transactions; for the man is more important than his services.”

Cruiser's avatar

Except for birth defects and subsequent diseases later in life, everybody is brought into this world pretty much with equal abilities both physical and mental. Sure people can say genetics play a role but to be strong you have to exercise and to be smart you have to study. To be a super athlete yes genetics helps there and to be Mensa, genetics may also play a role. But in general terms we do start out equal, it is just some pick up the ball and run with it to make things happen in their lives and some choose to watch TV day and night. Those are choices and we all are on equal footing to make those same choices.

For every silver spooner that has slipped up and gone to rehab a broken person, I can show you a ghetto kid or immigrant that worked their ass off to succeed and then be able to hire that silver spooner when they get sober. Life is all about choices.

12Oaks's avatar

Before and at birth, yes. From their, the choice is up to the individual.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

We’re all created equal.We have certain unalienable rights,but we are certainly not “equal”.

Fyrius's avatar

I suspect you’re using an intuitive “scale of goodness” concept that may be difficult to define in terms of what the difference amounts to in reality. Rather than thinking of whole persons as “better” or “worse”, it seems more realistic to evaluate them property by property.

With that said, I think you’d find that for practically every property, the answer is “no”. Well, we’re all equally carbon-based and equally earth-native, but that’s about it. Everything non-trivial varies between individuals.
Except rights. But that’s not a property of people, that’s an axiom of our legal systems.

“Sure people can say genetics play a role but to be strong you have to exercise and to be smart you have to study.”
People with physical talents don’t need to work as hard to get stronger. People with intellectual talents can afford to put less effort into studying and still get better results.
People with and without a talent for skill X can both choose to acquire skill X, but it’ll be easier for those with.

I think you’re simply factually wrong about people being born with equal potential, and I have a feeling you actually kind of agree with me on that.
You already mention genetics and the lot.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Do all people have the same worth/value? No. Let me explain my answer: A building is on fire and there are two people trapped inside- a teacher and a known pedophile. You only have time to save one; which one do you choose? That’s a big “duh”.

No, all people are not equal when it comes to worth/value as human beings. Does it make me heartless to say so? Perhaps. I believe people’s actions show their worth, and some of the people on this planet are truly worthless.

This answer probably won’t be well liked, but it’s the truth.

YoBob's avatar

@josie – I don’t know where you got the idea that favorable outcome was a right. That’s more of a socialist ideal rather than the ideals shared by those who support free enterprise.

I can understand how one might get that impression listening to the <insert your favorite sub-group here> rights activists that we seem to have no shortage of. Fortunately, by the time most of them hit 40, have been out in the real world for awhile, and are hit with the harsh realities of having their paychecks garnished to provide that favorable outcome for all they tend to start moving a bit back towards the political center.

flutherother's avatar

@Fyrius “Evaluating people property by property” sounds absolutely chilling. And I thought dogs were man’s best friend?

thorninmud's avatar

I don’t know where the “human worth” yardstick is stored, and I’m dubious that anyone else really knows either. There are certainly people who, at least for part of their lives, inspire some measure of admiration in me and others. Some inspire disdain, for some part of their lives at least. But “good” people become “bad” people, and vice versa. We’re all hopeless fuck-ups in more ways than we’d like to admit, and we’re all capable of transcending our personal detritus in a brilliant moment of grace. It’s a matter of when the snapshot is taken. I don’t believe that merit accumulates in personal accounts.

The universe is way too complex and interwoven to know what impact anyone will have on the world as a whole. A complete asshole may give birth to the future researcher who will revolutionize medicine. What, then, was the worth of that asshole? Seemingly inconsequential acts may in fact be seminal, playing out in ways—good or bad—that we’re incapable of tracing. When I really give this the attention it deserves and look at the big picture, the whole notion that one could assign a personal worth to any given individual seems ludicrous.

People who think about time travel end up marveling at the idea that going back in time and changing even one little thing could have immeasurable consequences for the future. How can we know who is a link in some marvelous chain of events, or some dreadful one?

Given all that complexity, I think we’re better off with the working assumption that all have equal worth. That doesn’t mean I have to admire or even like them. It just means that I can’t know what role they play in the great unfolding of things.

Nullo's avatar

Equal value: We are all of equal value in God’s eyes, because He only cares about a handful of criteria, all of which are entirely unrelated to either physical or mental properties. In the absence of a more concrete context (I would not make Forrest Gump a doctor), I couldn’t honestly go with anything else.

Worthiness of life: All other things being equal, yes. I feel that some crimes for which death is the only appropriate penalty.

Ability: Certainly not. Consider: I, a man with fully-functional legs (but afflicted with asthma and flat feet), would probably keel over in a 100-meter race with a man who had those racing-specific prosthetics and a history of using them.

Cruiser's avatar

@Fyrius Only on a very narrow level would I agree with you. My contention is we are equal at birth and from there the spread of success will vary greatly for each baby, mostly because of how they are raised. I am not smart, very average, but my oldest is off the charts smart why?? Because I read to him every night, I taught him about things at a very early age and he got a ton of attention from very nurturing grandparents. I have kept him interested and challenged his whole life and he is thriving in a very accelerated environment. I go to parent teacher meetings and open houses at school for these honor students and the room is full of similar stories from similarly caring parents.

Nurturing parents IMO are what makes the difference and children raised in a nurturing and challenging environment will consistently outperform their peers who weren’t as dare I say fortunate?

incendiary_dan's avatar

It’s that word “created” that is the crux of the issue.

Mikewlf337's avatar

We are all equal as human beings but as individuals we are not equal at all.

LuckyGuy's avatar

If that were true, either Charlie Sheen would be making my salary or I’d be getting paid millions to make an a** out of myself. We know that’s not going to happen so all signs point to “no”.

flutherother's avatar

@worriedguy I forgot about him. We are all equal and we are all better than Charlie Sheen.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

No, other than being born human.

ratboy's avatar

We’re all composed of the same basic ingredients, so a person’s value should be determined by his weight.

josie's avatar

@YoBob Sorry buddy, I was just having some fun. It just seems like a lot of people imagine that a favorable outcome is a right, and a poor outcome simply has to be somebody else’s fault. Sarcasm. It sneaks up on me once in a while.

cockswain's avatar

One could argue that the existence of incarceration or the death penalty is proof our society does not guarantee equality. We can lose our ‘equality’ relative to the normal members of society.

dxs's avatar

I still don’t think women get paid as much as men in certain jobs.

CaptainHarley's avatar

No human life is without value, and all are equal before the law. Beyond that the only thing that I can add is that every human being is worthy of respect, just for having had to struggle with living. As to relative value… I don’t think so. Perhaps to some of us, yes, but not to those of us who call ourselves Christians.

YoBob's avatar

@josie No worries. I suspected you were just yankin my chain, but I felt compelled to respond just the same. ;)

gondwanalon's avatar

Of course we are all equal comrades. It is just that some of us are more equal than others. (oink oink oink!)

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