There has been a longstanding social perception that it is even sort of a taboo to even suggest otherwise. This perception is that the lives of children is more important than that of an adult.
For instance, if a person puts a “baby on board” sticker on his vehicle, it suggests that road users should be careful because there is a baby in the vehicle. Nobody really bothers to put a sign “middle aged accountant on board” on their vehicle. This necessarily suggests that people don’t care as much if they crashed into a car with a fifty year old man in it.
There are a lot of reasons for this, and we can use philosophy to evaluate them.
Philosophize the idea
One possible reason for this is the constant neediness of babies. They are kind of helpless beings, and as such, need the help of an adult to get by. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have more value.
The idea that we are more sympathetic to children because of their neediness flies in the face of our relative non-committal to the plight of needy adults. For instance, we feel more sympathy for the plight of a baby than the plight of an elderly person, or a disabled person. This is despite the fact that they are all in a needy position.
A possible explanation for this stems from the fact that babies are blank slates. We feel more sympathy for them because they haven’t had the chance to live their own lives. As children grow up, they seem to become less valuable.
One possible explanation for this is the lost opportunities inherent in the loss of a baby. The younger a child is, the greater the possibility of it achieving much more with its life. As a child grows older and makes decisions which ultimately affect its life and status, there is less sympathy for its predicament.
Another possible explanation is the idea of sin and the innocence of babies. Essentially, babies have not done any good or bad thing that would make them deserving of suffering or even death.
Conclusion of thinking
All this is quite absurd because the value we place on human life is based on person hood. This is why the life of a human being is more important than the life of a mouse – because a mouse is less of a person (at least to us) than a human being.
But this gets odd when we apply it to babies. The younger a child, the less of a person it is. This is because it is not yet an integral part of anybody’s life (except the life of its parents). Babies are not even fully aware of their own existence as persons, yet there is more sympathy for them.
According to Aristotle, objects have a telos, or life ambition. The telos of an acorn is to grow into an oak tree. This doesn’t mean that we value an acorn much more than we value a fully grown tree. The same thing happens with babies. The telos of a baby is to grow into an adult, but humans value babies more than adults.
In conclusion, I am not saying that we shouldn’t value babies, but that we should value babies and adults equally, or even value adults more than babies.