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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog

We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.

Jonah Goldberg's column in today's National Review Online is everything Mario Cuomo's New York Times piece wasn't -- everything bad, that is. Goldberg's mishmash of poorly developed arguments and snide comments didn't ruin a beautiful morning on my back porch, but it sure made me want to spit my coffee across the table.

He begins by taking the Right's nausea-inducing moral high ground:
Those who make utilitarian arguments for euthanasia, , or for that matter, genocide can be perfectly "rational" in the sense that they can employ logic with the best of them. They simply start from different moral assumptions...Nazis and communists killed millions and they could be very logical in their justifications -- but logical in that whole evil genius sense.

Wow. He not only pairs abortion and genocide in the same sentence, but also manages to toss in Nazis, communists and "evil genius." The only explanation I can offer for continuing to read this doo-doo is that I'm obviously cursed with morbid curiosity.

Poor Ron Reagan, Jr. When Goldberg described him as a very liberal former dog show announcer and ballet dancer, I couldn't decide which was intended to be the most denigrating. Then, when recounting Reagan’s speech at the Democratic Convention, he accused Reagan of “exploiting his father’s memory” and “pandering to the false hopes of desperate families.” Hmmm. Is it just me, or do you too get the feeling that these two aren’t best buds?

As it turned out, the entire column was just a wordy preface to its last three sentences. After praising federalism as the best way to deal with stem cell research, Goldberg concludes:
Sure, more federal funding might advance the science a bit faster. But the current system has one great advantage. It doesn’t force people who think human life is precious to pay for its destruction.

After blithely blowing off the millions of people who might benefit from stem cell research (who cares if the cures come “a bit faster” or not?), he also blows off everyone who doesn’t agree with him by inferring that we don’t “think human life is precious.” Well, here’s a news flash for your column, Jonah. Many of us who support stem cell research also value human life.

In fact, we value it so much that we resent like hell having to pay for a war that’s already killed over 1,700 Americans and more than 22,000 Iraqi civilians. We value it so highly that we object to our taxes paying for executions when we, unlike those flocking to our President’s “culture of life,” strongly object to the death penalty.

A lot of us who think human life is precious are already being forced to pay for its destruction. And I'm getting really tired of self-righteous, self-proclaimed pundits who continue to ignore that.

Goldberg is a nincompoop. See, for example, this Media Matters report on his distortions (in the context of, egad, his possibly being a Safire replacement.

In the column you cite, at one point JG says:

"Many European countries -- which were supposed to have eaten our lunch in this area -- actually have vastly more restrictive laws than our own. There's been virtually no brain drain of American scientists fleeing to more hospitable climes, while thousands of European scientists have fled their own bureaucratic and restrictive lands to work in America."

Naturally he supplies no reference for the Europe-was-supposed-to-eat-our-lunch claim. (Ah, those rotten Europeans anyhow.) As I understand it, though, a greater competitive threat comes not from Europe but from Asia and Central/South America -- regions of the world with little of the historic squeamishness of first-world Western countries... especially if the non-squeamishness might translate to lucrative competitive advantage.
I think that our only option is not to debate the ‘origin of life’ but to search out alternative means of getting stem cells, i.e. research with adult stem cells and teratomas. There is always more than one way to skin a cat and if you can’t convince the other side of your argument then you must search for another way to get what you want. We are falling too far behind to continue debating this tired concept of when life is life.
I think you're right in saying that there are many ways to skin a cat. The reason we debate this issue isn't because we don't know of very viable (and admittedly reasonable) solutions. You're dead on when you say stem cells can be harvested from other sources but our goal is to merely spark some discussion from people who haven't truly considered listening yet. We have been fortunate that the majority of the people commenting have been open minded, even when they disagree with the positions we take (although we do our best to cover both sides). The reason stem cells comes up so much is because a) it's in the news a lot and b) because if the traditional harvesting means are accepted then the influx of stem cell lines will be millions (if not billions) of times greater than the secondary harvesting means.
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