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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.

A few days ago, "Slate" posted an article by Michael Kinsley titled "Reason, Faith, and Stem Cells." Kinsley first recognizes the irrationality of the government's policy on embryonic stem-cell research, and goes on to say,
It's a compromise between two logically irreconcilable positions. And it stretches democracy as far as it can be stretched in deference to the strongly held views of the losing side of an argument. It says: "You cannot have your way. You cannot impose the burden of your views on others. But at least you can know that your own tax dollars won't be spent directly on something you find immoral." This is quite a concession. It's more than opponents of wars, for example, are allowed.
But then Kinsley gets to the meat of his argument, which is that those who remain adamently opposed to stem-cell research because they believe human life begins at conception are not arguing from a position of reason.
In the endless right-to-life debate, compromise is difficult for pro-lifers because the strength of their side of the argument comes from its absolutism. (Unless it comes from faith, about which there can be no argument.) Absolutism is their logical trump card. If you don't protect every human being from the moment of conception, where do you draw the line? Anywhere you draw it is another irrational distinction, conferring humanity—and, possibly, life itself—on one organism and denying both to another that is nearly identical.

But absolutism is also a great weakness, because it puts you at the mercy of your own logic. Opposition to stem-cell research is the reductio ad absurdum of the right-to-life argument. A goldfish resembles a human being more than an embryo does. An embryo feels nothing, thinks nothing, cannot suffer, is not aware of its own existence. Embryos are destroyed routinely by the millions in the natural process of human reproduction. Yet opponents of stem-cell research would allow real people, who can suffer, to do so in service of the abstract principle that embryos are people too. If faith takes you there, fine. Reason can't.
I encourage you to read the rest of this fine, well reasoned piece. Kinsley's observation on right-to-lifers with respect to evolution is, by itself, worth a post.
But even most right-to-lifers do believe in evolution and are comfortable with the idea that humanity is one end of a continuum, not a thing apart.

They are comfortable drawing a crisper line than nature does between humans and lesser beasts and denying human rights to animals that share many human attributes.Why is it so hard for them to accept something similar about the development of an individual human being? That we each start out as something less than human, that the transformation takes place gradually, but that it's morally acceptable to draw a line somewhere other than at the very beginning. Not just acceptable, but necessary.

Brain Pills
Roe v. Wade
Stem Cells
Stem Cell Fight!
Bearing Right
Moral Monkey?
Dave's site
Stem Stall
Bush the hypocrite

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