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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.

 
Most of the comments we've received to our posts here have been intelligent and thoughtful, coming from posters who are themselves intelligent and thoughtful. What self-respecting blog wouldn't cherish such contributions?

This is not to say, though, that everyone with an opinion on the beginning of human life is equally deserving of the benefit of the doubt.

It's a sad commentary on the state of science, and indeed of philosophy, when the signal figure of our times regarding the question, "When does human life begin?" is neither a scientist nor a philosopher, but the current occupant of the Oval Office -- about as far from a scientist or philosopher as one can imagine. His relentless politicization of such a critical question, at such a critical juncture in history, resembles nothing so much as his corresponding treatment of the "war on terror" -- in particular, the centerpiece (despite all evidence to the contrary) of this "war," the real war in Iraq.

Michael Kinsley picks up on this theme in today's Slate, in a piece headlined "War and Embryos":
It was, I believe, Rep. Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, who first made the excellent, bitter, and terribly unfair joke about Ronald Reagan: that he believed in a right to life that begins at conception and ends at birth. This joke has been adapted for use against various Republican politicians ever since. In the case of President George W. Bush, though, it appears to be literally true.

...

Bush is right, of course, that the inevitable loss of innocent life in wartime cannot be a reason not to go to war, or a reason not to fight that war in a way intended to win. Eggs, omelettes, and all that. "Collateral damage" should be a consideration weighed in the balance, of course. But there is no formula to determine when you have the balance right. It does seem to me that both of our wars in Iraq were started and conducted with insufficient consideration for the cost in innocent blood. Callousness, naiveté, isolation of the decision makers from democratic accountability, and isolation of the citizenry from the consequences, or even the awareness, of what is being done in their name—all have played a role. I don't see anything coming out of this war that is worth 50,000 innocent lives, although a case can be made, I guess.

But it is hard—indeed, I would say it is impossible—to reconcile Bush's absolutism over alleged human life when it is a clump of unknowing, unfeeling cells with his sophisticated, if not cavalier, attitude toward the loss of innocent human life when it is children and adults in Iraq.

...

I would sympathize a bit more with President Bush if his answers weren't so preening and struggle-free. It is very wonderful to be so morally pure that you won't allow a single embryo to be destroyed in the quest for medical cures that could save lives by the thousands. You are way beyond Gandhi, sweeping the path ahead to avoid stepping on an insect: Insects have more human characteristics than a six-cell embryo.

And regarding Iraq, you are quite the man—aren't you?—"making the tough decisions." A regular Harry Truman, consigning thousands to death in order to bring democracy and freedom and peace to millions. But Truman actually produced democracy and freedom and peace, whereas you want credit for your hopes. That's not how it works. If you want to be the hard-ass, you get judged by results. And you can't be Gandhi and Truman at the same time.
And that's the problem in a nutshell -- not a problem for the Non-Thinker in Chief, of course, but for all those who count him as their spokesman. And by extension, sadly, for all the rest of us.

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Stem Cells
Stem Cell Fight!
Bearing Right
Moral Monkey?
Op-ed
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Stem Stall
Screamers
Bush the hypocrite

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