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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.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Passing Between the Horns of a Dilemma
When considering the thorny dilemmas behind this blog's general topic -- "the beginning of human life" -- our tendency as Westerners, specifically Americans, is to think of them in the context of religion (specifically Christianity) vs. science. But there are other way of thinking about the issues, viewpoints not quite so irreconcilable.
The oldest surviving Buddhist school, according to Wikipedia, is the Theravada school. Within this form of Buddhist teaching and practice, the term bhante is used as a polite form of address for a Buddhist monk (something like "Father" for a Catholic priest, perhaps). In New South Wales, Australia, is a Buddhist monastery known as the Santi Forest Monastery, and one of the monks there -- Bhante Sujato -- has attempted a statement of how Buddhists might think of abortion in specific, and of the beginning of human life in general. He begins:
The sanctity of life is the core of our moral consciousness. But 'life' has fuzzy edges. It is no easy matter to define precisely where life, in the moral rather than biological sense, begins and ends. For Buddhism this fuzziness is normal, for we are accustomed to view the world in terms of interrelated processes rather than independent entities. Yet our need for clarity in deciding delicate moral questions is no less. In this essay I will analyze some strands of the debate on the inception of life and the ethics of abortion. I will suggest that a Buddhist approach provides us with useful tools that can steer away from moral extremism and focus on a compassionate response to the real issues.Bhante Sujato leads the reader through six sections in considering the question:
Here's his concluding paragraph:
in this essay I have attempted to sketch an outline of a Buddhist approach to abortion. I examined some of the prevailing arguments and concluded that the polarization of positions into 'Life' and 'Choice' can be traced back to incompatible philosophical paradigms, such as the eternalist viewpoint of the Christians and the annihilationism of the scientific materialists. Buddhism offers a middle way that treasures the sanctity of the life in the mother’s womb from the time of conception, yet recognizes a gradual growth in the moral gravity of the act of killing. On the practical side, we must employ the twin virtues of compassion and wisdom, providing care and support for mothers and children, and ensuring the parents are provided with the information and advice they need to make a mature decision. I would like to finish with a verse from the Mangala Sutta.I highly recommend reading the entire piece. Before you do so, though... please leave your preconceptions at the doorstep! Remember that the point of view espoused here is expressly not a classic Western point of view.
Roe v. Wade
Stem Cell Fight!
Bush the hypocrite
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