Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Muddle-headed thinking revealed in language

First Bush Veto Maintains Limits on Stem Cell Use
Republicans, even those who, like Bush, oppose abortion, are wrestling with the question of whether embryos that are no bigger than a typographical period but regarded by some as human beings should be destroyed to save lives.

The debate is not whether or not embryos created by IVF are human beings. They are. Nobody calls them "pre-human" embryos. Rather, the debate is whether these human beings deserve any rights, particularly the right to not be killed. Trying to obscure what human embryos are reveals a lack of candor from those in favor of embryonic stem cell (ESC) destruction.

Notice that the size of a human embryo is mentioned almost as a justification to disregard what "some" believe. Are short people less human than tall? Is my 2 year old, 3 foot tall son less human than me (5' 10")?

Finally, it is not a choice between saving lives by destroying human embryos or allowing sick people to die by forbidding it. The bill provides funding for a certain type of research that is already occurring. And to my knowledge no lives have yet been saved, nor even any treatments produced, by ESC research that might save or even improve other human lives.

Let's focus on factual reporting about what the debate is rather than hyperbolic sob stories about people dying due heartless pro-life republicans.

Editorial: Bush, Coleman miss the stem cell boat
...those surplus embryos have no wombs in which to grow into viable babies. The couples who created them have agreed to their destruction.

Brownback's argument -- and Bush's and Coleman's -- might make sense if they were offered in support of a ban on in vitro fertilizations, but no one would propose that.

...With or without stem cell research, they are doomed. That will not change. There are no mothers for them.


As usual, the logic of the argument against ESC research is left untouched. In fact, the valid conclusion - that IVFs which produce extra embryos should be illegal - is poo-pooed as absurd. And sadly the language seems to concede that these are orphaned children without a home, doomed to die. Yet this is ok, the "moral and common sense" position.

Small human beings are still human.

Contact your house representative and senators to tell them what you think of their votes.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've already made my feelings clear by voting in favor of the ballot proposition here in CA last November (which passed, btw) that gives $3 billion over the next decade to stem cell research. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6384390/

You obviously feel strongly about this, but I can't see why someone who cares enough about science to teach it would want scientific research stifled in order to give rights to non-implanted embryos. That's a pretty drastic position even among pro-lifers, Bush notwithstanding. Someday you should make a post talking about how you reconcile being a man of science and a Catholic---I can't see a way for those two to come together without a lot of mental gymnastics in both directions.

Kimberly

Dan said...

Would you have science proceed its inquiry unfettered by moral constraint? Oppostion to ESC research is completely logical and is in no way "unscientific."

Proposition 1: Human life has intrinistic dignity.

Proposition 2: The dignity of human life requires that no innocent human being should be intentionally killed as a means to some other end.

Proposition 3: A human embryo is an innocent human being.

Conclusion: A human embryo should not be killed as a means to some other end.

1 and 2 above are part of natural law and are informed by my Catholic faith: "Do not kill." 3 is a statement of fact. The conclusion follows. What's to reconcile?

Nothing in the scientific method demands that all means to pursue knowledge must be taken.

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves." (Intro to Fides et Ratio, JPII)

Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. (CCC 159)

Jessica said...

Have you heard "Focus on the Family" this week? They've been featuring "snowflake baby" stories about adoption of the unwanted embryos for IVF in infertile couples.
On the subject of stem cells, there was a news report that a doctor (in South America, I think) had positive results with adult cells from the nasal lining of the patients they were trying to help. There haven't been ANY good results with embryonic cells that I've heard of.

Dan said...

Jessica,

Yes, I heard that exact show today! To date, 110 children have been born who were adopted as frozen embryos. I think 23 were present at Bush's veto signing, including 2 in utero. Apparently, there are about 400,000 human embryos still stored in the U.S.

I think I'll post about this in the near future.

Anonymous said...

"Would you have science proceed its inquiry unfettered by moral constraint?"

That's a nice strawman. You'd do well to remember that just because someone has different moral beliefs than you do doesn't mean that they have no moral beliefs. Scientists do operate under moral and ethical guidelines, you know. It's just that they (and I) don't believe that an embryo is worthy of any protection under those guidelines. It's clear from your response that you choose religion over science, which is your right, but I find it disingenuous that you claim to value science at all and at the same time say things like "A human embryo is an innocent human being.... is a statement of fact." We both know that is an emotive statement that is in no way a proven fact. An embryo will eventually become a human being if it is implanted and if it survives to come to term---both of which are two very big "ifs" that don't occur in a large percentage of pregnancies. Calling an embryo in a petri dish a human being is a valid religious position, but it is hardly a scientific one.

Kimberly

Dan said...

You'd do well to remember that just because someone has different moral beliefs than you do doesn't mean that they have no moral beliefs. Scientists do operate under moral and ethical guidelines, you know.

Yes, we agree then. Your original comment contrasted my interest in science with my belief that ESC research is wrong and shouldn't be publicly funded. You suggested that finding a particular scientific pursuit to be unethical is somehow contrary to the pursuit of scientific knowledge. This is a false dichotomy. The scientific method does not itself address moral restrictions to scientific research. Researchers and the public, as moral beings, enact restrictions. This is not anti-science, but rather anti-immoral (forgive the double negative).

It's just that they (and I) don't believe that an embryo is worthy of any protection under those guidelines.

Well, the guidelines that govern scientific research certainly aren't set in stone. They're enacted by legislative bodies at the advice of professional researchers. The argument against killing embryos for research goes beyond the partucular guidelines now in place in an effort to shape them for the future. And I don't think it accurate to include ALL scientists in your camp.

... I find it disingenuous that you claim to value science at all and at the same time say things like "A human embryo is an innocent human being.... is a statement of fact." We both know that is an emotive statement that is in no way a proven fact.

Let me be more precise and less "emotive": a human embryo is a genetically distinct organism of the species homo sapiens from the momement of conception onward. This is a factual description. I specifically avoid the term "person" because people disagree about "personhood". The idea being that persons have rights and non-persons don't, but this is exactly the debate to begin with so why quibble about words? Human beings produce human offspring. They don't produce non-human entities that somehow later become human. My point is that human embryos are human, but at the earliest stage of development. This makes no appeal to religious revelation or authority, but rather to a scientific understanding of human reproduction. The value I place on human life is certainly informed by my religious beliefs, but I think that valuing human life is altogether reasonable whether one believes in God or not.

I make this claim:
There is no morally significant distinction between a human blastocyst or embryo and a grown human being. They differ only in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependancy. None of these reasonably affect a human's right to life, because they don't change what a human being is.

An embryo will eventually become a human being if it is implanted and if it survives to come to term

Your requirements for being a human being seem to depend only upon location: in the womb = non-human being, out of the womb = human being. What reasonable or scientific argument can you give for this sudden granting of humanity?

Perhaps you say "human being" but mean "human person," as in someone with rights. If so, again, what morally significant distinction is made at birth?

As to me being disingenuous, at least grant me "illogical," "unreasonable", or "inconsistent" rather than doubt my sincerity.