Get Them a Megaphone:
The Huffington Post on Bioethics

General Bioethics — By on May 31, 2005 at 1:19 am

Since the invention of democracy in ancient Greece, it has been a common practice for political opponents to shout down each other, attempting to rebut an argument by drowning out the opposing view. This is a regrettably common feature in political discourse. But not only is this method contrary to reasoned discourse and the free exchange of ideas, it’s almost always ineffective. Sometimes the best way to crush an argument is simply to let its advocates present it for themselves. Instead of shouting them down, it can be more beneficial to get them a megaphone.
A perfect example can be found at The Huffington Post, an embarrassingly overhyped blog launched by conservative-turned-progressive Arianna Huffington. The blog is intended to be a sort of liberal response to the ‘



  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Excellent post.
    It’s particularly disturbing that Geoffrey Stone is not just a law professor, but is actually a former dean of the law school at the University of Chicago.
    The University of Chicago has one of the top five law schools in the country, and it is a center of clear-headed and innovative legal thinking. Geoffrey Stone’s incoherence is a scary statement on the state of legal scholarship in our country.
    On the other hand, if using blastocyst stem cells could prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease or some other horrible illnesses, then that is a true moral dilemma. Such a dilemma cannot be resolved by asserting that a three-day old blastocyst has the same right to life as a baby.
    This sort of inflexible rule-promulgation may be morally satisfying in the sense of protecting our anxious conscience. And it also serves to guard against a slippery slope of Nazi-like abuse of life.
    But if we are not willing to make a distinction between the blastocyst and the baby, others will, and as you have just demonstrated, those others often have the moral logic and knowledge of a three-year old. Do you really want to forfeit the debate on these issues to people like that?

  • Chris Lutz

    MG:On the other hand, if using blastocyst stem cells could prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease or some other horrible illnesses, then that is a true moral dilemma.
    As Joe pointed out in an earlier post, ESCR has not shown any promise to-date. Morally unobjectionable adult stem-cells have shown promise and are already used for treatment. If they would somehow find a use for ESC’s, then you are going to face the moral issue that since the cells used have to match your DNA, then a human life or lives will have to be created and destroyed to provide the treatment. Once you get to a one to one or one-to-many relationship, then it’s not much of a moral choice.
    MG:But if we are not willing to make a distinction between the blastocyst and the baby, others will, and as you have just demonstrated, those others often have the moral logic and knowledge of a three-year old. Do you really want to forfeit the debate on these issues to people like that?
    I don’t see how it is forfeiting the debating by stating that human life begins at a certain point. Using Volokh’s method above, substitute teenager and senior citizen respectively for blastocyst and baby. A blastocyst is just a certain stage of human development.

  • http://jimgilbertatlarge.blogspot.com/ Jim

    But if we are not willing to make a distinction between the blastocyst and the baby, others will, and as you have just demonstrated, those others often have the moral logic and knowledge of a three-year old. Do you really want to forfeit the debate on these issues to people like that?
    Matthew Goggins: Making that distinction is the pro-lifer’s forfeiture of the debate. Also, certain rules must be promulgated inflexibly or they are worthless, and this is one of them.
    To a pro-lifer like me differentiating between blastocyst and baby is possible in describing developmental stages, but not in essence. A baby goes through stages: Blastocyst comes after zygote and before embryo, but at all stages is a baby.
    To make the distinction is to toboggan down that slippery slope.

  • http://www.pseudopolymath.com/archives/2005/05/morning_links_5_21.html Pseudo-Polymath

    Morning Links 5/31

    Morning roundup of “good stuff” to read.

  • http://sddc.blogspot.com corrie

    If it ain’t human, what is it? And at what exact, precise, measurable instant does it transmute from non-person to person?
    It’s hugely ironic that people are willing to destroy “potential” lives in order to look for “potential” cures.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Bush is the reality show President. Not only is he kissing babies, he’s symbolically kissing blastocysts. He put on an amazing show on Tuesday surrounded by adorable infants and children who were adopted as embryos thanks to The Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program of The Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency. Who can doubt that encouraging infertile couples adopt embryos is a good thing? This is a no brainer (even if you’re not Christian). But until Bush and Laura themselves adopt all the embryos that might otherwise be doomed to waste their sweetness on the desert air, his blastocyst reality show will be show and tell and nothing more.

    This is a good point. We’ve gone thru this a thousand times but the alternative to stem cell research is letting thousands of unused embryos created in fertility clinics either waste away or get tossed in the garabage. Yes a few may end up being donated to woman who will carry them to term but the numbers will never be anything more than a trivial portion of the ‘excess embryo’ population.
    If it is immoral to perform research on an embryo why isn’t it also immoral to create an embryo only to live a few years in a frozen vat until it is defrosted and flushed? Why is Bush praising this industry instead of arguing for it to be outlawed?

  • JCHFleetguy

    Boonton,
    I follow Marquis’s argument: Abortion is prima facie morally wrong (life of the mother gives it a reason not to be wrong; as did the quality of the future life like ours). He dealt with stupid sperm/egg strawmen; and the “don’t a bunch of fetuses die anyway” is just plain scary for the reasons Volokh mentions.
    Marquis did leave out the gap between fertilization and implantation in his thesis – which is where your argument lives. In my opinion, in vitro fertilization removes eggs and sperm (with no future-like-ours) and combines them where they still have no future-like-ours because of their position – they are not in the body. Marquis says that people can protect more life if they wish – so christians could certainly ask for broader definitions of life than his secular argument entails – and Marquis may not like how I have filled in his gap.
    I would have no problem with using frozen embryos from IVF to do stem cell research; BUT removing embryos is a risk to the mother (and her ability to have children in the future). These embryos are being harvested now for the purposes of the mother and father – their desire to have children. Their benefit and their risk.
    Do we have the right to harvest a few more just so we have some left over? Should mothers with frozen embryos be getting phone calls asking if they plan to use them? Should we start harvesting embryos just for stem cell research? Start paying people to take that risk to their reproductive future? I believe you can go down slopes and decide to stop halfway down – but only if you build a wall halfway down. And you have to do that pretty much in advance.
    So, are you going to stop at unused embryos from IVF (and how do you determine “unused”)? And how do I know this?

  • JCHFleetguy

    Boonton,
    Guess I should have said: I am not willing to harvest, and fertilize, eggs for the express purpose of destroying them in stem cell research. You can sell me research rather than flush – with the parents permission – because it models organ donation at death. You cannot sell me creating life to destroy it. And you have to show me how that wall can be built high and strong.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    After reading that paragraph you may be asking yourself,

  • http://www.federalistjournal.com/fedblog/?p=132 The Unalienable Right

    Embryonic stem cells, science and morality

    Instapundit links to a post by Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice about federal funding of embryonic stem cell research:
    There were powder keg issues such as Terri Schiavo, the nuclear option, environmental policies and yet, with some erosion, the Wh…

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    By Ornstein

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Tgirsh,
    It was stem cell research, not abortion, and he didn’t equate the morality of the actions; he equated the rationale being used to brand the actions as immoral. It’s an important difference. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the right these days: their inability to recognize these subtle-but-important differences.
    I

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I would have no problem with using frozen embryos from IVF to do stem cell research; BUT removing embryos is a risk to the mother (and her ability to have children in the future). These embryos are being harvested now for the purposes of the mother and father – their desire to have children. Their benefit and their risk.
    My impression is that stem cells are almost always obtained either from left over IVF embryos or embryos created in the lab. I’m not even sure if it is possible to surgically remove an implanted embryo from a woman and keep it alive, although I could be wrong. If I’m reading your position correctly then you should oppose the Bush administrations position on this.
    Joe:
    Although, an immoral approach to the procedure is often taken, IVF doesn

  • AndyS

    Joe, I think you are quilty of the very sort of thing you are objecting to in this post.
    You falsely characterize Stone’s argument like this:

    Primary premise: Any law based solely on sectarian religious belief should be rejected out-of-hand in a democratic society.
    Secondary premise: George Bush makes no distinction between between faith and morality.
    Conclusion: Laws made by Bush based on his views of morality should be rejected out of hand in a democratic society.

    The secondary premise is wrong. As often happens when converting a casual speech to logical propositions, you missed the importance of the adverb — in this case, “solely.”
    You might re-write it this way: George Bush makes laws based soley on his sectarian religious beliefs.
    Then you have to re-write the conclusion as well: Laws made by Bush based soley on his sectarian religious beliefs should be rejected out of hand in a democratic society.
    And of course that it what Stone was getting at when he was comparing the legitamacy of some of Bush’s positions to those of other’s who would prohibit eating pork (which to my knowledge no one is advocating as a national law).

  • AndyS

    Just what is Volokh saying in this passage that Joe quotes:

    Your moral views may come from your understanding of human dignity; another’s view may come from utilitarianism; another’s may come from libertarianism; another’s may come from fundamentalist Christianity. None of these bases are somehow provable; none is constitutionally superior to the others. (In fact, many of the arguments for religious freedom itself came from the “sectarian religious beliefs” of deeply religious people; I suspect that they supported religious freedom for religious reasons since religious reasons were the only moral reasons that counted to them.)
    Any other approach is itself deeply discriminatory — it suggests that atheists, agnostics, utilitarians, and the like are entitled to enact their moral views into law (because they don’t rest on religion) while devout Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and others are forbidden from enacting their moral views into law (because they do rest on religion). That’s not mandated by the Constitution, it’s not in my view compatible with our national traditions, and it’s not right.

    Sounds to me like a recipe for pure relativism and thus tyranny of the majority.
    We should note about Stone’s argument that Joe calls “silly” Volokh says in the first sentence of his full post,

    Geof Stone makes a forceful argument, ….

    I guess there is a case to be made for the quality of rhetoric found most blogs. EO doesn’t appear to rank higher on that scale than Huffington’s.

  • Chris Lutz

    Sounds to me like a recipe for pure relativism and thus tyranny of the majority.
    What I believe Volokh is saying is that just because your reasoning comes from a religious starting point, does not automatically negate your ability to participate in government decisions. As long as they are not unConstitutional, they are not a problem. No where does he say that all beliefs are equal. He just states that they have equal opportunity to make their point.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick

    How is this line of reasoning substantially different from the way the Nazis justified experimenting on Jews, homosexuals, and the mentally ill because of the medical research had the potential to save thousands of Aryan lives?

    You don’t have to go to the Nazis for examples of such immoral thinking. Try the US state and federal Government. It used to be quite common in the US for those deemed mentally ill or indigent to be sterilized without their knowledge or consent when institutionalized. The definition of mentally ill was quite broad, and included anyone outside the “norms” of society, even those who engaged in pre-marital sex, or was a child out of wedlock. Or non-white. There was also scientific experimentation done without consent, or even court-ordered. Homosexuals and others could be castrated, lobotomized, subjected to “Hormone treatments”, etc. Some of which btw, was done by the US military on its own soldiers. Eugenic programs were not unknown in particular places and times in US history. And it certainly was an element of slavery.
    And many of these programs were not at the behest of zealot preachers, but by secular- minded scientists, doctors, judges, & politicians.
    It’s why you can’t trust either a Religious or Secular Government that does not respect and hold in high esteem the rights of the individual over and above the rights of the State.
    The current “culture war” is characterized as Religion vs. Secularism. But in my mind it’s really about the Tyranny of the Majority vs. Liberty. Whether or not that majority is secular or religious in nature is not the problem, it’s the stacking of the scales against individual freedom and choice that many in both groups seek to impose.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Andy The secondary premise is wrong. As often happens when converting a casual speech to logical propositions, you missed the importance of the adverb — in this case, “solely.”
    Although I may be wrong, your distinction makes no difference at all. The entire point of Stone

  • Chris Lutz

    and the odds would just get worse if clinics were required to only use embryos one or two at a time. In either case one has to come to a decision on whether the practice is moral or not.
    Boonton, it’s not necessarily immoral if you use all of the embryos since you are using all of them and not discarding them. Now, personally, I don’t like the practice at all and draw the line for fertility treatments at actions that don’t involve removing egg and sperm and reinserting. I know people disagree with that, but I have problems with it.
    Now, you like asking why groups don’t protest IVF. First, it’s not as clear as some other issues. Two, because it’s not as clear, you have to choose which battles you are going to fight. Finally, until recently, a lot of people probably didn’t realize how it worked.

  • http://dieguisto.blogspot.com Jon Gallagher

    What’s funny here is that the exact state of nature imputed to the pundits at Huffington Post exists here at Evangelical Outpost. You don’t know what you are talking about (much like your descriptions of evolution. What is it about biology?)
    Here is a URL with a graphic description of the South Korean process: http://uggabugga.blogspot.com/2005/05/stem-cell-primer-what-koreans-didstart.html
    As you can see the preferred method is to use a unfertilized egg. Everyone I know in the biomed/ESC research community prefers that because the haploid (the egg) is more viable than a frozen blastocyst.
    I think that offering up the “Snowflakes” is just a way to for the fertility industry to clean up after the enormous amount of surplus material left after IVF. You would not believe the number of blastocysts one try at IVF blows through, rates of 25 to 1 are not uncommon. But, since you are usually dealing with people who do not consider money to be a limitation you can generate huge numbers of blastocysts for each try.

  • http://www.InklingBooks.com/ Mike Perry

    It might help if we ask why the present-day left has developed such a hostility toward religious political activism. It was true that specific items in the liberal agendas of the past were opposed by religious conservatives, both Catholic and Protestant. The most obvious of those was eugenics, especially eugenic sterilization. I’ve described that in detail at:
    http://www.inklingbooks.com/inklinguniversity/
    Look especially at the links labeled BC-07 and BC-08.
    But those same religious groups also voted disproportionately for the Democratic party at a time when Republicans really were the party of the wealthy Episcopalians. When the Democratic party ran the country under FDR, much of their support came from blue-collar Catholics in the Northeast and Protestants in the South. Without those two groups, the party would have been in serious trouble.
    Why is the Democratic party no longer able to depend on the support of those two groups? The short answer is political activism by religious groups.
    The first blow came from black preachers such as Martin Luther King. The Democratic rule of the South (and thus in DC) depended on the party’s southern branch (including LBJ and Gore’s father) being unabashedly pro-segregation and northern liberals taking care to do nothing that actually changed conditions in the South. That’s why FDR, elected to four terms in the White House, never did anything of significance against racism, lynching and the like. It’s why Carter ran for governor of Georgia in 1970 as a staunch segregationist.
    When preachers such as King forced change and the civil rights legislation of 1964 became law (supported by more Congressional Republicans than Democrats), Southern whites were slowly able to escape from the trap of racist bigotry and begin to vote far more sensibly. (Racism makes people stupid.) Often that meant voting for a competent Republican rather than an incompetent Democrat. (Reagan v. Carter in 1980.)
    Democrats have tried to continue their old racist game by feeding the same sorts of attitudes in black people they once encouraged in Southern whites, but politically it doesn’t work. Particularly in the South, whites who no longer think in racial terms outnumber blacks who still do. For Democrats, race baiting only works at the margins (borderline states). The primary reason for this change was agitators like the Rev. Martin Luther King. They spelled the end of a solidly Democratic South and thus of Democratic domination of national politics. Change has been slow–habit and incumbancy are powerful–but most of the shift is now in place. Only the extraordinary bias of the elite media kept Bush from winning in a landslide in the last election. Only the fact that the Republican party leaders still fear being brutally slandered by a biased press keeps the Republicans from making more effective use of their popularity.
    The other issue that’s hurt the Democratic party is legalized abortion. When liberal eugenic thinking was focused on forced sterilization, it rarely influenced elections. The number of targets–people in state institutions–was small. In contrast, abortion affects almost everyone, particularly when it’s expanded to deny parents the knowledge that their teenage daughter is being railroaded into an abortion. (Recall the strong support Republicans have for those married with children.) Starting with Catholic leaders, religious conservatives began to translate their opposition to abortion into votes for Republicans. That meant that Democrats began to lose the Catholic blue collar vote as well as committed Protestants almost everywhere.
    These changes have meant that the long dominance of the Democratic party is slowly coming to an end. They’re on the verge of becoming a permanent minority party. Unable to cope with that, their behavior has become destructive. Everything Bush does has to be portrayed as evil, even a war against terrorism that’s bringing democracy to the Arab Middle East for the first time. And religious groups that oppose the Democratic party’s dogmas, particularly anything linked to abortion, must be demonized and told that they have no right to vote their consciences.
    In short, today’s liberal Democrats are as hostile toward mixing religion and politics as racist Democrats were to similar religious activity in the 1950s and 1960s and for much the same reason. They fear the expansion of those regarded as “persons” and possessing legal rights. They fear that they won’t be able to use “fetus” as a sneer word like they once used “n____r.”
    –Mike Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

  • Tim

    This is off-topic;
    But, does anybody else share my sense of relief that the “Hollywood elite can finally have a chance to be heard”.
    I was really worried about the fact that they didn’t have a chance to be heard.
    Now I can sleep. ;-)

  • http://jonrowe.blogspot.com Jon Rowe

    Check out my most recent post on the Volokh v. Stone controversy.
    I think Joe diverted attention by jumping on Stone’s comparision of “the morality of abortion to eating pork.” But I think the larger point in which Stone raises needs to be examined more (which is what I do in my post).
    Islam which tends to draw no distinction between Church & State does indeed make it illegal for everyone in the nation to consume pork (regardless of your faith). [I know I’m generalizing; but in places like S. Arabia and Iran, this is the way it is.]
    The US has a different tradition.
    Question, what if a legislature, democratically controlled by Muslim Americans, did indeed enact such a statute? Would that be okay on constitutional grounds? Or, would it be okay as a matter of legitimate political principle? If not, why?

  • AndyS

    Chris Lutz writes:

    What I believe Volokh is saying is that just because your reasoning comes from a religious starting point, does not automatically negate your ability to participate in government decisions. As long as they are not unConstitutional, they are not a problem. No where does he say that all beliefs are equal. He just states that they have equal opportunity to make their point.

    I think that’s as good an interpretation as any — we do have freedom of speech as a basic right. But Stone would deny neither that nor that public officials should hide their religious belieffs. Stone is making a different point: that public officials acting in a public capacity (like promoting legislation) should argue their case without appeal to the revealed truth of a particular sectarian religion. Elected officials represent people in a physical district or state. No one is elected to represent Reformed Judaism, Therevadan Buddism, or any version of Evangelical Christianity.
    Joe Carter, responding to Tgirsh, first writes condescendingly:

    I’m afraid, my friend, that the subtle-but-important difference is the inability of some people on the left to properly apply logic. Let’s look at Stone’s claim again….

    When I show conclusively, if I do say so myself, that Joe improperly applies logic to the problem, Joe responds:

    Although I may be wrong, your distinction makes no difference at all.

    “I may be wrong”? No, you are just plain wrong. You wrote hundreds of words in your logic demonstration for Tgirsh, and then after my comment dismiss it all saying it makes no difference if what you write is correct. That’s completely disingenuous. An honest response might have said, “Thanks for correcting my error. Here’s a different argument for my point.”
    Given your approach, how can anyone take your criticisms of Huffington’s blog seriously?

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    AndyS,
    AndyS “I may be wrong”? No, you are just plain wrong. You wrote hundreds of words in your logic demonstration for Tgirsch, and then after my comment dismiss it all saying it makes no difference if what you write is correct. That’s completely disingenuous. An honest response might have said, “Thanks for correcting my error. Here’s a different argument for my point.”
    Actually, an honest response would have been to point out that you didn

  • http://alangrey.blogspot.com/2005/06/philosophy-do-nonsense-statements-work.html Grey Thoughts

    Philospohy – Do Nonsense statements work

    All I can say is that I hope Joe is just using this as a rhetorical trick as history is replete with stupid ideas getting strong support after being heard unopposed in a major forum. One just has to look at the bad logic in most of the pro-abortionist …

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    Mike,
    It seems that you and I live in different universes. Most everything you say seems either outright false or so far from the truth that it might as well be false.
    One example: if what you say about progressives (a term that better describes me and those I know than ‘liberal’) is true, no progressive woman would ever be happy that she had conceived. No progressive woman would ever cherish the life within her. No progressive woman would make sure to eat right so that her fetus would we healthy.
    But of course this is all nonsense. My wife and I, stauch democrats and stauch progressives, were absolutely delighted when we found out she was pregnant with twins. She took excellent care of herself and gave birth to a healthy boy and girl.
    You seem not to understand the progressive point of view about the legality of abortion. Part of the point is this: abortion is sometimes necessary (at least for medical if not other reasons) and the gov’t should not be the one to decide if and when it is. Another part is this: if the gov’t outlaws abortion, it must act so as to prevent abortions; and to do this, it must sometimes seize a woman, imprison her, and effectively take charge of her organs of reproduction so that they might do what the gov’t thinks best for them to do. The progressive view is that the gov’t should never be given this kind of control over a human being.
    You portray progressives as wicked and degenerate. This is unhelpful. There are real issues for conservatives and progressives to debate, and the kind of ad hominem you offer does not serve to forward that debate one bit.

  • JCHFleetguy

    Boonton

    My impression is that stem cells are almost always obtained either from left over IVF embryos or embryos created in the lab. I’m not even sure if it is possible to surgically remove an implanted embryo from a woman and keep it alive, although I could be wrong. If I’m reading your position correctly then you should oppose the Bush administrations position on this.

    oops – thank you – meant egg.
    Tgrisch

    With the current IVF leftovers and the ability to clone these embryos, there’s little need to create fresh ones explicity for research. But if they’re created extra-uterine, based on what you’ve written, why should you care?

    I am not sure – medically – why (as Joe said in his post earlier) we need embryonic stem cell research at all? Why fan this flame? Unless I see compelling reason, I think it is just another secular slap at my religious face for no other reason than they want to win and make President Bush look bad – even if it doesn’t matter. So, show me why this is important (hey, and if the responses to Joe’s stem cell post are any indication – I am not sure you can show me why this is important enough to fight over). Politically, why should we spend federal tax dollars (we have no deficit right) on something this divisive before there is some consensus?
    My reasons for asking the questions are simple: I want a wall built on the slippery slope in advance of stepping on it. I want to know how far people want to go, and why. I do not want Betty Citizen getting calls from Barney’s IVF Lab asking if they can please buy her unused embryos. I do not want Betty’s embryos or eggs used without her permission. We both agree that you shouldn’t need more than the leftovers from IVF – but what protections do the supporters of this see as necessary and reasonable?
    The point of this whole thread is that while I do not think embryonic stem cell research is immoral – I do not set President Bush’s morality. He has the right to act on his morality in a democratic society – or veto the current bill to pander to the religious right, for that matter. If enough people think he is wrong, their morals will override his veto (if there is one).

  • JCHFleetguy

    Franklin,
    First, a little framework. Out of 1,300,000 a year in the US – 47% are for people who have had one before. That is sort of an indication of abortion as birth control.
    Only 80,000 of these are because of issues with life of the mother, health of the fetus, rape and incest – and it is unlikely that any but the most rabid anti-abortionists wouldn’t give you those.
    This is not just about the control of the women’s body – there is also about an entity with a future like the mothers. You cannot step outside of that – and frankly it seems non-progressive to do that. There are all sorts of times you would support taking a women into custody to prevent her harming another.
    It is exactly the government that is supposed to step in and prevent and/or adjudicate an issue like this.

  • http://alangrey.blogspot.com Alan Grey

    Franklin,
    Wow, talk about a persecution complex. Even your one example of mike’s outright ‘falsehoods’ is non-sensical.
    “One example: if what you say about progressives (a term that better describes me and those I know than ‘liberal’) is true, no progressive woman would ever be happy that she had conceived. No progressive woman would ever cherish the life within her. No progressive woman would make sure to eat right so that her fetus would we healthy.”
    I did not see any absolute statements in any of mike’s work regarding this. More it was directly shown as a tendency. It seems the only false thing to be seen in your example is your example.
    I have to ask Franklin….what are you progressing towards and why should anyone want to aim for that goal?

  • http://blog.john15.net/index.php?p=92 blog.john15.net

    Watch as the left cannibalizes itself

    Very few things are more entertaining than watching the political right and the political left scwabble between themselves. However, when you have liberal commentators debating against other liberal commentators, then it’s time to grab a bag of popcor…

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Jon,
    You don’t know what you are talking about (much like your descriptions of evolution. What is it about biology?)
    When you make such a claim the polite thing to do is to actually show why I don

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Boonton, it’s not necessarily immoral if you use all of the embryos since you are using all of them and not discarding them. Now, personally, I don’t like the practice at all and draw the line for fertility treatments at actions that don’t involve removing egg and sperm and reinserting. I know people disagree with that, but I have problems with it.
    Now, you like asking why groups don’t protest IVF. First, it’s not as clear as some other issues. Two, because it’s not as clear, you have to choose which battles you are going to fight. Finally, until recently, a lot of people probably didn’t realize how it worked.

    From what I understand 5-8 embryos are often implanted with the expectation that 1 or 2 will actually take and grow. In other words, 4-7 embryos are expected to die in this procedure which is not medically necessary to save anyone’s life. The morality may seem fuzzy but it really falls back to whether or not you consider an embryo created in a test tube to be a human beign. If it is then IVF should be even more troubling than stem cell research. First of all fewer embryos have to be destroyed for the research. Second the goal of the research is often more noble than just one couples desire to have a child. So if you want to be consistent it would appear that you first must advocate either outlawing or heavily regulating IVF.
    As for ‘using all of them and not discarding them’…from what I understand IVF keeps ‘extras’ frozen. If the couple fails to carry the child another one or two can be unfrozen and implanted and so on. If the couple has the child, though, then they keep the unused embryos frozen until the couple either wants another child or they ‘spoil’ after 5 years or so.
    I imagine the reason for this is that there is great economies of scale in fertilizing a number of eggs at once rather than one or two at a time. The ‘giving them a shot’ argument seems to fail on so many levels to me. If I gave a bunch of school kids a drink that has a 6/7 chance of killing them I doubt I could argue that it’s not attempted murder because of the 1/7th chance they have at living!
    I am not sure – medically – why (as Joe said in his post earlier) we need embryonic stem cell research at all? Why fan this flame? Unless I see compelling reason, I think it is just another secular slap at my religious face for no other reason than they want to win and make President Bush look bad – even if it doesn’t matter. So, show me why this is important (hey, and if the responses to Joe’s stem cell post are any indication – I am not sure you can show me why this is important enough to fight over). Politically, why should we spend federal tax dollars (we have no deficit right) on something this divisive before there is some consensus?
    Whether we ‘need it’ is somewhat beyond the point. The research could generate great potential or it could generate very little. There’s no way to know unless we do it but we do have good reason to think it has potential. I’m not sure what you mean by a ‘secular slap at my religious face…and make President Bush look bad’? Certainly you’re religion is not for President Bush to never look bad? Is it?
    As for it being divisive, there’s a good argument there. Andrew Sullivan, for example, has argued that Bush’s position is more secular than it appears. Basically the private sector & states are free to engage in research but the Fed. Gov’t won’t because the many people have deep moral questions about the research. (But since pro-lifers like to bring slavery up…to my knowledge the Fed. Gov’t never brought & sold slaves but that didn’t resolve the issue before it created the Civil War).
    My reasons for asking the questions are simple: I want a wall built on the slippery slope in advance of stepping on it. I want to know how far people want to go, and why. I do not want Betty Citizen getting calls from Barney’s IVF Lab asking if they can please buy her unused embryos. I do not want Betty’s embryos or eggs used without her permission. We both agree that you shouldn’t need more than the leftovers from IVF – but what protections do the supporters of this see as necessary and reasonable?
    Why? If you don’t have a problem with those unused embryos either being slowly killed in deep freeze or thawed and flushed down the toilet then what is the objection?
    I also don

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    JC,
    It isn’t a matter of simply taking her into custody but a matter of taking her into custody and in effect taking control of her reproductive system and forcing it to perform as the state thinks best. Her body is not simply confined but in a certain way is no longer her body. It is now the state’s. This seems to me a much greater wrong than simply imprisoning someone. Perhaps my judgment is flawed on this matter, but it seems to me that the state should never do such a thing, not even for so laudable purpose of saving a life. It involves a violation of a human being that seems to me just as serious as torture.
    We certainly agree that, from the moral point of view, many abortions are dubious at least. And we agree, I suspect, that all legitimate means must be pursued to bring their number down. But my post did not concern the moral issue. It concerned the legal issue. And I suspect that we disagree about what constitutes a legitimate means to reduce the number of abortions.
    My original purpose was not to establish the legitimacy of the present legal status quo but to argue, contra Mike Perry, that the legality of abortion deserves a serious, sustained debate. Neither side, it seems to me, is the obvious winner.
    I’m afraid that I’m a bit confused about this talk of a future like ours. The street children of Brazil are often addicted to inhalants. They receive no medical care and no education. They are sometimes even hunted by the police. Most die at a young age. Thus they have nothing like a future like ours. Their future is truncated and of extremely poor quality. But they matter as much as do we from the moral point of view. Thus the moral status of a being cannot depend upon any facts about its future. It must depend upon something else.
    Alan,
    I didn’t feel at all persecuted. I’m uncertain why you think I did. Read again the last paragraph of Mike Perry’s post. He seems to hold that liberals have the same sort of hatred for the fetus that white Southern racists had for those of African descent. My point, again, was that this was absurd, and I believe that my examples have shown this. Perry’s post amounts, at least at its end, to staw man. Liberals just arent the way he makes them out to be. Indeed I think such diatribes dangereous. They foster hatred of those with opposing political/moral views.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    Joe:

    I

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    Chris Lutz:

    Boonton, it’s not necessarily immoral if you use all of the embryos since you are using all of them and not discarding them.

    How do you figure? Most of the “used” embryos die in failed implantations. At the end of the day, these embryos are still destroyed, irrespective of why or how. Are you arguing that it may be morally acceptable to artificially create and destroy embryos in an attempt to create life, but not in an attempt to save life? This seems odd.
    Mike Perry:

    It might help if we ask why the present-day left has developed such a hostility toward religious political activism.

    Because of the tendency of the religious (mostly, but not exclusively, conservatives) to use religion as a bully-pulpit. I have no problem with religious groups mobilizing to effect political change. I have a big problem when they start characterizing those who disagree with them as “evil,” and equating opposition to them with sin.

    Democrats have tried to continue their old racist game

    You must be joking if you think Democrats have anything close to an exclusive lock on the using-racism-for-my-benefit card.

    The other issue that’s hurt the Democratic party is legalized abortion.

    I hear this all the time, but I just don’t see it. Do you really believe that the Democratic party would have more support if they formally changed their stance on legalized abortion? Very few Republicans would change their allegiance based on this alone, and it would splinter the existing Democratic party even further.

    In short, today’s liberal Democrats are as hostile toward mixing religion and politics…

    Something they inherited from “liberals” like Jefferson and Madison, I suppose.
    Joe:

    I

  • http://www.imago-dei.net/imago_dei/2005/06/scarlett_johans.html Imago Dei

    Scarlett Johansson on Bioethics: Clone Thyself!

    It seems Scarlett Johansson is not satisfied with the ridicule heaped on her for claiming that embryonic stem cell research may be able to cure a disease which has been cured for 50 years.

  • Ed

    Somebody please humor me on this:
    If we could guarantee that the ending of a life would be absolutely painless to and strike absolutely no fear or regret or sadness in the life being ended; and that absolutely no one left behind would care at all, would the ending of a life in and of itself be all that terrible? Again, the conditions are that the life being ended at one moment is experiencing normal everyday hubbub, the next instant, his experience is no more. AND The life of absolutely no one left behind is affected at all. On what grounds would one object to this, and, under these conditions, who would do the objecting?

  • JCHFleetguy

    tgirsch
    I think you are stretching to make multiple abortions the fault of religious folk restricting birth control.
    I think our society just generally has sex wrong. And right after that, responsibility for your own actions heads to toilet. Since I was part of the “make love, not war” and “free love” group in the early 70’s I bear some responsibility. I myself have not been a particularly adequate moral compass on this to my 24 year old step-daughter. She at least had an implant done for birth control – no forgeting the pill for her. She believed in sex, not in abortion, and not having a baby – SO SHE GOT THE JOB DONE.
    For me there is no really good moral or christian argument against birth control – especially those that stop fertilization before it occurs. It is certainly stupid for the pro-life movement to focus on stopping birth control.
    That being said: there are approximately 600,000 abortions per year for people who had one before. This blows the “mistakes happen” and other excuses out of the water for those folk. Do people not have a responsibility to learn from their mistakes; and be responsible in how they conduct their sex lifes? Generally, I would say not for these folk.
    I would be far more sympathetic to the moral struggles of the pro-choice camp if they said this loud and often: sex is not a toy, its dangerous, use it rationally and responsbibly. I have never heard any pro-choice Presidental candidate say, in any consistant way, that it is wrong to have sex irresponsibly and then use abortion as a way out – can they add a little pro-adoption, and pro-“take responsibility for your actions” to their pro-choice rhetoric. I think you would agree with that (if not we have probably no grounds for agreement). Would you spend your time on liberal blogs telling pro-choice folk that they need to start including a heavy dose of “Be responsible” in their political messages.
    Franklin
    Please – my post to Tgrisch should be an indication. Let women exercise control over their reproductive systems by choosing to use birth control, or choosing not to have sex if there is any chance of pregnancy; but if they get pregnant why should they exercise the choice to end a future-like-theirs because they were irresponsible in the other two areas. Frankly, the whole point of this is that I see no difference between ending the life of your 1 day old child because you’ve discovered its a big problem in your life, and abortion. None. And there is a 21 page secular article in the Journal of Philosophy (linked below) that explains my position.
    Incidentally, future-like-ours is a philosophical concept drawing on Marquis’s concept that abortion is prima facie immoral because the embryo has future experiences, activities, projects and enjoyments just as you do – and it is wrong to kill you because you also have these. The argument has nothing to do with whether they are the same as yours. Besides, which of those poor babies born in Sao Paulo might grow up to find the cure for AIDS?
    All sorts of people have claimed the right to kill all sorts of things with futures like theirs – and we try to stop them all the time.

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    JC,
    I know J. Phil., and I know Marquis. Again, you seem to wish to engage the moral issue, not the legal issue. My argument concerned only the latter. I do agree with you than many abortions are, as I said, morally dubious. But this by itself does not prove that the gov’t ought to step in and prevent them. In general the argument form:
    x is morally wrong.
    Thus the gov’t out to so monitor/control people’s lives to insure that they don’t do x.
    is invalid. Let x = lying, and we get an argument with a true premise and a false conclusion. To reach the conclusion, we need some other premises. When I ask myself how best to formulate those premises, I’m uncertain how to answer.
    Now, as best as I can make out, you’ve argued only that abortion is (for the most part, I take you to mean) immoral. You’ve yet to establish that it should be made illegal. From a political point of view, the moral issue by itself is of little importance. It’s the legal issue that is the real battleground.
    My reply to you was that, no matter how immoral this or that abortion might be, the state simply cannot step in, take control of a woman’s reproductive system, and force it to do as it thinks best. You’ve said nothing relevant to this legal point. Instead you reiterate your moral judgment again and again.
    About this notion of a future like ours: Do you mean to say that it’s always actually wrong to kill any being that has a future like ours or merely that it’s prima facie wrong to do this? If the latter, then you don’t yet have any reason to call for a change in the law, for you have yet to argue that there is not some greater wrong that will be done if we outlaw abortion. One way to put my argument is this: a very great wrong will come to pass if we outlaw abortion, for it will hand over to the gov’t ultimate control over a woman’s reproductive system. Is this wrong equal or greater than the wrong done to the fetus when it is aborted? This is the real nub of the issue, and, again, it doesn’t seem to me that you’ve really taken it on.

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    One last little bit, in response to JC.
    I’ll grant for the moment that there’s no moral difference between certain abortions and infanticide. (This surely isn’t true for all abortions. It’s never the case that both the newborn and mother can’t both live, and that for one to live the newborn must be sacrificed.) But there is a great legal/political difference. To prevent an abortion, the very inner workings of the woman’s body, her inmost being as it were, must be taken over by the state. Governments should not be handed such power, or so say I. To prevent an infanticide. the gov’t need not take such a drastic step. It need to violate a woman in the same way.

  • Ed

    C’mon, JCH, don’t make me chase ya’ around… If you reply to this, please do so on the other thread.

  • JCHFleetguy

    Ed
    I answered your post with 21 pages of theory. And no, that we either go to oblivion, heaven, or hell does not make killing moral – even if no one cares what happens to us. If you are suicidal because you think oblivion is better than your future experiences, activities, projects and enjoyments – I am sorry.

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    JC,
    Curious. I thought that our disagreements ran deeper than in fact they do. But I so suspect that, if we were to chart the course of development from fertilization to birth, we’d have disagreements both about the kind of being that exists at each stage and the moral status of that being.

  • JCHFleetguy

    Franklin,
    Thats nice to hear. My view on abortion is not developmentally driven.
    1) The biology arguments (when life begins – conception, quickening, viability, birth) tend to be too broad and lead to the “Is it immoral to kill sperm?” kind of strawmen.
    2) The sentience arguments (when is it a person) arguments are all to narrow.
    I think all of these errors lead to the useless, endless arguments that pro- and anti-abortion folk have – neither side has a coherant philosophy that works as a basis for pluralist law-making or ethics, or a coherant way of refuting the other side.
    Marquis’s essay allowed me to tie my previously held views:
    1) Birth control not immoral
    2) Abortion immoral
    3) Terry Schiavo’s death not immoral
    together into a coherant unified theory (to borrow a physics term) that does not rest on humanness or personhood, or religion. Hey, as a science fiction fan it even let me have a position for non-human alien intelligence. It works for me.

  • http://www.leanleft.com/ tgirsch

    JCHFleetguy:
    Using your three bullet points, I’d state my views thusly:
    1) Birth control not immoral (and, in fact, is moral)
    2) Abortion itself morally neutral. The morality of an abortion is dependent upon the circumstances under which it was decided upon and obtained
    3) Terri Schiavo’s death not immoral; More broadly, euthanasia morally neutral, dependent upon circumstances
    4) ESC research not immoral, with appropriate restrictions

  • http://www.leanleft.com/ tgirsch

    what you would consider to be those circumstances where it would be actually immoral.

    Hmm, circumstances where abortion would be immoral? Coerced abortion would certainly be one. Late-term “convenience” abortions would be another (i.e., seven or eight months in, the woman just decides “I don’t want a baby right” and aborts). Abortion for sex selection (i.e., “I wanted a boy, and this is a girl, so abort it.”) would also be objectionable to me.
    At the same time, I don’t have any problem with voluntary abortion within the first 13 or 14 weeks for just about any reason. Would it be preferable to not get pregnant in the first place? Of course. But life just isn’t that simple. Early-term abortion, however unpleasant it may seem, is far, far preferable to most of the alternatives. I would much rather a woman abort early than give birth to a child she doesn’t want / will resent / can’t or won’t care for.

    It seems, from what you write, that only pro-life folks that need to re-examine our moral and ethical positions; and not pro-choice folk.

    No, I don’t agree with that either. There are too many people who are willing to condone abortion at any time for any reason, and that goes too far for me. But there’s a difference in kind here. The positions taken by the “pro-choice” crowd can often be morally questionable, but those taken by much of the “pro-life” crowd are downright hypocritical. For example, claiming to abhor abortion, but being unwilling to take those measures (listed in previous posts) most likely to greatly reduce the number of abortions that actually occur. Claiming to oppose embryonic stem cell research because it “destroys life” but looking the other way when it comes to IVF for fertility, or wars and collateral damage, or simultaneously supporting capital punishment. You get the idea.
    This isn’t to say that the pro-choice side is completely free of hypocrisy; they aren’t. They’re just (in my estimation) far less guilty of it.

    I am curious what you will do “on your side” to narrow the gap. From your response, I can only gather you see no need for the pro-choice movement to change a thing.

    I don’t see how you would have gotten that impression. I’ve said repeatedly that I’d support a late-term abortion ban, given the appropriate health and safety exemptions (even though we’ve established that this would have almost no effect on the total number of abortions). I’ve repeatedly bemoaned our failure to do the things that are most likely to reduce the number of abortions (sex ed; encouraging abstinence; encouraging contraception if abstinence is eschewed; more controversially, promoting “outercourse” and masturbation as alternatives to release sexual tension without risking unintended pregnancies; and so on). But you’ll notice that the objections to most of these measures comes from the pro-life side, not the pro-choice side.
    About the only thing I can think of that the pro-choice side could do that they’re not currently doing is to actively discourage people from having any sex whatsoever, unless they’re specifically trying to have children. While that might make you feel better, it’s wholly unrealistic, and it’s what the pro-lifers have tried, generally with disastrous results.
    Further, while there are still far more abortions in this country than either of us is comfortable with, the abortion rate in this country is the lowest it’s been since before 1975 (and 29% lower than it was in 1980), which means that however slowly, we are making progress. What you’re probably sensing in my tone is frustration that the side that claims to vehemently oppose abortion steadfastly opposes those measures that have proven most effective in reducing the abortion rate.

    Obviously, I am not going to equate getting a speeding ticket or hitting my thumb with a hammer with getting pregnant, having an abortion, and then continuing to repeat that process with no change of behavior.

    There may be a stark difference of degree but not of kind. And you seem to state with great certitude that there’s “no change in behavior,” but you don’t establish that and don’t allow for extenuating circumstances (for example, what about women who can’t afford birth control?).
    Apropos of this discussion, here’s an excellent breakdown of who has abortions. You’ll see that poverty is by far the best indicator, with the 30% of women living near or below the poverty level accouting for 57% of abortions (up from 50% in 1994). What happens when we start forcing these economically disadvantaged women to start having children instead of abortions? They become even more economically disadvantaged, and the horrible downward spiral continues.
    (My solution to this? Offer contraception such as norplant or depo-provera to low-income women free of charge, on the taxpayer dime. It would go a long way toward reducing the number of unintended pregnancies — and therefore abortions — but just try selling that to religious conservatives; they may hate abortion, but not enough to actually accept that people — especially poor minorities — sometimes have sex for pleasure.)

    And the same is true for drinking age, prostitution, and murder – those are all state regulated

    Actually, the drinking age is essentially federally mandated. Any state whose drinking age is lower than 21 forfeits its share of federal highway funds. This is why the drinking age in Wisconsin is now 21 instead of the previous 18. And while you may be right, I’d be quite surprised if there were no federal law prohibiting murder.

    If abortion is prima facie immoral – then yes: figure out how your going to do the adoption.

    But that’s not established. Anyway, I’ll revise my summation of your position to “you should never, ever, ever have sex under any circumstances unless you’re willing to become pregnant and carry a baby to term and obtain and pay for all health expenses associated with a pregnancy, even if you’re not going to keep that baby.” Which still amounts to “don’t have sex unless you want kids” at the end of the day.

    Yes, if you have sex you risk having children – deal with that whatever way you need to.

    I’d agree with that. But in your reasoning, there’s an implicit “except for having an abortion” that I don’t include. :)

    And I’ve heard this before (but do not get it)- why should the pro-life movement get wrapped up in IVF?

    Because if life begins at conception — a cornerstone of the pro-life position — then it shouldn’t matter whether that conception is natural or artificial, and knowingly conceiving something only to destroy it should then be clearly immoral. All current methods of IVF involve far more conceived embryos being destroyed than implanted (and surviving).
    Once you concede that it’s sometimes okay to knowingly destroy an embryo when there’s no health risk at all to anyone involved (except, of course, the embryo), you lose all credibility on the issue. Even worse, IVF specifically creates these embryos, so there’s nothing at all accidental or unintentional about it. To claim to be “pro life” while supporting (or even remaining neutral on) IVF is morally and ethically inconsistent.

  • JCHFleetguy

    tgrisch,
    Actually we may be up to 3 1/2 out of 4. After I posted last I was thinking about the depo-prevara and implant thing. My thought was that the government could offer it to everyone at cost – not just the poor.
    I think you need to do a little surgical split in your thinking (as you made me do with your post). Obviously, whatever my religious position I am adopting a position on the “sanctity of life” positions that is purely secular. And even before I “met” Marquis I would have not argued against sex education for my 12 year old (along with a good dose of abstinance and understanding that sex and babies go together). I would also not oppose birth control for her; and hope to have my daughter understand that if she decides to become sexually active (we cannot stop her) – we would prefer to get her birth control than adopt her baby (yes – I am that serious, and im 52).
    So I agree with you that those who oppose birth control and abortion – are not paying attention to the culture (and I agree that’s the world’s culture). However, that is a subset of the pro-life movement (if you do not just have to consider it a separate issue that people may share).
    Your last post gave me a sense that you really abhor abortion as well – but do not see easy political and social solutions to the problem. That is not the sense I generally get from pro-choice folk – so I would say you said to me what I wish they would say in public:
    “Yes, we know there are too many – and in order to lower them give us this, and this, and this – but making them illegal will not solve any of these problems.”

  • http://www.leanleft.com/ tgirsch

    JCHFleetguy:

    So I agree with you that those who oppose birth control and abortion – are not paying attention to the culture

    Well, I’d argue that most pro-lifers fall into this camp. Many of them don’t oppose birth control per se, but most of them (most that I’ve encountered, certainly) would oppose promoting the use of birth control, because they believe this is giving people (especially teens) “free license” to have sex whenever they want. But this simply isn’t true.

    Your last post gave me a sense that you really abhor abortion as well

    I think “abhor” might be a bit too strong a word. It certainly makes me very uncomfortable, however. What I abhor is that they are even necessary, but they are, so we have to deal with that. (Even if we completely did away with irresponsible sex, they would still sometimes — not nearly so often, but sometimes — be necessary.)