Monday, April 9, 2007

Thowing it out with the bathwater

You know how I'm always harping about having principles and applying them consistently, otherwise you're simply making random noises with your head? This articles provides an excellent analysis of a particular moral issue (stem cell research), and a critique of arguments not based on no moral principle (which are the crappiest of all moral arguments), but on an inconsistently applied moral principle. First, it identifies the common moral principle on which those opposing funding of stem cell research base their arguments:

(T)he unimplanted human embryo is already a human being, morally equivalent to a person

'Course, this isn't a scientific question - can't be tested to be right or wrong. So, for it to be used well in arguments, it needs to be applied consistently. The article notes several inconsistencies, but the most striking can be summarized as follows: If embryonic stem cell research is indeed tantamount to "the taking of innocent human life" (as President Bush has said), then it's the same as infanticide. And IF that, THEN...

If harvesting stem cells from a blastocyst were truly on a par with (infanticide), then the morally responsible policy would be to ban it, not merely deny it federal funding. If some doctors made a practice of killing children to get organs for transplantation, no one would take the position that the infanticide should be ineligible for federal funding but allowed to continue in the private sector. In fact, if we were persuaded that embryonic stem cell research were tantamount to infanticide, we would not only ban it but treat it as a grisly form of murder and subject scientists who performed it to criminal punishment

Whatever your position, the article serves as an excellent example of critiquing others' arguments in an intellectual fasion.

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