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Stem cell research: Natural Born Killers?
April 10, 2007 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Stem Cell Research: An interesting argument on why Bush's policy on stem cell research doesn't make sense.
posted by Mave_80 (44 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
That's nice, but...it's pretty damn simple.

Bush's policy on embryonic stem cell research is that he doesn't want it to happen.

No grey area here folks.
posted by Redgrendel2001 at 7:13 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, that's really surprising. Because bush and nonsense are like oil and water or something.
posted by delmoi at 7:22 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


yes, a decently written article, now let me surmise. President Bush is a spoiled rich boy that has trouble thinking his way outside of a wet paper bag... not actually stupid, but not intelligent. Too often his decisions are based in emotion rather than fact and once made it is rather hard for him to take them back. Thus we end up with an anti-intellectual president to is too much of a "man" to admit to mistakes in other than lip service manner.

The argument that ifs Bush truly thought stem cell research was morally wrong then why hasn't he banned it is an interesting one that slipped by me.
posted by edgeways at 7:23 PM on April 10, 2007


lol. Bush's half-assed valentine to a "base" that doesn't really exist anymore. Heckuva job, Rove.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:24 PM on April 10, 2007


Interesting?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:49 PM on April 10, 2007


"But no one would consider a skin cell a person, or deem it inviolable. Showing that a blastocyst is a human being, or a person, requires further argument."

But non-religious arguments don't make any such claim. As the article in the paragraph preceding this quote clearly explains. The argument is that lacking a clear, undeniable moment at which a cell cluster becomes a person, the responsible thing to do is to grant personhood to the all of the candidates (blastocysts, fetuses, newborns, etc.).

"The distinction between a potential person and an actual one makes a moral difference. Sentient creatures make claims on us that nonsentient ones do not"

Of course there is a moral difference, but, again, since we can't say with certainty where the dividing line between potential and actual humans is we can't responsibly make a distinction in our actions. Further, the fact that the putatively non-sentient embryo has a different moral status does not establish that it has so little moral weight as to be extinguishable without concern.

The article misses the point. The defensible position is essentially that we need to refrain from acting because we might be making a serious ethical error. An error so severe that its mere possibility should give us pause. For this argument to work one does not need to show that embryos are persons.

However, the article does correctly analyze Bush's hypocrisy with respect to embryos created as part of fertility treatments. The consistent position would be to ban their destruction and halt current stem cell research.
posted by oddman at 7:51 PM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


That's nice, but...it's pretty damn simple.

Bush's policy on embryonic stem cell research is that he doesn't want it to happen.

No grey area here folks.
posted by Redgrendel2001 at 10:13 PM on April 10 [+]
[!]


With all due respect, Redgrendel, did you read the article? The point is that if he really didn't want it to happen, he'd be calling for a ban on private research as well as a ban on fertility clinics. If destroying a blastocyst = destroying a human life, and if we take the position that destroying human life is immoral, then it logically follows that destroying blastocysts without federal funding or to dispose of fertility treatment by-products is also immoral.

On preview, oddman:
The article misses the point. The defensible position is essentially that we need to refrain from acting because we might be making a serious ethical error.
... and by destroying blastocysts that are the result of excess supply for fertility treatment, or for privately-funded research, we fail to refrain from acting. So why are there multiple standards? Either destroying blastocysts is wrong (or maybe it's wrong but we should err on the side of caution), in which case ANY destruction thereof is immoral, or it isn't.
Personally I'm of the opinion that a lump of 200 undifferentiated cells is about as "alive" as 200 living skin cells I could scrape of my arm with about .5 seconds worth of effort, but that isn't the point. The point of the article is the lack of internal consistency in the "stem cells are babies" philosophy.
posted by krash2fast at 8:00 PM on April 10, 2007


As Bush declared when he vetoed last year's stem cell bill, the federal government should not support "the taking of innocent human life."

A somewhat ironic double standard, me thinks.
posted by tighttrousers at 8:06 PM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Pet peeve of mine: No one is questioning if stem cells are "alive." Sure, they're frozen, but they can be revived, so they seem pretty clearly alive. Or at least, this is my understanding of the issue.

The question is should we value these lives at all and, if so, to what extent. On this question, the only answers are grounded so deep in moral philosophy, that it's really hard to imagine any sort of meaningful dialog between people who truly disagree. This is less of a problem that it seems, since most American politicians are pragmatists and not truly committed to any moral philosophy. The reason the press never questions Bush's position is because of that, he doesn't really believe it, and even if he did, there would be nothing to discuss
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:11 PM on April 10, 2007


Doesn't make sense because it came out of the vacuum of greed and stupidity that is his cabinet? Maybe there is more to it and I misunderstand the current administration.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 8:20 PM on April 10, 2007


To summarize the article: Bush not living up to self-attributed nickname of decider by fence-sitting on the total embryo research ban.

Then again, abortion is still legal so it's a moot point.

oddman: there's a problem with the "human potential" argument in that it is recursive, and could be followed to its logical yet completely absurd conclusion. Isn't it more reasonable to apply self-awareness as one of the rubrics before subjecting to moral judgement?
posted by creeptick at 8:26 PM on April 10, 2007


God murders innocent life all the time via millions of miscarriages every year. Can't we use His victims for stem-cell research?
posted by disgruntled at 8:28 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bush's stem cell policy makes perfect sense.

It is pharmaceutical protectionism.
posted by edverb at 8:29 PM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


The author was feigning a lack of understanding of demagoguery. Of course Bush's position isn't consistent. That doesn't matter. It was a position that tested well in focus groups.
posted by mullingitover at 8:33 PM on April 10, 2007


Isn't it more reasonable to apply self-awareness as one of the rubrics before subjecting to moral judgement?
posted by creeptick at 11:26 PM on April 10 [+]
[!]


My point exactly! No one is arguing that a blastocyst/embryo isn't alive.... it certainly isn't dead. The point is that each of us is made up of billions of living cells. Taking antibiotics kills off millions of living intestinal flora... yet we do not call users of Cipro murderers.
posted by krash2fast at 8:34 PM on April 10, 2007


This is the same problem I have with Catholic and pro-life groups sanctioning LAM (lactational amenorrhea method), which interferes with the implantation of embryos by shortening the luteal phase. When the luteal phase is too short, the endometrial lining is insufficiently developed and therefore inhospitable to the blastocyst. They skirt the implications of this by citing the principle of double effect, but if you really believe that a blastocyst is equal to a person, then that just doesn't fly. The good effect (prevention of pregnancy) would absolutely not outweigh the bad effect (murder of a child) in that situation. They've painted themselves into a bizarre corner: they would never dream of demonizing breastfeeding, nor would they ever give their blessing to birth control methods that disrupt implantation. The position is untenable.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 8:36 PM on April 10, 2007


Bush's stem cell policy makes perfect sense.
He worries that democrats will use stem cells to grow spine.
posted by hortense at 8:42 PM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Taking antibiotics kills off millions of living intestinal flora... yet we do not call users of Cipro murderers

Isn't this a pretty false comparison? In one instance you have a person making an informed choice to kill a certain number of their cells, but doing so knowing that they will stay alive and that making that choice will be beneficial to them. In the case of the blastocyst, the decision is being made by someone other the entity in question, for the benefit of the entity that is making the choice, not the entity that suffers the consequence, and the choice in question completely destroys the blastocyst.

I've not yet seen anyone make the argument that killing cells is murder, except in those circumstances were killing cells results in the death of the organism.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:55 PM on April 10, 2007


Okay, it seems that I misread that. If your point is about intestinal bacteria, than the difference is that the blastocysts we're talking about are, at least possibly, human. You might not believe this, but it's at least arguable. There's no argument that intestinal bacteria are human. You can debate whether this is a meaningful distinction, but it's accepted by most people.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:07 PM on April 10, 2007


My problem with this article's argument is that it gives too much ground. What's to stop Bush (or the next president) from saying "fine, you're right" and pushing to ban stem cell research outright. Hell, let's even try throwing the researchers in prison! That'd be a photo op and a half.

I like the: "You can stay if you don't need somebody else's body" rule. If I am dying, and the only way to save me is to latch myself onto someone else, taking their nutrients and forcing them to lug me along, I'm shit outa luck. It doesn't even matter what happened to me, I can't reasonably expect someone to lug my ass around simply out of the goodness of their heart.

So that's it, I'm dead any way you slice it. What's the next best option for me? Answer: organ donation. If I'm gonna kick the bucket the least I can do is give up the parts of me that might stay working to someone who could actually use them. If blastocysts are people, they're seriously wounded people who aren't gonna make it much longer.

"But wait!" I hear you say, "you can't condone the manufacturing of 'dying' people just to harvest their organs, that's barbaric." But blastocysts have another advantage in that they head most of "personhood" off at the pass. There's no middle man with stem cells because by the time you're holding a new liver in your hands those cells have never been anything else. Whose liver is it? Well, the standard test I've always used is: whose body is it in. It's in your belly, it's your liver.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:19 PM on April 10, 2007


"Possibly human" is not human. Were it, through some currently unavailable technology, possible to make a new human from a skin cell, that skin cell would still lack the ability to determine its own future and any meaningful rights.

Though I will grant that I had a professor who posed an interesting either/or regarding abortion and vegetarianism— Imagining a culture whose respect for life extended so that eating meat was illegal, as was abortion, poses ethical questions for people on both sides of the "life" issue.

I find that far more interesting than these cobbled emotional defenses of blastocysts.
posted by klangklangston at 10:06 PM on April 10, 2007


Not "possibly" human, but "potentially" human, in the natural order of things.

Remember that pro-life ringer audience member in the 2004 Bush/Kerry debates? That's who this policy was architected to make sense to.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:21 PM on April 10, 2007


aaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggh!

Believing in soul = conception -> abortion bad.

Stick a sperm and an oocyte together in a test-tube = conception = soul manufacturing?

If I was the devlil, I'd be against making people live longer.

Desperate people do "bad" things. Having "perfect" children used to be a domain of Lucifer - if science can do it better and cheaper then - hell. They're going to be the devil's spawn anyways, why not acknowledge that they're going to screw you (the parents) over?
posted by porpoise at 10:35 PM on April 10, 2007


Call me a cynic among cynics, but lemme make a prediction; If, while he is still in office, anyone in Bush's family falls ill to anything that can be cured (eventually) by stem-cells, his reversal on the idea of testing would be head-snapping.

I suspect this he has religion the same way a cat has ethics. Which is to say, when it suits him publicly.
posted by quin at 10:47 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Michael Kinsley has pointed this out too, and also Bush's faulty logic about stem-cell research and war.
posted by homunculus at 11:44 PM on April 10, 2007


And so has Jon Stewart.
posted by homunculus at 11:46 PM on April 10, 2007


Here's a weird analogy that comes to mind: It's 2050 and the Earth is overcrowded (duh). We improve space travel and have the technology to terraform Mars for human habitation. BUT, at the last minute scientists discover life on Mars. Simple, one-celled bacteria, but life nonetheless. Problem is, if we terraform Mars, the bacteria will all die out.

So the question is, do we go ahead and terraform, thereby saving humanity, or do we leave Mars alone, as we don't have the moral right to kill off that life, no matter how "insignificant".

I don't really have an answer to this one, but it points out that we have to decide not really where life begins, but rather do we allow that life to live to it's fullest. As far as stem cells goes, the fact that these embryos are going to be discarded anyway, so it's a moot point. It'll only get sticky when they're all used up and embryos need to be created to supply the medical demand.
posted by zardoz at 12:30 AM on April 11, 2007


Here's a weird analogy that comes to mind: It's 2050 and the Earth is overcrowded (duh). We improve space travel and have the technology to terraform Mars for human habitation. BUT, at the last minute scientists discover life on Mars. Simple, one-celled bacteria, but life nonetheless. Problem is, if we terraform Mars, the bacteria will all die out.

How big of a nature preserve would one need to keep a bacterial species alive?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:28 AM on April 11, 2007


So the question is, do we go ahead and terraform, thereby saving humanity, or do we leave Mars alone, as we don't have the moral right to kill off that life, no matter how "insignificant".

Given Earth's past record, I'd say Mars is fucked.

As far as constructing a precise argument against Bush, is it really that hard to argue with "Nah-uh, that's bad." We should be arguing with the man behind the curtain.
posted by mr_book at 5:41 AM on April 11, 2007


"Isn't it more reasonable to apply self-awareness as one of the rubrics before subjecting to moral judgement?"

Two things, you say self-awareness should be one of the rubrics. What are the others, and do embryos fit them? Do you have to be a person according to all of the rubrics or just one of them?

Second, if you make self-awareness a (or worse the) criteria for personhood, you pretty much rule out person status for newborns (who, trust me, are not self-aware), coma patients, and people born with certain genetic defects. In other words if you withhold personhood from those in whom we do not recognize self-awareness you are going to rob a whole of people of their status as persons.

But who is to say embryos are not self-aware? Certainly they have nothing like fully developed brains, but this does not rule out the possibility of their having self-aware minds.
posted by oddman at 6:09 AM on April 11, 2007


My problem with this article's argument is that it gives too much ground. What's to stop Bush (or the next president) from saying "fine, you're right" and pushing to ban stem cell research outright. Hell, let's even try throwing the researchers in prison! That'd be a photo op and a half.

That was my sense of it too. It looks like the author's trying for a reductio here: "You can't accept Bush's position on stem cells or you'll have to accept that fertility clinicians are murderers — and clearly that's ridiculous."

The problem is that it's not ridiculous enough. People do believe that fertility clinicians are murderers and that in-vitro fertilization is a sin.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:20 AM on April 11, 2007


It will be good when America gets back into stem cell research. Most of the big biomedical breakthroughs come from you guys ('cause you spend more money on research than anybody else, by a looooooong way), and after this little incident, the field could do with some decent quality work.
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:46 AM on April 11, 2007


It's simple. The confusion on the stem cell issue is driven by the anti-abortion movement's need to back up their assertion that life begins at conception. If they don't oppose stem cells (and by extension, if Bush does not oppose stem cells), they look like hypocritical enough to undermine their views on abortion. Abortion=cart, stem cell research=horse. Capisce?
posted by jonp72 at 9:07 AM on April 11, 2007


Bush Consults "With Religious Leaders" On Stem Cells
posted by homunculus at 10:04 AM on April 11, 2007


o the question is, do we go ahead and terraform, thereby saving humanity, or do we leave Mars alone, as we don't have the moral right to kill off that life,

The argument as I understand it is about HUMAN life, not life. I mean, Bush and his people aren't calling for an end to euthanizing animals, right? These are bacteria, they are therefore not potentially human. Therefore fuck em. Now, if they found human blastocysts on Mars...
posted by spicynuts at 12:53 PM on April 11, 2007


If a stem cell has a soul, does destroying that stem cell condemn that soul to hell? (For the sake of argument, limit the scope of your answer to the Western Christian ethos.)

Extra credit: If so, what does that say about the benevolence of God? If, instead, that soul goes to heaven, then why is this a bad thing?

No credit: What would that stem cell be like in heaven/hell? A 6-year old child? A grown adult? Or... still just a stem cell? (I do find the strangest things amusing...)

C'mon, though. Clearly, the govt position is compromise position between the scientists and teh religious folk. Religious folk think they're right, that stem cell research kills babies. Scientists think they're right, that they're paving the way to help parapelegics walk again, to cure Parkinson's Disease, etc. The status quo isn't perfect, nor even internally consistant, but at least teh religious folks aren't forced to contribute their own money to "killing babies", and scientists can continue their work with university/corporate support. (What if we could opt-out of funding the war in Iraq? hmmmm...)

I, for one, think we're kinda lucky it hasn't been banned outright.
posted by LordSludge at 12:56 PM on April 11, 2007


spicynuts: The argument as I understand it is about HUMAN life, not life.

Closer....

But krash2fast just killed 200 living HUMAN skin cells. Would anybody consider him a murderer?
posted by LordSludge at 1:01 PM on April 11, 2007


"But krash2fast just killed 200 living HUMAN skin cells. Would anybody consider him a murderer?"

Specious reasoning much?
posted by oddman at 2:33 PM on April 11, 2007


Specious reasoning much?

No. Pay attention:

The (intentional?) vaguaries of the stem cell and the similar abortion debates bother me. It's not that we're worried about "taking life" (swatting mosquitos or killing intestinal flora with antibiotics). Nor are we worried about "taking human life" (killing live human skin cells). We're concerned about taking "a human life". Taking "a human life" without cause is murder, whereas taking life or even human life is generally trivial.

That's really what's up for debate, IMO: what defines "a human life"? I argue that it's autonomy -- the ability to survive without the particular host mother. With that in mind, I can't consider "a human life" to begin at conception, and it follows that I think the anti- stem cell research position to be not only silly, but unethical -- unethical because it causes harm to autonomous human beings.
posted by LordSludge at 5:39 PM on April 11, 2007


Notice that here you use "human skin cells" to make a point about murder. That is in fact specious because no reasonable person would ever consider a skin cell to be a moral client. You, in the post, are attempting to sway the argument with misleading rhetoric. That is specious, obviously so.

In this post you switch to talk about "human life" assuming, as you did earlier, that "human life" and "human skin cells" somehow denote the same thing. Clearly they do not. You've switched the subject of the debate there. You equivocate.

Nevertheless you still have a problem. The term "human life," as it is used by people who oppose stem-cell research, clearly means nothing more than what you gloss as "a human life." The only people who mistakenly use "human life" to refer to things like skin cells, are the people who, like you, wish to generate a reductio. They fail by making the same mistake you make in your two posts. They, the stem-cell research advocates, think that "human life" means of or related to living parts of humans. That's just silly.

When Churchill said "Without a measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed." Do you really think he meant to be talking about skin cells?

If one insists that, as your opponents do, that "human life" means nothing more than "a human life," your attempt to generate a reductio by equating "human life" to "living human parts" is clearly a non-starter.
posted by oddman at 9:02 PM on April 11, 2007


oddman: Notice that here you use "human skin cells" to make a point about murder. That is in fact specious because no reasonable person would ever consider a skin cell to be a moral client.

No reasonable person would ever consider a clump of cells to be a moral client. (Golly, that was easy!)

In this post you switch to talk about "human life" assuming, as you did earlier, that "human life" and "human skin cells" somehow denote the same thing. Clearly they do not.

Why not? What's the difference? What's the rubric?

From your first post, your position appears to be that, well, we're not sure when personhood begins so the most ethical position is to extend personhood to anything that *might* be considered a person, up to and including including fertilized eggs. Talk about an absurd reduction and an arbitrary conclusion! Why not unfertilized eggs? Why not sperm? (By not impregnating that cute girl who works at Subway, who totally wants me but wow she looks pretty young, am I not denying the life of my child?) Why not, indeed, any clone-worthy human cells?

Furthermore, have you not considered that it's unethical to deny medical treatment to paralysis victims, people with degenerative nervous diseases, and people born with certain genetic defects? Are the rights of a clump of cells greater than the rights of a four year old little girl who, for the lack of a corpus callosum -- exactly the sort of condition that stem-cell therapy would address -- can never hope to walk or talk, nor even focus her eyes most days? (No worries, kind sir, she'll be dead in a year or two, because -- thank you, Jesus -- no such stem-cell therapy is available.)

Why do you so off-handedly marginalize the well-being of actual people, not to mention their families and friends?

How many people must suffer for these so-called "ethics" of yours?

The defensible position is essentially that we need to refrain from acting because we might be making a serious ethical error.

Conversely, you're *definitely* making a serious ethical error by NOT acting. Inaction is not an ethical virtue. It's more ethically consistant to support research that shows promise of helping a great number of people than to hold up research that would destroy possibly-potential-maybe-at-some-point-in-teh-future people. There is certainly a tremendous negative consequence by refraining from action.

You've switched the subject of the debate there. You equivocate.

That is the debate*: How should we assign personhood?

It's important to be clear: Murder is not killing something living that is human. Murder is killing a person, taking "a human life". Defining personhood is critical and not to be glossed over.

* or, rather, I'm arguing that it should be -- explicitly, not implicitly. Lay out the criteria. I've presented mine: in short, "autonomy". Several others here have come to that same conclusion. Address that. (I'm not sure why you insist on dodging and obfuscating this.)

If one insists that, as your opponents do, that "human life" means nothing more than "a human life," your attempt to generate a reductio by equating "human life" to "living human parts" is clearly a non-starter.

On the contrary, that's the position of stem-cell research advocates -- a fertilized human embryo is no more a "person" than human skin cells. Meanwhile, there are real, living people that could benefit profoundly from this research.

From your earlier post:

[I]f you make self-awareness a ... criteria for personhood, you pretty much rule out person status for newborns (who, trust me, are not self-aware), coma patients, and people born with certain genetic defects.

I agree that "self-awareness" is a poor rubric for determining personhood. Rather, "physical autonomy from one particular host person" works well, as I explained in my previous post. Note that this would include "newborns..., coma patients, and people born with certain genetic defects".

And wouldn't it be great if there were treatment available for those "people born with certain genetic defects"?

But who is to say embryos are not self-aware? Certainly they have nothing like fully developed brains, but this does not rule out the possibility of their having self-aware minds.

Yes, it does -- unless you care to explain how a clump of cells can think without a functioning brain. (Are you implicitly assuming the existance of a soul? If so, you must be prepared to prove the existance of such in a scientific context, which, well, you can't.)
posted by LordSludge at 10:30 AM on April 12, 2007


Let's just skip past the rubbish.

First, "human life" does not denote human skin cells simply by dint of its definition. In the same way that "car" does not denote the gray matter in our heads, and "noun" does not denote verbs. No competent speaker of the language would come across an instance of "human life" in normal discourse and think to himself, "hey, why are they talking about skin cells?" You may insist that the term can be applied in your novel way. Surely, words change their meanings all of the time. But in clear discourse we shouldn't change meanings just so that we can more easily grind an ax.

Second, inaction when faced with a need is only ethically inexcusable, if the appropriate action does not itself cause harm. So, indeed I am obligated to help a paralyzed man, but only if I don't have to commit murder to do so. When faced with such a dilemma it is perfectly acceptable to refrain from acting because you consider the possible outcome of the action to be worse than the certain outcome of inaction. (Furthermore, it's not even cut and dried that inaction is always inexcusable.)

Third, your physical autonomy argument has some interesting consequences. According to it, a fetus in the third trimester is a person since it can certainly survive without its mom. In fact, even 22 week old fetuses can survive premature birth. So, since they do not actually need a particular person, they get to be persons, too. And thus, by your own reasoning it's murder to kill a fetus older than 22 weeks. Of course technology will continue to improve, it even seems likely that medical progress will make younger and younger fetuses be viable. Moving the age of ascension to personhood an earlier and earlier event. In fact, we may eventually be able to grow people completely ex utero. When that happens then even a blastocyst will be able to survive without "any particular host person." Even a very early abortion will be murder since the procedure would kill an autonomous being.

Finally, yes I do think there is more to thought than having a brain. I happen to be a dualist. I'm not the only one. Dualism of various stripes is actually a fairly respectable position in contemporary philosophy of mind, i.e. epiphenomenilism. It's more respectable than reductive materialism. No, I won't bother to prove it in a "scientific context." That would be like arguing about the ethics expressed in Guernica from a meteorological context. Science is not, and never will be, the be all and end all of human knowledge.
posted by oddman at 4:35 PM on April 12, 2007


[I]naction when faced with a need is only ethically inexcusable, if the appropriate action does not itself cause harm. So, indeed I am obligated to help a paralyzed man, but only if I don't have to commit murder to do so. When faced with such a dilemma it is perfectly acceptable to refrain from acting because you consider the possible outcome of the action to be worse than the certain outcome of inaction.

Agreed. Unfortunately, you haven't yet established when personhood begins. ("Human life", if you insist, although I believe you're being deliberately obtuse.) The best you've done is your absurd, arbitrary, circular, "We can't say exactly when life begins, and murder is bad, so let's be safe and say that life begins at conception, because we don't want to be murderers." (As I've said, and you refuse to address, the ridiculous "every sperm is sacred" approach is every bit as valid -- except, hurray, we're even SAFER!!)

If autonomy criteria yields 3rd trimester, then fine, you win: No embryonic stem cell harvesting into the 3rd trimester.

Deal?

(I suspect not. But this may interest you.)

No deal? Then I can't ask any more clearly:

Define personhood. That's what this is about. Support your answer.

For the record, this is the third time I've asked. Each time, you dance away and obfuscate, obfuscate, obfuscate. No offense, but your reasoning is so weak (when in fact you give any reasoning at all) and you avoid defining personhood with such determination that I'm led to believe that your honest answer is something akin to "Life begins at conception because God tell me so." You *hint* at it, but you won't say it. It's got something to do with a soul and conception, right? To be blunt, I feel you're avoiding honest debate by concealing your true rationale.

If I'm correct in this assessment, you're wasting my time by engaging in a disingenuous, mock debate, and I'm done with you.

posted by LordSludge at 9:53 PM on April 12, 2007


Yes, non-terminal cell harvesting from embryos is obviously better than harvesting that destroys embryos. If the concerns at the end of that piece can be adequately addressed I'd be all for stem-cell research of this type, as well as for research on stem-cells derived from adults.

Sorry, I didn't think to spell out my position on personhood as clearly as you'd like because my arguments are predicated on the ideas that we don't know when non-persons become persons and that the various definitions for personhood suggested thus far do not properly address our ignorance on that matter. That is I've been engaging in more of a Socratic debate. I don't actually need to give a positive account of personhood to show that your account has unwanted consequences and thus should give us pause with respect to harvesting embryos. (Why don't you address the fact that in the future blastocysts might be autonomous?)

But if you insist: I don't have a single litmus-test definition for personhood. Further, I think that any single criterion will fall to unintended consequences. If pressed I would say, it involves autonomy and sentience (which is of course weaker than self-consciousness). Though as a dualist (which is not to say I believe in anything like a religious soul) I deny that either of those two criteria are exclusively physical. I'm sure that you will find this disingenuous or perplexing or whatever. You may not think that one can be a dualist for non-religious reasons (though, then you'd have to explain what you think of Plato). But one can. The union of the mental and physical may happen at conception, it may happen at quickening, it may happen at birth, it may happen on the third Sunday after the child's first Super Bowl. I don't know. Since I don't know and since I would rather avoid destroying things that might be persons, I think terminal embryonic research is immoral. (Notice the fact that it may have good consequences, even great consequences, does not in any way excuse the immoral nature of the act.)
posted by oddman at 2:26 PM on April 13, 2007


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