Thursday, January 22, 2009

Media Idiocy of the Week Part 3 [Serge]

98% of this article is actually quite good, especially this quote from an adult stem cell researcher comparing the funding of ESCR with that prior to the sub-prime mortgage crisis:

"The scramble to fund human embryonic stem cell experiments looks like the scientific equivalent of sub-prime mortgages," says Raisman. "One wonders how long the large sums of money and hype can go on chasing such a distant goal before the bubble bursts."
That's good stuff, but I still can't let the author get away with this statement, which is just a complete, blatant falsehood:

Under George W Bush, federal funding of ­human embryonic stem cell work was banned in the United States for religious reasons.
:sigh: Here we go again. Bush did not ban federal funding for ESCR - in fact he funded ESCR for the first time in American history. He limited funding to the human embryonic stem cell lines to those that were already existing, enabling continued research in ESCR without the additional federally funded death of human embryos.

Second, I don't recall Bush quoting Scripture or relying on Sacred dictum to make his decision. I realize that in Brave New Britain in may be difficult to imagine that one can still use secular reasoning to defend the intrinsic value of human life, but here in the states we still seem to be able to.


  1. Dear LTI,
    I was curious, what's the best way to respond when someone states that the oposition to abortion or ESCR is because of religious reasons?

  2. Jose,
    First of all, I would highly recommend your reading Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen’s Embryo A Defense of Human Life. Perhaps an author on this website has a book coming out as well that is designed to equip people to engage discussions of this sort.

    That said here is my quick reply. When discussing the question of whether or not embryonic human beings have any rights or should be afforded protection you must ask and answer two questions. What are human embryos? What duties or obligations govern our relationship with them if any?

    The first of those questions is a matter of scientific identification. The second question is a matter of philosophical deliberation on morality. Any person that enters into this discussion will have to operate in both of those disciplines.

    Most people, including most atheists, believe in morality and seek to apprehend moral duties so this is not a religious discussion. In fact, many atheists have developed rigorous and sophisticated defenses of objective moral duties in an atheistic model. All this to say that appealing to scientific identification of the unborn and the moral duties that we have to the unborn, including embryonic humans need not be a religious discussion and the accusation itself is either intellectual laziness or evasion.

    Now, this does not mean that people do not offer religious reasons for objecting to ESCR or even that I do not also have religious objections. It also does not mean that my motivation for objecting lacks a religious component, but the defender of ESCR has to distinguish between my motivations and my arguments or else they are guilty of the genetic fallacy. Anyone arguing that the embryo is not human and due no rights or protections because the people arguing are largely religious is completely copping out and/or missing the point.

    You may not think that was quick, but my full response was three pages long. ;-)

    God bless,

  3. Jose,

    The same is true for abortion as well.

    A quick addendum. I wager this person has moral positions that they believe are objectively and rationally based.

    The easiest way to guide the objector through this while also learning what you are up against is to ask the following line of questions: Do you think that the objections to killing eight year old children are religiously based? If no, then how about a toddler? If no again, how about an infant? If no again, how about a newborn? If no again, how about a viable fetus? If no again, how about a pre-viability fetus?

    You get the idea. At some point on this line the objector will say that the objection now becomes religiously based, but you might ask them to help you understand what has substantively changed about the life in question from one developmental stage to the next that it spontaneously went from being religious zealotry that this life was worth protecting to an obvious non-religious objective fact that we should not destroy that life. That ought to be an interesting answer.


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