Thursday, January 24, 2002

Bioethics or Biomorals?- I’ve been following the president’s bioethics commission headed up by Dr. Leon Kass. Papa Blog has been a harsh critic of Kass’ world-view; their differences are descriptive of the differences between libertarians and conservatives. The new quip is that the conservative “stands athwart history, yelling 'Stop!',” while the libertarian “stands athwart history, yelling ‘Yee-Haw!’” Is it the neocons job to stand athwart history, trying to keep it out of the ditch? Not to stop progress, but to guide it away from danger. Paul’s admonishment to the Corinthians was ” ’Everything is permissible’--but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’--but not everything is constructive.” We aren’t out of place to ask some hard questions, questions that may be more metaphysical that scientific. On cloning, some of the questions go straight to some core questions as to what a person is and what it isn’t. Is a fetus a person or property? If it is property, can the owner dispose of it as it wishes? Can the state declare eminent domain and forcibly buy the “property” from the owner? If cloning is allowed, especially if artificial “wombs” are created, at what point, if any, does the being gain personhood? If clones or other artificially-generated humans aren’t people, can they be enslaved or carved up for parts? Most of these questions have no good scientific answer; they are as much a realm of theology as science, yet they are still valid questions. Reynolds and others (he’s more civil than most in his trashing) have sought to belittle and treat as intellectual inferiors people who oppose embryo-based biotech on religious grounds.In this piece Reynolds makes light of the gut instincts of Kass and others, and seeks to avoid invoking God on the issue of abortion by pointing out the number of miscarriages (spontaneous abortions in medical-speak) that He allows. Another Reynolds piece chalks up the dislike of cloning to simply a “having the willies” feeling that is without any intellectual basis. Yet another invokes this Simpsons dialogue

Bart: "How would I go about creating a half-man, half-monkey-type creature?" Ms. Krabapple: "I'm sorry, that would be playing God..." Bart: "God schmod. I want my monkey man!" What would Leon Kass say? Come to think of it, he kind of reminds me of Ms. Krabapple. . . .

Come to think of it, Glenn, you kind of remind me of Bart. Let's skip the ad hominems, shall we. If the critics of biotech can be called out for a crude "playing God" critique, the fans of biotech can be called out for wanting their monkey-man, morals be damned. While the critics of cloning and other embryo-based biotech may not be the most intellectual, they need to be heard and treated with respect.

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