Friday, April 12, 2002

Just a Fertilized Egg

Virginia Postrel today offers a more in-depth critique of President Bush's remarks on cloning (as linked yesterday) than she did in her initial response which I referred to yesterday.

Unfortunately, she provides more evidence of what Ramesh Ponnuru points out in the article linked below: that libertarians (on this issue) make more assertions than arguments.

Ms. Postrel claims that Bush equates the embryo morally with a baby or adult, but that he "hides" this equation "by using the opaque word 'individual'." In other words, Mr. Bush obfuscates his "true" argument by word play.

What is patently hilarious about this argument is that in the course of making it, Ms. Postrel does the exact same thing, but far more egregiously. How? By using the term "fertilized egg" (which has no meaning in biological parlance) instead of "embryo" in virtually every instance. Guess what? We are all "fertilized eggs", some simply older than others. By referring to the embryo as a "fertilized egg" Ms. Postrel attempts to divert her readers' attention from the reality: that -- according to biology -- the embryo is an individual human being.

Ms. Postrel consistently fails to address the pro-life position head on. She provides a quote from Jacob Sullum's column today, which states, "it would be an odd state of affairs if a scientist were prohibited from destroying a miscroscopic, unimplanted embryo in an attempt to cure Alzheimer's disease while a pregnant woman could legally kill a 3-month-old fetus for any reason at all." Once again, we have an argument against recognizing the personhood of the embryo based on the fact that the law now allows for the destruction of that embryo in abortion. Once again, this is a non-argument. That the law allows for something does not automatically legitimate and provide an absolute moral foundation for that thing.

Finally, Ms. Postrel posits (between parentheses) that we who oppose cloning are putting the moral status of "cells" (once again, "embryo" is avoided) above the moral status of human beings "capable of consciousness". Several things come to mind...

1. As Dianne Irving's paper (linked yesterday) shows, the embyro is a human being. It has the same moral status that an adult human being has.

2. No one I know is putting the embryo above older human beings, in terms of moral status.

3. The embryo is also "capable of consciousness." While that capability is not immediate, this has no bearing on the moral status of the embryo, anymore than the lack of an immediate capability of consciousness has a bearing on the moral status of someone in a coma.

For more on this line of argumentation, I would read the Bailey vs. Lee & George discussion I linked to at the end of yesterday's cloning missive.

In the end, Ms. Postrel continues the pro-cloning libertarian trend of declining to substantially engage the pro-life position against cloning, coming no closer to doing so than making the above parenthetical remark about consciousness.

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