Saturday, October 28, 2006

Reply to jcricket

jcricket commented:

    Shorter Chris:

    There’s no way to argue in favor of ESC research because there’s no way to argue with my unassailable logic that if I lump everything within the “organism” label, everything done to each organism is now morally equivalent.

    Congratulations Chris, you’ve failed your high school logic class and I’m kicking you out of debate club. For one you’ve committed a couple of basic logical fallacies, including what’s known as “false dilemma“. I’m sure there are others, why don’t you go to this site and find out?

    Push your logic even a teensy bit further and the other posters and the Monty Python song isn’t far fetched. Masturbating is destroying 1/2 of a human organism and millions of potential human lives. Using condoms is a cruel joke on those 1/2 human organisms. Taking the birth control pill can keep fertilized eggs that would otherwise implant and grow into babies, making them even more of a human organism (they’re in a womb), so it should be outlawed too, right?

    Anyone who seriously thinks that there’s no room for a logical, rational support of the other sides position is fooling themselves. Even on this issue.

    Despite the fact that I am strongly pro ESC research I can can see a possible logic within the arguments of some ESC opponents. But only for those that also oppose IVF, because they are also as irate about the ongoing embryo holocaust occurring every year within IVF clinics. It’s the same destruction, and it’s been going on without complaint for the most part.

    So, while there is a group of supporters who can claim logical opposition to ESC research, I doubt Chris is in it. The only people who are in it must also oppose IVF, contraception and probably masturbation.

    The poll done around the Michael J Fox ad shows that the public largely supports ESC research (something like 70-75%) and doesn’t oppose federal funding when it understands that federal funding is the only source for this type of work. When you see the potential people who could benefit from ESC research up close, it appears that support goes even higher (83% after the MJF ad). It would appear that most people are quite comfortable with this issue and don’t buy the line of reasoning that makes 5-cell clumps in a vat the equivalent of living human beings.

First of all, I'm not the one who claims that embryos (and zygotes, and blastocysts) are human organisms; as I noted previously, embryologists and their textbooks do that (cf. the references provided by Prof. Robert George in the footnotes of this article and by Dianne Irving, M.A., Ph. D. in this article).

Second, j doesn't demonstrate how I've actually committed any relevant logical fallacies; he merely claims that I have. Obviously, that's insufficient and hardly constitutes a valid argument against my position.

There are numerous errors in j's second paragraph. My logic on this is hardly complex: every human organism and only human organisms possess the intrinsic dignity proper to human beings. For a being to possess human dignity, it must be human, and it must be an organism. That's all there is to it. But the things which j thinks follow from my logic simply do not. Oocytes (sperm and egg cells), for instance, are human, but they are not organisms (there is no such living thing as "1/2 of an organism", human or otherwise). And as I've said in a prior post, the issue is not the destruction of "potential human lives", but the destruction of actual human lives, something which occurs in abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

j goes on to make the same argument others have made: the lack of outrage against fertility clinics somehow invalidates the claim that all human organisms have inherent dignity. Again, I've addressed this issue previously.

He also erroneously asserts that someone who holds that all human organisms have inherent dignity must also oppose contraception and masturbation. This does not follow; as already noted, masturbation does not destroy human organisms; nor do contraceptives (except in the case of abortifacients). He is correct, though, that such a position entails the opposition to IVF, at least insofar as IVF commonly results in the destruction of embryonic human beings. If, however, IVF did not have that result, there would be no contradiction in supporting it while supporting the position that all human beings have inherent dignity. (I'm using human being and human organism synonymously.)

Finally, j points to polling data which supposedly demonstrates broad public support for embryonic stem cell research and for its federal funding. Polls, though, are tricky things... it all depends on how the questions are phrased. For instance, if I didn't know that what exactly ESCR entails, and someone said to me, "many scientists believe that ESCR holds great potential for curing dozens of painful and grave illnesses; would you support federal funding for ESCR?", of course I'd support it. But if I was told the ESCR requires the destruction of human embryos, I'd oppose it, and according to a 2004 poll, more Americans oppose ESCR than support it when they're told such. But even if that were the case, would that prove that embryos do not have inherent dignity? I think our nation's history -- and indeed the history of humankind in general -- demonstrates that dignity is not dependent upon what people -- even most people -- think.

No comments: