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« I Opened a Large Package I Got in the Mail from the Discovery Institute… | Main | Unjustified Skepticism »

July 08, 2009

Comments

Next comes the apology from those who attacked promoters of adult stem cell research right? I know this is harsh, but part of me thinks that this will not be celebrated as much than if the progress was made by embryonic stem cells. Because degrading the value of human life is the #1 goal of many embryonic stem cell research advocates – any real scientific progress is secondary.

"degrading the value of human life is the #1 goal of many embryonic stem cell research advocates"

That seems a bit tendentious Kevin. Do you have particular advocates in mind? Are you certain that these advocates are in fact degrading the value of human life (or trying to do so), rather than simply pushing for a more reasonable conception that value?

I do not think it is so much the degrading of life that is at issue in this "debate?" But an ideaology that results in the degradation of life. Lets face it. If it is recognized that embryos have value then fetuses obviously have value and so by comparison an abortion looks like outright infanticide (which of course it is).
There is another issue behind this as well. The embryonic stem cell research funding has to be one of the largest potential corporate welfare deals out there (maybe not in terms of lump sum but long term) at least on a national level.
Look at what California has done. How many "cures" have come from state funded or rather state tax payer funded embyonic stem cell research in California? The next breakthrough treatment with embyonic stem cells will be the first breakthrough treatment. It seems to me in this case we not only have a foundational ethical/moral problem but a pragmatic one as well. How often do those two actually overlap in our favor? That is why I love to dialogue with people on this issue. Take advantage of this.

Damian, we can recognize that embryos and fetuses have value without supposing that killing them is always wrong, or that it is morally equivalent to infanticide. We might even say that this whole debate arises because both sides value embryos. In fact, both sides value human life.

CT,

No, I have no advocates in mind. This is an observation of the nature of the debate as I saw it. It was a debate that centered more on attacking the pro-life position than actual scientific facts. Am I certain? No. I could never be certain of one’s intentions, but that doesn’t preclude me from drawing my own inferences.

Maybe we wait and see how many embryonic stem cell research advocates are healed? We shouldn’t hold our breath.

Kevin, the question I put to you needn't even be one about intentions. Why suppose that in advocating the use of human embryos for medical research there is any degradation of the value of human life? In particular, you seem to be precluding the possibility that this is an important clarification of the value of human life, or that this sort of advocacy promotes the true value of human life by upholding a more accurate conception of it.

“Why suppose that in advocating the use of human embryos for medical research there is any degradation of the value of human life?”

Because it involves the destruction of innocent human life. I could advocate the harvesting of organs from people starving in villages in Africa to help save lives in America. But I would find it hard to believe that the position was just a matter of the “conception” of the value of human life.

Here you are supposing (1) that embryos are "innocent", and (2) that the embryonic life is being "destroyed" (rather than, e.g., being pruned and cultivated, so to speak), and (3) that the destruction of innocent human life always involve the degradation of the value of human life. All these assumptions are quite suspicious.

CT,

It sounds like the “conception” is your rub. If that’s the case then everything is up for grabs. My “conception” of justice. My “conception” of torture. My “conception” of value and on and on.

You also failed to address my comparison in my previous post.

1.) I am using “innocence” in the manner that it appears in Webster’s which notes “innocent child”.
2.) I am using “destroyed” in the manner of destruction. The life is over. Killed. Destroyed. Your euphemisms are amusing and eugenicists perhaps would agree with you, but I could argue that harvesting the organs of those starving in villages in Africa to save American lives is simply “pruning” or “cultivating” life.

3.) I grant you this. The destruction of innocent life does not always involve the degradation of human life. It’s the ‘intentional’ destruction of innocent human life that does.


Are you suggesting that there can be no reasonable debate regarding the relative merits of differing conceptions of the value of human life? Why?

Your comparison is a bit premature, as it regards villagers, rather than embryos. It obviously begs the question to simply assume that a villager's life is in the relevant respects morally equivalent to embryonic life.

The problem with appeals to dictionary definitions is that many folks--especially contributors to this blog--will disagree on this very point.

All I'm pointing out are your questionable assumptions. You need to show why we should regard the extraction and cultivation of embryonic cells as a case of the destruction of embryonic life, rather than a case of its pruning and cultivation, so to speak.

Why suppose that the intentional destruction of innocent human life always involves the degradation of its value?

“Your comparison is a bit premature, as it regards villagers, rather than embryos.”

At least we made it to this point. Doomed and starving villagers in Africa are also not healthy Americans.

CT, if I may ask a question

If you value human life, would you harvest it? Ide like to hear your answer.

"Doomed and starving villagers in Africa are also not healthy Americans."

I'm not following you Kevin. Who exactly is disputing the idea that the lives of African villagers have a different moral status than the lives of Americans, healthy or otherwise? Do you have particular interlocutors in mind, or are you just scoring a point against a strawman?

Evangelion, there are many ways to "value human life". There are differing conceptions of that value. On some conceptions of that value, it can be appropriate to "harvest" or "cultivate" human embryonic life. It is arguably appropriate to reflect on the relative merits of differing conceptions of the value of human life.

Allright.
Then I suggest that their are different standards at play here.

Under what circumstances is harvesting human life, an appropriate manner in which to act out a meaningful interest in, human life? I get the impression that this value is actually a value of human survival, or at best a tiered value of human life. Barring special cases, for the sake of clarity.

Let me say though I agree with this statement,

" There are differing conceptions of that value."

But obviously, I disagree that all of these differing conceptions are "right", (for lack of a better word).

Let's start with a hypothetical case in which I'd say that that the extraction of human embryonic stem cells would be permissible: the early-stage frozen embryo is damaged in such a way that its nervous system could not develop further and its stem cells would be used in research that promises to result in medical treatment that would both cure deadly and severely debilitating human diseases and would not require the harvesting of additional stem cells.

Would you agree with me on this case? (If not, I'd suggest this is a good case to discuss, as it might help us focus on the fundamental disagreement.)

Unfortunately I have to depart for a bit :( but really briefly,

"the early-stage frozen embryo is damaged in such a way that its nervous system could not develop"

if you could help me out here (I confess I am no geneticyst), does this have fatal implications?

I apologize for my departure, and
hopefully we can continue this conversation later :)

Would it matter if it had fatal implications, given that we can preserve its frozen life?

(We can suppose that it would be able to survive birth, with something like a severe case of anencephaly.)

CT said

    "Let's start with a hypothetical case ..."
Why not start with the real-world case posed by Melinda's initial post:
    Does it makes sense to wade into the ethical controversy surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells for therapeutic medical purposes when adult stem cells have (a) consistently demonstrated more therapeutic breakthroughs and fewer risks, and (b) have orders of magnitude less ethical controversy?
I for one would welcome a clearly stated, pragmatic position from CT. Alas, I fear we will still get more sentences ending in question marks than periods from him/her. (sigh)

CT certainly is one of the nicer trolls one will encounter ... but is a troll nonetheless.

Billy, what exactly do you mean by calling me a "troll"? I'll happily discontinue my participation if the Stand to Reason Blog isn't a place where reasoned disagreement and critical questions are welcomed.

You seem to be a very practically-minded person. But you might exercise a little humility in discounting any inquiry for which you cannot see any obvious "pragmatic" value. When the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics were being debated, neither theory had any obvious pragmatic value. As it turned out, however, we owe to these theories the advances in nuclear energy and microelectronics.

Again, I said:

    I for one would welcome a clearly stated, pragmatic position from CT on the following:

    Does it makes sense to wade into the ethical controversy surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells for therapeutic medical purposes when adult stem cells have (a) consistently demonstrated more therapeutic breakthroughs and fewer risks, and (b) have orders of magnitude less ethical controversy?

So now you are on the receiving end of a felicitous query -- what is your answer?

Hypothetical cases are often used in philosophical discussions for the same reasons highly controlled and artificial conditions are created in a laboratory: in order that we might focus in on particular variables, by holding aside a lot of other complicating factors. Thus, in the hypothetical case I suggested, you'll notice that many complicating factors have been set aside. That is, many factors that that might normally count in favor of refusing stem cell research are removed from the picture, so that we might focus in on smaller range of considerations. If it turns out that people (or just Evangelion, my interlocutor) agree that stem cell extraction is permissible in such a case, then we'll know that certain factors are not conclusive reasons against ESCR--that these factors can be overridden. We will have achieved some common ground upon which we might advance any number of further inquiries. If, however, people insist that ESCR is still impermissible in such a case, then we will have come closer to seeing the depth of our disagreement--and why we may never come to agreement on these other cases. In such a case, however, we will still have come closer to isolated certain fundamental points of disagreement, and we can focus our debate upon those.

Now you can answer the question I put to you.

What Is A Troll? The term derives from "trolling", a style of fishing which involves trailing bait through a likely spot hoping for a bite. The troll posts a response, often to an honest question, that is intended to disrupt [...]

Now, some further observations:

1: You seem to almost universally employ the "Columbo" tactic (using STR terminology) -- which is to ask leading questions. For the sake of my point, let's simplistically say that asking a question is "taking" and asserting a claim is "giving".

2: There is nothing egregious about either asking questions or asserting claims. However, when one unilaterally asks questions ("takes") without asserting claims ("giving"), then the dialog becomes strained and disruptive.

3: Further, one can use the Columbo tactic to (in a backhanded fashion) assert claims disguised as a question. When the claim is identified and called out, the questioner disingenuously says, "Oh, that's not my claim, it's simply a question."

I submit that you may be guilty of both of behaviours 1, 2, and 3. Hence, my Claim that you are a troll.

Further, I find it interesting your moniker is "CT" -- could that possibly stand for "Columbo Tactic"?

“Who exactly is disputing the idea that the lives of African villagers have a different moral status than the lives of Americans, healthy or otherwise?”

I will. Doomed African villagers who do not have long to live could have their organs harvested to save Americans that would, upon receiving the organs, lead a much longer and comfortable life than the villagers.

It seems that my logic should, in your view, be sound. My “conception” of the value of life is to achieve the highest living standard for as many people as possible. If you don’t harvest the organs you’ll have two dead bodies. If you do harvest them, you can save the life of the individual with the highest standard of living.

Billy H, exactly which "dialogue" have I "disrupted"? If by asking questions I am a "troll", does this mean that you are also a troll? Will you just say that these questions themselves are "disruptive"?

Perhaps you just don't like questions. Perhaps this is because these questions are uncovering weaknesses in your statements. But notice that this is just a matter of style and that I can use statements, rather than questions, to put pressure upon the same weaknesses in your thinking:

(1) Billy H has failed to show that my questions have disrupted any dialogue.

(2) Billy H has no more grounds for calling CT a troll, than for calling himself a troll.

(3) Billy H might have accused me of being "disruptive" if I put statements (1)-(3) in the form of questions. And this is ridiculous. There is nothing inherently disruptive about using questions to explore weaknesses or uncover questionable assumptions.

Kevin W., why do you think that, on my conception of the value of human life, we are supposed "to achieve the highest living standard for as many people as possible", and that we are to pursue this end by any efficient means?

(And just for Billy H--so that he doesn't accuse me of being "disruptive"--we'll put my point also in the form of a statement: Kevin W, go re-read everything I've said. Nowhere will you find me defending a conception of the value of human life according to which we obliged to "to achieve the highest living standard for as many people as possible", and pursue this end by any efficient means.)

Billy H, with all due respect, I dont think your labeling CT as a troll was called for. I dont know if you guys have some hidden history, but ive seen him around here (and you, too) and I dont think hes or you have done anything massive enough to write off completely, or even slightly. Im not trying to harp on you, but until CT does something outright rediculous I would suggest opting out of the conversation, or addressing his question or its rediculous nature (if it is, rediculous).
Dont take that the wrong way... Im just curious where the offense came from, dear friend.

CT, in the case you present...
And this may be subject to modification, I would say the life being taken is not worth the medical benifits, on principle. Reason being, im thinking of ding the same thing (converting this life into medical a breakthrough) at a later stage of his/her life, say, age 15. Maybe I would suggest that I would be disheartened with either outcome. The question is perhaps, could I care for this child should it be born.

The sad part is that while the medical side of this university is working to extend the life span, the philosphy section can't give a compelling reason to live out the span we have now.

Damian, thats an interesting point to which I have sometimes thought on. Whats the point of survival?

For the record, to my best of my knowledge I have never previously interacted with Billy H.; therefore his sudden accusations and ad hominem attacks struck me as particularly inappropriate. If I reacted strongly, this is why. That said, I also think Billy H's attacks would have been inappropriate even if he and I had had a history on this blog, given that the respect I have always had for this forum. In fact, the only criticism of this blog I would be tempted make is that at times there are too few contributors who are like Evangelion; that is, who are willing to reprimand the occasional STR "true believer" who gets a little too zealous in his or her defense of the STR orthodoxy, employing disrespectful or otherwise inappropriate "tactics." This small criticism, I think, also applies to the administrator(s) of this blog.

In my next post I will reply to Evangelion's refreshingly on-topic response.

>>the only criticism of this blog I would be tempted make is that at times there are too few contributors who are like Evangelion; that is, who are willing to reprimand the occasional STR "true believer" who gets a little too zealous in his or her defense of the STR orthodoxy, employing disrespectful or otherwise inappropriate "tactics."

Honestly, CT, you have been trollish on more than one occasion, so a little humility here, and just discuss the topic instead of the commenters. Thanks.

“Kevin W., why do you think that, on my conception of the value of human life, we are supposed "to achieve the highest living standard for as many people as possible", and that we are to pursue this end by any efficient means?”

CT, I don’t think that. I'm taking that position. I’m making a claim as to my “conception” of value which, according to you, could just be a different form of placing worth on life. My position is above reproach by your own standards.

How can you be missing this?

Much has been said about the value of human life in this blog and this is really a critical point. Does the scientist view value in the same sense as a pro-life advocate? Is it valuable to him for the purpose of advancing his career? Is it valuable in advancing his savings account? Is it valuable in acquisition of fame and recognition? Is it valuable in improving the lot of humanity? It seems to me that the list is longer on the selfish side than the selfless side on this issue of human vlue...and the motives are justifiably in question and as long as all these selfish reasons are linked to the science, people are likely to follow the idea of human value that gains them personally the greatest net gain. Sometimes that is at the expense of reason, morality and ethics.

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