Thursday, January 13, 2011

Axis of Bioethical Evil

"Our U.S. operation Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine International has successfully divided human embryonic stem cells extracted from leftover eggs from in-vitro fertilization facilities into megakaryocytes, precursors to blood platelets," said a statement from South Korean Cha Bio & Diostech — Breakthrough achieved in human embryonic stem cells.

In an age unable to go deeper ethically than Consequentialism and Utilitarianism, how do we even begin to argue against the instrumentalization of human life that this clearly represents, even if these were "leftover eggs from in-vitro fertilization facilities" (itself an abomination), given that the Catholic Church is wisely silent about the point at which ensoulment begins? Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk explained that "the wrongness of destroying a human embryo does not ultimately depend on when that embryo might become a person, or when he or she might receive a soul from God" — Do Embryos Have Souls?

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Blogger Tiago said...

We can at least argue that embryonic stem cells are useless for the purpose of healing since they induce rejection, necessitating the patient to take immunosuppressants for the rest of her life. In contrast, Induced Pluripotent (iPS) stem cells can be produced from the patient's own cells (say, from the skin, for example) and do not cause rejection. Furthermore, all advances in actual treatments -- even in rats -- so far reported in the media have been with iPS cells.

It's an Utilitarian argument, to be sure, but frankly we need to put a stop to this charnel house sooner than we can educate people about ethics.

8:48 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

That "we need to put a stop to this charnel house sooner than we can educate people about ethics" is one of the most perceptive things I've read in a while.

4:10 AM  
OpenID haraldhardrada said...

Is your opposition to biotechnology going to take the exclusive form of whining on the Internet?

Honestly, what are you going to do about it?

8:41 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

We do not oppose biotechnology. We do oppose unethical biotechnology.

What are we going to do about? Attempt to educate the ignorant. Admittedly, it will not be an easy task, given the two centuries or so of indoctrination in Utilitarianism and Consequentialism.

11:11 PM  
OpenID haraldhardrada said...

People like Jonathan Baron do a terrific job of defending utilitarianism. Their arguments are far better than "because God / tradition / the Pope said so"-type shtick. These are empty statements. Perhaps people like you are losing ground because others realise your ideas are rather bankrupt.

11:49 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

And people like Jacques Maritain do a terrific job defending natural law. Their arguments are far better than straw men like "because God / tradition / the Pope said so."

12:13 AM  
OpenID haraldhardrada said...

I'm reading about Maritain on SEP

It says:

"There is, Maritain holds, a single natural law governing all beings with a human nature. The first principles of this law are known connaturally, not rationally or through concepts — by an activity that Maritain, following Aquinas, called ‘synderesis.’ Thus, ‘natural ‘law’ is ‘natural’ because it not only reflects human nature, but is known naturally."

Developmental psychology and neuroscience would be in some accord with this, but not entirely. (Yes, I give reality primacy over armchair blithering: I am not ashamed of this and the writings of, e.g., Patricia Churchland give fine examples of philosophy willing to deal with the real world.) Furthermore, there is substantial variation from one culture to another on what is right. For example, Saudi clerics insist, just as Maritain, that their code of ethics is self-evident and written on the hearts of all. So much for one natural law.

12:47 AM  

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