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January 14, 2007


The thing that really annoys me about the Right-to-Life crowd is that they're actually MORE opposed to cloning than they are to stem cell research... they'll push for adult stem cell research, of all varieties - even placental or amiotic, but cloning with any of these cells is off limits (Mort Kondrake, the faux liberal on Faux News, supported exactly this position on Saturday night).

So, according to this dim crowd, we can do research with some stem cells but if we clone the same cells to solve the inevitable immune problems we've made some horrible ethical error (judging from the White House medical ethics site it seems that they feel cloning with non-embryonic stem cells would create "near-embryonic" life forms, if I'm following their illogic correctly).

The ethical arguments really don't hold water. That's not really so surprising, because -- as with teaching evolution -- it is an anti-science political argument dressed up in moralists' clothes, and the pants don't fit.

I think the vociferous opposition to cloning is (like much of what we hear from the religious Right) a political tactic. The stem cell research ship is rapidly sailing, and anti-science groups are having increasing difficulty getting folks riled up about experiments clearly pointed towards treating disease. The "cloning" angle plays more easily into the "mad scientist" frame and so they find it's an easier drum to beat.

As we've seen many times, it's not the ethical principles (or the facts) that drive the argument -- rather, the ideology comes first and facts & ethics are bent to "support" it. The weakness there is that, if anyone stops and looks closely, they'll see the ethical argument doesn't hold up. The strength of it is, not many people stop to look.

I'll buy the Cato Institute argument when they support efforts of pacifists to prohibit our tax dollars from funding the defense department and the rest of the government's war-making apparatus.

Well, so far as the question EP raised before about would could be successful ethical argument, what she gives here is at least a reasonable example of one kind found in the literature, viz. an argument by analogy from one concrete case to another for which we have firmer case judgments or at least more agreement about the same. In this particular argument the idea is to show a disanalogy, by showing that various things that would be true of murder of ``the born'', or at least the paradigmatic normal human adult don't go for the blastocyte and therefore the use of the latter to produce embryonic stem cells isn't murder after all (and one could push this, I think, to get the conclusion that it isn't like any other sort of physical harm done to a normal human adult either). This sort of reasoning by analogy (or in this case, disanalogy) to cases for which we have firmer judgments is quite common in the literature as a means to adjudicate specific moral issues. Just get a collection of readings on bio-medical ethics out of the library, and you will see what I mean. There are also journals, for example the new The Journal of law, medicine & ethics.

Has stem cell research show any promise into helping people? I have read alot that says it might be able to, but I get very stuck up on the might. Also reading reports like Stem Cells Feed Brain Tumors doesn't gain any further support from people like me. Linked below:


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