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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Arrogant and Foolish

Over at the oddly named Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, you can find lots of bad logic when it comes to bioethical reasoning.  Russell Blackford there has taken the Vatican to task for criticizing the awarding the Nobel Prize for medicine to the man who invented in vitro fertilization (IVF). Blackford called the Vatican "arrogant" and "foolish" and called on all his minions to resist Vatican attempts to foist its views onto the legal systems of unsuspecting nations across the globe.

One wonders what globe Mr. Blackford is living on.  Knock, knock, sir. The Vatican does not influence the laws of secular states on this planet. You must have it confused with some other monotheistic religion.

Check out these wonderful paragraphs as Mr. Blackford melts down:

"The embryos concerned are tiny dots of protoplasm that are totally unlike an adult human being, a child, or even a fetus that has undergone a period of development in the womb. These little dots are incapable of feeling pain, having any instinct to protect themselves, or possessing any other form of sentience. They possess no fear of being destroyed and experience no suffering when they are destroyed, and no one who is capable of suffering has bonded with them in the slightest. The destruction of these very small collections of cells does no harm to families or the social fabric. There is no reason for them to be protected by our moral norms and sentiments or by the law.

"In short, there is no reason based on social welfare or the welfare of sentient beings why we should regret the destruction of tiny embryos created through IVF; there is no reason to condemn it morally, or attempt to prevent it by law. There is even less reason to regret the destruction of these embryos than to regret early-term abortions. The Vatican’s morality is not based on anything rational but on recondite ideas of natural law, the will of God, and the ensoulment of non-sentient life. It puts human happiness below its bizarre and miserable version of morality."

Now, the first paragraph lists true attributes of embryos. They are tiny dots of protoplasm, incapable of feeling pain or fear, etc., etc. All true.  All irrelevant.  Size is irrelevant, for instance. What the embryo is of course is a tiny human being.  Human beings begin small and get larger, so it is no wonder that the very origin of a human being should be a tiny dot.  The differences listed are not differences of nature, but only of degree.  An embryo is not an organism of a different biological species than man. It is a human organism, the beginning of someone unique and unrepeatable.

Then he states as true fact things he has no way of knowing. How does he know no one has bonded with a given embryo? Or is that anyone who has bonded with it is simply incapable of suffering, but how would he know that? More importantly, a bond with someone else who can suffer does not constitute someone's existence as a human being. Then he says that destruction of embryos does not harm families or society. How does he know? And so what if it's true? The destruction of embryos does not become something other than destruction of human beings because families are not harmed by it. Families are harmed by it.  Every embryo destroyed in IVF is someone's child, someone's sibling, someone's cousin or grandkid. We cannot know what joys those missing kids would have brought their families. Maybe many of those kids would have brought their families only suffering and pain, but some would have brought joy, and even the ones that bring suffering generally still bring joy in other ways.

And he has the nerve to say that the Vatican's morality is not based on anything rational, that it is bizarre and miserable.

Here is the Vatican's reasoning: Human embryos are human beings. There is no science to controvert that statement and in fact all science that can be brought to bear on it only affirms that statement. IVF callously manufactures and destroys human beings, reducing them to possessions to be acquired and things to be used rather than gifts to be received. Elitism and therefore discrimination are evident in the choice of which embryos to implant and which to destroy. IVF fails to diagnose and treat the underlying infertility.  IVF is therefore immoral.  Furthermore, it is wrong to honor the man who invented the technology.

It holds together logically. It is not bizarre, miserable, arrogant, foolish, or irrational.

And Blackford's rational argument? It would go something like this: C'mon, that's not a human, be serious, it's soooo small and tiny and little, it can't feel anything, no one likes it, no one cares about it, you call that tiny dot a human being? It's TINY for crying out loud! You gotta be nuts, you and everyone who thinks like you, it's not a human being, human beings are BIG, not tiny, you only want to force everyone to agree with you, you're stupid, arrogant, bizarre, and miserable, I will fight you and your insane defense of those TINY dots! Can't you see how tiny they are?

Keep repeating it, Mr. Blackford: "It's just a tiny dot of protoplasm, it's just a tiny dot of protoplasm, it's just a tiny dot of protoplasm..."  Maybe one day it'll become true.

....While you're over on IEET's website, check out this video on why it is absurd to consider fetuses persons.

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