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June 06, 2006

Blastocysts Are Not People Ethics  Religion

I happened to catch The Daily Show the other night when the guest was one Ramesh Ponnuru (video), author of a nasty little tome called The Party of Death. The party in question, in case you were wondering, is the Democratic Party. "Of Death" because of abortion, on which this Ponnuru takes an absolutist all-abortion-is-murder-from-the-moment-of-conception position. Ditto for using 5-day-old embryos for stem cell research.

The American Prospect, however, points out that even The Wall Street Journal's reviewer finds Ponnuru's position extreme. Quoting the WSJ review:

It doesn't matter to Mr. Ponnuru that this argument flies in the face of a complex intuition that seems to underlie the American ambivalence: Invisible to the naked eye, lacking body or brain, feeling neither pleasure nor pain, radically dependent for life support, the early embryo, though surely part of the human family, is distant and different enough from a flesh-and-blood newborn that when the early embryo's life comes into conflict with other precious human goods or claims, the embryo's life may need to give way. [Emphasis added]

Wow. I never thought I'd say it, but good for the Wall Street Journal.

As I watched Jon Stewart's interview with Ponnuru, here's the question I was dying for him to ask:

Imagine you are walking by a stem cell laboratory and you see that a fire is raging inside. You see a person lying unconscious on the floor inside and, nearby, a tank containing some number of five-day-old embryos (blastocysts). Which do you save, the person or the embryos?

Or, to make the scenario even more clear-cut. Suppose what you see are a dozen trapped children and a petri dish containing 13 five-day-old embryos. There are more embryos than children. Which do you save, the children or the embryos?

I would have loved to watch Ponnuru stammer his way through that one. People who haven't surrendered their basic common sense understand that a fully developed human being and a nearly microscopic flyspeck are simply not equivalent. What could be more obvious?

And, as I pointed out in an earlier post, when it comes to stem cell research the which-do-you-save question is more than just hypothetical, since it "illustrates exactly the choice that faces us. I.e., there are living human beings with a variety of maladies who could be saved by research and therapy utilizing stem cells. Do we save them, or do we save the five-day-old embryos?"

Posted by Jonathan at June 6, 2006 05:27 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


We save the KITTENS.

Posted by: at June 7, 2006 01:26 PM