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Sunday, April 19, 2009


Miranda Flint

Whether or not this looks like an exercise in moderation depends on whether or not an embryo is a human being.

If it is, as I believe, then try substituting any other human being in its place
and see if the policy really looks moderate. Use, for example, Jews.

Your paragraph would read something like this:

Guidelines proposed by the National Institutes of Health to carry out an order made last month by President X would allow research with federal financing only on parts taken from surplus dead jews from concentration camps. The president still, however, prohibits federal funding of Jew killing, solely for research purposes.

If this were what was written, would we still praise the president for his display of moderation?

Not I. The problem here is not the money. That's minutia. The real problem is that people are being killed. The president ought to be worried about putting a stop to that, not about how much money to give the researchers.

P. Chirry

Whether it is an 'exercise in moderation' really doesn't matter. Once one side is extreme enough--and as the poster above has stated, using murdered humans for research purposes is indeed extreme--being 'moderate' is really no virtue at all.


Thanks, Miranda.

I took no position on the justice of the policies in question. If it were up to me, I would shut the whole thing down. But there is a difference between creating embryos for research purposes and using those that have been created by fertility clinics but are never going to be implanted.

I think the proper analogy would be this: do you use research gathered by the Nazis using Jewish subjects in cruel experiments? I am uneasy about it, but I would not throw the data away if it can save lives. Bush's policy implicitly takes a similar view.

If we are going to see our way through these things, it might help to defuse the "If Bush then bad" principle that the press so frequently employs in reporting the issue.

Miranda Flint

Dr. Blanchard:

I had a feeling you would come up with that counter analogy.
But it isn't quite the same thing. In your scenario, the research
has already been done. In reality, it has not. So the question
is not whether or not you use the research of the Nazis, it's whether
or not it's moral to do research on the victims they have already killed.

There is one other difference. In your scenario, the Nazis have already done their torture. It is not ongoing. In the case of embryonic stem-cell research, embryos are still being thrown away. And if it turns out that embryonic stem cells do have some sort of medical benefit not given by adult stem-cells, embryos will have to be continually discarded in order for any knowledge gained from such research to be used.



Are you sure you don't want to come back to Northern for, say, a philosophy minor? I can recommend the instructor.

I think you are dead spot on as regards the question. Doing Nazi experiments is pure evil. Using data from Nazi experiments, after the Third Reich had been killed dead, is unpleasant but perhaps permissible.

But that was the distinction I was trying to make. Creating embryos for purposes of stem cell harvesting looks to me like cannibalism. If President Obama is against that, he deserves support. As Lincoln said, when someone is right on a point, stand with him on that point.

Using cells from "discarded embryos" is a much more ambiguous matter. As I understand it, the embryos were created for parents who wanted to have children, but more are created than can be used. These stored embryos are as human as you or I were at a certain point in our time on earth, and in that respect they matter very much. The more I think about it, the more I dislike the practice of using them for research.

On the other hand, they aren't going to be implanted. It's not a matter of killing an unborn child who would otherwise be born (as in abortion). If the choice is between giving them a decent burial and harvesting stem cells, I would prefer the latter. But I don't think either choice represents a crime. If allowing their use for research purposes gets a promise that new human beings will not be created for the purpose of harvesting their cells, I am willing to make that compromise. I just hope it holds.

Miranda Flint

Hi Dr. Blanchard:

What a tempting proposition. If only Northern offered an advanced degree in Political Science!

I agree with much of what you are saying and I think your analogy is correct.
But I am less willing to make compromises - particularly on issues that are so
dear to me.

Before President Bush took office, I might have assumed that making compromises was a good way to make political progress. It makes sense to think that if you
deal moderately with someone, they will deal moderately with you.

But President Bush was very moderate. He worked with and consulted with Democrats on a regular basis. He gave them funding for many of their special programs. And as you've pointed out, he took a very moderate approach on stem cell research. Despite his moderate policies, Democrats absolutely hated Bush.
They worked against him as much as they could.

Therefore, I have little faith in compromise and little hope that, suddenly, those who were never pro-life before will respect the lives of the unborn.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for your voice of moderation.

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