Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our continuing culture of death...

Gentle Reader, as you know, I usually post family news here: updates on my health, my family's health, or the doings of various family members, or reflections on the doings of our great God in our hearts and lives. I usually save my rantings for my other blog. But I am so concerned about the turn of policy in this country with regards to the use of embryonic stem cells in research, that I felt obliged to write not only about it on my other blog, but here as well.

On Monday of this week, President Obama rescinded the ban on federal funding for certain types of embryonic stem cell research. He did so without ever addressing any of the moral question surrounding such research, and public funding of it. I have grave concerns for the broad approval President Obama has given. Even the Washington Post and the New York Times, not normally places I look to for my moral compass, discuss the problem. Andrew Kern over at the Quiddity blog asks the question fairly:
The natural sciences are not morally neutral, they are subservient to morality. They are mere knowledge, which, in turn gives power. Knowledge may conceivably be regarded as morally neutral (I don’t think I see it that way, but I can see how people would). Power cannot. Power enables action. Action is always moral.

Therefore the moral sciences provide a higher order of knowledge than scientific knowledge...

The last century has, practically and philosophically, made clear that scientific knowledge is not morally neutral if only because human beings possess it and are empowered by it.

Let us grant, then, for the sake of argument, that science should be freed from religious constraints. Should it also be freed from moral constraints? And where do those morals come from? Historically, I can only see two options: metaphysics (philosophy) and religion.

The trouble with metaphysics is its practical instability. Plato made it rather obvious that only a few people can attain to the level of metaphysical clarity that can order a society. That is at least one reason why he never opposed religion per se.

For this reason, a democracy could never survive a scientific age in which morality is based on metaphysics. If, then, we have eliminated metaphysics (philosophy) and religion, then what will we base our decisions on?

This question cannot be dodged.

You can read the whole thing here (only slightly longer than this excerpt) here. President Obama's claim that science is morally neutral is absurd, as is aptly pointed out here. Robert George and Eric Cohen state the case much better than I can. They say in part:
For those who believe in the highest ideals of deliberative democracy, and those who believe we mistreat the most vulnerable human lives at our own moral peril, Mr. Obama's claim of "taking politics out of science" should be lamented, not celebrated.

In the years ahead, the stem-cell debate will surely continue -- raising as it does big questions about the meaning of human equality at the edges of human life, about the relationship between science and politics, and about how we govern ourselves when it comes to morally charged issues of public policy on which reasonable people happen to disagree. We can only hope, in the years ahead, that scientific creativity will make embryo destruction unnecessary and that as a society we will not pave the way to the brave new world with the best medical intentions.

You can read the whole piece from the Wall Street Journal here.

If you would like to learn more about this whole issue, I suggest you read this piece by Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, or read this List of the Media Myths about stem cell research. The truth is, there have been no applied cures from embryonic stem cells, even though a life is destroyed. Adult stem cells have had much more success in actual treatments, and are available without the death of the donor.

I am afraid that the research and morality involved in this issue is being ignored in favor of promulgating the idea that we are free to do whatever we wish. And the culture of death we are creating will be a frightening place to try to live. May God have mercy on us, and cause us to both follow Him and protect the lives of the helpless.


Mu said...

Where was your concern for culture of life when Bush was president. Conservatives tend to care a lot about the unborn. About the born not so much.

Bush sent our troops for demonstrably false "reasons." Or do 100,000 some Arabs not matter? Not to mention our own fallen soldiers?

What about all of Bush's favors for industries that pollute water and air. Talk about a threat to the unborn!

I have no quarrel with a genuinely pro-life persuasion.

The way difficult decisions are made has to be with balancing some values with others. Making one value cancel out others is philosophically and morally problematic.

I just don't see conservatives having any monopoly on morality or righteousness. Sorry.

MagistraCarminum said...

Dear Phil,
I am sure I am as inconsistent as the next person. But I don't think my commitment to life issues has changed with the administration. I continue to pray daily for an end to war. I do not consider myself a "one-issue" voter, but I do prioritize what I am convinced is most important, as I'm sure you do. We may differ on those particulars, however.

I have been writing (and teaching my students) for a long time- during both Bush and Clinton administrations) about the slippery moral slope we are trying to teeter on as a culture. I don't see this as a political issue, but a religious/moral/ethical one.

I am not intending to present myself as having a monopoly on morality or righteousness. I am just trying to define and describe the practical outworking of what I believe to be good and true and beautiful. Sorry if I have caused offense.