[FoRK] thinking about responsibility
Mon Oct 24 12:16:32 PDT 2005
At 18:51 +0000 on 10/24/05, Russell Turpin wrote:
>Kevin Elliott <k-elliott at wiu.edu>:
>>It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize
>>that in 9 months that clump of cells will be something VERY different..
>Modern technology makes fragile much of the
>rhetoric surrounding abortion, especially the
>part that centers around potential. Consider
>an embryo in vitro. It takes some pretty
>special attention to keep it viable and put it
>inside a woman in a fashion that allows it to
>develop. With cloning, non-embryonic cells
>can be turned into embryonic ones. Just one
>more step in the process. Does that mean
>non-embryonic cells deserve moral consideration?
>Because of their POTENTIAL?
Sure they deserve moral consideration. If they didn't you wouldn't
have brought them up <G>.
Having said that, I think the in vitro issues are much less troubling
ethically. As I describe below, I don't view them as "potential
people". Their something we've made as a useful aid to pregnancy and
in that sense they have potential, but I don't think how they're
disposed of carries the same ethical weight. As a moral
consideration I don't think people have a particularly strong
responsibility to do something specific with them, any more than I
thing men should be careful where their sperm goes (assuming their
not irresponsibly depositing into women).
As a personal issue, I might make a modes effort to see if there were
others (i.e. infertile couples) who could benefit from them. I would
even consider donating them for scientific research. To my mind this
is much like agreeing to be an organ donor. It's a good humanitarian
action, but not something that carries a special moral burden.
>People still approach this subject as if the
>process carried some kind of magic. It doesn't.
>We are created through entirely natural
>processes, and the usual pattern of that --
>involving one man and one woman and natural
>fertilization -- is no more cut in stone than fire
>coming about only from lightning strikes.
>People can be and will be created in a variety
>of ways. Drawing ethical boundaries around
>the start of life had better get a good deal
>smarter than "these cells have a potential."
Those are all interesting ethical questions, but they're not the ones
I'm talking about. The women walking into the abortion clinic KNOWS
she's dealing with a human life. She KNOWS that if she doesn't do
anything, in 6 months she'll have gained a lot of weight, walk with a
shuffling step, and get weird probing questions about whether or not
she knows the babies sex. If she didn't know all that she wouldn't
be walking into the abortion clinic.
I think we've crossed ideas when we're talking about "potential".
When I talk about potential, I'm not talking about how something put
in exactly the right conditions might evolve. I'm talking about the
inevitable results of leaving something alone. If you leave a
pregnant woman alone one of two things WILL happen. The embryo will
fail naturally, in which case the abortion question is moot, OR their
will be a baby. Those are the only two alternatives. The question
I've been talking about is "In that scenario, is having an abortion a
moral action?" and my answer is no, for all the reasons I've
Arguing with an engineer is like wrestling with a pig in mud.
After a while, you realize the pig is enjoying it.
Kevin Elliott <mailto:kelliott at mac.com>
AIM/iChatAV: kelliott at mac.com (video chat available)
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