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Old 05-29-2008, 09:38 PM   #1
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Fkuc Dignity

That fine polymath Steven Pinker has written an essay covering the damage that is done to people by religious doctrines influencing public policy
The sickness in theocon bioethics goes beyond imposing a Catholic agenda on a secular democracy and using "dignity" to condemn anything that gives someone the creeps. Ever since the cloning of Dolly the sheep a decade ago, the panic sown by conservative bioethicists, amplified by a sensationalist press, has turned the public discussion of bioethics into a miasma of scientific illiteracy. Brave New World, a work of fiction, is treated as inerrant prophesy. Cloning is confused with resurrecting the dead or mass-producing babies. Longevity becomes "immortality," improvement becomes "perfection," the screening for disease genes becomes "designer babies" or even "reshaping the species." The reality is that biomedical research is a Sisyphean struggle to eke small increments in health from a staggeringly complex, entropy-beset human body. It is not, and probably never will be, a runaway train.

A major sin of theocon bioethics is exactly the one that it sees in biomedical research: overweening hubris. In every age, prophets foresee dystopias that never materialize, while failing to anticipate the real revolutions. Had there been a President's Council on Cyberethics in the 1960s, no doubt it would have decried the threat of the Internet, since it would inexorably lead to 1984, or to computers "taking over" like HAL in 2001. Conservative bioethicists presume to soothsay the outcome of the quintessentially unpredictable endeavor called scientific research. And they would stage-manage the kinds of social change that, in a free society, only emerge as hundreds of millions of people weigh the costs and benefits of new developments for themselves, adjusting their mores and dealing with specific harms as they arise, as they did with in vitro fertilization and the Internet.

Worst of all, theocon bioethics flaunts a callousness toward the billions of non-geriatric people, born and unborn, whose lives or health could be saved by biomedical advances. Even if progress were delayed a mere decade by moratoria, red tape, and funding taboos (to say nothing of the threat of criminal prosecution), millions of people with degenerative diseases and failing organs would needlessly suffer and die. And that would be the biggest affront to human dignity of all.
The Stupidity of Dignity

It is pretty long, thats the conclusion. There are some frightening bits in the essay covering the backgrounds and opinions of the presidents "top minds" as well as the implications of those views on public policy. That the religiously inspired positions crush principles of individual liberty and autonomy is very illuminating, that autonomy is a better justification than innate morality for ethical decisions is not something I have had much exposure to and it is something that I feel demands some reading (an answer to what justifies moral behaviour beyond the Darwinian cause for that behaviour is something I need in arguments)

Religious political leaders do flaunt a commitment to morality at some ethical cost and should be called on it. The concept that an embryo is an innately protected being with sacredness is not a secular argument, I don't feel that those arguments should be considerations in public policy. I do think that if your religious belief goes against therapeutic cloning then you should make what you consider a moral choice and refuse treatment.
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