Re: BIOETHICS: Blackford versus Somerville

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Wed Jul 18 2001 - 22:21:21 MDT

Eliezer said

>"I think that calling for 'a deep respect for life in all its forms' is a
>high-sounding but empty statement that dodges all the real moral issues.
>You don't say what 'disrespect' is, or why, or explain how disrespect is
>the proper subject of government legislation; you simply look at a new
>technology, experience future shock, say 'eeeww', and regard this as
>sufficient cause to ban medical research that could save thousands of
>lives. Whether using a stem cell embryo to cure Parkinsons is
>'disrespectful', i.e., 'morally unacceptable', is not a take-home issue;
>it is the whole of the argument. Every advance in medical technology,
>from smallpox vaccines to pacemakers, seems strange to someone. This
>doesn't prove that 'disrespect' is a nonissue, but it does demonstrate
>that it takes more to establish moral horror than someone saying 'eeeww'.
>Myself, I don't think a stem cell embryo is a human being any more than an
>unfertilized egg cell is a human being or a two-by-four is a finished
>house. I don't see how a stem cell embryo could possibly count as a
>sentient being when it takes until the second trimester of pregnancy for a
>fetus's neurons to even begin forming synapses. I understand that some
>people may feel differently, but I don't think that feeling has enough
>basis in fact to direct the course of medical research."

Thanks. Your thoughts are always useful to have, Eliezer. As you'd
appreciate, we've already been debating some of these issues, such as "what
is respect?" Basically, your views and mine are exactly congruent. I don't
think I'll use the expression "eeeww" :-) but I will take your formulation
into account as I work on the piece over the next few days.

Thanks also to those I heard from - Reason, Olga, Mark, Damien (hope I
didn't forget anyone - about being willing to have a look at what I write.
You'll all hear from me soon.

For my part, I'm always prepared to reciprocate and give views on this kind
of material if anyone wants to run drafts past me.


Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:39:49 MDT