Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Colby Cosh Blasts Pro-Lifers

Ernie and I like Colby Cosh’s writing, but I came across this angry blast in his archives:
Any of you pro-lifers out there feeling uneasy about your "It's not as though fetal tissue grafts are really medically promising" arguments yet? Just thought I'd ask--I know that, considering your crowd relies so heavily on "moral intuition", your memory doesn't seem to stretch back as far as the time when your predecessors were denouncing heart transplants. But maybe you'll get lucky, and Elisabeth Bryant will go blind again, right?
Cosh is referring to this article. After receiving grafts from fetal tissue, several blind people now have better vision. He’s also referring to those pro-lifers who have played down the promise of biotechnology involving fetal tissue and embryonic cells.

If the point is merely that such biotechnology is starting to make good on its claims, that’s all well and good. Pro-lifers have made the same point in regards to adult stem cell research. But Cosh seems to have another point, or to be more precise, he has a taunt; and the taunt is: “you pro-lifers are mean, nasty medical Luddites, and you are of the ilk who opposed heart transplants.”

I don’t know if it’s true that pro-lifers protested heart transplants, or if Cosh is just likening pro-lifers to those who did; but it’s clear that the comparison is supposed to be unflattering. Ironically, however, the comparison backfires. Why? Because I bloody well would oppose heart transplants if we had to kill x in order to secure a heart for y, and most rational, sane people would be opposed to heart transplants on such terms. That includes most pro-choicers. Indeed, we have strict procedures in place to prevent such things. The upshot, then, is that most of us take the pro-life position in regards to organ transplants: no organ transplant should involve the killing of another being. Our objection to such is not due to some free-floating moral objection to medical progress; it’s due to our observing that killing x in order to secure a heart for y falls under the rubric of murder.

Now I may be flamingly, fabulously wrong that killing a zygote, embryo, or fetus falls under the rubric of murder, but that’s a far cry from me being an opponent of medical progress who relies on some vague moral intuition. Moreover, note that abortion necessarily involves killing x, whereas heart transplants do not (and neither does adult stem cell research). So there is at least a prima facie reason to be worried about the moral status of abortion, even if abortion ultimately does not fall under the rubric of murder.

So Cosh’s ad hominem against pro-lifers is fallacious. However, let me make a non-fallacious ad hominem against pro-choicers. Lots of pro-choicers holds their views reflexively, i.e., they’re less interested in thinking the issue through and more interested in holding whatever view is the opposite of the one held by them there religious fanatics. That’s why they play up embryonic stem cell research and hardly ever say anything about adult stem cell research--they wouldn’t want to be seen as giving any support to the Dark Side of the Force. In a word, their position is driven entirely by ideological prejudice, not by principled moral reasoning. Moreover, they are guilty of doing what they charge pro-lifers of doing: using their ideology to inhibit science. If a biotechnology can cure severe diseases without the destruction of the pre-born, isn’t that the technology we should be supporting, whatever our position on abortion is? After all, pro-choicers often aver that they’re not pro-abortion and that abortion should be rare. If that’s true, then pro-choicers should prefer technologies that don’t rely on abortion.

1 comment:

billy-jay said...

Spot on. It sounds like Colby missed the boat on that one.