To the article and Caplan's arguments:
Caplan believes the question is not whether to conduct embryonic stem-cell research, but where that research will be done -- given that nearly 40 countries around the world have already embarked on such programs.
If Pennsylvania fails to support such research, as it has so far, the state runs the risk of losing researchers to other states -- and telling residents they will need to go elsewhere to participate in clinical trials of promising experimental therapies, he said.
Anyone find this convincing. No? Yeah, me neither.
Caplan, a bio-ethicist, would prefer to ignore the question of whether this research is ethically or not and just do ahead with it because others are. He points out that the research is taking place in different places around the world but provides no reasoning as to if the research should be taking place.
So in other words, "Everybody's doing it therefore so should we." I used to try to use that one on my parents when I was in high school. It didn't work then for a high school student and it doesn't work now for a college professor.
Caplan said his view is that the embryo contains the blueprint for a potential person. He used an acorn as an analogy. "When an acorn is eaten by a squirrel that's a sad thing, but it's not the same as an oak tree being destroyed by lightning," he said.
Caplan's comparison is so erroneous I don't really know where to start. First, I don't know about you but I'm not sad when a squirrel eats an acorn. I'd actually be more sad if a squirrel couldn't find an acorn and starved to death. Why is this?
Because oaks are instrumentally valuable, not intrinsically valuable. We don't value oaks because they are oaks (or else we wouldn't so carelessly step on acorns), we value them because they provide us with various things like shade, something to climb, landscaping, etc. We cross a line when we start viewing human beings as only being instrumentally valuable. If it is okay to experiment on and kill human beings who aren't instrumentally valuable, scientists could find innumerable "resources" at nursing homes and hospitals.
Second, Caplan's argument proves too much. If destroying acorns (aka human embryos) isn't as sad as destroying oak trees (adult humans) and therefore it should be legal and supported by tax dollars, doesn't it follow that destroying oak saplings (aka human infants, toddlers, etc.) is also not as sad as destroying an oak tree (adult human) and should also be legal and supported by tax dollars? What about a withering old oak tree (an elderly human being) that has passed it's prime? We wouldn't be as sad to destroy that eyesore, maybe that should be legal too?
Third, using cloning, every cell in my body contains "the blueprint" (aka DNA) for a "potential person" in Caplan's view. Yet Caplan wouldn't have a single worry or concern about someone waxing his back and destroying numerous cells that contain "the blueprint" for a "potential person." Why?
Because the hair and skin cells on Caplan's back aren't whole human beings. They are part of a larger human being: Art Caplan. The human embryos that Caplan thinks should be destroyed for research are whole human beings. Of course, they are smaller, less developed, more dependent and in a different environment but I see no reason why some human beings should be killed in the vague hope of curing others. The fact that a cell has the "blueprint" of a "potential person" doesn't make that cell valuable or else we'd be sad every time we got a haircut.
Fourth, I also doubt that Caplan made any kind of case or provided any reasoning for anyone to 1.) accept the category of "human non-person" and 2.) accept his specific criteria of what makes human beings into "persons" over the criteria of anyone else.