Friday, September 07, 2007

Fire in the Fertility Clinic again?

Andrew Sullivan posts an e-mail where the writer asserts that human embryos aren't persons. Unfortunately, the writer does this without ever providing any evidence for this assertion or describing which qualities make a human being into a person and why someone should accept his arbitrary qualities over others. The e-mailer then says the problem with the prolife movement is we don't accept "neurological criteria" as a valid reason to discriminate against the unborn. Well, yeah, duh. We wouldn't be prolife would we if we thought it should be legal to kill human beings based on "neurological criteria?" Man, if only we were pro-choice those pro-choicers would agree with us!!

The e-mailer then brings up Ronald Bailey's old fire in the fertility clinic scenario (which Ellen Goodman recycled in 2005) and claims prolifers "twist themselves in knots" trying to answer it. I wonder if Sullivan's e-mailer has actually ever brought this up with a prolifer used to handling such thought experiments and pro-choice arguments. If he had, he might realize this scenario comes nowhere near proving what it purports to prove. Or as Ramesh Ponnuru writes in Party of Death (pg. 89),
"Goodman's question about the burning building scenario doesn't prove the point she thinks it does. Think about another hypothetical situation: You're in a burning building. You can either rescue a research scientist who is making great strides toward a cure for Alzheimer's disease, or rescue four herion-addicted fifty-eight-year-old men who have spent their lives rotating through the penal system and are likely to continue to do so. Whom do you save?

Let's say you save the scientist. Are you therefore saying that it's permissible to kill hopeless old addicts? Are you saying that such people do not have the same right not to be killed that the scientist does? Of course not. Neither Goodman's question nor mine asks you to contemplate killing anyone."

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