Here’s an op-ed that appeared in today’s WaPo:
First, do the embryos used for stem cell research and therapy have rights? They are clumps of a few dozen cells, biologically more primitive than a mosquito. They have no consciousness, are not aware that they exist, and never have been. Nature itself creates and destroys millions of these every year. No one objects. No one mourns. In most cases no one even knows. If my life is worth no more than the survival of one of these clumps, then it is terribly unfair that I can plead my case on the op-ed page, and they can’t. But I have no trouble feeling that the government should value my life more than the lives of these clumps. God may disagree. But the government reports to me and to other adult Americans, not to God.
I don’t know where to begin. The author, Michael Kinsley, suffers from Parkinson’s, and so has both my sympathy and an interest in finding a cure. To justify satisfying his interest by means of stem cell research, he has to find some way of denying the potential of the blastocysts. Is it the lack of consciousness, the lack of sophistication, the lack of relationship with other conscious beings? Of course, if they were "endangered species," none of these considerations would be dispositive. We’d have to preserve them. But "endangered species" is a human label, one that can be withdrawn almost as easily as it was given. We, then, are the sources of value and protection, which is pretty much what Kinsley concedes in the closing sentence of the paragraph. In matters of assigning moral value, worth, and protection (at least by government), it doesn’t matter what God thinks; it only matters what we think.
Gee, I wonder who would have appreciated that line of argumentation during the slave era?
And then there’s Kinsley’s "sensitive" medical ethics catch-all:
I guess it’s not cricket to use a woman’s unwanted eggs to cure dreadful diseases without her permission. But if this is what alarms Kass, the solution is a simple release form.
You can’t use my "stuff" without my consent. Not exactly deep and profound thought.
Update: Ken Masugi has more.