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Life, Science, Goldberg


I don’t have any serious disagreements with Jonah on the points being discussed here. I thought it was a good column, and I don’t see anything in it with which to disagree. I didn’t see Jonah say in it that “the question of when life begins is a moral one.” He subsequently expressed agreement with that view, and then with an amendment to it.

I think it’s fair to say that both of us believe that the human embryo is a living organism of the human species. (Yuval Levin makes the case well in his op-ed in today’s New York Times, by the way. It’s one of our web-briefing links.) Both of us also believe that this scientific datum does not settle the question of how we should treat a human embryo: under what circumstances it might be right to end its life; the extent to which it deserves legal protection. No scientific evidence can settle that question.

I wouldn’t use the phrase “the question of when life begins is a moral one,” because I think it is imprecise and can be seriously misleading. (Whether I would actively object to the phrase depends on context.)

Lee Silver makes ingenious attempts to deny the scientific claim in his recent book Challenging Nature. I review it for a forthcoming issue of the Claremont Review of Books.


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