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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

The Contraception Stalking Horse



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It was disorienting when contraception suddenly became a political issue at the behest of Democrats during the Republican presidential primaries of 2012.

Now, it is clear why that happened (in addition to phonying up a political issue): The secular Left wishes to use the mostly uncontroversial issue of birth control as the stalking horse for using health care to remake society in its own image.

Latest evidence: An article in USC’s Religion Dispatches by Patricia Miller. The writer objects to the latest attempt by the Obamacarians to force religious non profits to to insure contraception even if that violates their faith. (Now, instead of advising their insurers about the objection, apparently such organizations will have to notify HHS, which will contact the insurance carrier.) From, “Obama Caves on (Another) Contraception Exemption:”

It’s likely that the number of employers who seek to duck the contraceptive mandate will be small. But imagine a scenario where a larger number of employers seeks to escape a costly mandate, such as equal access to in vitro fertilization procedures for straight and gay couples, for supposedly religious reasons and hundreds flood HHS with generic opt-out letters that don’t identify a specific insurer.

Or a future administration that is less dedicated to contraceptive access. It’s not hard to see how the lack of bureaucratic regularity could undermine access to contraception for women.

See the agenda? Break the back of religious freedom with the contraception mandate–to which few other than orthodox Catholics object–and then use the precedents thereby established to force religious objectors to cover abortion, assisted suicide (if legal), sex change surgery (already happening), etc..

And here’s the broader strategy: Redefine life-style enhancing “consumerist” elective procedures as “medically necessary” for insurance purposes--as California just did to force Catholic colleges to insure all abortions–and stuff it down religious traditionalists’ throats by making them pay for it.

Then when religious pro-lifers push back politically or sue, pundits like Miller squawk about bossy theocrats denying their fellow citizens’ “rights” to an abortion or a sex change (or pick your elective procedure).

Where’s the comity? Where’s the tolerance? Ah, those virtues are fast becoming one-way streets.

And that’s how you turn freedom of religion into a vestige “freedom of worship” and use health care as an authoritarian cultural bludgeon.

Push to Make Suicide Easier Will Never Stop



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Here’s the advocacy con advanced by suicide promoters in the UK to bludgeon Parliament into legalizing doctor-prescribed death.

First, get the media to publish pro-suicide stories of Brits flying to Switzerland for death at a clinic. The point: Make the one-way death trip socially acceptable and increase the numbers who so die.

That tactic seems to be working. From the Guardian story:

One in five people who travel to Switzerland to end their lives are from the UK, according to research that shows that the number of foreign nationals visiting the country has doubled in four years. A University of Zurich study found that the number of non-residents taking their own lives – so-called “suicide tourists” –at Swiss assisted-dying clinics increased from 86 in 2009 to 172 in 2012.

Out of 611 people who travelled to the country for that purpose between 2008 and 2012, all but four of whom went to the Dignitas clinic, 126 were from the UK, second only to Germany, according to the research published in the Journal of Medical Ethics on Wednesday.

Second, assume that these suicides were necessary–nothing can or should be done to prevent them.

Third, then argue that people shouldn’t have to travel away from home to be made dead:

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “It’s clearly unethical to force dying Britons to travel abroad to die through a lack of safeguarded choice in this country. But there is also a patient safety issue. We have no control over the law in Switzerland, but we can and should regulate and safeguard assisted dying in this country.” She said the figures were a sign that UK law is not working.

That’s a seductive meme if you believe access to facilitated suicide is a right, a necessity, and/or if you think suicide is the only choice.

But here’s the catch: Even if the UK legalizes assisted suicide for the terminally ill–as currently proposed–that won’t stop the suicide tourism for the non terminally ill or otherwise legally unqualified.

Indeed, many of those who die in Swiss suicide clinics are not terminally ill. Some weren’t even sick:

- Like the elderly Italian woman who paid for assisted suicide because she was upset at losing her looks

- The English woman who wanted to die because she couldn’t keep up with tech and considered it the “green” thing to do.

- And let us not forget that assisted suicide is a constitutional right for the mentally illper the Swiss Supreme Court.

And then we will hear the same refrain–it isn’t fair that the dying can get doctor-prescribed death at home, but not the suffering disabled, chronically ill, elderly “tired of life,” mentally ill, etc..

Then the pressure will start to move the line to accommodate the demand. The end result? A fall off the moral Matterhorn: The most liberal death-culturish countries set the suicide agenda for the rest of the world.

On the other hand, if you want to save some lives who will be glad later to be alive because they didn’t have ready access to assisted suicide, don’t make it easy to be made dead.  Keep assisted suicide illegal. Engage suicide prevention whatever the cause of suicidal ideation. Increase access to quality hospice care and independent living services.

Some say, who cares if people kill themselves. Just acquiesce to suicide culture. Bah: Hell no, we won’t go!

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Doctors, Stay Out of Israel v. Hamas



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Let me explain myself quickly. Everyone has the right to participate in politics. So, I am not saying doctors should refrain from engaging in civic discourse or political debate.

I am saying that doctors should not try to exert their medical authority about issues that are properly considered outside the medical arena.

Case in point: The Lancet has published letters weighing in on the Israeli/Hamas war that is causing so much heartbreaking misery in Gaza–and the editorial I quote below seemingly blames Israel.

Which side is most at blame for Gaza is beyond The Lancet’s portfolio (and beyond our scope here, too). But the journal’s editors don’t think so. From its editorial:

International Humanitarian Law requires three principles to be upheld during such a defence. The Principle of Distinction states that, “parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants”.

The Principle of Precautions in Attack states that, “parties to the conflict must take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population and civilian objects under their control against the effects of attacks”.

The Principle of Proportionality states that, “Launching an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited”.

Now return to life in Gaza. A land that no-one can escape from. A crowded land in which children are the largest single group of the population. These are the conditions in which attacks on Gaza combatants are taking place.

This is why I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “just” war, only (sometimes) necessary ones.

But what does all of this have to do with topics relevant in a medical journal?

But here is a war that is having far-reaching effects on the survival, health, and wellbeing of Gaza’s and Israel’s civilian residents. It is surely the duty of doctors to have informed views, even strong views, about these matters; to give a voice to those who have no voice; and to invite society to address the actions and injustices that have led to this conflict.

Our responsibility is to promote an open and diverse discussion about the effects of this war on civilian health.

No. AS DOCTORS–by which I mean wielding the authority of the professional to give extra heft to the opinion–physicians and associations should only opine on strictly health and medically-related matters.

For example, it would be appropriate–as medical professionals–to opine on steps needed to improve access to emergency medical services in Gaza. It is not–as medical professionals–to opine about whether Israel has conducted itself “proportionately” as required by international law.

Otherwise, almost the entire gamut of public policy and international relations–many of which have some impact on public health and welfare–get stretched into medical issues to which we should turn to doctors for guidance.

We already have too much of that, furthering our accelerating slouch toward technocracy.

California Forces Catholic Universities to Cover All Abortion



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I told you this was coming. Now, Jerry Brown has decided to force two Catholic universities to cover abortion in their health insurance. From the San Francisco Chronicle story:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has reversed an earlier decision to allow two Catholic universities to eliminate coverage of most abortions for employees, saying state law requires health insurance plans to cover all abortions…

Urged by abortion-rights groups and university employees to reconsider the issue, Brown’s Department of Managed Health Care, in letters to be sent Friday to insurers for both universities, said the exclusions violate a 1975 state law that requires group health plans to cover all basic services – defined, by the law, as those that are “medically necessary.”

“Abortion is a basic health care service,” the department’s director, Michelle Rouillard, said in the letter.

Religious freedom means nothing to those who wish to use health care to impose their secularist world view on everyone.

One more point: Over at First Things, I have a piece about how “pro-choice” is fast becoming “pro-abortion.” Here is the conclusion, which I ask you to ponder in connection with the California authoritarianism:

I expect that in the coming years abortion rights supporters will execute a tactical retreat that admits the humanity of the unborn, conjoined with a strong counter-offensive dismissing the moral relevance of that biological fact. What matters, advocates will increasingly assert, is the state’s guarantee that women’s reproductive desires are fulfilled—with abortion viewed as a positively good way of doing so.

Can I call them, or can I call them?

What starts in California doesn’t stay in California. Forced abortion coverage will be the next front in the war against religious freedom.

Robots to Kill Humans to “End Suffering?”



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Our “neurotic fear of suffering” could cause robots to kill us all out of “kindness,” a tech executive has warned. From the Daily Mail story:

Future generations could be exterminated by Terminator-style robots unless machines are taught the value of human life.

This is the stark warning made by Amsterdam-based engineer Nell Watson, who believes droids could kill humans out of both malice and kindness. Teaching machines to be kind is not enough, she says, as robots could decide that the greatest compassion to humans as a race is to get rid of everyone to end suffering.

’The most important work of our lifetime is to ensure that machines are capable of understanding human value,’ she said at the recent ‘Conference by Media Evolution’ in Sweden. ‘It is those values that will ensure machines don’t end up killing us out of kindness.’

Why would we expect robots to be more enlightened than many of our so-called thought leaders? 

Pay attention to debates around euthanasia, Obamacare, transhumanism, animal rights, radical environmentalism–and other war on humans agenda items. We may not be into total genocide, but the quest to end suffering definitely puts many of us in the proverbial cross hairs.

Before we can teach robots the value of human life, we need to accept it ourselves.

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Dawkins Issues Non-Apology Apology



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Richard Dawkins stepped in it the other day by stating that women have a moral obligation to abort Down fetuses. In response to being called the bigot that he is, far and wide, Dawkins has published a standard-issue non-apology apology blaming everybody but himself (other than he shouldn’t have tried to discuss the matter within the limitations of Twitter).

He goes through his usual kind of tripe to justify and explain himself, which you can read if you want, but here is the kicker:

To conclude, what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most us, I presume, espouse. My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.

No, Dr. Dawkins, the problem is that we understand you all too well. You just didn’t like the ugly image you saw in the mirror.

Richard Dawkins’ Down Syndrome Bigotry



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What is it with scientists who become crusading atheists?

First, James Watson came out as an anti-Semite and a eugenicist. Now Richard Dawkins has released his own inner bigot by claiming that women have an ethical duty to abort Down babies. From the Telegraph story:

Richard Dawkins, the atheist writer, has claimed it is “immoral” to allow unborn babies with Down’s syndrome to live. The Oxford professor posted a message on Twitter saying would-be parents who learn their child has the condition have an ethical responsibility to “abort it and try again”…

He claimed that the important question in the abortion debate is not “is it ‘human’?” but “can it suffer?” and insisted that people have no right to object to abortion if they eat meat.

The last feeble defense is a non-sequitur. He wants Down babies aborted because they are disabled, not because they can’t suffer–a questionable premise–while late term fetuses.

Dawkins’ bigotry goes beyond the question of whether women should have a right to decide to abort a Down fetus. It is a claim that they are morally required to do so.

I miss our missing Down brothers and sisters. They are some of the most beautiful people on the planet. “If all you need is love,” they have it in quantities to spare. It is a lamentable tragedy that so many are killed while gestating. We are all the poorer for it.

Atheists insist that they can not believe in God and be moral. I agree. But they do have to believe in human exceptionalism.

Otherwise, we end up dividing humanity between the fit and the unfit–which essentially is why Dawkins pushes eugenic abortion as a moral obligation.

Pamela Anderson’s Hypocrisy for Refusing ALS Support Due to Animal Testing



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This shows the moral vapidity of animal rights advocates who would rather that humans die awful deaths than see animals used in medical research.

Enter Pamela Anderson, who has refused to be doused with ice water in the clever ALS Association’s fund raising campaign because the charity supports using animals in research. From Anderson’s Facebook page:

I can’t bring myself to do your Ice bucket challenge. I enjoy a good dare- It’s always good to bring awareness – in fun, creative ways I don’t want to take away from that, but it had me thinking. Digging a bit deeper. I found that we may not be aligned – in our messages. So… – I thought Instead, I’d challenge ALS to stop Animal testing.  

I wonder if Anderson knows that the safety of the–er, enhancements–with which she famously endowed herself were also tested on animals. Here’s a sampling from an NIH-published Safety of Silicone Breast Implants:

Studies in experimental animals have reported modest adjuvant effects of silicone gel and some silicone fluids, but no clinical implications of adjuvant effects have been discovered. Human adjuvant disease is not a defined disease, and the term should be abandoned.

Other animal studies have not elucidated a role for silicone in immune disease. Cytokine assays have not provided conclusive evidence of immune activation. Evidence for silicone as a superantigen is insufficient. Modest decreases in natural killer cell activity have been reported after exposure to silicone, but no clinical roles or biological effects on resistance to infection, tumor surveillance or immune responses have been demonstrated in these studies.

I would say that breast implants are far less important than finding treatments for ALS. In any event, Anderson’s use of implants brands her a hypocrite. 

President Bush has now challenged President Clinton

Peter Singer and the Danger of the Humanities



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I have little regard for the so-called thinking of Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. With rare exceptions, he generally spouts simplistic liberal bromides with little foundation in reason or fact.

That is why he has long extolled Princeton’s Professor Death, Peter Singer, for his animal liberation advocacy. He did so again the other day in a flaccid column about why the humanities still matter. From the column:

Third, Peter Singer of Princeton University has pioneered the public discussion of our moral obligations to animals, including those we raise to eat. Singer wrote a landmark book in 1975, “Animal Liberation,” and cites utilitarian reasoning to argue that it’s wrong to inflict cruelty on cows, hogs or chickens just so that we can enjoy a tasty lunch.

It has long been recognized that we have some ethical obligations that transcend our species; that’s why we’re arrested if we torture kittens or organize dog fights. But Singer focused squarely on industrial agriculture and the thrice-daily question of what we put on our plates, turning that into not just a gastronomical issue but also a moral one.

I’m not a vegetarian, although I’m sometimes tempted, but Singer’s arguments still apply. Do we skip regular eggs or pay more for cage-free? Should I eat goose liver pâté (achieved by torturing geese)? Do we give preference to restaurants that try to source pork or chicken in ways that inflict less pain?

Kristof takes a tiny corner of Singer’s advocacy and acts as if all Professor Death cares about is improving animal welfare, which is a reasonable approach–see Temple Grandin. Is he really that dim? 

Contraray Kristof, Singer demonstrates what has gone so badly wrong in the humanities at today’s elite universities. He is profoundly subversive of human exceptionalism and is distinctly and expressly opposed to the unique value of human life. Indeed, Singer thinks being human per se is morally irrelevant.

The following is just a sampling of some of the pernicious ideas spouted by Singer over the years. Let’s start with Animal Liberation, with which Kristof claims familiarity:

Singer believes that “specieism” is akin to racism: Singer popularized the concept of “specieism,” that is, denying greater value to humans as “discrimination” against animals. He wrote on page 18 of Animal Liberation:

Adult chimpanzees, dogs, pigs, and members of many other species far surpass the brain-damaged infant in their ability to relate to others, act independently, be self-aware, and any other capacity that could reasonably be said to give value to life. … The only thing that distinguishes the infant from the animals, in the eyes who claim it has a right to life, is that it is biologically, a member of the species Homo sapiens. … But to use this difference as the basis for granting a right to life to the infant and not to other animals is, of course pure specieism. It is exactly the kind of arbitrary difference that that the most crude and overt kind of racist uses in attempting to justify racial discrimination. 

- Singer is pro-infanticide: On page 186 of his book “Practical Ethics,” Singer opines that infants are “replaceable” and that a disabled baby can be killed to pave the way for a happier life for a sibling — even if that brother or sister hasn’t yet been born:

When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed.

Singer supports using the disabled in medical experiments: In 2006, Singer enraged animal rights activists for justifying the use of monkeys in researching cures for Parkinson’s disease. But he would have said the same thing about using human “non-persons.” In fact, he often has. For example, when asked by Psychology Today about the benefits that chimps provided in developing the hepatitis vaccine, Singer said disabled humans should be used in such research instead:

Singer is pro-death panel medical discrimination: Singer supports health care rationing, writing in the July 15, 2009, New York Times:

The debate over health care reform in the United States should start from the premise that some form of health care rationing is both inescapable and desirable. Then we can ask: What is the best way to do it?” Singer prefers the “Quality Adjusted Life Year” (QALY) approach that has been used for years by the United Kingdom’s socialized National Health Service. QALYs give greater value to the lives of the able-bodied and young than to people with disabilities and the elderly (which are “adjusted” down based on low “quality”) when determining whether the cost of a treatment is worth the price. 

Singer has defended bestiality: Singer positively reviewed a book celebrating the history of bestiality, and concluded that the proscription against sex with animals was merely a vestigial “taboo” from a more sexually repressed era. Indeed, he extolled a woman who was unconcerned by the prospect of forced sexual intercourse with an orangutan:

As it happened, the orangutan lost interest before penetration took place, but the aspect of the story that struck me most forcefully was that in the eyes of someone who has lived much of her life with orangutans, to be seen by one of them as an object of sexual interest is not a cause for shock or horror. The potential violence of the orangutan’s come-on may have been disturbing, but the fact that it was an orangutan making the advances was not. That may be because Galdikas understands very well that we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes. This does not make sex across the species barrier normal, or natural, whatever those much-misused words may mean, but it does imply that it ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.

There is much more that could be written about this, and I often have. It is a sign of our times that Peter Singer is probably the most influential bioethicist working today.

But that doesn’t make him worth extolling as an example of why the humanities still matter. To the contrary, these days, the humanities can be very dangerous. Kristof should get a clue. 

 

Stop Elephant Poacher Butchery



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Great efforts are made internationally to stop the illegal ivory trade. But it appears to be too little. From the National Geographic story:

Ivory-seeking poachers have killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years, according to a new study that provides the first reliable continent-wide estimates of illegal kills. During 2011 alone, roughly one of every twelve African elephants was killed by a poacher.

In central Africa, the hardest-hit part of the continent, the regional elephant population has declined by 64 percent in a decade, a finding of the new study that supports another recent estimate developed from field surveys.

This is awful. From an animal welfare analysis–which should be the standard, not “animal rights”–there is no real human necessity served by the killing of these magnificent animals, and much suffering caused.

Accordingly, human exceptionalism holds that our duties to these animals to prevent their depredation means more must be done to to stop the butchery!

Professor Death Supports Doctor Death



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I think it is time to start calling Peter Singer ”Professor Death.”

The Princeton moral philosopher–an oxymoron in his case–is the world’s foremost proponent of infanticide. He usually uses examples of disabled babies, but the reason he believes they can be killed is that they are supposedly not “persons.” Thus, Singer has refused to state that killing a baby because she was ugly would be wrong.

Professor Death also supports euthanasia, both voluntary and non voluntary against ill human non-persons, such as Alzheimer’s patients.

He has also stated that cognitively devastated people should have been used in developing the hepatitis vaccines instead of chimpanzees. Not surprisingly, he advocates duty-to-die health care rationing based on quality of life invidious discrimination. 

Professor Death has come to the defense of his colleague in nihilism, Australia’s Doctor Death, Phillip Nitschke, who favors suicide availability for troubled teenagers and the selling of suicide pills in super markets.

Nitschke has had his medical license suspended for “death coaching,” that is, giving active encouragement and how-to instructions to suicidal people. One such person was a suspected murderer, who received suicide encouragement through Nitschke’s organization, learned how to get the drugs, and did the deed. 

Nitschke’s ghoulish suicide proselytizing is completely inconsistent with his role as a licensed medical doctor. But Professor Death thinks Dr. Death’s license should not have been taken because both death colleagues believe in the dangerous concept of ”rational suicide.” From The Age story:

‘‘I think suicide can be rational in the absence of terminal illness and I think I could find you dozens or hundreds of philosophers who would think that …

All bow to the philosophers!

Back to Singer

I think if you know you are going to spend the next 20 years in prison, suicide is a rational option – not for everybody, but for some people,’’ he said, referring to the case of Nigel Brayley, a Perth man who communicated with Dr Nitschke before taking his own life while he was being investigated over his wife’s death.

This is Kevorkianland: K believed that anyone who wanted to die should be able to attend a clinic for that purpose. Apparently, Singer agrees:

In response to concerns about depressed people accessing Exit International information, Professor Singer said: ‘‘I think the solution to that is to legalise voluntary euthanasia and restrict it to medical practitioners, and then Philip won’t have to do this … I think he feels he is a crusader against a law that unnecessarily restricts people’s right to die.”

Who cares what he “feels?”  The question is whether his actions are consistent with possessing a medical license under Australian law.

But note, Singer believes that a man suspected of murder should be able to go to a doctor to be killed to avoid prison.

We don’t know why Nitschke was suspended. But he has sold suicide bags to people he knew to be self-destructive, which was outlawed in response to my advocacy against N in Australia in 2001.

He told people how to access poison for suicide. He lied in the media about a woman who announced she was going to commit suicide under his tutelage, claiming she had terminal cancer, when she didn’t. He has encouraged and furthered the suicides of who knows how many people over the years.

Singer might think that is fine. He may think doctors should be allowed to kill. But at least as things are now, when Nitschke committed his ghoulish suicide promotion, it sure isn’t consistent with the practice of ethical medicine. 

“Pro-Choice” Mask Increasingly Coming Off



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For years, pro-choicers on abortion have insisted that they are not “pro abortion.” Indeed, many insisted that the decision is “difficult” and that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

I didn’t believe they meant it.  But the logic of their argument implicitly agreed that what is terminated in an abortion is more meaningful than an inflamed appendix.

As a consequence, the pro-life movement has pushed the country more in its direction. And it also allowed some limitations on the abortion license.

That has some pro-choicers taking off their masks and coming out as pro-abortion. Case in point: A column in today’s Washington Post by Janet Harris. From, “Stop Calling Abortion a Difficult Decision:”

When the pro-choice community frames abortion as a difficult decision, it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning “informed consent” laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it…

Pro-choice advocates use the “difficult decision” formulation for a similar reason, so as not to demonize women. It also permits pro-choice candidates to look less dogmatic.

But there’s a more pernicious result when pro-choice advocates use such language: It is a tacit acknowledgment that terminating a pregnancy is a moral issue requiring an ethical debate. To say that deciding to have an abortion is a “hard choice” implies a debate about whether the fetus should live, thereby endowing it with a status of being. It puts the focus on the fetus rather than the woman.

As a result, the question “What kind of future would the woman have as a result of an unwanted pregnancy?” gets sacrificed. By implying that terminating a pregnancy is a moral issue, pro-choice advocates forfeit control of the discussion to anti-choice conservatives.

In other words, the humanity of the dead fetus matters not a whit. That’s known as truth in advertising.

With this kind of advocacy increasing, it is clear now that pro-abortionists also want Roe v. Wade overturned. Why? Roe permitted limits. 

In contrast–as I have written–a ruling that protects abortion as necessary to protect sexual equality would permit abortion through the ninth month–if not beyond–with the only regulations permitted being those required for basic sanitation. 

After that, the next step would be to require free abortion, either paid by the state or required as coverage under Obamacare. Pro-abortionists believe that women won’t really be free until they are guaranteed the right to a dead fetus.

Slaves Forced to Detect Cancer!



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Animal rights activists oppose any and all instrumental use of animals. Indeed, they equate our ownership of animals to slavery-again, and again, and again. Some don’t even want dogs to exist.

So, what about this story? From the Telegraph:

Women at high risk of breast cancer could be screened for the disease by simply breathing into a tube which is then sniffed by a specially trained dog, in a new clinical trial after UK scientists found the animals are highly accurate at detecting other cancers.

A charity is now embarking on a landmark trial to establish if the dogs can accurately detect breast cancer from samples of breath which if proven would ‘revoluntionise’ how doctors think about the diagnosis of all cancers, the researchers said. The animals working for Medical Detection Dogs in Buckinghamshire have already been shown to be more reliable at detecting prostate cancer than current blood tests, with 93 per cent accuracy when sniffing urine samples.

Evil! And no rights given to collective bargaining. Liberate the canines from human oppression!

Child Custody Fights to Get Very Complicated



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I believe we are in a time of growing social anarchy, in part driven by the new reproductive technologies and marital instability. People want what they want, and regardless of potential consequences, by golly, they are going to make it happen! The fact that this could cause great confusion or distress in children is too often beside the point.

Of course, many see it differently. They couch their corrosive assault on family norms in terms of liberating people from stultifying conformity, catching up to modernity, or changing laws to match what children supposedly see. 

California already legally recognizes that a child can have three parents. Now, Australia may go even further. From the ever-valuable BioEdge’s report:

Australian law could be revised to allow more than one [sic, actually two?] parent, if recommendations in a major report are accepted by the government. A “Report On Parentage And The Family Law Act”, was released this week.

Adoption and new reproduction technologies are placing new strains on what “parent” means in contemporary society. Because of “the evidence of family diversity and children’s views about who is a parent”, the Council has recommended that the word “parent” be replaced by “other significant adults” or “other people of significance to the child” and that references to “both” (which implies only two) parents should be omitted.

There are many kinds of parents, the Council points out: legal, adoptive, genetic, intending, psychological, social and surrogate, amongst others.

I don’t see how this is going to turn out well for children. It can be tough enough for them with two legal parents and other adults going in and out of their lives.

But then, at 65, perhaps I am just set in my ways. Get off my lawn!

This I do know: Child custody fights and support petitions are going to get very complicated.

Transhumanism’s Eugenics Authoritarianism



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Transhumanism is selfish, all about me-me, I-I. It’s goal is immortality for those currently alive, and the right to radically remake themselves and their progeny in their own image. 

Zoltan Istvan, an up-and-comer transhumanist, is very good at promoting himself and his ideas. (I met him at a transhumanist and religion conference, about which I will be opining elsewhere, and we got along fine.) Istvan’s newest missive, in Wired, argues that transhumanism means we will have to limit what he crassly calls “human breeding.” From his piece:

The transhumanist age — where radical science and technology will revolutionise the human being and experience — will eventually bring us indefinite lifespans, cyborgization, cloning, and even ectogenesis, where people use artificial wombs outside of their bodies to raise foetuses.

Breeding controls and measures make more sense when you consider that some leading life extensionist scientists believe we will conquer human mortality in the next 20 years. Already, in 2010, scientists had some success with stopping and reversing ageing in mice. The obvious question is: In this transhumanist future, should everyone still be allowed to have unlimited children whenever they want?

Yea, well good luck with that. Sorry Z, but we are both going to die at some point, and within the scope of a normal human lifespan.

But let’s get to his blatant eugenics:

In an attempt to solve this problem and give hundreds of millions of future kids a better life, I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a driver’s licence. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children. 

Those applicants who are deemed unworthy — perhaps because they are homeless, or have drug problems, or are violent criminals, or have no resources to raise a child properly and keep it from going hungry — would not be allowed until they could demonstrate they were suitable parents.

How would you stop them? Forced abortion? Forced sterilization? Like all modern Malthusians, Istvan punts to avoid the brutal logic of his advocacy, basically saying let the World Health Organization figure it out. 

Istvan’s advocacy is steeped in the ultimate hopelessness of materialistic atheism–a cause that he also ably champions. When one believes that all we have and ultimately are comes down to mere molecules, you grasp at quasi-religious straws, and if necessary, authoritarian control.

Rather than focus on immortality and controlling the “breeders,” I suggest as an antidote, Leon Kass, on accepting with grace the natural flow and ebb of human life. From Kass’s fount of wisdom:

In perpetuation, we send forth not just the seed of our bodies, but also the bearer of our hopes, our truths, and those of our tradition. If our children are to flower, we need to sow them well and nurture them, cultivate them in rich and wholesome soil, clothe them in fine and decent opinions and mores, and direct them toward the highest light, to grow straight and tall that they may take our place as we took that of those who planted us and made way for us, so that in time they, too, may make way and plant.

But if they are truly to flower, we must go to seed; we must wither and give ground.

This is simple realism, an acceptance of the way things are and will always be.

But more profoundly, it is an expression of love. Kass understands that life shouldn’t be about me-me, I-I. Others will follow in our wake as we flowed out of our ancestors. Human exceptionalism similarly holds that we owe duties to our posterity and not just ourselves. One of those is ultimately to pass on the baton.

This isn’t saying that disease should not be struggled against and medical science improved. But it does recognize that at some point, it is best that we shuffle off this mortal coil, as–for all of transhumanism’s desperate yearnings–we all must.

Istvan can pretend his call to eugenic authoritarianism seeks to protect suffering children. But it primarily aimed at preserving his place in perpetuity.  Me-me, I-I. 

As I often say, I am not worried about transhumanism ever really panning out. But the underlying solipsistic and anti-human values of the movement need to be rejected whenever and wherever advocated.

Doctors Forced to Refer for Starvation Suicides?



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It is very interesting that as some bioethicists complain about doctors being prohibited from discussing guns with their patients in Florida, they are apparently silent about a California proposal to force them to give information on non-medical legal end of life options, by which I mean, suicide by self-starvation (VSED).

The bill is California’s AB 2139, which states in pertinent part:

When a health care provider makes a diagnosis that patient has a terminal illness, the health care provider shall do both of the following:

(1) Notify the patient of his or her right to, or when applicable, the agent of the patient’s right to, comprehensive information and counseling regarding legal end-of-life options and, upon the patient or agent’s request, provide the patient or agent…comprehensive information and counseling regarding legal end-of-life options…

(2) Upon the request of the patient…provide the patient or other authorized person with comprehensive information and counseling regarding legal end-of-life care options pursuant to this section. When a terminally ill patient is in a health facility…the health care provider, or medical director of the health facility if the patient’s health care provider is not available, may refer the patient…to a hospice provider or private or public agencies and community-based organizations that specialize in end-of-life care case management and consultation to receive comprehensive information and counseling regarding legal end-of-life care options.

The Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices has been striving to redefine itself as an expert private organization on end of life choices. One of the “choices” it pushes is suicide by self-starvation and thirst (VSED, voluntary stopping eating and drinking), an instructional booklet for which C & C posts on its Website.

Thus, this section is also worrying:

(c) The information described…may, but is not required to, be in writing. Health care providers may utilize information from organizations specializing in end-of-life care that provide information on factsheets and Internet Web sites to convey the information described in subdivision (b).

As written, this bill could leasily be interpreted as legally requiring doctors to offer their patients information on committing suicide–which, after all, is a “legal” option–and/or about how to commit VSED with a doctor’s help, and/or require them to refer to organizations that push such acts.

If assisted suicide or euthanasia were legalized and this legislation was in effect, it would require doctors to refer to a kill or give information on how to be made dead through lethal means.

I am not a fan of mandating speech in the clinical setting. Regardless of that point, this proposal needs to be amended to ensure that only legal medical and non-lethal options are required to be provided.

Academy’s R. Williams Tweet Not Pro Suicide



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I have often worried about the near-invisibility of suicide prevention in the public discourse. But this is one time in which I think those on the side virtue and true compassion got it wrong.

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, the Academy of Motion Pictures sent out a Tweet. From the Variety story:

The tweet, sent out Monday at 5:56 p.m., shows the genie from the 1992 “Aladdin” with the message, “Genie, you’re free,” which is a line from the film. The item was retweeted more than 320,000 times and received a staggering 69 million impressions. The Internet and Twitter have been filled with tributes to Williams, who voiced the genie in the film.

That didn’t set well with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

However, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention worries about the subliminal message. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the AFSP, expressed concern about the tweet, telling the Washington Post Tuesday, “Suicide should never be presented as an option,” before adding, “(it) presents suicide in too celebratory a light.”

I think that’s a stretch..Cheap sentimentality in 140 or less characters, perhaps: That’s the bane of our times. But I don’t think the Tweet celebrates or glamorizes suicide.

If the American Foundation wants to do something valuable, how about a high-profile campaign against assisted suicide? That really pushes self destruction.

Alas, I have never seen the group oppose such blatant suicide promotion. Not only that, its web site is silent. Either that, or anti-euthanasia information is well hidden.  

So, in the face of real suicide celebration, all we get from the American Foundation is the sound of crickets. That’s known as dereliction of duty.

Suicide Cult Pushes Home Made Suicide Kits



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Suicide advocacy never stops. Even as the world mourns a celebrity self-destruction, Derek Humpry’s group ERGO–Euthanasia Research Guidance Organization–continues the death proselytizing–this time pushing a booklet, How to Make Your Own Helium Hood Kit.

Humphry lives in Oregon, by the way. Legalization of assisted suicide does not stop suicide advocacy outside of a law’s legal parameters. It never will.

But Wesley, Humphry is a social outlaw! He’s not part of the mainstream of assisted suicide advocacy.

Baloney! He’s a respected patriarch, and indeed, will be a speaking at the convention of all the international suicide pushers in Chicago later this year. 

The movement shows the world and the media different faces, but at heart, they’re all part of a hydra-headed suicide cult.

#thesepeoplemakemesick!

Murder in the First Villain Demonstrates Peril of Anti-Human Exceptionalism



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My wife Debra and I have been enjoying the new TNT television crime drama, Murder in the First. Last night, the villain spoke his value system–and it is pure anti-human exceptionalism.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t seen the program or final episode yet.

The villain admits to a friend that he killed his pregnant girl friend. ( I will not name the characters.) From the script:

Friend: She was carrying your child!

Villain: She was carrying a fetus. I told her to get rid of it but she refused…

Friend: So, you just killed her.

Villain: Look at it like this, Bill. Two-thirds of all human conceptions are spontaneously aborted by nature. Ten million women die every year in childbirth. I just nudged Cindy toward those probable outcomes, right? It was sloppy, but effective.

Now, the way that I killed my father, that was a work of art…

Friend: You killed your lover, you killed your child, you paid your grandfather to kill your father, and then he turned the gun you gave him on himself. So, you killed them all.  

Villain: I didn’t kill my grandfather. That’s not on me. That was his choice. He was dying of cancer, Bill. He wanted to go out on his own terms, one more final act of defiance. If I was in his position, doomed to a slow and meaningless death, I’d do the same thing.

Friend: Boy, you are insane!

Villain: No, I’m just evolved. Human life isn’t as valuable as you think it is, Wilkie. You know that there are 7 billion people walking around on this planet and we’re growing exponentially year by year. Humanity is on the vertical part of the S-curve.  It is completely unsustainable…We’re going to have to cull the herd, pick the winners. People are going to have to die for the rest of us to survive.  I’m just getting a head start.

Insane? How often do we see these very ideas–not the acts of murder, but the values embraced by the villain–espoused in bioethics discourse, assisted suicide/euthanasia advocacy, radical environmentalism, animal rights, and other public policy controversies?

Of course, people who deny human exceptionalism aren’t going to go out and murder their enemies. But the logic of the scene is impeccable. When societies accept these premises–and they have in history and some do now–evil soon follows.

Think about it: Eugenics, social Darwinism, the Holocaust, China’s One Child policy, the ISIS pogrom against Shia Muslims, Christians, and the Yezidi–the list could go on and on.

All of these evils are only possible by denying human exceptionalism. Or to put it the other way around, decency, morality, and universal human rights depend on adherence to human exceptionalism, both our unique value and our obligations to each other as humans. 

So, good for the writers of Murder in the First: In the scene quoted above, they sure captured an important truth.

“Surrogacy” Couple Wanted Abortion, Refund



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Surrogacy and IVF has objectified procreation. Now, it can be about not just having a baby to unconditionally love, but about ordering a baby that meets specifications.

Case in point: The notorious Australian biological colonialists who paid a Thai agency to hire a surrogate to carry their child, but then abandoned their son when it was discovered he has Down syndrome.

Now, the couple is saying they didn’t really abandon the child. But also, that they wanted their money back. From the CTV News story:

The couple was angry that the surrogacy agency had not conducted tests earlier that could have detected the condition, because by the time they found out, it was too late in the pregnancy to abort the fetus. Had they known earlier, they probably would have terminated the pregnancy, David Farnell said…

“I don’t think any parent wants a son with a disability,” he said. “Parents want their children to be healthy and happy.”

So, can surrogates–dehumanized as “gestational carriers” in industry parlance–be forced to abort? So much for “choice.”

And they wanted a refund:

They expected the surrogacy agency to give them a refund and find a solution. That’s when the still-pregnant Pattaramon offered to keep Gammy, Farnell said. “So we were thinking, oh, maybe — maybe — this might be OK,” he said.

When the babies were born, however, the Farnells said they realized they wanted to keep both. But Pattaramon then insisted she be allowed to keep Gammy, and threatened to keep Pipah as well, David Farnell said. The couple believes Pattaramon wanted to keep Gammy because male children are prized in Asian cultures.

From what I have seen, it is because she really loves him and is far from convinced the baby orderers would.

Tellingly, the couple has made zero attempts to be in contact with their son. But they say that as soon as their daughter’s legal status is settled, they’ll go back to Thailand to get custody.

Right. And O.J. will find the real killer.

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