The Corner

I Think I Get It Now

Ramesh, perhaps I took your initial comments about Krauthammer’s stem-cell column too straightforwardly, as though it were part of a strategic argument about how to deal with the research as a matter of policy.

Now I think, having looked through your postings and trying to find the consistency between them, I think your argument simply operates from the basis that embryonic stem-cell research is obviously, unquestionably, inarguably, axiomatically immoral — and that you either can’t quite believe I might think differently or that you’ve decided my argument is morally relativistic.

But as I’ve been trying to argue, the morality here isn’t as clear-cut as you would like it to be. Perhaps it is for a practicing Catholic, for example, because the doctrine of the church is that all embryo creation outside the womb is a sinful act to begin with. But for a practicing Jew like me, for instance, the moral framework has a different baseline.

The Talmud says any embryo-fetus under the age of 40 days is to be deemed “like water.” That sounds harsh, though I believe its initial intention was to limit the emotional involvement of parents in the very early stages of pregnancy, when something like 25 percent of all fetuses naturally abort.

In any case, the code of ethics outlined in the Old Testament and the Talmud is based in the admonition in Leviticus to “choose life.” In the case of embryonic stem-cell research, an argument can be made that such reseach does just that.

Now here’s the thing. I am not even ARGUING in favor of embryonic stem-cell research. I find myself in some sympathy with the argument that any such research represents a journey down a potentially treacherous and immoral road. But I have to tell you, if brilliant polemicists like you can’t make better arguments than the ones you’ve been making, you’re helping to lead me toward that slippery slope….And here endeth my disquisitions on this subject. (For now.)

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