The Corner

Reply to Ramesh

Wait a minute. You write: “The force of the objection that people have to funding things they consider immoral depends in important part on whether they are correct to so consider it. I can’t believe that you could really disagree with that point.” Of course I disagree with that point, because it’s not even a point, Ramesh. There is no absolute arbitrator of whether the “people” you mention are “correct” or not in their moral objection (except for God, but His ways are mysterious, if you haven’t heard). Look, it is true that stem-cell funding isn’t “necessary,” but then, neither is cancer-research funding “necessary.”

The problem, as I see it, is that you and others have a serious, profound, respectable and highly moral objection to stem-cell research, whether federally funded or not. In fact, the moral argument against embryonic stem-cell research has nothing to do with the funding source. If such research is by definition immoral, it’s immoral no matter whose dime is spent doing it.

But here we are, living in a democratic society in which other people have other opinions on this matter. The Krauthammer opinion is that frozen embryos that are destined for destruction in any case are the only acceptable embryos from which to derive stem cells for research. The most comprehensive anti-stem-cell opinion argues that the true crime comes from the use of in-vitro fertilization, which creates these excess embryos. The most liberal argument leads us all the way to reproductive cloning.

This argument has now become part of the political debate. That is as it should be, or so I was taught in the wake of Roe v. Wade — that we were never able to come to a true national consensus position on abortion because the fight was superseded by the Supreme Court. We shall see what happens. But to argue that the anti-stem-cell argument is demonstrably correct because passionate people hold it and their passion is undergirded by the rightness of their argument is the textbook definition of a tautology.

Maybe you haven’t talked to a lot of pro-stem-cell research people. I have. Believe me, they’re passionate. They start to cry when they talk about a family member with Parkinson’s. That doesn’t make their argument correct, but maybe according to you it would.

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