The Corner

Summing Up

Is the natural rate of death of early-stage human beings high? Almost certainly, it is much higher than the natural rate of death for, say, five-year-olds. In a significant percentage of what appear to be spontaneous abortions, are there really no human organisms dying? Probably. Would accounting for this likelihood bring down our estimate of the death rate? Yes, probably. But we don’t seem to have good numbers. Do pro-lifers (including the pope) treat non-embryos as though they were embryos? No. Are they in any way logically committed to doing so? No. These are pretty much the results that I suggested at the beginning.

Two notes here, to stave off confusion: First, I think any argument that a high natural death rate for a group would somehow justify the deliberate killing of members of the group is irremediably faulty (and that the faulty inference cannot be rescued by relabeling it an intuition). Even a very high rate would not, I think, get you any closer to a justification. The question of what the rate is, while interesting for other reasons, strikes me as largely irrelevant to the moral question.

Second, it’s important to distinguish conceptually between disabled and severely disabled embryos, on the one hand, and biological entities that aren’t embryos on the other. An organism that, e.g., integrates its own functioning and has an active internal disposition to develop but has some defect that prevents it from being able to implant would, I think, qualify as a severely disabled embryo but still as an embryo.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More
Culture

White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More

‘Silenced’

Someone tweeted this cartoon today, which apparently is intended to depict me. A few thoughts: I love the caricature. It’s really good. I may steal the second panel and use it for advertising. I hear this line of criticism fairly often from people who are not very bright or well-informed; in truth, I ... Read More