Human Exceptionalism

From Lead Into Gold: “Stem Cells the Right Way”

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson has a very good column in today’s paper about the recent stem cell breakthrough. After giving President Bush due credit for the part his policy played in the recent development, and recounting some of the past debate, he suggests that the pro-ESCR/human cloning impetus comes from a belief in raw utilitarianism. The whole thing is worth reading, but I’ll just focus on his conclusion:

Standing in opposition to utilitarianism is a different philosophy–that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights. This belief in human dignity has theological roots for some–but it is no less reasonable than the alternatives. And this commitment has informed medical ethics in the past. In 1964, the World Medical Association declared: “In medical research on human subjects, considerations related to the well-being of the human subject should take precedence over the interests of science and society.”

The human subject, in the case of embryonic research, is unrecognizable. But it is genetically distinct from other lives and undeniably human–a human at its earliest stage of development. It is not a superstition of the Dark Ages to believe that it should be valued, instead of discarded like cracked pottery.

In some quarters, advances such as this breakthrough will not be well received. A number of companies have a financial stake in embryonic research, and their stocks fell on the news. Others have an emotional investment in embryonic research because of a conviction that humanity should have unrestricted technological control over its reproductive and genetic future. “My own view,” says Sen. Arlen Specter, “is that science ought to be unfettered.”

But, as C.S. Lewis said, “Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument. . . . Each new power won by man is a power over man as well.”

Now, science has demonstrated an even greater power — the power of morally responsible technology to serve the cause of human dignity instead of undermining it.

Senator Specter’s comment is ignorant of history. Unfettered science, that is science unbounded by ethics and proper moral parameters, can grow monstrous. But science in the service of the intrinsic value of human life–now that can lift the whole human race.

Most Popular

If You Like Your Police, You Can Keep Your Police

The most amusing thing about the Obama v. the Squad kerfuffle is that there is not actually an inch of substantive daylight between the supposed combatants. Former President Obama does not disagree with the sentiments or objectives of Ilhan Omar et al. He disagrees with their tactic of pursuing it through a ... Read More

If You Like Your Police, You Can Keep Your Police

The most amusing thing about the Obama v. the Squad kerfuffle is that there is not actually an inch of substantive daylight between the supposed combatants. Former President Obama does not disagree with the sentiments or objectives of Ilhan Omar et al. He disagrees with their tactic of pursuing it through a ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The NLRB’s Humorless Insensibility

The text of the National Labor Relations Act does not, so far as we can tell, require the National Labor Relations Board or its personnel to have their sense of humor surgically removed. Nor does it prohibit the NLRB’s judicial proceedings from considering context, common sense, or elementary reality in making ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The NLRB’s Humorless Insensibility

The text of the National Labor Relations Act does not, so far as we can tell, require the National Labor Relations Board or its personnel to have their sense of humor surgically removed. Nor does it prohibit the NLRB’s judicial proceedings from considering context, common sense, or elementary reality in making ... Read More
Film & TV

Wonder Drug Cures All Problems

I’ve just discovered a film that has changed my life. Give it a chance, and it’ll change yours, too. The film is Another Round, by the sly Dane Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), and it heralds the discovery of a miraculous substance by four friends, all of them high-school teachers in Denmark, on the ... Read More
Film & TV

Wonder Drug Cures All Problems

I’ve just discovered a film that has changed my life. Give it a chance, and it’ll change yours, too. The film is Another Round, by the sly Dane Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), and it heralds the discovery of a miraculous substance by four friends, all of them high-school teachers in Denmark, on the ... Read More

Watching Les Watchmen

The best science fiction — and some of the most terrifying science fiction — has a short literary shelf life, because it does not stay fiction for long. In the much-admired HBO series Watchmen, which is set not in a dystopian future but in a reimagined present, the police have begun wearing masks in order to ... Read More

Watching Les Watchmen

The best science fiction — and some of the most terrifying science fiction — has a short literary shelf life, because it does not stay fiction for long. In the much-admired HBO series Watchmen, which is set not in a dystopian future but in a reimagined present, the police have begun wearing masks in order to ... Read More