Ethics & Morality Archives

An Ethics Question

Monday Mr Burgess-Jackson posted a short ethics question:

You are a doctor. You have five patients, each of whom is about to die due to a failing organ of some kind. You have another patient who is healthy.

The only way that you can save the lives of the first five patients is to transplant five of this young man’s organs (against his will) into the bodies of the other five patients. If you do this, the young man will die, but the other five patients will live.

Is it appropriate for you to perform this transplant in order to save five of your patients?

I’d like to propose a variant, because I don’t think the doctor (“do no harm”) should ever consider this as given. (below the fold) Read the rest of this entry

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    Categorical Errors Considered

    Note: I started writing this with the notion that the category error alluded to below was a mistake and a sidelight hiding behind the issues being argued. As I continued in writing I have come to believe that the category error is both the primary reason for the arguments and further is a fundamental problem which is well known.

    Much wroth, fury, words, and accusations of ignorance, bigotry, and perversion have crossed from both sides in the recent decades long struggle by various factions in the debates about marriage and who might be married rightly. A few observations

    1. Defenders of SSM remark that this sort of marriage is private and affects none outside of the marriage. Yet, if this were so, then why would not civil unions suffice? The logical answers is because this reply is a lie. It does in fact affect others and in this lies a category error to which I alluded in this essay’s title.
    2. To read the papers and hear the debates this is an important issue. Yet, why is that? Why is that more important than other issues. As that famous statistician Bjorn Lomberg  pointed out that getting vitamin supplements to the third world would saves tens if not hundreds of millions of lives (and would be cheaper and more effective than most of the aid we send to the third world), world-wide millions are affected by human trafficking indeed the numbers trafficked within the states is comparable to those affected by SSM … and those affected are mostly well educated affluent couples. Yet what debates are heard?

    How are these issues a sidelight issue and the other a hot button issue? I suspect my  I offer it is because those entrenched against SSM are also committing that same category error. What is the error of category to which I allude? Simply the following, laws and lawmakers are not our spiritual guides. Note, the use of the term “spiritual” is not the normal one, but one which I will continue in this essay and perhaps in further essays.

    So let me digress for a moment. Spiritual? What is that? In the introduction to Dimitru Staniloae’s book (Orthodox Spirituality), it is pointed out that in the Eastern Christian doctrine, your spiritual life and its tending is perhaps better translated as your ethical life and its care. Spiritual health and ethical well being are synonyms.

    What is legal or not and what is righteous (in good spirit or a good moral/ethical decision) are independent. This is a founding principle of American jurisprudence. (Or is it?) It certainly is the assumption now. Mr Daschle defended a Senatorial philandering colleague by pointing while he while he was dishonest he didn’t break any laws. The correct reaction to this is that the colleague got his priorities exactly backwards, i.e., it is more important to be ethical than stay on the right side of the law.

    Laws are not ethics. Laws and what lawmakers conspire to create has very little to do with ethics and instead its primary purpose is to provide a framework. This framework provides so that peoples may live harmoniously alongside each other in an ordered way.  So that, when conflicts between people arise, there is an orderly way of handling those same conflicts. Personal ethics overrides and sits over the law. For the most part, there is no conflict, most of our choices, our ethical decisions do not lead us toward choices which are illegal. Where they do, it is right, it is correct to choose the ethical over the legal. On the other hand, there are things you may do legally which however are not ethical. Even where there is no conflict, normally ethics binds our actions tighter than the law.

    Solzhenitsyn warns that this separation that is part of modern Western democracies (and was part of the former Soviet state) is an error. That itself is an interesting counter point. So it seems likely that this why this debate is important is not what it is about, but sort of the issue is the ground on which it is being made. What is at stake is perhaps not about the particulars of whether certain young dinks (dual income no kids) can have their relationship legalized or not but really what is being debated here and in other forums is whether law should be neutral or be admitted to have spiritual (ethical) content or should it not. Kant (and our founders) explored law devoid of ethics, can a safe lawful republic of demons (not angels) be constructed or not. Perhaps it can. Perhaps it can’t. The question at hand is should it? Recall the Ratzinger/Habermas debate, debating whether a democratic society can be constructed and sustain itself independent of religion, i.e., “does it need things outside itself to sustain itself.” Ratzinger and Solzhenitsyn think not. Bertrand de Jouvenal pointed out in his meta-political science musings about what he termed Babylon (the large multicultural state) envies the unity of the small state. My reading of Solzhenitsyn (and Jouvenal) is that a solution exists. If the larger federal state limit itself to promoting commerce and unity between smaller entities within itself, while foster their ability to form strong local identity, laws and praxis then you could have the best of both worlds. You can find local loyalties and ties and bonds within the framework a larger multicultural state.

    Both sides of the cultural debate miss this point. Both sides wish to apply the same laws and sensibilities in artists boroughs of San Francisco, in Amish villages in Ohio, in rural Lutheran Wisconsin, and so on. Why? Why try? It seems wrong to insist that behavioral norms universal.

    Locally laws can be tied to spirit. Federally, the are not, but there they run to the Habermas separation of Spirit and law. It seems to me laws about birth, death, marriage are those which the federal level should keep its hands away, to set aside for local regions to coin their own practices, to tie their own view of ethics and spirit what is allowed, to what is righteous in their region.

    Instead of insisting that laws be spiritual or devoid of spiritual considerations is wrong. Federal laws laws which bind us all, might be best be light and aim only to promote commerce, unity, and ease frictions. Local laws … let them tangle and wind the ways the local choose. That is, after all, nothing more than freedom.

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      Adult Stem Cells: The Trend Continues

      This article at Life News describes recent grants & prize money that went to stem cell research.  There is something to note about how the money way divvied up.

      As noted in the earlier Lozier Institute study, the first round of grants under this category, in October, 2009, saw a marked departure by CIRM away from a funding preference for hESCR [human embryonic stem cell research] and towards adult and other non-embryonic stem cell research.

      That pattern continues in the July 2012 round of grants. Of eight research projects selected, only one involved hESCs while two involved the use of fetal tissue. The others used ethically non-contentious adult stem cells or other non-embryonic approaches. Of the $150 million awarded, $48 million went to the hESC and fetal tissue projects; the remaining $102 million went to the ethically non-contentious adult stem cell and other non-embryonic projects.

      Results are drawing the funding, not political hype, and the trend is away from embryonic stem cells.

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        Mr Obama Goes to Chick-Fil-A

        So, did Mr Obama use the Colorado shooting to set the stage for policy changes:

        Every day, in fact, every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater. For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, here in New Orleans. For every Tucson or Aurora, there’s daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland.

        Hmm. Which policy? Restrict guns or reinforce traditional marriage? Which is more likely a root cause, restrictions on guns or broken families and single/absent parents? The latter is more likely the cause, the former the more likely policy in mind.

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          The difference

          You’re probably well aware by now of the murderous attack that left 15 people dead in Pakistan.

          What? You thought it was 16 people in Afghanistan who were killed? Well, certainly that news is making the headlines on newswires across the world. But I’m referring to a suicide attack on mourners at a funeral in Pakistan. From Bill Roggio, at The Long War Journal,

          A suicide bomber killed 15 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a funeral in the Pakistani city of Peshawar today. The attack appears to have targeted a senior provincial government official who has raised an anti-Taliban militia in the area.

          Pakistani officials confirmed that a suicide bomber carried out today’s attack as mourners were offering prayers for a woman during a funeral in the Badaber area of Peshawar.

          Had you heard about this? If you had, was it a news headline or merely another one-of-many filler stories?

          In a way, perhaps the fact that such stories get so little airplay, and stories of U.S. military personnel committing crimes get so much airplay is an indication of the very difference between our moral high ground and the terrorist enemy’s.

          Consider the following account of Muslim on Muslim killings, per The Long War Journal.

          Over the past five years, the Taliban and allied Pakistani terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Punjabi Taliban have shown no reservations about striking inside mosques and other religious sites, as well as during religious processions and events. There have been 36 major attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007, according to information compiled by The Long War Journal.

          One of the most brazen attacks took place on Dec. 4, 2009, when a suicide assault team stormed a mosque frequented by military officers in Rawalpindi. Two senior generals were among the 40 people killed.

          Another major attack took place on July 1, 2010, when suicide bombers struck the Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine in Lahore, killing 41 people and wounding more than 170. Three suicide bombers detonated their vests at the shrine at a time when it was most frequented, in an effort to maximize casualties.

          The last major attack against religious targets took place on Sept. 15, 2011, when a suicide bomber killed 31 people in an attack at a funeral in Lower Dir.

          All told, The Long War Journal lists 36 major attacks since December 2007 (in Pakistan alone), resulting in 805 people killed. That’s an average of 22 people killed per attack – attacks at mosques and other Islamic institutions.

          Try to find that on CNN.

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            The Ethics of "After-birth Abortions", Part 2

            [Please click here for part 1, as this just picks up where that left off. Also, another blogger found the article again at a new URL on the same site. I'd searched using their advance search form with no success, but glad that it's back so people can read the whole thing.]

            The newborn and the fetus are morally equivalent

            The authors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva,  start this section with their definition of personhood.

            Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.

            Thus, to be a person, you have to know you’re a person and be able to value it. The state of not knowing, however, lasts quite a bit beyond newborn status. The authors, again, fail to address this. More than fail to, actually, they refuse to address it, as we shall see.

            Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. Indeed, many humans are not considered subjects of a right to life: spare embryos where research on embryo stem cells is permitted, fetuses where abortion is permitted, criminals where capital punishment is legal.

            The equivalence here is somewhat flawed, not the least because they start to blur the moral right to life with the legal right to life. Further, they equate giving up your legal right to life (by, for example, murdering someone else) with a fetus or embryo being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Depending on your morals, all three examples have a moral right to life, it’s just in the last case it was actively forfeited.

            Read the rest of this entry

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              The Ethics of "After-birth Abortions", Part 1

              Last Friday, I noted in my Friday Link Wrap-up "Medical "ethicists" are seriously arguing that post-birth newborns are ‘not persons’ and can ethically be "aborted". I also posted this article on Facebook, and one of my friends took me to task on it. He said that "sloppy agenda laden journalism" has misinterpreted their intent, and that "the researchers are attempting to provoke debate on the ethics of abortion, not the desirability to kill newborns."

              I’ve read the whole piece by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, and I come to the conclusion that, while their stated intent may not be to suggest that it is desirable to kill newborns, the result will be the same. The main problem I see is that, while they have their personal moral stances regarding how often and in what circumstances what they call "after-birth abortions" would take place, their stances would not be what others use to make their determination. Would they accept a gun manufacturer’s statement that "I don’t intend my product to kill innocent people"? Perhaps not, but it can be used that way, and abortion kills millions upon millions because they are merely inconvenient. The authors’ morals will not be used to put into practice their suggestions. Keep that in mind.

              (Note: While putting this blog post together, the article was removed from the Journal of Medical Ethics website. The link takes you to a "Not Found" page, and no amount of searching for title, text, or authors could find it. I’m not sure if it was taken down for some reason, or if, perhaps, only the most recent articles appear on the website. In any event, the article is no longer there. I’ll continue to look to see if it gets posted elsewhere.)

              (Second note: This is why I haven’t posted anything this week so far. I’ve been spending my time working on this.)

              Read the rest of this entry

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                Rusty Nails (SCO v. 46)

                The Firearm as a Tool
                In Washington state, a National Park Ranger was shot dead by an Iraq War vet with post traumatic stress syndrome. In Oklahoma, an 18 year-old widowed mother shot and killed an intruder in her home.

                From Massad Ayoob,

                In each case, the death weapon was a 12-gauge shotgun. Some in the anti-gun camp have already blamed the law that allows ordinary, law-abiding citizens to be armed in parks like the one where the ranger was killed, for the depredations of a madman who had already violated every law from the Sixth Commandment on down before he reached the park. I try not to use words like “idiocy” when speaking of the other side, but in this case it fits. The firearm is a tool, which carries out the will of the owner. Evil in the first case, good in the second. Yes, it IS that simple.

                ###

                On that anti-gun hysteria
                From the news report on the Park Ranger who was shot and killed,

                It has been legal for people to take loaded firearms into Mount Rainier since 2010, when a controversial federal law went into effect that made possession of firearms in national parks subject to state gun laws.

                That controversial federal law actually applies to the concealed carry laws which, to the best of my knowledge, do not apply to the carrying of 12-gauge shotguns.

                ###

                The True 1%
                From Consumer Reports,

                Only 1 percent of all mobile subscribers are guilty of gobbling up 50 percent of the world’s bandwidth, according to a new report by the British company Arieso, which advises mobile operators in Africa, Europe and the U.S.

                ###

                Quiet
                Please.

                ###

                Coddling replacing spanking?
                From The Atlantic,

                But crotchety as I am, I find it sort of creepy–and anecdotally, as the first generation of what David Brooks calls “Organization Kids” enters the workforce, employers are apparently complaining that they have an outsized sense of entitlement combined with a difficulty coping with unstructured tasks.

                ###

                Apathy about religion and spiritual matters in America?
                And this is surprising? From the article,

                Most So Whats are like Gerst, says David Kinnaman, author of You Lost Me on young adults drifting away from church.

                They’re uninterested in trying to talk a diverse set of friends into a shared viewpoint in a culture that celebrates an idea that all truths are equally valid, he says. Personal experience, personal authority matter most. Hence Scripture and tradition are quaint, irrelevant, artifacts. Instead of followers of Jesus, they’re followers of 5,000 unseen “friends” on Facebook or Twitter.

                This is not surprising given our culture of peace, prosperity, and self-infatuation… the sorry thing is, we perpetuate this mentality in the church and in how we think we are evangelizing.

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                  Finding God in Twilight

                  My Take: 5 reasons Christians should love ‘Twilight’ is a confusing piece, from CNN Opinion, attempting to argue for the merits of the Twilight series due to some intersections (so the author claims) it has with Christianity. The mistake here is that she appears to fall into the Moral Therapeutic Deism camp. Rather than do a stretch search for Biblical principles in something like Twilight, how about looking at what the Bible has to say? Or at least peruse the works of authors who intended to write fiction with a Biblical grounding (e.g., C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, PD James, Stephen Lawhead, etc.).

                  The five reasons Jesus would love Twilight?

                  1. The supernatural surrounds us whether we’re aware of it or not.
                  2. Love results in, and even requires, sacrifice.
                  3. Humans crave divine perfection.
                  4. A drastic change of direction may be exactly what you need.
                  5. You’ll only really fit in after you accept what it is God has designed you for.

                  Oh, and I really like the Jeremiah 29:11 reference as an argument for reason # 5 [sarcasm].

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                    Only in California (v. 1)

                    Only in California is a new link spotlight to some of the weirdness found on the Left Coast.

                    ***

                    Stop the Killing! (of coyotes)

                    After a coyote (or coyotes) began to make dinner out of small dogs and cats in one Anaheim neighborhood, local residents decided to have the animal caught and euthanized. Sounds like a common sense approach, right? Not to animal-rights activists and certain American Indians (aka Native Americans). From the OC Register,

                    “We want Anaheim and all of Orange County to know that we have lived in harmony with coyotes and other wildlife for generations, and killing coyotes with poison, traps or GPS devices is unfair and upsets the balance of nature,” said Randal Massaro of Victorville, a representative for Union Members for Preservation of Wildlife Worldwide. Massaro describes his organization as an “underground movement of union members” trying to protect nature.

                    “I am here for nature itself,” said Apache Daklugie Running-Hawk, who said he is a spiritual leader for the Tarasco Nation band of Indians and is based in Lucerne Valley.

                    “These are our four-legged friends, and this is their land,” he said. “Now they are trying to drive them out, like they drove us (Native Americans) out generations ago. We need to live among them and learn from them.”

                    Running-Hawk played a song on a Native-American wood flute in a show of “respect and peace” during his comments before the council.

                    There is some sense in all this nonsense, though. By effectively separating humans from the rest of the animal kingdom (e.g., “this is their land”), there is a blanket admission to the distinctiveness of the human species and, I would argue, the imago Dei.

                    ###

                    Gun Control Marches On

                    Governor Brown, reportedly a gun owner himself, had 4 anti-gun bills on his desk recently.

                    AB 809 expands gun registration to include long guns, SB 427 effectively initiates ammunition registration, SB 819 redistributes current gun registration fees, and AB 144 would ban the open carrying of an unloaded handgun.

                    Unfortunately, he signed three of them into law: AB 809, SB 819, and AB 144. He vetoed SB 427, but only because of a lawsuit against the bill’s predecessor, which was deemed unconstitutional.

                    ###

                    Government doesn’t belong in your home… unless you’re having a Bible Study

                    A southern California couple is faced with a legal battle after being fined for hosting a Bible Study in their home.

                    So much for the “separation of church and state.”

                    ###

                    Achoo! – God Bless You

                    A California student was penalized for uttering the words “God bless you” after someone sneezed.

                    “The blessing really doesn’t make sense anymore,” Cuckovich explained. “When you sneezed in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body. So they were saying, ‘God bless you,’ for getting rid of evil spirits. But today, what you’re doing really doesn’t make sense.”

                    I wonder if Mr. Cuckovich has ever told anyone good-bye?

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                      Secular vs Religion and the Public Square

                      On and off again I refer to the little book published that consists of the debate between Jurgen Habermas (eminent German philosopher) and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict). The title of this book is Dialectics of Secularization. Mr Habermas opens, sets the stage and gives a brief argument (streching 30 pages of a small format book) … and Cardinal Ratzinger replies in like length. This book is published by Ignatius Press (2006) and is quite inexpensive (and available on Amazon). It was, of course, originally published in German.

                      The Question:

                      Does the free, secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee? This question expresses a doubt about whetherthe democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence; it also expresses the assumption that such a state is depenedent on the ethical traditions of a local nature.

                      Mr Habermas takes the affirmative, and of course Mr Ratzinger the negative. Read the rest of this entry

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                        Friday Link Wrap-up

                        When the International Monetary Fund needs bailing out, from bailing out so many others, it’s time to seriously question the socialist policies of those it’s having to bail out.

                        The Pope reminds Europe that moral failure usually precludes many other kinds of failure, eve economic.

                        A page to bookmark when someone brings up the faulty idea that billionaires are running the Tea Party.

                        Congress will investigate Planned Parenthood. About time.

                        Meryl Yourish has a keen eye for news media bias against Israel and, coincidentally, a bias for Palestinians. The latest? A Palestinian man kills an American tourist (because he thought the American was Jewish, which he wasn’t). The AP headline only say the Palestinian man was convicted of "stabbing" the tourist. (Oh, and the tourist was a Christian who happened to be wearing a Star of David.)

                        "Despite increases in gun sales, gun crimes continued to decrease in the United States for the fourth straight year in 2010, according to the FBI." This goes completely against the liberal narrative. The reality is likely closer to crime is down because of the increase in gun sales.

                        "President Obama’s jobs bill is better than doing nothing in the face of a national crisis, but it won’t have much impact on unemployment." This incredibly foolish line begins a column trying to suggest Obama’s Stimulus Jr. should be bigger. First of all, how is wasting money on something that won’t do what it purports to do better than doing nothing? That’s how politicians have gotten us into this fiscal mess. Second, the answer is always more, more, more. And yet here we are anyway. How can more pounding our heads against the wall feel any better?

                        And finally, a political cartoon (of sorts) of my own. Someone took a picture of tax protesters, and attempted a little irony by pointing out things around them paid for by taxes. But they missed the point entirely. Then point is… (Click for a larger version).

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                          Infanticide By Any Other Name

                          I didn’t want to bury this post in a "Friday Link Wrap-up", so I’m forgoing that feature to focus on what Mark Steyn calls a "fourth trimester" abortion.

                          Albert Mohler brings up a recent court decision in Canada where a mother was convicted of strangling her newborn baby and tossing him over the fence into a neighbor’s yard. To compound this horror, the Canadian justice system (and I use the term "justice" very loosely) decided she would not spend any time in jail. None. Here’s how the judge justified this.

                          Justice Joanne Veit, whose name should now go down in legal and moral infamy, tied this woman’s act of infanticide to Canada’s lack of legal restrictions on abortion. The judge’s decision stated that “while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support.”

                          She continued: “Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother.” She also stated that the Canadian approach is a “fair compromise of all the interests involved.”

                          Two juries had found Effert guilty of second-degree murder, but an appeals court had reduced her conviction to infanticide.

                          This is what comes from acceptance of a million abortions per year, and what comes from a judiciary far more concerned about feelings than laws. Mohler’s column notes that this slippery slope has been known to be coming for years now, but the Left has been deaf to the warnings.

                          The ultimate insult is that Effert may actually spend time in jail, not for killing her baby, but for throwing the lifeless body into her neighbor’s yard. Kill your child and we’ll grieve with you, but litter? That’s over the line.

                          I’ve heard those on the Left, including Christians, suggest that if you’re against abortion, just don’t have one. But life, even (especially) of the "least of these" is worth defending. Mohler closes by explaining why.

                          Mark this well — the horrific logic of this judge’s decision will not remain in Canada. Indeed, it did not even start in Canada. Those arguments are already in place in the United States. If we will not defend life in the womb, eventually the dignity of every single human life is thrown over the fence.

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                            One Less Reason to Use Embryonic Stem Cells

                            A new study says that adult cells induced to become like embryonic stem cells ("induced pluripotent stem cells") are very nearly identical to the embryonic ones.

                            A study released Sunday shows embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are almost identical.

                            Since human IPS cells were first produced from mouse cells in 2006 and from human cells in 2007, it has been thought they were equivalent to embryonic stem cells, which are controversial because they are derived from human embryos.

                            But new research, directed by Josh Coon, a UW-Madison associate professor of chemistry and biomolecular chemistry, shows the proteins in the two types of cells are almost identical.

                            Stem cells have the ability to develop into any of the different types of cells in the body. In many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing to replenish other cells.

                            There is really no longer any ethical or scientific reason to use embryonic stem cells. But scientists will continue to try, and to justify it ethically. Some do this by, ironically, casting moral aspersions on those of us who bring up the ethics issue. Writing at the First Things blog, Wesley Smith responds to a faculty level scientist at UC Davis who got upset at one of Smith’s articles on the ethics issue. It is amazing how tone-deaf some of these fellows can be. One imagines that if, someday, we were able to extract perfect stem cells from pine needles, they’d still insist on using embryos.

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                              We Consume Too Much!

                              I’ve heard this charge leveled at the US many times before, but recently I heard it leveled from a Christian from the left side of the political aisle. He adds, to the usual concern about wasted natural resources, that consuming so much in disproportion to our numbers is immoral and unjust.

                              But this is only one side of the equation. I came up with a parallel situation to demonstrate the problem.

                              I spend most of my money on a very few things. My biggest expense is no doubt my house. I pay so much money to one person; my mortgage banker. He and my grocer, between them, probably get the biggest chunks of change out of my annual income. I have a family doctor who, too, gets a significant portion of my resources. And, as my kids have started going to college, two colleges have been getting a bigger slice of the pie.

                              (At this point, I quote a paragraph from his post and apply it to my parallel situation.) As a matter of justice, it would not be reasonable to think that it’s morally acceptable for those few people to consume more than half of my resources. Even though the laws were written in such a way that they are allowed to acquire those resources legally, it makes for an immoral and unjust situation, does it not?

                              If all you’re looking at is the percentage of resources consumed (and that’s all his bullet points cover) and using only that criteria to determine whether it’s just or not, then my mortgage banker, my grocer, my doctor and two colleges are acting unjustly with my resources.

                              Except that, for those resources, I’m getting shelter, food, health care and education. I’m getting a disproportionate percentage of what I need to live from this small number of people. Perhaps they could charge less for some things and not take as many of my resources for their lifestyle, but on balance I’m getting some essentials from these few folks.

                              In the same way, while it is true that the US consumes a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources, and while it is also true that many of us could do with less, the world gets quite a bit out of the bargain. Medical advances for longer and better lives. Educational opportunities that people come from all over to take advantage of. Technological advances in energy production to bring a higher standard of living around the world (and higher standards of living almost always result in better health). Agricultural advancements that let vegetables grow in the desert and other inhospitable conditions. And on top of all this, when the world needs protection from enemies or help during calamities, who’s the first place they turn for a shield or a helping hand? And who has the armaments and money to help out?

                              We do. The world’s getting quite a lot for the money.

                              Ask the illegal immigrant risking what he has to come to America for work. Ask the African who now has a garden courtesy of a charitable organization. Ask the Libyan who may soon be out from under a dictator. Ask the Dani tribesman in Papua, Indonesia who won’t die from an infection that is now easily curable. Ask the survivors of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

                              So unless he’s ready to start laying into his grocer for the "unjust" use of his resources, it might be best to reconsider this pronouncement of immorality and unjustness.

                              Do you agree or disagree? My main point is that you can’t just look at the consumption side; there’s so much more to the question than that. While we consume more than our share, we produce so much from that consumption, and the benefits absolutely do not stay within our own borders. I believe the religious (question of how moral this consumption is) is being colored by the political. Not "going green" as much as you may wish me to is not, by itself (and this post isolates consumption by itself) a moral failing, or certainly can’t be used to solely just the overall morality.

                              I believe the Christian Left falls into this trap more often than they care to admit; conflating the political with the moral. Being against Cap & Trade or the Kyoto Protocol, or not following the Green Othodoxy is somehow immoral. We should be good stewards of our resources; I’m not denying that. But to look at the "bad" side of the equation without looking at the "good" side results in fatally flawed policies. We need to deal with the bad without damaging the good.

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