Ethics & Morality Archives

Repentance and Nation

Recently, in a short exchange, the subject of national apology resurfaced, especially in the light of Australia’s move to apologize for its treatment of the aborigine population. However, on some reflection I think the idea of national apology is wrong and actually counter-productive. I was briefly looking for entertainment opportunities for my wife and I to take in in the upcoming weeks and this arose as a possibility. The remark embedded in the blurb:

This concise but wide-ranging documentary examines the subject through compelling stories from around the globe, including the families of six young men killed by the British Army in Northern Ireland, an Amish community overcoming the mass murder of five of its schoolchildren, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel seeking an official apology from Germany for the Holocaust, … [emphasis added]

Now let me suggest two events and consider of the following which do you think would mean more to the world-wide Jewish population:

  1. Angela Merkel reads an apology ratified by the Bundestag and Bundesrat offering regret for the Holocaust. A piece of modern art-work is commissioned to be executed by some marginally transgressive modernist artist.
  2. In a ground-swell movement of German people individually embark on a pilgrimage to visit Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Once there these pilgrims plant near or on the site a rue flower, read a poem selected by the movement, tour the site, and shed some tears. Imagine this movement sweeps over a significant percentage of the German people. Millions visit each year for decades or even for generations.

My point is to ask which of these is actually the more meaningful? A statement by a figurehead (or figureheads) or the actual feelings and demonstration of repentance by the people as individuals? I’d offer that the latter would hold far more meaning and that the former would be (should be, by comparison) almost meaningless.

Charity, when practiced by the state, tends to counter and diminish our individual impulse to charity. It is a common notion that personal participation in food kitchens, pantries, or shelters for the homeless is not required, as that is what taxes, in part, are paid to do for us. Similarly apology for evils done by the state replace or diminish the need or impulse for repentance by the individual. For the actual harm done by the state was not executed by any thing called a “state”, but by individuals. And it is individuals who must repent. Germany as Germany does not need to apologize for the Holocaust. Germans do, not Germany. Solzhenitsyn wrote that the line between good and evil is drawn through every human heart. And it is every human heart that needs to repent for things done, not those heartless state organs.

On Abortion and Fathers

In the last conversation about abortion (at my personal blog) my frequent interlocutor, Jewish Atheist (JA), depends in part on arguments drawn from the Violinist question. This is odd, because JA himself finds the Violinist argument poor. In that discussion however, I’d like to concentrate on the reasoning the pro-choice/pro-abortion community uses to deny the father any say in the matter, with a blanket excuse “it’s the women’s body.” I’m going modify my narrative around the violinist argument to highlight why I think setting the father out of the picture in a point blank fashion is a violation of common sense contractual ethics. For the story, duck below the fold: Read the rest of this entry

Stem Cell Miracles

Again we find that stem cells could be the cure for things that had been incurable.

Heart attacks occur when the heart muscle is starved of oxygen, usually because the arteries that supply it with blood become blocked with fatty deposits. A bypass operation restores this blood supply, but the lack of oxygen leads to permanent scarring of the heart muscle.

Even after the operation the heart’s activity does not return to normal. "If you have a large heart attack like this and you are lucky and are referred for a bypass operation, your quality of life will be permanently affected because the pumping function of your heart is reduced," said Raimondo Ascione, the surgeon who is leading the research. "Your tolerance to exercise is reduced so you can’t really enjoy your life."

The trial will involve patients with the worst prognosis, those who have scarring on at least half of the left ventricular wall. "It’s the worst heart attack you can have. Most patients just die," said Ascione.

The team will extract bone marrow from all 60 patients and separate out a class of stem cells that makes up 1% of the tissue. Previous studies have suggested that this cell type is able to regenerate heart muscle cells and blood vessels. By using the patient’s own cells there will be no problems with tissue rejection.

But again, as well, is a missing word in the article.  It’s implied in that last quoted paragraph, but it’s not said by name.  These are adult stem cells, from the patient.  Very little these days is said about adult stem cells, because of the agenda of folks who want embryonic stem cell research to get federal funding. 

The question isn’t whether or not embryonic stem cells would be useful.  The real question is; if adult stem cells have such wide, varied uses, and have been proven to work time after time, why do we want to step into the ethical quagmire of using embryos?

[tags]stem cells,Raimondo Ascione,heart disease,medicine[/tags]

Emotionally Tied to Embryonic Stem Cells

Now that normal skin cells can be made to mimic embryonic stem cells, you’d think that the big push to keep destroying embryos and the ethical considerations that accompany it would pretty much die out. You’d be wrong. Michael J. Fox, one of the more vocal and visible players advocating embryonic stem cell research, will have none of that.

MENOUNOS: Tell me what that does to Parkinson’s and how exciting that was for you?

FOX: Well any of these breakthroughs are fantastic. And it’s just thrilling. And at the same time too we don’t want to discontinue the embryonic stem cell research that’s being done because one begat the other and, and it all becomes part of a broad canvas that we want to continue to work on.

In the name of some ephemeral “broad canvas”, Fox simply won’t let go of his emotional tie (how else to explain it) to actual embryos. Science could very well get rid of the need to deal with the ethical and moral entanglement, but Fox won’t cut the umbilical cord.

MENOUNOS: Do you think that this will end the whole hot button issue of stem cell research?

FOX: Well I want to make sure that we, that, that doesn’t happen. But I think that the bottom line is whatever happens in the next election, the chances are very good that there’s gonna be a new attitude towards science.

Sounds to me like it’s Fox who needs to new attitude. Science is progressing, George W. Bush’s stand against destroying embryos has been vindicated, but Fox is stuck in his ways and his politics.

FOX: Well just about everybody’s in favor of it with the couple of exceptions on the, on the Republican side. But, but what I did in the last election in the midterm was not about parties but, but about who was in a race where they supported stem cell research and, and were, were opposed by someone who’s not in favor of stem cell research.

MENOUNOS: Who are you backing this election?

FOX: Whoever the most pro-science candidate is that comes out of either primary.

Turns out that Dubya’s faith in science — that it would find a way around destroying embryos — is the most pro-science of them all. Too bad he’s not running for re-election, eh Michael?

[tags]embryonic stem cells,science,Michael J. Fox,abortion[/tags]

Stem Cells Without Ethics Issues

As I’ve noted over and over and over again, adult stem cells are a win-win situation; they have amazing curative powers and have none of the ethical issues associated with embryonic ones. Well now, we hear of yet another source of stem cells that fit that category.

Scientists have made ordinary human skin cells take on the chameleon-like powers of embryonic stem cells, a startling breakthrough that might someday deliver the medical payoffs of embryo cloning without the controversy.

Laboratory teams on two continents report success in a pair of landmark papers released Tuesday. It’s a neck-and-neck finish to a race that made headlines five months ago, when scientists announced that the feat had been accomplished in mice.

The “direct reprogramming” technique avoids the swarm of ethical, political and practical obstacles that have stymied attempts to produce human stem cells by cloning embryos.

The fact that adult stem cells have been reprogrammed and used successfully isn’t mentioned in the article. You’d think the didn’t exist or were still very experimental by reading it. It’s unfortunate that these successes don’t get more play from the media, but then again, it’s a liberal media, and liberals have a fixation on embryonic experimentation, so that’s to be expected, claims of objectivity notwithstanding.

Still, it’s wonderful to hear the press acknowledging that there are indeed ethical considerations and that this new research could very well remove the need to wrestle with them. This kind of research is something we can all get behind, I believe, regardless of political and/or religious pursuasion.

There are still some issues to be worked out, notable the cancer risk, but this quote is incredibly promising.

“People didn’t know it would be this easy,” [James] Thomson [of the University of Wisconsin-Madison]said. “Thousands of labs in the United States can do this, basically tomorrow.”

Let’s hope so.

[tags]science,stem cells,cloning,direct reprogramming,ethics,morality,James Thomson,University of Wisconsin-Madison[/tags]

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