Monday, December 06, 2004

BAD ARGUMENTS FOR GOOD
In a society as hostile to arguments based on the dignity of the human person, it is tempting to use utilitarian type arguments to advance pro-life cases.

One example is confronting the hype about embryonic stem cell research with the observation that adult stem cell research is just as promising.

This is very tempting. For one thing, it provides a counter-example to the strawman argument that those who oppose embryonic research do so because they "hate science." Bringing up adult stem cell research helps to demonstrate that we aren't against research into life-saving cures; we're just against destroying embryos to do that.

But if we put all our rhetorical eggs in this basket, and adult embryonic research truns out to be a flop, then what? The promise of adult stem cell research is a good thing, but even without it, embronic research would be just as wrong.

Another example popped up in Amy Welborn's comment box concerning immigration. Some were asserting that US Catholics should favor liberalized immigration policies because the immigrants in question come from Catholic pro-life backgrounds, and would likely move the culture more towards one that embraces life. Others responded with data that suggested otherwise.

But it's all irrelevant. Thinking like this reduces the immigrants to tools, rather than human persons with their own dignity to be repected. It's absurd to think an authentically pro-life society will emerge based on a policy derived from arguments like this.

A final example is the latest go-round on torture over in the Disputations comment boxes. One commenter notes that a good argument against using torture is that the information gleaned from it is unreliable. But what if someone combines torture with some truth serum?

These types of arguments are very tempting, and I've used some of them myself. But trying to build a pro-life culture out of utilitarian arguments like this is building our house on sand.
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