Hypocrisy in the Culture Wars

Neil of the nTrain has two great posts up about stem cells and gays/women in the military. Neil (who has a great, sarcastic writing style) points out that, although he his in favor of stem cell research, “those that object to the use of federally funded research that involved the dissection of these embryos cannot simply stop there. You cannot be against what you see as murder simply because the federal government is funding it. That’s absurd. What this calls for is a Republican bill outlawing the use of embryos by any research facility in their stem cell research.”

His solution?

I think it’s necessary to make use of those embryos because to simply allow them to remain frozen is to inhibit their developmental potential. Perhaps we can just sprinkle them on some hospital beds and give them 6-9 months to develop, providing food and drink whenever necessary or applicable. Doing nothing just seems barbaric.


As for gays and women in the military, he links to a Max Boot column which asks, “Are [conservatives] more concerned with winning culture wars at home or winning the war on terrorism abroad?” The answer, of course, is clear — and Neil expands further on Boot’s point by looking at the international conservative approach to reproductive rights, poverty and medical care. Read Neil’s entire post, but here’s a teaser:

Were [pro-lifers] seriously committed to the cause of pro-lifedom, which I thought was to reduce the number of abortions to an insignificant sub-statistic, they would champion non-abstinence only education, not focus solely on outlawing abortion in safe and sanitary facilities, and promote options that work, such as contraception. Instead, the whole of their cause is devoted solely towards putting on record laws that allow abortions to take place, just hidden and away from world view, as if a child dying (their view) with the concurrence or non-objection of the government is any different from it being aborted on the kitchen/bathroom floor with a wire hanger, most likely also threatening the life of the mother and possibly her already existing family/children that would be left without a mother were her skill in medical practices not Dr. Quinn-like.


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13 comments for “Hypocrisy in the Culture Wars

  1. BillyHW
    May 28, 2005 at 12:44 pm

    Pay attention to me! I’m starved!

  2. BillyHW
    May 28, 2005 at 12:45 pm

    Jill, is it possible for you to write even a single sentence without an error in it?

    We pro-lifers *are* very much in favour of legislation banning all destruction of human embryos. However, there just aren’t enough pro-life congressmen and senators yet who could pass such legislation. And the Supreme Court’s current composition would nullify any such legislation anyways. If we can get a pro-life president to beat Hillary in 2012, then we may just have the judges and legislators needed for such a glorious ban in 2016 (after the next census and redistribution of house seats and electoral college votes).

    At the present time this great president only has the power to not give such “research” federal taxpayer funds. We are doing all we can at the moment. This is all part of a long term strategy. There is no hypocrisy.

  3. May 28, 2005 at 12:52 pm

    Jill, is it possible for you to write even a single sentence without an error in it?

    I’m not sure if you’re referring to the fact that I make a lot of typing mistakes, or if you’re trying to say that I’ve got my facts wrong. So yeah, I make a lot of typos. I’ll cop to that. What can I say? I’m usually writing late at night, right before I go to bed, typing quickly and not proof-reading. If I spot them later, I go back and fix them. If not, oh well.

    As for factual errors, find one. You may be personally in favor of banning all stem cell research, but the page I linked to was pointing out the wide-ranging hypocrisies in the “pro-life” movement (i.e., against abortion but also against anything that prevents abortions from happening in the first place). And as for you, is it possible for you to write a single sentence without a heavy dose of crazy in it? Yeah, didn’t think so.

  4. BillyHW
    May 28, 2005 at 12:52 pm

    Blah blah Jeebus blah.

  5. jam
    May 28, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    Ol’ Heavy Dose of Crazy writes: We will never get rid of abortion until we get rid of the contraceptive mentality which has infected our culture.

    you mean that mentality that’s been around for the past couple millenia? that is one persistent infection!

  6. Quisp
    May 28, 2005 at 8:15 pm

    Billy: killing an adult human male, killing a one-year old human baby, destroying an unimplanted single-cell human embryo in a lab — equally immoral? Assume all are “innocent” per your usual definition.

  7. BillyHW
    May 28, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    I would put it this way: Murdering an always innocent unimplanted single-cell human embryo (by conducting experiments on it or by depriving it of a life-sustaining uterine lining or otherwise) is not less immoral than murdering a an always innocent one-year old human baby is not less immoral than murdering an innocent adult human female is not less immoral than murdering an innocent adult human male. All these actions are *gravely* immoral.

    Certainly there are circumstances when it is legitimate to kill a *guilty* person.

    There are also circumstances in which it is permissible to take (good) actions that as a consequence may result in the unintended and unwanted deaths of innocents. Such circumstances though are rare and it is not easy to explain the intricacies of the argument to someone who is not literate in moral theology and the natural law, and who is unwilling to learn. I am also not (yet) an expert in such matters and am not (yet) capable of explaining it well. If you are interested in understanding such circumstances and learning more about them do a google on: “principle of double effect”. (Just as a quick illustrative example: It would be morally licit to shoot down a hijacked plane full of 200 innocent passengers if it is heading into a building full of 1000 innocent people.

    Now, it may also be that the guilt of someone who kills an unimplanted human embryo is mitigated by the fact that he does not realize that what he is doing is murder.

  8. Quisp
    May 29, 2005 at 12:04 am

    It would be morally licit to shoot down a hijacked plane full of 200 innocent passengers if it is heading into a building full of 1000 innocent people.

    Given that, here’s how you might look at embryonic stem cell research, given that you believe it destroys innocent life.

    innocent passengers on plane = unused frozen embryos in fertility clinics.

    hijacked (i.e. going to die anyway) = will be thrown into the trash (i.e. going to die anyway)

    innocents in the targeted building = innocents suffering from diseases that might be cured by the research.

    Clearly, if you don’t think the single-cell embryo is a human life, the decision is a no-brainer. More interesting to me is the fact that even if you believe the embryo to be innocent life, according to your analogy it may still be the moral thing (i.e. the right thing) to do to shoot down the plane to save the people in the building.

  9. BillyHW
    May 29, 2005 at 2:28 am

    I had no doubt that the nuances of the principle of double effect would go right over your head Quisp. As I explained in my above post, the argument is tricky to understand for someone with no experience in moral theology. I’m not sure if it is really possible to explain it in all it’s details in this format (blog comment board), nor am I a particularly good explainer of this subject. I suggest that if you are really interested in understanding our position on this, then you consult someone who is an expert, however, I sincerely doubt that this is your intention. I believe that you are just trying to find an easy contradiction so you can scream “Hypocrisy!”, and then feel better about yourself and morally superior to us.

    But I will try to clear up your confusions where I can:

    hijacked (i.e. going to die anyway) = will be thrown into the trash (i.e. going to die anyway)

    This is not what we are saying at all. We would definitely not say that just because someone is “going to die anyway” that it is okay to kill him. That would be gravely wrong. Hmmmm, perhaps my example was not the best one I could have used to flesh out this idea. The example is fine, but I see now that it could easily lead someone to believe that that’s what we are saying.

    Let me modify the example to clarify what we are saying:

    Suppose there is a SCUD missile launching pad located right next to a school containing 200 innocent schoolchildren. Suppose further that the SCUD missile is targeted at another school many miles away containing 1000 innocent schoolchildren and is about to be launched. It would be morally licit then to bomb the SCUD launching facility even though that may result in the deaths of the 200 innocent schoolchildren (though every effort must be made to ensure that the bombs are targeted accurately and collateral damage is minimized. For example, bombing at night when it is likely that fewer innocents are inside the school).

    This situation is *not* analagous to embryonic stem cell research. In embryonic stem cell research, the ends are the availability of stem cells for research that leads to the saving of many lives (good)**, but the means are the destruction of innocent human embryos (bad). In my situation above the ends are saving of 1000 innocent lives and the loss of 200 innocent lives (good), and the means are bombing of the SCUD missile launching pad and the BAD GUYS operating it (good).

    Christian morality distinguishes between the above two situations and says that bombing the SCUD facility would be okay but the destruction of embryos would not be okay. I understand that *you* might have different moral beliefs and that *you* might think these situations the same and equally immoral. That’s fine. But we Christians have every right to try and take part in public life, through all the democratic means available to us, and to try to ensure that government policy reflects our undertanding of right and wrong, JUST AS YOU have every right to take part in public life and ensure that goverment policy reflects what you think is best.

    If you are genuinely interested in learning more about this argument send me an email (BillyHW@rogers.com) and I will try to send you links to some experts on the subject who are more capable of explaining it than I.

    **I’m being hypothetical here for the sake of argument. In fact, embryonic stem cell research has not led to cures or treatments for anything, unlike adult stem cell resarch. And though it was once considered promising, many investors are increasingly staying away from funding such research because of many problems encountered (i.e. embryonic stem cells often develop into cancerous tumours).

  10. Quisp
    May 29, 2005 at 2:04 pm

    The principle of double effect require that four conditions be met if the action in question is to be morally permissible: first, that the action contemplated be in itself either morally good or morally indifferent; second, that the bad result not be directly intended; third, that the good result not be a direct causal result of the bad result; and fourth, that the good result be “proportionate to” the bad result.

    This, Billy, is Catholic doctrine. For the purposes of argument: let’s accept it as valid.

    In your examples, both acts (shooting down the plane, bombing the scuds next to the school) satisfy the fourth criterion, but fail to meet the other three.

    You undoubtedly think that the bad result in either case was not “directly intended,” but clearly in the case of the plane it’s inevitable and in the case of the school it’s foreseeable and likely (if not, then it’s just an accident, so there’s no question here). “I’m just too fucking stupid to have known that was going to happen” is not an excuse.

    Shooting down a plane full of innocents is not a morally good or neutral act, “in itself.”

    No matter what you think about any of that, in both cases the good result is causally related to the bad result, so #3 screws you up every time.

    This doctrine has of course been very controversial with philosophers, thinkers and theologians for, oh, the last thousand years. Check your list of mortal sins to see which one(s) you’re committing by thinking that you have it all worked out.

    In any case, your principle seems to be slightly more forgiving than “double effect.” It’s basically, “if what I call good outweighs what I call bad, then I call it good, and anyway I didn’t mean the bad stuff to happen, but hey you have to break a few eggs, etc.”

    I would think you are yourself illustrating what many people think is the crucial hole in “double effect.” It can be used to excuse any behavior you like. All you have to do is define very carefully what your “intention” is, what “act” you perform to achieve it and especially what “bad results” count as “unintended.”

    A Pope said, “a little learning is a dangerous thing.”

  11. BillyHW
    May 29, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    A Pope said, “a little learning is a dangerous thing.”

    Yes, and this applies perfectly to you.

    I assure you that you are mistaken in your analysis of the situation. I also sense an arrogance and hostility here that makes you assume that you, after just a few googles and few minutes of surf and cut and paste, can immediately understand and find contradictions in a moral philosophy that, as you say, has been developing over millenia.

    I will not discuss this further with you here. You have religious beliefs that are intractable to logic or reason, and prevent you from understanding the nuances of these moral arguments. It is also impolite to Jill to have her thread hijacked like this. If you wish to speak with experts in this line of reasoning, send me an email at the address I posted above and I will send you links to sites where people might be able to explain it better than I.

    I suggest we turn the topic back to embryonic stem cell research where it began. I’d like to ask you a question: how do you justify the destruction of human embryos in embryonic stem cell research?

  12. Dianne
    May 29, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    “how do you justify the destruction of human embryos in embryonic stem cell research?”

    Easy. Embryonic stem cells are undifferentiated. They do not think, feel, act, or have conciousness. They are no more people than are somatic cells. On the other hand, people with Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, Huntington’s, Alzheimers, etc are able to think, feel, and act. I go with the living, thinking, real person rather than the “potential” person.

  13. Quisp
    May 29, 2005 at 5:02 pm

    (1) A single-cell, unimplanted, undifferentiated, without consciousness, thought or feeling, is not an “innocent human life.”

    (2) Clearly you believe (1) is false. Feel free to act accordingly. However, I believe that it is literally impossible to construct a society that treats all its members with respect and dignity while defining “human life” in this way. Why? Because to vest an undifferentiated cell with the same rights as an adult human being, you must-must-must wantonly and eggregiously violate the rights of half of the human population — i.e. females — in order to enforce and secure those rights for your single-cell citizens. Therefore, when I am presented with this issue, I choose a functioning society with equal rights and protections for all; the alternative — a non-functioning police state with no privacy for anybody and no rights at all once you’re born — sounds bad to me.

    Re “a little learning.” It applies to everybody. Once again, Billy: projection denied. As to your other charges against me, you say, “You have religious beliefs that are intractable to logic or reason, and prevent you from understanding the nuances of these moral arguments.”

    You are so right about me. I would just tweak the sentence slightly. Replace “intractible to” with “based firmly in,” replace “understanding” with “falling for,” “nuances” with “gobbletygook,” “moral” with “self-serving,” “arguments” with “excuses.” There, see. All you needed was a good editor.

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