Monday, November 25, 2013

What is bioethics? Is Margaret Somerville a bioethicist or a Roman Catholic apologist?

I had an interesting conversation with a student the other day. She's studying "bioethics" at the University of Toronto. This is a program run by the Deptment of Philosophy.

I asked her to define "bioethics" and she couldn't. To her credit, she immediately recognized that this wasn't right. If she's taking an entire program in bioethics she ought to be able to explain what it was all about. She was then joined by her friend, who is also majoring in bioethics. My colleague, Chris DiCarlo also joined us. He's a philosopher writing a book on ethics.

We described a scenario where I wanted to end my life and Chris was willing to help me. Neither of us have an "ethical" problem with that decision. So why is assisted suicide thought to be a problem for bioethics? If some people don't want to participate in euthanasia then nobody is going to make them? Where's the problem?

Does it only become a bioethical problem if some people want to impose their views on others? In this case, the people who are personally opposed to euthansia want to pass a law preventing me from ending my life with the help of my friend. Our students were puzzled by this discussion. Even though they have taken many courses on bioethics, nobody had ever raised this issue. Isn't that strange? You would think that any program run by a Department of Philosophy would emphasize critical thinking. Sadly, this turns out to be rare whenever the topic of bioethics comes up.

Margaret Somerville describes herself as "Samuel Gale Professor of Law, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the Founding Director of the Faculty of Law's Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University." That's from the Wikipedia article, which is currently being altered by her opponents and supporters on a daily basis.

Somerville writes opinion pieces for the Globe and Mail newspaper (Toronto, Canada). Last Sunday's article was Judge me by my ideas, not my religion. The reason she had to write such an article was because her ideas on bioethics just happen to correspond with the views of the Roman Catholic church and Margaret Somerville is a Roman Catholic. Is it possible to be an academic bioethicist if your most deeply held views are shaped by religion? If the answer is "yes" then aren't all priests and rabbis bioethicists?

My friend, Udo Schuklenk, is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Queen's University in Kingston (Ontario, Canada). He's had a lot to say about Margaret Somerville over the years and he's always been right. Here's what he wrote on his blog concerning Somerville's defense of her religious views [Reportedly Margaret Somerville is at it again in the Globe and Mail, celebrating her scholarship].
Ms Somerville's views are not seriously discussed in bioethics, despite her hard work at selling herself as a bona fide bioethicist in her newspaper and other appearances. She doesn't publish in serious, mainstream bioethics outlets or serious mainstream international academic publishing houses. On her website there is zero evidence that she has any academic qualifications in biomedical ethics. For years she has been marketing herself as the founding director of some bioethics outfit at McGill University. Really Ms Somerville? Bragging about having founded something many years ago as evidence of current-day academic competence?

Despite Ms Somerville's reported protestations (in said article) to the contrary, this empress is really naked. The reason why virtually nobody seriously engaged academically with her is that there is little academic professional output to engage with. She pontificates mostly in newspapers, and it's always predictably Catholic output. To give you just three examples: Catholic Church: Assisted Dying = bad. Ms Somerville: Assisted Dying = bad. Catholic Church: marriage equality = bad. Ms Somerville: marriage equality = bad. Catholic Church: abortion = bad. Ms Somerville: abortion = bad.
So how does Margaret Somerville deal with these accusations? Here's what she says in her article from last Sunday ...
For the record, my family is Roman Catholic – although, when I was young, my father was a card carrying atheist-communist, who refused to set foot in a church – and I was educated in Roman Catholic schools, for which I am deeply grateful. I also both have great respect for religion and regard its misuse as abhorrent.

All that said, I’ve been a participant in the public square for more than thirty years and have never argued from a religious base in presenting ethical and legal analyses of the issues with which I deal. So why was this seeming expansion of labelling me as Roman Catholic occurring now?
Do you get it? Somerville never quotes God or the Pope as an authority. It's just an amazing coincidence that she happens to agree with the Roman Catholic God and the Pope. Apparently, she and God reached the same conclusion independently through pure reason (and the law).

Somerville continues ....
It’s a "label and dismiss" strategy. People, who cannot tolerate religion – indeed, they despise and are hostile to it – try to suppress the voices of people they perceive as religious, and their arguments and views with which they disagree, by using a "derogatorily label the person and dismiss them on the basis of that label" approach. For them, calling a person religious is highly derogatory. This strategy allows them to eliminate their opponents’ arguments, without needing to deal with the substance of those arguments.
There's an element of truth here but the real truth is much more complicated. What people like Udo Schuklenk (and me) object to is not the fact that Somerville is religious. What we object to is that she pretends to be making a rational argument when, in fact, we all know that her morality is based on her faith. That doesn't mean that the rational parts of her argument are silly or meaningless but it usually means that they aren't as powerful as she thinks. They are, in fact, apologies.

She gives us an example ....
I published an article in the online Globe and Mail arguing for the importance of children’s biological ties to their parents and doing the least damage possible to these. This was extremely unpopular with same-sex marriage supporters, who believe that what constitutes a family is simply a matter of adults’ personal preferences. Here’s one response to that article: "Any chance that Dr. Somerville is a Catholic? If so, she should at least state it in her opinion pieces and not hide behind her ivory tower."
Ms. Somerville would have us believe that the only reason she opposes same-sex marriage is because it's important for children to have "biological ties" to both parents. Presumably that's why the Pope and the Roman Catholic God are opposed to homosexuality. It's because both they and Margaret are worried about the children. It has nothing to do with several thousand years of Roman Catholic bigotry. It's all very rational.

But just in case you don't buy the argument that Someville's views are objective, she has another argument. It's a fine example of what Chris DiCarlo calls the "Tu Quoque Fallacy" in his book How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass.
This could be called the "you too! fallacy" ....this fallacy is committed when one makes an irrelevant attack against a person's similar actions in defense of an accusation by that person.
Let's see Somerville's example. Recall that she is being accused of Roman Catholic bias in her ethical positions. Most of her accusers are not very religious and many are atheists. She defends by invoking Tu Quoque with a healthy dose of Strawman ...
Secularism is a belief form and ideology, much like a religion, a principal edict of which is the active exclusion of religion, religious people or religious views and values from having any influence or role in the public square, in particular, any input into social or public policy, or law. That is not "religious neutrality".

Moreover, if religious people are disqualified on the basis of their lack of neutrality, adherents of other belief systems, such as secularism, should be dealt with likewise. Clearly, that would be an unworkable situation as everyone would be excluded, because we all have beliefs that guide us. The answer to this dilemma is that all voices have a right to be included and heard in the democratic public square. This liberty right is the correct understanding of the nature of a secular state and respecting it is at its heart. Importantly, as this demonstrates, such a state is the polar opposite of one that espouses secularism.
Let me summarize her arguments so far. First, she argues that her ethical positions are rational and not based on the fact that she is religious. It's wrong for people to invoke a "label and dismiss" strategy to weaken her arguments.

Second, she argues that, yes, it's true that religious people have religious views but so do secularists. Secularists are also biased so maybe their views should also be disqualified.

I think this form of argument has something to do with eating cake but I can't find it in Chris' book.

Pay attention to the solution to this dilemma. Superficially it looks very fair and reasonable but it's not. She's saying that everyone has "beliefs that guide us" and, therefore, everyone has the right to be heard on "ethical" issues. That's true but it misses the real point. The point is not that all voices need to be heard it's which ones do we need to listen to in a secular society.

As a general rule, when it comes to so-called "ethical" (bioethical) issues, it's usually the religious voices that advocate imposing their views on all of society. As a general rule, the secular side advocates more freedom of choice and does not want to make laws restricting the freedom of religious citizens. Have you ever heard secularists insisting that all women must get abortions or that men and women mustn't be allowed to marry each other? Have you ever heard secularists argue that everybody must agree to assisted suicide once they've been diagnosed with a terminal illness?1

In a free and secular society we have much more to fear from religious voices than secular voices. It's absurd to claim that minority religious extremists have to be listened to with the same attentiveness as those who have no religious axes to grind.


1. In Canada, this debate about ethics is taking place within a particular context. A quasi-secular government in Quebec is trying to impose secular views on religious citizens. It's an exception that proves the rule.

65 comments :

  1. Well, since logic or lack of it is part of the discussion here ...

    "It's an exception that proves the rule."

    This must be the silliest cliche around. If an exception does anything, it disproves the rule.

    "All frangebeasts are red."
    "Wait - there's a blue frangebeast."
    "Wel, that's the exception that proves the rule."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Prove" has a secondary meaning, used in this saying, which is "to test or challenge". "It's an exception that challenges/tests the rule." (That's also the meaning used in the phrase "the proof of the pudding is in the eating".)

      Delete
    2. I'm glad to see that logic, or lack of it, has become part of the discussion. It makes things a lot easier.

      Delete
    3. Larry,

      One of the things I admire about you (yeah more than one) is that you are willing to listen to almost all views (let's not get carried away. One is definitely not in your books.... :) ) . You are probably the only atheist big shot respected professor even by IDs, who publicly admitted that ID theories are scientific and you didn't care about those statements.., It takes a lot of guts,.... and more to say something like that in the position you are in....... Congratulations Larry!!!!! You have earned respect of one person who really disagrees with you on pretty much everything you stand for...... It probably doesn't mean anything to you but I thought I would mention it since to me it is worth it...

      Delete
    4. This must be the silliest cliche around

      The original Latin maxim was longer: Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis, and its real meaning was that the very need to establish an exception presupposed the existence of a rule that held "elsewhere".

      Delete
    5. Wikipedia has a page on this phrase that you might find enlightening. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exception_that_proves_the_rule

      Delete
  2. "Judge me by my ideas, not my religion", eh, Margaret? You're just making it too easy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I published an article in the online Globe and Mail arguing for the importance of children’s biological ties to their parents and doing the least damage possible to these.

    So I presume Sommerville opposes adoption as well as same-sex marriage. She must also advocate abortion in cases where the child will be raised by a single mother and not know its biological father. Right?

    BTW, am I to understand that this bigot is responsible for teaching ethic to students of McGill's school of medicine?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Love the punctuation in "People, who cannot tolerate religion"

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think the problem is that in modern society "ethics" in biology is overloaded to mean too many different things. There are legitimate uses of "ethics" in the domain. For example, obviously researchers shouldn't make up data or perform research endangering human subjects. But then then there are all the things that get lumped into the field. Worrying about the "implications" of personal decisions like suicide is a classic example of worrying about something that isn't anyone's business but the decider. But you can't argue about this (I've tried) because "bioethicists" will launch into a diatribe about how Nazi "science" like that of Mengele came about because of the lack of their efforts -- deliberately conflating the various meanings of ethics.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Larry said:

    {We described a scenario where I wanted to end my life and Chris was willing to help me. Neither of us have an "ethical" problem with that decision. So why is assisted suicide thought to be a problem for bioethics? If some people don't want to participate in euthanasia then nobody is going to make them? Where's the problem?}

    So you support the right for adults to enter into an agreement in which one helps the other die?

    Do you believe dueling should be legal?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Smegnor: Bad analogy. In dueling, the probability is 100% that one party will die involuntarily. Each party irrationally believes he will live while killing another, and each is not seeking death.

      Delete
  7. Larry said:

    [I asked her to define "bioethics" and she couldn't.]

    Ethics is a traditional sub-discipline of philosophy. Socrates founded it, if memory serves.

    Bioethics is the application of ethics to biology, especially as regards human biology and medical issues. Just like biotechnology is the application of technology to biology.

    Here's the paradigm: bio-X is the application of X to biology.

    That's a really tough concept Larry. I can see why you're confused.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Smegnor: You have not answered Larry's question. Larry asked why agreeing to end one's own life is a "bioethics" question. You reply with a definition: "Bioethics is the application of ethics to biology... as regards human biology and medical issues."

      But Larry's scenario does not involve applying ethics to biology. Suicide, whatever it is, isn't biology. Not unless you define biology so broadly as to include all living and dying.

      If you define "bioethics" or "biology" that broadly, then choosing to eat a ham sandwich is biology and thus a "bioethical" problem, and we must consult with a professor to decide what to order at a deli.

      Delete
  8. Larry said:

    [Does it only become a bioethical problem if some people want to impose their views on others?]

    Nope. Bioethics applies to all ethical issues related to biology, whether public or private.

    Another tough concept Larry. Hang in there.

    [In this case, the people who are personally opposed to euthansia want to pass a law preventing me from ending my life with the help of my friend.]

    Yep. Oddly, all civilizations in human history have regulated killing-- even consensual killing-- by law. No civilization has ever allowed unfettered killing.

    The question as to whether one person should be allowed to kill another, even if both agree to the arrangement, is a perfectly valid issue, and bioethics is a reasonable forum in which to discuss it.

    How do you feel about suicide pacts between 18 year-olds? How do you feel about dueling? How about playing chicken with cars?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Larry:

    Surely you would have no objection to a casino opening a Russian Roulette game? I mean, each player would have a 5 out of 6 chance of living. The casino could charge admission to watch and get revenues from reality tv for spectators. The survivors could get a cut of the cash.

    Nobody's business but the participants, eh Larry?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So is that your argument against assisted suicide for someone with with a terminal illness, mregnor?

      Delete
    2. Killing people as a primary intent is a sin, even if they want to be killed.

      How do you feel about dueling, teenage suicide pacts, playing chicken, and reality tv Russian Roulette?

      Delete
    3. Killing people as a primary intent is a sin, even if they want to be killed.

      Unless those people are heretics, I guess. LOL!

      How do you feel about dueling, teenage suicide pacts, playing chicken, and reality tv Russian Roulette?

      I think they're all irrelevant to the issue of voluntary euthansia, is how I feel.

      Delete
    4. [I think they're all irrelevant to the issue of voluntary euthansia, is how I feel.]

      How you think, not how you feel, is what matters.

      If consensual killing is a right, why outlaw suicide pacts, dueling, etc?

      If consensual killing isn't a right, what's the problem with extending the ban to consensual euthanasia?

      Delete
    5. @mregnor

      Thank-you for illustrating the Slippery Slope Fallacy.

      Why is it that IDiots know how to use all of the logical fallacies? Do they take lessons?

      Delete
    6. The "Slippery Slope Fallacy"?

      The viewpoint that providing a legal imprimatur for killing people who are terminally ill may provide a rationale for killing other people deemed better off dead has a fine pedigree.

      Read about German euthanasia and Lebensunwertes Leban and the T4 program in Germany, when you begin to learn something about bioethics.

      Take note that Dutch pediatricians are euthanizing handicapped babies today-- the same thing the Nazi doctors were hanged for in Nuremberg.

      First time as tragedy, second time as farce. The incline is steep and very slippery.

      Delete
    7. Killing people as a primary intent is a sin, even if they want to be killed.

      Would you care to explain why we should let concepts of "sin" rule social policy in what are ostensibly secular nations?

      Delete
    8. But somehow mregnor does not believe that killing people because they are heretics (i.e. because they follow the wrong religious beliefs) does not result in a slippery slope to genocide.

      Let us now praise the Spanish Inquisition!

      Keep it up, Egnor, and when people say "He's no brain surgeon", it'll be a complement, not an insult.

      Delete
    9. @mregnor

      Just out of curiosity ... are you opposed to capital punishment?

      Delete
    10. That's another interesting point I was going to bring up. I don't know what mregnor believes, but the Catholic Church currently takes a position against capital punishment. But, as I have already mentioned, Thomas Aquinas, probably the greatest thinker in the history of the Church, condoned executing people for crimes as minor as forgery.

      So how does that work? Isn't Catholicism supposed to base its moral principles on the unchanging nature of God? Aren't those moral principles supposed to be eternal and immutable?

      So how did the great Aquinas get it so wrong? Did he just not know his theology all that well?

      Delete
    11. "Just out of curiosity ... are you opposed to capital punishment?'

      Yes I am. Intentional killing of a human being is always wrong.

      Catholic teaching this is consistent and meticulously rational. In the Catholic view, intentional killing (killing with the primary intent to kill) is always immoral.

      There are situations in which killing is licit, but always regrettable. Those situations include self-defense, soldiers in wartime, police to stop a violent felony in progress, etc.

      In each of these situations, the primary intent is not to kill, but to protect innocent life from an aggressor. The killing is an undesired side effect of the intent to stop the aggressor. If there is a non-lethal way to stop the aggressor, then killing the aggressor is illicit.

      Before the advent of prisons for the long-term incarceration of criminals, capital punishment was at times necessary to protect society from exceptionally dangerous individuals. Since life imprisonment is an option in modern times, capital punishment is never ethical.

      You may or may not agree with Catholic ethics, but the assertion that the Church has noting meaningful to say about ethics is astonishing ignorance.

      Delete
    12. I missed this little gem from Egnor earlier:

      Take note that Dutch pediatricians are euthanizing handicapped babies today-- the same thing the Nazi doctors were hanged for in Nuremberg.

      Yes, just the same thing exactly. All that other stuff the Nazi doctors did, like performing grotesque experiments on fully self-aware people without any hint of consent, primarily on Jews and Romani, was scarcely worth a mention. Your claim is so reductive that it verges on Holocaust denialism.

      Delete
    13. Nullifidian:

      Do you support euthanasia of handicapped children?

      Delete
    14. Smegnor: kindly provide a link with evidence that Dutch doctors are euthanizing handicapped children because they are handicapped. Terri Schiavos don't count, and people with severe brain damage who are incapable of consciousness don't count, and people unplugged from life support by their family members because they are in pain don't count (although it would be interesting, it's not analogous to Nazi euthanasia.)

      Please present some evidence that Dutch doctors euthanize handicapped babies because they are handicapped, a crucial point being, whether the family made the decision, or the doctor.

      Delete
    15. Do you support euthanasia of handicapped children?

      It scarcely matters, does it? Your position is that assisted suicide is wrong regardless of circumstance, which also includes the age of the subject. It should be just as wrong for an adult of 80 as it is for a child of 8 years or eight months. So if you can make a case that assisted suicide is wrong tout court, then your question becomes moot. Otherwise, you accept it in principle and we'll be merely haggling about the limits.

      Still, I'm willing to answer, but before I do I would like the same clarification that Diogenes does, because I at least see no reason to reject it out of hand and would therefore need to see how the concept is applied in practice. What specifically am I meant to be agreeing or disagreeing with? Crucial questions would need to be answered, like did the family consent and is the child self-aware, and if so was he or she consulted for his or her views and made to understand what accepting euthanasia would entail. If it's a case of doctors euthanizing a newborn at the family's request because the newborn had a major developmental disorder that would invariably kill it within days or weeks (e.g. anencephaly or cyclopia), that would strike me as morally a different matter than doctors deciding on their own account to euthanize a baby just because it might grow up deaf, for example.

      Now a question for you: do you accept that your picture of what the Nazis doctors was tried for and for which some were sentenced to death left out a hell of a lot of major Nazi crimes?

      Delete
    16. This is what mregnor is talking about:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groningen_Protocol

      As an aside, I wonder why mregnor seems to think if one supports assisting the euthanasia of terminally ill adults who are experiencing unbearable suffering and voluntarily choose to die, one must also support the euthanasia of infants? The latter is not an inevitable logical consequence of the former.

      Delete
    17. I'll just add further that euthanasia, as the term is usually used, does not violate mregnor's claim that one should not kill another person "as a primary intent" (which I actually think is a pretty reasonable moral principle, though "sin" has nothing to do with it.)

      In euthanasia, the "primary intent" is to spare another person from suffering that he himself has decided is unbearable, and to which death would be preferable. Killing the person is not the "primary intent", but the only means to accomplish the goal of relieving his suffering.

      Delete
    18. mregnor said:

      "In the Catholic view, intentional killing (killing with the primary intent to kill) is always immoral."

      And:

      "If there is a non-lethal way to stop the aggressor, then killing the aggressor is illicit."

      I'm curious as to who the aggressor was that your chosen 'God' decided to "stop" by flooding the entire Earth and killing innumerable living things? Can't your allegedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, perfect, loving, merciful 'God' figure out ways to stop ANY so-called aggressor without intentionally killing nearly everything or anything at all? And since your religion attributes the creation of everything to your 'God', that means that your 'God' must have created all of the aggressors that have ever existed and ever will exist. Bible thumpers like you claim that your 'God' did the flood thing and all of 'his' other intentional killings to eliminate 'sin', but 'God' created the aggressor 'sin' in the first place, and according to thumpers there's still a whole bunch of sinning going on. Obviously your so-called 'God' is at least inefficient, ineffective, and illicit.

      So, it boils down to you believing in, worshiping, and pushing a so-called 'God' that knowingly and intentionally creates aggressors and then personally kills or issues commands to kill certain aggressors depending on its mood, but a person choosing to die because they're suffering from a terminal, painful, disabling illness (that 'God' created) and asking for compassionate help to die, and getting that help, is illicit and just plain wrong, eh?

      Delete
  10. Larry:

    What, exactly, is your problem with the application of Catholic ethical teaching to bioethics?

    Catholic ethics is a 2000 year-old system of ethics (based in part on Jewish ethics that precedes it by 1000 years), based on revelation and reason. It is probably the most detailed meticulously reasoned ethical system in existence. It has been the basis for Western ethics-- there is no field of ethics, including bioethics, that has not been influenced profoundly by Catholic ethics.

    To name one of many examples, the principle of double effect-- the traditional approach to the ethical evaluation of acts that have the potential to cause good and bad results-- was formulated in its modern iteration by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century.

    Is the principle of double effect (I'll give you a minute to google it) invalid because it was formulated by a Catholic theologian based on explicitly Catholic precepts?

    The father of 20th century bioethics is Joseph Fletcher. He was an atheist Episcopalian priest (not a contradiction), and a flaming asshole, but his situational ethics is the desiderata of late 20th century medical ethics. He explicitly based his ethical system on the New Testament, and in his famous textbook quoted Christ liberally.

    Contrary to your breath-takingly ignorant view of bioethics, bioethics is absolutely unrecognizable without reference to Christian theology and ethics.

    I have very strong views on bioethics, and lecture on it at my medical school. There is not a photon of light between my views and that of the Catholic Church.

    It's astonishing that you'd be allowed to teach anything related to philosophy to college students. My 13 year old knows more about bioethics than you do. If you'd care to debate bioethics with me anywhere anytime I'd be delighted to do so. You'd be amazed how much you'll learn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thomas Aquinas? Oh, yeah, he was the guy who wrote this:

      With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.

      Oh, yeah. That sounds like someone you'd want to hold as an authority on ethics.....

      Delete
    2. Aquinas' principle of double effect is the basis for all Western law of homicide. Your ignorant dismissal of his ethics is bizarre.

      The issue of heretics is another matter. Heresy was a very serious matter in medieval civilization, because it had profound potential to cause social disruption and massive violence. It's worth pointing out that Spain was the only European nation spared the horrendous death toll of the wars of religion from 1524 to 1648. Did you remember to thank the Inquisition?

      A wag might be tempted to point to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot in the 20th century, and suggest that in modern times too few, not too many, heretics were Inquired about.

      Delete
    3. So is "killing people as a primary intent" a "sin" or not? Make up your mind.

      Tell you what. If I ever cite Hitler, Lenin, Stalin or the others as people who provide the foundation for my ethical views, then feel free to bring them up.

      As it is, you admit you base your morality on a guy who advocates killing heretics and forgers, and who know who else. So any claim you make to the high ground regarding the sanctity of life is dead in the water.

      Delete
    4. mregnor asks,

      What, exactly, is your problem with the application of Catholic ethical teaching to bioethics?

      Oh, I don't know.

      Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm not a Catholic and I don't want you and your friends to impose their "ethical" views on me?

      Delete
    5. I'm not an atheist and I don't want you and your friends imposing your "ethical" views on me.

      Oh, and your argument that you don't propose to impose anything on anyone is b.s.

      The regulation of killing is perhaps the most fundamental job of government.

      And Larry, if you're terminally ill and want to kill yourself, no one can or will stop you. Suicide is a remarkably successful project. Millions have pulled it off without a hitch.

      I will fight like hell to keep you from imposing your death-cult ethics on my profession and my society.

      Delete
    6. I'm not an atheist and I don't want you and your friends imposing your "ethical" views on me.

      And no one is. If you don't want to marry a man, no one is forcing you. Your Church is free to continue to discriminate against homosexuals by banning them from the priesthood and refusing to perform gay weddings. No one is suggesting doctors be forced to practice euthanasia if they choose not to.

      And Larry, if you're terminally ill and want to kill yourself, no one can or will stop you.

      Umm, but that's exactly what you're trying to do.

      Delete
    7. Smegnor claims that human life has "dignity", while-- like a typical Christian conservative-- asserting that not enough heretics were murdered by his Church. Smegnor is in fact invoking the doctrine "the ends justify the means" when he insinuates his Church should have murdered even more heretics.

      "Heresy was a very serious matter in medieval civilization, because it had profound potential to cause social disruption and massive violence. It's worth pointing out that Spain was the only European nation spared the horrendous death toll of the wars of religion from 1524 to 1648. Did you remember to thank the Inquisition?"

      Leaving aside the problem that Smegnor assumes "correlation proves causation," and that he ignores the genocide committed by Christian Spain in North and South America, and that the wars of religion were about different sects of Christians killing each other over unprovable interpretations of imaginary beings-- even granting Smegnor's fallacious assumptions, he's invoking the notion that "the ends justify the means" to defend the Inquisition, on the grounds that, Christians really like killing each over theological disagreements, so you have to do a little Christian pre-killing to prevent a later, greater Christian hyper-killing.

      Smegnor: "A wag might be tempted to point to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot in the 20th century, and suggest that in modern times too few, not too many, heretics were Inquired about."

      Ha ha! A historian (not a wag) might point out that Hitler wasn't a "heretic", that his regime was supported by American creationists in the 1930's, that the Nazi Machtergreifung was greeted orgasmically by almost all German Protestants in 1933, and the later Anschluss of Austria was greeted with "Heil Hitler!" from Austrain Catholic archbishops, etc. etc. etc. We already had this argument, and Egnor lost badly.

      Since Smegnor has brought up the topic of Aquinas, here's some more: Thomas saying that Jews deserve to be enslaved:

      “It would be licit to hold Jews, because of the crimes, in perpetual servitude, and therefore the princes may regard the possessions of Jews as belonging to the State.” [http://jdstone.org/cr/files/antisemitisminthenewtestament_1.html]

      Arbeit macht frei and all of that.

      Delete
    8. mregnor said:

      "Catholic ethics is a 2000 year-old system..."

      Yeah, a 2000 year old, maniacally cultic system of narcissism, murder, pedophilia, hypocrisy, greed, ostentation, lies, bigotry, sexism, conquest, domination, brain washing, theft, rape, cultural destruction, graft, barbarism, fear mongering, and every other despicable thing that scumbag humans do.

      Delete
    9. Diogenes, the Aquinas translation is not very good, and the original sentence is much longer. Here is a link to the full text ("Letter on the treatment of the Jews" to Margaret of Flanders). I like this passage:

      Thus, if certain persons are discovered from whom the Jews extorted usury, it should be restored to them. Otherwise, these usurious monies should be set aside for pious uses according to the council of the diocesan bishop and of other upright men, or even for the common utility of your land if a necessity looms and usefulness calls for it; nor even would it be illicit if you should require such usurious money from the Jews anew, preserving the custom of your predecessors, with this intention that the monies be expended for pious purposes.

      (Remember that the Jews "have nothing except what they acquired through the depravity of usury", so virtually anything they have can be taken from them and put to a pious use.)

      Delete
    10. "What exactly is your problem with the application of Catholic ethical teaching to bioethics?'says mregnor to "Larry".
      Here is MY problem with it : mregnor himself says that Catholic ethics are a 2000year old system BASED ON REVELATION and reason [how he reconciles reason with revelation is another huge problem ].
      WHO did the "revealing" ? And to whom? Does anyone REALLY know?

      Delete
  11. This is some interesting reading on Somerville:

    http://www.slapupsidethehead.com/tag/margaret-somerville/

    I particularly like the fact that she refers to the children of same-sex unions as "gaybies." Because she's all about "human dignity" and like that.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I strongly affirm the dignity of gays and of children raised by gays. I believe that homosexual acts are sinful, but I've got plenty of my own sins and claim no exception to sin. But the truth is the truth.

      I agree with Somerville that gay couples raising children is morally problematic, because children should have parents of opposite sexes.

      That certainly does not mean that gays who raise children are wholly evil in doing so. There are many good loving parents who are gay, and many gay parents are better parents than many hetero parents.

      But there are moral problems with single-sex parenthood, just as there are moral problems with single parenthood.

      Delete
    2. Calling an act immoral because it is a "sin" is like saying it's immoral because your pet dragon objects to it. Appealing to the authority of an imaginary friend is hardly a firm basis for an ethical system.

      Delete
    3. I got one vote, and you got one vote. I vote in accordance with my Catholic beliefs.

      Democracy really sucks, doesn't it lutesuite?

      Delete
    4. Sure does. You still living in New York State? How's that gay marriage thing working out for you? Up here in Canada, Margaret Somerville's one vote, not to mention all her pitiful concern for the "gaybies" didn't seem to count for much, either.

      Your vote doesn't mean anything to the Supreme Court, either, it seems.

      Delete
    5. mregnor says,

      But there are moral problems with single-sex parenthood, just as there are moral problems with single parenthood.

      Really? And just what are those "moral problems"? Aren't you confused about the difference between your personal beliefs and prejudices and a "moral problem"? I don't have a problem with gay parents or single parents so it's not a "moral problem" for me and millions of others.

      Delete
    6. mr egnor says,

      Democracy really sucks, doesn't it lutesuite?

      The essence of responsible democracy is respect for minority views. Do not impose your personal "moral" values on others. It's called the tyranny of the majority and it's just as bad as any other tyranny.

      Delete
    7. Moral problem: single-sex parents deprive a child of a mother and a father.

      Moral problem: homosexual acts are sinful, and raising children in an atmosphere of sin is a moral problem.

      That is not to say, as I pointed out, that single-sex parents are necessarily bad parents (I have friends who are gay and are raising kids, and they're very good parents).

      But there are moral problems.

      Delete
    8. [Aren't you confused about the difference between your personal beliefs and prejudices and a "moral problem"?]

      You have personal views and prejudices, and I have personal views and prejudices. Moral viewpoints are subjective, by definition.

      [I don't have a problem with gay parents or single parents so it's not a "moral problem" for me and millions of others.]

      Obviously. I disagree with your moral calculus.

      [The essence of responsible democracy is respect for minority views.]

      I respect your views. I vote my views.

      [Do not impose your personal "moral" values on others.]

      Law is the imposition of moral views on others. Surely you don't intend to impose your view that rape is immoral on rapists!

      [It's called the tyranny of the majority and it's just as bad as any other tyranny.]

      What exactly is tyrannical here? The definition of marriage as between a man and a woman? Who knew that all civilizations in human history were tyrannies?

      :0

      Delete
    9. Moral problem: Catholics are misogynists and anti-homosexual bigots, and therefore allowing them to raise children exposes the children to an atmosphere of misgyny and bigotry. Catholic marriage should therefore be banned.

      Here's the part your missing, mregnor: In our society, the freedom of religious practice is recognized. Your opposition to gay marriage is based on the assertion that homosexuality is "sinful", but that only applies to those who follow particular religious doctrines. So it would be tyrannical to impose those religious beliefs on those who do not follow your religion.

      Your other argument "single-sex parents deprive a child of a mother and a father." is simply a tautology, not a moral argument. You have to demonstrate that this is actually harmful to children. And, unfortunately for you, the scientific evidence is strongly against that. The only studies that show any detrimental effect are deeply flawed studies (likely deliberately so) published in obscure journals by confirmed antigay bigots.


      Delete
    10. (Your argument is not only tautological, it's ungrammatical. SSM "deprives" a child of a mother or a father. It can't do both.)

      Delete
    11. What exactly is tyrannical here? The definition of marriage as between a man and a woman? Who knew that all civilizations in human history were tyrannies?

      Most of those civilzations, until relatively recently, also practiced slavery. Guess that means that's not immoral, either, right?

      Delete
    12. Ugh, is Smegnor capable of even the most basic logic?

      Smeggie writes: "Moral problem: homosexual acts are sinful"

      TOTAL non sequitur. What evidence is there that "sin" is coincident with "immoral"? It's like saying something is evil because Saddam Hussein disagrees with it.

      Smegnor's Middle Eastern war deity explicitly approves of, sanctions, or directly orders, rape, genocide, infanticide, and slavery. In the Bible, God gets mad when his people don't immediately commit genocide against God's non-people [Numbers 31].

      If Smegnor wishes to declare the "sin" and "immoral" are coincident and equal, how could he possibly prove it? But if he could prove it, he'd wind up proving that NOT committing infanticide and genocide, and not sanctioning slavery and rape of war captives, are also immoral, so committing them is moral and sometimes mandatory.

      Smegnor: Moral problem: single-sex parents deprive a child of a mother and a father.

      Uh, different-sex parents deprive a child of a mother and a mother, or of a father and a father. So who's deprived?

      And you know what else deprives kids of a father or mother? Death and divorce-- including death caused by Smegnor's god.

      "Gee daddy, why did Mommy die on 9/11?"

      "Because God needed a new singer in his choir, son."

      It's OK when God kills mommies and daddies and takes them away.

      And as for divorce, conservative Christian creationist politicians are a spectacle of multiple divorces. Newt Gingrich is on his third wife, and US Rep. Paul Broun ("All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell") is on his fourth wife, and a deadbeat Dad; one of his ex-wives sued him for back alimony and child support.

      Rep. Chip Pickering [R-Miss.], Sen. Larry Craig [R-Idaho], Sen. David Vitter [R-LA], Rep. Mark Souder [R-IN] are all creationists, all guardians of public and private morality, and all were caught either with prostitutes or in adultery. Some creationists even commit adultery with women! Hard to believe, I know. If it's wrong to deprive kids of a mommy or a daddy, a lot of creationist politicians are guilty as hell, but God's done the most "depriving" of all.

      Delete
    13. mregnor provides moral and financial support to a multi-national criminal cartel that is directly responsible for the deaths of 10 of millions by AIDS as a result of their evil policy against the use of sexual prophylaxis.

      A little misogyny and homophobia is just picking the gristle out of his teeth after a big meal. Just warming up for the main event.

      Delete
    14. Yes. Euthanasia is a sin, according to mregnor, because it begins a slippery slope that could, maybe/possibly/conceivably, lead to people being euthanized for increasingly trivial or arbitrary reasons.

      But banning contraception, which as a demonstrable fact leads to deaths in the immediate present, is acceptable. That people's private sexual behaviour be in line with some convoluted theological theory seems to be a higher moral priority than whether they live or die. Such is the perversion Catholicism makes of the concept of morality.

      Delete
  12. Bioethics simply is bringing moral values to the new advances in biological interference with human life.
    Its saying the nation/society has a moral interest and right to impose conclusions upon the new biological things in these areas.
    The word ethics is a way of avoiding the word moral as the latter implies a head count of right and wrong.
    They do this in everything.
    A nation should not kill its weak or suffering and allowing it is in fact CONSENT and so doing it.
    Its a sad situation in those cases but direct killing is not morally right. Yet still not the biggest problem in the world.
    Its a bigger problem like abortion, or allowing babies to be born for sale etc etc or to same sex unions and so on.
    The establishment allows bioethics concepts because it doesn't want free reign of paid scientists doing what they want YET they don't want moral contentions from the people like in abortion.
    So we are living in a intermediate stage in history on right and wrong and who decides.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anyway, back to the main topic of this post, Margaret Somerville.

    mregnoe, do you think she shares your view, that homosexuality and euthanasia are "sinful"? Do you think that is the reason she rejects these?

    If so, why do you think she doesn't come out and say this in her newspaper articles? Hmmm? Is it possible even she realizes these are unsound arguments?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Since we have been visited by our friend Smegnor once more-- the only major ID proponent with the guts to come here and get his ass kicked again and again and again-- I will once again paste some links to previous arguments that Smegnor lost, badly, and ran away from.

    You Sandwalk regulars can ignore this list, as you've seen it before.

    Sandwalk, July 7, 2013: This one is particularly funny. Egnor says atheists are stupid and have never refuted such-and-such logical proofs of God’s existence, because atheists are not smart enough to understand them. He invokes Aquinas’ proof of God, Leibniz’ and other “proofs.” Here he misspells Leibniz eleven [11] times. His opponents on the website easily refute these and other “proofs”—then they lay logical traps that Egnor comically falls into, splat! See especially Jem’s “killshot” on God, comment of July 9, 2013, 9:52pm.

    Sandwalk, Feb 11, 2013: Egnor says Nazis were atheists. I copy in many quotes at great length to refute this. Egnor has no come-back. He arrogantly tells Piotr Gasiorowski, a Pole, that American Christians saved Poland by, uh, being brave and manly and praying hard, or something, and he demands obsequious gratitude from Piotr, who actually resisted the communist regime, unlike Egnor, who "resisted" in his mind. Egnor runs away.

    Recursivity, Feb 28, 2013: Here Engor tries to pass himself off as an expert on information theory, at a blog run by... an expert in information theory! Mistake! Egnor copies in some jargon words he doesn’t understand from a Wiki page. Prof. Jeff Shallit, actual expert in information theory, points out that Egnor doesn’t understand the jargon he is using. I ask Egnor to copy and paste his equation for “information.” He runs off.

    Sandwalk, March 22, 2013: I demand that Egnor answer the question he dodged a month before at Recusivity. He runs off.

    Sandwalk, July 2, 2013: Egnor accuses Prof. Larry Moran of discriminating against Christian students, then Egnor hypocritically claims no great scientist can ever be non-Christian—“Essentially all great scientists were Christians, half were exceptionally devout” —insults all atheists in the most vile terms, then adds “My opinions are not vile”—then when confronted with evidence of his hypocrisy, he runs off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To which we can add November 25, 2013: Egnor claims Catholicism forms the basis of Western bioethics, argues euthanasia is a "sin" because it involves the killing as a "primary intent", and claims that Dutch doctors are now euthanizing babies because they are handicapped. In response to the fact that Catholic leaders have advocated the killing of heretics, among many others, he says this killing was justifiable and goes on to defend the Spanish Inquisition. When confronted with the hypocrisy of this argument, and the fact that his claim regarding Dutch doctors is a falsehood, he again runs off.

      Delete
  15. The simple fact that anti-choicers haven't been kidnapped and tortured for Epic Poetic Justice proves that the pro-choicers have the moral high ground on the issue of voluntary euthanasia.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6l5-Rup-D4

    ReplyDelete