Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: wjp <wjp@swcp.com>
Date: Tue Mar 10 2009 - 11:52:26 EDT

I don't mind doing a little philosophy here.

So let's state how each of the three schools of ethics would treat the
question of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR)

Virtue ethics asserts that the ethical content is not in the act, but in
the character of the individual. It would entail then a notion of what
good or ideal character looks like.

So the virtue ethicist might argue for ESCR for what reason? I think I need
help here. Typically, we think of virtue with regard to such things as
persistence, courage, rationality. But I don't see how these characteristics
lead to any choice. They appear impotent. Once a choice is made, i.e., a
value applied, character becomes an issue.

The consequentialist might argue that ESCR might result in benefits to
many who have no incurable illnesses. The consequentialist might also
argue against because of the far reaching consequences of how we treat
the living.

The deontologist might argue that we are obliged to help those in need,
no matter the cost. So ESCR while expensive and difficult should be
pursued because of the help it might do for others. He might also
argue that we ought, as much as is possible, not take a life, even if
it means ours (the Donner party moral).

Well, it was just a shot. It can be perhaps beneficial for us to understand
what underlying ethical position guides our actions.

bill powers

On Tue, 10 Mar 2009 10:14:13 -0500, "John Burgeson (ASA member)" <hossradbourne@gmail.com> wrote:
> David posted, in part:
>
> "I don't think the ethical issue is quite so simple, Burgy. For
> example, if one is agnostic on the personhood of a human embryo, as
> you and probably most other people are, or if even those who say "no"
> here have to admit some uncertainty, then the precautionary principle
> comes into play."
>
> Sorry -- I did not mean to infer that the ethical issue was simple;;
> just the opposite.
>
> "Curiously, the same people who strongly assert the precautionary
> principle as a backstop for global warming mitigation often completely
> blow it off when it comes to embryonic stem cell research (and vice
> versa!). "
>
> May be true enough, but isn't this beside the point?
>
> "Also, the options aren't just the polar "person vs. non-person."
> Many opponents of human embryonic stem cell research argue from
> "potentiality." If embryos are not "persons" in a full sense -- e.g.,
> if personhood relates to existing cognitive functions -- they are at
> least "potential persons." In such a case, one mode of ethical
> analysis might be to weigh the potentiality of an embryo's personhood
> against the potentiality of the research program. The result of such
> an analysis is not by any means obvious. "
>
> I am familiar with those ethicists who argue this way, and they have
> valid points.
>
> "Finally, all of the above assumes that a consequentialist ethic is
> necessarily the right and only appropriate kind of ethical analysis to
> employ in this case. Why? Many ethicists would argue that
> consequentialism ends up being incoherent, and therefore favor
> deontological and/or virtue perspectives -- a position with which I'm
> quite sympathetic."
>
> My own preference is for virtue ethics first; consequentialist ethics
> second, deontological ethics last. I would hold that virtue ethics
> would favor the new policy; obviously consequentialist ethics would
> favor it also and -- probably -- deontological ethics would oppose it.
> But I admit to not having given a lot of thought to the issue along
> those liines ina long time.
>
> Thanks for your comments.
>
> Burgy
>
>
> On 3/10/09, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com> wrote:
>> I don't think the ethical issue is quite so simple, Burgy. For example,
> if
>> one is agnostic on the personhood of a human embryo, as you and probably
>> most other people are, or if even those who say "no" here have to admit
>> some
>> uncertainty, then the precautionary principle comes into play.
> Curiously,
>> the same people who strongly assert the precautionary principle as a
>> backstop for global warming mitigation often completely blow it off when
> it
>> comes to embryonic stem cell research (and vice versa!).
>>
>> Also, the options aren't just the polar "person vs. non-person." Many
>> opponents of human embryonic stem cell research argue from
> "potentiality."
>> If embryos are not "persons" in a full sense -- e.g., if personhood
> relates
>> to existing cognitive functions -- they are at least "potential
> persons."
>> In such a case, one mode of ethical analysis might be to weigh the
>> potentiality of an embryo's personhood against the potentiality of the
>> research program. The result of such an analysis is not by any means
>> obvious.
>>
>> Finally, all of the above assumes that a consequentialist ethic is
>> necessarily the right and only appropriate kind of ethical analysis to
>> employ in this case. Why? Many ethicists would argue that
>> consequentialism ends up being incoherent, and therefore favor
>> deontological
>> and/or virtue perspectives -- a position with which I'm quite
> sympathetic.
>>
>> David W. Opderbeck
>> Associate Professor of Law
>> Seton Hall University Law School
>> Director, Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
>>
>>
>> On Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 10:47 AM, John Burgeson (ASA member) <
>> hossradbourne@gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>>> Doug posted, in part: "public policy should be based on scientific
>>> facts not ideology.
>>> I think this is an awful statement. It's a false dichotomy.
>>> Scientific "facts" don't make public policy; they form a necessary
>>> informational base, but every action based on that knowledge also
>>> requires a moral/ethical/ideological decision."
>>>
>>> I don't see it as "awful," but a simple factual statement. If one
>>> takes it to mean "based ONLY on scientific facts," then, of course,
>>> I'd agree that it is "awful." I'd probably use a stronger term.But it
>>> does not say that.
>>>
>>> Relative to the stem cell issue, it really boils down to the question
>>> "does a frozen embryo have personhood -- a soul?" For those asserting
>>> "yes," the issue is clear; stem cell research is immoral. For those
>>> who assert otherwise, stem cell research in morally OK.
>>>
>>> Having read a lot on this, I tend toward the latter position, but I do
>>> NOT claim certainty. I don't know that any of us can claim certainty
>>> on the issue.
>>>
>>> It is a classic case that whichever side of the issue you choose, you
>>> run the risk of doing harm (or not avoiding harm).
>>>
>>> jb
>>>
>>> On 3/10/09, David Campbell <pleuronaia@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> > Yes, in the case of embryonic stem cells there is little disagreement
>>> > about the science, and the self-identified "scientific" policy is
>>> > merely one ideology among many.
>>> >
>>> > In other cases, such as environmental or evolution, there is denial
> of
>>> > the science that could be described as disagreement about the
> science.
>>> > Nevertheless, even in such cases, science is still descriptive.
>>> > Science cannot be morally prescriptive, as that is outside its scope.
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > --
>>> > Dr. David Campbell
>>> > 425 Scientific Collections
>>> > University of Alabama
>>> > "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
>>> >
>>> > To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
>>> > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
>>> >
>>>
>>>
>>> --
>>> Burgy
>>>
>>> www.burgy.50megs.com
>>>
>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
>>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
>>>
>>
>
>
> --
> Burgy
>
> www.burgy.50megs.com
>
> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

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Received on Tue Mar 10 11:53:10 2009

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