Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Mar 10 2009 - 14:11:05 EDT

Well, I'm not sure what you mean by "acceptable." In any event, as to my
own view about IVF -- and I don't claim here or elsewhere to speak for
"evangelicals" generally -- I've said several times in this thread that I
think IVF is a rogue industry in need of regulation. While I sympathize
with people who have fertility problems, I don't think IVF, at least in the
form we now practice it, is an answer that society should promote. So, I
don't think I'm personally taking an inconsistent approach at all.

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 1:59 PM, D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>wrote:

> Your responses would be acceptable if you and other evangelicals opposed
> IVF with the same vigor as ESCR and abortion.
> Dave (ASA)
> On Tue, 10 Mar 2009 13:34:13 -0400 David Opderbeck <>
> writes:
> Responses below.
> 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 12:58 PM, George Murphy <>wrote:
>> 1) Why should a "precautionary principle" invoke precautions
>> against the possibility that a human person is being destroyed & not be
>> concerned with precautions against the possibility that people will continue
>> to suffer from illnesses & injuries that might be healed as a result of
>> ESCR?
> I never said that shouldn't also be a concern. As with the precautionary
> principle in environmental ethics, the question is whether there is some
> probability, even if small, that an action taken will have effects
> significantly more deleterious than the harm the action is seeking to
> prevent. Just about everyone will agree that it is immoral to conduct
> medical research on human subjects involving the subject's certain death,
> even with informed consent; and just about everyone will agree that it is
> immoral to conduct medical research involving any significant risk of death
> on infants, regardless of the parent's informed consent.
> If the moral status of a human embryo is uncertain, there is some
> probability that embryonic stem cell research will result in the great harm
> of taking human lives for research purposes. Under the precautionary
> principle, proponents of the research would have to show a near certainty
> that the proposed research would succeed in producing an even more
> substantially beneficial result -- something that cannot under any
> estimation presently be shown.
>> 2) Of course an embryo is a potential person. A seperated ovum & sperm
>> is also a potential person. The stirring of desire in a husband & wife is a
>> potential person. How far do we take this?
> No, a separated ovum and sperm is not a potential person. The potentiality
> for personhood only exists when a zygote is formed. Neither an ovum nor a
> sperm can individually mature into a person. There is a morally
> significant, qualitative difference between a zygote and an individual ovum
> or individual sperm.
>> Now David said previously, "I personally find destructive human embryonic
>> stem cell research morally horrifying, particularly when cell lines are
>> harvested from embryos cast off by the IVF industry." This seems strange to
>> me, suggesting as it does that research on embryos produced for IVF is worse
>> than that on embryos produced solely to be destroyed for research. It makes
>> sense only if "the IVF industry" is immoral, which may well be what David
>> means.
> The problem here, as I see it, is that this research reinforces an industry
> that is essentially unregulated and, in my judgment, highly morally
> problematic.
>> But let's reflect on that a bit. One of the criticisms of IVF - & at the
>> same time the reason why it can supply ESCR, is that "spare" embryos that
>> will not be allowed to develop fully, are always produced in the procedure.
>> But the same thing in fact happens when babies are conceived in the old
>> fashioned way. We know now that a high percentage of conceptions are
>> spontaneously aborted very early in pregnancy. (I've seen estimates of
>> something like 80% but someone more knowledgeable may have a better
>> number.) So traditional conception & IVF are not wholly different in this
>> regard.
> I don't agree. Natural miscarriages result in the context of an intent to
> carry the baby to term. (Let's set aside for the moment the question of
> unplanned pregnancies, which gets into additional issues about the ends of
> sexuality, marriage, and the family). With IVF, the intent at the outset is
> to produce embryos that will have to be destroyed. Intent is critical to
> moral and ethical assessment of the conduct.
> ____________________________________________________________
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Received on Tue Mar 10 14:11:43 2009

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