Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sat Mar 14 2009 - 08:30:05 EDT

In fact Roman Catholic teaching did not consider abortion equivalent to murder at all stages of development until 1869. Albert R. Jonsen, The Birth of Bioethics (Oxford, 1998), pp.285-293, surveys the history. (Jonsen is an RC bioethicist.)


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Don Winterstein
  To: John Burgeson (ASA member)
  Sent: Saturday, March 14, 2009 3:03 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

  IMO abortion, while always traumatic, distasteful and a thing that should be undertaken only as some sort of last resort, isn't murder unless the organism aborted is capable of spiritual interaction at the level of persons. Capability for spiritual interaction at the level of persons, which I regard as tantamount to "having a soul," among humans requires a fairly complete body. A few million cells won't do. In other words, humans don't get souls at conception but at some much later stage of development. In other words, the soul is an emergent property of the body--and you can't prove me wrong on this from Scripture.

  If you amputate someone's leg, you're killing human tissue but you're not guilty of murder because you're not killing a person. Destroying a frozen embryo is in a similar category.

  Does this mean I'd support mercy killing for the mentally defective on grounds they can't be spiritual? No, because no human can tell where the boundary is between having capability for spiritual interaction and not having such capability. But I'm comfortable sticking my neck out to say that frozen embryos don't have it.


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: John Burgeson (ASA member)
    To: David Campbell
    Sent: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 6:47 AM
    Subject: Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

    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).


    On 3/10/09, David Campbell <> 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"
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Received on Sat Mar 14 08:31:02 2009

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