Tuesday, August 30, 2005

No Respect
By Dawn Patrol Guestblogger The Raving Atheist

"I don’t get no respect," complained the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield. He was a lucky man, if you consider how "respect" is defined by the folks over at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Professor George Orwell -- I mean Professor Betty B. Hoskins –- explains that you gotta be cruel to be kind:

Honoring The Cells That Are Gifted: Respecting What We Destroy

We began with the concern that our national debate exhibits simplistic “either/or” reasoning, which states that either human stem cell research is wrong because human life is precious, or human stem cell research is good for the advance of knowledge and medical cures for human suffering. Can we get beyond the "either/or" arguments, and instead find a way to regard human stem cells as both worthy of respect and useful tools toward potential cures for serious human diseases?

* * *

The concept "respecting what we destroy" clarifies the hES [human embryonic stem cell] issues, I believe.

The concepts "life is death” and "right is wrong" are equally clarifying, I believe. Lest one think that Prof. Hoskins, like Dangerfield, was merely joking, she shames the reader into accepting the true gravity of the matter. "Respecting what one destroys should include behaviors such as an attitude of regret and some sense of loss, conjoined with some display of that regret and acknowledgment of loss." For those who remain morally dense, she offers a few practical applications of her thesis:

Native American respect for animals hunted as food; Japanese [Buddhist] Mizuko kuyo statuary images that are part of women’s memorial services for their aborted fetuses; young American writer Naomi Wolf’s advocacy of Jewish mystical tradition practices of tikkun, or mending; dissection of human cadavers by medical students (this author would add, when followed by memorial services of thanks for knowledge and skill gained).

This author would add, "and serial killer Ted Bundy's vow to his dates that he would still 'respect' them in the morning." My objection to these analogies isn’t their ineptness but their accuracy. The main problem is really one of etiquette: traditionally, the recipients of thanks or apologies are alive to receive them. Perhaps this flaw could be remedied by restricting the practice to medical research facilitated by bank robbery: the polite notes of gratitude and regret would not be lost upon the tellers.

For the simplistic among you who are still confused, I refer you to the RCRC’s glossary, "Words of Choice." Although nowhere does it offer a definition of "respect," it sheds light on the meanings of some other terms relevant to the stem cell debate. The introductory paragraphs dispel the "misleading" media propaganda that abortion is a matter of "life and death." The entry for "Post-Abortion Syndrome" explains that the disorder is a myth: the reports of nightmares and feelings of guilt are not "scientifically or medically proven" insofar as "positive feelings" predominate in those who have chosen. The dictionary omits the definition of "logic," but the logic seems to be this: the killing of a embryo outside the womb (where it poses no conceivable threat to anyone) is a "destroying" act which should occasion deep regret, whereas the same act in utero is a passionless non-killing.

To be fair, Prof. Hoskins considered other options before deciding to respect, honor and destroy the most gifted cells:

One suggestion (heuristic and discussion-provoking, I presume) was that destruction or study of embryos is best justified by “simply stripping them of any value whatsoever.” While reflection on this stark proposal is both appropriate to philosophers’ style of rational discourse and unlikely to change public opinion or governmental policy, it helps us understand the dilemmas of a dualistic choice, which would require us to set aside strongly-held value positions.

She rejected this approach, apparently because setting aside strongly-held value positions is reserved for those who engage in cannibalistic orgies or write pro-choice glossaries. She also briefly entertained the suggestion to "'continue to reframe the problem until a question can be asked whose answer will incorporate all of the pertinent values' . . . [t]hat is, change the question." Unfortunately, she changed the question before explaining why avoiding the issue wouldn’t suffice.

If she’s still open to suggestions, I have yet another option. Instead of respecting what you destroy, remember that destroying isn’t respectful. You don’t have to change the question. Just change the answer.