Friday, April 20, 2007

Cultural Relativism: The Path To A Cultural Murder/Suicide

In his book, "Relativism -- Feet Firmly Planted In Midair," Greg Koukl points out that one "way to assess the validity of a moral system is to see what kind of person it produces" ...

Given a particular standard of morality, the person who is most moral is the one who practices the specific system's key moral rule consistently ... the one who most closely lives the ideal -- indicates the quality of the moral system

... the quintessential relativist is a sociopath, one with no conscience. This is what relativism produces.
This week, the sad story from Virginia Tech offered us sickening proof that Koukl's assertion is true.

Consider the facts in this case:

  • Seung-Hui Cho was deemed mentally ill by professionals who, reluctant to render a moral judgment against his warped state of mind and thereby stigmatize him, failed to inform his roommates that they were living with a madman.

  • Cho's English professor, after reading the disturbing rantings he passed off as plays, "said she notified authorities about Cho, but was told that there would be too many legal hurdles to intervene. She said she asked him to go to counseling, but he never did."

  • Cho was given one-on-one tutoring regarding his "creative writing" but no one dared suggest that his so-called "creativity" was anything more than the disgusting, profane, deluded, and morally reprehensible garbage that it was. Who were they to judge someone's "creativity"?

  • There has been some speculation, especially among online forums, that Cho may have been inspired by the South Korean movie "Oldboy." One of the killer's mailed photos shows him brandishing a hammer — the signature weapon of the protagonist — and in a pose similar to one from the film. The film won the Gran Prix prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Human Hens?

Cathy Ruse, a Senior Fellow of Legal studies at the Family Research Council, puts abortion-choice feminists on the defensive today in her Washington Times column, "Human Hens and Stem Cells." While we rightly focus on the moral issue of destroying human life with ESCR, Ruse offers specifics about the effects the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (S. 5) would have on women themselves.

Ruse points out that only a small fraction of the so-called "leftover" embryos would ever have any chance of actually being made available for research and that this fact has severe repercussions. "Only 2.8% of the estimated 400,000 frozen embryos have been designated by their parents for use in research ... this small fraction could only produce 275 new embryonic stem cell lines at most." Because the industry would require millions of embryos, Ruse calls this bill...
a farce: [it] is not about getting tax funding for several dozen stem cell lines; it's about laying the groundwork for cloning human embryos for research, the only way the biotech industry can get a virtually unlimited supply of embryos.

[the bill] is a deceptive bait-and-switch campaign to get big biotech into the taxpayers' pockets and to lay the groundwork for massive cloning of human embryos.
In fact, researchers don't really know how many eggs would be needed to establish even a single stem cell line. The 2004 case in South Korea exposed the fraudulent claims of a scientist there who failed to create a single line after obtaining 2,221 eggs. The demand inherent in attempting to manufacture the millions of embryos needed would inevitably lead to the exploitation of young women -- examples of which are already available and serve to expose the dangerous nature of the practice toward those women.
  • Advanced Cell Technology has already admitted to paying young women $4000 for their eggs
  • Ads in California and Massachusetts college papers offer $5000/surgery
The risks associated with ovarian stimulation and extraction and Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome include respiratory distress, kidney failure, ovarian torsion and can lead to infertility, blood clots, stroke, heart attack and even death.

In other words, ESCR is not just morally unacceptable for the destruction of human life inherent in its practice, it is also morally unacceptable for the insidious danger it poses to the women who would be given incentive to support it.

Meanwhile Senators Norm Coleman (MN) and Johnny Isakson (GA) have offered alternative legislation (S. 30) that purports to:
    (1) intensify research that may result in improved understanding of or treatments for diseases and other adverse health conditions; and

    (2) promote the derivation of pluripotent stem cell lines without the creation of human embryos for research purposes and without the destruction or discarding of, or risk of injury to, a human embryo or embryos other than those that are naturally dead.
where "naturally dead" is defined as:
having naturally and irreversibly lost the capacity for integrated cellular division, growth, and differentiation that is characteristic of an organism, even if some cells of the former organism may be alive in a disorganized state.
Though I am unqualified (and therefore reluctant) to attempt to decipher the political-speak implications of that definition, it does seem that S. 30 could possibly offer and acceptable alternative to S. 5. Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, claims that the alternate bill...
includes a proposal to study the feasibility of banking amniotic and placental stem cells, modeled on the banking of bone marrow and cord blood stem cells that have saved the lives of patients with dozens of conditions. S. 30 also funds research in new techniques for deriving embryonic or embryonic-like stem cells without harming embryos
and "urge[s] support for that legislation as 'medical progress that we can all live with.'"

The jury is still out on whether or not there is any hope for success in "deriving embryonic or embryonic-like stem cells without harming embryos." But in the mean time, let me be clear. Though the peripheral issues Cathy Ruse exposes should carry weight with feminist pro-abortionists, they are not morally equivalent to defending the core issue -- the human personhood of the embryos researchers seek to destroy. That is the primary argument against ESCR. And that is why S.30 appears to be a morally superior piece of legislation.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Is There A Human In The House?!

This week's episode of House has ignited quite a discussion among those with wildly differing views on the subject of abortion. As is usually the case, the conversation gets heated, tempers flare, and not much useful comes of it all. I have no desire to enter that debate today. But I would like to register my support for the willingness of the show to tread where most in Hollywood never dare. This episode of House gave a rare positive outlook to the view that abortion is not just about a woman's right to choose. It is about the status of the unborn and whether or not we recognize it for what it is, not just for what it can do or how it affects the mother's life.

Let me reiterate that a reasoned pro-life position acknowledges and supports a "woman's right to choose." As my friend Scott Klusendorf says, I think a woman should be able to choose her husband, her job, her religion ... anything she wants ... unless that choice involves an immoral outcome. The abortion question is not about a woman's ability to choose, or about her privacy. It is about whether the unborn child in her womb is a human person. If it is not, abortion requires no justification. If it is, there is no possible way to condone it.

That said, this episode of House included the usual debate about how to prioritize whose life to save in the event the mother's life is in danger. In this particular episode, the dilemma that arose was how to save a dying, pregnant mother whose baby was labeled "not viable." Of course, the mother had been impregnated by the donated sperm of a homosexual co-worker. Though this fact played absolutely no part in the plot, it was jammed into the story for reasons only Hollywood could explain. But I digress...

There were several medical and moral issues involved in the story, especially after it was discovered that the baby was the source of the mother's rapidly deteriorating condition. Once that fact came to light, House's response was immediate and unrelenting: "Terminate the pregnancy to save the mother."

As the show progressed, several questionable decisions were made that unduly put the life of the mother at risk. These decisions were made for two reasons: 1) the mother's refusal to accept any treatment that might threaten her child, and 2) the fact that House's boss (another doctor) felt an emotional connection to the patient as both were older, unmarried, and desperately wanted to be a mothers. I want to be clear that I in no way condone these as justification for the decisions that were made. Where two lives are endangered, a morally justifiable solution to such a dilemma must center on saving every life that can be saved and not needlessly endanger either one.

Also, I don't want to overextend my "affection" for House's character. Let me be clear again. House is one of the most sardonic, abrasive characters on TV (as far as I can tell). I really can't stand the guy. He is an unethical, unprofessional, rude, obnoxious self-proclaimed drug addict. The show's writers go out of their way to make him so. He is also very much pro-abortion (as has been demonstrated in previous episodes) and this show did nothing to change any of that.

In his capacity as the head doctor on the case, House was doggedly insistent that the baby could only be referred to as a "fetus" for all the reasons many pro-lifers object to the insidious misuse of that term. Not only that, he took it further, later labeling the baby a "tumor" and a "parasite." To House, the very notion that the baby was anything more than a murdering invader to the mother was ridiculous and, in fact, constituted a morally reprehensible belief that would end with both a dead "fetus" and a dead mom.

But these facts overlook what I thought was the central point of the show, and one that we pro-lifers should applaud. During in-utero surgery meant to repair a defect in the baby and in turn save both the baby and the mother, House did his best, both verbally and physically, to end the dilemma -- at one point actually trying to cut the umbilical cord. During the procedure there was a poignant scene wherein the baby's tiny hand reached out of the open womb and grabbed House's finger. The loudmouth House was caught off-guard, obviously moved, and, for the first time I've ever seen -- speechless.

Yes, the "video" of the baby's extended hand was quite obviously hoaky and stretched the truth. Anesthetized babies cannot reach out and touch someone in the way it was portrayed in the show. Yes, it was an emotional appeal. But so is all of television. That fact comes with living in a video culture. I understand all that.

But for me it was a remarkable scene, not just for House's character, but for the abortion debate in general. That House would show any such emotion is remarkable in itself. What was even more remarkable was that, after the event, he began to refer to the child as a "baby," much to his co-workers' amazement. At the end of the episode, the recovering mother thanked him for his professionalism. His reply: "Don't thank me, I would have killed your kid."

So, while the video may have been unrealistic, the message that came across from the event was House's realization that the entity formerly known only as a "fetus" (in the deliberately wrong way), a "tumor" and a "parasite," was actually a human person.

As one whose pro-life argument rests on this very fact, you will hear no complaints from me about that.