In the news this week was president Bush's veto of the bill for the provision of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. I have been meaning to write on this subject for the past couple of days but have been prevented from doing such. Since I do not have the will to actually do some work right now, I'm finally going to express my feelings with respect to this issue.
First of all, let me bring some nice little facts into the foreground. My little sister, who is fifteen years old at the time of this entry, is a type I diabetic. She has been such since the summer between second and third grade. I have seen her deal with needles like a little champ for all these years and have often thought, "Gee, Matt, she sure is brave compared to you." When I donate blood I have to make sure I don't look at the needle. I have been at her bedside trying to get her out of low blood sugar moments (for those of you who understand the figures, we're talking 22 millimoles /L [I believe that is the unit] ). What's my point? I have someone dear to my heart who is effected by this entire situation and keep her in mind when I make the sorts of pronouncements that I am about to make below.
The lamentations arose from many this week over the veto of the bill. I wasn't one of those who were lamenting. I think that such a veto is necessary in a sane, stable, and moral, society. My question is this: "Since when have the most vulnerable among us been made into the ones who are to be used by us? Since when has that been right?" And where in the world are the heads on the politicians who are decrying this veto? Aren't they supposed to be the people who stick up for the little guy? There's where we start to see the insidious danger of this. They stick up for the little guy who they have defined.
Now, I know that many people truly are "the little guy" and need help. They should be helped. I ask, however, "What defines the little guy? Is it the definition itself or his/her current situation in life?" It's the situation! That a definition of "little guy" is attached to him is of secondary importance. The vulnerable are those who are down-and-out, who are defenseless, who are powerless. By their very situation, they become those who are to be helped. I will not suffer politicians defining who the "little guy" is with respect to embryonic life. Now, I feel all the pissed off complaints coming: "How dare you, Matt. You're nothing more than a closed-minded dogmatist." Well, to that I say, "Follow me through on this one."
If you slip but a millimeter, indeed, if you only give them the size of one cell, created by the fusion of sperm and egg, you will give them the entirety of humanity. There is no actual justification for the redefinition of life as excluding the embryo except by rhetoric (with cold logic). Perhaps one could argue that the definition of life from the embryonic stage is also nothing but rhetoric. Even if that were so, we can quickly see which tree is good and which is bad by observing the outcome of excluding embryonic life as being human.
This is already visible when we look at the entire vision of the issue of abortion. Slipping on the embryo has led to the point of making permissible even partial-birth abortion. If you define a human by exiting the womb of the mother, you can justify all acts of murder up to that point. Eventually, one must put to question the perpetrators of such actions. You most surely want to ask, "What is the difference between that child just killed and what it would have been several moments later, outside of the womb." It is but straw to say that it is only the fact that it had not left the mother. Such close proximity of time makes the act almost unjustifiable in the eyes of its supporters. Perhaps the response becomes, "Well, I didn't want the child, therefore, it is not good for it to live."
Now, we all know that the opinion which others have for us ultimately should not make us choose to die. Nevertheless, this is what is forced on these children who could have at least been adopted. The fruits of that mentality are already manifesting themselves in the pre-birth genetic screenings that are done to determine if a child is truly wanted. (Yes, I know that not all people get these done for the end of deciding on an abortion but instead to be informed of the health of the upcoming child. In such a case, the test is not evil but only serves to prepare the parents.) However, this becomes even more dangerous, for now it is no longer just a matter of the circumstance dictating the life's viability but instead the existence of a variety of traits.
It is at this point that we should all be shuddering. Of course, not everyone shudders at this. They can think of a whole list of things that they think are undesirable in life. We can all make a list of attributes that we don't like about ourselves and wish we didn't have. However, we , and I emphasize this, must agree that such feelings are wrong because they deny the goodness inherent in a person by their very being. The very thought of such definitions making the decision for what is and is not life should frighten you nearly to death. At this point, not a single thing stops eugenics from occurring. All that is required is for someone in power to decide what traits really are not worth living with. To such assertions, I must insist the following: "The ontological goodness of the human being can not be defined by genetic determinism which creates characteristics. The love which is always (I stress ALWAYS) potential in humanity is what makes man good. Man is never without the potential to love and to be loved." Ultimately, this is a choice between collective determinism and personal freedom. More on that below.
Open wide the doors to eugenics and people fully become only objects and lose all subjectivity. The potentiality of the person no longer matters. To such people, humans are only human because others chose to define them as such. I must repeat: The person makes the definition and is not ascribed an ontological characteristic by the definition being applied to him. A man will never be a woman because I call him such. A person will never,ever be a person because I call him such. A person is called a person because he/she is one. End of story.
Now, we come back to the question of whether or not the embryo can definitely be called a person. It must be acknowledged that even at this stage, we are seeing the unfolding development of the human person before our eyes. No person stands alone in the world (except perhaps the ultra-insane but even they had human contact at some point). The physically developing fetus / embryo is no different. Indeed, it is one body with the mother for 9 months. If anything, what we see in the development of the person in the womb is a radical instance of unity which speaks truly about our very nature as relational beings. The fetus, in the womb, is radically living the human life, fully given to the mother for its development. He/she is not a thing to be tossed aside but a human who is growing because of the love of the parents who conceived him/her. There exists no proof that the embryo is not a human being. The very potentiality for development always exists in humanity, for each person is always working to “become more human.” It is only greatly magnified in the first months of the human life.
Alright, now we see the danger (and perhaps the fallacy, although I have only begun to discuss that) of defining these frozen embryos as being "not really human". Let us also reflect on the fact that such an objectification of man, refusing to give the human person recognition is utterly contrary to democracy. Does not democracy (as I have actually said before in this blog) declare the fact that every person's will has the potential for good? We know that being must precede the will, for without being the will can not be expressed. Therefore, democracy says that every person, in his/her very being, has a radical capacity for union with the Truth. The objectification of the embryo is one step which is part of the denial of basic ontological goodness inherent in all humans. It is therefore utterly opposed to the spirit of democracy.
I found it very amusing that the "People for the American Way" claimed that "President Bush's veto of stem-cell research is a sad but telling confirmation of his administration's priorities". (See http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=21812 for the entirety of the comments.) Boy, isn't George just doing it all because all he really does is hate people, wants them to be sick, and die, all just to please those whack-jobs on the right. I can not begin to explain how my head nearly exploded when my business partner showed me this article. Yes, I, like Glenn Beck, needed duct tape to keep the pieces of my skull in relatively close proximity. How can people think that anyone would have that kind of conviction and make it publicly known. It's the stuff that goes on in secret that we have to be most wary of. Come on people, give the other view a chance. I'm willing to at least say that you are trying to be compassionate. You aren't even willing to acknowledge anything good in it. (This is one reason why I must say that modern liberalism isn't very liberal.)
Now really, I know you may be thinking, "Boy, that Matt is just such an uncaring hate monger." Well, my friends, I really am not. Do I want cures for Diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, and other illnesses? Of course I would. Do I think they are just as possible with adult stem cells? Perhaps. The science (for both) is rather unknown right now. Even so, such an unknown does not warrant the killing of human beings, using them for the experimental desires of scientists. My answer to this situation: Let donors come forth to get the embryos implanted. Maybe after that's done, we can finally outlaw in vitro fertilization. That, my friends, is the tip of another iceberg, one which we will avoid this evening.