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Science and ethics

Discussion in 'House of Debates' started by Coyote, Nov 21, 2007.

  1. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    Science and ethics are closely entertwined....James Thomson, who first seperated out human embryonic stemcells noted this and posed the following question:

    If you were in a lab and there was a tank of human embryos, and a live baby sitting next to it, and there was a fire and you could only save one - which would you save?
     
  2. 9sublime

    9sublime Active Member

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    Killer question. Its got to be the baby though. Otherwise I'd best start bottling my sperm on the same logic.
     
  3. palerider

    palerider Well-Known Member

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    The question is a logical fallacy. It places the questionee on the horns of a false delema. The choice you make in saving one or the other does not change the fact that you have left human beings behind who will die in the fire.

    If you were in the same blazing room but were faced with a black female child, a white male child, a female child of unspecified race and a male child of unspecified race, and you could only save one, does the choice you make prove anything with regard to the rest?
     
  4. Popeye

    Popeye Active Member

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    It's not the same thing, in Coyote's scenario the baby possesses brain life and is self aware, the embryos have neither.
     
  5. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    It's a common type of ethical conundrum that is interesting to discuss. Not to different then discussing who would you toss from the lifeboat.

    Do you save the born baby? Or the tank which contains a greater number?
     
  6. palerider

    palerider Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I would save the baby. Not because it is more human than the rest, but since the embyros are stored in liquid nitrogen, they are in less emminent danger than the child. They have a longer period in which they could survive the fire.

    And there is nothing interesting in discussing a logical fallacy unless your own postion is based in logical fallacies.

    And please tell me, exactly what does your choice prove about the one or ones you leave behind in either your senario or mine?
     
  7. palerider

    palerider Well-Known Member

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    How old is the baby? Research indicates that most of us don't achieve self awareness until somewhere between 12 and 18 months.

    And if the child is a newborn, then it is only 8 or 9 months closer to full maturity somewhere in its late 20's than the embryos.

    Face it, either way, human beings are left behind to burn. If you believe otherwise, then produce some credible science that states that the offspring of two human beings is at some point, something other than a human being.
     
  8. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    It's not intended to prove anything about one's choices exactly. It's the choice of whether to save the one or the many, or whether one regards them all on the same level of humanity.

    I would choose the baby because - first off - I automatically would recognize it as a human being, without thinking, and second if the fire gave me time to think, I would also realize it could and would suffer horribly.
     
  9. palerider

    palerider Well-Known Member

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    Of course it is. It is a pitiful attempt to put pro lifers on the horns of a false dilemma and nothing more. It is a very weak attempt to prove that unborns are somehow less than human beings and less deserving of life.
     
  10. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    It was not intended that way - the person who first posed it felt there were very real ethical dilemmas involved in the fetal stem cell debate, and he was the one who first isolated stemcells.
     
  11. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    Id probably try and put the fire out. But thats just me.

    In my opinion on a moral level, human embryos in liquid nitrogren or other suspended state that have not been in utero long enough to ensure its survival without that suspended state compared to an already breathing, functioning on its own full term baby.
     
  12. palerider

    palerider Well-Known Member

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    No? Look at the patently rediculous answer you got from 9sublime. I note that you made no attempt to steer him in the direction you intended.

    And the man who made the quote was making a weak attempt to justify the continued killing of human embryo's, not simply point out that there are ethical problems.
     
  13. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    I don't usually steer people in a debate but perhaps I am guilty of not giving enough information.

    The man who made the quote was not attempting to justify the killing of human embryo's but rather, was someone seriously wrestling with the ethical considerations of killing human embyros to provide potential life saving treatments: a potential person vs. a potential treatment. He didn't regard it lightly and the fact that he may not have agreed with you does not cheapen his ethics. The dilemma involved is one we are going to be facing over and over again in this world of rapidly advancing science - an advance far more rapid then the corresponding advance in ethics. To attempt to cheapen it as a "weak attempt to justify the continued killing of human embryos" is just that - cheap. The dilemma is real. Science is neutral. It's how people develop the associated ethics that puts a value on it.


    Here is an article, that talks about Thompson: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/whitewater/docs/fosterx.htm

    Reserved Scientist Creates an Uproar With His Work on Stem Cells
    By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

    When Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, he granted the journalist Edward R. Murrow an interview, appeared in a photo spread in Life magazine, and became an American hero virtually overnight. When Dolly the sheep was cloned, her creator, Ian Wilmut, was featured in news magazines and on television programs around the globe.

    Few people, by contrast, have ever heard of James A. Thomson. And that is just the way Dr. Thomson likes it.

    Three years ago, Dr. Thomson, a developmental biologist at the University of Wisconsin, became the first person to isolate stem cells from human embryos. Nobel laureates praised his work as a breakthrough that might revolutionize modern medicine. Conservatives and some religious leaders, notably Pope John Paul II, denounced it as immoral.

    Now President Bush is considering whether to permit federal financing for the research; current law bans spending taxpayer dollars on such work. And here in Wisconsin, where a private foundation affiliated with the university holds the lucrative patent rights to the cells Dr. Thomson discovered, some legislators are contemplating a ban on future embryonic stem cell work.

    At the vortex of the controversy is an intensely private, soft-spoken scientist who, by all accounts, including his own, has thought carefully about the ethical implications of his research, as well as the inevitable publicity. That he might wind up in the spotlight so worried Dr. Thomson, he said, that he almost decided not to pursue the work that, many scientists say, holds out the hope for curing diseases as varied as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes.

    But in the end, he said, with characteristic understatement, ''I just decided it would be important enough to do it.''

    .......

    ''He has been fanatically attentive to the ethical issues,'' Dr. Fost said. ''We are lucky that the guy who is the pioneer in all this is such a responsible, thoughtful person.''

    For Dr. Thomson, the moral questions about embryo experimentation were not difficult to resolve; he concluded that research was the ''better ethical choice,'' so long as the embryos, created by couples who no longer wanted to use them to have children, would otherwise be discarded.

    But he was worried that stem cells might be misused to clone people -- a fear that, he said, eventually abated in 1997, when Dr. Wilmut demonstrated by cloning Dolly that embryos were not needed because clones could be produced from adult cells. And he did not like the idea that he might become a public person. So he contemplated leaving to someone else the research in human embryos.



    The ethical dilemma represented is in my mind: do you save the many potential people or do you save the one actualized person? All are human beings.

    I have my answer and my reasons which in the end are the same reason that if it were a choice between the mother's life and the fetus' - I would choose the mother.
     
  14. numinus

    numinus New Member

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    I simply cannot see the logic in such a thing.

    How does anyone comply with a moral imperative and deny the very same imperative at the same time? You wish to alleviate the suffering of a human being by killing another?

    Is not that the most ridiculous proposition you have ever heard?
     
  15. palerider

    palerider Well-Known Member

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    It is a position that a great number of people in history have embraced. German researchers made great strides in medicine when they were allowed to experiment on human beings. The same can be said for soviet doctors.
     
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