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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Bioethics in a godless world

I'll leave abortion at the door today, and look at the second-biggest bioethical issue: embryonic stem cell research.

Recently, Michael J. Fox appeared on Oprah and was presented with a new line of bio-research that promises to be even more promising than embryonic stem cell research; the technique involves using adult skin tissue to culture cells that can repair the damage of Parkinson's Disease.

This predictably has Christian's and other religions preoccupied with this issue jumping for joy, believing this somehow closes the debate. Except it doesn't.

What particularly bothers me about the bio-ethical questions surrounding stem cell research as it pertains to it's religious opponents, is they're completely dishonest in regular discourse about what they're really trying to say.

What they're really trying to say is: stem cell research is wrong, because god says it's wrong.

Even if you really believe this, I have to tell you that it's not terribly convincing reasoning for someone who doesn't believe in god. Would you be terribly impressed if I told you that eating spaghetti was immoral because the flying spaghetti monster says it isn't? Of course not.

Most religious people just give up on the god justification, and go after arguments of efficacy, claiming that embryonic stem cell research has no benefits over adult stem cell research--which are patently bad reasoning, considering only research on embryonic stem cells will reveal whether or not they have benefits or not.

The truth of the matter is, the vast majority of scientists are not religious. A famous US Academy of Sciences survey of it's members found that nearly 90% of scientists within the life sciences are atheists, about 5% agnostic, and only about 5% professing to having a belief in a god. So it's safe to say, that the scientists engaging in embryonic stem cell research have no religious reservations about the practice.

This all leads up to a question: what--if any role--would the state play in determining these bioethical questions in a libertarian framework? Clearly, an atheist libertarian like myself or the 95% of scientists that are not religious do not believe we are acting immorally by engaging in such research. Would some libertarians be willing to accept any such limits--in the name of a specific God--and if so, why?

H/T Celestial Junk

Posted by Mike Brock on May 6, 2009 in Libertarianism | Permalink


We should never let anyone's religious beliefs stand in the way of enlightenment. It really doesn't matter what percentage of scientists are atheists, because 100% of them will believe in God as soon as they die. When you cross over there is no more denying His existance.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-05-07 11:57:23 PM

Mike I was an atheist til the day I died. Today I know better. I don't believe much that is in the bible, especially the old testament. I do however know that some part of us continues on after our body ceases to live. I know that there is an entity there that has great knowledge and power and that time does not pass there. I "consider" myself Christian because that is how I was raised, but I certainly don't belive that we have the diversity of animals on earth today because Noah put two of each of them on a really big boat and floated around for over a month till the sinner purging flood was over. I don't belive that "God" punishes people. I don't believe in Hell.I think intelligent people can still belive in a higher power or an afterlife without blindy folowing dogman that "religious" institutions try to pass off as the "will of God". I think organized religion is a total con that has been used forever to control populations by fear.

I can tell you that by the bible's definition I am one hell of a big sinner, was before I died, and still am. I write this with a bottle of wine in front of me, a burning spliff in my hand, and fresh memories of some great non-procreative sex in the hot tub. People need to get over the idea that "god" or "allah" or whatever you choose to call Him is going to be mad at them for enjoying the pleasures that this world, or plane of existance, has to offer.

I wonder how many scientists might consider themselves not religious, but still belive in an afterlife, or have some personal faith in a higher power that is not connected to any religion.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-05-08 12:31:36 AM

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