Monday, October 17, 2005

Progressive Bioethicists Want More Influence, Poor Babies

Good grief. "Progressive" bioethicists are whining that they don't have enough power. Nonsense. The utilitarian bioethics agenda, which is what the "progressive" bioethics movement really is, has tremendous influence in this country. Indeed, as is discussed in depth in Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America, most bioethicists hew to the ideological lines of the "progressives," which is why bioethics has ceased to be a "discourse" and become more akin to an ideology and social movement. They are just irked that Bush is in power, which has temporarily prevented their sweeping the board. Of course, I find most of mainstream utilitarian bioethics to be not liberal at all, particularly given that most believe human beings can be separated into caste-creating distinctions between so-called persons and human non persons.

Here's a note from Bio-Edge on a recent meeting among the progressives with a Democratic Party think tank, with an interesting comment by Daniel Callahan. I often disagree with Callahan, but he seems right here. Note also the typical nasty comments by Art Caplan, who is the media go-to guy for sound bites on bioethics controversies. I read the transcript of his talk at the progressive soiree and he seems to be growing more demagogic with each passing day. The "progressive's" conference was also covered by Will Saletan in his own inimitable style. (I really enjoy how Saletan bemusedly goes back and forth between "conservative" bioethics/biotech and "liberal" camp meetings. He's a good journalist, even when I don't agree with his perspectives.)


At October 18, 2005 , Blogger Robert B said...

Wesley - any chance you could expand on how you have developed a "conservative bioethics" opinion while also still being progressive in other areas of politics?

1) how religion or some universal value placed on human beings and their ethics plays into your thoughts and beliefs?

2) Do you think progressive bioethics and ultimately, the transhuman agenda, will change American politics significantly?

3) What obligations are there to provide health care to all? Will genetic therapy / enhancement only exacerbate inequality in the health care system?

from a compassionate conservative, Robert B

At October 18, 2005 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Hi, Robert. Those questions would take many pages to address adequately. And the answers are found in my books. But let me say this: I think my advocacy is liberal, at least as traditionally understood, in that it is aimed at protecting the weak and vulnerable. That I am labeled a conservative says a lot about today's "progressives."

I don't make arguments based on religion. I am arguing based on the sanctity/equality of human life ethic, which is the foundational principle of liberty and Western thought.

I think transhumanistic eugenics is already making an impact. How significant it will be remains to be seen.

I think we have to find a way to ensure that all have access to basic health care. How that is done, is, of course, the problem. I sort of lean toward what I call a combination of Nader/Forbes, that is some public support, particularly for catastrophic cases, with market forces also applied to reduce cost and over consumption.


At October 18, 2005 , Blogger Robert B said...

Thought you might find this amusing.
At the progressive, they're picking on William Hurlbut, so I was googling William Hurlbut and found there was a screenwriter in the 30's and 40's with that name.

His credits include:
Imitation of Life
Bride of Frankenstein.

Daring Young Man.

And :

Adam had Four Sons
(perhaps the 4th was cloned?)

At October 18, 2005 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

I know Bill. I'll send that to him. Thanks.

At October 24, 2005 , Blogger J Steph said...

Stephan S.

At October 24, 2005 , Blogger J Steph said...

Progressive bioethics is not utilitarian bioethics by any means. To think so is to confuse the situation. Rather, those who claim to be progressive bioethicists maintain an optimistic view that scientific and technological progress can benefit humans and our society. There is no sense that science and technology should proceed unfettered because some will be benefited while others suffer. On the contrary, progressive bioethics is focused on issues of promoting scientific inquiry that carries the promise of promoting prosperity for all people, especially those of us in the most precarious positions in society.

Furthermore, there is a definite dichotomy between "progressive" and "conservative" bioethics that exists implicitly. As the President's Council on Bioethics has made clear, conservative bioethics concentrates on abstract, long-term issues, such as genetic enhancment and age retardation. Many of these inquiries revolve around notions of 'repugnance' and a moral philosophy which posits absolute moral rights and wrongs. However, they ignore pressing and immediate issues that face our society. Progressive bioethicists aim to direct attention to more pertinent issues such as equality of access to health care and the extent to which freedom of choice should apply. Progressive bioethics is very much interested in issues of justice and preserving individual morality in the face of majoritarian principalism such as that put forth by the President's Council.

Finally, progressive bioethics is certainly not given to believing that human beings can be separated into distinctions. Rather, it aims to entertain these tacit questions critically in an effort to balance our hopes of scientific progress against our concerns of violating our sense of human dignity.


Post a Comment

<< Home