Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Asking the right question

.... What would help is separating (1) the question of when the life of a human organism begins from (2) the question of what follows from the answer to the first question. And we don’t need any religious tradition to answer that first question. A human embryo is a living human organism once conceived. It’s not a “potential life,” as a theologian tells Strauss: It’s not an inanimate object that is somehow going to start living. It’s not a functional part of a different organism, like a skin cell, that somehow becomes an organism in its own right. It’s not a potential human, either: It’s not going to switch species. We would have no difficulty reaching the right answer to the first question if we did not have powerful motives for getting it wrong.

We don’t need to know anything more than we already know about the embryo to answer that first question. Science has long since dissolved any mystery about it. Science cannot, of course, tell us whether we should protect living human organisms or license the killing of them. But it can’t possibly be a sound procedure for thinking through that question to start with the premise that “whether these admittedly living human organisms deserve to be protected from being killed is a deep mystery” and end with “so let’s just let assume the answer is no.” ....