December 4, 2006

Does Graduated Absolutism Logically Permit Embryo Destructive Research? A Thought Experiement

This weekend I found a link at the women's bioethics blog that addresses Norm Geisler's graduated absolutism, or hierarchical absolutism as it is called in Feinberg's Ethics for a Brave New World. If you visit the link, you'll see what appears to be an outline of a book called Would You Lie to Save a Life? The Quest for God's Will This Side of Heaven: A Theology on the Ethics of Love. I was prompted to take another look at graduated absolutism and now I wonder if this position could give justification to embryo destructive research. First we need to define the concept.

Graduated, or hierarchical absolutism: there are many norms that are all universal that will eventually conflict, so they should be ordered on the basis of their significance. When the conflict occurs, one must determine which one is to receive priority consideration. Because the conflict determines that only one can be followed, no sin is committed by breaking the norm of lesser significance. Example: lying to Nazi soldiers to protect the lives of Jews.

So how does this apply to the topic of ESCR? If one actually believes that cures can be found through the harvesting of stem cells from embryos and that many of these embryos are going to be destroyed anyway (for whatever reason) then it could be postulated that the higher norm would be to save the lives of those which we all agree are human persons by use of the embryos of which there exists disagreement as to their moral status.

I'm not trying to build an argument for ESCR, heaven forbid. But I do want to see how Christian philosphy has contributed to the cultural debates.

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